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1996 - Mr Major’s Question and Answer Session at Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of Mr Major’s question and answer session at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth, held on Wednesday 9th October 1996.


QUESTION:

[small section at beginning of session missing] within the Caribbean and Ethnic minorities to vote Conservative and not Labour.

PRIME MINISTER:

If you were to scratch any politician down to the core, you would find some things that they instinctively believe. There are many bits of ideology we learn. That is part of our intellect that we accept them because they are right. And then there are the things that go beyond that. There are the things that go to the very instinctive heart of that particular politician.

[Indistinct] that equality of people in this country, equality of opportunity and choice. Whether people are black or white or brown. Whether they are rich or poor, old or young. From the north to the south. Is the most instinctive part of the core of what I believe in in politics. I don't have a shred of hesitation in saying to you I would like more people from the Caribbean background, more people from an Asian background. More people, whatever their backgrounds are, who are now living in this country as British citizens to realise that they are welcome here in my Conservative party. Not just as members, but to seek elected office, whether at local level, county level, parliamentary level, or to be appointed to the House of Lords. They are British citizens. They have the same rights as every other British citizen, and indeed they have a Prime Minister who will stand up for them.

QUESTION:

Good afternoon Prime Minister. Just what are we going to do with the idle scroungers and abusers of our welfare system? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me ask you to reflect firstly on what has already been done. And then perhaps I might invite you to look forward to two speeches later this week. The first you will hear from Peter Lilley, who in my judgement, since he is not here, I will say so in his absence, in my judgement has done more to draw down unreasonable dependency on the state than anybody for a very long time. He has taken some very courageous decisions. And what is more, those courageous decisions have often involved legislation, controversial legislation, being taken through the House of Commons with a very tiny majority indeed. We have done that consistently, year after year after year. Because our interest is in the hard working classes of this country - not in the people who abuse and rip off the system in any way. So I invite you to look forward to two speeches later this week, Peter LiIley, and then perhaps be around on Friday as well.

QUESTION:

I am Babs Martin, Women's Chairman for Warwick and Leamington Conservative Association. Prime Minister, I would ask you, nay, I would beg you, that when a person is condemned to life imprisonment for the murder of a policeman or a child, that life will mean life.

PRIME MINISTER:

We now have provision to ensure that in many cases that is precisely what it can mean. Michael Howard set out a further range of issues yesterday where we propose to handle not just this question, this question of very serious violent crime, but a whole range of other crimes as well. It is not very long ago that this conference heard Michael outline a twenty-seven point plan some time ago, and it was much mocked by the opposition who opposed every part of it. It has now been carried out and we are moving beyond that so that there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that our determination is to act firmly but fairly with those people who commit crimes, but above all to protect those innocent victims of crimes.

Now, you refer to one sort of crime. I would like to touch, if I may, on another. Because it refers to something we propose to do later this year. I guess if you ask most people around the country which is the crime that perhaps, a serious crime, that they perhaps axe most concerned about, because they have seen it happen to someone near to then, or they know about it, or perhaps its has happened to them. I think many people would say it was burglary. Well, I wish to share with you some thoughts about that. I, many years ago, when I was in my late teens, maybe early twenties, had my flat burgled. I was a single man, I had nothing much to go, but I remember how I felt about it. If you then imagine how people feel, perhaps particularly elderly people, when someone has entered their house, stolen their possessions, ransacked through their personal belongings, and perhaps stolen mementoes that can never he replaced. And rifled through their clothes and other possessions. I vividly remember someone saying to me, I shall never feel safe again in my home now that it has been violated, in this fashion. I understand that. And when Michael and I discovered sometime ago that the sentence for a first act of burglary, upon being found guilty, was about fourteen months, of which seven were served. Well, prison is not a pleasant place to go to, we thought that was about right. But when we discovered that if it was a multiple offender who had perhaps committed ten offences of burglary, he did not get fourteen months in jail, of which he served seven, but about sixteen or seventeen months of which he served eight or eight and a half. Then Michael and I reached the judgement that that was not a fair response on behalf of society and on behalf of those who were burgled. So we will introduce legislation this November to correct that and more accurately reflect the penalty that I believe that crime deserves.

