Below is the text of Mr Major’s statement following a political cabinet, held on Thursday 14th September 1995.
As part of the policy review I set in progress earlier this year the Cabinet met today in political session to review future priorities.
The meeting took place against the background of the most promising economic possibilities for years. Inflation remains low, unemployment is falling and the economy is growing steadily. The Chancellor and I are determined to preserve the disciplined control over the economy that now offers us the most exciting prospect for the future.
The Chancellor is now conducting the traditional review of public expenditure that is an essential component of the Budget judgement. The discussion today underlined our determination to deliver effective and well managed public services – intensifying our efforts to limit waste and prune unnecessary expenditure as we pursue our continuing objective of lower taxes.
We have been examining further policy options today looking particularly at education, welfare, the economy and law and order. In recent months we have continued to bring forward new initiatives, for example:
– bringing high technology into the fight against crime with a national DNA and fingerprint register
– bringing nursery education to all 4-year olds through a voucher system which offers real parental choice
– focusing on the real needs of tomorrow’s workforce by merging the Employment and Education Departments
– improving the targeting of welfare benefits by introducing the new incapacity benefit and legislating for the job seekers’ allowance
As a result of today’s discussions, we have put in hand more work prior to coming forward with a number of detailed announcements over the next few weeks and months.
I cannot overstate the priority that I attach to the education of our young people. Much progress has been made as a result of our reforms. I am particularly grateful to the headteachers, teachers and parents that have done so much to achieve the recent record examination results. We intend to continue to make progress. I announced several developments earlier this week and we shall return to this topic with further announcements on teacher training and continuing the improvement of standards and discipline in the classroom.
The Cabinet share the public concern about crime. The Government has increased the resources available to the police, whose manpower now is at historically high levels, with more being recruited this year. We have also put new technology in their hands and given them new powers to fight the criminals. The police have responded to this opportunity and crime rates have now fallen faster than for 40 years.
But there is no ground for complacency and the Home Secretary and I will be announcing other measures during the autumn which will build on our achievements. These will include further action to catch and convict criminals, to develop new forms of youth custody and pursue the war against organised crime.
Another critical area we discussed was welfare. Against the background of expenditure which now totals £15 per day for each working person, we looked at how to plan the future development of our welfare system. This provision must be designed to help people in the most difficult and stressful circumstances in our society. But as the balance of those in work and those in retirement continues to shift we must look forward to encouraging an increasing element of self-provision.
We also looked at current problems in welfare where there is growing evidence that the system is being abused through fraud and, in some cases, systematic criminal activity. This will not be tolerated. I have asked my colleagues to give a further boost to our rigorous programme to tackle this abuse of the nation’s social provision.
We also looked at policies to generate further growth in jobs – most particularly by encouraging enterprise and developing the small business sector.
There are now some 1 million more small businesses today than there were when this government was first elected. Despite the recession this number is now once again increasing. The climate is right. Next month will see the national launch of the most comprehensive system of support for our companies that we have ever seen – Business Links.
We are determined to go further. A national programme of conferences will draw the voice of the small entrepreneur into the heart of government. Their ideas gathered from every part of the country will help to ensure that this Government continues to nurture the bedrock of job creation and economic growth.
Yesterday we saw unemployment fall again. It has now fallen for 24 months in a row and is 680,000 less than its peak in the recession three years ago. For the last 6 months it has reduced by 400 people a day. This is excellent news. No other major European country has proved more effective in generating the jobs to overcome the problem of unemployment. We are demonstrating that the most effective way to achieve this lies in the proper management of the economy, tight control of inflation, deregulation, and the improved competitiveness of the nation’s industrial base and business sector.
Over the next year, alongside other measures to help the unemployed, we will be introducing the job seekers’ allowance, conducting Workstart pilots and looking at other possibilities to bring about a major shift in opportunities and incentives for the long term unemployed.
Conservative Governments have transformed the performance and esteem of this country over the last 16 years. On the basis of these achievements the plans we have discussed today relate not simply to the short term but to our direction for the longer term through to the 21st century.
The simple fact is that the ideas pioneered and developed in this country under the Conservatives have been amongst the most influential in the practice of politics across the world in the 1980s and 1990s. Drawing on our discussions today and the extensive grass roots consultation programme that the party is now conducting, I am determined that our record of success is carried forward up to and through the next election, as we lead this country into the next century.
It was a good day and we are looking forward to the future with confidence and determination.