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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 October 2006, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Tory tax cuts ruled out?
On Sunday 01 October, Andrew Marr interviewed

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

David Cameron MP
David Cameron MP

ANDREW MARR: ... David Cameron, welcome.

DAVID CAMERON: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Thank you for coming in. Is the honeymoon over?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I don't, I don't ever see it as a sort of honeymoon. You, you get a job, you've got to get on with it, you've got to change your party.

That's what I've been doing these last ten months, getting the Conservatives into the centre ground where we belong on the issues that people care about.

I think we've made good progress. But you know there's a lot more to do.

ANDREW MARR: You talk a lot about the centre ground and you have recently. Are you really a Conservative?

DAVID CAMERON: Yes, absolutely. If I look at a problem I think you know what more - I don't just think what can the government do, I think what more can people do themselves.

What can society do. What can we do before we reach for the levers of regulation and legislation. And that's really I think what this week is going to be about, which is one idea that unites all of the things that the Conservative Party is going to do under my leadership. And that is about giving responsibility to people.

In the Health Service for instance let's have fewer top down targets and let's trust the professionals, the doctors and the nurses who really know how to sort out our hospitals.

ANDREW MARR: Well the Labour Party are already talking about giving the Health Service its own constitution and pushing it right out.

DAVID CAMERON: But look at what they've done over the last nine years.

You know they abolished the internal market in the Health Service, they centralised the Health Service, they put a huge number of top down targets onto the Health Service. When you go and talk now to, to doctors and nurses it's hard to remember a time when they were just more depressed and more put upon.

They talk about the death of discretion in the Health Service. And what we need is a revolution in social responsibility. Giving power to parents, to teachers, to hospital, you know to the people who work in the hospitals and also in local government as well you know. We're far too centralised as a country.


DAVID CAMERON: So let's see some civic responsibility. Let's drive down power to local authorities. So that's a unifying idea.

ANDREW MARR: Everything you've just ..

DAVID CAMERON: All the, all the ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. things that we're going to be doing this week.

ANDREW MARR: Everything you've just said, whatever the, the past record is exactly what Gordon Brown for instance was saying last week in Manchester.

DAVID CAMERON: But you know with Gordon you can, you don't need to look at his crystal ball, you can read it all in his book. This has been a centralising chancellor. This is a chancellor who wants to control things from the Treasury.

ANDREW MARR: Seems to be having second thoughts.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I just don't think that's credible. You know if, if you've been someone who's been handing out targets, handing out instructions, doing policy by press reletion(?) and immediate initiative.

It's simply incredible to think you're suddenly going to be the person that's going to let go.

ANDREW MARR: You launched this fairly extraordinary attack on him this morning in the Sunday Telegraph as kind of weak and awful and all the rest of it ..

DAVID CAMERON: Well no, no I ..

ANDREW MARR: A little bit personal?

DAVID CAMERON: No not at all. I mean I - it was a long interview. And at the end of a long interview I just made some obs... It was an observation of last week.

And, and it was just something that struck me that you know, people, I think of Gordon Brown as a, as a formidable politician which he is, but in the recent weeks he just seems to have been pushed around a lot, that someone's obviously said to him you know you look at ..

ANDREW MARR: So he's both, he's both the kind of ..


ANDREW MARR: .. the kind of great, big, powerful centraliser and weak and feeble?

DAVID CAMERON: Well he keeps saying things that are rather incredible. You know someone's obviously told him "You're, you're being too disloyal to Tony Blair".

So he says "Well Tony will always be my friend" and you know everyone just laughed. You know someone says to him "Oh you've got to show a bit more of your human side" so he says he likes the Arctic Monkeys. And it was just incredible and um so ..

ANDREW MARR: Well he's given up on the Artic Monkeys though ...

DAVID CAMERON: Well that's ... but it's an important point because you know I'm finding this ten months into this job, you've got to stick to your guns. I had a clear view about what the Conservative Party needs to do. You know as you said in your introduction I didn't say vote for me and I'll tell you all the things you want to hear.