QUESTION:

Bill Garret from Buckingham Branch. It has been suggested Prime Minister, that if we don't agree to join the Single Currency, our voice, or whatever, won’t be heard in Europe with the same weight as it is now. Is this true?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, it is certainly true. Europe at the moment is changing. And Europe is going to go on changing. I think that is the first point we need to filter into this great debate that there has been about Europe. It is a great debate. I will take a moment or two about this, if you don't mind. And elaborate upon it because I know the passions and tensions that have been aroused by this debate over the last few years. So I want to put it in some sort of context. Europe is changing. And it is going to go on changing in one way or another. Our concern and our determination is to make sure that it changes in a way that is acceptable to the United Kingdom and not damaging to the United Kingdom. Now the central part of that debate is what should the European Union be doing. I think it should extending its boarders further to the East to take in those countries in Central and parts of Eastern Europe, who were for so long with the other side of the Iron Curtain militarily. And also economically. There are been an economic Iron Curtain down the middle of Europe as well. And we need to bring them into the free enterprise nations of Western Europe. Not just as a piece of autism, because in this generation of politicians, we have the chance to frame a new Europe that will never again lead to the conflicts that have twice decimated Europe and the rest of the world during this century. We can shape something for our grandchildren, that our grandparents would never have imagined could have happened. Now that is a very great prize. And Britain is one of the nations who believes that is the single most important thing that the European Union should be concerning itself with, rather than other institutional questions.

But there is the second question, and clearly it was what was in your mind, and I know in the minds of many people in my party. The question of a Single Currency and what will it mean. Malcolm, I know touched on that this morning. And I will develop on that a little further if I may. If a single currency goes ahead, it will have an impact in one way or another way, upon every nation in the European Union, whether or not that particular country is in the Single Currency. Let us accept that fact. If it goes ahead, even if a particular country is not in it, it is going to have an impact upon it. If it fails, that Single Currency, then the fall out from a failed economic and monetary union, would make the fall out from the collapse of the Exchange Rate Mechanism look like a teddy bear's picnic economically, right the way across Europe. So the first thing we have to determine is that the circumstances for that experiment, if it is to proceed, are right. That the conditions are right. Now this isn't a new idea, that was why Britain, that is why Norman Lamont and I insisted on what became known as the Convergence Criteria - good economic conditions were written into the treaty some five years ago. They are still important today. And the decisions upon those have still not been made. We don't yet know what the convergence, how the convergence criteria will be interpreted, to let anybody into the Single Currency. And yet is the wrong people go in, with the wrong economic circumstances, it might collapse and damage us. So we don't know that yet. We don't know what the legal circumstances of it are. We know that only a small part of the European Union will go forward. But what is to be the relationship between that part that goes forward and the bulk of the European Union that doesn't. How does that affect the institutions? How does it affect who pays for what? What happens if the Single Currency circumstances mean that many others who perhaps wish to, join can't? And give rise to structural unemployment. Perhaps in the Southern part of Europe. Who will pay for that? Will the European Union doing it the tradition way with money transferred from the richer Northern nations to the Southern nations. I don't think that will happen. Because I don't see who is going to transfer those resources.

So this is an issue that if it were to go wrong, could crack wide open the European Union as we have seen it build up over the last twenty five years. And if it cracked it open, then it would impact upon this country as well, so we need to make sure in the national interest that we have Britain's voice in this debate. I put it to you perhaps the other way round. Let us suppose I earned some easy applause from many by saying I am going to rule everything out immediately. If I did that, and I then had no British voice in this great debate that will effect us, what would I say to the British nation when they said to me, Prime Minister, how can you protect or advance our British position if you have unilaterally ruled yourself out of the discussion upon something that will affect us and affect the whole of Europe. It is very easy to say make up your mind and do this, but it is not wise to make up your mind when you have your country's interest to protect, and you are in a position to protect them and advance views that may be of importance of your country and to the rest of Europe. And let me say one other things about the Single Currency if I may. We will make our judgement when we have all that information. There are advantages in it. There are disadvantages in it. We will be cautious but we will look both at the advantages and the disadvantages. But we have made one thing clear. Beyond any doubt, and I would like to re-emphasise it for you - if, if a future Conservative Cabinet decided that it was right to enter into a Single Currency, if it decided that, then there would be a referendum of the full nation specifically upon that particular question. We have made it clear that we would not have consent wrapped up in a General Election victory. This decision is going to be the biggest political decision economically that has been taken in this country, perhaps at any time, if a British Cabinet decided to go ahead. A British Conservative Cabinet, decided to go ahead, then I think it is right for us to put that question distinctly, clearly and unequivocally for the British nation to decide and that I promise you, we would do.

