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Howard: Our hope is for a better Britain

Speech at campaign rally at the Excel Centre in London

"Thank you for being here today on this Bank Holiday weekend.

In three days' time, people will go to the polls.

They can vote to keep things as they are. Or they can vote for a positive change.

If they do, on Friday they will wake up to a brighter day for our country.

Britain can aim higher, reach further, stand taller.

We can be ambitious for our future. We have within us the drive, the talent and the enterprise.

Science, progress, prosperity: they present us with the chance to do things better, to make lives easier, to deepen and widen opportunity for every family, every community, every corner of the land.

This Friday, May the sixth; think about it: the first day of a government that starts taking action on the things that matter to our country.

It's not about talking: it's about doing. It's not about promising: it's about delivering.

It's about helping the people who do the right thing: the people who play by the rules; who work hard and who take responsibility for themselves and their families. These people are the backbone of Britain - but today they are the forgotten majority.

After the last eight years, they have simply forgotten what it's like to have a government that actually gets things done. They can't imagine it.

But many of you will be asking yourselves:

"How can we be sure that if you win the election on Thursday, you will be different - that when you say something, it will happen?"

It's a question of character.

Leaders who get things done are leaders with the strength to take a stand and with the determination to see things through.

No pussy-footing around. No telling people what they want to hear.

People have had enough of spin and smirk; they just want someone who'll make things work.

It's no use being a man of destiny if you can't be bothered with the details.

People don't want a date with destiny. They just want a date with a dentist.

To get things done in politics you have to take a stand and focus on the specifics. Clear priorities, specific actions - carefully planned, forcefully delivered.

So I've given my team their orders for more police; for cleaner hospitals; for lower taxes; for school discipline and for controlled immigration.

They're what people up and down this country want.

They're what people up and down this country have waited eight years for.

They are what the Conservatives will deliver.

If you vote Conservative you'll be ordering us to get on with it. And that's exactly what we'll do.

We'll get straight to it.

Our action plans have been months in the making - months of hard work, months of getting to grips with the detail, making absolutely sure our sums add up.

Big picture; small details - that's how you bring about change that makes people's lives better.

I will hold my team to account for the commitments we've made. I'm the kind of person who's on the phone every day, making sure things happen. I badger people. Ask anyone who's worked with me. They know!

And never confuse simplicity of language with lack of ambition.

I'm hugely ambitious for Britain.

I want to people to have the freedom, security and opportunity to get on in life, and get on with life:

- the freedom to take the important decisions about their lives and to keep more of the money they earn;

- the security that goes with owning your home, saving for your retirement, living in a safe neighbourhood; and

- the opportunity that comes from a thriving economy and a good education.

High on our list of what we want to improve is education.

Education has the power to transform lives.

I know.

I come from an ordinary family.

If the teenage Michael Howard were applying to Cambridge today, Gordon Brown would love me. My socio-economic background ticks every one of his politically correct boxes: the child of immigrants; from a small town in Wales; a family with modest means; educated in a State school. And of course, Gordon Brown would hate Tony Blair.

I didn't have any special privileges. But I was lucky enough to live in a town with a first class State school. It was the best start any child could have in life. Today, I want every child to have that opportunity.

So we've set out the specific action we will take to break down the barriers that hold people back.

I believe that access to universities should depend on ability to learn, not ability to pay. So tuition fees and top up fees will go.

And there's school discipline - that daily nightmare for too many teachers, parents and pupils. Yet a barmy army of meddlers have made it far harder for head teachers to do anything about it.

So we'll give head teachers back control over their schools. They will have the power to expel disruptive pupils. No meddling bureaucracies - no ifs, no buts, no nonsense.

It's tough, I know. But I will never let the minority ruin the education of the majority.

Of course, troubled youngsters need the chance to get back on the straight and narrow - so we'll invest in new Turnaround Schools to teach them the basics, help them learn a practical skill and get them off drugs.

If kids don't learn to respect authority at school, how can we expect them to respect others when they grow up? That's why we've taken a stand on school discipline.

Respect for others, respect for the law and respect for property - these are the bedrock of a decent society.

That's why we've taken a stand on crime.

We've taken a stand for the millions of decent people who understand the difference between right and wrong, who can see through the statistics, who know that crime is getting worse; who know sentences are too soft; and who know it's time for more respect, and decent values.

We've set out what we're going to do

It's all there, on the record: specific actions, specific times.

That forty question form police have to fill in every time they stop someone: that will go in the appropriate filing tray - the bin.

Under my watch, the police will be out on our streets - eyeballing the yobs, invading their personal body space just like they're invading ours - not filling in forms.

