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 shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have already dealt with that question but the hon. Gentleman clearly does not understand it.

We shall take forward the crusade against overregulation and state interference that stifled free enterprise for so long. We shall resist any pressure from whatever source—domestically or from Brussels—to reimpose handicaps on our industry that we removed one by one in the 1980s. Not for us the interventionism that would put people out of work, with minimum wages and artificial restrictions on working times. Not for us either the damaging paraphernalia of the social chapter.

We shall continue to encourage opportunity in a labour market, free of unnecessary restrictions, and we shall develop the reforms of industrial relations that have brought peace to the workplace. As set out in our manifesto, we propose to introduce legislation to increase the rights of ordinary trade union members, to require proper notice to be given of an intention to strike, and to give every user of public services the right to restrain the disruption of those services by unlawful industrial action. Never again should the people who depend on our public services be held to ransom by illegal strikes.

We shall also extend the benefits of privatisation. It has extended share ownership to millions who would never have dreamed of owning shares before. Millions of workers now own shares in their own industries, and all over the world other countries are now following our lead with those policies. Even the Labour party paid a grudging tribute to our success. Of course, that tribute was the dog that did not bark—the concealment of clause four. The Opposition dare not commit themselves to reverse every privatisation. They would like to, but they dare not. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) would renationalise water and the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) would apparently renationalise the lot—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Clearly, he has support for that. I am grateful to hon. Members—not for the first time.

Privatisation is a great aid to efficiency. It has transformed many loss leaders into world leaders—dead weight to heavy weight—but I am not sure that even a privatised leadership election could manage that trick for the Opposition.

We now propose to return British Coal to the private sector, and we shall introduce legislation to enable the private sector to operate rail services and to encourage competition. At the same time, we shall safeguard the national network of services, and provide subsidy where necessary. We want to recover a sense of pride in our railways and recapture the spirit of the old regional companies.

Industrial relations and privatisation are crucial to our continued economic success. Equally, so is the quality of education. For too long, education reflected the views of professionals to the virtual exclusion of parents. For too long parents found the education establishment more difficult to break into than Fort Knox. In the last Session we changed that. Parents will now receive clear, consistent information about their child's education. Many people regarded that as outrageous; astounding. The truly astounding thing is that it has not always been normal practice. Schools will be inspected once every four years and, under the national curriculum, children will learn a core of essential knowledge to meet the demands of adult life and the modern world.

In just over two years grant-maintained schools have proved their worth. Already over one in 10 secondary schools has balloted its parents on grant-maintained status, and many more now plan to do so. We intend to extend the benefits of self-government. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will publish a White Paper by the end of the summer and an education Bill this autumn.