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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Election Campaign

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the election campaign, made during an interview in London held on Wednesday 3rd July 1996


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why he had launched the “New Labour, New Danger” campaign].

PRIME MINISTER:

There are two halves to the approach. Firstly of course is the positive half of what is actually happening in the economy and what we are doing - the educations reforms, the change and growth in the economy; and secondly there are the risks that we see to that approach. So it has been very tough to bring about, we have worked very hard to put the country in what at the moment is a better economic shape than it has been for a very long time.

The Labour Party are beginning to come into focus. They have changed many of their policies, they have changed much of their oratory and some of their ideas and they are now coming into focus, one can now begin to see what they stand for and what they will really do. And we perceive many dangers in that, constitutional dangers with their Scottish policy, dangers to the economy with some of their taxation and other policies. And what we propose to do is to have a twin-track strategy: firstly of course the positive elements of what we are seeking to do ourselves for the good of the country; and secondly, to point out what we think are the disadvantages in Labour’s approach.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if that had the danger of focusing on Labour].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think people are going to see what is happening in terms of the good news. It is pretty noticeable when your mortgage comes down, and it has come down; it is pretty noticeable when your taxes come down, and they have come down; it is pretty noticeable when you get more information about your child at school and a greater series of opportunities and choices for your children. I think people will see that. What hasn’t been so clear in the welter of warm words and warm ideals that we have had from Labour over recent years is precisely what they would do, and what that would mean. And we do intend to focus upon that because I think there is a very wide gulf between some of the aspirations they set out and some of the realities that I believe would follow from their policies.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked where the Labour dangers were].

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I will give you several illustrations, if I may? Firstly of course, their Scottish policy on devolution. I understand why they wish to do that and I have no doubt that it is a well meaning policy. But the dangers of actually down the sort of devolutionary route that they propose, with a tax gathering parliament in Scotland, I believe are very profound for the future of the United Kingdom. I believe it will, over a measurably short period of years, set up disputes between England and Scotland that would be very damaging and very difficult to cope with. A complex issue, but I would like to elaborate upon it. Equally, the question of a special tartan tax in Scotland so that people in Scotland pay higher tax than people in England, Wales or Northern Ireland would have a devastating effect on inward investment in Scotland where taxes are higher and they would have to pay more to their workforce. They will go elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Very damaging for Scotland.

So it is not the motives of the Labour Party I am questioning at all, it is the practical implication of their policies, and that is one illustration. I could willingly offer you others.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether Scotland wanted more autonomy].

PRIME MINISTER:

There is a great pride in being Scottish, of course, and that is precisely why we have established the Scottish Grand Committee which will have all the opportunities that would exist in a Scottish Parliament except extra taxation on Scotland. For example, on Friday of this week I will be going to speak to the Scottish Grand Committee, that is all the Scottish Members of Parliament, I will be doing so in Scotland. For the first time in 300 years a British Prime Minister will be going to Scotland to be cross-examined in a debate specifically by Scottish Members of Parliament. Now if the Labour Party’s plans for a Scottish Parliament were established, that wouldn’t happen. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom would not go there because he would not be elected to the Scottish Parliament, so they would have no chance to cross-examine the Prime Minister.

Everything else they could do in a Scottish Parliament they can do in the Scottish Grand Committee under the plans that Ian Lang and I have put forward, refined by Michael Forsyth, with the one exception that there would not be the power to levy extra taxation upon the Scottish people, they are a very proud nation race, and always have been. I believe though that the plans that the Labour Party advocate would be bad for Scotland, and of course that also has an implication for the rest of the United Kingdom as well and I must be concerned about that.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he was going to Scotland because of the increasing feeling there against Westminster].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is also an illustration of what we have done, what the present Government have done. We established the Scottish Grand Committee precisely in order to address these particular problems, and we are doing similarly in Wales as well. Because in both Wales and in Scotland there is this tremendous feeling that Westminster sometimes seems a long way away.