Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Howard: The Britain I Believe In

Speech to a campaign rally in his Folkestone and Hythe constituency

"It's a great pleasure to be here with so many friends in Folkestone this morning.

During this election campaign I have been travelling all over the country. But there's one thing I never forget, wherever I am, and that's who I'm accountable to. It's the people of Folkestone & Hythe who put me here and it's you that I serve.

Today I want to share with you my hopes and aspirations for our country.

The country we should be.

The country we can be.

The country we must be.

My hopes for Britain are rooted in the values of the hard working families who make our country the best in the world: rewarding enterprise; encouraging individual responsibility; and a pride - no matter what our colour, creed or religion - in being British.

The Britain I believe in will reward people who do the right thing: who work hard, pay their taxes and bring up their children to respect others.

Pensions

No generation has done more for our country than the older generation.

If you want to know about a family, look at how they treat their older relatives. And if you want to know about a country, look how it cares for its older generation. How a country treats the older generation is a test of its values.

Many served our country in her greatest hour of need, preserving liberty, freedom and Britain's independence for future generations. We must never forget the contribution they have made - and continue to make to our communities.

I believe that people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in their retirement.

I want to live in a country where we honour our older generations, cherish their wisdom and care for their needs.

To those who have given so much, we must surely give what is their due.

The older generation don't seem to feature in Mr Blair's New Britain.

New Labour's Britain is a young country, a country where the older generation has been airbrushed out.

In Britain today millions of people have seen the value of their pensions destroyed by Mr Blair's stealth taxes. Imagine putting money aside for your retirement only to find that it's not there.

Frank Field, Mr. Blair's first Pensions Minister, was so right to say that Labour took one of the best pensions systems in Europe and turned into one of the worst - forcing nearly half of all pensioners onto means testing.

Pensioners rightly resent means testing. It is at total odds with the values of the forgotten majority.

Means testing is wrong. It penalises people for doing the right thing - saving for their retirement. It sends a clear signal to the younger generation: "Don't bother to save. Spend whatever you can before you retire, because your future is one of dependency on the State". It's hardly surprising that personal pension savings have hit a four year low.

Means testing is humiliating - forcing pensioners to go cap in hand to the State for what they are due.

And means testing is complicated. That's why over one and a half million eligible pensioners don't even claim what they are due.

We will increase the basic state pension in line with earnings, making pensioners up to £11 a week better off after four years after inflation. By increasing the basic pension, we will free pensioners from the tyranny of means tested benefits - restoring their dignity, independence and self-respect.

We will give every home where the adults are sixty five and over a fifty per cent Council Tax discount up to a maximum of £500. This will ensure that Council Tax bills for five million pensioners are cut.

Taken together these proposals will mean that pensioner households will be up to £1,000 a year better off.

And I will stop the disgrace of elderly people being forced to sell their homes, saying goodbye forever to their independence, to pay for their residential care.

Labour have said Britain should be proud of Labour's record on helping pensioners.

"Proud?"

Just think back to 1999 budget when Labour announced a miserly 75 pence increase in the state pension.

Just think about this Budget when Labour gave pensioners a one-off £200 Council Tax discount. Yes a one-off - just enough to get them through the election.

Proud of extending means testing, of raiding pension funds, of hitting pensioners on fixed incomes with higher and higher council taxes?

That tells you all you need to know about what Labour think of pensioners - people Peter Mandelson once described as having "no mileage".

So I say to all those senior citizens who feel Mr Blair has taken their votes for granted - it doesn't matter how you've voted in the past, come and join us.

Trusting the Professionals

Britain also deserves a government that cuts bureaucracy so that taxpayers get value for their money; a government that restores discipline at school so that children get the start in life they deserve; and a government that delivers cleaner hospitals so that patients can go into hospital secure in the knowledge they'll get better not worse.

Britain deserves a government that trusts professionals.

Teaching, medicine and policing are more than jobs.

They are professions, professions without which no decent society can function.

Just as parents know best what is right for their children, so professionals have the clearest vision of what is right for our schools and hospitals.

Government should trust and support teachers in their mission to pass on the best of what has been thought and written to the next generation.

Government should give doctors, nurses and matrons the freedom to exercise their professional judgement.

And government should allow the police to fight crime - to follow the instincts which take brave men and women into the police force - by freeing them from the shackles of political correctness and paperwork.

Respect for public service means trusting professionals.

