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Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 11:27 UK

'We are there for you'

On Sunday 27 April Andrew Marr interviewed David Cameron MP

David Cameron says the Tories will stand up for the poor.

David Cameron MP... Jeff Overs/BBC
David Cameron MP

ANDREW MARR: Welcome.

DAVID CAMERON: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Has a tipping point happened? Do you now feel that you are preparing for government?

DAVID CAMERON: I feel we are preparing for government. That's what an Opposition ought to do. And that is what we will spend our time thinking about.

ANDREW MARR: But in a different way than perhaps ..

DAVID CAMERON: I ..

ANDREW MARR: .. a few months ago?

DAVID CAMERON: I think you can always read polls and local elections, whatever, in different ways.

I just focus on the job which is getting the Conservative Party united, getting our policies right, preparing for government, trying to make sure we can really offer people a better alternative than what they've had for the last ten years and certainly what they've had for the last year. That's what I'm focused on.

So tipping points and all that I leave to, to others. I focus on making sure we'd be a good government.

ANDREW MARR: And yet of course from your point of view when it happens is incredibly important in terms of how prepared you are for that moment. Do you think there is a kind of meltdown?

I mean in politics, when things go wrong, as you remember back in the nineties, it tends to accelerate faster than everybody thinks. Do you think you're on course for an early election or do you think you're really thinking about twenty ten?

DAVID CAMERON: I, I, I'm not a mind reader. I suspect that if we do well and if we're ahead the election will be put off and people will have to wait longer for the changes they want.

I think something did change last week which is I think people on low pay, families who struggle often to make ends meet, who are seeing the cost of living rising and they're seeing their tax bill go up from Labour, I think those people who often thought you know the Labour Party's for me, I think they feel desperately let down. And what I want to say to people like that is that you know we are there for you. I will try and keep your taxes down.

I'll, if you do the right thing and save I will try and help you. I'll make sure the benefits system you know pays couples to stay together rather than to separate. We'll try and give you the good school that you ought to have. I think those people have been let down by Labour and ..

ANDREW MARR: Yeah ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. those are the people actually I want to stand up for.

ANDREW MARR: And yet your specific tax promises thus far have been aimed at the better off.

DAVID CAMERON: Well what we haven't made - uncosted, unfunded tax pledges. We've - I think that's very important.

Because if you look at the over all state of the government's finances the cupboard is bare. So any tax we have said we would cut has been offset by another we would rise, raise. I think that's terribly important.

And some people have attacked me for that and said why not be more generous and more effusive about tax cuts. To which I say look, the cupboard is bare. We're going to inherit a very tough economy. There is not going to be some giant pot of money we can dip into.

ANDREW MARR: Is that ..

DAVID CAMERON: And that's why you know prudence coming first, stability coming before tax cuts. Making sure people understand we would not take any risks with the nation's finances.

And we would make sure that everything that could be done to keep interest rates low and... mortgage rates low would be done. That is - I think we've been vindicated over that decision.

ANDREW MARR: She's a flighty old bird Prudence. She was alongside Gordon Brown and now she's ..

DAVID CAMERON: Well ..

ANDREW MARR: .. she's sitting beside you.

DAVID CAMERON: But tragically she wasn't. As we see we've now got the biggest budget deficit apart from Pakistan and Egypt and Hungary.

ANDREW MARR: What I still don't understand, I think a lot of people don't, is really how you're going to play this three card trick on borrowing, taxes and spending. Because you have been saying that taxes are going to go down. I mean you, George Osborne was saying it ..

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. again the other day, on the one hand. You are committed to pretty historically high levels of spending and increasing levels of spending pretty much across the piece. And yet you complain that borrowing is too high. Something has to give.

DAVID CAMERON: Let me, let me - I saw George trying to, explain this. Let me try and have a go. Very straightforward. The most important thing is public spending. That if, you know never believe a politician about tax or about borrowing unless they are prepared to take tough decisions about public spending. And what we've said ..

ANDREW MARR: So what I'm asking is where are those tough decisions?

DAVID CAMERON: What we've said is the rate of growth of public spending should be below the growth of the rate, growth rate of the economy as a whole.

In that way, as the economy grows, as money comes into the Exchequer, you can use some of that money for extra public spending, but low real terms increases, and some of the money you can use to reduce debt and reduce taxes.

ANDREW MARR: Right. Can I just stop you there?

DAVID CAMERON: But it will take time, you know. Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: Stop you there because you've at least implied that the armed forces are going to be treated more generously given what they're having to do. You've talked about building more prisons.

You said you were going to maintain the rate of spending on health and education. And although you talk about tough decisions in public spending, a lot of people say yeah, but where are they? Where, where are you going to squeeze?

DAVID CAMERON: Well there's a huge amount of waste which we must cut out you know. All, the whole region ..

ANDREW MARR: Everyone talks about waste all the time.