QUESTION:

Sharon Messey, Bexley Heath and Crayford. Prime Minister, I understand your wish to await reports following the Dunblane massacre. My view is, guns should be kept for the armed forces, but should they be wanted to pleasure, then may I suggest to them only being held on licences premises. In a secure environment, i.e. a gun club. But Sir, you did not get where you are today by awaiting to hear what your opinion should be. I ask you, as a fellow parent, does your gut instinct not say to you, and I crudely quote, "my child's right to live is far greater than any man's right to hold a firearm".

PRIME MINISTER:

No one could be unaffected by what happened in Dunblane. We were asked before the party conference season to delay the report from Lord Cullen so that it could be examined dispassionately, and dispassionate decisions taken in the interests of children up and down the country, families and everybody else. And we agreed to delay it and we will receive that report at the moment Parliament returns at the beginning of next week. We'll ask Lord Cullen to report. I have my own very clear views, but we have asked Lord Cullen to report. When Lord Cullen reports, we will make a clear cut and firm decision within a matter of days of receiving that report. But I do not wish to examine that at the moment. I think we have asked for the report. There are many complexities as to how we do things as well as to what is done, and I hope we will have wise advice from Lord Cullen at the beginning of next week, and we will act upon it very speedily. But I do not in a public forum like this, wish to delve into those questions until we have received the Cullen report. And then the Home Secretary and I will be both advocating and explaining precisely the action that we personally, both of us as parents as well, believe is right to be appropriate for the future of gun law in this country. There are only a few more days to wait. I would ask you to be patient.

QUESTION:

George Richie, Shrewsbury Constituency. Could I say that I am Chairman of a ward which twelve days ago regained a seat from Liberals. Can I also say we did a very full canvas, and what is absolutely clear is traditional Conservatives are coming back home. Now for the question. It actually has to do with the Single Currency, but an aspect which you, Sir, didn't actually mention. It is a fact that British pension funds total more than all the pension funds added together in the European Union - the Germans, the French and the Italians - to mention but three. All their pensions are funded from tax. Now if we go into a Single Currency, inevitably there will be a single taxation system and equally inevitably we will have to start having to fund German unfunded pensions. Now if the debt of the German pension, pension debt, was included in the convergence criteria, they would have a debt of something like 140% of GDP. There was no way that they could hit the criteria which is why I suspect they have left them out. Now Sir, we need to smoke the Germans out on this one and it seems to me that one, it seems to me that a hot button could be "Single Currency; your pension in danger".

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Brian, I was saying earlier we had better bring in one of those cynical journalists to find out if the questions were rigged. I think they would be pretty cynical to imagine they are now. I am delighted to hear about your win in your ward. I hope there are a lot of constituency chairman here who are going to take back Liberal held constituencies at the next General Election as well.

You're right about the build up of British pensions funds compared to the rest of Europe. Because of action taken by Conservative Governments many years ago, we have a better gross aggregate of pension funds to look after people's future security in any other nation in Europe. Indeed, than all the other nations in Europe added together. And that is one of the reasons why over the next few years our economy will become increasingly competitive because it will not have the same extra burden to build up secure pensions in the future because we have laid the ground work for that over very many years. But if I may say so, you illustrate one of the reasons precisely, reasons like that, why the British Government need to be in the negotiations to make sure the convergence criteria are appropriate. If I were not in the discussions, how could I examine your point and raise it with our partners in Europe. And I could offer you fifty other examples like that.

QUESTION:

My name is Barbara Stroud, I come from Poole, and I am Chairman of the Dorset and East Devon European Union of Women. In my Conservative work in my area, I am now being more frequently asked, or people more frequently saying, you know, there is hardly any difference now between the Conservative and the Labour policies. But we know from the previous question or two that there is this great fundamental difference that the Conservatives want to the United Kingdom united and Labour want to tear it apart. This message is not getting through to constituents, to the electorate. Not at all. Now we can all go away from here with the strong message that we heard in the debate in the union yesterday. But much much more needs to be done. My question now, can we make this vital issue fundamental issue in the election campaign, and on you place all the resources at your disposal into getting this message to the electorate day and night from now to polling day?

