BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show


Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Sunday, 20 July 2008 09:06 UK

Tory tax policy

On Sunday 20 July Andrew Marr interviewed David Cameron MP, Conservative leader

David Cameron promises he'll spell it out before the general election - but it's still too early to go into detail.

David Cameron MP
David Cameron MP, Conservative leader

ANDREW MARR: Good morning Mr Cameron.

DAVID CAMERON: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Let's start with the issue of the week, in many ways tragically, knife crime.

You have said that you want it to be assumed that anybody caught carrying a knife will go to prison.


ANDREW MARR: Now figures suggest that there are about twenty thousand such people apprehended in the average year. Are we therefore talking about ten, twenty thousand extra prison places on top of the eighty thousand crowded prison places we have already?

DAVID CAMERON: We clearly will need more prison places. But I think that actually if you send a very clear message that carrying a knife on our streets is unacceptable and will end with prison it will have an enormous deterrent effect. I think the problem at the moment is there isn't that sort of clarity in the law.

If you look at the current figures, actually the figures I have of ten thousand seven hundred knife crimes in front of the court about a fifth of those get sent to prison. And about a fifth of knife offenders get off with a caution and I think that is a real ..

ANDREW MARR: And you think that's far too few?

DAVID CAMERON: I think that is far, well I think the idea of being caught with a knife on the streets and getting a caution I think just sends the most appalling signal. So we've got to have this very strong signal that if you are caught with a knife on the streets that you go to prison. And in terms of the prison places ..

ANDREW MARR: Even, even though - I was going to say there aren't, there aren't prison places for these people at the moment.

DAVID CAMERON: Well we have said repeatedly that the government and particularly the prime minister when he was chancellor failed to build enough prison places. We've said we'd cancel the ID card scheme and the database which we think is a complete waste of money.

And we've also said longer term you need really to look at the inner city prisons, often on very valuable land and exchange those for, for new prisons where you would actually be able to create more places.

ANDREW MARR: You would have to come in immediately and start to build prisons fast though wouldn't you?

DAVID CAMERON: Well we would. But as I say we've identified the increase in emergency accommodation through scrapping the ID card scheme. I mean as we're, I'm sure going to come onto, the government is very short of money. We've got a three percent budget deficit.

There are difficult times ahead. Tough choices will have to be made. I think identity cards are a waste of money. I think the ID database is a huge bureaucracy, a great white elephant, a plastic poll tax as I've called it. I would get rid of that. And I think the money would be better spent elsewhere.

ANDREW MARR: Well I was going to raise it later on but since you've raised it let's, let's talk about the economy and the position it puts you in. Quite clearly tax revenues are plummeting.

Government borrowing is very high and you think far too high. How can you possibly afford what you've said already about specific tax cuts and stick to your spending plans, not only on health and education but things like the army, things like prisons.


ANDREW MARR: You're going to have to take some really though choices now.

DAVID CAMERON: Well there will be tough choices. But I would argue that in the last two and a half years since I became leader we have been very tough and very clear about what we promise and where the money comes from. You know lots of people said to me two and a half years ago you've got to make big and expansive promises about tax cuts. I said that wouldn't be responsible.

I don't want to say things I won't be able to deliver. And I took the decision not to do that. And I think that that has been vindicated. In terms of the tax reductions we have talked about, things like reducing the rate of Corporation Tax to help business, we've said how that would be paid for, by abolishing allowances and reliefs and what have you ..

ANDREW MARR: In, in a ...

DAVID CAMERON: So, so I mean I think actually we have been very mindful of that fact. That it's easy in Opposition to make big promises and we haven't done that.

ANDREW MARR: Vehicle Excise Duty on older cars. Some of your promises on extra transport facilities and prisons. Expanding the size of the army. They're all still there at a time when revenues are being absolutely squeezed. Two and a half, you talked about two and a half years ago. Well two and a half years on it's a very different situation.

