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

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The infrastructure, support services and const...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border