William Hague – 2006 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Shadow Foreign Secretary, at Conservative Party Conference on 1 October 2006.

Well, there we are: a centre-right leader who’s changed his party, appealed to his country and defeated a left wing government in power for three terms.

And isn’t it great to see from David Davis’s superb speech the unity of purpose and personnel that our party now enjoys.

Our leadership election was so successful that both the other parties wanted one too.

Now Labour’s never ends, and the Lib Dems wish they’d never had one.

And I will tell you this: when I look around the Shadow Cabinet table, and I listen to the canny thoughts of David Davis, the down-to-earth wisdom of Liam Fox, the sharp insights of George Osborne and the brilliant visions of Oliver Letwin and David Willetts – to name but a few – I have never been more convinced that we can win.

And when I go to meet people around Britain – such as the woman I met in a deprived area of Wakefield last week, who said ‘please give us some pride in our country again’ – I have never been more sure that people need us to win.

And when I look across at the Government front bench, six feet away in the House of Commons; Gordon Brown scheming, Tony Blair seething and John Prescott snarling, I have never been more certain that we’ve got to win.

It is one of my great privileges to ask parliamentary questions of our Deputy Prime Minister. Sometimes I think I should thank him for the joy he brings in to our lives.

I am ever so polite to him. Partly because nothing makes him crosser. It’s not difficult to make him cross. Every day he wakes up angry and goes to bed furious.

When we discussed the Olympics I asked him if he might put forward a new sport for Beijing – croquet. I even reminded him of Rule 1c of Oxford Croquet, which says that when you have scored a certain number of times you are declared to be ‘pegged out’ and have to be removed from the game.

Well now he is to be removed from the game. Things will never be the same,

– no more references to the ‘Balklands’,

– never again will we hear that the greenbelt was Labour achievement that they intend to build on,

– no more hitting the voters.

And, let us hope, no more imposition of unwanted regional government, no more transport plans for ten years abandoned after four, and no more jacking up of everyone else’s council taxes while forgetting to pay his own.

Seven years ago John Prescott made the one sensible remark of his life. He looked up at the Dome and said ‘If we can’t make this work, we’re not much of a Government’.

I think that in the ludicrous script for Tony Blair’s farewell tour, which had him being serenaded on Songs of Praise and applauded on Blue Peter, presumably before disappearing dewy-eyed towards some great Cliff Richard villa in the sky, instead of visiting twenty iconic buildings opened since 1997 he need go to only one to sum up his premiership. There it stands – vast, expensive, over-hyped and empty – the perfect monument to the high hopes and pitiful delivery of New Labour.

There we have seen them these last weeks, while our soldiers bravely fight on in Afghanistan, our health workers worry about redundancy and our primary school results decline, ministers doing nothing but fight each other in their own jealous little world. And the bad news for them is that they are not just fighting because they loathe each other, although loathe each other they do. The Labour party is turning on itself because after nine years of their government they have produced a country where violent crime and school truancy have rocketed, where hard-working citizens are ensnared in officialdom, where we are falling behind in our ability to compete just as Asian economies snap at our heels.

They have given us a Government so inefficient that we have 700,000 more public servants but no-one can find a dentist, so incompetent that the Home Office releases foreign prisoners and then fails to find them, loses track of illegal immigrants and ends up employing them, so complacent that as 20,000 jobs are lost in hospitals the Health Secretary describes it as the ‘best year ever’. We have rarely endured a Government that has so rapidly, shockingly and comprehensively lost its way.

I have always argued that Tony Blair is not new at all but is actually another Harold Wilson. The similarities are uncanny, from both starting with the claim to be modern and new, to both ending up disgracing the honours system. And both will have left behind something that could never have been said of a Thatcher, a Churchill, or even of an Attlee – that the whole thing was an act, the entire business a con, and the entire period a wasted opportunity.

And this is the legacy he will leave – he has ensured that politics has never been so mistrusted and the word of government has seldom counted for less. His legacy is that the coinage of politics has been debased amidst the rampant inflation of pre-announcement, re-announcement, false announcement and the search for the days to bury bad news.

And now they seek renewal from Gordon Brown. Well, I just say this about Gordon Brown.

It was my job to respond to his first budget. And I remember how he concealed as a minor reform to taxes on dividends, the robbing of £5 billion a year from the pension funds of the people of this country . By now that comes to some £50 billion, an unimaginable sum. Today, people retiring are already finding their pension funds worth much less than nine years ago. And I say this: I will never believe that anyone who takes away the income of generations of pensioners without even having the decency to admit he was doing it should guide the destiny of our country.

Last week he told the Labour Party there was a poverty of opportunity and aspiration in this country. And for once he wasn’t talking about opportunities for old chancellors of the exchequer to become Prime Minister. He was talking about school pupils. ‘Don’t tell me we couldn’t have done better for them’, he told his Party. We’ve been telling him that for years. But who has been in government for the last nine years while a poverty of aspiration has spread among our schools?

Never in modern times has a Government enjoyed such immense public goodwill and huge parliamentary majorities in its opening years in office. And never have such assets been so squandered.

So let us be in no doubt, as we gather here in Bournemouth this week, that if we wish to serve our country and give people the chance of a better government, we do not really have a choice. We are not a debating club, or a pressure group. We have, all of us have, to do everything we can to make sure our party can win the confidence of the nation.

I hope you agree with me on this: we cannot rely on Labour to lose the next election; we must positively win it in our own right. And I hope you share my excitement that now, at last, it is possible to do so.

It is possible to win, first of all, because of David Cameron. I have worked, one way or another, with the last six leaders of our party and I served as one of them myself. So I think I know what I am saying when I say that for the willingness to listen, readiness to lead a team, and ability to hold steadfastly to the course he has set, David Cameron is already an outstanding leader who deserves the loyalty of us all.

It is possible to win, too, because wherever I travel I see that it is Conservative ideas that are positively transforming people’s lives. When was the last time you heard, anywhere in the world, of schools and hospitals being improved by centralised planning, or industries prospering under state control, or countries getting richer by taxing their citizens to the hilt? The spirit of freedom, decentralisation, and families running their own lives has always been ours, and now it is the spirit of our age.

And the third reason we can win is that when David Cameron tells us to change we say yes, we’re going to do it.

Our party has served Britain for so long because each generation who has led it understood when it needed to move on: whether it be Disraeli’s vision described by David Davis, or Harold Macmillan’s recognition of the need to house millions of people in the 1950s or Margaret Thatcher’s instinct in the 1970s that those millions were ready to own those homes for themselves.

So today, in a new century, we must respond to the need for change. As the destruction of our natural environment becomes a central challenge for all nations, who better to take up this cause than a party whose first instincts are to improve the good and preserve the best?

As drug abuse becomes the greatest scourge of our young people and violent crime escalates, who better to find the answers than a party that has always believed in responsibilities as well as rights?

And why shouldn’t the Party that has been organised from the inside out by women, has traditionally won the most votes from women and brought to office the first woman prime minister in western Europe, – why shouldn’t the Party that has done all these things see that women are fully and properly represented on the benches of the House of Commons?

I went to a reception a few weeks ago for our aspiring women candidates. I was meant to give them encouragement. They were energetic; they were clever; they were accomplished; they were eager to get on with winning; they were immensely impressive – the last thing they needed was encouragement. In fact it was me that received the encouragement.

“You can win”, they said.

“We are your new generation”, they said.

“None of our friends wants Labour anymore”, they announced.

I went away inspired. I went home and I said if we can get half of those people into parliament, Gordon Brown will be run out of Downing Street faster than he can fiddle his figures again.

So now we must do it. You, me, all of us must change even if it’s hard. If changing our party to understand the problems of urban Britain means delving deeply into our troubled cities, we must do it. If it means, for me, learning from mistakes we made in the past, or even being patient with John Prescott, I must do it. And if it means, for you, selecting more candidates who are women candidates, then I say to you, you must do it.

And let us remember too that there are now millions of people in Britain of minority ethnic backgrounds, and that, facing as we do the great issues of social division and home-grown terrorism, the answer is not to reject people but to welcome and integrate them. We will have performed the most powerful service if we can bring forward as members of parliament people who will show all those people that they too can get to the very top in a country which also belongs to them.

Wherever you look, the political world is changing. Last month I was given a lecture about the benefits of privatisation. But I was in Shanghai, and the speakers were from the Communist Party of China.

We will be privileged to hear at this conference from two pre-eminent international figures, each of whom may become president of their great countries, and each of whom also carries a message of change to their party. Nicholas Sarkozy is telling his Gaullists that the French social model has to change. Senator John McCain is telling Americans that climate change must be tackled, and that if we are to defeat attacks on our free society, we must uphold the highest ideals of respect for human dignity ourselves.

Their speaking to us is a sign that our party is once again taken seriously the world over.

Whether they succeed in their own countries is something we cannot influence, but whether we succeed in ours is up to us and us alone. And so as David Cameron seeks to bring necessary change to our party, he will receive from me the most unwavering support.

We live in an age of political cynicism. People have given up having faith in politics. They have heard too many promises from a Government that does not deliver, that counts appearance above reality.

If we have learned anything in recent years it is that people need from us an overall vision of Britain from which our policies are derived, not piecemeal policies adopted one by one. That is why we are right to begin this year by demonstrating our purpose, direction and principles.

We must all be conscious this week of the people we meet around the country. We can picture them now: teachers retiring early and utterly demoralised, residents of noise-ridden housing estates who lives are never free of anti-social behaviour year after year, people with small businesses who are staggered by the red tape, and even people who want to emigrate from what ought to be the best place to live in the world.

They do deserve better. They deserve a party that will trust people to make a difference.

After someone else has made a mess of things, the Conservative Party has always been there to put things right. We have always had the same values – freedom, an understanding that real change comes from individuals and families working together in society, not from the state. And our values have always been relevant because as Britain has changed and grown we have changed and grown. We have always succeeded when we applied our values to the Britain of the present.

If we want to make a difference we need to change with Britain.

The British people want a change of government.

They need us to change, because they need us to win. All of us have our work to do, so let all of us now do it.

William Hague – 2006 Speech at the Policy Exchange

Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague in London on 21 February 2006.

For some Conservatives, living in the past is an attractive temptation. But I’m sure you’ll understand why going back in time holds fewer attractions for me.

I want instead to look forward – to ask what will be required of our leaders in the future. I want to ask, in particular, and very topically in the light of last week, whether Gordon Brown’s beliefs make him capable of dealing with the challenges that face Britain today.

Any study of the past shows that most successful Conservative leaders have been at their most successful when leading the process of change the country needed.

William Pitt transformed our taxation system from a medieval model to a modern one, led Britain from the sidelines of Europe to a central position on the global stage and laid the foundations for future industrial greatness.

Robert Peel accelerated that transformation by taking on the country’s protectionist interests and advancing the cause of free trade.

Benjamin Disraeli ensured the benefits of economic change were more widely spread and broadly accepted, and in the process secured our future, by introducing legislation to protect workers, provide them with homes and guarantee clean air.

And Margaret Thatcher, of course, provided the inspirational leadership which allowed our country to renew itself after years of drift and decline by equipping us with the freedoms and national self-confidence to shape the future.

The essence of Conservatism has always been a belief in human nature as distinct from abstract ideology. And the essence of human nature is adaptability, flexibility, ingenuity. Conservative policies throughout the ages have always been designed to give these virtues room to grow.

The Left, by contrast, have always been trying to constrict human freedom, to direct human energies down specific approved paths.

For me, there are profound ethical and philosophical reasons to take issue with the Left’s general approach. But, crucially, there is a more important reason why we should all reject the instincts of the Left to control and direct. They just don’t work.

One of the key problems with the Left is that they develop an analysis of whatever a good society needs to be – whether its keener on science, or more generous to doctors or more thoughtful on climate change – and then they seek to implement that change through crude mechanisms, which involve a growth in state power, a diminution in individual freedom, a squeezing-out of innovation, difference, diversity and creativity and end in the dogmatic pursuit of targets which events have long rendered redundant.

By its very nature this approach is stuck in the past – it is inappropriate for the fast-moving world in which we live. And it holds us back from making the changes we need to make to respond to the real challenges of the 21st century.

If this Left-wing approach of controlling, directing and interfering were simply an alternative set of ideas advanced by socialist nostalgics it would be our duty as politicians concerned about the country’s future prosperity and security to challenge them. But the task of taking on this philosophy has become imperative – because it drives the man everyone expects to be the next Prime Minister.

Gordon Brown appears to worry whether he and the country are on the same wavelength. He knows that the country preferred Tony Blair to him as leader of the Labour Party, and saw him as not quite right for the job in 1994.

There are worries that the sort of person who could edit the Red Paper on Scotland, and who once called for the massive extension of state power to advance a socialist utopia, may not be the best person to lead a competitive market economy.

To meet these worries and concerns the Chancellor, in recent weeks, has been dropping names and swapping costumes. They call it Project Gordon.

He’s let us know that he’s now a friend of Alan Greenspan and Bill Gates – to try and prove that he’s got over his resentment of capitalism.

More touchingly he’s been wearing Ralph Lauren-style shirts and Tom Cruise-style flying helmets. Let me give him a word of advice based on personal experience: headgear and party leadership don’t go well together.

But this superficial makeover does not, and cannot, alter the Chancellor’s essential make-up.

The qualities of left-wing thinking I discussed earlier – the tendency to channel, control, organise, direct and boss in conformity with dogma and in a way which inhibits growth and change – are central to Gordon Brown’s way of operating.

On the economy Gordon Brown isn’t happy concentrating on getting the fundamentals right. He uses the entire tax and benefits system to remake British society and alter British behaviour in conformity with his grand plan for us all.

Business is told how to invest through the creation of specific incentives. The way in which tax credits are designed is absurdly bureaucratic. Little gimmicks in every budget demonstrate that Gordon Brown wants to use public money to pay for whatever may be on his private agenda.

This whole approach – the belief that the economy is there for politicians to tell us how to live, rather than generating the wealth which gives us greater freedom to decide how we want to live – is stuck in the past.

As I’m afraid, is the Chancellor’s approach to public service reform.

Gordon Brown has spent much of the last month telling us he’s in favour of reform. In the abstract. But show him any real reform and suddenly his supports seems to evaporate into fudges, hedges and muttered generalities.

The Chancellor is still to spell out which aspects of the Blair reform package are right, and why. His fabled intellectual firepower has been curiously muted. Can the Chancellor tell us just what role LEAs should have in the future provision of schooling, and why. What is the philosophical view he takes of who should commission, and who provide education? And what are the practical consequences in terms of policy? Does he share Tony Blair’s admiration for school choice on the American model, which the Prime Minister spelled out in the foreword to the Education White Paper? If not, why not?

On all these questions – silence.

