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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Tories seek to focus on families
David and Samantha Cameron out shopping with their children
David Cameron: Shopping with his family at the weekend
Parents of children of all ages should be able to ask to work flexible hours, says Conservative leader David Cameron.

Employers already have to consider requests from parents with children under six for family friendly hours.

Speaking at his party's conference, Mr Cameron said his party should not "bang on" about issues like Europe.

But one senior backbencher warned that people would turn to UKIP and the BNP if the Tories did not say enough about Europe, immigration and tax cuts.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the public accounts committee, said: "You can't just assume that your traditional voters will remain on your side."

And another MP, Philip Davies, said he and a growing number of his parliamentary colleagues wanted Britain to leave the European Union.

In other developments at the conference:

  • Boris Johnson took a swipe at Jamie Oliver's school dinners campaign saying the pressure on children to eat healthy food is "too much"

  • David Cameron brushed off complaints that shadow chancellor George Osborne appeared to suggest Gordon Brown was "faintly autistic" - he said his friend had never used the word autistic

  • Mr Osborne told the conference he would not give in to demands for up-front promises of tax cuts

  • Defence Secretary Liam Fox warned that the UK should not underestimate the security threat posed by Russia.

Critics accuse Mr Cameron of being a policy-free zone but on the third day of the conference in Bournemouth he said he would be delighted if Labour called a snap election.

Surely we must have learnt from three election defeats this simple truth: we must win the argument on the economy.
George Osborne
Shadow chancellor

He argued he could ask his policy groups to report their progress immediately if the Tories did form a government.

Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme his party had talked to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) about his plans to allow more people to ask to work flexible hours.

"I think it will help people have a better work-life balance, that's really important - that's the centre ground for me, it's the issues people care about in their lives," he said.

Tory officials also say the party is looking at creating a transferable tax allowance worth about 2,000 which parents who stay at home can pass to their working partner.

'No cash for access'

The Tory leader also rejected criticisms claims that wealthy businessmen can offer money to get talks with him.

Businessmen have reportedly pledged to pay up to 50,000 each, and to make a similar annual donation for the next three to five years, in order to join the Conservative "Leader's Club".

Membership apparently guarantees them a private conversation with Mr Cameron, who said suggestions of "cash for access" were "ridiculous".

The Conservatives need to concentrate on long term solutions to solve this country's problems
Eileen, Brentwood

He said he spent a lot of time helping with fundraising in all sorts of ways and people who had given no money at all could get the chance to talk to him at the party conference.

Mr Cameron said he had produced a packaged to "clean up politics" by shaking up the way parties are funded and introducing donation limits.

He was also pressed on reports that the Tories had saved 625,000 in tax by selling Conservative Central Office to an offshore company.

He said he did not deal with the party's day-to-day finances. He said the Tories had bought the building next to Central Office from an offshore trust.

Mr Osborne used his speech to warn against making tax-cut pledges which could damage the party's election chances.

He said he wanted lower taxes to help Britain compete but he argued: "Surely we must have learnt from three election defeats this simple truth: we must win the argument on the economy.

"We will never do that if people believe that our tax policy comes at the expense of their public services."

George Osborne delivers his views on tax to delegates

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