DAVID CAMERON: Yes but I think we have seen waste on a massive scale under this government. And I'm convinced that we can do better. And that's why you know I'm setting up a separate implementation unit under Frances Moore to look at issues of waste and spending and how we can be a more efficient government. I think that is true.

But I haven't sat here or in any other interview studio and said that under a Conservative government money will be doled out liberally, that everyone will be able to you know do easy choices. You can't. You know I'm talking ..

ANDREW MARR: But at the same time you haven't said where you are going to take some tough decisions. That's why people are still a little suspicious.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think, I don't agree with that. We have said, made tough decisions by saying look, we're not going to produce the unfunded tax cuts you've heard from Conservative leaders in the past.

You know we are going to have a responsible growth for public spending over many, many years and that will have to be maintained so we can get the debt and the taxes down. And also we're often criticised ..

ANDREW MARR: Well you have committed yourself ..

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. to extra spending in some of the areas that I've raised just now. And yet you want taxes to go down as well.

DAVID CAMERON: Well what, what we've, what we said Andrew is that the government who, which has been spending money very liberally and has really not been prudent at all, they have now adopted for the next three years real term spending increases of two per cent, two per cent, two per cent. That is sharing the proceeds of growth. That is modest spending. And we've said that is the pattern of spending ..

ANDREW MARR: So you'd do the same.

DAVID CAMERON: .. we would adopt. And, and you've got to have a long term, you've got to agree to do that over the long term. Had we done that over the last ten years we'd not be in the mess that we're in now.

We could have had lower tax rates. We could have had less borrowing. We could have had a government which at a time of economic down turn like in America, like in Sweden, like all over Europe said right we've been responsible ..

ANDREW MARR: Though at the time ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. therefore we can use ..

ANDREW MARR: Yeah.

DAVID CAMERON: .. some of the additional money we have to try and ease the burden. And yet what have we got in this country?

We've got a government that at a time when the shopping bill's gone up, when it costs more to fill up your car, that's singled out people who were poor and in work and thumped them with an extra tax bill.

ANDREW MARR: Would you return to the 10p tax rate?

DAVID CAMERON: We'll set out our tax plans at the next election and we'll have it ...

ANDREW MARR: But if you can't say that ..

DAVID CAMERON: Well I can't write a ...

ANDREW MARR: .. doesn't your attack on the government over this lack some credibility?

DAVID CAMERON: I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what Andrew, I would not sanction a budget as a prime minister, I would not sanction a budget that singled out the working poor for a tax increase at a time when everyone else was either left alone or getting a bit of help.

That, I can remember budgets when you know times were good and it was possible to cut taxes for everyone. And I remember budgets when times were tough and everyone had to pay more tax. I cannot remember ..

ANDREW MARR: Sure.

DAVID CAMERON: .. a budget that singled out some of the poorest working people in Britain and thumped them. And that's what was so disgraceful ..

ANDREW MARR: Right. Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: .. about what the government was doing.

ANDREW MARR: But we are where we are. And if you're looking ahead from here on over all spending, on the proportion of spending the state takes on over all taxation and therefore on borrowing you would be in just the same place as the Labour government you attack so vigorously week after week if you were in power tomorrow.

DAVID CAMERON: I don't think that is the case because (clears throat) excuse me, what we have said is that over an economic cycle we think the share of national income taken by the state should reduce.

Now that is a, if you like that is an additional rule in how we approach these things. And that means that over an economic cycle you have to either reduce taxes or reduce borrowing or a combination of ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay. So there will be a squeeze but you can't tell me where.

DAVID CAMERON: ... it is, if you like it is, it is a straitjacket. It is a tough situation you're putting yourself in. But I think the lesson of the last decade is that you do need tough rules like that.

I mean I would say you know the one success of the government, independence of the Bank of England, was actually giving someone else the decision, a tough decision about interest rates. And that's been good. And we should look at that in terms of fiscal policy, tax and spending. That's why we say you know the ..

ANDREW MARR: I'll just come back to the point.

DAVID CAMERON: Okay.

ANDREW MARR: That for a lot of, a lot of, probably your natural supporters as well as other people listening, the fact that you're not prepared ever to say where you would squeeze particularly makes them suspicious. That it's, it's, it's all at the level of generalities, something for everyone.

DAVID CAMERON: Well it isn't. I've said you know ..

ANDREW MARR: You talk about tough ..

DAVID CAMERON: Well for inst... ... I've said, I've said for instance you know, no more MPs setting their own pay. No more pension, no more gold plated pensions for new MPs. I've said scrap ..

ANDREW MARR: But that's tiny. Come on that's tiny.

DAVID CAMERON: .. all the - yeah, no. But actually starting with yourself isn't a bad thing.

ANDREW MARR: Sure.

DAVID CAMERON: You're actually starting by saying let's cut the cost of politics you know. That is something actually we could start with to clean out the stables and say look this is all ..