On the central debate about how we equip the next generation for the rigours of competition in the 21st century we have equivocation, prevarication and endless, endless repetition. Oh, how we’d love to have some detail. For just a minute. But the Chancellor prefers to duck these future challenges.

Should independent providers supply more than 15% of NHS care? Silence.

Should poorly performing police officers continue to be able to enjoy generous protection for their failings? Silence.

Should the new trust schools be encouraged to form links with business to help get new funding from the private sector into education? Silence.

The Chancellor is apparently giving more speeches in the weeks to come – I’m looking forward to the answers to questions like these. And if Gordon doesn’t address them then we’re entitled to assume that what he – the roadblock to reform – means by reform and what the country means by reform are very different things.

The Chancellor prides himself on the long-term benefits of his decision to give independence to the Bank of England; but there could hardly be any set of developments less calculated to sustain the long-term competitiveness of the British economy than the cocktail of higher business taxes, increasing business regulation and decreasing pension provision to which the Chancellor’s policies have subjected us.

Until we have decisive evidence to the contrary we’ll have to conclude that the only progressive change the Chancellor is really interested in is changing his address. Instead of accepting that the country needs new thinking, he’s still stuck in the old Westminster mindset which holds that the replacement of one oligarchy with another is all the change the country needs.

Now there have been areas, outside the economy, where the Chancellor has favoured us with more of his thinking than others. Britishness is one.

On one level, Mr Brown’s recent talk of Britishness is an attempt to highlight one of the most serious challenges we face – the challenge of creating a cohesive society in an increasingly diverse nation.

Of course, there is a part of me which wonders if the Chancellor’s desire to emphasise Britishness is his way of dealing with the West Lothian question.

Now that we have devolution, and the Scottish Parliament has become an established feature of Scottish life, the question still remains. How can the member for Kirkcaldy vote on what is right for the citizens of Kirklees when the citizens of Kirklees no longer have any say over what happens in Kirkcaldy on devolved issues. As the Leader of the Opposition during the debates we had on devolution I feel no pleasure in pointing out that Scottish Labour MPs forcing through changes to England’s laws does not make for a more harmonious and United Kingdom. Anyone who thinks that we can carry on legislating for England in exactly the same way as we did before devolution is clearly living in the past. When even senior Labour backbenchers have begun to recognise this, so should Gordon.

Anyone who imagines that murmuring about Britishness is a substitute for serious and sustained thinking about the West Lothian question is definitely living in the past and is definitely in need of help. In due course, we expect that Ken Clarke’s Democracy Task Force will give the Chancellor some.

The Chancellor’s efforts to grapple with the question of national identity were not, however, just restricted to attempts to legitimise his own anomalous constitutional position as an MP. They also related to one of the central challenges of the 21st century.

Our society is changing fast. As we become more diverse ethnically and culturally there is less consensus around shared values.

Consequently there is potentially less acceptance of the need for shared sacrifice.

And that increasing diversity therefore raises profound questions about how we fund public services, protect our citizens against internal and external threat and project our identity on the global stage.

I believe these profound questions require deep thought. Which is why I am delighted that David Cameron has set up his policy group on national and international security to look at these inter-related challenges. And its also why I am so pleased that David has shown the lead in putting forward innovative new means of promoting national cohesion through his programme for school leavers, an idea the Chancellor has been trying belatedly to appropriate for himself.

When he hasn’t been trying to borrow our ideas on national cohesion the Chancellor has been trying to import them from elsewhere. In his most recent speeches on Britishness he has talked enviously of American front gardens with a flag on every lawn, suggested we emulate the American tradition of veterans’ day and flirted with the American practice of teaching children their nation’s history as a continuous narrative. As we have previously said, there is something to be said for some of these suggestions. But there is more to the American experience than totems and symbols.

The Chancellor, rightly, recognises that America has been hugely successful over many generations in forging, and reforging, national unity out of immense ethnic and cultural diversity. E pluribus unum – from many one, as their coinage proclaims.

But America’s success – the reverence accorded to the flag by those of every faith, the respect for the sacrifice of veterans felt by those of every background, and the ready acceptance of a shared national story felt by Americans old and new – has depended on a central willingness to defend the vigour, independence and continuity of the nation’s common institutions.

America’s common institutions – its constitution, its Presidency, Congress and Supreme Court, its federal system, its symbols of national loyalty from the forces to the flag – have been carefully nurtured by politicians of both major parties.

They recognise that diversity is best protected by assiduously supporting the framework which underpins those common institutions. And America’s politicians also know what we knew in Victorian times – a stable constitutional bedrock gives a country’s citizens the security they need to innovate, experiment and lead in a globally competitive world.

Gordon Brown’s problem in providing the country with the stability, security and cohesion it needs is that he has been at the heart of a Government which has consistently behaved in a cavalier fashion towards constitutional safeguards. And he shows little sign of being willing to escape the assumptions which have shaped Labour’s approach in the past.

Labour’s constitutional agenda on coming to office was heavily influenced by the anti-British radicalism of thinkers such as Tom Nairn, whose thought permeated the work of groups such as Charter 88 and then found expression in the approach of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Government.

Labour introduced a welcome measure of devolution for Scotland – but without thinking through its ramifications for England and for British unity.

Labour launched a potentially promising reform programme for the House of Lords – but then left us with a House which is even more susceptible to patronage, no more independent of the executive, and no more capable of pursuing its historic and essential balancing functions.

Labour continues, in defiance of popular opinion, to push powers to the regional level, a programme almost precisely calculated to alienate local feeling while undermining a collective sense of Britishness.

Labour are determined to press ahead with a programme of local government reform which would see our county structure replaced with new abstract authorities.

Today, David Miliband, a member of the Cabinet, is giving a speech calling for people to be given more power over their lives and more power as communities. Yet no Government has left the citizen with a greater sense of powerlessness, nor attacked so unsparingly the established mechanisms of local democracy. We have one member of the Cabinet moving power to a local level, while the rest of the Cabinet are busy amalgamating police authorities, ambulance trusts, crime and disorder partnerships and fire control centres – removing local control and accountability across the board, and diminishing faith in local democracy.

In addition, Labour are intent on pressing ahead with European integration without ever having provided the House of Commons with an adequate mechanism for scrutinising legislation.

Labour have allowed the executive to grow in power, secretive, unscrutinised and unaccountable, as more agencies, quangos and taskforces operate without adequate democratic control, claiming for themselves the authority bestowed by serving the ruling ideological agenda.

Gordon Brown has been at the centre of this web. He has turned the Budget speech into a partisan occasion that bears little relation to the Budget itself. He has accumulated power in the Treasury, and reduced Parliamentary scrutiny by timetabling Finance Bills for the first time; he has manipulated statistics, sometimes to the point of meaninglessness; his statements to Parliament are rarer than those of anyone else in the Cabinet; and he has taken not answering the question to an art form which only the Prime Minister can aspire to.

This mistreatment of Parliament means that Brown is in a weak position to propose constitutional reform or loyalty to national institutions.

On devolution, House of Lords reform, regionalisation, local government reform, European integration and executive power, Gordon Brown’s approach still betrays the thinking of those radicals who were influencing young minds when he was at university.

The Chancellor has been shaped by that past. The Government has been shaped by their agenda. And the Chancellor is a defender of that agenda, incapable of disowning it, even as he must see how it undermines our national stability and sense of security.

The tragedy of Mr Brown’s attempt to grapple with the question of national identity is that he has wholly failed to recognize the role of common institutions in pulling a diverse society together. He is too much a prisoner of the Government’s past, unable to admit the damage that has been done by the Government to our institutions, and hence unable to offer any coherent vision for re-invigorating those institutions.

Vague talk of Britishness, and a sudden love of flagpoles, is no substitute for renewing faith in Britain’s institutions.

The potency of the challenges we face in the next century

Economic competition from rising nations

Radical Islam using states abroad, radicals here and networks globally to subvert democracy

Climate change posing difficult questions about energy use and economic development

Social change requiring us to rethink obligations across generations and between partners

All require us to have a Prime Minister certain of his own identity, free of ideological baggage from the past, uncompromised by failure in Government, sufficiently at ease with Britain that he doesn’t need constantly to redefine what Britishness means, sufficiently ambitious for Britain that he doesn’t shirk from embracing radical reform and clear-sighted about how our common institutions need to be renewed.

There is someone who has recently made clear his intention to replace the Prime Minister at an early date and who I think will prove to have these attributes and that vision.

On the evidence of the policies and the rhetoric with which he has favoured us in recent days, I am afraid that man is not Gordon Brown.

That is his tragedy.

Let us hope it does not become the nation’s…

William Hague – 2012 Speech at Somali Diaspora Reception

Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Foreign Secretary, at the Somali Diaspora reception in London on 23 February 2012.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Lancaster House ahead of the London Somalia Conference. I know many of you have travelled a long way to be here. I have just met the delegation from Wales – they are particularly welcome, as my wife is keen for me to note – but also from all over the United Kingdom and from Somalia itself. Wherever you have come from, you are very welcome.

Tomorrow the largest gathering of countries and organisations ever to come together to discuss Somalia will meet in this very room. The conference will include the President and Prime Minister of Somalia, the President of Somaliland, seven Somali delegations, leaders from across Africa, the Secretary General of the Union Nations, and many Foreign Ministers from around the world. Our Prime Minister initiated this conference because Somalia matters greatly to the United Kingdom; and the involvement of all these nations and organisations confirms that Somalia’s stability and security matter to the whole world.

And there are just three things that I want to tell about tomorrow’s conference.

The first is that it is not about imposing a solution on the people of Somalia. Only they can determine their future and we cannot make their decisions for them. As the Prime Minister said this week, the aim of the conference is to try “to get the whole of the world behind the efforts of the Somali people who are building a stronger, safer and more prosperous country”. Somalis in Somalia and around the world are at the forefront of our minds as we host this conference. They have endured twenty years of conflict, suffering, deprivation, violence and hunger – but show the most remarkable resilience, courage and love for their country in their determination to rebuild Somalia. I met some of them when I visited Mogadishu three weeks ago, and I pay tribute to them and to all of you here tonight who support Somalia in many different ways. As I pointed out to the House of Commons when we debated this issue ten days ago, the amount of money that Somali people around the world send back to their country is greater than all the international aid from all the countries of the world that the country receives each year, which is a striking illustration of that bond and that commitment. And I believe that, if a country’s greatest asset it its people, then Somalia can consider itself rich indeed.

You are all here tonight as representatives of the Somali people, and we have done our utmost to speak to members of the Somalia diaspora here in Britain and overseas as we prepared the strategy that we will discuss tomorrow. From Cape Town, where I was last week, and in Nairobi before that to Birmingham and Bristol we have held events for British Ministers to meet Somali community groups, and on Monday the Prime Minister hosted a gathering in Number Ten Downing Street for the same purpose. I thank Chatham House and the Council of Somali Organisations for their part in supporting these discussions, which really have made a contribution to our thinking and our policy.

The second thing I want to tell you is that we believe it really is a historic moment of opportunity for Somalia – and we hope you share the same sense of optimism, despite the immense challenges that are still ahead. The fact that I was able to be the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Somalia in twenty years was because of the success African Union Forces and Somali leaders have had in regaining control of Mogadishu and restoring authority in different parts of Somalia. There is an opportunity this summer to forge a more representative political process for the people of Somalia, and to provide more of the development and regional support that the country needs. Now really is the time for us to seize that moment of opportunity and to coordinate international assistance in meaningful ways behind Somali efforts, and that is what I believe all the countries gathered here in London are determined to do.

And I hope that what we have done will give you confidence. I was proud when I visited Mogadishu to do so with our new Ambassador to Somalia for twenty years. And I dug for myself the first hole in the ground where our new Embassy will stand.

And my third message to you is that this really is an important priority for our Government. We know that what happens in Somalia has consequences for the entire region and the whole world. Hundreds of thousands of refugees remain encamped in neighbouring countries. Two decades of chronic insecurity have created in some places a breeding ground for piracy and terrorism which has a direct impact on our own national security here. Sailors from around the world have been kidnapped from the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Citizens from Europe and North America have been taken from Kenyan territory and held to ransom. And the terrorist tactics of Al Shabaab are a direct threat to our own security and to many other people around the world, as well as a source of suffering for Somalis.

We are serious about working with others to help Somalia get back onto its feet, and we will maintain that commitment over the coming years. We are also joined this evening by a large number of British Members of Parliament from all Parties including members of the All Party Parliamentary Group and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who I thank for their longstanding interest in this area. They are proof of the fact that the people of Somalia have a strong friend in the United Kingdom, and many people who have supported it through thick and thin and will continue to do so in the future.

So tomorrow we hope to agree with our partners a more coherent, and better coordinated, international strategy for Somalia: including action to support the political process, to help eradicate piracy, to support human rights, justice and development and to help the recovery of Somalia.

William Hague – 2001 Speech at Welsh Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Leader of the Conservative Party, in Cardiff on 14 May 2001.

It is always a pleasure for me to be back in Wales. Wales gave me some of the happiest years of my parliamentary career – although, of course, that’s not all I took away from my time here.

And it is a great privilege to back among so many friends in the Welsh Conservative Party. I know that at this Election Welsh Conservatives are thirsting for the fight and are fighting to win.

We can win because of the leadership of Nick Bourne and his brilliant team in the National Assembly, Nigel Evans at Westminster and Jonathan Evans speaking up for Wales in the European Parliament.

We can win because of the hard work and dedication of Conservative Councillors across Wales.

We can win because of all of you in the Welsh Conservative Party have never wavered in your commitment to the Conservative cause and your determination to see the end of this miserable Labour Government.

And that is what all of us are going to do – ensure that Tony Blair is given his marching orders from No 10, put Welsh Conservatives back in Westminster and the Conservative Party back into Government.

To come back to Wales is to find myself again among real people: not the politically correct commentators and radical lawyers Tony Blair has in mind when he talks about “the people”. But real men and women leading real lives.

People who are more interested in how much they are paying for petrol than in how much Cardiff council is paying its leader. People who are more concerned about their child’s GCSE results than about what method of election should be used in the Assembly. People who are more interested in whether their daughter can walk safely at night than whether she should serve in the front line.

People who understand that you can be proud to be Welsh as well as proud to be British, and value what the nations of the United Kingdom have achieved together. People who Labour sometimes dismiss as old-fashioned because they still believe in personal responsibility and patriotism and the importance of family.

People and communities all over Wales, who are starting to wonder whether any politicians are in touch with their concerns. People not unlike those like those I grew up with in the Rother Valley.

My classmates at Wath-on-Dearne Comprehensive had fathers who worked in mines and in steelworks and on farms. Like all parents, they wanted their children to have the best possible start in life. They wanted their families to be financially independent. They wanted a secure old age. And, without ever making a fuss about it, they loved their country.

