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1993 - Mr Major’s Comments on Party Unity

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the unity of the Conservative Party, made during an interview held in London on Friday 23rd July 1993.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why he had resorted to a vote of confidence].

PRIME MINISTER:

We have now concluded the Parliamentary procedures on this particular piece of legislation, why has it been so difficult? One of the reasons it has been so difficult is that although the Labour Party and the Liberal Party support the principles of that legislation, in a wholly unscrupulous manner they have voted against it again, and again, and again, voted against what they have said and what they believed in - that was what eventually drove us to a confidence motion. In the interests of this country we needed to remove this debilitating dispute, we have done, we have done it in a fashion that has given us a very substantial majority, we can now draw a line under that and move on to other matters.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the rebellion in the Conservative Party on Europe would continue].

PRIME MINISTER:

There has been a small number of people in the Conservative Party who do not like European policy for 20 years, there is a rather larger number in the Labour Party who do not like it, there is even a closet anti-European in the Liberal Parliamentary Party, that stretches across all the Parliamentary parties. In Parliament there is a very large majority for the Government’s European policy. What happened was that the Labour Party and the Liberal Party, for their own party political purposes, ignored what was right for the country and formed an alliance across the House to try and defeat this particular piece of legislation, it was, as I say, unscrupulous, but they have lost.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he needed to strengthen his leadership over the Conservative Party].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the matter is now behind us, we have drawn a line in the sand, the atmosphere in the Conservative Parliamentary Party today was superb, as you would have seen, a much larger majority than anyone imagined, everyone was back in the fold. They now know that this dispute is behind us, there is lots else we want to do: we want to get on to our agenda to deal with law and order matters, the centre-piece of the next legislative programme; the economy is now beginning to grow far faster than most people imagined, figures released today indicate yet again it is growing at quite a significant rate now. So there is a lot of work that we need to do, that we want to get on to and over which the Conservative Party is absolutely united and now we will get on with that.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if his leadership looked under strain and also whether people would be unhappy about VAT on fuel].

PRIME MINISTER:

People have been saying this sort of thing for some time. They said when I went to Europe I could not negotiate this treaty, I did; they said I could not get an opt-out from the social chapter or the single currency, I did; they said I could not get this legislation through Parliament, I did.

As far as VAT on fuel is concerned, it is not all that long ago, whenever he speaks to an environmental audience in fact, that the leader of the Liberal Party says we must end for good the anomaly of not having VAT on fuel, they are in favour of VAT on fuel, the Liberal Party, the Labour Party too are in favour of taxes of that sort. I think we need a bit more straightforwardness about this, it is no good them saying one thing when they are speaking to an environmental audience and quite something else in Christchurch or elsewhere.