Cameron defends arms sales in push for growth

David Cameron declared yesterday that enterprise was morally right and defended his controversial campaign to sell British-made arms to regimes around the world with poor records on democracy and human rights.

In his closing speech to the Conservative Party's spring conference in Cardiff, the Prime Minister promised to launch a personal crusade to prevent civil servants piling more bureaucratic rules and regulations on to small businesses. He tried to limit mounting criticism that the Government lacks a "growth strategy" to complement its "cuts strategy" by pledging the 23 March Budget would be the "most pro-growth" for a generation.

But in a letter today to the Chancellor, George Osborne, the Confederation of British Industry demands an "all-action Budget for growth and jobs"– including tax cuts, such as scrapping the 50p top rate on earnings above £150,000 a year.

An unrepentant Mr Cameron defended taking British arms manufacturers with him on a visit to the Middle East two weeks ago. While he attacked Labour's "dodgy deals with dictators in the desert", he rounded on critics who accused him of "salesmanship" rather than "statesmanship".

He retorted: "Attack all you want, but do you think the Germans and the French and the Americans are all sitting at home waiting for business to fall into their lap? Of course not – they're out there selling their goods, and so should we in this country as well."

He added: "While there are contracts to be won, jobs to be created, markets to be defended – I will be there. If it's making sure Rolls Royce engines are in the world's planes, I'll be there.

"If it's making sure skyscrapers in the Gulf are designed by British architects, I'll be there. I'll be there not just because it's my job, not just because it's my duty, but because I passionately believe – no, I know – that this country can out-compete, outperform, out-hustle the best in the world and I'm going to make sure I use every last drop of my energy to make sure that happens for our country."

In an echo of Tony Blair's 1999 complaint that an obstructive civil service left "scars on my back," Mr Cameron said: " The enterprise culture is alive and well in this country. Now we just need an enterprise government to go with it."

His list of "enemies of enterprise" included bureaucrats in Government departments who concoct "ridiculous rules and regulations" which make life impossible, particularly for small firms; town-hall officials who go slow on make-or-break planning decisions for business; and public sector procurement managers who think the answer to everything is a big contract with a big business and who shut out millions of small firms from a massive potential market. The Prime Minister, under fire for not curbing bankers' bonuses, promised to "watch those banks like a hawk" to make sure they deliver pledges to boost lending to small firms.

Mr Cameron said: "Enterprise is about more than money, more than the economics of growth and GDP. We understand that enterprise is not just about markets; it's also about morals. We understand that enterprise is not just an economic good, it's a social good too."

He linked his drive on enterprise to his flagship Big Society theme. He argued that the Tories had been elected to do more than tackle the deficit, highlighting their "compassion" and support for a rising international aid budget.

Defending the spending cuts, which will bite harder at the start of a new financial year next month, Mr Cameron warned his party: "The road ahead will be hard; this year in particular."

Insisting the deficit reduction plan was right, he said: "What we're doing might not be popular – but it is the only way. The other way is the cowardly way, the irresponsible way, and that has never, ever been the Conservative way."

Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, said:"If David Cameron wants to know who is the real enemy of enterprise and growth in Britain today, he only needs to look next door at his own Chancellor. It is George Osborne's reckless plan to cut too deep and too fast, which has seen the economy go into reverse."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created