Even back then, they were considered unfashionable. The last thing the Labour Party wanted was to give them independence. Much better to keep them in the industrial working class. Take away their freedom of choice. Tell them where to live. Tell them where to send their children to school. Make them join a trade union. Don’t give them their own pension. Make them depend on the state for every rise in life.

Our party changed that. We gave people the opportunity to take back control over their own lives. And they seized that opportunity with an enthusiasm that astonished the world.

Now the children I was at school with have families of their own. Their jobs are in computer firms, in high-street banks and call centres; they’re nurses and teachers and self-employed builders. They own their own homes, and they’re saving for pensions. And the girls in my class are struggling to balance the pressures of being a good mother and holding down a good job.

Those are the people who motivate me. People who are beginning to wonder whether ministers will ever listen to them. Our party is in it for them, and others like them throughout the United Kingdom.

Let me be honest: when I was here as Welsh Secretary, I made a number of friends who told me they were voting Labour. They had a variety of motives. Some of them actually believed all that rhetoric about a new Britain. But most of them simply felt that Labour deserved a fair crack of the whip.

They weren’t expecting miracles. They wanted decent schools for their children, safe streets and the opportunity to prosper by their own effort. It wasn’t much to ask. But, four years on, they’re feeling let down and conned.

They were promised lower class sizes; but they’ve seen class sizes rise in secondary schools throughout Wales.

They were promised a cut in NHS waiting lists. But, although in-patient waiting lists have fallen in Wales by 2,000, outpatient waiting lists have risen by a staggering 57,000.

They were told that taxes wouldn’t have to go up. But they’ve been taxed for marrying, taxed for driving, taxed for wanting to own their home, taxed for trying to put a little aside each month, taxed for growing old. They’ve seen council tax soar in Wales, with Band D houses now paying £215 more than when Labour took office.

And they’re wondering – as we are all wondering – where all the money is going. You’ve paid the tax, but you’re still waiting for your operation. You’ve paid the tax, but you’re still waiting for news of your train. You’ve paid the tax, but when was the last time you saw a police patrol on your street?

Those people I met as Welsh Secretary, who were so keen to tell me that they were voting Labour, expected a Government that would be tough on crime. But they’ve seen police numbers cut while prisoners are let out of jail early.

They believed that the priority would be “education, education, education”. But they’ve seen teachers bent double under paperwork and classroom discipline undermined. They’ve class sizes increase and children sent home because of staff shortages.

And now they’re wondering whether any politician will ever listen to them. They’re beginning to think that nothing will ever improve. That taxes will only ever go in one direction. That violent crime can only get worse. That there will always be failing schools. That no one will sort out the chaos on our roads and railways. Even that the drift into a European superstate is inevitable.

Well I say that none of these things is inevitable. I’m not promising to have all the solutions. No politician can. But things can improve. There is no excuse for giving up.

I won’t give up on the families, the savers, the pensioners whose taxes are rising faster than anywhere else in the world. It doesn’t have to be this way. The only reason that our taxes are shooting up is that the Government has chosen to raise them.

Of course decent public services need to be properly funded. People don’t object to paying tax when they can see that the revenue is being well used. But they do object when the money going into the NHS is not spent on patient care, but on preparing accounting systems for the euro. They object when up to £47 million is to be spent on a new Assembly building. They object to being taxed to recruit new armies of clerks and officials and regulators and licensors and inspectors and bureaucrats to the state apparatus.

And they’re right to object; you’re right to object. None of us minds paying for roads and schools and hospitals. But do you really feel the same about paying £4 million to take on more Labour spin-doctors? Do you really want to spend £1.4 billion in Wales on scrapping the pound?

The fact is that we have become used to a level of service from the state that we would never accept in any other walk of life. We put up with poor schools and cancelled operations and a bad return on our pension contributions because we feel we have no choice. But we shouldn’t have to.

If you wanted to book a holiday in Spain next month, and went to the travel agent, and were told that your holiday would have to be in two years time and had to be in South America, you’d use a different travel agent. If your local supermarket never stocked the goods you wanted, but charged you through the nose all the same, you’d want a refund.

Well I say you should have that refund. If the Government has enough of your money left over to spend millions of pounds on advertising to tell you what a good job it’s doing, then it’s taxing you too much.

Taxes in this country are beginning to spiral out of control. It isn’t selfish to think this: it’s responsible. People know that you can’t spend more than you have. And they know that, at a time when our competitors are cutting tax, Britain can’t afford to drive away investment.

I don’t believe that things have to be this way. Other countries are reducing taxes without cutting services. For twenty years Britain has been the lowest taxed country in Europe. That has brought us more jobs, more investment, more trade and more economic success than any other country in Europe. Yet Mr Blair is throwing all this away. He is increasing taxes and regulation while the rest of the industrialised world is going in the opposite direction. He is out of touch with the British people who know they are paying too much for too little – and he is out of tune with the needs of global competition.

Future jobs and growth will come to countries which cut taxes, not those which keep on increasing them. Mr Blair can try, Canute like, to turn back the tide of those who want and need lower taxes – but he will not succeed. Tax cuts are an idea whose time has come.

Michael Portillo and I have shown how we can cut taxes by £8 billion. We have shown how we can fulfil our plans to reduce taxes.

Last Friday I challenged Tony Blair to repeat the pledge he made at the last election when he said that he had “no plans to increase tax at all”.

That was four days ago. What have we heard from the Prime Minister? A deafening silence.

What is the problem? It can’t be that he’s lacked the opportunity to repeat his promise. He could have told one of the callers on GMTV that he would not increase their taxes – after all, they told him they were paying too much already. He could have told David Frost that would not increase taxes. He could have told John Humphrys this morning that he would not increase taxes.

When it comes to tax increases, the best policy Tony Blair has been able to come up with is to keep mum.

He hopes the British people won’t notice that he has turned Trappist.

Too bad, Tony: we’ve noticed alright.

We all know why he won’t answer.

We all know that his spending plans require another round of stealth taxes to pay for them – £10 billion according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

That’s equivalent to increasing the price of petrol to nearly £6 a gallon, or £1.30 a litre.

We know why he won’t answer, and what’s more he knows.

He won’t answer because he can’t answer.

No wonder Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are rowing.

The Prime Minister has boxed in his Chancellor. Gordon Brown needs to raise taxes, but Tony Blair won’t let him say so.

So the compromise they’ve reached? A conspiracy of silence.

If we were in America and Tony Blair was asked a straightforward question on tax, he’d plead the Fifth Amendment. You know the one – that’s the one that protects people from incriminating themselves.

Watch out for Labour. They’re going to try the same deceit at this election that they tried at the last.

They’re going to tell you that they won’t raise the rate of income tax.

But you know that is just a piece of spin. They said that last time and then increased income tax for millions of people by abolishing tax allowances and dragging more people into higher taxes.

I repeat my challenge to the Prime Minister. Be honest with the British people. Give it to them straight. Will you increase taxes if re-elected, yes or no?

The Conservative Party has worked out the most detailed plan ever produced by an Opposition, showing exactly how we can make savings in Government spending without taking a single penny from hospitals, or schools or the police or the Armed Forces.

It’s not going to cure everything. But it will allow us to deliver tax cuts for small businesses and married couples and savers and pensioners and people with children.

And it will allow us, in our first year in office, to reduce the cost of petrol by 27p a gallon and that will be welcomed by the elderly, disabled people and millions of others for whom the car is not a luxury but a necessity.

People are not expecting the Earth. Just for the chance to live secure lives without having to rely on the state. It isn’t much to ask.

Pensioners want the dignity of independence in their old age. They’ve paid tax throughout their lives. They shouldn’t have to go on paying in retirement. That’s why the next Conservative Government will raise the state pension and, at the same time, raise pensioners’ tax allowances by £7.50 a week, which would take a million pensioners out of tax altogether.

And for those at the other end of their careers, those just starting out in the work place, I say: you should have the opportunity to build up your own pension fund without having to rely on the state.

People want to do the right thing: to put aside a little each month to provide for their retirement, or for their children or grandchildren. They’ve already been taxed for earning the money; they shouldn’t be taxed again for wanting to save it. The success of our economy depends on encouraging investment. That’s why the next Conservative Government will abolish taxes on savings and dividends.

And there’s no excuse for giving up on marriage. Married people provide stable homes for children. They should be rewarded, not penalised. That’s why the next Conservative Government will introduce a transferable allowance for married couples worth up to £1,000. And we will offer special help and training to women who take time out to look after their children, but who want to return to work when their children are older. Let’s not be afraid to say it: we believe in marriage.

There’s no excuse for giving up on our roads. John Prescott seems to think that driving is a vice. But just because he treats his two Jags as a luxury, that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can do the same. For women who don’t want to walk home from the station after dark, or for families trying to manoeuvre small children to school and back, or for small businesses needing to shift their goods, or for people who live in rural Wales, driving is a necessity.

Mr Prescott may regard petrol duty as an ethical tax. But I don’t see anything ethical about a tax on women and children and small businesses and the countryside. That’s why the next Conservative Government will cut fuel tax by 6p a litre, that’s 27 pence a gallon.

And we need to do it now. Because in Brussels today they’ve been discussing a plan to harmonise fuel prices across Europe. Stephen Byers admitted it this morning. And don’t think for a moment they’re planning to cut petrol tax in Britain to the European average. It’s a one way street. They want to lock in higher petrol taxes here and prevent them from ever being cut again. That’s why Britain’s drivers are saying to Labour and to Brussels at this election: hands off our fuel.

And there’s no excuse for giving up on the crime problem. It’s just not true to say that rising crime is inevitable. During the early 1990s, crime rates started to fall. But now we’ve seen record rises in violent crime, especially in the kinds of offence that tend to ruin lives: assaults, rapes, muggings.

When you spend too long looking at crime figures, it’s easy to lose sight of what each one of those recorded offences means in terms of human misery.

When a pensioner has her handbag snatched by a lout on a bike, it may not register as a major offence. But, for that pensioner, it can be a life-changing experience. She may never again feel comfortable walking along the street where it happened. She may never again feel safe outside her home.

When a family come back from their holiday and find that their home has been broken into and ransacked, the statistics simply notch up one more burglary among the thousands that take place every month. But that family’s home has been soiled and violated: it will never feel quite the same again.

There is nothing inevitable about this crime wave. It hasn’t just happened spontaneously. It has happened because police numbers have been cut, and because those officers who remain in the force feel blamed and demoralised. And it has happened because nearly 35,000 serious criminals have been released early. Police taken off the streets, criminals turned on the streets.

Think, for a moment, about what this means. Serious criminals – muggers, burglars, sex offenders, even attempted murderers – have been allowed home early. Over a thousand of these have breached their curfew conditions, and some have disappeared entirely. Many more have committed crimes while on special early release: more muggings and burglaries, more assaults on police officers, more rapes.

This did not need to happen. And it doesn’t need to happen. Mistaken policies can be dropped. It is possible to begin to put things right.

The next Conservative Government will stop early release. We will introduce tougher sentences for violent and sex offenders, tougher sentences for drug pushers, tougher sentences for burglars. And we will make prisoners serve their full sentences.

And, while they are in custody, we will make prisoners do a full working day: not artificial schemes, but paid employment. And we will see to it that some of their wages go to compensate the victims.

And the next Conservative Government will reverse Labour’s cuts in police numbers. It’s not just a question of attracting young men and women to serve in the police force. It’s a question of keeping them there. Police recruits join up because they want to serve their communities. They want to be out on patrol, not handcuffed to their desks. And they want to know that, if they stop and search a suspect, his word will not automatically be taken over theirs.

There is no excuse for giving up on crime. With resolve and a little imagination, with proper sentencing and with visible policing, it really is possible to turn things around. It has happened elsewhere. It happened in New York, where a properly motivated and resourced police force transformed what used to be one of the most violent cities in the world. It could happen here.

And I refuse to give up on the Welsh countryside. Labour ministers seem to have no grasp of how serious things have become in Wales. It’s not just hill-farms that are suffering. Livestock and dairy farmers in Wales have seen their income fall by 25 per cent in four years. Seventy-three farming jobs are lost each week in Wales, as families who have managed the land for generations are being forced to sell up. When I say that we are witnessing the asphyxiation of rural Wales, I am not choosing my words lightly.

The countryside doesn’t just need an injection of cash. It needs a vibrant and successful economy.

Coming on top of all the other problems, Foot and Mouth has been a disaster for the Welsh countryside. For so many farmers years of hard work has been destroyed in a matter of weeks. Rural businesses have seen their turnover collapse. And there have been animal welfare problems of a kind we never expected to see in Britain.

The priority of the next Conservative Government must be to help the countryside recover. So immediately we take office, and working with the National Assembly at every stage, we will implement our Strategy for Recovery, containing steps to stamp out Foot and Mouth once and for all, to help our struggling tourism industry and other rural businesses and firm action to prevent this terrible disease entering Britain again.

The next Conservative Government won’t just offer the Welsh countryside a one-off transfusion. We will aim to restore its long-term health. Our proposals come as a package: cuts in the business rate for rural shops, pubs and garages; support for village post offices; an end to Labour’s housing targets; more use of brownfield land for development; 6p a litre off the price of petrol; help for village schools; an extension of rural homeownership.

In the long term, if agriculture is to remain a viable industry, we will have to change the entire basis of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. If I sat down today and tried to come up with the most expensive, least efficient, most Byzantine farming system I could, I doubt I’d get close to the CAP. Every family in the United Kingdom pays three times over for the CAP: first, to support the production of food for which there is no market; then to pay for its storage, and occasionally its destruction; and then all over again as consumers to prop up artificially high prices.

So with all this money sloshing around, you’d expect some of it to be going to our farmers. But, because Britain is a food importing country with relatively a relatively efficient agricultural sector, we do very badly out of the subsidy system. In other words, our taxpayers and consumers are coughing up, not to support British farmers, but to subsidise their Continental competitors!

This cannot go on. Our farmers are among the most dedicated and innovative in the world. On a level playing field, they’d acquit themselves against all comers. But they cannot compete properly as long as they are confined by the current Common Agricultural Policy.

The next Conservative Government will re-negotiate the Common Agricultural Policy so that many decisions currently taken at EU level would be taken by the governments of individual member states. The voice of the Welsh Secretary will be vital in speaking up for the interests of Welsh agriculture.

Above all, there is no excuse for giving up on our schools. I was lucky as a boy: I went to a first-rate comprehensive. But there were other children in the neighbourhood who were less fortunate than I was: who went to schools where they were never stretched, where their ambition was never kindled, where their potential was slowly poured into the sand.

No parents should be forced to send their child to a failing school simply because of where they live. It was wrong then and it is unacceptable today. In a society as wealthy as ours, there should be no such thing as a sink school.

