Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2002
I want to talk today about Conservative success. Conservative success in Europe.
Three years ago, we won a major victory in the European Elections. I am proud to lead our Conservative group in the European Parliament. With 36 MEPs, we are the largest British political force in Europe.
I lead a quality team of committed, determined Conservatives, who every day deliver on our pledge to be "In Europe, Not Run by Europe." We are Delivering for Britain.
It is a team that the Daily Telegraph described earlier this year as an effective, united force in the European Parliament. Conservatives matter in Europe.
Our team was boosted earlier this year when Richard Balfe became the first Labour parliamentarian in twenty-five years to cross the floor to join the Conservatives. As Richard said at the time: "The most striking difference between the party of which I was a member and the one I am joining is that the Conservative Party under Iain Duncan Smith is a tolerant party which accepts differing opinions and encourages debate." Richard, it is good to have you with us.
I also pay tribute to my Deputy, Theresa Villiers, an outstanding representative of our Party, and to the whole of my team, including Jim Nicholson of the Ulster Unionist Party, who we are proud to have in our ranks.
There has never been a better or closer working relationship than we have today between our MEPs and the Party, under your Chairmanship of the National European Forum, Caroline.
We have never had a closer relationship than we are enjoying today with the Parliamentary Party: Michael Spicer, Chairman of the 1922 Committee; Michael Ancram and, of course, our Leader, Iain Duncan Smith.
Conservatives can win when we work together, and we are working together in Europe. Let me tell you about some of our successes.
We are fighting for British farmers and fishermen. We forced the setting up of a Committee of Inquiry into the handling of the Foot and Mouth disaster last year. There is not a single Conservative who would not have preferred a full public inquiry in the UK. But this disgraceful Labour Government refused to set one up. Our hard work has ensured that their complacency and incompetence have been exposed.
We have been fighting for the people of Gibraltar in the face of the treacherous hostility of this Labour Government.
We have been fighting for human rights in Zimbabwe, demanding that sanctions be imposed on the murderous Mugabe regime.
We have been fighting fraud and malpractice in the European Union by shining the spotlight on the allegations made by the European Commission's former Chief Accountant, Marta Andreassen. Marta Andreassen came to us with her concerns over the Commission's accounting practices. Why? Because she knew that British Tories can be trusted to expose fraud, mismanagement and waste more effectively than anyone else in Europe.
Commissioner Kinnock is unhappy about what we are doing. I say to you Neil, get on with the job you are well-paid to do and start tackling malpractice wherever you find it. For if you won't, Conservative MEPs will.
Labour hypocrisy comes in many different forms. Europe Minister, Peter Hain, is one of the best practitioners of the black art. I have here an official Government briefing paper on a recent EU Directive on consultation with workers. Last week in Blackpool, Mr Hain railed against the Conservatives for opposing this Directive. He earned some cheap applause from the delegates. But what they didn't know is that the same Peter Hain just months ago pleaded with Conservative MEPs, in a private meeting, held at his request, to support the Government line on this Directive. His own MEPs would not back the Government. He had turned to us for help. It is Labour hypocrisy like this that, in time, the British people will come to understand. We will expose it.
In the event, Conservative MEPs did vote against the worker consultation directive. We were right to do so. We voted against it because British companies do not need endless directives from Brussels to tell them how to go about running their business.
We are part of the European Union. We believe in an open, democratic, free-trading Europe. In two months' time, Europe's leaders take an historic decision on the first wave of new countries joining the Union from Central and Eastern Europe. Our Party should take great pride that enlargement is now, finally, within our grasp. Margaret Thatcher was the chief advocate of bringing this Continent together when the Berlin Wall fell thirteen years ago. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the others must take their seat at the European top table. There must be no foot-dragging, no delay, no last minute vested interests standing in the way. The new, enlarged Europe may not be what the federalists and the integrationists want. But we Tories want it. Enlargement is our cause, and Europe will be a better place as a result.
Chairman, Conference. As we begin the countdown to the European Elections in 2004, I promise you this. We are Delivering for Britain. Unlike Labour and the Liberal Democrats, we Conservatives are Britain's representatives in Europe, not Europe's representatives in Britain.
We are fighting fraud and waste.
We are fighting for British consumers.
We are fighting for British business.
We are fighting for our farmers and fishermen.
And, we are fighting for our kind of Europe.
Conference. Confidence, unity, hard work and determination are the hallmarks of my team in the European Parliament. They are also the hallmarks of Conservative victory.
[Check Against Delivery]