Below is the text of Mr Major's speech made to the 1992 Conservative Party Conference on 9th October 1992.
Well it hasn't exactly been a dull week has it? What we have seen has been democracy in action. And this Party is stronger and healthier for it.
Mr President, someone -
Mr President, in this stormy period, some people seem to have forgotten something
rather important. Just six months ago this very day this Conservative Party won the
General Election. We did so against all the odds. Everyone said we didn't have a
chance. The opinion polls -
So why was it that those television exit polls were so wrong? Why didn't the commentators see? Why didn't the experts see? For that matter, why didn't the BBC?
There were two reasons why we won that record level of support. First, it was the
principles we all stood for -
We Conservatives have great hopes and dreams for our country. But to make them reality we must win the battles we care about. Lift our country back into growth. And, in all we do, create the society we want for our children and the future.
But before I turn directly to the great decisions that face us, I'd like to say something
about someone not with us today -
So it proved. He's a huge loss, not just to us, but to British politics. It was typical
of him to decline a by-
Chris, win for Hong Kong, just as you won for us. And when you come back, come and join us. In Government. Because you'll still be welcome and we'll still be there.
Someone else was a tower of strength through that Election. Norman Fowler. He was
always at my side. Always there -
But every time I went out with Norman, something very curious happened. People threw eggs at him. But they kept missing him and hitting me.
There are moments when great truths become evident. And this was one. A man who could
duck so fast so often was clearly the right man for Central Office. Norman -
But, above all, I must thank someone who is not a politician. Someone to whom my
debt is too personal to express fully. She is here today -
Her role was even bigger than you may think. If I hadn't met her on April 9th 1970, I might never have picked April 9th 1992. All those oceans of ink guessing the election date! Wasted! If only they'd asked Norma!
Mr President, in all our Conferences there is theatre. You expect to hear us expose
our opponent's policies. Expect none of that today. For Labour and the Liberal Democrats
are utterly irrelevant. let us leave them on the sidelines -
Mr President, debates over our place in Europe have always touched raw nerves -
Of course, emotions run high. We saw that from both sides in the great Conference debate earlier this week.
For many of you, I know, the heart pulls in one direction and the head in another. There is nothing that can stir the heart like the history of this country. It is part of us. Nothing can change that. But it's a different world now.
Our families are growing up in a different age. They know we can't pull up the drawbridge
and live in our own private yesterday. They know we live in a world of competition
That's what I mean by being at the heart of Europe. Not turning a deaf ear to the heartbeat of Britain. But having the courage to stand up and do what we believe to be right.
Right for British industry, right for British jobs, right for British prosperity.
During the summer, when I was in Cornwall, a lady came up to speak to me. "Mr Major" she said, "please, please don't let Britain's identity be lost in Europe". She didn't tell me her name. But she spoke for the anxieties of millions. She spoke for this country. She spoke for me.
So let me tell this Conference what I told that lady in Cornwall. I will never -
And if there are those who have in mind to haul down the Union Jack and fly high
Mr President, it's true, the European Community has centralised too much. It has talked too much about European directives, and thought too little about Europe's direction.
But at Maastricht we began to reverse that trend. And at Birmingham and Edinburgh we will carry that further.
So let me say to the European politicians; if you don't heed that, you will never build the European Community you want. You will break up the European Community you have.
You cannot go forward by browbeating Denmark.
And to those who offer us gratuitous advice, I remind them of what a thousand years of history should tell them, you cannot bully Britain.
Mr President, I speak as one who believes Britain's future lies with Europe. But, when I hear assertions from others in Europe, that we or the Danes should sign up on their terms. I'll tell you what I think. I think they should keep their advice to themselves. Sign up on their terms? Before I was born, if this country hadn't fought on our terms there'd be no free Europe to sign up to.
All these are frustrations. They cause great anger. But emotion must not govern policy.
At the heart of our policy lies one objective and one only -
Let me come directly to the issue that has caused such controversy. The Treaty of Maastricht seems to have become enshrouded in myth and legend. Certainly, the Treaty I hear about is not the one I negotiated.
What are the fears people have about Maastricht? We heard many of them in our debate this week.
A Single Currency! Under the Maastricht Treaty, Britain is not committed to a single currency.
