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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 January 2006, 11:08 GMT
Cross party collaborator?
On Sunday 15 January 2006 Andrew Marr interviewed David Cameron MP

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

David Cameron MP
David Cameron MP

ANDREW MARR: And here is, not the Phantom of the Opera, the leader of the opposition, David Cameron or... it's a definitive moment, a defining moment for you, David or Dave, which do you prefer?

DAVID CAMERON: Well my wife calls me Dave, lots of people call me David, I don't really mind. And I sometimes often don't notice, so...

ANDREW MARR: Right, Mr. Cameron then I think it'll have to be.

DAVID CAMERON: Whatever you like.

ANDREW MARR: Right. It has been an extraordinary period. Tony Blair, when he was sitting there last week, said that it was ridiculous for someone like him when someone like you came along he said he agreed with a lot of what Tony Blair stood for, to try and repel or push you away. Do you see yourself as someone who is in many ways remarkably close to Tony Blair?

DAVID CAMERON: No, not really, because I think that, I want to learn the lessons of what Tony Blair's got wrong. And I think the biggest thing he's got wrong is that he approaches problems with this sort of mentality of top-down solutions. I think what the Conservative Party under my leadership is going to bring, is the right sort of values to deal with the problems we have in this country. And the values are trusting people, giving them more power and control over their lives, and recognising that we have a shared responsibility for problems.

Government doesn't have all the answers, it's up to families and individuals and businesses and voluntary bodies - and government - to work together all with our own responsibilities. And if we bring those values to bear we're more likely to deal with the problems and challenges that we have in this country. And that's what Tony Blair doesn't do...

ANDREW MARR: Because...

DAVID CAMERON: I'm going to try and...

ANDREW MARR: Ok, well sorry, I was just... a lot of people in the Conservative family if you like, look at what you've been doing over the last couple of weeks and they are uneasy. They say he is moving the party further and further to the centre. What is conservative about what he is doing, and how much further can he go.

DAVID CAMERON: OK, let me deal with all of those things. I am determined to move the Conservative Party into the mainstream of debate so that we can win elections again. I want to do that. I've only just begun the process of modernising the party. I mean, some of the changes, let's just review them, in terms of making sure we represent the country that we want to govern, that's why I've changed the rules about candidates to make sure we have more women candidates and candidates from the ethnic minorities.

I think that's important that we represent the country we're going to govern. I've made changes in terms of emphasis on policy and new stress on the environment, on global poverty, because these issues of great concern to people, great concern to me, and I think we've got some of the answers to try and deal with them.

ANDREW MARR: Well let's take one of those.


ANDREW MARR: Why is it that you have turned so much against grammar schools?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think the prospect of bringing back grammar schools has always been wrong and I've never supported it. And I don't think any Conservative government would have done it. And so what I've done is make clear where our values lie which is...

ANDREW MARR: ...but if I might say so, you used to be, very recently, in favour of much more freedom for schools...

DAVID CAMERON: Absolutely...

ANDREW MARR: ...when it came to admission - and now you're not.

DAVID CAMERON: No, no, absolutely, not at all. What I want to do is give schools control over their admissions. Many head teachers will tell you they'd like greater control so they can plan ahead, they can actually feel control over their own schools. But what I don't - hang on Andrew - all the way through the leadership campaign I made absolutely clear I did not want a return to the 11-plus, I did not want a return to grammar schools across the country, the sort of binary division of children at 11, and I made clear that was not going to happen.

And what I did last week was to make absolutely clear about that because, you know, there are 24,000 state schools in this country and there are 160 grammar schools. And what parents at home want to know is the Conservative Party has got real plans to improve the standards and quality of education in those schools. That's what I want the debates to be about. And that's why David Willetts and I have set out very clearly our support for setting the idea of teaching children in the right ability group so we stretch the brightest and we help those falling behind. That should be the answer.

ANDREW MARR: Setting you say. What is the great difference between setting inside a school and allowing us, you say you give them the freedom on admissions, allowing a school to say actually we want to be a great school when it comes to, say, maths. And we are going to select for ability on maths and make the entire school a magnet for great maths teaching, what's wrong with that?

DAVID CAMERON: Well no, I think there is merit. The government has a policy which we think is sensible, of having specialist schools students are allowed to pick a specialism, whether it is in music or drama, and the government has said that they should be able to select up to 10% of pupils in these specialisms, but they've said only in four specialisms, they've said it's OK to select 10% on the basis of music but not on the basis of science. And I think that is illogical and unreasonable and I think that it'd be much better if you had that across all the specialisms. But I wanted to make clear to people that I don't.

