Cameron hails 2010 the year for change

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Indy Politics

The Conservative leader David Cameron called for economic, social and political change today in his first speech of the New Year.

Laying out his priorities ahead of the coming general election, Cameron said he aimed "to create a fairer, safer, green country where opportunity is more equal".

He pledges to protect the NHS and to strengthen the economy by instigating "responsible economic policies".

Speaking at the Oxford School of Drama, against a backdrop of a picture of the Houses of Parliament with the slogan "Year for Change", he said: "It's a brand new year. A new decade is fresh before us.

"This time always comes with a sense of hope. Hope that successes can be built upon, failures can be learned from, new ideas started, a new course charted."

Speaking on the economy, he said he intended to cut public spending through a one-year freeze on public sector pay and to bring forward the planned increase in the state pension age.

He also said he intended to support businesses through a cut in the main rate of corporation tax, the creation of 100,000 apprenticeships and a new high-speed rail network.

He said: "We need change in our economy because we can't go on like this.

"Britain needs responsible economic policies that deal with our debts so we have stability to create jobs and keep mortgage rates and taxes lower."

He added: "If we win this year's election, Britain will be under new economic management.

"We will send out the loudest signal that this country is back open for business and ready for investment.

"Decline is not inevitable. Confidence can return.

"If we take action now, to get a grip on the public finances and unleash enterprise, Britain can have a bright economic future."

Pledging to safeguard the NHS, he added: "We are progressive Conservatives.

"Our goal is to create a fairer, safer, greener country where opportunity is more equal.

"It's because we are progressives that we will protect the NHS.

"In its bricks and mortars, care and compassion, it is the embodiment of fairness in our society.

"We recognise its special place in our society so we will not cut the NHS, we will improve it for everyone."

Expressing his intention to bring about social change in the UK, he said the Conservative Party would "forge a new direction" in helping to "strengthen families".

He said he would "fight back against the root causes of deprivation - drug addiction, alcoholism, indebtedness, failing prisons".

He said: "It's because we are progressives that we will support responsibility and strong families so we help mend our broken society and tackle the crime and misery it brings.

"A decade of big government and blunt, bureaucratic control has undermined responsibility and made our social problems worse, not better.

"We are determined to forge a new direction. We will use the state to help remake society by encouraging people to take responsibility for themselves and for one another."

He said the Tories had plans to support community groups and charities and take more powers away from central government.

He added: "We will create incentives and use the best technology to encourage and enable people to come together, solve their problems together, make this society stronger together.

"As we do this we will redistribute power from the political elite to the man and woman in the street.

"Within months of a Conservative victory there would start the most radical decentralisation of power this country has seen for generations.

"Government will enter a new era of transparency. And a strong, unbroken line of democratic accountability will be restored between the people and those that make the decisions that affect their lives."

He added: "A Conservative government will send the clearest possible signal to everyone in Britain - if you aspire to a better life for you and your family, we will support you, if you play your part in building the big society, we will reward you."