First Day

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:23 pm on 6th May 1992.

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Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon 3:23 pm, 6th May 1992

I join the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) in congratulating my right hon. and hon. Friends on their excellent speeches this afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) has, of course, starred in this debate before. In 1979, seconding the motion, he called for three things—top priority in the fight against inflation, more openness in Government, and reformed procedures of the House. This afternoon, I hope that my right hon. Friend will hear commitments that will please him on each of those fronts.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley served with flair and distinction in several Cabinets from 1985: first, as Secretary of State for the Environment, then as Education Secretary, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Home Secretary. If I were to single out just one of his achievements, it would be his education reforms. By introducing the national curriculum and asserting the need for national standards, he initiated one of the most significant reforms of the past 13 years, and one that will stand the test of time for many years to come.

My right hon. Friend must be the only Education Secretary to have served in the artillery as an instruct or to the Royal Libyan army. [Interruption.] It was in the early 1950s. Perhaps that experience was a good preparation for his later years. It certainly taught him over many years where to direct his political shot and shell, as we saw again this afternoon.