Immigration? Immigration policy is specifically excluded under the Maastricht Treaty.
Jobs and working conditions? I refused to sign up for the Social Chapter.
Education? The Treaty explicitly rules out any Community interference in what is taught in schools or the way education is run.
Defence? Defence is kept out of the control of the Community.
Citizenship? We are British citizens and we will always remain British citizens.
Conference, if I believed what some people said about the Treaty, I would vote against it. But I don't. So I'm going to put the real Treaty, the one I negotiated, back to the House of Commons.
There is one great prize in the Treaty. For the first time we have reached agreement on developing the community in voluntary cooperation between independent nation states. That means outside the Treaty of Rome, outside the jurisdiction of the European Court, outside the competence of the European Commission. We have wanted this principle established for years. And we now have it in the Treaty I signed.
It is time the distortions were put to one side. It is time to return the debate to reality and away from myth.
In the Treaty, there was give and take -
When I hear some of the criticisms of the Treaty I think of Don Quixote -
Yes, we made concession. But so did our partners. What would they now think of a British Prime Minister who fights a tough negotiation, gives firm undertakings, and then comes back and breaks his word? What would we think of someone who did that to us?
Who would ever trust Britain again? We would have broken faith. A demeaning position in which no British Government should ever be placed.
But, far more than that, what is at stake is something practical and hard-
We wouldn't just be breaking our word. We would be breaking Britain's future influence in Europe. We would be ending our hopes of ever building the kind of Europe that we want.
And we would be doing that, just when across Europe the argument is coming our way. We would be leaving European policy to the French and the Germans. That is not a policy for Great Britain. It would be an historic mistake. And not one your Government will make.
Let us not forget why we joined the Community. It has given us jobs. New markets.
New horizons. Nearly 60% of our trade is now with our partners. It is the single
most important factor in attracting a tide of Japanese and American investment to
our shores. It is absolutely vital for businesses, big and small -
There isn't a single business leader who believes Britain's interests lie outside.
And I hope they will make their views clear -
But the most far-
That's why I want Britain to work in the '90s for a wider and wiser Community, embracing the new democracies of the East. That is the vision we have for the next generation. And it's vital for our own security. But it is a vision we will only make real if we're in there arguing for it, not scowling in the wings.
Mr President, I'm not starry-
Some take the view that we must choose between Europe and our friendship with the United States. What total nonsense. Britain is the indissoluble link between the United States and the continent of Europe. We have growing ties of commerce and trade with Europe, but we have blood ties over many generations with our friends in America.
We in this party will preserve and strengthen our special relationship with America. It is longstanding. Tested in many battles. Reinforced by ties of kinship, language and shared values. Britain and America have stood side by side many times in many theatres of war against tyranny and oppression. On that line we must always take our stand and will, together.
Eight weeks ago, we decided to send some 2,000 troops to Yugoslavia under the flag
of the United Nations. They will bring aid to the victims of that terrible civil
war. Without this common effect, we would be seeing in a few months time hundreds
of thousands of people -
Britain is already the largest supplier of medicines. And, amidst all the dangers,
our RAF Hercules have played a leading part in the airlift into Sarajevo. Those young
men know the risks; but they have met them, just as the young men who will keep open
the land corridors know the risks and will meet them. We can be proud of them -
The safety of these troops will always be first in our minds. They are there for
humanitarian reasons. They are not there to hold the combatants apart -
We are asking a lot of them. But they know what we know -
Mr President, I have spoken of our plans for Europe, and our beliefs about Britain's place in the world. We now have to lead Britain through difficult times at home, as we have done so often in our history.
You know the things I care about -
If we're going to meet those hopes, fulfil those dreams -
And looking around the world, we can see even more clearly what makes an economy strong. A Government that secures two things; low inflation and the right climate for business to succeed.
It is people who create wealth.
People, not Government. Business, not bureaucracy. Enterprise, not interference.
But business can't succeed if Government doesn't play its part.
Low taxes -
I believe -
They didn't trust anyone else to control inflation. They didn't trust anyone else with their taxes. They didn't trust anyone else to keep the state of industry's back.