Tony Blair, with his customary attention to detail, promised to give us “education, education, education”. Well, I want to be a little more specific than that with my own aims. I want discipline, standards, choice.

Schools should be answerable to parents, not to politicians. That’s why the next Conservative Government will set our schools free: free to set their own admissions policies, free to decide their own rules, free to spend their own budgets. If our children are to realise their potential, we need to release the energy and enterprise of those who work in education. It can be done.

I’m not going to promise to set everything to rights. But I can promise that the next Conservative Government will clear its desks to focus on improving our education system. And I can promise that we will push more resources out to our schools.

We will set Welsh schools free from red tape and bureaucracy and allow the National Assembly to provide funding directly to schools. The Assembly will then work with local authorities to improve school standards across Wales.

We have calculated that if the National Assembly paid money direct to the schools themselves rather than through the LEAs, we can place an extra £540 a year at the disposal of heads and governors.

We recognise that LEAs provide additional functions other than funding. These will still be carried out by individual Local Authorities, but it will be for the National Assembly, as the body with responsibility for local government, to oversee these functions.

But under Conservative plans head teachers will be able to set their own priorities. Just think of how far even a part of that extra £540 could go when it comes to upgrading school facilities, or taking on extra staff, or offering children more opportunities for sport or drama or music.

But none of these things is possible if we give up on our national independence; if we give up on Britain. I have faith in this country and its people. We can prosper as a self-governing nation.

People often say to me: “Yes, I want to keep the pound. But it’s all inevitable isn’t it? We’re going to be dragged into the euro one way or another.”

No, it’s not inevitable. It’s up to you. You can vote Lib-Lab or Plaid, and see the pound abolished within two years. Or you can vote Conservative to keep the pound.

Labour may not have confidence in this country. They may not believe that Britain is strong enough to survive on its own. But I do. We’re the fourth largest economy in the world. We’re the fourth military power on Earth. We’re one of five members of the UN Security Council, one of the Group of Seven industrialised nations, we have unparalleled links with the United States, the Commonwealth and the rest of the English-speaking world. How much bigger do we have to be before we’re able to run our own affairs in our own interests?

Don’t let anyone tell you that the euro is inevitable.

And don’t let anyone tell you that believing in an independent Britain is anti-European or xenophobic. We are a European country. But we can never be only a European country. We are tied by our history and our geography to other continents.

Welsh people through the ages have settled across the seas. To this day, people throughout the United Kingdom have friends and relatives in North America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and the Indian sub-continent. It’s not we who are the isolationists; it’s those who want to lock our country into a European bloc.

And don’t let anyone tell you that we’re going to be dragged into a European Superstate.

The Conservative Party wants to be in Europe, not run by Europe. We want the EU to do its job, and to do it well. But there are plenty of policies that could and should be returned to the nation-states.

Look at the record of the Common Agricultural Policy, which has pushed up prices and taxes across Europe while leaving Welsh hill farms and the Welsh countryside devastated. Look at the pettifogging rules that have choked so many of our small businesses.

Labour’s policy is to take the EU institutions that have done all this, and put them in charge of our money, of our defence policy, even of our criminal justice.

Our policy is that Brussels should do less and do it better. That’s why the next Conservative Government will pass a Reserved Powers Act, to prevent EU law from overriding the will of Parliament in areas which Parliament never intended to transfer to the EU. We want our children and grandchildren to inherit the same freedoms that we inherited from our parents.

I trust our people. I am proud of this country: comfortable with its past and confident about its future. I don’t believe that we have to go along with every new Brussels initiative simply because others are doing so.

So let me make one thing clear today. If other members of the European Union want to go ahead with political integration, if they want to merge themselves into a larger union, a Conservative Britain will not be part of it. We shall cheer them from the sidelines: they will always be able to rely on our open markets, on our diplomatic support, on our military alliance.
But we will never compromise our democracy; we will never bargain with our independence.

And so to everybody who shrugs in despair at politics, who thinks that nothing can be done about higher tax and more crime and European federalism and the asylum crisis, I say: something can be done. We don’t promise miracles. But we can make a start.

We are ready to govern for all the people. For people in the countryside, who have almost given up on ministers ever understanding them. For people in our inner cities, struggling to bring up families on crime-ridden estates with failing schools. For people in towns and suburbs in Wales, and all over Britain, who are watching their green spaces disappear inexorably under concrete.

We will govern for taxpayers wanting to see some return on their taxes. For nurses and teachers and policemen who want to get on with their jobs, not be snowed under with paperwork. For people who believe that the countries of the United Kingdom have achieved more together than they would separately, and who refuse to feel ashamed about our history. We are in it for all the people.

To parents who want the best for their children, who believe that teachers who run disciplined classrooms should get our support, not end up in court: we’re in it for you.

To pensioners who have already done their bit, and who don’t understand why they are still being taxed: we’re in it for you.

To people who live with the daily reality of crime, who feel that their town centres are closed to them on a Friday night and who can’t remember when they last saw a policeman on their street: we’re in it for you.

To parents with young families, struggling to make their budgets stretch that little bit further: we’re in it for you.

To all the small businesses and self-employed people who are wasting more time than they can afford to on complying with regulations: we’re in it for you.

To people who work hard, save hard and try to be independent of the state: we’re in it for you.

And to everyone who believes in an independent Britain: we’re in it for you. Come with us, and we will give you back your country.

William Hague – 2010 Speech with Hillary Clinton


Below is the text of the press conference with William Hague and Hillary Clinton, held in Washington, United States on 14 May 2010.

Hillary Clinton: Some months ago so this is not the first time that we’ve had the opportunity for a substantive discussion about a, a very broad range of important matters. The election of a new Government in the United Kingdom and the smooth transfer of power this week were two powerful symbols of the enduring democratic traditions that our two nations share. And we’re very intrigued by and will follow closely the latest incarnation of this long democratic tradition. We’re reminded again that our common values are the foundation of an historic alliance that really undergirds our common aspirations and our common concerns.

The Obama Administration looks forward to working with the new British Government, we will continue to build on the deep and abiding trust that has existed between the British and American people for a very long time. The Foreign Secretary and I had a lot to talk about today. We discussed our shared mission in Afghanistan and he reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to working with the international community and the Afghans to achieve long term stability there.

The United States is deeply appreciative of the British contributions in Afghanistan and we honour the sacrifices of the British service members who serve their country with such distinction overseas.

The United States and the United Kingdom are also firmly committed to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and we support the efforts by the Afghan Government to fight corruption and build a stable and secure Government and country. We will continue our very close consultations on these matters going forward.

We also remain united in our insistence that Iran fulfil its international obligations and prove that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. Contrary to recent suggestions Iran has not indicated any interest in or accepted the standing offer of the P5 plus 1 to discuss international concerns over its nuclear programme. Rather Iran’s senior officials continue to say they will not talk about their nuclear programme with us. So we are working closely with our UK and other partners on a new Security Council resolution affirming that there are serious consequences should Iran continue to flout its international obligations and fail to comply with both IAEA decisions and UN Security Council resolutions.

The Foreign Secretary and I also discussed the importance of finding a way forward in the Middle East peace process. Our countries will continue working together to encourage all parties to resume direct negotiations. We seek a two state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict with an overall goal of securing a comprehensive peace in the Middle East that requires everyone at the table.

And, of course, there are so many other issues that we touched on. We share a mutual interest in restoring confidence in the financial sector in Europe and in the Eurozone as well as the global economy. We will continue working together to restore economic stability. So I look forward to a very strong working relationship with the Foreign Secretary and it is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to begin what will be a long, close and at times intense consultations over the months and years ahead.

William Hague: Thank you. Well it’s an immense pleasure for me to be here today. I was here not so many months ago as a Shadow Foreign Secretary and we had a very good meeting then but it was always one of my hopes that we would have the opportunity to work together in Government and now we do have the opportunity to do so.

It’s been an extraordinary week really in British politics, it’s only a week since the election results were coming in. Now we have a new Government created in a new way in Britain and one of the things that has struck the Prime Minister and I is the, the sheer warmth of the welcome we’ve had from the United States. The first person to call David Cameron when he entered 10 Downing Street was the President of the United States and the first person to call me when I entered the Foreign Office was Secretary Clinton and Vice President Biden has had an excellent chat on the telephone with our new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. And one of the reasons I wanted to come here so quickly and have our meeting is, is to show that we reciprocate that warmth and we are looking forward to exactly the relationship which the Secretary of State has been describing.

This new British Government has some real ambition and energy and determination to rebuild our economic strength at home which is, of course, the foundation of any successful foreign policy, but also to deliver a distinctive British foreign policy abroad. And I’m aware coming in to this job that the, the challenges of foreign policy are uniquely tricky and that is why I’ve always had such huge admiration for Secretary Clinton. The leadership she has provided to the international community as Secretary of State, the energy, the ideas, her advocacy of women’s rights, education, development and effective diplomacy are in, an inspiring example to other Foreign Ministers and would be Foreign Ministers around the world and I pay tribute to her for that.

And today we’ve had very productive talks that reflect this very wide agenda of issues on which the United Kingdom and the United States work in partnership on. We talked, indeed, about our joint effort in Afghanistan which the Prime Minister has made our top priority in, in foreign affairs where we will give the strategy, the NATO strategy and the agreements made at the London Conference, the time and support to succeed. We discussed the closely related situation in Pakistan where we and the United States share common goals and, indeed, have been, have already started discussing ways to enhance and strengthen our cooperation in the support that we give to Pakistan.

We discussed Iran where we, of course, agreed on the need to send a strong and united signal about Iran’s nuclear programme to secure the passage of a UN Security Council resolution. And the United Kingdom will thereafter, of course, play a key role in ensuring that there is determined action by the European Union to follow up such a resolution.

We spoke about the Middle East peace process where I expressed my firm and full support for the President’s efforts to re-launch negotiations and what we as a leading member of the EU can do to buttress these efforts. We’ll work together on the crucial issue of nuclear proliferation and the progress we hope will be made in New York and we discussed developments in Europe and I, I reiterated my determination that the European Union should be a strong partner with the United States in meeting our shared challenges and the determination of the new British Government to play a highly active and activist role in the European Union from the very beginning.

And, finally, I just want to say a few words about what the President has called the extraordinary special relationship between Britain and the United States and we’re very happy to accept that description and to agree with that description. The United States is without doubt the most important ally of the United Kingdom, fundamentally it is a relationship rooted in strong alignment of our national interests and the scope of our cooperation is unparalleled; our, our military, our diplomats, our intelligence and security agencies work hand in glove together. It’s not a backward looking or nostalgic relationship it is one looking to the future from combating violent extremism to addressing poverty and conflict around the world. So I believe the UK and the US share common priorities to an extraordinary degree and we will continue to pursue these priorities in what I think we can confidently say is an unbreakable alliance. And it’s on that basis that I’ve so much enjoyed our talks today.

William Hague – 2012 Speech on Diplomatic Tradecraft


Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Foreign Secretary, at the British Academy, Carlton House Terrace in London on 17 October 2012.

It is a pleasure to be here, and I am grateful to the British Academy for holding this event. It makes an enormous difference to us in Government to have such well-informed and constructive critics and intellectual sparring-partners in the Universities and think tanks. And I am aware that many academics in this audience will have educated foreigners who have gone on to become diplomats and leaders in their own countries, forming a lasting attachment with Britain in the process.

I was fortunate to become Foreign Secretary after five years shadowing foreign policy in Opposition, spending time in many of our Embassies and meeting many of our diplomats. So I came to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with a strong sense of its importance to our national life. It is one of the very finest institutions in our country, and I am proud to lead it.

The Foreign Office is a unique resource that enables us to advance British interests by understanding and influencing other nations, helping British nationals overseas, supporting our economy and responding to threats to our security. It is one of the pillars of our international influence, along with our Armed Forces and Intelligence Agencies. And it is also part of our country’s tremendous soft power advantages in the world, along with the British Council, BBC World Service, our great Universities, our international development programmes and our cultural achievements including the Olympics and Paralympics.

There are few countries that can rival Britain for diplomatic skills and influence in the world. When we bring together our global diplomatic network in 158 countries, our seat on the UN Security Council, our membership of the EU, NATO and the Commonwealth and our strong relationships in every quarter of the globe, we are able to make a significant impact and continue to do so.

We saw this during the conflict in Libya, when our diplomats secured a UN Security Council resolution authorising military force that few people thought would be possible, and when the Foreign Office brought together more than 40 Foreign Ministers and Heads of Government countries for a conference in London, at less than a week’s notice, to galvanise the military and diplomatic campaign.

We showed the same leadership in a different way earlier this year on Somalia: bringing together 54 countries and organisations to agree a new diplomatic strategy in London, securing in parallel a UN Security Council Resolution and new action to counter piracy, and at the same time persuading Somalia politicians to reach agreement. Seven months later piracy is down, Al Shabaab is on the retreat thanks to the efforts of African forces, and Somalia has a new and legitimate government. .

We saw it this summer during the Games. The Foreign Office looked after over 100 Heads of State, secured co-sponsorship of the UN Olympic Truce resolution from all 193 UN Member States for the first time in history; supported the British Business Embassy which was attended by 3,000 business leaders and led to £1 billion worth of deals, and transformed our relationship with the next Olympic hosts, Brazil, by hosting 15 Brazilian government missions on everything from transport to health.

And I am particularly proud of the patient British diplomacy which helped secure just last week the Mindanao Framework Deal between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on 7th October, after forty years of conflict costing more than 120,000 lives. By setting up the International Contact Group, sharing the lessons of the Good Friday Agreement and working side by side with the parties as they agreed a roadmap to peace, British diplomats played an indispensable role. These are examples just from the past year and eighteen months.

I am constantly impressed by the sheer range of tradecraft involved in the Foreign Office’s work. It is impossible to do justice in a short speech to the skills and talents needed to operate in insecure or rapidly changing environments like Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan; in dealing with sensitive consular cases such as the recent shooting of the British family in France; to work in the European Union on ground-breaking sanctions on Iran; to carry out complex negotiations such as for a global Arms Trade Treaty; and to deal with technical and commercially sensitive issues such as financial services reform in China and the internationalisation of the renminbi.

The men and women of the Foreign Office excel at doing all these things and more, and our country’s interests rely on them always being able to do so.

But this global impact can never be taken for granted, and it rests, I believe, on four essential requirements:

First, we need the FCO always to be a strong and flourishing institution over the long term: a centre of excellence in government, able to attract the most talented new diplomats of the future, skilled at developing and retaining knowledge throughout the organisation and excelling in all areas of diplomatic tradecraft. It has to be able to generate the best possible ideas and analysis, and to provide foreign policy leadership that runs through the veins of the whole of Government.

