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BBC Wales's Simon Morris reports
"It was not the smoothest of launches for the Tories - 20 minutes late and the manifesto held back by publishing errors"
 real 56k

Monday, 14 May, 2001, 18:33 GMT
Hague bolsters Tory campaign
William Hague at Welsh Conservative launch in Cardiff
William Hague launching his party's Welsh manifesto
William Hague has promised a revival in electoral fortunes which would put Welsh Tories back at Westminster and the party back in government.

At the launch of the Welsh Conservative manifesto in Cardiff, the leader said Welsh schools under a Tory government would be set free from red tape and the National Assembly would be allowed to supply funding directly to schools.

Mr Hague was waving the banner for the Welsh Conservatives who were obliterated from the political map in Wales at the 1997 general election.

But party workers had to hand out an uncorrected version of the Welsh manifesto following problems with the translation.

William Hague and his wife Ffion
William Hague and wife Ffion arrive in Cardiff
The corrected version will be issued over the internet later on Monday.

In consultation with the Assembly, Mr Hague said "nonsensical" rules would be abolished which prevent pupils being excluded from schools.

Mr Hague said the Tories believed in Wales and in the United Kingdom.

The Conservatives were once vehemently opposed to devolution but Mr Hague said the priority was now to work with an Assembly that worked for all people.

He attacked the "unprincipled" Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition in the Assembly.

Mr Hague also reaffirmed his commitment to a review of the Assembly's workings, and to retaining a Secretary of State for Wales in the next parliament, albeit tied in with another Cabiner post.

He said very few changes in public spending would affect the Welsh block grant, and there were no plans to change the Barnett formula.

Election broadcast

He repeated the Conservatives intention to cut 8bn of public expenditure including 6p a litre off fuel costs, after newspaper reports on Monday claimed that the Tories would look for 20bn of cuts.

"Eight billion is the only figure we have given and the only figure we will be giving. It is the correct figure," Mr Hague told the news conference.

"It is time for a Conservative government that will reduce taxes. That includes the most unfair, indiscriminate and hated stealth tax of them all - petrol tax.

"It is a tax that hits the old, it hits the worst-off people, it hits people living in rural parts of Wales the hardest, people for whom the car is not a luxury, it is a necessity."

Asked about Labour's use of pop star Geri Halliwell in an election broadcast, and if he was disappointed that the Tories did not have another Spice Girl on their side, Mr Hague said: "You wait for our broadcast, and you'll see it's what about is really going on in the world."

Asked how he could convince the country that he could win when he could not convince his own family, (a reference to reported remarks by his father) Mr Hague said his family should be left out of it.

Later Mr Hague was going to canvas voters in the marginal seat of Monmouth, before returning to Cardiff for the party's first big rally of the campaign.

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