Tory Party Conference: David Cameron says Labour's tax policy would drive businesses out of Britain

Prime Minister also says he would look at state backing for niqab bans and consider pulling out of the ECHR, as well as defending his backing of gay marriage

Whitehall Editor

David Cameron today branded Labour’s taxation policy as “nuts” warning it would drive business out of Britain and hamper the economic recovery.

In a direct appeal to the former New Labour centre ground Mr Cameron said he wanted the Tories to be the party both of “enterprise and good public services”.

He confirmed that the Government would bring forward its ‘Help to Buy scheme’ saying he was not prepared to “stand back” while people could not afford to get on the housing ladder.

However he ruled out a future Conservative Government ever introducing a ‘mansion tax’ - as advocated by both the Labour and Liberal Democrats.

He such as tax was “not a good idea” for a country that wanted to “attract wealth creation” and “reward saving”.

In an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme at the start of the Conservative conference in Manchester Mr Cameron also said:

• The Government would “look” at whether the state needed to do more to back up schools, hospitals and courts which choose to implement a ban on face-coverings such as the niqab veil.

• Hinted that a future Conservative Government might pull Britain out of the European Court of Human Rights. “It maybe that is where we end up”, he said.

• Defended his backing for gay marriage legislation but admitted he had been unprepared for the right wing backlash it caused.

Mr Cameron used the interview to draw dividing lines between himself and Ed Miliband and appeal to centre ground voters who previously backed new Labour.

He said that Labour should not be “bashing business” and warned Labour’s plan to increase corporation tax would cost Britain jobs and put the economic recovery at risk.

“I think when you take his approach as a whole it’s anti-business, it’s anti-enterprise, it’s saying to companies that are investing in Britain ‘I’m going to put up your taxes, take your  jobs somewhere else’,” he said.

“It is nuts, frankly, to put up corporation tax. You know, Jaguar Land Rover is now making world beating cars, selling them all over the world. And Ed Miliband wants to put up their taxes.”

Mr Cameron also attacked Labour’s plan to freeze energy prices, and said the Government needed to “tackle the disease” rather than just the “symptoms” of the cost of living crisis.

“We need to look at the things that are causing the energy prices to rise, rather than just look at the symptoms.  

“I want low prices not just for 20 months, I want them for 20 years. So what we need to do is go to the reason why these prices are going up in the first place. We’ve got to make these markets more competitive, we’ve got to make sure companies behave properly, we’ve got to get people on the lowest tariff, we’re legislating for that, we’ve got to look at the subsidies.

"There are six big energy companies competing with each other, which is better than what we used to have in the past. But do we want to make the market more competitive? Absolutely.”

On the issue of face coverings Mr Cameron said he did not believe there should be a ban on wearing the niqab - which conceals the whole face - in the streets.

But he made clear he was “happy” to look at the issue of whether the state needed to do more to back up institutions which choose to implement a ban.

“We are a free country and people should be free to wear whatever clothes they like in public or in private,” he said.

“But we should support those institutions that need to put in place rules so that those institutions can work properly.

“So for instance in a school, if they want that particular dress code, I believe the Government should back them. The same for courts, the same for immigration.

“I think we should back those institutions that want to have sensible policies that actually have a particular purpose.”

Asked if he would respond to a judge's suggestion that there should be national guidelines on the wearing of the niqab in court, Mr Cameron said: “I'm very happy to look at that.

"Obviously, in court the jury needs to be able to look at someone's face. I've sat on a jury, that's part of what you do.

“When someone is coming into the country, an immigration officer needs to see someone's face.

"In a school, it's very difficult to teach unless you can look at your pupils in the eye.

“It's a free country and I think a free country should have free and independent institutions. No plans for anything on the street, but if the Government needs to do more to back up institutions, then I would be happy to look at that.”

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