Second, our diplomats need to have an unrivalled knowledge among diplomats of the history, culture, geography and politics of the countries they are posted to, and to speak the local languages. This is a fundamental requirement of diplomacy and we have given renewed emphasis to it. As a small aside, I was delighted that the first person to greet Aung San Suu Kyi when she arrived in the United Kingdom on her historic visit was our Head of Protocol. He was able to greet her in the Burmese he learnt 20 years ago on a posting to the country. These things matter and our diplomats really do need to get under the skin of other societies. They must be able to forge relationships of trust across all areas, including politics, defence and security, the media, civil society, business and commerce. They need to have a strong grasp of economic fundamentals as well as the workings of international diplomacy; they need to be expert in negotiation and other traditional diplomatic skills; and they must be well-versed in modern communication including now, very often, social media.

Third, we need our diplomats to be present in as many countries as possible across the world. The number of centres of decision-making in the world is growing. Without turning away from Europe or America we need to have stronger ties with a wide range of new powers of the 21st century, and this means in my view being strongly represented in them.

Our diplomatic network is the essential infrastructure of Britain’s influence in the world. Of course it is never set in stone and is bound to change over time, and only today I have announced changes to our diplomatic network in Iraq. However having an Embassy or post flying the British flag really matters, and creates an effect that can never be replicated by a diplomat with a laptop however hard they work. That is why we have drawn a line under the closures of Embassies and High Commissions that took place under the last government. Instead of that, by 2015 we will have opened up to 11 new British embassies and eight new consulates or trade offices, and sent 300 extra staff to over 22 countries in the emerging economies – including Burma, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Angola, Botswana, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines – but with the biggest increases in frontline staff in India and in China. We are the only European country that is setting out consciously to expand their diplomatic network in this way, and we are investing in our country’s future influence.

And fourth, we need the Government to use the Foreign Office as it is supposed to be used and not to sideline it. We set up our National Security Council to ensure that decisions about international relations and security are taken in the round, with all relevant Ministers at the table, with Foreign Office ideas and analysis informing every meeting.

I see it as part of my mission as Foreign Secretary to work with our senior diplomats to achieve a permanent and well-entrenched improvement in the Foreign Office’s ability to project Britain’s influence overseas for the long term by systematically building up the Foreign Office in each of these areas.

Together, we have spent much of the last two years engaged in the biggest drive ever seen to increase the traditional diplomatic skills and institutional capacity of the Foreign Office, under the banner of ‘Diplomatic Excellence’.

The highlights of this programme include a new language centre in the Foreign Office that I will open next year, which will have 30 classrooms and train up to 1,000 students a year. We will soon have 40% more speakers of Arabic and Mandarin in our posts overseas than we had only two years ago and 20% more speakers of Latin American Spanish and Portuguese.

We have a new Expertise Fund to deepen thematic and geographical policy expertise across the Foreign Office. It has funded, for example, the creation of an India cadre enabling diplomats to study Indian culture, politics and history in India itself before their posting. We have set up new training for staff working in the energy sector, to give British diplomats an edge in a competitive market and a greater understanding of business priorities. We have invested heavily in formal policy skills training; in all, a total of 774 staff at home and overseas have benefitted from International Policy Skills courses since April 2011, and we are investing in training for our locally-engaged staff to give them a greater role in the Foreign Office’s future diplomacy.

As part of our renewed emphasis on history, the original Colonial Office and Home Office Libraries have been renovated, and our excellent Historians have moved into the latter in the heart of King Charles Street. And they are consulted frequently by the Foreign Secretary. We are bringing our expert research analysts ever more closely into policy discussions, and have set up networks across the Foreign Office to tap into the expertise of serving or former diplomats on issues like the EU and soft power. We are bringing in outside experts to “challenge” our policy on everything from Iran and Sudan to the way we use our historic residences.

We are putting a lot of emphasis on developing our younger talent. I am pleased that some of these young diplomats are in the audience this evening, as well as some members of the Locarno Group of former Ambassadors which I created when I came to office, who spent time earlier today passing on tradecraft tips to their successors.

And earlier this year we invited senior colleagues from across Whitehall, business, media, international organisations and foreign experts to join a Diplomatic Excellence External Panel whose role is to assess our progress

I am confident that these programmes will strengthen the Foreign Office for the future. Our challenge now is to translate this renewed confidence into foreign policy ambition: so that we don’t just react to crises, but address major world problems.

I have been struck time and again over the last two years by the fact that we are one of the few countries in the world that is able to make things happen at a global level.

For example, last year we held in London the first international conference calling for rules of the road to moderate behaviour in cyberspace, including the risks of cyber attack and the growth of cyber crime. This is one of the growing challenges of the internet age. Drawing on the UK’s national advantages in this area and the prowess of GCHQ, we have succeeded in launching and defining a debate which has now led to follow-on conferences in Budapest and South Korea, and we are setting up a new programme to help other countries develop their cyber capabilities.

We have also recently launched a new initiative to challenge the use of rape as a weapon of war. We are calling for a concerted international effort to increase the number of prosecutions for this appalling crime so that we shatter the culture of impunity. We will use our Presidency of the G8 next year to launch work on a new International Protocol in the areas of prosecutions for sexual violence and the protection of victims, and we have set up our own team of experts in the Foreign Office which we will be able to deploy to support investigations in conflict-affected areas.

In both cases we are using our diplomatic network, our policy-making expertise and our global role to provide leadership. We are developing British skills and capabilities and making a difference in individual countries as well as on the international stage. These sorts of initiatives are the best possible use of our diplomats and the diplomatic tradecraft of the Foreign Office, and ample proof that we help shape our world for the better. Our G8 Presidency next year will be a major opportunity to demonstrate this leadership.

So the work we have in hand at the FCO is designed to ensure that Britain’s influence in the world is expanding, not shrinking, that we are connected to the fastest growing areas of the world, and that we retain a global leadership role on the greatest challenges of our time. It will mean that the Foreign Office has an even greater capability to promote Britain’s national interest for the long term. And I believe it will mean that we can say that with confidence that ours is indisputably the best Diplomatic Service in the world, advancing Britain’s national interest and our values even more effectively in the world of the 21st century than it has done for so long, and with such distinction, in the past.

William Hague – 2012 Speech on Consular Diplomacy


Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Foreign Secretary, on 4 April 2012.

I have given many speeches as Foreign Secretary about our approach to foreign policy, our work for international peace and security and our strong emphasis on commercial diplomacy. But today I want to describe what we are doing in a vital area of the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but one which rarely receives so much attention: strengthening Britain’s consular diplomacy.

When an Air France jet plunged into the Atlantic and 228 people died; British consular staff and police worked painstakingly to identify the 8 British victims from amongst the wreckage and body parts.

When the worst hurricane in Mexico’s history struck, Foreign Office staff battled along flooded roads, downed trees and tangled power lines to reach Cancun to help evacuate 9,000 British citizens.

And last year in Bangladesh, Foreign Office staff rescued four girls from forced marriage in a single day and returned them safely to Britain, including one girl who had been kept chained to her bed.

As these stories show, consular work is a very personal business.

It touches the lives of British citizens in difficult and sometimes extreme circumstances.

It is the only way most people come into contact with the Foreign Office, and it is one of our main responsibilities as a Department.

When we came into Government we boiled down our objectives to three priorities:

First, security: the Foreign Office has to safeguard Britain’s national security by countering terrorism and weapons proliferation and working to reduce conflict.

Second, prosperity: we must build prosperity by increasing exports and investment, opening markets, ensuring access to resources, and promoting sustainable global growth.

Third and the subject of my speech today, the Foreign Office must support British nationals around the world through the provision of modern and efficient consular services.

In the front of each and every British passport is a message which reads: “Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and Requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary”.

That is an expression of the responsibility we have to stand up for the rights of British nationals wherever they are in the world. When people travel our moral obligation to them does not stop at the Cliffs of Dover. At home, the first duty of the Government is the safety and security of British nationals. Abroad, it is the first duty of the Foreign Office, and consular work is one aspect of how we keep Britons safe.

I am giving this speech today because I want people to have a better understanding of the consular work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We already run one of the best consular services of any nation in the world, and I want to set out our plans to make it even stronger in the future.

And I want to pay tribute to all the staff involved, for their outstanding dedication and commitment. They help tens of thousands of British nationals cope with problems ranging from family breakup to natural disasters and revolutions. Often their work does not get the recognition it deserves and I want to begin to redress that.

Foreign Secretaries do not often give speeches on this subject. In fact, I am told that I am the first to do so.

But one of my personal priorities is to strengthen the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an institution, for the long term and in all its areas of work.

I want the Foreign Office always to be a centre of excellence in government, attracting the best talent from across our society, bound by a strong sense of identity and common purpose and home to the very best diplomatic skills, and I know that the Department as a whole aspires to the same thing.

This is good for our country, because a thriving democracy needs strong institutions.

It is good for British citizens, because strong diplomacy helps protect them and secures things that matter to them, from reducing terrorism to supporting jobs.

And it is good for the world, because it means our country plays a leading role in promoting human rights and democracy and in helping others.

So the need to strive for excellence in our diplomacy applies as much to consular work as it does to all other areas of foreign policy.

We need talented and highly trained UK-based and locally-engaged Foreign Office staff in many different countries.

We need people who speak the local language; who know the country inside out; who have a deep understanding of its government, its society and its institutions, and who are able to use the latest technology in creative ways to help British nationals, as our staff in Japan did to use Facebook to track missing people after the tsunami.

We need courageous people, who will travel to disaster areas, comfort the victims of violent crime and comb hospitals and morgues when our nationals are injured or killed overseas.

And we need people with judgement, who know when we should tell British people to leave a country but can also avoid over-reactions. During the Revolution in Egypt we were one of the few countries to judge accurately that the Red Sea resorts would remain safe for travellers.

So in this speech I will explain how we will maintain and strengthen this work around the world.

But first, I want to describe what it is that we can and cannot do.

If you are a British national and you get into genuine difficulty abroad, you can turn to the Foreign Office for certain types of assistance.

We help people who have lost their passports or need to find a doctor or legal advice, or who are struggling with bereavement in a country they don’t know well.

Often the circumstances are tragic and upsetting: we help the parent whose child has been abducted by their former partner; the traumatised victim of rape; the devastated family whose son has committed suicide; the distraught boyfriend whose partner has been murdered; or the vulnerable girl or boy who has been forced into marriage against their will. Last year, the youngest person we provided assistance to help rescue from a forced marriage was just five years old. At this very moment, our consular officers are dealing with saddening cases involving young vulnerable children being abandoned by their families overseas.

We help the victims of kidnappings and their families, maintaining daily contact if they need it and using all our diplomatic means to locate and help release their loved one.

We deal with crises such as terrorist attacks and conflict as well as natural disasters; and we plan for major events such as the Rugby World Cup and Euro 2012 so that British fans are helped to travel safely.

And we are also there when people bring trouble on themselves by breaking local laws, ignoring advice or committing crimes which lead to a prison sentence and, in the worst cases, even the threat of the death penalty.

Foreign Office staff have a responsibility to provide you with professional, non-judgmental advice and help; and to treat you fairly and equally whatever your gender, race, age, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, religion or belief.

This impartiality and dedicated public service reflects the highest values of the Foreign Office as a whole. And it can make a huge difference to anyone who finds themselves in any of these frightening and stressful circumstances.

The sorts of things we can do include issuing you with an emergency travel document if you lose your passport abroad and need to travel urgently. We will provide help if you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of serious crimes such as sexual assault overseas. If you are injured in hospital, we will visit you if there is need. If you are arrested or detained, we will also visit you as soon as possible after arrest, if that is your wish. And if you are in prison, in most countries we will visit you to monitor your welfare, to help you understand the local legal and prison system, to put you in touch with support networks and to help you find an English-speaking lawyer.

We do these things every day somewhere in the world.

But there are also things we cannot do, which is unsurprising when you consider the context.

Britons make more than 55 million individual trips overseas every year, and at least 6 million of our nationals live abroad for some of or all of the time. In the space of a year, approximately 6,000 Britons get arrested, and at any one time more than 3,250 British nationals are in prison around the world. At least 10% of all the murders of Britons in the last two years took place overseas, and on average more than one hundred British nationals die abroad each week.

As you can imagine, this produces an immense demand for our services. In fact, just under two million people contact the Foreign Office for some form of consular assistance each year: that is more than 37,000 people a week.

When you are aware of these vast numbers, you can understand why it is that Embassies cannot pay your bills, give you money or make travel arrangements for you, and why we cannot arrange funerals or repatriate bodies. We try to look after everybody in the same way, and to be consistent in how we help people whether they are rich or poor, famous or unknown.

We also have to observe the law. That means we cannot help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visa. We cannot get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people, and we cannot get you out of prison. We cannot resolve your property or other legal disputes for you. We cannot override the local authorities, such as police investigating crimes. And we cannot give you legal advice: consular staff are not lawyers.

There are also cases where members of the public waste time and scarce resources with ludicrous requests.

It is not our job, for example, to book you restaurants while you are on holiday. This is obvious, you may think. But nonetheless it came as a surprise to the caller in Spain who was having difficulty finding somewhere to have Christmas lunch.

If like a man in Florida last year, you find ants in your holiday rental, we are not the people to ask for pest control advice.

If you are having difficulty erecting a new chicken coop in your garden in Greece as someone else was, I am afraid that we cannot help you.

Equally, I have to say that we are not the people to turn to if you can’t find your false teeth, if your sat nav is broken and you need directions, if you are unhappy with your plastic surgery, if your jam won’t set, if you are looking for a dog-minder while you are on holiday, if your livestock need checking on, if you would like advice about the weather, or if you want someone to throw a coin into the Trevi fountain for you because you forgot while you were on holiday and you want your marriage to succeed. And our commitment to good relations with our neighbours does not, I am afraid, extend to translating ‘I love you’ into Hungarian, as we were asked to do by one love-struck British tourist. There are easier ways to find a translation.

These are a just a few examples of bizarre demands that get put to our staff overseas.

Criticism that is sometimes levelled against us should be viewed in that light. An effective consular service does not mean a nanny state.

So we ask British nationals to be responsible, to be self-reliant and to take sensible precautions. This includes following our travel advice so that you ‘know before you go’, getting the right vaccinations and visas; and familiarising yourself with local laws and customs. We cannot emphasise enough the importance of good travel insurance as we don’t want to see more heart-rending cases of families forced to remortgage their house to pay for a hospital bill overseas. If you do find yourselves needing our help, we do ask British nationals to be prepared to pay for certain services; since Consular assistance is paid for from fees not from taxation and where we do charge a fee for a service, we only do so to cover our costs.

In return, we maintain one of the most extensive and most effective consular networks of any country in the world.