And we'll recruit 5,000 more police officers - real police officers - every year.

Next, there'll be tough sentences for third time burglars and Class A drug dealers.

There'll be no excuses. If you're a career burglar you'll get three years; and if you're a career drug dealer seven years.

No-one chose these careers for them. The criminals chose them themselves. And they need to know the consequences.

Sentences will be served in full. I don't believe in half time sentences for full time crimes.

And Labour's Early Release Scheme - that scheme which has let criminals out early only to commit thousands, yes thousands of further crimes. That'll go!

Prisoners will serve their sentences where they're supposed to be - in prison: nowhere else.

If someone breaks into your home, you should be able to defend yourself and your family.

So we'll change the law.

People will be able to use the necessary force required to defend themselves, their families and their property, without the threat of criminal prosecution.

The law should be on your side, not on the side of the intruder.

We'll tackle the link between drugs and crime. For youngsters who get caught up in drugs, there'll be a simple choice - rehab or prison. I believe that people who get hooked on drugs deserve a chance to go straight.

That's why we'll provide 25,000 more residential rehab places - enough to treat every young herion and cocaine addict.

I don't care what the armies of apologists and politically correct do-gooders have to say about the stand I've taken on crime. They've had their way for far too long.

So if you're watching this on television and you're a mugger, a vandal, or a burglar - whatever. I suggest you think twice before voting Conservative: because people have had enough and we're not going to settle for it.

The Britain I want to see is a country where respect rules our streets, not the law of the jungle; where parents don't have to worry about letting their children play outside; where pensioners can walk down to the shops without the fear of getting attacked.

Only by voting Conservative can you vote for no nonsense action in the fight against crime.

And I promise you this: I'll get the job done.

We'll get the job done on the scandal of dirty hospitals and MRSA too.

Florence Nightingale once said that "the very first requirement in hospital is that it should do the sick no harm". But after eight years under Labour too many of our hospitals are failing in that most basic duty.

5,000 people die each year from infections they picked up in hospital. 5000. That's more than the number of people killed each year on our roads. And behind that statistic lies tragedy and heartbreak.

In the fourth richest country in the world, we shouldn't have to settle for this. Mr. Blair's obsession with targets has created a culture in which the hospital super-bug thrives.

Doctors and nurses are prevented from closing dirty, infected wards because of Whitehall targets.

Three times I've asked Mr. Blair to give them this power. And three times he's refused.

So we've taken a stand. We'll start by putting matron back where she belongs: in charge.

Matron will have the power to close wards infected with the super bug.

There'll be one person in charge.

It's called - accountability.

When something goes wrong, someone, somewhere should take responsibility.

Just as when something goes well they should get the credit - not the politicians.

And it's also right to take a stand on immigration.

Everyone wants new people to settle here as long as the numbers are limited and the system is sensible, fair and orderly.

For centuries we've welcomed people from around the world with open arms. We have a proud tradition of giving refuge to those fleeing persecution. And we've always offered a home to families who want to come here, work hard and make a positive contribution to our society.

My father was one of them.

Britain has benefited from immigration - both economically and culturally. We are a stronger, more successful country because of the immigrant communities that have settled here.

Many of them came to Britain with almost nothing and had to start again from scratch. But hard work, determination and a willingness to integrate propelled them forward.

Over the years, hundreds of immigrant communities have successfully integrated into British society They have rightly held on to their traditions and culture, while also embracing Britain's and playing their full role in our national life. They are a credit to our community.

But any system of immigration must be properly controlled.

There are, literally, millions of people in other poorer, countries who would like to settle here if they could.

Britain cannot possibly take them all.

Nor is the system fair.

Our asylum system is being abused - and with it Britain's generosity.

Only two out of ten people who claim asylum in Britain today are genuine refugees.

And what happens to the people who are not genuine refugees?

Are they sent home when their applications fail?

No.

There are about a quarter of a million failed asylum seekers living in Britain today.

This chaos is wrong in principle - and it's also hugely expensive.

So we've set out our action plan to control immigration:

- 24-hour security at our ports;

- A new British Border Control Police Force;

- An Australian-style points system for work permits

- And, underpinning it all, an annual limit on the number of people who can settle in Britain - set by Parliament;

Some people don't agree with an annual limit.

They're entitled to their views.

But whatever they say, I'm not going to be stopped from saying and doing what I think is right for Britain.

For too many years immigration has been a no go area for political debate.

If you said you thought that too many people were coming here, you were branded a racist.

Well - let's be clear.

It's not racist to talk about immigration.

It's not racist to criticize the system.

It's not racist to want to limit the numbers.

It's just plain common sense.