I'll give you all the old tunes. I said vote for me and let's change the party. Lots of times I'm told in the newspapers "Oh you're not right wing enough" or you're not this enough or that enough. You've just got to stick to what you think is right.

ANDREW MARR: I suppose the, the toughest thing that people say about you is that you're not clear enough, you're not substantial enough. That it has, there has been an extraordinary change in the Conservative Party's image and the way it sells itself but that there isn't enough ..


ANDREW MARR: .. of substance. Can I ask you, you've got all these policy groups coming up.


ANDREW MARR: About some of your own instincts. For instance on tax which we were talking about. Do you think over all too much of the country's money is taken in tax at the moment?

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah I think taxes have been pushed up too high and I think that it's, you're in danger, you know we've got Gordon Brown's foot pressing on the windpipe of the economy and we're in danger now of having an uncompetitive tax regime and businesses are going to locate in other parts of the world and this is a real danger. But I'm not going to get ..

ANDREW MARR: So you would like to see taxes come down on balance?

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah but I'm not going to be pushed around on this issue of pulling out policies too early in substance.


DAVID CAMERON: I'm just not going to be pushed about on this. I see it like this Andrew ..

ANDREW MARR: ... can I just, can I just interrupt for a second?

DAVID CAMERON: ... let me, no let me explain. ... you didn't interrupt Prime Minister that much. Let me just quickly, quickly explain. We're preparing for government. It's like building a house. You've got to prepare the ground. That's the centre ground. We've moved onto that ground. That's ten months hard work.

Then you've got to have your foundations, that's the idea that links everything together - social responsibility. Then brick by brick you put in place the policies. And I'm not going to rush that because you know substance isn't producing a ten point plan. Substance is getting it right for the long term.

ANDREW MARR: But neither you - sure.

DAVID CAMERON: And you know on this issue of tax I can't say to the British people here are some upfront tax cuts you know which we haven't found how to fund.

That is just ridiculous and, and wrong. What people want to hear is stability comes first because we've all got mortgages and mortgage rates matter more than anything else. Stability comes first.

But over time we will share the proceeds of growth between public spending and tax reduction and if it's possible to reduce those taxes we will. But remember stability comes first. That is absolutely - and those people who say you know I want tax cuts and I want them now, they can't have them.

ANDREW MARR: Well of course you can't give them tax cut now but anyone who builds a house in the end knows the bill's going to come in and ..


ANDREW MARR: .. the money has to be thought about. And what I'm really asking is not the details ..


ANDREW MARR: .. of this tax or that tax or exactly what rates, you know what rate of income tax you want to put in. But your instincts.


ANDREW MARR: Do you think you know over all inheritance tax is a good tax or a bad tax? Do you think over all income tax is too high or too low? Do you think over all corporation tax is too high ... Just your instincts because you're the leader.

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah. No my instincts, I'll tell you my instinct is that inheritance tax is going to become a big problem in this country. As people's house prices have risen more people are going to be paying inheritance tax and more people are going to find a big shock that suddenly they have to hand over you know forty per cent of their money to the tax man rather than leave it to their children.

I think with corporation tax, I think we've got a problem growing because it used to be one of the lowest rates in Europe and the, the advanced world and it's now one of the highest rates. So we've got some problems here. But the difficult thing about politics is you've got to make decisions for the long term good of the country. And stability has to come first. And so it's very important that people know that I'm not going to flash up unfunded tax cuts upfront. Stability comes first. But my instinct which is what you want to know about, my instinct is to share. That as the economy grows, more money comes in, we should share the proceeds of growth between the public spending we need and the competitive tax system that we need.

But I know that takes time so I'm not going to make promises that I can't keep. Because credibility and stability is absolutely vital here. But that's my instincts. And it's different instincts to Labour because you know they haven't shared the proceeds of growth. They've taken all that growth, they've spent all the money, they've wasted a huge amount and they've created a tax system ..