We have consular representation in over 180 countries. More than 740 full time staff work on consular issues at any one time, and we have 160 other staff, trained in crisis management, ready to be deployed at any moment in response to crisis overseas. Last year we despatched them to New Zealand, Cote D’Ivoire, Japan, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and to Tunisia to reinforce our Embassies and High Commissions there. And we provide travel advice on 227 countries and territories which is viewed by more than eight million people a year, giving the public a detailed picture of the risks they may face around the world.

And I am also proud that we not only react to events, we also lead campaigns to change things for the better:

The Foreign Office works to alter attitudes to forced marriage; to improve conditions in prisons; to abolish the death penalty and to restrict the cases to which it to applies; to extend human rights; to combat the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation; and to deter people from crime by warning them about the potential penalties, all in support of British nationals and our democratic values. We were the first country to launch a special section on travel advice for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender travellers and we are the only country to have published an advice document for LGBT victims of forced marriage. And increasingly, we now give advice to hotels and governments on how to boost security in coastal resorts in Africa to reduce the risks of kidnapping.

When you consider that last year we issued 345,000 passports; provided nearly 18,000 Emergency Travel documents; helped some 20,000 Britons who had been arrested, hospitalised, whose relative had died overseas or who had been a victim of crime; provided face-to-face assistance to nearly half a million people; gave written support to another 350,000; answered nearly 1 million phone enquiries; assisted in 356 cases of child abduction; led the rescue overseas of 205 victims of forced marriage; successfully protected 6 British nationals from the death penalty and helped Britons after flooding in Thailand and Australia and instability across the Middle East, in addition to the other crises I have mentioned;

When you reflect that this entire service was provided to British passport holders, every day of the year, week in and week out, at a cost per person of £1.50 a year over the life of a 10-year passport, and without burdening the taxpayer;

And if you note that on top of this, Ministers are involved in many consular cases; meeting families and MPs and raising cases on visits overseas, for example to challenge slow judicial processes that leave British nationals in limbo;

Then you really do see that we provide a vital service to British nationals, and that foundations of our consular services are extremely strong.

Of course we do make mistakes, and sometimes things go wrong.

With so many tens of thousands of cases, many of which are unique, sometimes we do fall short, and often Members of Parliament take up these cases with us on behalf of their constituents.

In Libya for example we were criticised last year when a plane broke down that was due to go to the aid of British nationals, delaying that mission.

We will always constantly strive to improve what we do, and to ensure that we learn lessons from each major crisis.

We published a report on lessons learned in the case of Libya and we have implemented many recommendations from that report, including building more resilience into our consular system. But it is also worth noting that in Libya we succeeded in evacuating 800 British nationals who wished to leave the country, and 1,000 other nationals from over 50 countries.

In general, the Foreign Office receives three times as many messages of thanks as it does complaints or criticism. A very unusual experience for a Government department in my experience.

“Life is unpredictable and dealt me the worse possible blow at what should have been the best possible time of our lives”, wrote a man whose wife had died overseas, in a letter to our Ambassador and his team: “I would have been at a complete loss but for all your unforgettable and truly helpful assistance.”

The words of one young woman whom we helped to cope with a personal tragedy overseas are also typical of many messages that we receive. She wrote: “I was truly amazed by the reactions of the Embassy and Foreign Office. I have been travelling and working overseas for just over 8 years now and up to this point have never needed the assistance of an Embassy. I never could have imagined how supportive and comforting the people who work in this job could be…I really feel that the Embassy and Foreign Office worked above and beyond the call of duty on my behalf and I have nothing but thanks for everyone who was involved.”

We could not do this work as well as we do without other government bodies including the Home Office, the Identity and Passport Service, the Ministry of Justice, the UK Border Agency, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Ministry of Defence.

We also could not do it without the travel industry, charities, NGOs, voluntary organisations and local support networks, and members of expat communities who give their time for free. Some of those groups are represented here today. To them I say we are very grateful to you all and we value our connection with you.

We are determined to maintain and strengthen the Foreign Office’s consular work in the years ahead.

We will do this first and foremost by maintaining our global diplomatic reach and expanding it in some places.

We must always retain our ability to look after our own nationals through consular work as well as our wider diplomacy. We can never rely entirely on anyone else to do this.

Our government understands this, and that is one reason why we are expanding Britain’s diplomatic network in parts of the world and opening new Embassies.

We of course look for ways to work with other countries so that our nationals get the best possible protection wherever they are in the world, including arrangements with Commonwealth nations and the EU.

The Australians recently went to great lengths to secure the safety of a British national who was in grave danger in Papua New Guinea. Just last week we helped a Singaporean stranded in Mali by the coup to get home. And we were recently very grateful to Germany for evacuating an injured British national to hospital, after an attack on tourists in a remote area of Ethiopia in which five people were killed.

We benefit from the European Union arrangement that EU nationals with no Embassy of their own can turn to any other Member State for help.

But those who think we are ever going to subcontract consular services are mistaken. For us consular services will always remain a national responsibility.

Within the European Union, there is no role for EU institutions in defining the consular assistance that Member States should provide to their citizens, or in providing frontline consular assistance. These are matters for which national governments are accountable to their Parliaments and we will oppose EU competence creep in this area.

We will always ensure that our diplomatic network is configured in the best way to support British nationals as well as our wider interests. We have opened or are opening new British Embassies in South Sudan, Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, El Salvador and as security improves, in Somalia; we have opened two new consulates in Canada and Brazil and plan to open six more in the emerging economies. In Europe, changing customer demands and the opportunities of new technology mean we no longer need large established Consulate offices in, for example, Florence and Venice, where the bulk of routine consular services are being delivered by consular hubs in Rome and Milan; or Funchal and Lille, where routine calls are now centralised. We plan to re-structure our consular services in Naples along similar lines this summer.

On top of all these improvements, we are introducing six new measures to improve our service.

First, we are opening a new crisis centre this summer with 50% more staff compared to this time last year, so that we can respond to multiple crises at the same time. We will be able to bring together teams of more than a hundred people from across Government to coordinate the response to crises, with a new call handling centre for worried citizens and families in trouble, and better audiovisual and IT equipment.

Second, we will set up a new network of contact centres which people can call, to provide round the clock coverage and free up more front line staff to deal with difficult cases.

Third, we are increasing our ability to respond to crises in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia by setting up a new Rapid Deployment team, on call 24 hours of the day, seven days a week, ready to be despatched to help British nationals wherever need arises.

Fourth, we will introduce a new mobile registration system by the end of this year for British nationals caught up in a crisis, which will enable people to register with the Foreign Office by text message from their mobile phones.

Fifth, we are freeing up resources and making our services more accessible by moving them online where we can, reducing queuing and unnecessary phone calls.

Finally, we are going to increase our focus on vulnerable people, so that we narrow the gap between the help they would get in the UK and that which they are likely to receive overseas. We already have arrangements to ensure that if someone is bereaved by a murder or manslaughter abroad, they will receive practical support from the Victim Support National Homicide Service, to help them access services like travel, translating and repatriation of remains. We want to build new partnerships to extend this sort of help to other bereavements and to support victims of other serious crimes, such as rape or other assaults resulting in life-threatening injuries, and people with mental health problems.

So this will be our approach: Maintaining and extending our diplomatic network, so that we are in the right places to help British nationals;

– Increasing our capacity to respond to crises, and our accessibility to the public;

– Using the latest technology to help British nationals get the information they need as quickly as possible;

– And training our staff to the highest standard, so that British nationals, including the most vulnerable, get the best possible advice and support.

In two years in the Foreign Office, I have come to see how consular work typifies the very best of the institution and the values it stands for, including commitment to public service, fairness and impartiality.

I have seen the ingenuity and determination of our staff in overcoming problems, their willingness to go the extra mile, and the resourcefulness and courage with which, time and again, they confront the unexpected.

All these things give me great pride in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, great confidence about what we can achieve in the future, and the certainty that it performs an indispensable role for the British public in this area as in so many areas; a service on which we can rely, and which we could never and will never do without.

William Hague – 2001 Speech in Perth


Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Leader of the Opposition, in Perth, Scotland on 4 June 2001.

In just four years the Scottish Conservatives have been has been refreshed, revived and reinvigorated.

It has been transformed by the inspired leadership of people like Malcolm Rifkind, by Raymond Robertson and by David McLetchie.

And it has been turned around because of the hours of dedication and commitment put in by people like you.

You have ensured that our party is now firmly back on the political map of Scotland.

You have re-established our Party as a Party of Scotland, speaking with a genuine Scottish voice, with distinctively Scottish policies.

Scottish Conservatives understand what devolution means. It doesn’t just mean taking your orders from London. It means standing up and fighting for what’s right for Scotland. And at the same time it means making sure that Scotland’s voice within the Union remains strong.

In three days time we can take our revival in Scotland a stage further.

We can do it by helping to give Tony Blair his marching orders from Downing Street.

We can do it by putting Scottish Conservatives back in Westminster.

And we can do it by helping to elect a Conservative Government that will govern for all the people of the United Kingdom.

Scottish Conservatives have never been as hungry for victory as we are in this General Election.

And don’t let anyone tell you that this election doesn’t matter. Don’t let anyone tell you that all parties are the same.

In three days’ time, we will decide whether we want to live in an independent Britain.

In three days’ time, we will decide whether we want to carry on determining our own destiny at future general elections.

In three days’ time, we will decide whether to hand on intact to future generations the freedoms that we inherited from our parents.

And don’t let anyone tell you this election doesn’t matter in Scotland. Don’t let them tell you that because Scotland now has a Parliament of its own, that elections to Westminster are irrelevant.

This election matters as much to Scotland as it does to every other part of the United Kingdom.

Of course the Scottish Parliament controls many areas that are of crucial importance to the people of Scotland.

But taxes, pensions, the amount of money the Scottish Parliament has to spend on things like hospitals, schools and the police, defence, relations with Europe, whether we keep the pound; all of these things are not decided in Edinburgh, but in Westminster.

The decisions taken in Westminster will continue to affect every single person who lives in Scotland.

So I say to the people of Scotland. Don’t allow taxes to be raised even higher; don’t allow Scotland’s voice within the Union to be weakened even further; don’t allow more of the independence of the United Kingdom to be given away; and don’t allow the pound to be abolished.

Don’t allow any of these things to happen just because you were told that this Election didn’t matter.

Say whatever else you like about this election. But don’t say it doesn’t matter. Don’t say that all parties are the same.

This election is about values. Our values as a party, and our values as a country. The values that make up the British character: tolerance and freedom and indignation at injustice; civic pride, patriotism and respect for the law.

These are not, as some politicians seem to think, just words to be dropped into speeches during election campaigns. They ought to be reflected in public policy. And how this is done is what defines us as a nation. That is what is at stake on Thursday.

I say this to the government. It’s no good talking about personal responsibility when more and more of our people are being driven into means-tested dependency.

It’s no good talking about the importance of family when the last recognition of marriage has been removed from th e tax system.

It’s no good talking about law and order when we have a criminal justice system that is more frightening for victims than for criminals.

And it’s no good talking about patriotism when you are handing away in peace-time the independence which previous generations defended in war.

I want to talk tonight about our Conservative values. I want to talk about how our principles will guide our practice. And I want to talk about what it is we are asking you to vote for.

Let’s start with the question of honesty. I don’t just mean the integrity of individual politicians. I mean something much bigger. I’m talking about whether parties as a whole keep faith with the country. Whether spin is more important to them than substance. Whether they are elected in order to govern, or whether they govern in order to be elected.

Four years ago, Tony Blair won office with a big majority and even bigger promises. All of you here will know people who voted Labour: people who wanted to give them a fair crack of the whip. Yet after four years in which Labour have dominated public life in Scotland many of those people are feeling let down and conned.

They voted for a party that had ‘no plans to increase taxes at all’. But they’ve been taxed for marrying, taxed for driving, taxed for wanting to own their own home, taxed for putting a little aside each month, taxed for growing old.

They voted for a party that promised to be tough on crime, but they’ve seen violent crime in Scotland rise and nearly 800 criminals turned on to the street while police are taken off the street.

They voted for a party that said it would ‘save the NHS’ and that promised to make ‘education, education, education’ its top three priorities. But morale in our public services is at rock bottom.

They voted for a party that tried to portray itself as the ‘political wing of the British people’. But they’ve seen how they arrogantly dismiss the views of anyone who disagrees with them like Britain’s farmers or the overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland who wanted to keep Section 2A or 28 as it’s usually known.

They believed Tony Blair when he said he loved the pound. But now they know he intends to scrap the pound at the first opportunity.

They were promised a Government that would be ‘purer than pure’. But they’ve had Lord Simon and his shares, Lord Irvine and his wallpaper, Formula One and tobacco advertising, Robin Cook and Sierra Leone, Geoffrey Robinson and his offshore trust, Stephen Byers and his non-existent writ, Peter Mandelson and his undeclared loan, and, of course, Keith Vaz and everything you’ve ever heard about him.

They’ve seen Labour break its word again and again, whether it’s with a huge majority in London or in Coalition with the Liberals in Edinburgh. And now they can only watch in astonishment as Labour comes back and says: give us another chance. This time we’ll keep our promises. This time we really mean it.

More than that, Tony Blair has already decided to claim victory. He talks arrogantly about having a mandate for change. I see no mandate. I see no change.

Instead I see a Government which has squandered a massive Commons majority, plenty of public goodwill and the best economy ever bequeathed by a predecessor. “The epitaph on this past four years of New Labour will be: Never has a Party had so much and achieved so little.

So you don’t need a crystal ball to see what Labour would do with a landslide, you can read the book. It is a litany of false promises, higher taxes, more spin and the triumph of style over substance.

Labour doesn’t deserve another chance. Scotland and Britain deserve another Government.

I am not going to stand here tonight and offer you the Earth. I’m not going to wave fancy pledge cards around. I am only going to promise what I know I can deliver.

So to everyone who has had enough of spin; to everyone who is sick of politicians who ta lk big and then don’t deliver, I say: come with us. If you value honesty in politics, vote for what you value.

And I say the same to people who believe in personal freedom. If freedom means anything at all, it means being able to live with dignity, without having to depend on the state. It means being able to provide for a secure retirement. And it means being allowed to spend your own money, rather than having it confiscated from you and spent on your behalf by Gordon Brown.

There is nothing inevitable about rising tax. Tax levels are up to you. You can vote Labour, Liberal or SNP for higher taxes, or you can vote Conservative for lower taxes.

Everyone accepts that decent public services need to be properly funded. People don’t object to paying for roads or schools or hospitals. But they do object when the money going into the NHS is spent, not on improving patient care, but on preparing hospital accounting systems for the euro. They object when hundreds of millions of pounds of their taxes are squandered on keeping the Millennium Dome open, or on the ever spiralling costs of the new Parliament building at Holyrood. They object when Labour is spending over £100 million a year on Government advertising.

I say that if the Government has got enough of your money left over to spend £100 million a year on telling you what a good job it’s doing, then it’s taxing you too much.

