Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Conservatives and Unionists 'Contract for Northern Ireland'

Speaking in County Down, David Cameron said:

"It's great to be back in Northern Ireland.

One and a half years ago the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionist Party made a bold step to realign the political map of Northern Ireland.

I want to pay tribute here to the work of Reg Empey and Owen Paterson, whose efforts helped bring us together.

Our two great parties have created a dynamic new electoral force for Northern Ireland.

And it's because we made that step that today we are not just saying that we are the party of the union, we are showing that we are the party of the union, the party of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England - with candidates standing in every part of the United Kingdom.

Nobody else can say that. Not Labour. Not the Liberal Democrats.

And none of the local parties here in Northern Ireland.

As Reg says we are not fighting to be an opposition, we are fighting to be the government of our country, all of it.


So why is this so important?

It's important because of our deep commitment to the union.

So let me repeat the pledge I made to you in Belfast a year and a half ago.

I will never be neutral on our Union.

We passionately believe that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are stronger together, weaker apart - and the union of our two parties strengthens those bonds.

But our new electoral force is also important for other reasons.

For as long as anyone can remember, politics here has been dominated by constitutional issues - the latest developments in the peace process.

This election presents a new opportunity to participate in the mainstream of British politics.

Mainstream politics in which issues like taxes, pensions, defence and foreign policy, that are decided in Westminster yet affect every single person in Northern Ireland, are part of the mainstream political debate.

Mainstream politics in which people in Northern Ireland can participate at all levels of government in the UK - from the council chamber right the way to the Cabinet table itself.

At this election, only Conservatives and Unionists are offering people in Northern Ireland that opportunity - the chance to elect MPs who can be part of the government of the United Kingdom.

That's good for my party - as we get the very best working alongside us, as partners in government.

And it's good for Northern Ireland too - as you will have powerful voices in Westminster raising the issues that matter to you.

Not just raising their voice but making their voice heard and getting things done. Not just turning up and collecting the expenses and flying back to Belfast on a Wednesday afternoon but taking part in parliament.


And that voice can already be heard, in the contract we are launching today.

While we've been clear in this election campaign that we hope people will respond to our invitation to help change our country, in the final days before polling day, we are setting out our side of the bargain.

The things we will do to help Northern Ireland move forward.

It's a contract to end the semi-detached political status of Northern Ireland, to bring Northern Ireland back into the mainstream of UK politics, to put Northern Ireland at the very heart of the Union.

It's our contract with the voters - and I want the people of Northern Ireland to read it, keep it, stick it to your fridge, use it to hold us to account, and if we don't do what we promise to do - kick us out in five years' time.

So what's in this contract?


It's a contract that will bring change to our economy.

We've got record government debt. Record government borrowing. Unemployment is up.

In this contract are the radical plans to dig us out of that mess.

Plans to make government accountable, stop the waste, stop Labour's jobs tax - and get better services for the taxes you pay.

Plans to make the UK the best place in the world to do business.

Stopping the rise of red tape, lowering corporation tax rates, abolishing employment taxes on the first ten jobs created by new businesses.

We'll bring a new age of enterprise and ambition across the United Kingdom.

In this part of the UK we'll go even further, looking at ways of turning Northern Ireland into an enterprise zone.

And we'll produce a government paper examining how we can change the corporation tax rate here, so that we can get even more investment coming in.

We want to grow the size of the private sector in Northern Ireland to create new jobs and investment.

But let me also say this.

The country faces some difficult decisions ahead on how we will tackle the deficit.

I want people to know that if elected I will make these decisions with compassion, reasonableness and a concern for the most disadvantaged.

That is who I am and that is what a government I lead will be like.

So we will continue to fund Northern Ireland according to its needs, and we will tackle the deficit while protecting the essential frontline public services that we all rely on.

There is no way Northern Ireland will be singled out over and above any other part of the UK will be singled out, that people need to know.

As unionists who believe in the United Kingdom, we recognise that we're all in this together - and we'll only rebuild a stronger economy together.


It's in that spirit that we will change our society.

We've got great social problems in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

Crime and disorder. Poverty and inequality. Drug and alcohol abuse.

This contract sets out bold plans to tackle not just the symptoms of these problems but their causes too.

So much of social breakdown comes back to three things - a chaotic or broken family background, poor schooling and worklessness.

So we'll have a relentless focus on these areas.

We'll make the United Kingdom more family friendly, recognising marriage in the tax system and giving more parents the right to request flexible working.

We'll work with our Ulster Unionist colleagues in the Assembly to build on excellence in Northern Ireland's schools, defending our education system from those who are out to destroy it and ensure excellence, diversity and choice for all.

