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Heald: Giving responsibility to local people and local communities

In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference, Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Oliver Heald said:

"This has been an excellent debate.

Thanks to David Mundell, David Lidington and Cheryl for setting out what localism means for the parts of the United Kingdom for which they have responsibility.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in safe hands in the Conservative Party.

Thank you too to those who contributed from the floor.

It just shows that Conservatives are brimming with new ideas to make a success of devolution and localism.

Localism means giving responsibility to local people and local communities.

This has always been at the heart of Conservatism since Edmund Burke spoke of the 'little platoons' of society more than 200 years ago.

And it means trusting people.

Trusting professionals like doctors and teachers.

Trusting the voluntary and the 'not for profit' sector.

And it means trusting local government.

We have over 8000 Conservative councillors and the number is growing year by year as the public recognises the achievements of Conservatives in local government.

But we still need more - in our great Northern cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

And just as we need more MSPs and AMs - as David and Cheryl said - after next year's elections, we also need more Conservative councillors in all our Town Halls so that more people benefit from successful Conservative councils.

In Government, we all too frequently fell into the trap of over-centralising. In politics we should learn from our mistakes.

We are not so arrogant as to believe that the centre always knows best.

So our commitment to localism from David Cameron down is real and lasting.

We all know that people are disillusioned with politics and with politicians. They say politicians are in it for themselves, that they are all the same and nothing ever really gets done.

And is it surprising after the Labour years of stealth, sleaze and spin?

Back in 1997 Tony Blair promised that he would 'clean up politics'.

The reality is that he's turned people off politics in massive numbers - and that's just in the Labour Party.

How else do you explain a former Cabinet Minister resigning to campaign for a Hung Parliament - because she is so 'ashamed' of Labour.

It's clearer than ever that there is a direct link between how people view politics and politicians and their willingness to participate in the democratic process.

That is why we are determined…

… to clean up politics where Labour have so obviously failed.

… to strengthen Parliament where it has been sidelined and

… to give greater responsibility locally where it has been centralised.

Ken Clarke's Democracy Task Force is looking at how to do this.

For example by:

… cutting out Presidential style Government from Number 10

… having MPs salaries set independently and

… protecting the independence of the Civil Service with a new Civil Service Act.

And …

… giving more powers to Parliament by reforming Ministers' Prerogative powers. Parliament should be properly involved in deciding when we go to war.

… getting rid of Labour's Human Rights Act and introducing our own Bill of Rights suitable for Britain.

We want a Parliament that is more about principle and less about perks.

We want a Parliament for the People not a Parliament for the Politicians.

We want a Parliament that works.

All of this will complement our localism agenda making our politics more open, honest and accountable.

But there's another agenda that's the very opposite. John Prescott's Regionalism.

Localism gives power to local people. Regionalism takes it away.

Regionalism is based on state responsibility. Localism acknowledges social responsibility - that we're all in this together.

So I give you this pledge…

… we will abolish John Prescott's unelected, unaccountable and unwanted Regional Assemblies…

… we will oppose Labour's plans to scrap our historic counties and boroughs.

Conservatives believe in empowering local communities.

We believe that Government is better when it is closer to the people.

That requires us to reform the way our national institutions work,

That requires us to embrace devolution,

That requires us to champion localism - our new direction for Britain.

And we WILL deliver in Government with David Cameron."

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