ANDREW MARR: Do you think they've spent too much? Have they spent too much?

DAVID CAMERON: Well they've created, in some areas they've wasted money. You know in my speech today I'll be highlighting a lot of areas where they're wasting money. Let's take ID cards, let's ...

ANDREW MARR: So you would like, sorry, you'd like to be able ..


ANDREW MARR: We can't, we can't talk about what the economy's going to be like by the time of the next election.


ANDREW MARR: But you would like to go into that election saying that we will cut taxes?

DAVID CAMERON: No. I'm going to go into that election saying three things. Stability comes first. People's mortgage rates ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. matter the most. The second thing is no unfunded upfront tax cuts. We won't be making promises that we can't keep. Third thing, we will share the proceeds of growth. As the money comes into the economy, as the money grows, we'll share the proceeds between public spending and giving us a competitive tax system. That I think is moderate, sensible, reasonable way of going about economic policy.

ANDREW MARR: So what, what do you say to all of those in your party, from the, the Centre for Policy Studies ..


ANDREW MARR: .. to individual MPs, indeed to your Tax Commission under Lord Forsythe, which is talking about nineteen billion pounds of cuts to be made in public spending. They say this is money that could come out without damaging front line health and education in order to fund tax cuts.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I say to them there's some very useful going, work going on about how we simplify the tax system. You know under Gordon Brown as chancellor the tax guide has doubled in size. You know it is much more difficult to fill in your tax return, to pay your taxes.

Taxes have become incredibly complicated. So the work that's being done, advising the Conservative Party on how to simplify taxes, that's very useful work. But I would say to those people there won't be upfront unfunded promises of tax cuts in a Conservative Manifesto because stability is going to come first.

ANDREW MARR: Because I guess Lord Forsythe and I'm sure in due course he'll speak for himself, would say this is not an unfunded tax cut in any sense. I will show you, and it can be demonstrated that he has nineteen billion quid of our money that's being wasted and can be handed back in these tax cuts.

DAVID CAMERON: Well let's ..

ANDREW MARR: Nothing unfunded about it.

DAVID CAMERON: .. we'll have to wait and see what the report says. But I think I've made - you know people say you've got to make some tough choices on tax. I've made the tough choices. Stability comes first in front of tax cuts, something that the whole party's now voted on. I've said we'll share the proceeds of growth, the sensible approach, different to the government.

The tough choice has been made. And there are some people who, when they say they want more substance, what they mean is they want the old policies back. Well they can't have them. You know we've fought elections before on upfront, unfunded tax cuts. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going down that path. So that's not substance either. Substance is clearing the ground, building very patiently, getting it right for the long term, not being pushed about, showing some character and some judgment. That's what real substance is about.

ANDREW MARR: If there's one thing that you have made more your own than anything else it's environmentalism. So can you say that when you come to a tax policy people will have to pay more for great big gas guzzling four by fours, will have to pay more for this relentless growth in air travel?

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah. One of the things we've said quite clearly in tax policies, we think the share of taxes taken by green taxes which is things like taxes on the gas guzzlers or what have you. We think the share taken by green taxes should go up. George Osborne as my Shadow Chancellor's made that very clear.

And I think that's, that's right. You start showing the direction and then over time maybe we can look at the individual elements and give more detail. But you know trying to write a two thousand and nine budget in two thousand and six, that's not substance, that's just stupid.

ANDREW MARR: Tony Blair in his speech last week said that for instance on the issue of nuclear power stations ..


ANDREW MARR: .. you really couldn't sit on the fence. The decision had to be taken now or we will be dependent on eighty per cent imported oil and gas which will be an unacceptable and dangerous situation in twenty years time. And you can't just keep putting it off. You have to take the decision.

DAVID CAMERON: It was, it was classic Blair, classic Blair. He says "We must have nuclear power stations. We must have them now". He's actually, he's done nothing about it.

