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GUMMER: POWER TO PARISH COUNCILS AND RURAL PEOPLE

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Extracts from a speech by environment secretary John Gummer at the Conservative party conference in the Bournemout...
Extracts from a speech by environment secretary John Gummer at the Conservative party conference in the Bournemouth yesterday:

'This is a speech which will get no coverage in the press - or television news. I'll tell you why.

It's full of good news.

Good news about Britain taking the lead on the environment. Britain taking the lead in Europe and Europe beginning to lead the world.

And that good news really started very close to home.

After the Rio Conference, where John Major played so crucial a part, the politicians had to face up to real and effective action to save our environment for our children - Britain, supremely, rose to the challenge.

Like other countries we were pouring pollution into the air, helping to warm-up the atmosphere - changing the climate.

Britain promised to stop the increase by the year 2000.

In fact we shall cut our pollution even earlier.

Our industries were putting tons of sulphur into the atmosphere - killing lakes and trees not only here but in other countries too.

Britain beat the 30 per cent reduction target - better by far than most other nations.

We were destroying the ozone layer which protects us all from the dangerous rays of the sun.

Britain has cut the consumption of the most harmful chemicals to almost zero and set an example that no one else has matched.

Our plants and animals were under threat. Rare species were near to extinction.

Britain's biodiversity plan now leads the world. 116 endangered species are on the way to revival.

Our rivers and beaches were polluted and dirty. The inheritance of years of state control. Our drinking water no longer the best in the world. Privatisation, massive investment, real commitment has given us clean beaches, put the fish back in our rivers, improved our drinking water and given us water companies that are winning contracts to do all this for other countries throughout the world.

All that is just part of four years work.

At the same time we are rejuvenating our towns and city centres, protecting our green belt, reclaiming polluted land, making war on litter, insisting on a living countryside, raising the quality of our architectural design and urban planning;

No environment ministry any where in the world has embarked on so comprehensive and far reaching a programme ever.

It's your Conservative environment department which is delivering the goods - the green goods.

And a fat lot of help we've had from the Labour party.

In two and a half years as Labour leader, Tony Blair has made one speech on the environment.

Mind you, that's one more than Mr Dobson - the shadow environment secretary!

As he didn't get much of a chance to shine at the Labour party conference, I thought I'd be the first secretary of state to bring his Labour shadow to the Tory party conference - so here he is.

Hugo Young, no friend of Conservatives, wrote in The Guardian 'In two years, Frank Dobson hasn't made a speech on the big issues that grip the world'. The truth is he's been so ineffective that Tony Blair has had to put not one shadow spokesman up against me - but two!

One Conservative worth two new Labour!

I've now got Michael Meacher as well! Labour's only living example of recycling.

Frank Dobson won't say what Labour environment policy is because he doesn't care, but Michael Meacher has been only too clear.

So here's my No 2 Shadow and this is what he wants:

'the superceding of capitalism and its replacement by a worldwide system of ecologically enforced priorities and choices.'

Tony Blair knew these views when he appointed Michael Meacher as his spokesman. And they have been reaffirmed since.

It's New Labour's view of the environment.

And who will decide the priorities - New Labour.

And who will pick the choices - New Labour.

And who will enforce the regulations - New Labour.

New Labour intends to use the environment as a new excuse. An excuse to limit enterprise, destroy jobs, remove profits, control and confine our people.

You think I'm exaggerating. No, Michael Meacher's explained it.

Here's what he says:

'Growth will have to be cut. Physical production and consumption rates [should be] at about the lowest feasible level.'

So if you want to improve your standard of living, New Labour will say 'sorry, we want economic activity at the lowest feasible level.'

And when you want to take your family in the car for a day by the sea, New Labour's elite will stop you and they'll call that 'ecologically enforced priorities and choices'.

When your company has begun to grow, to export, and take on more workers, New Labour elite will stop it.

They'll call that 'ecologically enforced priorities and choices'.

New words - a new excuse for the man in Whitehall knowing best, for rules, regulations, red tape - the interfering know-all New Labour.

Come to think of it - that's what Labour's always been about. That's why New Labour, New Danger is not just a slogan - it's too horribly true.

What a future for Britain!

Production and consumption at the lowest feasible level.

The truth is life is still better with the Conservatives - don't let New Labour ruin it!

And how much better that life can become.

The Single Regeneration Budget, the Challenge Funds, the huge impact of lottery fundraising and the Millennium.

All these will transform our cities - bringing new life to Manchester and Birmingham, Liverpool, Plymouth and Glasgow, Southampton and Huddersfield. From one end of Britain to the other, the great crusade Mrs Thatcher began will rebuild our industrial heartlands into places where men and women will choose to live and work.

We are putting the shops and leisure facilities where they belong - in the town centres.

Labour wants to return to build on the open field sites out of town.

So we are putting the heart back into the high street - that is the Conservative way.

Using derelict land before green land - that is the Conservative way.

And regeneration in the countryside too - help for the village shops and village transport.

Power to parish councils and rural people. GUMMER: POWER TO PARISH COUNCILS AND RURAL PEOPLE Following through the rural White Paper.

Giving the countryside back to country people - country people who know what's best for the countryside - that's the Conservative way.

And in the wider world? The environment knows no national boundaries. That's why we have to be at the heart of Europe.

Half the air pollution we produce drifts onto the Continent. Trouble is half theirs drifts back onto us.

Air pollution cannot be tackled if we don't tackle it together.

The seas around us cannot be clean, however much effort Britain expends, while the Rhine and the Elbe pour out filth from inside the European mainland.

The North Sea, the Irish Sea, the English Channel will never be clean unless we Europeans tackle pollution together.

Even the protection of our birds depend on defending the wetlands and the wild habitats in the rest of Europe.

A Conservative Britain has taken the Environmental lead in the European Union - on climate change, on the ozone layer, on biodiversity, on pollution, on animal welfare - we shall set the pace. Alone we can only comment - in Europe we can help change the world.

For being in Europe helps us take the global lead.

In the Conference on Sustainable Development in New York. In the climate change conference in Geneva, in Habitat II in Istanbul, Britain led Europe to lead the world.

That world must be a better place for all our people.

We cannot allow global warming to change our green and pleasant land into the parched yellow agriculture of the south.

We must not leave our children to mourn the loss of wildlife and habitats which give our life richness and variety.

We ought never bequeath our grandchildren our waste, our rubbish, the cost of our profit and the pollution of our planet.

That is not the Conservative way. Conservative and conservation - the same root - the same thought - the same ideal.

We are stewards of all we possess.

We Conservatives will hand the world on to our children better by far than our fathers gave it to us.

For their sake: for the environment's sake.

Trust Us - Trust the Conservatives.'

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