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1994 - Mr Major’s Speech to 1994 Conservative Women’s Conference

Below are extracts, published by Conservative Central Office, of Mr Major’s speech to the 1994 Conservative Women’s Conference, held at the International Centre in Hammersmith on Friday 2nd December 1994.

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PRIME MINISTER:

Northern Ireland

Yesterday, after three months of ceasefire in Northern Ireland, we announced that exploratory talks with Sinn Fein would start next week.

The peace process is about to move into a new phase. A critically important phase. Before Christmas we shall be starting talks about talks not only with Sinn Fein but also with Loyalist political representatives.

These talks are not yet political negotiations about Northern Ireland's future. They are the gateway to public life and democratic politics for groups who have long excluded themselves.

These groups must learn the rules of democratic politics. And those rules can't be reconciled with gun law, intimidation, or any threat of violence.

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Not peace at any price, but the lasting peace which can only come from the principles of democracy and law.

Not just a season of goodwill but goodwill through all the seasons.

1993 brought hope to Northern Ireland. In 1994, hope has begun to turn into reality.

In 1995 we must make that a lasting reality, a life for the Province free from violence.

Strong Economy

Daily Britain is growing stronger - and it is doing so because of the policies we have followed. So, today, I want to look forward to some of the key issues at the next General Election.

What will be the economic conditions at the time of that Election? And what will be the issues?

We can foresee the economic conditions.

Next time we will not be in the middle of a recession. Instead, we will be campaigning on the back of four years of high growth; of low inflation; of falling unemployment; of investment in industry; of competitiveness; and of rising exports.

This is not idle speculation - not a wish list. This is the probable background against which we will fight.

We now have before us the brightest economic prospects any of us have ever seen.

Over the past 12 months growth in the economy has been a little above four per cent. Rarely have we seen it grow quite so fast. But even that isn't really the significant point.

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It hasn't been easy. It has been painful. Painful for many people. Painful for us politically. Many people said 'ease up.' Many a seductive option was urged on us. An interest rate cut here, a bit more protection there - all the short-term palliatives.

They were often offered for good reasons, these easy options. But they were wrong. And our policy was right - it was long-term and it was necessary. Now we will see the reward. We have now laid the groundwork for sustained growth with low inflation for many years to come.

We were following a long-term strategy - not a short-term fix.

We took long-term decisions, not short-term expedients.

What we did was right for the long-term future of this country.

We may have faced unpopularity - but we have done what had to be done. And we've done it successfully.

The Conservative agenda is clear. To turn our present low inflation economy into a permanent low inflation economy.

Not for abstract reasons; but because such an economy delivers security, opportunity and prosperity - and they are important to us all.

Of course we still wish to cut taxes where we can. And we will.

And we'll continue to improve the strength of industry, raise standards in our schools, give better training to our young people. and get more of those long-term unemployed off welfare benefits and back into jobs.

All that is now happening although there is still much to be done. I am not complacent....

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