We'll shake-up the welfare system and say to people if you want to work we'll give you all the help you need - but if you refuse to work, your benefits will be cut. The rules are going to change.

This is all about a simple value, building a society where we reward those who do the right thing.

Last year we saw the Prime Minister betraying those who had done the right thing, when he boasted that 'not one British saver has lost a single penny' in the banking crisis.

He should try telling that to investors in the PMS who worked hard, saved hard - and then saw their money disappear. Are they not British, did they not lose money, why has he forgotten about them?

So I give you this pledge.

If I am Prime Minister a Conservative and Unionist Government will work with the Executive here to ensure a just and fair resolution of the PMS.

It's about saying we're all in this together, you've done the right thing and you deserve for that to be recognised and rewarded.


We need great change in our politics too.

The scandals at Westminster and the recent allegations here in Northern Ireland have rocked confidence in politics and politicians.

This is no time for business as usual.

We need to change the whole way politics is done, to make it more accountable, more transparent and cheaper.

This contract sets out exactly how.

We'll make it more accountable by giving you the power to sack your MP and banning the 'double-jobbing' that has scarred politics in this part of the United Kingdom.

We'll make it more transparent by publishing online every item of public spending over £25,000 - so you can see how your money is being spent.

And we'll make it cheaper by cutting the perks and subsidies in Westminster and cutting ministers' pay.

There is a great family of candidates standing behind me but there will be nothing swish about the Conservative and Unionist family in Northern Ireland.

All these changes are designed to do one thing: make politicians serve the public again, not the other way round.


So this contract shows a way forward for our economy, our society, our politics.

And it points the direction for a new kind of politics for Northern Ireland, which moves on from the troubles of the past.

Of course there's still a serious dissident threat and we'll do everything to counter it.

Conservatives and Unionists support the political institutions established over the past decade and are committed to making devolution work, including on policing and justice.

Northern Ireland needs effective law and order, and we're committed to funding it.

We want to build a peaceful and stable society in which everybody is treated with equal respect - whatever their background or political aspiration.

We believe in a shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

And we look forward to continuing our close relationship with the Government of the Republic of Ireland as we uphold our international obligations under the agreements.

Of course we'll never forget the sacrifice of those who ensured that the future of Northern Ireland would be determined by the ballot box and not the bullet or the bomb, just as we take great pride and remember all the things they currently are doing in Afghanistan we take great pride in the brave men and women from Northern Ireland who today serve in the Royal Irish and elsewhere in the armed forces, protecting our freedoms. We are proud of what they do.

There are some who wish to re-write history and put those who upheld democracy on an equivalent footing with those who sought to destroy it.

No government I lead will ever accept that.

And in this hotel we remember in particular those civilians murdered and injured in one of the most wicked and cowardly acts of terrorism.

Politically motivated violence was never justified, whatever side it came from.

So a Conservative and Unionist Government won't take forward the proposal for universal Recognition Payments.

We'll draw a line under the past with no more costly and open ended inquiries.

It's time to move on - and move forward to a better future for Northern Ireland.


I know that for many years people in Northern Ireland felt cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom, including from the government.

I want to end that sense of isolation.

I want to give voters in Northern Ireland the right - for the first time in generations - to vote for a party capable of forming the government of our United Kingdom, to enable people in Northern Ireland to play their full part in the affairs of the country as a whole, and to realise at long last the basic democratic right to equal citizenship within the United Kingdom.

That can only happen through the partnership of our two parties.

Other parties can talk about this.

Only Conservatives and Unionists can deliver.

Of all the parties standing in Northern Ireland at this election - only we can form the government of our country.

Of all the parties standing in Northern Ireland at this election - only we can get a decisive mandate and strong majority in the House of Commons.

Of all the parties promising change - only we can deliver it.

So join us in our mission.

Join us in our fight.

And let me tell you what we're fighting for.

We're not fighting Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg in this election.

We're fighting poverty, disadvantage, blocked opportunity.

We're fighting for people.

We're fighting for all the couples who can't afford to own their own home.

We're fighting for all the children growing up in homes where no-one works.

We're fighting for all those who are held back because of their race, their gender or their sexuality.

We're fighting for all the businesses struggling to stay afloat.

We're fighting for all the parents who can't find a good school for their kids.

We're fighting for all those who are struggling to make ends meet, month after month.

We're fighting for the nurse covered in red tape who just wants to do her job.

We're fighting for the pensioner who's saved and doesn't want to sell his home to pay for his care.

We're fighting for everyone who just wants to do the right thing, to do the best for their families and to make a difference to our country.

That's why we're fighting for change.

That's why we're fighting to win.

So come out and fight and win with the Conservatives and Unionists.

Let's go for it."

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