He hasn't changed the planning system to make it possible. He hasn't said what we should do with nuclear waste which still hasn't been solved. But he makes these grand eloquent statements. And then he attacks me ...

ANDREW MARR: All that said, what about you ...?

DAVID CAMERON: I'll tell you what my policy is. Very, very clear. Let's clear away the regulations and the restrictions that stop the green energy sources really having a go at the market, so wind power, wave power, solar power, geo-thermal. All of those technologies. Let's open up the market and give green energy a chance.

ANDREW MARR: But you don't ..

DAVID CAMERON: Hang on, hang on.

ANDREW MARR: .. really think it's going to become big do you?

DAVID CAMERON: Yes, oh huge.

ANDREW MARR: As a proportion?

DAVID CAMERON: I think it could become huge.


DAVID CAMERON: But well, let, let - give green energy the chance and then have nuclear there as a last resort. So yes we're going to need to change the planning system. We're going to need to put those changes through so nuclear can be there.

But let's not reach for the nuclear button of a new range of nuclear power stations before we've even worked out what to do with the waste from the old ones until we've given green energy a chance. I think my policy, green energy first, nuclear as a last resort, is absolutely right. Whereas the prime minister's grand eloquent statements but actually do nothing about it is typical Blair. And it's, he goes round and round in circles.

ANDREW MARR: But it's, but, but if we're, if, if we were going to avoid being entirely dependent on imported oil and gas, virtually every single house in the country, every park, every playing field would have to be covered with wind turbines. You do need some kind of replacement.

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah. You see ..

ANDREW MARR: Nuclear is the obvious one. And simply saying we'll take a decision some other time isn't enough.

DAVID CAMERON: No I think, I think this is one of the great differences if you like between Labour and Conservative. Labour think the answer to problems is a minister sitting in Whitehall pointing at an outcome, pointing at a technology and saying "We must have nuclear". That's the wrong approach. What we should do is set the framework. Government should say this is what we need to do in terms of reducing carbon emissions. This is what we should do in terms of security of supply.

And then you let the industry, the providers come forward and provide. I don't know and you don't know what wind power can provide or wave power or solar power. We're not um economists or, or business men. You know we're, I'm a politician, you're a commentator. But we should set the framework and let the industry come up with the answers. Rather than pretend that we know the answers from Whitehall which we don't.

ANDREW MARR: Is, is there a single ..

DAVID CAMERON: It's a good example of how Conservatives believe in devolving responsibility and trusting people and Labour believe in, in state control from the top.

ANDREW MARR: Is there a single example of something unpopular that you're prepared to say to the British voters, not to your party, you would do when you come into power. Or is it all soft and popular?

DAVID CAMERON: No. I've, I've, you know I've said lots of unpopular things. I, I think that what our troops are doing in Afghanistan is absolutely vital and if necessary I would be reinforcing them and helping making sure they've got the equipment they need and I wouldn't be bringing them home any time ...

ANDREW MARR: So when the papers say this is our Vietnam you don't agree with them?

DAVID CAMERON: I think it's a really tough job they're doing. I've been to Afghanistan, I've met our troops in Helman Province. I went out to Camp Bastian. I met some incredibly brave young men and women who are doing brilliant things out there, trying to help that country rebuild itself.

And it is tough, it is difficult. And the loss of life is tragic. But we've got to get it right. If we leave, if we let the Taliban take over, we can create, we will create another cocktail, another hotbed of terrorism. That is bad not just for Afghanistan but bad for the world. Bad for us here in, in the United Kingdom. So that is something ..

ANDREW MARR: They want more, they want more troops in Afghanistan of course the army don't they? And ..

DAVID CAMERON: If necessary.

ANDREW MARR: ... have asked for them to come from Iraq. Would, would you have gone ahead with that?

