Cameron rejects 'pie in the sky' tax cuts

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Tory leader David Cameron today dismissed calls for "pie in the sky" tax cuts and pledged to put the NHS at the centre of his policy platform.

Mr Cameron, in his closing speech to the Conservative conference in Bournemouth, also warned of green taxes to come and launched a stinging attack on Tony Blair's Government.

He said he would question the approach of the White House on foreign policy and insisted he would be "a British prime minister pursuing a British foreign policy".

Mr Cameron told representatives: "I want to deal directly with this issue of substance. Substance is not about producing a 10-point plan - it is about deeper things than that.

"It is about knowing what you believe, it is about a clear idea of the Britain you want to see. For us, that Britain is based on the idea of social responsibility.

"I don't think that announcing policies in a rush amounts to substance. Real substance is about taking time to think things through, not trotting out easy answers that people might want to hear.

"It's about sticking to your guns. It's about character, judgment and consistency."

Mr Cameron addressed right-wing critics calling for tax cuts head on, saying: "Let's talk about tax. Everyone in this hall, me included, knows that a low tax economy is a strong economy. But some people want me to flash up some pie in the sky tax cuts to show what we stand for.

"Let me tell you straight. That is not substance and that is not what we stand for.

"Do you know what I think? I think that, when some people talk about substance, what they mean is they want the old policies back. Well, they're not coming back. We're not going back.

"We will not take risks with the economy. We will not make promises we can't keep. We believe in sound money and stability always comes first."

On the NHS, the Tory leader insisted: "As our economy grows, one of the most important calls on the proceeds of that growth is the NHS. The NHS is vitally important to every family in this country. It certainly is to my family."

Mr Cameron, whose son, Ivan, four, suffers from cerebral palsy, went on: "I believe that the creation of the NHS is one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century.

"It is founded on the noble but simple ideal that no person should ever have to worry about their health care.

"But when your family relies on the NHS all the time - day after day, night after night - you really know just how precious it is.

"For me, it's not a question of saying the NHS is safe in my hands. My family is so often in the hands of the NHS and I want them to be safe there.

"Tony Blair once explained his priority in three words: education, education, education. I can do it in three letters. NHS."

He attacked Labour changes to the NHS, saying its staff were now " utterly bewildered", adding: "What a shambolic way to treat people. "

He pledged: "No more pointless reorganisations - yes, change is necessary in the NHS but the changes we want to make are based on our idea: social responsibility."

The Conservative leader told his conference he would back successful Labour initiatives, such as Bank of England independence and the minimum wage, promising to increase it if possible.

But he then rounded on Mr Blair, saying: "People voted for him but he let them down. So let's not think that people are going to jump from Labour straight into our arms. This is going to be slow, patient, hard work.

"For too long, the big political decisions in this country have been made in the wrong place. Not round the Cabinet table, where they should be, but on the sofa in Tony Blair's office.

"No notes are taken. No one knows who's accountable. No one takes the blame when things go wrong.

"That arrogant style of government must come to an end. I will restore the proper processes of government."

Heralding proposals for new green taxes, Mr Cameron said: "I want to tell the British people some uncomfortable truths - there is a price for progress in tackling climate change.

Of course, low-energy light bulbs, hybrid cars - even a windmill on your roof - can make a difference and also save money. But these things are not enough.

"Government must show leadership by setting the right framework: binding targets for carbon reduction year on year.

"That would create a price for carbon in our economy. What does that mean? It means that things which produce more carbon will get more expensive. Going green is not some fashionable, pain-free option. It will place a responsibility on business, it will place a responsibility on all of us."

He challenged Mr Blair to put a climate change Bill in his last Queen's Speech.

The Tory leader heaped praise on British troops fighting abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying: "We should do more - a lot more - for them."

On security at home, Mr Cameron promised: "When it comes to our national security, I will always listen to the police and security services and take their advice with the utmost seriousness. I will never play politics with this issue - what I will do is my duty, which is to support the Government when they do the right thing and hold them to account when they do the wrong thing."

He repeated his pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new British Bill of Rights.

Again attacking Mr Blair, Mr Cameron told the conference: "I want to be prime minister of this country - not a president."

He also laid into the Prime Minister on crime, saying Mr Blair had attacked him over the Conservative leader's supposed "hug a hoodie" policy.

"In that one cheap joke, he gave up on one of the best things he ever said - that we need to be tough on the causes of crime," said Mr Cameron.

On foreign policy, the Conservative leader drew on his family past, saying his grandfather had taken part in the D-Day landings and he himself had become involved in politics during the Cold War.

"But now Mr Blair objects when I say our foreign policy should not simply be unquestioning in our relationship with America.

"Well, if he's accusing me of wanting to be a British prime minister pursuing a British foreign policy, then I plead guilty.

"Questioning the approach of the US administration, trying to learn the lessons of the past five years does not make you anti-American."

Mr Cameron appealed for social cohesion at home, saying: "Ultimately, it is an emotional connection that binds a country together - sympathy for people you don't even know and who may be very different to you."

He added: "The most basic contact comes from talking to each other, so we must make sure that new immigrants learn to speak English."

Mr Cameron said he supported faith schools, including the new generation of Muslim schools emerging. But he added: "If these schools are to be British state schools, they must be part of our society, not separate from it."

He praised the Church of England for admitting a quarter of pupils from non-Anglican backgrounds to its schools, going on to say: "I believe the time has come for other faith groups to show similar social responsibility."

Mr Cameron stressed his support for the family and marriage as an institution, saying: "There's something special about marriage. It's not about religion, it's not about morality, it's about commitment.

"When you stand up there in front of your friends and your family, in front of the world, whether it's in a church or anywhere else, what you're doing really means something.

"Pledging yourself to another means doing something brave and important.

"And, by the way, it means something whether you're a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and another man."

The Conservative leader ended his speech by saying: "Tony Blair said Britain is a young country. He is wrong. This is an old country with a proud past and a bright future.

"Look at the forces shaping our world: technology that can topple dictators; innovations that can tackle climate change; the prospect of global trade and investment and development that can end the spectre of poverty and heal the divisions between rich and poor.

"We must be the party that lifts people's sights and raises their hopes. We are getting ready to serve again - standing up for what we believe, reaching out for what we can achieve.

"Let us be confident as we say together here today - the best is yet to come."