1998 Northern Ireland Assembly Election - Conservative Party Manifesto
[Key_Events] [KEY_ISSUES] [Conflict_Background]
NATIONAL PARTY IN NORTHERN IRELAND.
The Assembly offers the electorate of Northern Ireland a chance to make a fresh start, to build a fresh future within the United Kingdom for ourselves and our children. In this manifesto we outline our approach to the areas of responsibility to be devolved to the Assembly.
It is important to outline our approach to the workings of the Assembly, the composition of the Executive and other related issues which were debated during the Referendum.
Everyone, whether they voted 'Yes' or 'No', has some doubts about the Agreement that led to the Assembly and these issues must be addressed. The question of arms decommissioning, prisoner releases, acceptance of democracy by paramilitaries and reform of the RUC are issues that are still to be satisfactorily resolved.
However, it is obvious that the overwhelming desire is for the Agreement and Assembly to work. The Conservative Party will play its full part in meeting that objective. For the first time in 25 years our affairs can be run by locally elected people. They will make decisions on our hospitals, our education, our environment and future prosperity. Perhaps the normalisation of the political process has begun. If so, this can only be for the good of everyone in Northern Ireland.
It is also clear that the Agreement and Assembly can only work with the goodwill of all involved. Trying to use the proposed structures as a stepping stone to something else, or as a means to perpetuate our tribal differences cannot be allowed. The Conservative Party, locally and nationally, undertake to ensure that the spirit of the Agreement is adhered to in the subsequent months and the Prime Minister's promises on decommissioning are kept.
After all, pledges made must be pledges honoured.
We welcome the opportunity to build a cordial and beneficial working relationship with our nearest neighbour. We will ensure that any cross-border initiatives remain under the control of the Assembly in order to deliver practical benefits for Northern Ireland. We will resist cross-border bodies being used as a means for direct interference in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland and the attempts of any Party to turn them into something not agreed upon by the people of Northern Ireland.
Similarly, we will work to enhance and develop our relations with
the rest of the UK through the Council of the Isles.
Conservatives believe in free enterprise and free markets. Northern Ireland's economic future depends on the ability of businesses to compete in the global markets.
The manifestos of many of the local Northern Ireland Parties commit them to a spend, spend, spend policy. The choice facing us is between stagnation or dynamism, between nationalist & unionist socialist policies or a vibrant free economy delivering opportunity for all to succeed.
Conservatives will campaign through the Assembly and our Conservative colleagues at Westminster for the extension of the recently announced 100% taxation relief on capital expenditure for small and medium businesses.
We will keep Assembly expenditure under tight control and at the same time ensure that resources are available to those services which matter most to people; hospitals and schools.
We will advocate the creation of a new Regional Development Agency in partnership with the CBI, local business leaders, trade unions and education bodies to develop a skills-for-business strategy relevant to the needs of a modern dynamic economy.
Recognising that the potential of tourism in Northern Ireland
is still to be realised, we will work with others in the Assembly
and elsewhere to develop a top quality high value industry which
can bring prosperity to many disadvantaged areas.
We will continue to push for fundamental reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, moving away from production support to measures that will give our farmers the opportunity to compete while safeguarding the rural environment. We will ensure that no transitional change to the Common Agricultural Policy unfairly disadvantages Northern Ireland's farmers.
In recognition, however, of agriculture's particular significance
to the economy of Northern Ireland, the Party will work with the
Ulster Farmer's Union, the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producer's
Association and the CBI to ensure that Northern Ireland's farmers
and growers have the skills and techniques to enable them to maximise
their opportunities in GB and EU markets, to improve marketing
and to ensure the further development of our food processing industry.
Conservatives are committed to the continuing development of a primary care led health service, with the family doctor taking a lead in the commissioning of health services for their patients.
The National Health Service must be more accountable to the public it serves.
This requires a partnership between a patient's rights and responsibilities.
Conservatives will call for a new National Health Service Charter to be
developed which reflects:
1) patients' rights to equality of treatment on the basis of their clinical need, without regard to their ability to pay
2) their responsibilities to use services carefully and sensibly.
Conservatives will advocate and support a single Health Board for Northern Ireland. The new Board would have responsibilities for the implementation of agreed strategies and work in conjunction with primary care groups for family doctors and other health care workers. We believe this would serve the best interest of the population in terms of value for money, efficiency and quality of service.
Health care is changing fast and modern technology is constantly increasing the range of treatments which are available. We will vigorously support the continued development of local community hospitals throughout Northern Ireland, whilst ensuring that our major treatment centres continue to be resourced with people whose skills must be developed and protected in centres of medical excellence.
Conservatives are proud of our National Health Service and pledge
to protect it and improve it.
All children dream of what they might do when they grow up. We believe that our education system must be designed to help turn those dreams into reality. Our future depends upon the quality of education for all our children.
A good eduction depends upon a solid foundation. Literacy and nurneracy are the foundations for all future learning. Every child must be taught to read, write and add up from an early age.
Success at every stage of a child's education must be measured with full information being provided to parents on the performance of their child and school. We support positive action to help those pupils lagging behind and action to bring any under-performing school up to pre-agreed targets. We support a rigorous system of teacher appraisal in order to identify where help is needed.
We acknowledge that Northern Ireland currently enjoys some of the best academic achievements within the United Kingdom but there still is a wide gap between the best and the worst our system has to offer.
To maintain the best elements, and improve where necessary, we support:
A good education is every child's birthright.
For 25 years capital expenditure on our infrastructure has been inadequate as funds were required to combat terrorism.
Conservatives will commit to the extension of the motorway system to link Belfast and Londonderry, Northern Ireland's principal economic and population centres.
Proper sewage treatment has also been neglected as witnessed by the poor state of some of the beaches around our coastline. Our rivers and lakes too have experienced the ravages of pollution due to a lack of adequate investment and accountability.
Conservatives will press for the setting up of an independent Environmental Protection Agency, as in other parts of the UK, to ensure that our sewage is treated to the accepted standards and the polluters of our waterways are brought to account.
Responsibility for overall planning policy should be the responsibility
of the Assembly. Detailed planning consents should, however, be
devolved to our local Councils.
We are now faced with a fundamental choice. Voting out of habit for the old Parties, based upon the tribal and sectarian divisions of the past, to build a Unionist or Nationalist bloc would simply continue the sectarian divide - what way is this to build a fresh future for us all? Where is the debate on policies to develop the economy, our Health Service, our education system going to come from?
The Conservative Party urges voters to remember that these are the issues on which hard decisions now have to be made.
Alternatively, we can make a break with the past. The Conservative
Party is a national Party which will have representatives at Westminster,
in both the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies and in Europe. The Conservative
Party represents the chance to normalise the political process
in Northern Ireland, to start building a Fresh Future for us all.
A FRESH START
A FRESH FUTURE.
CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.
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