That’s why the next Conservative Government will give you a refund.

We will cut taxes for small businesses and married couples and savers and pensioners and people with children.

We will abolish taxes on savings and dividends. People who try to put a little aside each month are doing the right thing. They’ve already been taxed for earning the money; they shouldn’t be taxed again for wanting to save it.

We will cut tax for pensioners. The men and women of my parents’ generation, who have spent a lifetime supporting and helping others, have the right to dignity, comfort and independence in retirement. So we will raise pensioners’ tax allowances, lifting a million pensioners out of tax altogether and cutting the tax paid by millions more. Pensioners have already paid tax throughout their working lives; they shouldn’t have to go on paying in retirement.

And we will tackle the problem of the state confiscating the life savings and homes of those who have put money aside for their long term care. We will look to protect the assets of people who have tried to make reasonable provision for themselves. It cannot be right that those who have spent their lives building up something to pass on to their children and grandchildren risk losing nearly everything they have, while those who haven’t saved a penny are paid for by the state.

With the Conservatives it will pay to do the right thing.

And we will cut taxes for drivers. Just because John Prescott treats his two Jags as a luxury, that doesn’t mean the rest of us can afford to. For many people, especially here in Scotland, there is simply no alternative to driving. For disabled people, for elderly people, for parents needing to ferry their children to school and back, for women who don’t like to walk home from the station after dark, for people who live in rural Scotland, the car is not a luxury but a necessity.

John Prescott may regard petrol duty as an ethical tax. But I don’t see anything ethical about a tax on disabled people, on elderly people, on young families, on women and on the countryside. That’s why the next Conservative Government, in its first budget, will cut petrol tax by 6 pence a litre, 27 pence a gallon.

So to everyone who believes that taxes are too high; to families trying to stretch their budget just that little further; to pensioners who want independence in retirement; to people who need to drive; to everyone who thinks they can spend their own money more wisely than Gordon Brown, I say: come with us. If you value self-reliance, vote for what you value.

And I say the same to all those who believe in law and order.

Did you see the response that Jack Straw got when he tried to address the Police Federation of England and Wales just over two weeks ago? He was jeered and slow handclapped.

Over the past four years, police officers in Scotland have seen nearly 800 serious criminals let out of prison early. Under the English scheme, that Labour and the Liberals want to introduce here, 35,000 criminals – some of them convicted for assaults on the police – have been set free before completing even half their sentences. Many of those criminals have gone on to commit monstrous crimes while out on early release: burglaries, muggings, even rapes.

In Scotland under Labour, many officers, fed up with being pushed around and blamed, are taking early retirement.

We cannot fight the war against crime if police officers have one hand handcuffed to their desks.

I fully appreciate the fact that criminal justice is a devolved issue in Scotland. But I know I speak for the whole of our Party when I say that the next Conservative Government will lead a war on crime and allow the young men and women who join the police to get on with protecting the public.

That means offering the police political backing instead of political correctness so that they can become the strongest, most professional and best-respected force in the world.

It means scrapping Labour’s early release scheme, and taking back the get-out-of-jail-early cards.

It means, as an immediate step, reversing Labour’s cuts in police numbers.

It means winning back the trust of the public in the forces of law and order, not trying to silence their anger.

So to everyone who feels that the balance has again swung too far towards the offender; to everyone who wants to see a police patrol on their street again; to everyone who feels that their city centre is closed to them on a Saturday night, I say: come with us. If you value law and order, vote for what you value.

And I say the same to people who are worried about the abuse of our asylum system.

Throughout the United Kingdom there are many people who had the courage and the spirit to leave their homes and begin again in a new country. People who have brought that courage and that enterprise to Britain, contributed to our national life, and enriched our sense of what it means to be British.

Many of these people have told me that they are especially worried about the break-down of our asylum system. They have played by the rules. They have often had to wait patiently to be joined by a spouse or a fiancée. And they can see that something is going wrong when tens of thousands of people are now evading our immigration rules altogether.

The British people are not ungenerous; but they do not see why we should have an asylum system that is unfair. Unfair particularly to genuine refugees who are elbowed aside in the mismanagement and chaos we see at present.

So we will introduce secure reception centres where asylum applications are dealt with quickly. Those with genuine claims will be given help and support to stay in our country, but the current trade in human beings will not be allowed to pay.

And so to everyone who wants to see the rules obeyed; to everyone who wants to distinguish between genuine refugees and illegal migrants, I say: come with us. If you want Britain to be a safe haven, not a soft touch, vote for what you value.

And I say the same to everyone who believes in the British countryside.

Labour Ministers in London and the Lib-Lab Coalition in Edinburgh seem to have no grasp of how serious things have become in rural Britain. The foot and mouth crisis, which has been particularly devastating in areas like Dumfries, has come in the middle of the worst agricultural depression in generations. Families who have managed their land for generations are being forced to se ll up.

The epidemic has driven many people living in rural Britain over the edge. Coming after so much hardship, even strong men and women have given in to despair. I do not choose my words lightly when I say that under Labour the British countryside faces at best a bleak and uncertain future and at worst a slow and painful death.

The next Conservative Government will move immediately to implement our Strategy for Recovery, containing steps to stamp out Foot and Mouth once and for all, to help struggling rural businesses and firm action to prevent this terrible disease entering Britain again.

We are going to give British farmers a fair chance to compete by applying to imported food more of the food hygiene and animal welfare standards we expect of our farmers here at home.

Our farmers are among the most dedicated and innovative in the world. On a level playing field, they’d acquit themselves against all comers. But they cannot compete properly as long as they are confined by the current Common Agricultural Policy. Just as our fishing industry, especially in Scotland, cannot compete properly under the disgraceful Common Fisheries Policy.

The next Conservative Government will re-negotiate the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy so that many decisions currently taken at EU level would be taken by at national level.

To everyone who wants to see the rural economy thriving and prosperous. To everyone who wants a fair deal for our farmers and our fishermen I say: come with us. If you value the liberty and livelihood of the countryside, vote for what you value.

That is my message for everyone who is registered to vote on Thursday. Vote for the things you believe in. Make your voice heard.

If you value a responsible society, vote for what you value.

If you value the family, vote for what you value.

If you believe that individuals and communities can achieve more than politicians, vote for what you value.

If you value rural Britain vote for what you value.

It is your choice; and it is your responsibility.

Above all, I carry that message to everyone who believes in Britain. To everyone who believes that we have achieved things that are worth preserving. To everyone who believes in strengthening the United Kingdom.

Our opponents often give out the impression that they are embarrassed about the United Kingdom, ashamed of its past and indifferent about its future.

The SNP wants to separate Scotland from the rest of the Union. The Liberals see the relationship between England and Scotland as a kind of conditional alliance within a federal Europe. And Labour, with their determination to put party before country, have created constitutional imbalances that risk breaking the Union apart.

When Scotland voted clearly and decisively in the referendum for devolution we accepted that democratic verdict as the settled will of the Scottish people. It is now the settled will of Scottish Conservatives that the Parliament must be made to work.

Scottish Conservatives are a party of devolution. But we are also a Unionist Party. The Conservative and Unionist Party. And we always will be a Unionist Party.

So, while supporting devolution, we will also ensure that Scotland’s voice in the Union remains strong. That is why I have pledged to retain the position of Secretary of State for Scotland, with an enhanced United Kingdom role.

We are proud of the United Kingdom, its values and of what our four great nations have achieved together. We opened the world to free trade. We brought law and freedom to new continents. Twice we fought for the cause of all nations against tyranny. We are confident about what the United Kingdom can go on achieving in the future.

At this Election only the Conservative and Unionist Party offers a government that will unashamedly and full heartedly make the case for the United Kingdom.

Only we are w ill make the case for a United Kingdom in which our distinctive identities can flourish but which at the same time enables us to come together under one flag as British.

Only we will make the case for a United Kingdom that together is able to pack a punch in the world that far outweighs that of its constituent parts.

And only we will make the case for a United Kingdom that values and includes Northern Ireland.

So to everyone who believes in the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to everyone who wants to strengthen the United Kingdom, I say: come with us. Vote for what you value. And I say the same to everyone who believes that Britain should be in Europe, not run by Europe.

Last week, Tony Blair called for an honest debate about European integration. This week, he got one.

Last Monday, Lionel Jospin, the prime Minister of France, spoke with exemplary honesty. He wants an operational EU police force; a common criminal justice system; uniform asylum and immigration policies; a European foreign policy conducted by an EU diplomatic corps; and full economic union, including a mechanism for fiscal transfers.

On Tuesday, the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, was no less candid. He called for the EU to be allowed to levy its own taxes.

Well I’m going to be equally honest tonight. The next Conservative Government will reject that agenda lock, stock and barrel.

We will not accept a European Army or a European police force or a European criminal justice system. We will renegotiate the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, so that many of the decisions now taken at EU level can instead be taken by the nations. And we will pass a Reserved Powers Act, to ensure that our Parliament cannot be over-ruled by activist European judges.

Be in no doubt as to the importance of the choice we will face in three days’ time.

This election is not just about who will form the next Government. It’s also about whether we continue to have a Government that is sovereign in this country. It’s about whether we carry on deciding our own affairs at future general elections.

Tony Blair has made his intentions clear. If he is re-elected, he will speed up the process of European integration. He plans to scrap the pound within two years.

In order to meet his timetable, Mr Blair would have to launch the transition process right away. Businesses would have to prepare for the changeover, throwing out their tills, changing their software, retraining their staff, adopting new accounting methods. The public and private sectors would need to find £36 billion for the conversion.

£36 billion. The equivalent of £55 million in this and every other constituency. The equivalent of £1,500 for every household in the United Kingdom. The equivalent of building a whole new Millennium Dome every month for the next three years.

And it’s not just a question of the money that would be wasted on scrapping the Pound. It is also the fact that our interest rates would be set at a level that was almost always wrong for Britain. This would put economic stability and British jobs at risk. It would threaten our schools and hospitals every bit as much as it would threaten homeowners, businesses and pensioners.

Think about it; a recession in other European countries squeezing government income and forcing a cutback in investment in our public services.

We could not spend the money to improve our schools and hospitals if our economy was not earning the money in the first place. So we now have a Prime Minister who says he wants to put our public services first, when in fact his obsession with scrapping the Pound would put them last behind the whims of bankers in Frankfurt.

And the process would have to begin right away. It’s not a question of waiting until the referendum – even if you believe that the referendum would be free and fair. A Labour Government elect ed on June 7 would begin to scrap the pound on June 8.

Tony Blair wants us to believe that Labour can now be trusted on the economy. But why should anyone else trust him when he so obviously does not trust himself? This must be the first time that a party has sought office by promising to give up the right to govern. If re-elected, Labour would contract out the management of our economy: our interest rates would be set in Frankfurt and our taxes in Brussels.

Here in Scotland I find it extraordinary that Labour, Liberals and the SNP who spent years campaigning for powers to be transferred to a Scottish Parliament now want to scrap the pound and hand ever more powers over to Brussels.

So I am not choosing my words lightly when I say that this could be the last general election of its kind. The last time that the people of the United Kingdom are able to elect a Parliament which is supreme in this country.

This is an issue that ought to transcend party politics. I know that there are many decent, patriotic people, who are not natural Conservatives, but who are just as concerned as we are about preserving our self-government. People who may be lifelong Labour or Liberal voters, but who want to keep the pound.

I am appealing to those people this evening. Lend us your vote. Lend us your vote this time, so that your vote will still mean something next time, and the time after, and the time after that. Vote Conservative this one time, so that we can carry on having meaningful general elections in an independent Britain.

This is a question, ultimately, of self-confidence. Do we have faith in our capacity to thrive as an independent country? Or do we feel that we must go along with every new Brussels initiative for fear of being left out?

Labour and their Liberal allies seem to have no confidence in Britain. They evidently believe that we are too small to survive on our own.

Too small? We’re the fourth largest economy in the world. We’re the fourth greatest military power on Earth. We’re one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and one of the Group of Eight industrialised nations. We have unparalleled links with the United States, the Commonwealth and the rest of the English-speaking world. How much bigger do we have to be before we can run our own affairs in our own interest?

I believe in Britain. I don’t believe that we have to be part of a single currency to prosper. That’s why I will keep the pound.

Three days to save the pound. Three days to secure our independence. Three days to decide whether our children and grandchildren will inherit the same freedoms that we inherited in our turn.

And so to everyone who believes in keeping the pound, to everyone who wants to preserve our democracy I say: come with us. If you value Britain’s independence, vote for what you value.

The Conservative Party is ready to govern for all the people. For people in the countryside, who have almost given up on ministers ever understanding them. For people in our inner cities, struggling to bring up families on crime-ridden estates with failing schools

We will govern for taxpayers wanting to see some return on their taxes. For public servants not be snowed under with paperwork. For people who believe that the countries of the United Kingdom have achieved more together than they would separately, and who refuse to feel ashamed about our history.

And so I say to the people of Britain: vote for what you value on Thursday.

If you believe in a country where your taxes are wisely and carefully spent.

If you believe in a country where pensioners who have built up an income for retirement are rewarded, not penalised.

If you believe in a country whose criminal justice system is frightening to the criminal, not to the victim.

If you believe in working hard, saving hard and trying to be independent of the state.

If you believe in the unity of the Uni ted Kingdom.

And if you believe in an independent Britain.

Come with me, and I will give you back your country.

William Hague – 2001 Speech on Two Britains


Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Leader of the Opposition, on 6 June 2001.

Thirty days ago, I began this campaign by saying we would show the nation a better way.

We have done that. We have set out how we will bring taxes down, how we will hit crime hard, how we will bring discipline, standards and choice to schools in every town and city, how we and we alone will keep the Pound. We have shown how we will deliver lower taxes while safeguarding spending on the vital public services.

Labour by contrast has ducked and weaved on tax and spending. They promise more money for services but refuse to say where it will come from. They cloak their plans for more stealth taxes on petrol on National Insurance on pensions in weasel words and arrogant evasions.

We have spelt out what it means to be genuinely tough on crime. Our support for the police will be as unflinching as our hostility to criminals. They will serve the sentence they are given, they will not be released on to our streets to offend again before they have served even half their time. Labour has had nothing to say about crime short of promising new police officers when they can’t even keep hold of the ones they’ve got. We have demonstrated how our schools can become places where children learn, where teachers teach and where heads are given the responsibility and authority to lead.

Labour can only repeat the mantra of ‘education, education, education’ while we put forward practical plans to deliver discipline, standards and choice to everyone.

We have shown we can make Britain a safe haven instead of a soft touch, by introducing reception centres that will speed-up the claims of genuine refugees. Labour and their Liberal allies have tried to avoid the subject and have offered no alterative plans of their own.