Mr President, we must -
But today even the world's most successful economies face difficulties. In the United
States. In Japan. Throughout Europe -
And here in Britain I know how great is the personal hardship that many people are facing. Some have lost their jobs; some their businesses; some their homes. We must pursue policies that will bring hope back into their lives.
I know how hard people are hit by the misfortune that befalls home after home, family
after family, in a recession. Unemployment is a bitter experience. I don't want a
temporary cure. I want a lasting recovery. To come out of this recession safe from
the threat of its repetition. If there is one thought that goes through my mind wherever
I see this recession Mr President, never again! That's why we're looking for long-
But we must not forget what has been achieved and is essential for lasting recovery.
Interest rates -
And, yet, despite that progress, it's been taking such a long time for things to get going. I know hos frustrating that is. Here as abroad, debt has made people cautious. Slow to spend. That's made things tough for small businesses. Tough for industry, too.
That's what makes British industry's successes all the more remarkable. Exports -
It is not enough. It is only a beginning. But now, I believe, we can aim for more.
With a low inflation rate, we can compete with the best in Europe.
Let's not forget how we managed to bring inflation down and the man who did it -
But let us not waste time looking back. We have to deal with the world as it is. Let's take advantage of our circumstances to win new success for Britain.
With a lower exchange rate, we have a new competitive edge in Europe. And provided we don't blunt it with inflation, it gives us a real opportunity, in a single European market of 330 million people.
A market for British computers. British cars. British televisions. British textiles. British services. British skills. The biggest free trade area in the world.
That's the market in which British enterprise must succeed. And the Government will back British business all the way.
Let us return to that old and vivid slogan: British means business. And let me say a little more about what I believe Government can do to make it true.
First, low inflation. Down to the point where it no longer interferes with the decisions people and businesses have to make in their daily lives.
Second, we must create an economic environment in which more people are willing to invest their effort, their savings, their skills in new businesses because of the rewards that exist.
Those who risk their savings should know that if they build up wealth by their efforts, they will be able to keep more of it. What families have worked a lifetime to create, the taxman should never be allowed to destroy.
Those who build up new businesses must be confident they won't be stifled by taxation.
And we know what that means for Government -
Where more is really needed we will spend more. Our plans allow for that. But more
for some programmes may have to mean less -
Mr. President, it's going to be a tough spending round. All my colleagues know it.
But they also know they've got to do what business does. Protect the quality -
It's too easy -
We must work with industry, to see whether the public and private sectors working together can do more to invest in our future. More to improve the infrastructure of this country. I know the problems. But it is time to look afresh at whether we can find new solutions.
But that's not enough. We must also see what more we can do to help our exporters
win for Britain. In the single market -
We are battling for free trade -
And as part of this we must do more to lighten the burden of government regulation.
Government should stand behind business -
Mr President, this is a battle we've been fighting since 1979. But it's a battle that is never won. And now is the time to mount a new offensive.
We're already on the march against the Eurocrat and his sheaf of directives. But you know, it isn't just Brussels that rolls out the red tape.
It's Whitehall. And town hall. Everyone likes to tie another knot. Admirable intentions
It's not just big business that suffers. Far too often, it is the small firms who
really suffer. Small firms -
Of course, we want to have confidence in the safety of the food we eat, the homes we buy, the place we work in, the people who take charge of our children. But when this reaches the point where you may need 28 separate licences, certificates and registrations just to start a business, then I say again, this sort of thing must stop.
I have asked Michael Heseltine to take responsibility for cutting through this burgeoning maze of regulations. Who better for hacking back the jungle? Come on, Michael. Out with your club. On with your loin cloth. Swing into them!
You know, deregulation isn't just about making life better for business. It's about
making life easier for everybody. Take the bureaucratic controls which mean Whitehall
decides whether you have the chance to stop off the motorway. Every parent knows
what I mean. Next services, 54 miles -
They've got to go. And so those rules have got to go!
Or take the system that keeps air fares far too high. It's absurd that international air travel is regulated under rules set out before the jet airliner was even invented.
And why should so many people, from all over Britain, have to come to London when
they want to fly abroad? I want to see more flights directly out of Glasgow, Manchester
and Birmingham and all our regional airports. That's better for the people who live
Mr President, it is vital that we get the economy back into strong -
Ladies and gentlemen, the year 2000 is less than a hundred months away. That, at any rate, is the latest Treasury forecast. I want Britain's example, its ingenuity, its decency and principle to be in the forefront as we cross that threshold.
