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Green: Party Conference Speech 2000

The blue-green agenda

We've already broken new ground in this debate by giving the pressure groups direct access to our conference. Let's be even braver. I will now pause my speech, so you can hear every new idea Tony Blair has had about the environment this year.

Well that didn't take long. That's how much he cares. Next time he cocks his head in that really sincere pose, remember that he cares as much about the future of our planet as he does about Mo Mowlam's career prospects.

But John Prescott, who told us he hates the Countryside Alliance so much, does have a policy. It's to pour a million tons of concrete over our greenfields . Like Baldrick, he has a cunning plan. He is going to get rid of the Countryside Alliance - by getting rid of the countryside.

So let's send him a clear message. This Party will fight with all its energy to save the precious gift that has been handed down to us: the British countryside. And we will fight for our Green Belt, our urban parks, our village greens.

We will fight, and we will win, Mr Prescott, because we have the biggest block vote of all behind us on this—The British people.

You can tell this Government knows nothing about the countryside when you look at their legislation. The Countryside Bill contains good proposals for protecting wildlife and natural habitats. We support those parts of it.

But what we don't accept is the way the Government has framed the so-called Right To Roam part of the Bill. It has been devised in the spirit not of loving the land but of hating the landowner—especially the farmer.

We want to take out the parts that will damage wildlife, like unrestricted night-time access—a potential burglar's charter.

Let me tell the Government today - we will support you when you propose genuine wildlife protection measures - but we will oppose you

at every stage when you threaten our wildlife, our quiet spaces and the traditions of our countryside.

On the environment, we also have to deal with the Lib Dems--.if only because they constantly tell us how green they are. In a spirit of helpfulness, to save anyone else the trouble—I have read Charles Kennedy's Book. Well, I may have skimmed the odd page, or chapter.

He says on page 75, quote - "I am used to people asking me 'what are your policies on the environment ?' - I always find it difficult to answer."

I'm not surprised. He devotes a whole chapter of his book called

The Future Of Politics - dream on Charlie - to warm words about the environment.

So perhaps he can explain the behaviour of LibDem Councils.

Like Eastleigh - just up the road. This LibDem council had to choose one out six possible sites for a housing development. They chose the one that involved building a road right through a Site of Special Scientific Interest. And to compound the crime, it's an area that contains a species in danger of extinction; the southern damselfly.

So, as ever with the LibDems, don't listen to what they say, watch what they do. If you do nothing else for the environment next year kick out a LibDem Council and reduce the amount of noxious hot air released in your locality.

So we know that our Conservative 'Blue Green' Agenda is the only serious policy that will preserve our green fields, protect our wildlife,

and enhance our air quality.

Why? Because for us protecting the environment is not an add-on or an afterthought. Every Conservative wants to act as a trustee, preserving the best of what we have and enhancing it for future generations. We believe in Britain. We want to make this country the best place to live.

Indeed a Conservative government invented the Department of the Environment. It was originally going to be called 'the Department for Living'. But as its first boss, Peter Walker points out, that would have made him Secretary of State for Life - and for some reason, his colleagues weren't keen.

And we Conservatives stick to our core beliefs when we look at the environment. We don't become a high-tax, high-interference party as a route to becoming a green one. We will use tax carrots not sticks to encourage individuals to make green choices. Not least when they drive—to answer that point from the pressure groups.

We believe in giving more power to local decision makers; because local communities are the most passionate defenders of their green spaces, whether in the inner-cities, the suburbs or the countryside.

We are one nation in that passion.

We heard another serious challenge from the green pressure groups. The global threat of climate change. Labour's approach has been typical. A new tax, introduced incompetently. The Climate Change Levy

will do nothing to stop Climate Change, it will clobber British business, and an incoming Conservative Government will scrap it immediately.

Instead, we have been listening—genuinely listening. We have brought together the leading figures from the Renewable Energies Industry, and asked them how this country can become less reliant on fossil fuels that pollute the air. Today I am unveiling the first fruits of this process.

A Conservative Government will set ambitious targets for using renewable energy; solar power, off-shore wind, energy crops, even wave power. We will look at a huge range of ideas.

Why shouldn't houses or businesses that generate their own power from solar panels be able to sell that power to the grid at a decent price ?

Why don't we encourage off-shore wind power? - We have the technology, and anyone who lives by the sea knows we have the wind. This Government is letting Britain fall behind on these new technologies.

We will fight climate change with new technology not new taxation.

William Hague's Conservative Government - coming soon - will lead the way in making Britain the key player in this vital growth industry of the 21st Century.

So we will tackle the big global green issues. But we also believe that sustainability begins at home. That's why we have a recycling policy that is significantly greener and more radical than any other party's.

Conservatives have always said 'Trust the People.' I think we can trust them to be green, if we offer them the chance. So we will offer everyone free recycling collections from their doorstep. Labour offers hundreds of new incinerators across the countryside.

I know the British people will prefer our solution.

When they leave home, we should offer them streets that are clean and swept, free of abandoned cars and not covered in obscene and racist graffiti.

That is why we say local councils should be able to keep the revenue from fines on litterbugs, or on those who dump their old cars on the roadside.

I pledge to this Conference - a Conservative Government

will keep our fields green, our streets clean, and our air pure.

Cleaning up after New Labour will be a tough challenge.

But throughout its history the Conservative Party has never shied away from tough challenges, and we will not do so now.

And so to our immediate challenge:

let's make sure that the next time this conference meets,

it is to acclaim the election of a new Conservative Government.

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