Michael Howard: Power to the people who use and run our services

From a speech by the Leader of the Opposition, delivered to the Policy Exchange think tank in London
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The Independent Online

When I was a barrister, I had to advise a man who had lost his job. He had refused to go on a march organised by his union against Edward Heath's Industrial Relations Act. He had been fined by his union, and he had refused to pay the fine. The union kicked him out, and because of the closed shop he was sacked. Our law gave him no redress.

That made me very angry. I became convinced that the closed shop should be abolished. It was a monstrous restriction on people's rights. So I argued for the end of the closed shop, but because I was not an MP there was little I could do. In 1983 I became an MP, and devoted much of my maiden speech to this question. But because I was not a minister there was little I could do. In 1990 I became Employment Secretary and I was finally able to abolish the closed shop. Even under a Conservative government, it had taken 11 years to abolish one of the most iniquitous restrictions on freedom in recent times.

As I said last October "power to people" - the people who use and run our services, not politicians and central government. At the heart of my approach is a fundamental belief in fair play. No one should be over-powerful. Not trade unions. Not corporations. Not the Government. Not the European Union. Wherever I see bullying by the over-mighty, I will oppose it, and stand up for people's rights and freedoms.