In all we do we must speak to the instincts of the British people. For 300 years, the Conservative Party has reflected those instincts in a way that no other political party has ever been able to match.
So let's go out and tell the people about the things we'll be working for, and fighting for, in the next four years of Conservative Government.
We'll be fighting for better public service.
For services that put the parents, the patients, and the passengers first. Fighting
We'll be fighting for good local Government, closer to local people. That's why in
Wales it's set to be goodbye to the likes of Clwyd and Gwent and back to Pembrokeshire
and Anglesey. In Scotland, the Scottish Secretary will be consulting the public on
In England we will give everyone the chance to put their views on the future of councils like Cleveland or Avon. I can't predict the outcome. But can you imagine Len Hutton walking out to bat for Humberside?
We'll be fighting for better health and social services.
For a Health Service run by local people in patients' interests. For more GP fundholders
and more of our successful hospital trusts. We want better care for the elderly and
vulnerable in the home and the community -
And Mr President, we have all been deeply shocked at the reports of scandals in some social security departments. It's terrible when children are involved. That's why we are going to set up regular independent inspection of social work in every council. We will not let vulnerable people and children be put at risk.
We'll be fighting to strengthen the rights of ordinary trade union members.
They must have freedom to join the union of their choice -
And, under the Citizen's Charter, we're going to give you -
And we've already blown the whistle on one of the last bastions of the closed shop
When it comes to education, my critics say I'm old-
Well, if I'm old-
I also want reform of teacher training. Let us return to basic subject teaching, not courses in the theory of education. Primary teachers should learn how to teach children to read, not waste their time on the politics of gender, race and class,
I don't know if you feel as I do, but I think it is intolerable that children should spend years in school and then leave them unable to read or add up. It's a terrible waste of young lives.
We want high standards, sound learning, diversity and choice in all our schools.
But, in some -
We cannot abandon the children in schools like these. And we will not. So if local authorities cannot do the job, then we will give the job to others.
In the place of the local authority which has failed, new Education Associations will be set up to run and revive these schools. Governments have always shied away from it. But I am not prepared to any longer.
Yes, it will mean another colossal row with the educational establishment. I look
forward to that. It's a row worth having. A row where we will have the vast majority
of parents -
Mr President, there was a time when Britain was a watchword for good behaviour across the world. I want to restore that good name. People are horrified when they see mindless vandalism; old people attacked by young thugs; drunken louts on the rampage, blackening Britain's reputation abroad. Not only horrified, they're ashamed.
Mr President, to excuse crime may seem understanding. But it's wrong. Sympathy doesn't curb crime. If society wants to protect itself it must condemn crime, not condone it. We must create a climate in which people know the difference between right and wrong and yours and mine. We must spell out the truth. Crime wrecks lives, spreads fear, corrupts society. It is the fault of the individual, and no one else.
We are cracking down hard on crime -
There's another problem we are dealing with -
You will have seen the pictures on television or in the newspapers; if you live in the West Country and Wales you may have seen it on your doorstep. Farmers powerless. Crops ruined and livestock killed by people who say they commune with nature, but have no respect for it when it belongs to others.
New age travellers? Not in this age. Not in any age.
They say that we don't understand them. Well, I'm sorry -
Mr President, the things I care most about are the long term things -
Isn't that what we're all about together in this Party? That's what our forebears
worked for when they built it, when they sent its roots down deep -
That's why I fought so hard in the Election to keep our country one. For me that
is the highest and greatest of our causes -
So let's be confident at home and in Europe. Let's not turn away and say "It's all too difficult". Let's not hang back because we don't believe our voice will be heard. Right across Europe, now, in this critical hour, people are looking and listening to us and to what we have to say.
It won't always be easy. It won't always be comfortable. But in all we do, there is one thing I will never forget. This is our country.
What we do, we do for Britain. What we do, we do for the future of our children and for generation yet unborn. For their prosperity and their security, and never for short term political advantage.
Let us have faith, and courage, and pride. Britain's interests will come first -