All you need is faith, Major tells the party

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR sought to enthuse nervous Tories yesterday with an upbeat economic message, urging that it was time to 'ditch this habit of self-denigration'.

Economic conditions were 'now in place for sustained growth and lasting jobs', he told the Conservative local government conference in London. 'The best way to help unemployed people back into work is to have confidence in our nation and confidence in ourselves.'

The Prime Minister said that Michael Howard, Secretary of State for the Environment, would use the recent fall in mortgage rates to direct a new 'right-to-buy' campaign to persuade more than a million council tenants to buy their homes.

With the Maastricht Bill threatened by a fresh crisis if the Deputy Speaker, Michael Morris, decides to accept a fresh Labour amendment seeking to defeat the Government over the Social Chapter, Mr Major used his strongest language yet to attack the Chapter.

He said: 'France can complain as much as it likes. If investors and business choose to come to Britain rather than pay the cost of socialism in France, let them call it social dumping. I call it dumping socialism.'

Having warned Britain's European partners of the perils of the chapter, Britain was not going to change its policy now. 'They can have the Social Chapter. We'll have the jobs,' he added.

Law and order, and parental responsibility, dominated other ministerial speeches. With Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, due to announce this week his proposal for privately run approved schools for persistent young offenders, John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, promised plans to educate and control up to 3,000 children excluded from schools. Mr Patten said the Government was determined to 'flush out' the problem of truancy and exclusions.

Mr Clarke is under mounting pressure from Tory backbenchers to amend the 1992 Criminal Justice Act to allow magistrates to take previous convictions into account when sentencing. He is also considering ways of modifying the Act's provisions on income-related fines, to meet objections that those on low incomes who have committed serious offences face much smaller fines than those on high incomes who commit more trivial offences.