DAVID CAMERON: I think what the government should have done, and I said this when I came back from Afghanistan, they should have launched an immediate tour of NATO countries in order to get the maximum amount of equipment that's needed in Afghanistan. When you talk to the soldiers out there they are worried about the shortage of helicopters.

You know it's vital to have that mobility. And transport planes and other equipment. And I think the, I think the government could have done more. If they were spending a little bit time, more time thinking about Afghanistan rather than thinking about who takes over from Blair they'd actually be getting round those NATO countries and talking to our allies and trying to get ..

ANDREW MARR: (Inaudible)

DAVID CAMERON: .. more assets out there yeah.

ANDREW MARR: Well they say they're trying. Prime Minister Cameron what difference would people see in policy towards Iraq?

DAVID CAMERON: I, I think that in Iraq what we've got to do is actually quite straightforward. We've got to train up the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police force. We've got to help the government of that country bring order and stability. And then we need to bring the troops back home. But I don't, I don't seek to find division and difference from the government where actually we should all be acting in the national interest.

ANDREW MARR: So people out there won't see much of a difference if the Conservatives come in?

DAVID CAMERON: I don't think they will. I think it would be wrong to try and pretend - look if we brought the troops home from Iraq now we might get a good headline for a day, but that country would descend into chaos. We'll do it - while the Iraqi elected government want us to be there, to help bring order and stability, it's a difficult job but we have to do it. And I, I think it's really important this.

People should know that yes I'm the leader of the Opposition. I do attack the government. I do call them to account. I try and defeat things I think are crazy like ID cards. But actually on things where the national interest is at stake, where we should work together for the good of the country, I believe in the bit of the Opposition that says it's the loyal Opposition.

ANDREW MARR: Do you want to cut the number of MPs?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I asked Kenneth Clarke who's running my Democracy Taskforce to look at this. Because I think if you ask people about politicians, I think they'd say there are too many of you, you cost too much money, you give jobs to other politicians, you feather your own nests and I don't trust the political system. And you know we've got to try and restore some trust in politics.

And so I've said to, to Kenneth can you look at all of these issues and work out whether we can correct each one. Not big statements about whiter than white or purer than pure. All political systems have problems. But let's look at the size of the House of Commons. Can we cut the cost of politics. Let's stop MPs ever voting on their pay and conditions again.

ANDREW MARR: So we could, we could have fewer MPs?

DAVID CAMERON: Yes we could.

ANDREW MARR: You could have fewer MPs?

DAVID CAMERON: ... and also, but more importantly I think, let's stop this practice of MPs ever voting on their pay and conditions. Let them hand it over to someone else in a statutory way so that can't happen in the future. Let's cut the number of special advisors. There's a huge amount of political chums being given jobs in Whitehall. That's just wrong. There are twice as many ..

ANDREW MARR: Now this ...

DAVID CAMERON: .. as there used to be ..

ANDREW MARR: .. this sounds ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. ten years ago.

ANDREW MARR: A lot of people will find that very, very attractive indeed. But when you talk about ..

DAVID CAMERON: And substantial I suspect as well.

ANDREW MARR: When, when you talk about whiter than white up in, up in the West Midlands, Coleshill Miller, you've, Manor, you've got a big operation out there to target marginal constituencies and help Conservative constituencies win the next election.


ANDREW MARR: It's not part of the Conservative Party as such and therefore it's off the books. Is that right?

DAVID CAMERON: Well no, what, at Coleshill there's an organisation which is effectively part of the Conservative Party that prints and publishes leaflets and helps candidates in, in ...

ANDREW MARR: But it doesn't come under any of the, any of the normal funding arrangements because you've put it to one side.

DAVID CAMERON: Well no, I don't think that's actually the case. There is this organisation which I think you're sort of alluding to which is the Midlands Industrial Council which is an organisation that raises money from business people, and where those people are specifically giving money to the Conservative Party they declare it in the right way. The Midlands Industrial Council ..