PRIME MINISTER:

I will tell you what will draw a distinction between our approach to the development of the nation states of Europe, and the Labour Party's determination to bring policies they could not enact here back from Europe through the backdoor. I will tell you what will drive that distinction home to the people right across this nation. It would be if this party stopped conducting an internal debate with itself and began conducting a debate with the electorate and the Labour Party. And that I believe has happened. We're not conducting an anti-European campaign. Let me make that perfectly clear. I am in favour of Europe, I am in favour of our membership of Europe. I wish to see that membership work and I wish to see Europe succeed. But my job is to take our ideas to Europe, not just hijack their ideas and bring them back here.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, Pierre Oxley, I am candidate for the Holland Haven district by-election next month. Prime Minister, what do you say to residents of that ward when Liberal and Labour run Essex county council cuts money off social services, whilst Conservative run Government increases money on such vital people in society?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I would say there is nothing unusual in that happening when you have Labour and Liberal councils. If you want to look at deprivation across a wide scale in this country, if you want to look at lack of opportunity and education in this country, go to the areas that are run and have been run for years by the Labour Party. The Labour Party tell us now they've got all sorts of wonderful ideas for education, but they control the education authorities. Why are they not putting them into practice if they really know what they wish to do, The Leader of the Labour Party says his priority is education, education, education. Well, ours is the same but perhaps in a different order. And I said it in '91 so I am delighted he has caught up at last. But let me offer you a memory I have about education. It goes back a very long way. I went in the early '80s, I can't remember which year it was, so many events telescope together. On a brief tour of some countries in South America. I went to Peru, to Columbia and to Venezuela. I was just outside Peru, not one of the richest cities, one of the poorest cities of the world, menaced by a wicked terrorist group called Sendera Luminosa. And I went on the outskirts of that to a small school one morning. I was there, it was part of my visit. And it was adjacent to housing that really by any standards that we see in this country is truly appalling. Unbelievably poor circumstances for people to live. Just after eight o'clock in the morning, those front doors opened, and out of those front doors came a whole selection of moppets up to the age of ten or eleven. Nicely turned out. With satchels, not expensive ones, but satchels. Hair brushed, eyes bright, heading off to their school. And I stopped one of them and asked them what them what his ambition was. And he looked at me and said, I would like to be a brain surgeon. Can you imagine that, a boy from the slums of Lima, who had the soaring ambition to wish to be a brain surgeon. If you wish to know in a sentence what education is about, it is making it possible for boys or girls from whatever background to achieve that sort of superb ambition if they have the guts, the will power, the intellect and the effort to achieve it. That is what education is all about.

QUESTION:

Tom Wearing, Redditch. And may I say that Redditch Association is a loyal and united association. Can we have that on the record, BBC. My question, Prime Minister is this, if television advertising is effective, and there is little doubt that it is, why should television be less effective when in advertising gratuitous violence, pornography and permissiveness generally.

PRIME MINISTER:

When you've finished your question just then, sitting down here, and shyly hiding himself away on the front row is the Home Secretary. I have just a shrewd feeling that when you finished your question, that he agreed with you. And shall I let you into another secret? I agree with you too. And we do need to look at those extra definitions of pornography and other matters in order to protect our children. I think sometimes the judgements that are made are not right. They're not easy judgements. We're not a party of censorship and pray God, will never become one. So there are difficult judgements to be made. I don't believe the judgements always are right. Neither does Michael. And we will take what you say to heart,

QUESTION:

Ann Priestly, leader of the Conservative Group on Wycombe District Council. Prime Minister, in spring many people in this hail will be standing as candidates in the elections for local government. I know that you realise from experience how important it is that we return as many Conservative Councillors as possible. Can we be reassured that as much as possible will be done to return those candidates so that we see a sea of blue on the map of local authorities.

PRIME MINISTER:

Gosh, that's a tricky one. Yes, of course. I come from Local Government and I know how important it is and I know also how deep the roots of the Conservative Party are sunk in local government as well. From local government has come over the last century or so some of the great figures of Conservative politics, and out there in local government at the moment are young people in it or going into it who will be the great figures of Conservative politics in the future. I want a sea of blue right across local government. Don't let there be any doubt about that. But I will just say this one thing, since this is a party meeting, and since I can speak to you in the discretion of a private occasion, I would just say one thing for you to take back to your constituencies. I look very carefully at the local election results and I see results in unpromising areas like Hackney where the Conservatives have done spectacularly well and I make enquires and ask what has happened. And I have to say to you, if the Conservatives are out on the streets, knocking on the doors saying we are the Conservatives, this is what we stand for - we win. And if they're wringing their hands saying well, we're behind in the opinion polls, we're very unpopular, then they don't win. Within a very few months, we have a general election to win. I believe that we will win that general election. I believe we deserve to win that general election. Here in this hall today, is the heart and soul of the Conservative Party in the country. Doesn't lie in cabinet or in Parliament. It is here. You are the movers and shakers who make the Conservative party what it is in the country. You are the people as resentful as I am at the slurs that have been cast at the Conservative party. You are the people that did not join the Conservative Party for fame and fortune, but because you believed in what we stand for. Because you believe in what we want to do. I want you to go back and get every single person in your constituencies out on the doorsteps, reminding people that we Conservatives are not a party apart, we are a part of the nation itself. We have been for 200 years and no party has served its country in Government for so long, so often, and in my judgement, so well, as the British Conservative Party.

