Speech by Jonathan Evans MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, to the Welsh Conservative Party Conference in Llandudno
What a fantastic conference this has been.
And we started in the best possible way with that excellent address from our outstanding Shadow Welsh Secretary, Bill Wiggin. Bill has already won our support by his boundless enthusiasm and commitment. But he has another important over-riding quality. - He's straightforward. And what a contrast with his opposite number Peter Hain.
Peter Hain, - young radical - the man who built his reputation as a champion of the right to self-determination for his fellow south Africans.
Peter Hain - Labour's man in Wales, the man who personally rejected that self-same right of self-determination for the people of Gibraltar.
As we heard last night, every Gibraltarian feels that Labour has let them down.
And here in Wales more and more people feel Labour has let them down.
Labour needs to get that message - loud and clear.
The only vote that Labour fears is a Conservative vote
The only party that Labour fears is the Conservative Party.
And Tony Blair really fears Michael Howard.
The election of Michael Howard has had a huge effect on our Party and on British politics.
He has restored our self belief, gained the respect of the electorate and put us back in business. We're proud to be Conservatives again.
Michael has united our Westminster team. He has revitalised our professional organisation and he has renewed the enthusiasm and determination of Conservatives everywhere.
And in Michael Howard we have a man who will make a great Prime Minister of our country.
It has been a hard slog in opposition these past seven years. It has been frustrating to watch this government let so many people down.
Sixty-six sly and stealthy new taxes from the Labour, when they promised not to raise taxes at all.
And everyone in Britain knows that that they are planning further third term tax rises.
A government torn apart and split over tuition fees, foundation hospitals, over the Iraq war and now increasingly over Europe.
And if that were not bad enough, the spitting rivalry between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor makes for endless speculation among the Westminster chattering classes.
It's all because Gordon and Tony despise each other so much.
Meanwhile in the real world, away from all this scheming and plotting people wait for the Government to deliver.
We've waited long enough.
If you need hospital treatment in Wales you've certainly waited long enough. We have the highest per capita spending in Britain on health and the worst waiting lists in Europe.
Nick Bourne and his team have done an excellent job in exposing this disgraceful scandal.
It's time for people in Wales to get angry about this.
Because Rhodri Morgan doesn't get the message.
He's the only person in Wales who thinks Jane Hutt is a competent Health minister - except possibly the minister herself.
Rhodri Morgan and Jane Hutt need to get the message. They are letting Wales down.
Instead of delivering on their promises, Instead of working to make our public services better in Wales, they prefer to talk about powers, voting systems, constitutions.
People in Wales want more delivery not more talk.
In less than ten weeks, everyone in Wales will have the chance to deliver a message to Labour.
We will be voting in two major elections - and on the same day June 10th.
Labour has insisted that the Council and European elections are held on the same day.
The council elections should have been held back in May of last year, but Labour ignored all proper constitutional precedents and gave all their Councillors a further 13 months beyond their term in office. What a disgrace.
It was a decision to suspend democracy that would even have shamed Joe Stalin and Nicholas Ceaucescu.
If they could, Labour would also probably like to suspend the elections on the 10th June, but they can't. Their time is up.
And time will be up for many Labour councillors that day.
We wish our Jeff James their leader and all our councillors and council candidates success. We'll be working with you to win control in Monmouth and the Vale of Glamorgan. We'll be working with you to see a major increase in Conservative councillors throughout Wales.
Because Conservative councillors deliver better services and lower taxes.
And we will be fighting for success in the European election. The European election is of more importance this year than ever before. This will be the last test of national opinion before the General Election. It is the only opportunity for people to send a message to Tony Blair.
And it may be the only opportunity people get to say that they want a say before Tony Blair signs Britain up to a European constitution.
I am now in my third year as Leader of our 36 Conservative MEPs. We are the largest British political group in Brussels, and the second largest national delegation in the European Parliament.
For the past five years, we have fought hard to deliver the manifesto on which we were elected. And what did we promise? 'In Europe, not run by Europe'. I can tell Conference today that we have kept that pledge. We have not let you down. And here is the fundamental difference between us and Tony Blair's Labour Party. While we keep our pledges, you can't trust Labour.
We believe in working with others in Europe to deliver policies based on our Conservative beliefs.
§ Yes to nations working closely together, but no to more integration.
§ Yes to economic reform, but no to the endless stream of regulations and red tape from Brussels.
§ Yes to strong defence, but no to a common European defence policy or European army.
