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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project