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Norman: Party Conference Speech 2000

Making Britain a Better Place To Live

Three wasted years…

1253 days of a Labour Government.

Of decline of our cities and loss of greenfields.

Disillusion and despair is their legacy and

Britain cannot wait for change.

That is the challenge that our opposition team is ready to meet.

To meet the challenge of Standstill Britain - Bernard Jenkin, supported by Shadow Roads Minister, Robert Syms.

To meet the challenge of over centralisation - Nigel Waterson and Bill Dixon Smith.

To deliver for the environment, the author of famous pamphlets - including some very good ones on our new Blue-Green environmental policies, Damian Green.

Responsible for revitalising our cities and abolishing regional bureaucracy, Tim Loughton.

And the man who keeps us in touch - and occasionally in order - our Whip, Peter Atkinson.

I commend them to you and I commend them to the country, because

This is a team that

believes in Britain.

Our task is to make Britain a better place to live.

Good Government is not just about pounds and pennies

it is about the quality of life.

When Labour came to power

They promised to decentralise and revitalise local Government.

They promised to reduce homelessness.

They promised to be

the first "truly green Government."

And to do all this they had the best opportunity for a generation and

they have squandered that opportunity.

Instead of decentralising they have centralised.

Instead of restoring our cities they have perpetuated the decline.

They used to parade as the Party of local government.

Instead Labour have taken the culture of interference and the nanny state to new heights.

They dictate how Councils should meet;

They bombard them with plans and forms to fill in;

They force them to build houses on the countryside;

They create armies of Inspectors and box ticking auditors;

They have impoverished our farmers and buried them in red tape.

They pay lip service to devolution but they are

the most centralising Government ever.

In a few months time this country will face a choice.

Between our team and theirs.

It is for you to judge our credentials.

I cannot pretend I have John Prescott's qualifications.

I have not spent 30 years in politics waging class war.

I have not spent a lifetime as a career trade unionist and politician.

I do not dislike people who work in business or live in the countryside.

Instead I have 23 years of business experience.

And I am here today to do what I believe is right for my Party and right for my country.

But don't judge Mr Prescott by what I say

Judge him by what he says.

As you know he said:

"The greenbelt is a Labour achievement and we mean to build on it".

He meant it - and he is doing it!

He said:

"I will have failed if in five years time there are not ….. far fewer journeys by car".

He meant it - and three weeks ago he nearly did it!

He said of the Dome:

"if we can't make this work, we're not much of a Government".

He meant it. And it's true! They ain't much of a Government.

I am not quite sure what he meant when stepping off a plane from one of his many trips abroad when he said:

"I am glad to be back on Terra Cotta"

But …….. he probably meant that too!

So our challenge when in Government is clear.

We will undo all the damage John Prescott has done.

We will roll back the power of the central state.

We will break forever the culture of control from Whitehall

To let local people decide on local issues.

That is why our policies are based on two simple principles:

1. Firstly, we believe in people and communities making their own choices.

So we will restore power to local Government and local people.

2. Secondly, we believe that whatever their background people should have an equal right to a safe home, a tranquil neighbourhood and a decent education.

So on Monday we launched dynamic new policies to end deprivation in our cities.

Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine started it.

We will finish it.

Breaking the culture of centralisation is not something that comes naturally to Governments.

So the changes we make will be far-reaching - not just cosmetic.

- We will give local councils new powers to promote economic development and we will end rate capping.

- We will restore to councils the right to decide for themselves structures they adopt and how they meet.

- We will abolish once and for all every vestige of regionalism, regional assemblies, RDAs and their Committees packed with Labour cronies and their £70mn of bureaucracy.

Believing in Britain is about

Believing in local government.

We know that there are many councils with strong democratic support, well run and delivering services for their people.

Yet why should these councils suffer the same burden of regulation and inspection as the Labour rotten boroughs of the North?

Why should Hampshire and Kent, Wandsworth and Westminster pay the price of corruption in Doncaster or mismanagement in Leeds and Liverpool?

That is why we will give the best councils

independence from regulation and control and

we will guarantee their funding.

They will be citadels of independence.

They will be 'free councils'.

We know that we will not reverse the culture of centralisation unless we fracture it forever.

And that means trusting local people.

But there is a greater challenge.

The challenge of making Britain a better place to live.

The challenge of rebuilding our cities and protecting our countryside.

Of ending forever the vicious circle of migration from our towns and the relentless destruction of green fields.

