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Hague: It's time for Common Sense

Speaking at the launch of the Conservative Party's Manifesto today, the Rt Hon William Hague MP, Leader of the Party, said:

"My greatest fear for the country that I love is that we will wake up one day and find that something very precious has been lost without our ever quite realising how or why we let it happen.

Today, our spirit of enterprise is being extinguished by higher and higher taxes, regulations and conformity.

Our streets are becoming more threatening for law-abiding, decent people.

The standards in our public services are falling and are lower than we would accept in any other area of our lives.

We are surrendering to the European Union our ability to run our own affairs.

And the greatest danger of all is that people begin to think that all of this is inevitable.

That taxes will only ever go in one direction. That violent crime can only get worse. That there will always be failing schools. That pensioners will always have to go cap in hand to the Government. That even the drift into a European superstate can't be halted.

But I say that none of these things is inevitable.

I say there is a choice.

There is no excuse for giving up on Britain.

I believe in Britain.

I am ambitious for Britain.

And I present today the most ambitious Conservative manifesto for a generation.

This programme proposes going further than any government before in handing back to individuals and families the power to shape their own lives and their own communities.

The policies in this manifesto all spring from a clear Conservative vision of what our country can be like when it is true to itself. A country with the greatest possible personal freedom. A country where we take responsibility for ourselves and each other rather than being dependent on the state. A country that is proud of what makes us distinctive as a nation.

But these are not just Conservative principles. I believe that they are the common sense instincts of the mainstream majority in this country.

It's time for common sense.

We believe that people should be free to make their own choices and free to live their own lives. I want to lead a Government that releases the wisdom, the decency and the enterprise of British people.

We will free head teachers to create the kind of schools parents want. Every head teacher will be given the budget and the authority to run their own school. Why should inspirational heads be treated as branch mangers for the government?

We will let doctors and nurses get on with the jobs they were trained to do.

We will free our police to get on with the job of catching criminals.

We will set people free to keep more of their own money throughout their lives.

The next Conservative Government will be a tax-cutting government.

We will reverse the most unfair, indiscriminate and hated stealth tax of all, that hits old people, disabled people, people in rural areas and people whose budgets are already stretched too tight.

We will cut tax on petrol by 6p a litre in our first budget.

And we will cut taxes for families with young children, and for businesses, and for savers, and for pensioners.

With freedom comes responsibility. People are happier, better off and more fulfilled when we are allowed to take responsibility for ourselves and each other. I want to build in Britain the responsible society.

It is common sense that our communities are stronger when the state does not elbow aside people who are trying to help each other.

Despite all the evidence that marriage provides the best environment for bringing up children, married couples do not fit into Labour's politically correct agenda.

Conservatives will give families a break. We will introduce a new Married Couple's Allowance worth £1,000 a year to many families when they need help most, when they are deciding whether or not to take time out of work to look after their children.

We will treat pensioners with respect. We will increase the basic pension and we will lift a million pensioners out of income tax altogether.

We want to support people who want to pass something onto their children and their grandchildren. We will remove the threat of the state confiscating the life savings and homes of those who have put money aside for their long term care. We will abolish the rule that says that every pensioner has to buy an annuity. We want to raise the threshold for inheritance tax.

We also want to offer young people the chance to have a more prosperous retirement than their parents and grandparents by giving them the option of building up properly funded private pensions.

And we will help those who help others. At the moment the VAT regime discriminates against charities. We will reform the tax position of charities, diverting to them the money the Government has set aside for converting to the Euro.

We will give responsible councils greater freedom from central government control.

But we will also make the worst councils more responsible to ordinary people. We intend to require councils to hold local ballots before imposing large increases in council tax.

A responsible society must be tough on crime.

We will reverse Labour's cuts in police numbers.

We will overhaul the law so that it is on the side of the victim not the criminal.

And we will end Labour's special early release scheme, which has let 33,000 criminals onto our streets before they have served even half of their sentences.

We will hit crime hard, harder than ever before.

But there is something else too. I value the things we have in common as a nation - for they far outnumber those that set us apart.

Our independence, our democracy, our history, our culture, our values of tolerance and decency. These are Britain's inheritance. They make us who we are.

I believe in a society built on respect for all people - whatever their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Britain is made up of many ethnic communities, and Conservatives believe we are stronger for it.

Labour's view of our country is summed up by what Tony Blair said about the Dome. He said it would be a vivid symbol of Labour's Britain. That is exactly what it was. Step inside and you could be anywhere. It was banal, anonymous and rootless. It lacked a sense of Britain's history or its potential.

We will restore our self-belief as a nation.

There is no excuse for giving up on Britain's ability to govern ourselves.

So we will call a halt to the steady erosion of Britain's independence.

We will instead lead the argument for a different kind of Europe. A flexible, open Europe that respects the independence of national governments.

Above all, we will keep the pound.

And we will protect another source of national identity, the balance between town and country. We will stop the erosion of our green belt.

Our countryside has been devastated by the Foot and Mouth crisis.

We will work to make the rural economy viable again. We will cut business rates for rural shops, pubs, garages and village post offices. We will introduce a benefit card so that people can continue to draw payments from their village post office.

Freedom. Responsibility. Standing up for what makes us distinctive as a nation.

The policies in this manifesto are rooted in clear principles.

I believe these principles resonate with the common sense of the British people.

It shouldn't be necessary to make an appeal to common sense. Yet it is. For this country is drifting away from it all the time.

Practical common sense is giving way to political correctness and plain speaking to spin.

So the task of bringing common sense to government is a big one.

It is also an urgent one.

We can't afford four more years of higher taxes and regulations when our competitors in the rest of the world are overtaking us.

We can't afford four more years for violent crime to rise even further and police numbers to fall.

We can't afford four more years of failure to deliver - because the truth is Labour will never deliver.

We can't afford four more years that would see the end of our national currency and the beginning of the end of our national independence and vital alliances.

That is why we say it's time to cut taxes.

Time to make our streets safe.

Time to be in Europe, but not run by Europe.

Time to support marriage and the family.

Time to have the schools that parents want.

Time to show respect to our pensioners.

Time to get a grip on the crisis in the countryside.

Time to make our inner cities places people can live in again.

Time for people to be free to shape their own lives.

Time to choose between a Labour Party that trusts government instead of people, and a Conservative Party that trusts people instead of government.

I trust the British people.

I trust their common sense.

It's time for common sense."

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