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Howard: Taking a stand on the issues which matter

Speech at Conservative Campaign Headquarters

"This election is about some fundamental issues: our hospitals; the fight against crime; the tax we pay; our immigration system; accountability and trust in government.

Today, we are setting out how we will take a stand on an issue that matters to many families: discipline and respect at school.

I have asked Tim Collins to publish our Teacher's Charter and that's what we are doing today.

Our message to teachers is simple.

- You will have backing to enforce discipline in your school.

- You will be protected from abuse at work.

- You will run your classroom, not politicians or bureaucrats.

- Your head teacher will have control over admissions and expulsions.

- You will be able to insist on co-operation from parents.

Our plan will give hope to millions of parents who want their children to have a good start in life.

But this morning I have decided to return to the important issue of trust and accountability.

Last night we received devastating new information which exposed that when Mr Blair said "I have never lied", he was not telling the truth.

The questions that this new information raises are serious and profound.

It is important for the British people to understand what has happened and what the implications are.

I would like to summarise what we know.

We know that the Prime Minister took us to war with Iraq.

We know that he told the British people that the advice of the Attorney General, the Government's most senior legal adviser, was that it was legal to do so.

He told people that - and I quote - "the legal advice of the Attorney General was very clear".

Last night official documents obtained by the media proved that on the seventh of March the Attorney General gave legal advice that was full of qualifications and warnings.

We've been told by Mr. Blair that on the seventeenth of March - just ten days later - the advice given by the Attorney General to Cabinet was clear and it hadn't changed.

We now know beyond any doubt that it had changed.

So the first question Mr. Blair has to answer is why did he say advice hadn't changed when we know it had?

The second question that needs to be answered is what or who changed the Attorney General's legal advice?

These are the two questions that must be answered.

The issue of Iraq boils down to one very simple question: if you cannot trust Mr Blair on the decision to take the country to war, the most important decision that any Prime Minister can take, how can you trust Mr Blair on anything else, ever again?

Next week, eight years after Mr Blair first asked the British people to trust him, they have to answer that question.

They have to decide whether to trust him once again.

The judgement is theirs.

Their vote is their voice."

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