I also want to see a Britain where hard work is rewarded, not penalised; where taxpayers get value for money; a Britain where stealth taxes are a thing of the past.

So we have taken a stand on Government waste.

We want to save two pence in every pound the Government spends.

People say you can't do that.

Really?

What about those thousands of extra pen-pushers? What about all those people sitting behind desks, setting targets, chasing targets, changing targets - adding nothing to frontline services. What about all those quangos? And what about those useless talking shops, the Regional Assemblies? Yes, they're going too.

By cutting waste, we can cut taxes.

Stamp duty on the average home - that'll go, helping first time buyers get their foot on the property ladder. I want everyone to own their piece of Britain.

Millions of people who save for their pension - for every £100 they put in, we'll put in £10 more.

Pensioners - millions of them, will see their council tax bills cut by up to £500 - each year, every year.

Homeowners will be spared council tax revaluation and the re-banding of their homes - the next stealth tax Labour will impose, after the election.

We won't use the council tax as a stealth tax and we will not target the working women of Britain with a Liberal Democrat income tax either.

If people do the right thing, we'll do the right thing by them. If families work hard, we'll reward them. If you help yourself, we'll help you.

We'll deliver tax cuts across the generations.

This is our offer to the British people.

Why hasn't Mr. Blair done all this? It's a fair question.

He's had eight years.

He's had 412 MPs. He's had a 167 seat majority.

It's because of their 167 majority, that Labour felt able to put up taxes when they promised they wouldn't.

It's because of their 167 majority, that Labour felt able to let people out of prison early when they promised to be "tough on crime".

And it's because of their 167 majority, that Labour felt able to increase immigration dramatically when they promised to control it.

We've had eight years of waste and broken promises from Labour. Is that suddenly going to change if they get a third chance? I don't think so. They've had eight years. They had their massive majority in Parliament. And they've had their chance.

For Mr. Blair, time is up.

In the final days of this campaign, the contrast could not be starker.

Our message is all about the future - more police, cleaner hospitals, school discipline, lower taxes and controlled immigration.

In the last days, in the last hours, of this campaign is Mr. Blair asking people to vote for him because of the great things he's achieved?

No.

Is he asking people to vote for him for the great things he's going to achieve?

No.

After eight years in power, Mr. Blair's one message about the future is "Don't let the Tories in".

That's it.

That's the limit of his vision.

His hope is to cling on to office.

My hope is for a better Britain.

On Thursday our country can turn a new page.

We can open a new chapter.

A chapter of hope.

A chapter of action.

A chapter of achievement.

Because there is no limit to what we, the British people, can achieve.

With determined leadership.

With a leader and a government that know what to do and how to do it.

With a leader and a government that know how to get the job done.

And here's what we'll do. If you elect us on Thursday, the action starts on Friday. Here is a timetable of eight specific tasks that will be my personal priorities.

First, on 9th May 2005 we will set out our plans to prevent police officers having to fill in a form every time they stop a yob in the street.

Second, by 6th June 2005 we will have signed up hospitals to put matron in charge of delivering cleaner hospitals.

Third, by 6th June 2005 we will have set in train a new 24-hour surveillance scheme to secure our borders. By 6th April 2006 we will make sure that all 35 major British ports of entry will be operating under the scheme.

Fourth, by 1st December 2005 classrooms will benefit from unruly pupils being expelled under our plans to give head teachers complete control over expulsions.

Fifth, by 1st April 2006 up to five million pensioners will have received their new council tax bills showing a discount of up to £500.

Sixth, by 6th April 2006 the first young families will have benefited from our abolition of stamp duty on houses costing up to £250,000.

Seventh, by 1st September 2006 students going to university will be freed from paying all tuition fees and Mr. Blair's planned top up fees will not be introduced.

Eighth, by 31st December 2006 we will have created a single body to fight illegal immigration - the British Border Control Police - and their 7,400 strong force will be under one unified control.

You can hold us to account.

We've taken a stand on school discipline, cleaner hospitals, controlled immigration, more police and lower taxes.

We've set out the specific actions we'll take.

We've given you a timetable.

Now it's time for change.

It's time for action.

I love my country, just like you do.

And, just like you, I know that Britain could be doing so much better.

Your life could be easier.

Your prospects could be brighter.

And that's what I'm determined to deliver.

I remember my roots. I'm proud of them.

I started out in a State school in a small town in South Wales.

Like so many people, I've learnt that if you work hard, apply yourself and stick at it - whatever your background - you can make a success of your life.

So to all of you watching at home - don't be in any doubt about my determination to fight for a better life for you and your family.

To serve you to the best of my ability.

To give back all I can to the country that has given me everything."

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