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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 13:14 GMT
Hague backs role for religious groups
Conservative leader William Hague has said that religious groups should have their powers increased at the expense of the welfare state
Repeating his call for a "denationalisation of compassion", Mr Hague told a Conservative policy forum meeting that religious organisations could often be more effective than the state at tackiling social problems.
Mr Hague also supported the role that marriage has to play in society, arguing that it was the "essential building block of a stable society".
Faith and state
The forum, entitled Values In The 21st Century, was attended by Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and representatives of other faiths.
"Close to their communities and offering role models that pupils can identify with, they would be one sure way to guarantee diversity, increase standards and give children the values they need," he argued.
Mr Hague promised that a Tory government would encourage volunteers, voluntary bodies and faith-based institutions by imposing fewer regulatory burdens, making it simpler to apply for government grants, and by reforming the tax system to help people give to charities.
Turning to the balance between the state and other organisations, the Tory leader said that state provision had failed children in care, failed to turn the tide on drugs, and done too little for the homeless and elderly.
Tories defend marriage
He said the Tories would defend free healthcare and schooling, and strengthen social security, but would roll back the frontiers of the state in areas where it was failing.
In its place, his party would encourage faith and secular community-based initiatives to flourish.
On marriage, Mr Hague said that the family lay at the heart of Conservative policies.
"Can you imagine if scientists today announced the invention of a new model of a personal relationship that helped children to succeed in school, that cut crime, increased individual happiness and helped knit neighbourhoods together?
"Politicians and policymakers would be falling over each other in the rush to claim the innovation.
"Marriage does all of these things. It is the essential building block of a stable society. It is the foundation on which all the other institutions of a free society depend.
"But the Conservatives are the only party with serious policies to support it," Mr Hague told the forum.
After addressing the forum, Mr Hague told reporters that his party could learn from the "compassionate conservatism" of US Republican candidate George W Bush.
Mr Bush has similarly promised greater freedom for US religious charities working with the poor and proposed that they be paid to run drug treatment, health care, child care or homelessness hostels.
Mr Hague, who met some of Mr Bush's advisers earlier in the year, said the UK could learn from that example.
"Of course Britain and America are very different countries... but I think the general lesson that sometimes things can be done better by religions by voluntary organisations, by charities, than they have ever been done by the state or local authorities... I think that is a very powerful lesson," he said.