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

Among all his duties, as the right hon. Member for Islwyn said, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley has since 1980 found time to publish four anthologies. In view of the publicity given to those volumes this afternoon, I invite hon. Members to buy now while the stocks last. So good are they that I was tempted to make them part of the national curriculum. But my right hon. Friend's modesty in not doing so himself dissuaded me.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell) reads my right hon. Friend's books with as much pleasure as I do. There may perhaps be just one poem in them which he does not much care for. In "Unauthorised versions: Poems and their Parodies". my right hon. Friend included Chesterton's "Cider Song". This may well awaken unhappy memories for my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling. I understand that when he was at school he lost a mock election to the SDCP. It was not a forerunner of the party of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown)—at least I think not. It was the Somerset Cider Drinkers' party. I believe that it was a particularly devastating defeat for my hon. Friend.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling has experience of the armed forces, having served in the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus. No doubt that will be invaluable experience if my hon. Friend ever joins my right hon. Friend's Whips Office. But I suspect that he may well be wary of such a posting after an early experience when he should have been in the House for a vote, was in the House for a vote, but could not be found by the Whips. A phone call from the Whips Office was made to my hon. Friend's home. My hon. Friend's wife was out. The babysitter answered and, as she told my hon. Friend on his return, "This strange man rang for you, but I had to put the phone down when he began to talk about whipping." I share with the right hon. Member for Islwyn congratulations for both my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley and my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling on their speeches this afternoon.

For the first time since 1826, Madam Speaker, a Government have been returned to office for a fourth successive term. In the next five years we plan a reforming programme: a programme to return to people more control over their own lives; a programme to encourage and build up the private sector; a programme to improve public services. The Gracious Speech is but the first instalment of that programme in this Parliament.

Our programme is about trusting people and encouraging them to rise as fast and as far as they can—to create, through their enterprise, the prosperity that enables us to take care of others. And we believe in empowering people: in giving individuals more power over their own lives, and the Government less power over people's lives. The power to choose—and the right to own.