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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on the South

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the South, made during an interview held in London on Thursday 25th July 1996.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why nobody believed the economy was doing well].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you only have to look around and if you say why does nobody believe me, go and try and find a restaurant in London and see if you can get in, have a look at how many people are taking flights to go abroad on holiday, have a look at how many people will actually be buying new cars in August. There is the tangible proof. Have a look at the unemployment figures, they are pretty tangible proof as well. They are now coming down for the fourth successive year. I don't think you or anybody else can name me another European country in which that is happening. So the reality is that the economy is beginning to perform excellently, there is yet another report out in the last few days making that point absolutely clearly.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why people felt insecure].

PRIME MINISTER:

I believe that people have had a sense of insecurity through the recession. And daily of course people point insecure matters at them. If you will forgive me making this point, you put the points to me negatively, you don't say to me that the British economy is doing better than any other economy in Europe. Yet that is true, you know it is true, I know it is true. Yet it is the negative aspect that so often makes the news. I believe what people will continue to see is the reality of what has happened - unemployment continuing to fall, inflation well below 3 percent, staying below 3 percent, going to go below 2.5 percent; our growth as high as anyone in Europe last year, this year and going to be as high next year; massive inward investment. These things are beginning to come together in a way we have not seen for 30 or 40 years and I don't believe that the reality of what is occurring in our economy can be hidden for very much longer. It is becoming apparent to people.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why the Government wasn’t trusted].

PRIME MINISTER:

You make that assertion, I don't know upon what basis you make that assertion.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was told that it was true].

PRIME MINISTER:

That may be your personal view, you are perfectly entitled to your personal view but that is the assertion that you make.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if taxes had risen].

PRIME MINISTER:

If you actually look at the tax burden you will find it has actually fallen since 1992. That is a reality of life and you need to look at that. Many people who are paying more taxes are paying more taxes because they are in a higher income bracket - that is why their taxes are higher. Those people who move into a 40 percent tax bracket pay more income tax, that is the progressive system we have always had. And so one ought not to distort that in terms of the general position. We are in favour of reducing taxes. In order to reduce taxes you need to hold down expenditure. I look for the support from people for holding down expenditure so we can continue to reduce taxes, not just direct taxes but also inheritance taxes on people's property and other taxes that affect people.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if voters in the region would back the Conservative Party in a General Election].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the big idea that people wish to see for themselves and their family is the security of their employment, improving the education system for their children with better choice than ever before. I take the view that education is an absolutely key issue for this reason. In our country there are millions of children. They are all original, they are all diverse, they all have their own interests. We ought not to squeeze them in a regimented education system. We want an education system that is diverse so that it can cater with the diversity of our children. That is why I would like grant-maintained schools, that is why I favour more selection, that is why I favour some grammar schools, some schools that concentrate on perhaps the sciences, or English, or even sport. Not the return of the 11-Plus, as our critics so dishonestly allege, but an increasing diversity so that the education system that we have matches the demands of the children in this country. Very important. You might call that a big idea. No-one has attempted that for some years. We are doing it.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about the single currency].

PRIME MINISTER:

We have got to make a decision on what is right for this country. There are an awful lot of people who want to cut off that decision because they are running their own agenda. They want to say now, in advance of knowing the facts, in advance of being able to influence the debate, that we will do either one thing or the other. I have a particular responsibility as Prime Minister, to represent what is right for this country. Uniquely I have negotiated a position where the United Kingdom can say ‘No’ if others go ahead, and other countries cannot necessarily do that if they meet the criteria. Now it would be folly to throw that unique advantage away.

A single currency, if it proceeds, is going to affect our country, whether or not we are in it. I ask you a simple question - should the British government have a voice in those decisions or should it throw that voice away? I think, since we are one of the most powerful nations in Europe, we should have a voice in that decision, and that is what I intend to have. And those people who are inviting me to throw away that voice, that influence in a decision that will affect us whether we are in the single currency or not, are wasting their time. They may continue to try and follow their own agenda but they are wasting their time. Our job is to influence all of Europe and you cannot do that if you stand by and let other people run the debate.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about devolution for the Isle of Wight].

PRIME MINISTER:

You will be unsurprised to know that I don't think it is a very good idea. I gather the Liberal Democrats are running this idea, I don't know, very possibly within the Isle of Wight they will then propose devolution for a particular Parish Council, I can't imagine. No nonsense seems to me to be too silly for them. I don't think the people of the Isle of Wight will take that as a very serious proposition, I think they are much too sensible to have much to do with that sort of Liberal Democrat idea.