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Howard: It's time for action in Wales

Speech at the launch of Welsh Conservatives general election manifesto

"Prynhawn da.

It's great to be back here in Wales - it was only a few weeks ago that I was in the magnificent Millennium Stadium for our Welsh Conference.

Wales is a great country, full of talented, hard-working people. That's why I'm so proud to call myself a Welshman.

I owe so much to Wales.

I come from an ordinary family.

My parents ran a clothes shop in Llanelli.

We didn't have any special privileges.

But we were lucky enough to live in a town with a first class state school.

At Llanelli Grammar School, discipline was at a premium. Teachers were respected. We all learnt the basics. Ambition, excellence and hard work were encouraged.

It was the best start any child could have in life.

I'm in politics to give something back to the country which gave so much to me.

The choice before voters here in Wales on May the fifth is very clear.

They can either reward Mr. Blair for eight years of broken promises, and vote for another five years of talk.

Or they can vote Conservative, to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard working Britons.

Some people may be thinking about voting Liberal Democrat. But no matter what you think of your local candidate, when you vote you're not just voting for someone to represent you locally - you're voting for a national government.

So if you think that crime's too high, immigration is out of control and Mr. Blair has hit you with too many stealth taxes - then you need to send him a very clear message.

Enough is enough.

And you can't do that by voting Liberal Democrat. You can only do it by voting for your local Conservative candidate.

Britain deserves a government that rewards people who do the right thing - who play by the rules.

That's why, six months ago, my Party published a Timetable for Action - a bold public commitment to get a grip on the tough issues facing Britain today.

We will reward hardworking Britons who do the right thing by giving them value for money and lower taxes.

We believe in restoring discipline in our classrooms by giving head teachers control over their schools.

We believe in cleaning up our dirty hospitals by putting matron back where she belongs: in charge.

We will reduce immigration by setting an annual limit on the number of people who can come and settle in Britain.

And we will cut crime by each year putting 5,000 more police officers - real police officers - on our streets and introducing tougher sentences for burglars and drug dealers.

The first duty of government - any government - is to protect the public.

But criminals now have more chance of committing a crime and getting away with it than at any time for the last 25 years.

Most criminals aren't stupid.

They commit crime because they've calculated the risks and worked out they can get away with it.

The decline of individual responsibility, the proliferation of so-called "human rights" and government's failure to draw a clear distinction between right and wrong have left Britain in a mess - unable to get a grip on rising crime and disorder.

Respect for the law; respect for others and respect for property: these values are at the heart of a successful society.

The vast majority of families accept that - only a tiny minority don't: they're the families where parents don't take responsibility for their children, who show no respect for their neighbours and whose yobbish behaviour quite literally ruins local communities.

People shouldn't have to put up with this kind of nonsense.

But in Britain today no-one seems prepared to take a stand - to hold these arrogant yobs to account for their appalling behaviour.

We have too few policemen, filling in too many forms and chasing too many central government targets.

Well I will take a stand.

Unlike Mr. Blair I won't pussy foot around when it comes to crime.

Put more police on the streets and they'll catch more criminals.

Cut back on paperwork and they'll spend more time on the beat.

Take criminals out of circulation and they cannot commit more crime.

None of this rocket science.

That's why a Conservative Government will provide an extra 2,199 police officers here in Wales.

It's why we'll introduce tough mandatory minimum sentences for career drug dealers and career burglars.

And it's why we'll scrap the politically correct form the police have to fill in every time they stop someone - that's right just stop someone, not stop and search.

A policeman stops a teenager in the street in front of his friends.

The policeman asks him what he's up to - and then he has to fill out a form right there on the street to justify his actions.

How is that going to stop yobs terrorising our local communities?

I want policemen and women to have the confidence to eyeball these characters; to invade their personal body space, just like they're invading ours; to confront and challenge their unacceptable behaviour.

We must never forget that people are responsible for their actions.

The acceptance of personal responsibility is at the heart of a successful society.

People who break the law need to know that they will be punished.

They have to understand that actions have consequences.

I want criminals to look over their shoulders in fear - not the law abiding public.

And I use that word deliberately - Fear. I want criminals to fear the police. It's time we gave these yobs a dose of the fear they've been dishing out to the rest of us.

So if you're watching this on TV and you're a burglar, a mugger, a vandal - whatever - I suggest you think twice before voting Conservative. Because people have had enough and we're not going to settle for it any more. You may think you're tough but a Conservative Government will be tougher.

I make no apologies for this uncompromising talk.

Leadership isn't about saying what's easy.

Some people say I shouldn't talk about difficult issues like the abuse of our asylum system and those travellers who stick two fingers up to the law.

But we cannot make Britain a better place if we sweep difficult issues under the carpet.

Everyone knows you won't fix a problem if you aren't even prepared to discuss it.

I'm not prepared to appease special interest groups because I believe passionately in fair play.

We are all British and we should all have to play by the same rules.

Nor will I be distracted from doing what I believe is best for Britain by the smirking politics of Mr Blair or the woolly thinking of the Liberal Democrats.

So on each of these issues - on rewarding those who work hard and have contributed to our country, on schools, on hospitals, on crime and on immigration - we have a detailed, published Timetable for Action so you can hold us to account.

Look for this commitment in your paper, check it on the net, put it up on your fridge door - hold me to it.

And beware yet another election where Mr Blair says one thing to get your vote on polling day and does something quite different afterwards.

Mr. Blair is already secretly grinning about the prospect of his third victory.

Well you don't have to settle for that.

If you're thinking what we're thinking, it's time for urgent action on the things that really matter:

- Reward for hardworking Britons;

- School discipline;

- Cleaner hospitals;

- More police; and

- Controlled immigration.

So to those who voted Labour last time, who dream of a better life, who work hard, but feel let down, I say, come and join us.

We are the only choice if you want a government that gives you lower taxes and value for money.

To those who voted Liberal Democrat last time, who have lost faith in a criminal justice system with twisted priorities, who yearn for a time when children can walk home safely from school, I say, come and join us.

We are the only choice if you want a government that will wage war on crime.

And to those who have given up on politics, who do not believe that casting a vote will ever make any difference to their lives, I say, come and join us. We are the only choice if you want a government that is responsible and accountable to you.

It's your choice - and it's your opportunity.

You can vote for Britain to change direction.

You can vote for a better, brighter tomorrow.

You can vote Conservative."

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