§ And, yes to working with our friends in the United States, but no to new European structures that undermine NATO. NATO has been our collective security shield for over fifty years, and we will resolutely oppose any attempts to weaken it.
And, when it comes to the draft Constitution for Europe, our policy is simple and clear.
We are against it.
Our principled opposition stands in stark contrast to the inept approach of this Labour Government. Be in no doubt, this constitution represents a fundamental change in the relationship between our country and the European Union.
§ The German Government has called it 'worthy of the word historic'.
§ The French Government has called it 'the setting up of a new political age'.
§ The Spanish Government says it is 'a legal revolution without precedent'.
§ The Belgian Government calls it 'the capstone of a federal state'.
§ And the Labour Government says: It's just a 'tidying-up exercise'!
That's why Conservative MEPs are at the forefront of the campaign for a referendum on this constitution. We launched our 'Put it to the People' campaign last year. Hundreds of you have been in town centres up and down the country spreading the message. We have backed this up with an advertising campaign in over 250 regional and local newspapers, and thousands have written in support. I want to thank all of you for your help and hard work in this campaign. It is our duty to alert the British people to the dangers of this constitution. Mr Blair may spin and duck and weave, but listen to Labour's own nominee on the European Convention. Gisela Stuart said this: ' … it is clear that the real reason for the constitution - and its main impact - is the political deepening of the (European) Union.'
She is right.
It is the very reason we oppose this constitution.
§ We don't want a President of Europe
§ We don't want a Foreign Minister for Europe
§ We don't want to give away more powers to Brussels
§ And, we don't want to give up our right to decide our own policies on asylum, immigration and border controls.
These fundamental issues should be decided here in Britain, not in Brussels.
Conference. If a referendum on this constitution is good enough for the peoples of Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Ireland, then I say it is good enough for the people of Britain too.
So, what do we Conservatives want from Europe?
§ We want to scrap damaging European legislation
§ We want to end the disaster of the Common Fisheries Policy
§ We want real reform of the CAP
§ We want to break down the barriers for British business in Europe
§ We want to stamp out fraud and waste
§ And, we want to work with our friends in the United States, not against them.
This is what we want. And, Conference, more importantly, it's what the British people want.
So, this is the choice in these European Elections. We need more Conservative MEPs in order to promote our distinctive Conservative agenda. The alternative is Labour selling out the interests of the British people, selling out British business, selling out British farmers and fishermen - every day for the next five years - just as they have every day for the last five years.
Look at Labour's record in Europe. Five years ago, Tony Blair said: 'It is because we want Europe to succeed that we want it reformed'. And, whom did he put in charge of reform in Europe - Neil Kinnock. Britain, with Neil, would be 'in the lead again'.
Neil Kinnock?! And now that his time is up - who's Blair planning to send to Brussels in his place? Peter Mandelson.
Labour is blocking not fighting for reform.
Blair's government has signed-off the dodgy EU accounts every single year since it was elected. So have Labour MEPs.
And, those same Labour Members have voted day in day out to pile on more and more European red tape on British business.
And, what about the Liberal Democrats?
What a useless shower.
The party that would sell this country down the river in pursuit of its own federalist ambitions.
They are, quite simply, the 'say yes to everything in Europe' party.
They say yes to the euro,
Yes to everything in the EU constitution,
Yes to a European army,
Yes to a President of Europe -
And they even say yes to giving up Britain's seat at the United Nations Security Council to the EU.
Conference, when it comes to Europe, Charles Kennedy and his party are not sitting on the fence, they are off the wall.
They are a menace to our national interests, and we should expose them for what they are.
So, there you have it. The clear choice in this election campaign.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats are Europe's representatives in Britain. We Conservatives are Britain's representatives in Europe.
I have worked for this Party for over thirty years. I have been proud to represent our cause in the House of Commons, in Government and now in Europe. For too long, we have had to endure this useless and failing Labour Government. At last, under the leadership of Michael Howard, we have found the unity, determination and will to take them on.
Throughout this conference, we have shown the country that we are positive, upbeat, united and disciplined - ready for the battles that lie ahead.
In Michael Howard, we have a leader who has galvanised our Party, and who can take us to victory at the next General Election.
We have re-discovered confidence in the values of Conservatism.
We are on the move - and we are moving forward.
Britain has been waiting too long for the return of Conservative Government.
At these elections on the 10th of June, we owe it to Michael to win for him - and win for Britain.