Conservative Party conference: David Cameron defends Tory plan for more seven years of austerity

Billions more to be cut from welfare cash before 2020 in pledge for surplus

Conservative plans to stick to an austerity programme for at least another seven years were defended today by David Cameron.

Mr Cameron said the current American budget crisis - which has seen the US government plunged into partial shutdown by the failure of Congress to agree a spending plan - reinforced the necessity for continued action to get Britain's finances in order.

Chancellor George Osborne announced plans yesterday to commit a future Conservative government to running a surplus in the years after the deficit is eliminated - effectively meaning no let-up in spending discipline until the end of the next parliament in 2020.

In a round of TV interviews at the Conservative conference in Manchester, the Prime Minister backed the plan, echoing Mr Osborne's warnings that if Britain does not reduce its debt, it risks being pushed "over the brink" by a future economic crisis.

"What we are saying is that in the next parliament we should be targeting to have a surplus rather than a deficit," said Mr Cameron.

"Our deficit is the annual overdraft, if you like, and as long as you have an overdraft, you are adding to the overall stock of debt in the economy.

"Our debt levels are at a very high level. As the Chancellor put it yesterday, the last crisis put us close to the brink. If we had another crisis and we hadn't got our debt levels down, then that could push us over the brink. This is the responsible thing to do.

"But because our economy is growing, because we are creating jobs, because those jobs are paying taxes, I don't believe it will be impossible to achieve this. I think it's perfectly possible to do and it's the right thing to do for the long-term health of the country."

More than 700,000 US government workers face unpaid leave in the first federal shutdown in 17 years after a midnight deadline passed for a budget deal, despite a last-ditch bid for an agreement by President Barack Obama.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have made delaying Mr Obama's healthcare reforms a condition for passing the budget.

Mr Cameron said: "It is a reminder to all of us that we that we need to have properly-planned public expenditure systems, properly-planned tax, properly-planned arrangements for getting our deficit down.

"I know some people want to get away from the subject of deficit reduction and sorting our economy out and turning it around.

"But I think we will see lots of reminders over the coming months, like what is happening in America, that it is absolutely vital that we grip it."

The Prime Minister praised a £50 million scheme to encourage GPs to offer weekend and evening appointments, which was announced overnight.

He insisted the pilot project could help cut the pressure on NHS hospitals' stretched accident and emergency departments.

"A lot of people going to A&E need a doctor rather than A&E, so I think this pilot scheme of having, around the country, GPs' surgeries open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, is a very good step forward," he said.

Mr Cameron also defended the Government's mortgage guarantee scheme, Help to Buy, amid concerns that it could re-inflate the housing bubble, saying it was "the right thing to do".

"I don't want to be the Prime Minister who stands aside, who says you can only buy a flat or a home in our country if you've got rich parents, that's not fair," he said.

"The problem in our housing market was 110% mortgages, a mortgage for more than the value of the property, the problem was self-certified mortgages, when you are just setting out your earnings without them being properly checked, the problem was irresponsible lending by banks, it wasn't 95% mortgages."

Mr Cameron denied that the coalition's intervention in the mortgage lending market was comparable to Ed Miliband's pledge to freeze energy bills under a future Labour government.

"There's a big difference, which is the mortgage market today isn't working," said Mr Cameron.

Mr Miliband's energy market proposals were not "properly thought through", said the Conservative leader. "We all want to see low energy prices - we need to see them for 20 years, not just for 20 months."

He also went further in committing the Government to extending its freeze on petrol duty, saying he was confident that Mr Osborne would "find the money" to pay for it. The Chancellor announced his ambition yesterday to scrap a 2p-a-litre rise pencilled in for September 2014, but said this would be conditional on identifying savings elsewhere to pay for it.

"Yesterday, you heard the Chancellor yet again say we're going to freeze petrol duty, because we want to help families fill their car," said Mr Cameron.

"We will find the money, I am quite convinced we will, because this is a real priority to make sure families do not face huge bills when they want to fill up their car."

Mr Cameron said the coalition had made "very difficult decisions".

"I think we can now say to the British people that the economy is turning the corner," he said.

"We have not solved Labour's debt crisis but we are on the way."

PA

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
i100
Sport
footballLatest scores and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad