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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 March 2005, 12:30 GMT
David Cameron MP
On Sunday, 20 March, 2005, Sir David Frost interviewed David Cameron MP

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

David Cameron MP
David Cameron MP

DAVID FROST: After months in the doldrums the Tories seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment.

Recent assaults by them on key issues such as health, immigration and crime show that they're making the political weather and the polls indicate that they're narrowing the gap with Labour.

One man who'll be delighted about that, any positive news in this election campaign is the party's manifesto supremo - that's a good word isn't it? - David Cameron. Good morning David.

DAVID CAMERON: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: Just starting quickly with the headlines today, which David Mellor has expressed himself on. But Howard stirs race row with attacks on gipsies.

What would it be, would it be the action you would take? Would it be by local governments empowered to do something? Or by central government?

DAVID CAMERON: Well first of all, let's be absolutely clear, this is nothing to do with race, this is about fair play. We think there should be one rule for everybody. At the moment if you build an extension to your house, the council comes after you. But if you set up an illegal traveller site they don't, and that's wrong and we want to change that. In terms of what we'll change, we're saying we need to review the Human Rights Act, and if it can't be improved it should be replaced.

We're saying that the police need clear guidance, not the sort of guidance they have at the moment, they need clear guidance. And also local councils need proper powers to remove caravans and cars from illegal sites, if they're occupying them illegally.

DAVID FROST: And Keith Hill, the Labour MP said, not necessarily talking about racism here, because as I said earlier I couldn't see where the race came into it myself. But he says that nevertheless it's tapping in to the deepest vein of bigotry in our society, against gipsies and travellers.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think that's completely wrong. The point of politics is to deal with issues and problems that people are worried about, and try to solve them. And the fact is that since 1997 the number of caravans on illegal sites has gone up by 38% and there are now 4,000, over 4,000, sites around the country. So this is a problem that affects lots of communities. I think what Labour are saying there shows that they're just desperate.

I mean they've had a terrible campaign, they started off with anti-Semitic posters, they brought back Alastair Campbell, they've misused the Freedom of Information Act, they're now fighting like mad - Alan Milburn versus Gordon Brown - they've had a shambolic campaign. And I think Keith Hill's reaction is just over-reaction and ridiculous overstatement because they're rattled.

DAVID FROST: And in fact I notice that the slogan that you used to use saying "Vote Blair Get Brown". Brown is so popular in opinion polls that that might be an attractive slogan so you've dropped it.

DAVID CAMERON: Well we never had that as a slogan. The fact is if you vote Labour you get Blair, you get Brown, you get extra spending, extra taxing, extra wasting, extra bureaucracy, more power to Brussels, more regional government - all the things that people don't want.

So it doesn't matter whether you have Blair or Brown or Milburn, or whoever. It's still a government that has let people down, that has overtaxed them and has wasted a lot of money, and that hasn't told them the truth about things that matter.

And we're offering a different, a proper alternative. I think why we're doing well is we're talking about things people care about, that is cleaner hospitals and school discipline and police. And we're talking about the values they share, and fair play is one of those vital values and that's what we're talking about today.

DAVID FROST: And John Redwood says about the four billion in tax-cuts. He said "That's just a down payment". Is that party policy?

DAVID CAMERON: What we've said very clearly is that we've made promises for our first budget that we're going to reduce taxes on hard-working families and on pensioners by 4 billion. That is the only tax promise we're going to make.

I think people don't want to hear lots of extra promises you can't keep, they want to hear promises that you can keep. And at the same time we believe we can increase spending on key priorities like the Health Services and education, because we're going to cut out waste. That's the only thing a Conservative Party, a Conservative government, would cut, that is waste.

DAVID FROST: And that's a difficult thing to do of course. On abortion, how would you vote on that?

DAVID CAMERON: I think the 24-week limit does need to be looked at because of advances in medical science, and because I think the debate has moved on.

But this is a personal conscience issue for Members of Parliament, and that's what Michael... that's how this started... Michael was asked a straight question by Cosmopolitan magazine, and Michael gave a straight answer which is he thinks the 24 week limit needs to be changed.

And what we're saying is that if there was a private Members Bill that came forward under a Conservative government we'd give it time and let the House of Commons decide on a conscience basis, on a free vote by MPs. And I think that's right.

DAVID FROST: Do you think the Crown Prosecution Service was right not to prosecute the doctors who carried out that late abortion on a baby, or an embryo, that had a cleft palate?

DAVID CAMERON: I don't want to talk about individual cases. I don't think that would be right. But I think it's a ....

DAVID FROST: Well you did it with Margaret's shoulder...

DAVID CAMERON: Well that was someone who came to us, and who said, you know, she'd written to John Reid and hadn't had a reply. And she'd had her operation cancelled seven times and it was quite right to raise this issue about cancelled operations in the NHS, and there are over 60,000 of them every year. And I think it's right that we spent a lot of extra money on the Health Service we want to make sure we're getting value for money, and this government isn't.

DAVID FROST: What about going to other people who criticise you from the other extreme? This was The Economist who said "the reason why the Tories intend to spend most of what they save rather than give it back to the taxpayers is that they have accepted the government's plans for public services, that Mr. Letwin refuses to present voters with an alternative to a tax and spend government is a bad thing for the country".

In other words they're saying you should do more than, at the edges, change 1% or 1p, or whatever, that you should do something more radical. But you don't think that, that's not pragmatic.

DAVID CAMERON: I think what matters in politics is not what The Economist says, or anyone else. It's trying to do the right thing.

And I think the right thing, what people want and what we believe in is that we want good public services, and good schools and good hospitals cost money, and that's why we're committed to very big increases in public spending for health and for education.

But people feel that in recent years they've paid an awful lot of extra taxes and they want to see their taxes kept down, and they want to see some tax reductions. And that's what we believe we can promise in our first budget, the 4 billion tax reduction. But it's about getting the balance right.

The balance under this government is wrong, they are spending and wasting and putting up taxes. We think there's a better balance of actually spending on your priorities, cutting out the waste and keeping people's taxes down. That's the choice of the election, and I think we've the balance right.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of this row, the big row this week, the 35 billion and so on, with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor there and so on. Do you think that was a defining moment in this campaign or just a passing moment?

DAVID CAMERON: I think it was quite, it was a very interesting moment. The press conference where Blair was trying to speak and Brian was laughing at him and their plans were collapsing. I think that has been a very important moment. And it is.

You know, I don't want to say it lightly, but they are telling a big lie. The fact is, as we've just talked about, the Conservatives are committed to big public spending increases, increases in public spending by 4% a year. But we're going to increase spending by a little bit less than Labour plan. They would increase it by 5% a year. The difference between the two means that we can keep people's taxes down and make some tax reductions. But the talk about a 35 billion cut is just a straightforward lie.

And I'm afraid when our Prime Minister's in a hole, like he was with the Iraq war, he does tend to deviate from the truth if I can put it like that. That's what happened, that's what happened here, I think all the commentators reckon that. Every single newspaper, whatever their political outlook, has said that Labour are absolutely making it up and it's nonsense

Interview Ends

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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