DAVID CAMERON: But each one of those we've always made very clear how we're going to find the money.

ANDREW MARR: Vehicle Excise Duty.

DAVID CAMERON: Well Vehicle Excise Duty, we don't even know what the government is going to do. The one thing I know is right now, if you're a motorist, you're filling up at the pumps, you are feeling real pain. You know it costs twenty five percent more to fill up your ..

ANDREW MARR: So you're going to give some money back to ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. to fill up your car. No well what we're saying to the government ..

ANDREW MARR: .. them which you don't have or won't have.

DAVID CAMERON: .. what we're saying to the government is at a time when motorists have been absolutely hammered, family budgets under real pressure - you know I get emails all the time from people saying look this is my journey to work, this is ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. how hard I have to work and this is how much money I've got left at the end of the week. It's crazy to hit people with yet another tax when they're just trying to keep the family finances together. And there's nothing green about taxing the Ford Mondeo someone bought you know five, six, seven years ago ..


DAVID CAMERON: So I don't think they should go ahead with that tax. Do you know what? I think they will scrap it anyway. And you know in a way you're asking me to write my budget for two thousand and ten when they haven't even finished writing their one for this year. They're still kind of, it's still un-bungling and falling apart as we speak.

ANDREW MARR: What I'm hearing are you talk about tough choices. It's going to be jolly tough out there. It's, situation's deteriorating fast. And yet we don't ever hear any.

DAVID CAMERON: What - I, I - no, okay ..

ANDREW MARR: We hear, we, we don't hear any tough choices being made about spending or about tax cuts.

DAVID CAMERON: Okay let's take one. You've just had James Purnell sitting in this chair.


DAVID CAMERON: In January we set out on welfare reform the very tough things that needed to be done. We said you've got to involve the private and voluntary sector, not just the state. And we said you've got to say to people who refuse the reasonable offer of a job that you lose benefits as a result. And great, the government's taken up our idea. I'm absolutely thrilled with that because there aren't ..

ANDREW MARR: So will you vote for them in the House of Commons?

DAVID CAMERON: Absolutely. James Purnell should know and the government should know that if they have a problem with their back benchers then the Conservative Party under my leadership will do the right thing and will back them up and make sure we reform welfare properly.

What he has done is very much taking the ideas we came up with in January that were very clearly thought through that involved tough choices. It is tough.

ANDREW MARR: Commissioned by Tony Blair in the first place ...

DAVID CAMERON: Well no, as you, as you show - no, the key, the absolute key things were Tony Blair and Gordon Brown never ever looked at the issue of the existing claimants on Incapacity Benefit. We said you've got to. They're now going to do that. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown never really bit the bullet about involving voluntary sector organisations that are ..

ANDREW MARR: All right.

DAVID CAMERON: .. often better at getting people back to work.

ANDREW MARR: But, sorry ..

DAVID CAMERON: We did and they got it. So these are, those were tough choices.

ANDREW MARR: You, you said, you said a tough choice there. It may well be a tough choice for people on the receiving end. But it's going to cost money.


ANDREW MARR: If you're going to have, if you're going to have more, more training schemes, you're going to help people to get back into work ..

DAVID CAMERON: If, if you get ..

ANDREW MARR: .. that's going to cost you money.

DAVID CAMERON: .. a million people off Incapacity Benefit it will save money. The fact is we are ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. no. Well I believe, I believe if you really pursue the plans we set out in January you will be able to. And I think if you stand back and kind of look well what's happening in British politics at the moment?

I would argue that on all these things it's the Conservative Party that is setting the agenda. We said these things about welfare reform. The government's now backing them up. Just this week I whipped my MPs behind a very important motion on clearing up the mess of MPs' expenses and allowances and the government followed suit. On knife crime ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. I said what I said about prison and the prime minister moves quite swiftly to, to, to imitate that ..

ANDREW MARR: Well let's, let's ..

DAVID CAMERON: I think on all ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. these areas you see a Conservative Party that is not just making tough choices but is also making the running on the things that we need to do to make our country stronger and better. And I think that's, that's a very exciting moment in politics.

ANDREW MARR: I think nobody would contest that you've been an extremely successful Opposition leader. The question is are you going to be an extremely successful prime minister in due course if you win that election. And I come back to the question ..


ANDREW MARR: .. about finances and money. For instance you may go into a situation because of the deterioration which is happening very fast where not only can you not fund tax cuts, you might have to increase taxes. Do you accept that?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I accept that putting the public finances back into a good state is going to be the major, one of the major tasks of this government and at the time, depending on when the next election is, the next government as well.

ANDREW MARR: Are you prepared ..

DAVID CAMERON: And you have ..

ANDREW MARR: .. to disappoint people ..


ANDREW MARR: .. your own supporters ..

DAVID CAMERON: Look I dis...

ANDREW MARR: .. the early days to do those things?

DAVID CAMERON: .. I', I've disappointed many people in the Conservative Party consistently over two and a half years by saying I'm not going to make those policies of unfunded tax cuts.

I disappoint people in the Conservative Party every day by saying you can't have that unfunded spending increase and we've got to say where the money's coming from.

ANDREW MARR: So could taxes ..

DAVID CAMERON: That is what leadership is about.

ANDREW MARR: .. rise under David Cameron?

DAVID CAMERON: Look I, I'm not going to write my two thousand and ten or George Osborne's two thousand and ten budget.

ANDREW MARR: But I'm, but I'm just trying to see what's possible.


ANDREW MARR: Might taxes rise under ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. what is going ..

ANDREW MARR: .. you?

DAVID CAMERON: Well as I say I think we need a totally different approach to government spending where we actually look at let's cut the costs of social failure. Let's reform our public services 'cause unreformed public services cost more. And also ..

ANDREW MARR: But we know those are long term things.

DAVID CAMERON: .. let's cut out - yeah.

ANDREW MARR: We know these take time. I'm asking you, you've come in at a time of economic crisis, economic problems. Are you ..


ANDREW MARR: .. prepared to raise taxes?

DAVID CAMERON: .. I will always do what is right to make sure we have strong public finances.

ANDREW MARR: Including raising taxes if necessary?

DAVID CAMERON: But you have to look at everything. But I'm not going to write my budget for two thousand and ten now. And let's not ignore the fact that there is also something called spending and getting greater efficiencies. And I think this government has been shockingly casual with public money. Look at the NHS computer and the waste there. Look at the billions they blew on ..

ANDREW MARR: All I'm, all I'm saying, all I'm saying is ..


ANDREW MARR: .. it takes a long time to make those changes. And you may very well be in the position where you either have to cut spending or you have to raise taxes or you have to borrow more. And I'm wondering which of those three unhappy options you go for.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think it is completely unrealistic to ask you know possibly two years before a general election when we're only a few months into this financial year, yes we can see ..

ANDREW MARR: Will you tell the, will you tell the country the answer to that question before a general election?

DAVID CAMERON: Abso... of course. Of course.

ANDREW MARR: And you'll spell it out?

DAVID CAMERON: Yes absolutely. And it may, you know we're three, we're a few months into this financial year. It's clear borrowing is going up.

It's clear that tax revenues are falling very fast. But I don't think it would be responsible in politics to kind of rewrite your next budget every month according to changing circumstances. We've got to see how the outturn looks ..


DAVID CAMERON: And then we have to make the decision.

ANDREW MARR: Let me, let ..

DAVID CAMERON: But I've always been very clear about where the money comes from, what, how we pay for tax cuts. And at the next election we will be absolutely clear.

ANDREW MARR: You see some people say ..


ANDREW MARR: Some people say he talks a good talk but we never quite know what he really thinks. Let me give you another example.