We have set out our plans to rescue the countryside, by ensuring that proper help is given to the rural businesses and farmers hit so badly by foot and mouth. All Labour have to offer are further attacks on our rural way of life

And we have shown how Britain can be in Europe, not run by Europe, how we can play our full part in the EU without surrendering our independence or our currency. Labour meanwhile plot to scrap the Pound without telling us how much it will cost, at what rate we would go in to the Euro or how a referendum in which they would set the question and determine the funding could ever be a fair one.

Issue by issue we have made and won our case. We have put forward answers that Labour have been unable to question and raised questions that they have been unable to answer.

I am proud of the campaign we have fought. I am proud of what my colleagues have said and done. I am proud of the campaign you have fought. We alone have set the agenda in this campaign.

But elections are fought on more than just issues alone. They are also about values, beliefs and commitment – the iron in the soul of a political party that can see it through bad times as well as good.

We have shown that iron. What a contrast to New Labour. What a contrast to Tony Blair’s endless convolutions that lead him to praise Margaret Thatcher in one breath and try to bury her in the next. Unlike him and them, we know who we are and we know what we stand for.

We have never campaigned to pull out of Europe.

We have never campaigned for higher taxes.

We have never campaigned for greater union powers.

We have never campaigned to scrap our nuclear deterrent.

But I will tell you who has, Tony Blair. No belief is too important for him to abandon it when circumstances dictate, No policy is so essential that Labour will hold to it no matter how temporarily unpopular it may be. No value is too central for it not to be jettisoned when the going gets rough.

That is not my way, nor is it the way of the Conservative Party.

Our core beliefs in freedom, justice, and tolerance, of respect for the individual, decency, a reluctance to meddle and interfere and above all our fierce belief that a country is happiest and most prosperous when the people and not the politicians rule have stood the test of time.

That is why in this Election we are clear about what we want.

We want people to keep more of what they earn, to be self-reliant and independent, to plan for their future.

We believe our society is stronger when people have the authority and responsibility to shape their own futures and those of others.

It is why we set such great store by upholding the rule of law and defending those who work hard and play by rules.

It is why we will fight to keep our country as a self-governing nation with the ability to control its economy.

These are the same principles I joined the Conservative Party to defend all those years ago, the principles I stood up and spoke for when I was 16, the principles I am proud to put forward as leader of the Conservative Party today.

They are principles not learned from books or seminars or pollsters, but forged from the people I grew up with, the community we shared and above all the family whose love and support has always been unconditional. They are principles that have never changed and never will.

I grew up in the 1970s, a decade torn by industrial strife and inflation. A decade when people seriously questioned whether Britain was even capable of being governed. In Rotherham, politics was never very far away because the evidence of the government was everywhere from the council estates where a lot of my friends at school lived, to the nationalised pits and steelworks that their fathers worked in.

But whether they were miners, factory workers or small businessmen like my own dad, they were decent hard-working people with standards who wanted their children to have a better life than they themselves had had.

We all went to the same schools, used the same family doctors and hospitals and wanted the same things, but it wasn’t a Labour Government, the supposed people’s party that made it possible to fulfil those ambitions. It was because of Conservative Government that my friends and neighbours eventually saw a real improvement in their lives.

Slowly but surely better jobs and more opportunities came the way of our country as the Conservatives ended union tyranny, brought down taxes, and widened home ownership. For the first time in decades there was a real sense that we were no longer the sick man of Europe.

The people I went to school with are now doing many different things. They own their own homes, they save for their pensions, they enjoy wider choice in their lives. Many now have families of their own. I took my own route to Oxford, business school in Europe and leading the Opposition. But the values we shared then are the same values we share now: pride, directness, generosity of spirit and, if I’m honest, a certain stubborn streak.

A lot of them voted Labour at last election. They did do in spite of their values not because of them. They did so because they wanted what their own parents had wanted for them: better schools for their children, better hospital care for their families and because they believed Tony Blair when he said he would keep their taxes down and make their streets safer.

So imagine first their disappointment, when he broke those promises, and then their anger when he blamed them for his own failure to deliver. His attack on the forces of conservatism and his attempt to heap all the ills and evils of the 20th century on the heads of decent people must rank as one of the most ill-judged political comments of all time.

Tony Blair may have retreated in the face of the Women’s Institute and others, but they still remember, we still remember. And tomorrow the world will find out that the forces of conservatism are on the march.

I have met them by the thousand during my Election campaign.

They are farmers laid low by a foot and mouth outbreak which has lasted longer and bitten deeper than it need have done because of the dither and delay of this Government.

They are the small businessmen and women crippled by Labour’s taxes and new bureaucracy.

They are the teachers, the police, the doctors and the nurses who have been weighed down by red tape and political interference when they simply wanted to do their job.

They are the market traders I met in Smithfield this morning who shouted at me ‘Whatever you do William, win’. Or in many cases, ‘Go on William, wipe the smile off his face’.

They are down-to-earth people who in a quiet way love their country and are privately appalled by Labour’s plans to scrap the Pound and to undermine Britain’s independence.

Above all they are people who don’t always think of themselves as Conservatives, who don’t always vote Conservative, but who are in the end the backbone of this nation.

Tomorrow they have a choice. And tomorrow, I know they will be marching with us. They know the stakes are too high to risk another term of Labour Government. They know that, above all, because of Mr Blair’s plan to scrap the Pound and surrender to Brussels, this could be the last General Election in Britain when we can still run our own affairs in this country.

Because tomorrow is a choice not just about who will run this country for the next five years, but about the country that their children and grandchildren will inherit.

I am in no doubt about the kind of country people want.

They want a Britain that is in control of its own destiny and a society where they can be in control of theirs.

A Britain whose streets are safe for families and the vulnerable; not a Britain safe for convicted criminals.

A Britain where basic values and discipline are taught in our schools and where doctors and nurses, police and teachers are respected for what the work they do; not a Britain where the rule of law is denigrated and the people running our public services are demoralised.

A Britain where people keep more of what they earn and are encouraged to be independent the better to help themselves and others; not a Britain where families and retired people are taxed and taxed again until they are left depending on the state for their very existence.

An independent Britain with its own currency; not a Britain so lacking in self-belief that it gives up the right to run its own affairs or its own economy.

These are the two Britains on offer, and tomorrow is the last chance to choose between them.

The more widely I have travelled, the more people I have met during these last 30 days, the more I am certain of the kind of Britain the vast majority of people want.

So if you have had enough of arrogance and spin and broken promises, if you want a Government that offers you only what it can deliver; I say vote for what you value.

If you have had enough of higher taxes and creeping dependency, if you want a Government that values self-reliance and believes you can spend your money more wisely than it can, I say vote for what you value.

If you have had enough of being told that we should be ashamed of our history and cannot govern ourselves, if you want a Government that believes in the future of our country, I say vote for what you value.

Vote Conservative tomorrow and on Friday we will begin the work of making this nation once again the equal of the people who live in it.

Vote Conservative tomorrow and Britain will again be a place we can all be proud to call our home.

William Hague – 2000 Speech on the European eDimension


Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Leader of the Opposition, on 16 March 2000.

Today’s seminar could not be better timed. Next week, a special European Council will be addressing the crucial need for the European Union to take up the challenge presented by the knowledge economy. The European Parliament is just starting its second reading of the Electronic Commerce Directive, which will provide the platform for barrier free electronic trading across the EU. This morning, I will give an overview of E-commerce development in Europe, and the challenges now facing policymakers. I will also tell you about the Conservative approach to boosting E-Commerce activity at a European level, complementing the actions of our Westminster team. The Conservatives are playing a leading policy making role within our Centre Right Group (EPP/ED) in the Parliament, in making sure that our Open Market agenda is delivered successfully.

E-commerce going to be of great importance to Europe’s global competitiveness. Big progress has been made towards a true Internal Market – in market opening, in uniform product standards, in eliminating trading barriers. We have an excellent climate in which to encourage cross border e-commerce activities. E-commerce offers a huge opportunity to finally complete the internal market, by allowing market forces to operate in levelling market barriers, exposing high tax, high cost economies and making protectionist practises (such as unnecessary advertising restrictions) completely transparent.

Given its importance, it is a concern that Europe lags significantly behind the U.S.A. in the development of electronic commerce. Within the EU there are very significant variations in E-Commerce activity – with the Nordic countries, and Benelux being the leaders in PC use per household. In translating this into Internet activity, the Nordic countries lead is even more pronounced. Recent studies suggest that Spain and Ireland are among the leaders in their economic and business climate for e-commerce. There appears to be no in-built factor within Europe stopping the growth of e-commerce – which suggests that, as in the U.S.A, we should not flirt with market intervention, but allow market forces to work.

Companies operating in e-commerce would like the security of a legal framework within their activities can develop. Since 1997, the Commission has been moving ahead with framework directives in crucial areas such as electronic signatures and copyright. The Commission has followed the right approach – ensuring market openness by preventing member states from blocking cross border transactions. At the same time, business participation will be encouraged – especially smaller companies. Consumer protection will generate trust and confidence. There will be special provisions for internet service providers. The legislation is ‘technology neutral’ – thus being flexible enough to encompass future developments in a fast moving market place. It also requires member states to encourage self-regulation for consumer protection and redress – the right approach given the immense change ahead in retailing and consumer services.

The e-commerce Directive, which embraces all these provisions, has now been agreed by the Member States and is just starting its Second reading in the European Parliament. We intend to push forward quickly, with minimum changes, to secure approval by mid 2000. This will send out a strong signal that the Conservatives wish to encourage e-commerce and are prepared to move quickly to help end uncertainty for consumers and investors.

But there is much more to be done if Europe is really going to take advantage of the knowledge economy. Europe needs the economic infrastructure to encourage entrepreneurs to exploit the power of e-commerce. It needs the communications infrastructure to deliver widespread, low cost access to the Internet for businesses and private consumers. It needs a new approach by public authorities to the use of electronic information. It needs the right training and skills base on which new industries can be developed.

The Commission has produced an e-Europe strategy that claims to address these issues, but this document is a rather unfocussed collection of undeveloped promises. In reality, the major area that the European Governments must address is the tax and business climate to stimulate new, internet based businesses. We are promised yet another new ‘initiative’ for the Lisbon summit. A very welcome impact of e-commerce is that it is forcing Governments to address the well-known problems of the European labour market and the reasons why its job creation has been so poor:-

· High social costs of employment

· Inflexibility imposed by excessive employment regulation

· High cost of company start ups and high penalties for failure

· Excessive taxes on capital gains, particularly stock options, discouraging new entrepreneurs from taking risks

We shall push strongly for these issues to be properly addressed, and will press our own ideas for encouraging e-business start-ups. For example, we should encourage e-businesses to register their companies, and take on employees, in any EU country that offers the most advantageous conditions. A market driven approach would soon have governments competing with each other in encouraging e-business. This could be stimulated by a start-up scoreboard giving fledgling entrepreneurs all the facts needed to make their decision.

The new companies will need access to capital. There appears to be no proven need for market intervention at this stage, as there appears to be more capital available than good ideas on offer. The development of the Single European Market for financial services will bring about more dynamism and competition in the capital market. Unlike the Commission, which is toying with the idea of publicly backed funding, we see only a limited role for central intervention.

We would also like to develop a tax incentive framework that would encourage large companies to spin off e-commerce start ups, using their existing human and financial resources. There are many middle managers who would leap at the chance of developing a new business idea, and becoming their own boss. Spin off companies, with the risks being underwritten by the strength of their parent, would have the chance to grow quickly. They would also encourage the development of entrepreneurial skills and practical knowledge within their feeder company and help its competitiveness in the new information driven economy.

Governments also have a key role in market development as purchasers of e-commerce services. They should be encouraging ‘best practice’ and ensuring that their procurement systems are open to smaller, innovative companies.

Although open markets will be the prime enabler of e-commerce, the existing European grant instruments – regional and social funds – can be targeted to help e-commerce ventures. In both rural and urban communities, e-commerce will provide powerful tools to tackle unemployment – by encouraging new business ideas, by giving fast and cheap access to market information, by developing networks of entrepreneurs and job seekers. In many cases, e-commerce will help to reinvent old business models and transform large, slow moving industries. People with existing skills can be encouraged to develop niche products for targeted customers and market them globally.

The other key element to address is infrastructure. Low cost, widely available, broad band electronic communications will be an essential foundation for a powerful e-economy. The European Commission has published a bold plan for a single, open, electronic communications market, integrating fixed-line services, cable, digital television, and mobile. This structure, to be in place by mid 2000, would offer service providers open licensing and market entry opportunities across the EU. A key aspect of the proposals would be access to the local loop in every market, opening competition for services to every connected household.

The EU is already significantly ahead of the US in mobile telephones. 3rd generation mobile technology will bring internet access to consumers at a much lower capital cost than a fixed computer based (or TV based) system.

EU governments must encourage fast mobile internet growth by facilitating common standards and rules. They should be re-investing license fees or auction proceeds in repositioning public service operations in the radio spectrum and encouraging fast infrastructure investment and wide spectrum availability. Competition rules must allow global players to develop across one, barrier free, European market. The speedy growth of internet mobiles will also encourage new providers of simple, fast, useful data for phone users – based on travel, news, business and general information services, integrated with other services such as geographical data. These are areas where new European companies can gain a global lead.

In thinking about the developing market, we must also be considering the implications for society as a whole of the widespread availability of information technology. Education must increasingly equip young people to be active on-line consumers and to develop the skills to work in the new information companies. Retraining and reskilling will be needed in existing organizations in public and private sectors. The information society offers big benefits for the less fortunate and the less mobile – disabled people, and the elderly, for example. There will be very significant security and privacy issues to be addressed. The European Commission, and member governments, are now working on many ideas to help the spread of information society benefits – and some of them would be worthy candidates for reinvestment of licence fees, as they would further stimulate adoption of e-services. But the priority, at this stage, must be to drive forward market adoption of the new technology.

I have summarised the key aspects of the European scene for electronic commerce. The Conservative team in the European Parliament has taken a special interest in this area, and has raised the political profile of the issue across the Parliament. There is a big policy agenda to work through. Following the Electronic Signatures and E-commerce directives, there will be the Copyright Directive, the Distance Selling Directive and the Directive setting up a Single Financial Services Market, including Internet selling. We will be heavily involved in Electronic Communications liberalisation, both in the strategy and detailed legislation. The stimulus to Business start-ups will also be a focus of attention. Industry practitioners are invited to keep closely in touch with us to ensure that we have your views.

You have seen today a united Conservative approach, in Europe and Westminster, focused on meeting and mastering a key challenge for all of us. We firmly believe that a market-based, light-touch approach will be the way forward. E-Commerce represents a huge opportunity to enhance the power of markets to provide real benefits for customers across, to stimulate business activity and economic growth. The Conservative team will work together quickly and effectively to make sure that this opportunity is fully realised.