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EDITIONS
Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 06:35 GMT 07:35 UK
Tory leader's public service 'mission'
Iain Duncan Smith with wife Betsy
Iain Duncan Smith joined on stage by wife Betsy
Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has used his debut keynote party conference speech as leader to say the UK has "Third World" standard public services that are "shaming".

Declaring that his "greatest mission" will be the reform of British schools and hospitals, he said he wanted to bring them up the level enjoyed in France and Germany.

Wednesday's address marked the close of the shortened gathering in Blackpool, which has been overshadowed by the US-led strikes in Afghanistan.


That is our greatest mission at home over the coming years: to assemble the coalition of charities and churches, the public and private sectors that will deliver results

Iain Duncan Smith
The Tory leader focused much of his address on the international situation, branding Osama Bin Laden a coward who "skulks in caves" while followers die for his pathological cause.

He expressed continued backing for the war against terrorism but warned that Britain was now engaged in a "ferocious conflict, a struggle for civilisation itself".

Elsewhere in his speech Mr Duncan Smith made an unexpected gesture towards making the party more inclusive as he said women, ethnic minorities and people with different lifestyles had to have greater opportunities.

But his core message to party representatives was how the Tories must focus on reform of the UK's schools and hospitals.

Many in the party believe it did not place enough emphasis on public services during the election campaign.

Public service drive

Mr Duncan Smith said: "In our country, the sick cannot get the treatment they need. In many of our inner cities the young do not receive the education they deserve.

"I call that shaming.

"We are the fourth richest country on earth. We should be providing public services that match those of our European neighbours not those of the Third World."

He said Tory governments of the 1980s and early 1990s addressed the UK's economic failures and now attention had to switch to insecurity, economic instability and improving public services.


Bin Laden claims to speak for Islam, but he cannot

Iain Duncan Smith
In a reference to the ongoing Labour Party debate over using private firms to deliver public services, Mr Duncan Smith argued: "Our European neighbours simply enjoy better hospitals, because they put the needs of their people before the demands of dogma.

"If we are to live up to the demands of a new century we must do the same.

"That is our greatest mission at home over the coming years: to assemble the coalition of charities and churches, the public and private sectors that will deliver results."

His party will have an open mind on public service reform, the Conservative leader promised, but will also use the "best of British innovation, enterprise and energy".

Euro opposition

Mr Duncan Smith also restated his opposition to joining the euro and drew on Nato's role in the current action against terrorism to criticise the "European Army" proposals as "dangerous".

But there was also a move to show he is not generally anti-European as he outlined plans to draw ideas from Europe and elsewhere on how to change public services.

Shadow cabinet members are being despatched to other countries "to see why it is that their public services are so much better than ours".

Mr Duncan Smith did not shy away from criticising the government, accusing it of putting preservation of the status quo and protection of vested interests ahead of patients and parents.

Gordon Brown's management of the economy also came under fire and he referred to the "hubris" of those who believed boom and bust had been abolished.

But officials said Mr Duncan Smith deliberately chose a muted tone, avoiding gratuitous party point scoring against the backdrop of military action.

'Cynical cult'

That action began on the eve of the conference, forcing Mr Duncan Smith to return to Parliament on Monday for the emergency Commons debate.

As he spoke about the international situation, the Tory leader turned his fire on Osama Bin Laden, the prime suspect for the US terror attacks.

Mr Duncan Smith said: "Bin Laden claims to speak for Islam, but he cannot.

"His is a cynical and suicidal cult dedicated to the destruction of civilisations and lives, irrespective of their faith.

"This is a man who sends young acolytes to die for his own pathological purpose, while he himself skulks in caves.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Pienaar
"The speech pleased the party faithful"
See also:

09 Oct 01 | Conservatives
08 Oct 01 | Conservatives
08 Oct 01 | Conservatives
10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
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