ANDREW MARR: ...before you go on to make something else clear. What's so great about 10%? Why not select 100%, why not select 80%?

DAVID CAMERON: If you want to give schools greater freedom which I do, and you believe that schools being in control of their own destiny is a good thing, and I do. You need to do that. But if you want to avoid the return to 11-plus and grammar schools which I've always made clear I don't want that to happen, you've got to settle somewhere. And it seems to me that's a reasonable thing to do. So what I've done (talking over each other).

ANDREW MARR: A lot of Conservative-minded people around the country say grammar schools were great schools, they gave a wonderful education to people who could not afford to buy education for themselves. The destruction of them was one of the big failures of the latter part of the 20th century. We do need great schools like them back again, and here is a new Conservative leader who's against them.

DAVID CAMERON: No well I think the right answer is to do this, is to say right, what was it that was the goal behind having grammar schools? It was greater social mobility, the idea that people from the poorest homes could get a great education and go on to best universities and fly. And social mobility in this country has gone backwards. But honestly bringing back, going backwards to 11-plus is not the right way of delivering that. We've got to try and find new ways of delivering that.

And that's why I'm giving the emphasis on setting in the 24,000 state schools that there are in this country and looking at raising standards in all of those schools. That's what modernising the Conservative Party should be about, it's taking those principles and values and saying how can we apply them today?

ANDREW MARR: It sounds very, very close to what Tony Blair suggests, there's a slight change of emphasis, some more subjects than he would allow at 10%, but otherwise frankly snap.

DAVID CAMERON: Well no, not, well, where we agree, I mean I've been very clear about this, where we agree in politics, where there is common ground we should work together. People don't want us to have fake arguments where we actually agree. Now if Tony Blair is serious about giving schools greater autonomy and trust schools, and the things he talks about in his White Paper. I've said repeatedly that I will help him deliver that, because I think that the education of children is too previous to have fake party political arguments about.

So that's why I wanted to get rid of the old argument about going back to 11-plus, it was never going to happen, it wasn't part of my plan. So I want to shut that down and concentrate on what really matters which is the quality of education that we have in our schools. And where the Prime Minister does the right thing I'll back him. If he decides to chicken out and give in to his back benchers and introduces a Bill that actually turns the clock backwards he won't have my support, that's the simple choice for him. But I think that's how we ought to do politics in this country.

ANDREW MARR: Sure, I absolutely understand that but I'm still confused about some aspects, I'm afraid, of the education policy. You are in favour of some limited selection by aptitude, but you're against selection on an academic basis by ability. What is the difference between aptitude and ability?

DAVID CAMERON: Well what I'm in favour of is greater independence for schools. But what I'm against...

(talking over each over)

Hang on, hang on, there's no point in asking me a question if you don't wait for the answer. I'm in favour of greater autonomy for schools, but I'm against a return to the 11-plus. So that's why I've set out the policy that I have. And I've also set out a long-term policy group, the Public Services Improvement Reform Group to look at this issue and to advise us. But if you want that greater autonomy for schools, to own their own buildings and land, and employ their own staff, have complete control over discipline and expulsions, control their own admissions so they can plan better. If you want those things but you don't want to go back to 11-plus, you clearly need some ground rules. And that's what my policy group will provide.

And that will be good for the 24,000 schools where the overwhelming majority of people in this country educate their children. And they want to know that the modern Conservative Party that I'm leading is engaged in that debate. And one of the biggest improvements we could make is expand setting. I went to a school last week in Essex where they set 80% of classes, they stretch the brightest, they help those falling behind. They've got great results in a difficult area of the country and I want to see more schools like that. That's what we ought to try and do is expand the number of good school places rather than just try and work at how we carve them up.

ANDREW MARR: Let me just say in a gentle consensual fluffy way that I still don't think that you're giving schools freedom over admissions as you keep saying you are. Let's move on to another area which is very, very important, and you've talked about, which is the environment. What is the scale of change to our lifestyles that we are all going to have to go through if we're going to, there's some more reports in the papers this morning about global warming happening even faster than we thought - how are we going to have to change, are we going to have to have fewer cars, fewer roads, are we going to travel less abroad on cheap flights. What's it going to feel like?

DAVID CAMERON: It's a big change. But I mean it's a classic area where we really need to recognise our shared responsibility. This is not enough just for government to set a few targets or make a few statements. Everyone has got their role to play, there's a role for business, for individuals, for families and for government as well. And, you know, one of the things we can all do in our lives is actually look at our domestic energy supplier and switch to a supplier that backs renewable energy and draws that energy from renewable sources. And that's something that I'm going to be encouraging people to do in a big campaign next week.

