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CONSERVATIVE CONFERENCE: 'REFORMING PARLIAMENT - DEFENDING THE UNION' - CONSTITUTION SPOKESMAN'S SPEECH (FULL TEXT)

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Text of a speech by Liam Fox, constitutional affairs spokesman, to ...
Text of a speech by Liam Fox, constitutional affairs spokesman, to

Conservative delegates at the party conference in Bournemouth yesterday:

'We come to this conference as Conservatives and Unionists. I must begin by laying my cards on the table. I am a Unionist first. Proud to be Scottish. Proud to represent the people of North Somerset. But above all proud to be British. I believe in the United Kingdom as a sovereign nation and that is how we should remain.

'I wonder if we have taken enough time to remind people about the

benefits of the Union, not only here but around the world.

'I had the privilege of serving as a Foreign Office Minister in our last Government. No matter where I went in the world from Nepal to Tanzania to Sri Lanka or the 'Khyber Pass there were remnants of British influence. And respect, too, for what we had exported to the world - parliamentary democracy, our judicial system and civil rights.

'I cannot bear the liberal historians who want to rewrite our past and I abhor the culture of emotional incontinence which expects us to

apologise for everything in our history. We as a Party must keep that

vital connection with who we are as a nation. Proud of our achievements, proud of our heritage, proud of our country.

'We are the party of the British nation. Tony Blair believes history

began on May 1st 1997. Everything before that is worthless and

negotiable. That is the background to the reckless constitutional

vandalism upon which he has embarked.

'Mr Blair talks about being in the 'post euphoria, pre delivery phase'

of government. Now you don`t need my obstetric training to know that the normal gap between euphoria and delivery is nine months. This must be the longest gestation in history.

'Yet, he has delivered a body blow to our constitution and imperilled

the Union. He told us devolution was the only way to stop the

nationalists. We said it would help the nationalists and we were right. He said it was the only way to safeguard the Union. We said it would risk its destruction - and we were right.

'Now our message must be - devolution and no more. We will fight to

elect Conservatives to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament

not only to make them work well for the people of Wales and Scotland but for the rest of us as well, fighting tooth and nail against those who seek division and who sow hatred with the aim of destroying our country.

'For we are no longer a nation born of a treaty. We are a family. We

have moved, 'worked, travelled and married throughout all the parts of

the UK. There can be few in this hall whether from England, Wales,

Scotland or Northern Ireland who do not have family or friends scattered across other parts of the UK. And when it comes to family trees there are fewer and fewer who can claim to be 100 per cent anything.

'Just what would Scotland gain from having to create its own armed

forces, its own Foreign Office, losing a seat at the G7 or the Security Council - and for what. To satisfy the egos of a few second rate nationalist xenophobe politicians. Is that to be Scotland`s destiny?

'There are those who say the Conservatives should seek to exploit

English nationalism for party advantage. My message is this. All

nationalism, Scottish or Welsh or English - is a danger to the integrity of this United Kingdom. We are either the party of the Union or we are not. Yes, we must address the imbalance left in Parliament as a result of Labour`s ill considered plans.

'William Hague has already set out the possibilities - including an

English Grand Committee, designating legislation as 'English only' or

even an English Parliament. But we must do it in our own time and with

our own set of values. We must not play into the hands of those who want a federal UK. As they see it, it is easier to integrate a federal UK into a federal Europe.

'But Labour are not alone. Labour will be assisted in their wrecking

task by their lapdogs the Liberal Democrats. Paddy would take Tony a

pipe and slippers at Question Time if he thought he could get away with it. The Lib Dems should be sued under the Trades Descriptions Act for daring to call themselves an opposition party. It profit not a man to sell his soul and gain the whole world - but Paddy - has sold his for a seat on a second rate Cabinet Sub-Committee. Doesn't that say it all?

'Paddy may be about to get a nasty surprise. On PR there we were last

week with brave Mr Blair and his brave new world in Blackpool. Brave,

that is, until the first sign that his party might prefer to govern on

its own. They don't want the permanent coalition from hell with the

Liberals. The first sound of gunfire and he is running off to the

Islington claret society to tell Roy that his party won't let him play.

On PR it's not the third way - it's running away.

'Come on Tony - are there no principles at all that you're willing to

fight for? Or is everything that you claim to believe in dispensable if it might get you a second term. My, how far down we have come. No wonder politicians are held in low esteem.

'As I said at the beginning, British influence is world-wide - and one

of our greatest exports is the British electoral system. It is used

successfully by half of the planet. It's the world`s favourite electoral system. It has provided us with stability, accountability and, above all, has given the electorate a clear mechanism for dispensing with unpopular governments. It gives the people the right to send the removal van round to Number Ten. We do not need to import a system which is designed for the needs of other countries. We have a British system that works in Britain and we ought to keep it.

'Nowhere can Labour's policy of putting their party before the country

be seen more clearly than in their plans to create a Tony's cronies

chamber in the Lords - a submissive, pliant, toothless body to

rubber-stamp the PM's every whim without the impertinence of challenge. Well, we've got news. He'll have to get round Robert Cranborne first - and that`s more than we've ever managed to do!

'We have never opposed reform of the House of Lords, but we believe that reform must improve the way we are governed. To have stage one of a reform package 'without thinking about the contents of stage two is

completely unacceptable. It is a constitutional abomination which we

have a national duty to resist and - are you listening Prime Minister - we will.

'When we return to office we will have to introduce our own reform

package - and, in particular, address the creeping politicisation of our judges. Political impartiality has always been a cornerstone of our

system and it has been destroyed by this Government's unseemly rush to

incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.

'It has also undermined Parliament. We now hear that the anti-terrorist legislation - for which Parliament was recalled this summer - may be declared 'incompatible'.

How do we explain this to our voters who have always believed that our

Parliament is the ultimate authority?

'When our countrymen fought and died in two world wars this century they did not ask their neighbour if they came from Belfast or London or Edinburgh or Cardiff. They fought as one for common aims, common values, a common heritage. That is what it is to be a United Kingdom. Our role is to defend that United Kingdom. We must put the interests of our country first even if it seems to cost us a short term party advantage. For much as I love this Party I love my country more.

'Let us fulfil our destiny and defend this Union with all the strength

we can muster. While we still can. While our nation still exists.'

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