QUESTION:

Mr Chairman, David Leal, Treasurer, Conservative Association, Hornchurch in Essex, and Chairman of one of its branches. My question to the Prime Minister; information is being let out from EEC, EU, EM, I don't really know what they call themselves from day to day, that Europe is moving towards federal Europe. Can the Prime Minister tell me that if federal Europe becomes a reality, it will not be part of it?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are people in the European Union who would move for a more integrationalist European Union, because they believe it, that is what they think is right. They have a different perception on the way in which Europe will develop from us, that is what the great debate in Europe is about. But I don't have to say anything fresh about that today because I said it to the conference last year or the year before. If Europe go ahead with integration, sometimes called federalist integration, of a sort that is unacceptable to the British, then we will stand aside from that integration. That has been our stated position for a very long time and it hasn't changed, and it isn't going to change under a Conservative government.

QUESTION:

Peter Fleet, PPC for Southampton ltchen. Prime Minister, whether I am meeting dockers at our port, ship builders at Bosba Thornycroft, or line workers at our Ford plant, one theme is consistent. These working Tories want to pay less tax. Can you assure us that the budget in November won't be a budget for Europe, but one for Britain?

PRIME MINISTER:

Now tell me, hands up those who think I'm going to tell you what's in the budget? I can tell you that we Tories are by instinct tax cutters. I can tell you that we believe money is better off in people's pockets to make their own choices than in the Government's pockets to make those choices for people. And I can tell you also that we are concerned to deliver right the way through the next Parliament the economic miracle that is emerging from those difficult years in the recession. We are now in a better economic position than we have been in this country since I can't remember when. We are going to deal with that responsibly. That means if it is appropriate and prudent to cut taxes, our first instinct would be to cut taxes. But if it is not, if it would be imprudent, and would imperil the recovery that we have got, would imperil the falling unemployment that we've got, would imperil the low interest rates and low mortgages that we've got. Then we would not do so. We will make a judgement on what is right for the country, we will not make an imprudent budget judgement. But that we are tax cutters, all of us, every single member of the cabinet and the party is beyond doubt, it is one of our instincts because we believe that people's money is best left in people's pockets in the largest possible sums.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, I am Councillor Sally Wilkes, a member of Christchurch Borough Council and very proud to have won my seat last year, as a Conservative gain in a seat that has not been held by the Conservatives for more than ten years. My question to you Prime Minister, is when canvassing for the next general election, what can we tell our voters to assure them that this nation is safe in our hands.

PRIME MINISTER:

You have several hours? I said a moment ago that our economic circumstances were better than they had been for a long time. That opens up opportunities. I will not answer your question at length this morning, but I will answer your question in very great length indeed on Friday morning if I can invite you to be patient for just another forty eight hours or so. Because when one says safe in your hands, there are two elements to safe in yours hands. There is the domestic element, safe in terms of taxation, in terms of health, in terms of a fair and a good welfare system, in terms of making sure the money goes where it really should, in terms of a good police force, properly, effectively armed, armed forces. All these things are safe, safety on the streets. All those things are part of being safe domestically. There's also the question of being safe internationally. I talked perhaps sufficiently enough this morning, as Malcolm did earlier, about the European Union, but there's a wider world beyond that as well, in which Britain is a force of great significance. One of the great nations of NATO. A central pivot of the Commonwealth as well, one of the members of the Group of Seven, on the Security Council of the United Nations. That is, that element of the Nation also has to be safe. There is one difference you know between a British Prime Minister today, and a British Prime Minister of many years ago. For example, William Pitt when he was Prime Minister never moved more than 40 miles away from Downing Street in all the years that he was there. I must have visited 60 countries over the past six years, and I could probably pick up the phone and speak directly and personally to forty or fifty Heads of State around the world because we have met on more than one occasion. We know one another. That helps in its own way to make the world safe and to make it secure. It is very different. And that is true of the changing face of the world. We have seen the unbelievable changes that have been for example in what was the Soviet Union, the collapse of the complete empire, and an embryonic democratic state gradually beginning to emerge. And how I hope that Boris Yeltsin soon successfully has his operation and is fit and can go back to running that country.