If we care about the future of our country

If we care about the way in which our children and our grandchildren will live

we cannot tolerate a situation where

- Education results in our cities are often three times as worse than in the suburbs.

- Crime has soared in almost every major city in the North and Midlands and rose by 12% in London alone last year.

- While at the same time in 3 years we have lost 20,000 acres of our countryside to the bulldozers.

These are the facts that shame a Government

that came to power

promising to govern

for the many, not the few.

For all Britain's prosperity

For all the growth in incomes

For all the growth in tax

Fewer social houses have been built under Labour.

Homelessness has risen under Labour - there are now 3000 more homeless people.

Less money has been spent on regeneration under Labour.

And the North/South divide has grown under Labour.

They are hell bent on a policy of

building on the countryside,

extending urban sprawl, and

destroying villages and small towns.

Four million new houses in the next 20 years.

900,000 in the South East, the most congested part of Britain.

410,000 in the South West

including in Devon two new towns on world class countryside.

Quite simply,

the wrong houses in the wrong places.

That's why under the next Conservative Government

- no longer will the DPM come down from Hull and force unwanted houses on the villages of Kent.

- And we will scrap the national house building targets.

We will give the power to decide how many houses are built to local councils.

There was a time when England was a country of towns and villages of local character.

Wherever you arrived you knew where you were.

- the flint of Norfolk

- the honey-coloured stones of the Cotswolds

- the red sandstone and cobbles of the North West

Where local people cherished and encouraged their unique local buildings and local architecture.

But under John Prescott

England is becoming

a country of uniformity,

of identikit houses - the same in Kent as in Norfolk,

- the same in the Cotswolds as in Cumbria.

We will give local councils

the power to specify local architecture and building materials.

And not just on architecture.

We will give them the power

- to control the siting of mobile phone masts.

- to take action on the small things that blight people's lives - such as litter, graffiti and dumped cars.

Protecting our countryside is vital for the whole nation.

The death of our countryside is also the death of the inner city.

For every family leaving the city for a new house in the countryside

There is a declining school roll in the city

There is a small shop closing in the city

There are empty houses and rising crime in the city.

So that in so many deprived areas the greatest ambition of the more able hard working families…. is to leave the city.

After three wasted years of a Labour Government the message for families in our inner city estates is…..

If you want to get a job - you have to get out!

If you want to get educated - you have to get out!

If you want your children to walk home from school in safety - you have to get out!

That is why if we are to be

a compassionate Government.

If we are to be a Government

committed to all our people

then we must also be a Government

committed to reversing the flight from our cities.

They tell me regeneration requires patience.

Well Britain can be patient no longer

with a Government that ploughs £900mn into the Dome and pretends it's something to do with regeneration.

With a system that ploughs money into fancy buildings for politicians to open

while leaving the streets unsafe to walk

and families locked behind fortress housing.

That is why our regeneration companies will bring new money into our schools and policing.

We will make crime reduction and good schools

the foundation steps of regeneration.

Britain can be patient no longer

while different Government departments pursue criss-crossing, ill-co-ordinated initiatives in different cities.

So under the Conservatives we will roll out powerful new regeneration companies co-ordinated by a single 'regeneration' Minister.

Able to bring in private capital.

To help new schools and put more police on the beat.

And Britain can be patient no longer

with a system that allows streets of decent, honest citizens

to be blighted by a small minority of bad neighbours,

failing to pay the rent and desecrating the neighbourhood.

So we will bring in new powers

To penalise and ultimately to evict, those who live rent free at the taxpayers expense and make life hell for those around them.

Our challenge

is to make the inner cities, once again,

places people want to live in,

not to flee from.

We should be ambitious for our cities.

Residential cities, where families want to live,

to go to school and to work.

So that Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and Manchester rank alongside the great cities of Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the Government of Whitehall and the metropolitan elite.

They talk of decentralisation

but are the most centralising ever.

They talk of being green

but they are engaged in

relentless destruction of our countryside.

They talk of tackling homelessness and deprivation

but have betrayed their heartlands and increased poverty.

Our task is to bring back ambition to all our people.

It is to continue a great Conservative tradition.

From Disraeli, to Margaret Thatcher and John Major

and now William Hague.

To say to all our people,

no matter where you were born,

no matter what your background

You are equally valued.

You too have a part to play.

You too can succeed.

And if you come with us we will provide that opportunity.

Because we know that

believing in people is better than believing in Whitehall.

We believe in our communities and neighbourhoods.

We believe in the future of our cities.

And the protection of our countryside.

Quite simply,

We believe in Britain.

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