ANDREW MARR: But do you know the ones who are putting money into the Midlands Industrial Council?

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah, yeah I ..

ANDREW MARR: You know everybody do you?

DAVID CAMERON: Yes I've met these people. Where they give the money specifically to the Conservative Party they declare it. The Midlands Industrial Council also gives money to other think tanks and other organisations. But let me tell you Andrew what I'm going to do about this.

I'm the only party leader that's come up with a substantial, sensible, thought through package about how we clean up the funding for politics in this country. And at the heart of it is let's have a limit on donations. I've said fifty thousand pounds. That should apply to companies, to unions, to individuals, to the Midlands Industrial Council ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. and everybody else ..


DAVID CAMERON: And let me tell you why. Because we've got to get away from this idea that rich people and rich unions and rich businesses can somehow buy influence in political parties. Let's get rid of that. Now you can't do it without a limit on donations.

ANDREW MARR: If you mean that ..

DAVID CAMERON: And the government should have the courage to come forward with a proposal like that and I would help them put it in place. But they won't because they want to stay stuck with the unions.

ANDREW MARR: And if you mean that how could it be right for people to pay fifty thousand pounds to come and have dinner with you?

DAVID CAMERON: But that's ridiculous argument Andrew. There are, there, I'm trying to broaden the base of the Conservative Party. Many people give hundreds of pounds.

Some people give thousands of pounds. And I have dinner with all of them. I spend quite a lot of my time fundraising for the Conservative Party because we need money to, to run an election and to be an effective opposition.

ANDREW MARR: But if ...

DAVID CAMERON: And the more we can do that the less we'll be reliant on, on state funding ...

ANDREW MARR: But if I'm some kind of slightly dodgy guy and I would like to influence Conservative Party policy I can pony up fifty thousand quid and sit and have a lot of face time over something, some attractive menu with you. That cannot be right. You can't be happy with that.

DAVID CAMERON: No. But that's not the way it works at all. We raise money from lots of people. We try to make sure always that it's reasonable people giving the money to the Conservative Party. It's important parties do fund raise. And we ought to actually say that you know giving money to a political party is a good thing.

Part... democracies need political parties to work. And as I say one of my jobs is to help raise money for the Conservative Party. I have to do that otherwise we wouldn't have any money. We couldn't put up candidates.

ANDREW MARR: Okay. Okay. Tony, Tony Blair is, is on his way out. Now that he's going can you be generous about him? He was generous about Margaret Thatcher.

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah I think I've always been quite generous about him. You know he did a fantastic job changing his party. This country is much better off that the Labour Party no longer believes in nationalising industries and handing over huge power to the trade unions.

ANDREW MARR: It's, it's grown ..

DAVID CAMERON: That's a good, that's a good thing, you know. It's good that all the main parties support a free market economy and a parliamentary democracy and the Atlantic Alliance and that's good that we agree about those things.

ANDREW MARR: And it's not just, it's not just that the Labour Party has been changed, the country itself has been changed a bit hasn't it?


ANDREW MARR: The country itself is better off under the, after the Blair years?

DAVID CAMERON: I think this is a very important point, that I've been saying to my own party and to people who vote Conservative is that, that, that the electorate want us to understand all the things that have happened in the last decade, good and bad.

And they want us to keep the good things. They don't want us to turn the clock back to nineteen ninety seven. I don't want to do that. Let's keep the good things. You know independence for the Bank Of England, a good move. It's helped entrench stability. We'll keep it, in fact we'll try and enhance it. You know the minimum wage.

I think the Conservative Party, we got it wrong about that. We should be frank about that. We should keep the minimum wage and where possible up rate it. So there are good things that have happened in the last ten years but there are also a lot of bad things. There's been far too much top down control, far too much centralisation. That's what we need to change. Let's give some power to the people. That's what this week is all about.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Good sound bite at the end. David Cameron ..


ANDREW MARR: .. thank you very much indeed.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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