I'll name date for EU referendum on my first day, says Howard

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Indy Politics

Michael Howard has published the Conservative election manifesto with a diary of action for a Tory cabinet in his first month as prime minister. Within 24 hours of taking office, Mr Howard would set out a date for a referendum on the proposed European constitution in which his cabinet would campaign for a "no" vote. Britain would not join the European single currency.

Michael Howard has published the Conservative election manifesto with a diary of action for a Tory cabinet in his first month as prime minister. Within 24 hours of taking office, Mr Howard would set out a date for a referendum on the proposed European constitution in which his cabinet would campaign for a "no" vote. Britain would not join the European single currency.

School discipline would also be tackled within the first day. The manifesto says that within the first day of taking office, Tim Collins, the next Tory secretary of state for education, would set out plans to empower headteachers to expel disruptive pupils.

Within the first month, Oliver Letwin, as the Conservative chancellor, would lower taxes. In his first Budget, Mr Letwin would "cut wasteful government spending, and stop Labour's third-term tax rises".

New immigration controls would be introduced in the first month by David Davis, the Tory home secretary, with 24-hour surveillance at ports of entry. Mr Davis would also start recruiting an extra 5,000 police officers within a year. Andrew Lansley, the Tory health secretary, would tackle the hospital superbug, MRSA, within the first month, by "bringing back matron to take charge and deliver clean and infection-free hospitals".

The manifesto is one of the slimmest on record, stripped of much of the usual policy detail,and there was no photograph of Mr Howard on the front. Instead, it bears a stark black-and-white hand-written list of what Mr Howard called "the simple longings of the British people": more police, cleaner hospitals, lower taxes, school discipline, controlled immigration, and accountability.

VALUE FOR MONEY AND LOWER TAXES

A Tory government would "live within its means", matching Labour spending plans on the NHS, schools, transport and foreign aid with more on police, defence and pensions. But spending would be 1 per cent less overall per year.

It promises savings of £12bn a year by 2007-08 from cutting bureaucracy and quangos, freezing civil service hiring, cutting borrowing by £8bn and taxes by £4bn. The state pension would be raised in line with earnings and householders aged 65 and over would be given a council tax discount of up to £500.

FLEXIBLE CHILDCARE AND SCHOOL DISCIPLINE

Student fees would be scrapped and parents could send their children free to any independent school that offers a place at no more than the cost of a state-funded school. Schools would get an extra £15bn a year by 2009-10, and allowed to set their own priorities and budgets. Heads and governors would be given "full control" of admissions and expulsions, with unruly pupils placed in "Turnaround Schools".

An additional 600,000 school places would be provided over five years to allow 100,000 more parents to get their child into their first-choice school.

BETTER HEALTHCARE AND CLEANER HOSPITALS

NHS spending would increase by £34bn, matching Labour, as well as centrally set targets and bureaucratic bodies being scrapped and frontline staff given more powers.

Patients who choose to go private would have half the cost of the same treatment on the NHS paid by the taxpayer.

SAFER COMMUNITIES AND MORE POLICE

Five thousand new police officers would be recruited each year and paperwork would be slashed, an extra 20,000 prison places would be created, early-release schemes scrapped and drug rehabilitation places increased tenfold. Cannabis would be changed back to a class B drug and a homeland security minister would co-ordinate anti-terrorist action.

SECURED BORDERS AND CONTROLLED IMMIGRATION

An Australian-style points system for immigration would be introduced with Parliament setting a cap on numbers.

A border security force would patrol ports 24 hours a day. Britain would take, from the UN, only a fixed number of asylum-seekers whose cases would be processed "outside Britain".

ACCOUNTABILITY

Regional assemblies would be scrapped and powers returned to town halls, the number of MPs cut by 20 per cent and a deal sought for a "substantially elected House of Lords". Local councils would be given powers to deal with illegal traveller encampments, the right-to-buy scheme will be extended to housing associations and the use of speed cameras will be reviewed.

DEFENDING OUR FREEDOMS

A referendum on the EU constitution would be held within six months, Britain would not join the euro, an opt-out from the EU's social chapter would be restored and fishing policy taken back.

Frontline defence spending would be £2.7bn higher than Labour's plans outline and warships and historic regiments would be saved.

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