Now you may remember that he was my guest at Chequers with Naina Yeltsin. Norma and I had them at Chequers for the weekend about a year or so ago, and we had our talks on the Friday morning. And I said to Boris, well, we've finished some discussions, shall we go out for a walk. And Boris thought this was a very good idea. And he went upstairs and he changed into a blue and white tracksuit and trainers, and I slipped into a rather fetching Val Doonican sweater. And we went out for a walk. Just the two of us, with Norma and Naina, two ambassadors, about 40 security guards, large number of civil servants, for a private walk through the Chequers grounds surrounded only by the birds, the trees, the grass and four or five hundred photographers. It was a very instructive walk. Chequers, the grounds at Chequers, are lovely. And much of it is very hilly. We went over one hill, Boris and I, and there was a lady walking her dog up the hill, because part of it is public ground, and she suddenly looked up, and over the brow of the hill came the President of Russia in a blue and white tracksuit and the Prime Minister in a Val Doonican sweater. And she was undeterred. Magnificent. She swept through us saying "Good Morning Prime Minister, Good Morning Mr President", and left us in her wake as she walked straight through. And Boris Yeltsin said, "Now I know why we won the war". And we went on. And I said to "Boris, well, we've had a long walk. We're got three choices; we can take the long walk back to Chequers, we can go down to the little village down there and we can get the cars back, or we could, you and I Boris, go and have a lemonade in the Bernard Arms." And at this stage, the West Security Forces learnt that the President of Russia could speak English. "The Bernard Arms!" said Boris, "The Bernard Arms!" And we got there. And there were cars parked all outside, but the Bernard Arms was shut; the cars belonged to all the photographers still hanging in the trees! They were staying there. And the Bernard Arms was shut! This was something of a blow. And one of President Yeltsin's interpreters went up to the door and went [knock, knock] "open up!" It's the President of Russia". And a voice came back "This is the Kaiser!". Now you know why I want him to get well!

QUESTION:

Sylvia Tidy, Chairman of the South East Area and Countryside Forum, and a member of Wealden Constituency. Prime Minister, there are a group of farmers in this country that are suffering the most severe hardship they are known for decades. Can you please do your best to see that we get the ban lifted in Europe because our beef and our food is the best and the safest in the Community.

PRIME MINISTER:

I had a meeting yesterday for around about an hour with Sir David Naish, the President of the NFU, and representatives of farmers who had come for the demonstration yesterday. And I understand the concerns that they feel. Through something that is not within their control, and decision that are collectively being taken abroad. They are concerned about their future and their livelihood. And the British Government is very sensitive to the concerned of the British agriculture industry and very sensitive to see what we can do to help the dairy industry and the beef industry. And we entered into discussion.

We've thus far committed in order to help the industry something in the region of £2,500 million and you heard Douglas Hogg make some more commitments just the other day. But it isn't just the money. What we need to do is to try and persuade people across Europe and across the world - not the Commission, [indistinct] who have been better friends of the British farmers than the nation states, but the nation states that British beef is safe. I believe it to be safe. Our scientists believe it to be safe. But a panic has been created and it is very difficult to persuade other people of that. And new evidence has emerged in the last couple of months or so which is very material. The first was the report by Professor Anderson and others that BSE is actually dying out of the British herds faster than we thought, as a result of action that we took in 1988/1989, around about that time. And secondly, that the question of genetic inheritance of BSE may not be as straightforward as people thought. A few weeks ago there was a lot of publicity that calves could inherit BSE, from the cow. Now there is considerable doubt about that. What it looks as though it might be, although this is not yet certain, the scientist are still looking at it.

Uncertain science has bedevilled this matter from the outset. What it now looks as though it is, is that what can be inherited is a genetic tendency to catch BSE if, if the calf is fed contaminated feed. And there is no contaminated feed. It has now been taken completely away. So these are two new ingredients in the debate. And I am sorry that is not 90 at 30 seconds, but this is a matter of crucial importance to the agricultural industry. Desperate worry to the farmers and the most difficult problem, I believe, that any British Government has had to face and seek to solve for very many years. My heart and my sympathy is with the farmers. A large part of tax payers support is with the farmers because when we have come through this, I am determined of one thing above all, that we will have a viable beef and a viable dairy industry in each and every component part of the United Kingdom. However we do it, that is a guarantee the farmers can rely upon.