ANDREW MARR: Popular. But you say yourself. It's, you know yourself, this is miniscule compared with over all public spending.

DAVID CAMERON: Yes. I know. But you said we're not prepared to take tough decisions. Actually I have. I've taken tough decisions with my own party. I'm the one party leader who said right we're going to publish all our expenses and allowances you know starting this year. That is tough. And I think there is a huge amount of waste we can cut out. And over all is spending is growing at the two percent, it will involve tough decisions at every level.

ANDREW MARR: If you win power before too long you're probably going to inherit an economy in, in some trouble. Alistair Darling seemed to be pretty worried about how badly things were going when I spoke to him last week. What is your view about how serious this is?

DAVID CAMERON: I think we are facing difficulties. We haven't forecast recession. We haven't, you know, I'm very, I always think leaders of the Opposition have to be careful not to you know talk down the economy. You know there are some, there are some strong fundamentals in the British economy and we should celebrate those and point them out.

And so I think we are facing a down turn. Cleary things are looking much tighter. If you talk to retailers - I have recently - you talk to banks, they're facing difficult times. What we need is a government that can be on their side rather than on their back by hitting them with higher taxes. And that means this path that spending growth which is you know got to be tough and tight.

And it also means looking at some of the causes of the problems we're in. And one of them is undoubtedly that bank lending has been incredibly free and we do need to look at the so called Basel rules, the Basel rules in terms of what banks can lend. And make sure we really are including all the different sorts of banks and all the different sorts of assets so we can try and avoid ..

ANDREW MARR: New rules on credit. New rules on borrowing.

DAVID CAMERON: I think that's, I think that's right. I mean I sat - yeah.

ANDREW MARR: Related, sorry, related to this ..

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. is the question you've raised about inflation. Do you think inflation is really at the, at the level the government says, the two point five per cent? Or do you think its really higher?

DAVID CAMERON: It's undoubtedly true, if you talk to you know families going shopping, filling up the car, you know the cost of living rises people are facing are way higher than the official inflation rate. There's no doubt that ..

ANDREW MARR: What do you think the real inflation rate is then?

DAVID CAMERON: I can't put a number on it. I can just tell you that you know the last time I filled up the car and it was one pound twenty one for a litre of diesel I mean that meant the whole tank cost me ten quid more ..

ANDREW MARR: Yeah.

DAVID CAMERON: .. than the last time I can remember filling it up.

ANDREW MARR: Does that mean interest rates should really be higher than they are at the moment?

DAVID CAMERON: No. I think there is a, I think there is a - look, I think we need to show and politicians need to show a proper understanding of the cost of living rises that families are facing. And that's why we need a government that isn't whacking up the taxes for the low paid. But I don't think it necessarily follows ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: .. that we should ask the Bank of England to target a different inflation rate.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: I think that's quite an important point.

ANDREW MARR: Grangemouth. Everybody's very worried about ..

DAVID CAMERON: Yes.

ANDREW MARR: .. the situation there. If you were in government would you intervene? Do you think this government should be intervening?

DAVID CAMERON: I think they should be encouraging the management and the unions to talk to each other and to talk to each other urgently. But I think there's another task for government which is actually to stand back and ask some pretty serious questions about the robustness of our national infrastructure.

I think the thing that will have worried many people is this is not just a refinery that is potentially going to be shut down by a strike but it actually ..

ANDREW MARR: Yeah.

DAVID CAMERON: .. shuts off a huge amount of oil production.

ANDREW MARR: It clearly does.

DAVID CAMERON: And so we should be asking ourselves right, is our national infrastructure, should we have more storage. Should we have more robust systems so actually it's a strike this time but it could be ..

ANDREW MARR: Yeah.

DAVID CAMERON: .. a terrorist attack next time.

ANDREW MARR: This is ..

DAVID CAMERON: How robust is our infrastructure in terms of oil and gas and electricity and water. Those questions need to be asked. And if I was prime minister I'd be asking them right now.

ANDREW MARR: Very important questions but nonetheless right now would you be intervening?

DAVID CAMERON: Not intervening in that way but intervening in saying to the management sit down with the unions. Have these conversations. Try to sort this out because this has very serious national consequences.

And you know but let's rewind a little bit and remember why so many companies are in this difficulty of having to reform their pension systems. Who is the man who wrecked the British pension system? He is the prime minister. He did it when he was Chancellor.

And I think one of the problems we have now added to that is across the country people are looking at the prime minister and knows that he can't hold on to a position for longer than about five minutes. So whether it is teachers or whether it is oil workers or whoever else, they're actually saying we can push this guy around.

ANDREW MARR: Right.

DAVID CAMERON: And that is a problem for Britain.

ANDREW MARR: Well you carry on ..

DAVID CAMERON: We need some strength instead of weakness.

ANDREW MARR: You carry on trying to push him around. David Cameron thank you very much indeed for coming in.

INTERVIEW ENDS


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.


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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