And that means a government that's prepared to take a blowtorch to paperwork: a government that won't patronise doctors and teachers with the dogma of the politically correct; and a government that realises that true progress doesn't depend on hitting artificial and arbitrary targets.

Trusting People

And Britain deserves a government that rewards risk taking and hard work.

Britain's hard-working families and its wealth-creating entrepreneurs need a government solidly on their side - a government that recognises and rewards their efforts.

A Government that applies a simple philosophy: reward people who do the right thing. Reward parents who raise children to respect others, reward professionals who follow their vocation, reward businessmen and women who take risks to guarantee our future prosperity.

Rewarding them means trusting them - with more of their own money, more control over their destiny, more freedom to believe in their dreams and to see them come true.

Fair play

The balance between rights and responsibilities in Britain is today out of kilter.

Too many people now believe that they are no longer wholly responsible for their actions.

And the rights culture rewards those who don't play by the rules.

"I've got my rights" has become the verbal equivalent of two fingers to authority.

The so-called Human Rights Act has allowed arsonists to escape expulsion from school, killers to win the right to pornography in prison, and travellers to set up illegal encampments in defiance of planning laws.

I believe fair play matters.

The same rules should apply whatever your background, whatever your religion, whatever your sex. We are all British. We are one nation.

That's why I don't believe in special rules for special interest groups.

And I'll carry on talking about fair play even though I'm attacked for it because I will never be stopped from saying what I know is right.

I believe respect matters.

Respect for others.

Respect for the law.

Respect for property.

These values are the bedrock of a successful society.

The Britain I believe in would put a premium on fair play, on order and on respect.

That's why we should never tolerate abuse, whether by people smugglers who trample over our borders, criminals who work the system for their benefit or freeloaders who demand special privileges without shouldering their responsibilities.

I believe that, given the chance, a Conservative Party which believes in recognising and rewarding Britain's forgotten majority could transform our nation.

Trust in Government

My hope for a transformed Britain springs from my passion for our country.

People are today longing for a government in which they can trust.

Do you remember when you first heard Mr Blair? When he asked you to trust him?

I suspect that many people thought "Well, why not?" Yes, of course he'd made mistakes.

He'd joined Labour when Michael Foot was its leader.

He'd supported CND.

But we all make mistakes when we're young, don't we?

And, of course, Mr Blair said he'd changed. His new passion was to restore "the bond of trust" with the British people. He said he would be "purer than pure".

Eight years on, where is that bond of trust today? Where's that purity?

Here's a question: what have the following words got in common?

Stealth.

Dome.

Dodgy.

Cronies.

Superbug.

Spin.

Dossier.

Campbell.

Mandelson.

Mr Blair has a problem.

He thinks people still believe him. They did once. Not now.

He thinks people still love him. Some did once. Not now.

And he doesn't realise that when he says the same thing, over and over again, people don't believe it. They've heard it all before.

On Wednesday, Mr Blair launched his manifesto. He tantalised voters with a list of hundreds of promises.

But we'd heard it all before. Not just years before. Or even months before. Minutes before.

On page one was the promise: "Neighbourhood policing teams for every community".

And there it was again on page two: "Neighbourhood policing teams for every community".

Also on page two, Mr. Blair promised: "Community ownership of local assets".

Just as he did on page six: "Community ownership of local assets".

Back on page two, he pledged: "More recycling".

And on page three? "Collection … of recyclable materials".

Well, however much Mr Blair recycles his promises, no one will ever believe them.

As Gordon Brown said to Mr. Blair: "there is nothing that you could ever say to me now that I could ever believe".

Well, if his own Chancellor doesn't believe Mr. Blair, why should anyone else?

The Conservative Alternative

There is an alternative.

Just imagine for a moment what our country would be like if the values of the hard working forgotten majority prevailed.

So think about a Britain after five years of Conservative Government: a Britain where the prosperity earned through work and risk-taking creates wealth for all; a Britain where everyone can climb the ladder of opportunity, where families are rewarded; a Britain where justice is done and wrongdoers are punished.

A country where the vulnerable are supported, not patronised, their dignity respected.

A country with schools and hospitals that compare with the best in Europe, because head teachers are trusted to run their schools and politicians no longer tell NHS professionals how to care for the sick.

A country which has put the "something-for-nothing culture" behind it and recognises that personal responsibility is the bedrock of a healthy society.

It is time to reward those who do the right thing.

It is time stand up for the forgotten majority.

It is time, at last, for a government that believes in Britain."

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