So it's something everybody can do. But what we've got to try to get to is a situation where we can have growth in the economy because we need that growth for prosperity, and we want to see people with rising incomes and well-paid jobs and good public services, but we need green sustainable growth. So it shouldn't be about trying to make everyone live like monks or give up completely using the car or whatever. It's about using technology and using different ways of doing things so that we have green growth. And that's why, again, I've set up a policy review group with John Gummer, a very respected former Environment Secretary, and Zac Goldsmith, who is also respected in this field, to look at how we produce green growth. And it's something we could do a lot better than we are.

ANDREW MARR: Zac Goldsmith's against nuclear power, are you?

DAVID CAMERON: No I'm not, I don't have a blanket view against nuclear power. It may well be that in order to have a continued growing economy and energy security, it may well be that we have to build new nuclear power stations. I have an open mind on that, I'll look at the evidence. And with these policy groups Andrew, you know, I want to draw in people who aren't in the Conservative Party and sometimes they will come up with very challenging recommendations, not all of which I'll be able to support. But let's have a good open debate and let's do it in a transparent and long-term way.

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely.

DAVID CAMERON: I think that's the right way to do it.

ANDREW MARR: Let's look at another of the areas which has been talked about a lot recently, which is whether flights are too cheap, whether there should be higher taxes on aviation fuel, or in some other way, to get away from this business whereby every single part of the UK now has a new airport, flights are going off for some 20, 30, criss-crossing Europe, causing enormous environmental damage. Are you tough enough, are you clear enough when it comes to environmental policy, to say you'll do something about that?

DAVID CAMERON: We will - the point of setting up the review group is that it will look at all the evidence, for how we deal with the transport emissions, how we deal with emissions from business, from domestic homes, and from electricity generation. And how we can develop a package of measures that will mean we will really hit the targets that have been set for reducing carbon emissions.

When that reports, that will be the moment at which the Conservative Party may have to make some very brave decisions about really showing its environmental credentials. But what I'm determined not to do is to sort of come on a programme like this...

ANDREW MARR: And pre-empt...

DAVID CAMERON: And make a quick commitment here and a quick commitment there. That's not the way we're going to get it right.

The overall framework I've said, I think, is clear that we need to have, we want to meet the targets for reducing emissions, we need to have an independent body that actually looks and says how are you doing each year? Rather like the monetary policy committee, commission, at the Bank of England.

They report on how the government's doing it on it's inflation target. We need the same sort of mechanism when it comes to the environment.

ANDREW MARR: I can absolutely understand you not wanting to pre-empt a commission in detail. What I'm trying to get to is this - all politicians, Ming Campbell was going the same just now. All politicians now talk about the environment. And when you then say well where are the tough decision, things that are really going to make voters think twice.

They all back straight off and they say well there's reviews, there's commissions, very important decisions may one day have to be taken. What I'm trying to get to is, do you believe that when it comes to things like car use, and cheap travel by plane, we're actually going to have to do less of it or not? Because if you don't believe that then it seems to a lot of people that you're never going to get anywhere.

DAVID CAMERON: I don't think that is the right question with respect, because with cars for instance, if we can actually use more bio-fuels then it may be actually you can have green growth through changing technology. So we need to look at that rather than just say it's some binary decision between using your car more or not using your car more. What the politicians have got to do in my view is explain in each sector.

ANDREW MARR: If I say to you, can we carry on using the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars in this country as we are at the moment?

DAVID CAMERON: In the way that we are at the moment, no, we can't. And that's why we've got to look at the issue of bio-fuels, and we've got to look at cars with different technologies.

ANDREW MARR: And something of the same for flights because, I mean, you know, you know the figures, we all know the figures. They are pretty horrendous when it comes to aviation.

DAVID CAMERON: Every sector - transport, energy production, business, domestic use - every sector is going to have to play its part in reducing carbon emissions and making sure we meet those targets. We can't put all the pressure on one sector, that's definitely, definitely the case.

ANDREW MARR: What is there about you that is really Conservative?

DAVID CAMERON: My core values are Conservative. Cut me down the middle and you'll find that what I believe in is trusting people with power and control over their lives. That's a profoundly Conservative instinct. And recognising that we have a shared responsibility, you can't rely on government to do everything...

ANDREW MARR: And yet when it comes...