DAVID CAMERON: Hold on. I don't, I don't ...

ANDREW MARR: Heathrow, Heathrow expansion.

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah. Can I just rewind a second?

ANDREW MARR: Let me ask you about some ..

DAVID CAMERON: I think you know on welfare everyone knew where we were coming from a long time before the government. On cleaning up MPs' expenses, everyone knew where we were ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. coming from long before the government. On knife crime, on the economy, you know I don't, I don't really ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. accept the premise of the question.

ANDREW MARR: I hear and see that you don't but I'm just, I'm putting it to you nonetheless. Take for instance a very clear, simple issue, Heathrow expansion. Against or in favour?

DAVID CAMERON: I, I want to see the argument develop as it goes through the planning process. But I've said ..

ANDREW MARR: You see you're not, you won't ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. no, no. No, no but, look ask the prime minister the same actually, and he doesn't say "We will have a third runway". He says "We are deciding" actually 'cause there is a planning process you know. I don't actually ..

ANDREW MARR: Yes. But you know which way they're leaning, they're leaning in favour ..

DAVID CAMERON: They're leaning in favour and you can see which ..

ANDREW MARR: .. of ... and the question is are you leaning against?

DAVID CAMERON: .. you can absolutely see which way I'm leaning ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay. All right.

DAVID CAMERON: .. which is I've said that I think the economic case has not been made ..


DAVID CAMERON: And there are huge environmental consequences. So I think people can see the direction there. But it's right to let these arguments be had, rather than just hand out some statement from ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. from the head of Whitehall.

ANDREW MARR: Finally Europe because this is another area where Conservative policy sounds clear. Are we absolutely sure that if the Treaty, Lisbon, is still not fully ratified, there's this one country in Europe ..


ANDREW MARR: .. which hasn't ratified, you will give this country a referendum?

DAVID CAMERON: Absolutely. If that treaty is still alive and going around in Europe as it is at the moment - it shouldn't be. It should have been declared dead after the Irish referendum. If it is still being discussed and debated and you have a Conservative government you will have a referendum.


DAVID CAMERON: Pure, simple and clear. Very important.

ANDREW MARR: And similarly if it's gone through there won't be a referendum.

DAVID CAMERON: No. What I've said is if it goes through and it's ratified by everybody and implemented we won't let matters rest there. We will not be happy that so much power would have been transferred from London to Brussels. And we will before the election if that's the way, if that's the case, set out absolutely what we would do in terms of negotiating in, in Europe to try and make sure we get a good deal for Britain. I think people are incredibly frustrated ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. in this country ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. that these huge changes are made by politicians just giving away powers without actually asking people in advance. And something else we've said is that ..


DAVID CAMERON: .. any treaty in future that transfers is, transfers powers must be subject to a referendum.

ANDREW MARR: Must be a referendum. Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: Well that's important ..

ANDREW MARR: That's ...

DAVID CAMERON: .. and very clear.

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely.

DAVID CAMERON: Totally unlike the government.

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely. One, one last smaller matter at home. You've lost your candidate in Watford over what sounds like a ghastly ..


ANDREW MARR: .. episode. A, will he ever stand for the Conservative Party again after this and B what about the general question of Tory sleaze? Can Caroline Spelman for instance stay on?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I mean on the situation in Watford as I understand it, the candidate has resigned. We're going through some legal proceedings. And so I don't think it'd be right to comment any further but basically he's resigned as the candidate.

On the issue of sleaze, money, irregularities, no one has done more than me. You know the prime minister didn't even turn up in the House of Commons for the vote to try and clean this up. So I put down a motion last week to say total transparency. Declare every penny you use. And sort out Brussels as well. 'Cause the MEP situation is frankly pretty scandalous. I want that sorted out.


DAVID CAMERON: And the government is trailing in our wake in getting it done.

ANDREW MARR: Not embarrassed about any of that. For now thank you very much indeed David Cameron.


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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