DAVID CAMERON: No but...that's I think the key, because what matters in politics is ... when you're tested and challenged what values do you actually apply to problems? I think that's the difference really between centre left and centre right, if you like, is if you confront me with a problem I won't immediately say, well the government should spend more money or we need to set up a new government taskforce.

ANDREW MARR: Except that you do, except that when it comes to the Health Service, when it comes to education, when it comes to the general growth in public spending, you're not pulling back from any of that. You say you will divide the product of growth in tax cuts and extra investment...

DAVID CAMERON: Well that is different to Gordon Brown. It's a very important point actually...

ANDREW MARR: From time to time, the Labour Party talks about certain kinds of tax cuts and has... I mean is that division between investment and tax cuts, is that down the middle, or is it just a tiny little bit for tax cuts occasionally?

DAVID CAMERON: Well, let us just deal with the bigger principle, because I think that's what you're asking about. I think there is a profound difference between centre left and centre right.

I believe that as the economy grows and as more money comes into the exchequer the reasonable thing to do is to share that growth between public spending and tax reduction. Why? Because a strong economy which has got to be what we really need, needs both of those things. You'll only have a strong economy if you keep taxes down in a competitive global world...

ANDREW MARR: So that means you invest less money for health and education over time if the Conservatives are in power as against Labour?

DAVID CAMERON: It means sharing the proceeds of growth. Something that Gordon Brown doesn't do. Let's take another example, dealing with problems in our inner cities of engrained poverty of aspiration and real poverty.

Now, I would say there's a big difference there between my approach and a centre right approach and a centre left approach. I think a part of the answer, a big part of the answer, is actually trusting social enterprises and voluntary bodies, that actually can do fantastic work in dealing with the problems of homelessness and drug abuse.

ANDREW MARR: Gordon Brown says the same...

DAVID CAMERON: No he doesn't. Gordon Brown says... Well if you look at his speech the other day he said very clearly only the state can guarantee fairness. But I have a different approach, I think actually there's a huge role for the voluntary sector and the social enterprises to play.

And I think that actually the belief that the state has to be almighty which we've seen over the last few years, is failing. Gordon Brown had, you know, eight, nine years to sort out these problems and actually let's take health, we've got bigger health inequalities now, than any time since Queen Victoria.

ANDREW MARR: Well let me just ask you about a couple of further specifics. On this sort of liberal side of your agenda, are you still against ID cards, are you going to vote against ID cards?

DAVID CAMERON: Absolutely. And for a very good reason. For practical reasons and I don't like ID cards, I don't like the idea that you have to have this bit of paper just for existing.

But I think when you challenge the government about ID cards and say, well what's it for, they start off saying it's for crime. And you examine that and they say no, no, no, no, it's for social security fraud and at the end of the day this is, there's a report out from the London School of Economics...

ANDREW MARR: All the Tories will come behind you will they on that...

DAVID CAMERON: I very much hope so and we will vote against ID cards, I've always opposed ID cards on that ground. And the London School of Economics says it's 14.5 billion, that is half of the Department of Education's budget. This is a huge amount of money that's being wasted on something that in my view won't work.

And actually, you know, on a weekend when Gordon Brown has rightly talked about the importance of Britishness, what is the government doing introducing something so profoundly unBritish as compulsory ID cards.

ANDREW MARR: It's also a weekend when the rest of the country's talking a bit about Ruth Kelly. It's a very difficult business this ministers trying to take these micro decisions in a way, but do you think her position is now such that she should go?

DAVID CAMERON: I think we've got to actually get to the bottom of what's happened before we start making calls for people to resign. I don't want to be one of these politicians that pops up on your programme and endlessly calls for people to go.

I think it is a shambles and people are going to be very worried, particularly parents and teachers, about whether there are a number of sex offenders working in our schools. That is the big principle we've got to keep in our minds. This is not a witch hunt, it is a desperately important question that parents are going to be worried about.

And the news today that actually there are people who, individuals who are on the so-called List 99, that Ruth Kelly said were banned from school for all time, that one of them, Mr. Hudson, has actually been working in a school, is deeply disturbing. So we need - Ruth Kelly has said she's going to have an enquiry. I think now it is untenable for that enquiry to be led by Ministers. Ministers are effectively going to be looking into the decisions that ministers made...

[talking over each other]

I'd have an independent person leading the enquiry so we get to the bottom of this, and if it turns out that the decision making was terrible and the system was poor, then clearly we'll have to return to that question. But that will be for then, not for now.

ANDREW MARR: David Cameron, big year ahead, big year behind you. 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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