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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007, 10:52 GMT
Conservative Aims
On Sunday 14 January 2007, Andrew Marr interviewed David Cameron MP, Leader of the Conservative Party

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

David Cameron MP
David Cameron MP, Leader of the Conservative Party

ANDREW MARR: David Cameron, welcome. Thank you for coming in and joining us.

DAVID CAMERON: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Good morning. Let's start on that theme. You say that the British people did not elect Gordon Brown as their leader in two thousand and five and that is clearly true. And yet we've been here before.

They didn't elect John Major as a Conservative leader first time round. And they didn't elect I guess Harold McMillan either.

DAVID CAMERON: I think there is a difference this time in that Gordon, is that Tony Blair uniquely said, before the last election, you know "I'm not going to fight another term but I will do a full term".

So people thought they were electing him for a full term. So we haven't quite been in this situation before. And now that he's going - we don't quite know when.

But probably this summer - whoever takes over, almost certainly Gordon Brown, must know in their heart that they haven't really got that sort of full-throated mandate from the British people. And so in my view it would be good to have an early election so that can be tested.

ANDREW MARR: Are you ...

DAVID CAMERON: And I'll make sure that my party's ready for that early election.

ANDREW MARR: Well I was going to ask you. Are you going to be bringing forward these policy reviews and these proto-manifesto ideas in time for that?

DAVID CAMERON: Well some of them have been coming forward already. I mean already in the last month you've seen an interim report from our Defence Policy Committee.

You've seen some very good work on education, how we'd change the curriculum and testing and league tables. Very specific, a very detailed, very substantial policy to improve the basics in education.

And our Policy Reviews Report mostly around June, July this year. So yes we'll be ready for an early election. And I think the polls seem to suggest that's what people want as well. Because they feel the new person won't have a mandate.

ANDREW MARR: Let's turn to your own troubles if I may so of the last week. You've had two peers who've joined the UK Independence Party.

DAVID CAMERON: But they're not my peers. They left the Conservative Party about two years ago.

ANDREW MARR: Well they're ... well ..

DAVID CAMERON: No they left two years ago Andrew. Very important. I mean ..

ANDREW MARR: Right.

DAVID CAMERON: They've told people to back ...

ANDREW MARR: ... Conservative peers and they're now UKIP ..

DAVID CAMERON: ... some time ago they were yes.

ANDREW MARR: Okay. They were Conservative peers, they're now UKIP peers. And we've had various other people going at you from the right. Do you still regard these people as loonies, fruitcakes and closet racists?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think, I don't go back on what I said about UKIP, and recently one of their MEPs has actually left to join the fascist group in the European Parliament. So I think they're rather making my argument for me.

I think the point I would make is look, at the next election there's going to be a very clear choice on the issue of Europe. You have a party in Labour that supports the European constitution, the idea of more power going from nation states to the European Union, that wants to join the European single currency. And the Conservative Party under my leadership will be very clear that we do not support a European constitution that gives more power to Brussels. We want to keep the pound as our currency.

But we do have a forward looking vision of what Europe should be about. Instead of the naval gazing over the constitution, why isn't Europe doing more for our planet. The European Emissions Trading System could be made to work better now while we're doing more for poverty in the, in the developing world by making sure we get a proper world trade deal.

ANDREW MARR: ...

DAVID CAMERON: These are things that Europe should be about that are positive. But what we don't want is this narrow, inward looking European super state which has been the direction in Europe for far too long. So very clear ..

ANDREW MARR: So you, so ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. distinction between the parties the people can go for a government party rather than bothering with the fringes.

ANDREW MARR: Well it sounds to me like not further forward into a, into a deeper Europe but not much further back either is the Conservative point ..

DAVID CAMERON: Well there's one, there's one, well ..

ANDREW MARR: .. well that's what you seem to be saying.

DAVID CAMERON: .. you know but there's one important change ..

ANDREW MARR: Can I just, can I just ..

DAVID CAMERON: Sorry yes Andrew.

ANDREW MARR: .. can I just add to that?

DAVID CAMERON: I mustn't interrupt you. That would not be right at all.

ANDREW MARR: There's an awful lot of people in the Conservative family who believe that the whole Brussels experiment is misguided and wrong. And we should be pulling out a little bit from Europe, if not the whole hog, at least narrowing our connections with Europe. And it sounds to me from what you're saying that your party is no longer for them.

DAVID CAMERON: No, I, our party has a very clear forward looking view about Europe which is Europe does need to change. It needs to change to address these big issues. And we think there are some specific things that need to change.

For instance the European sort of social model, I think in the world of globalisation and international competitiveness is not working. And that's why I've said very clearly that the European social chapter, that Blair in my view mistakenly signed, that we should restore the position we had before of not being part of that. And determining social policy in the UK, to meet our own needs. So that's another change.

But we do want to be part of the European Union. We recognise that there's trade and cooperation and common interest. Only last week I was in Germany talking to the CSU about things that we could do together and work on together. There is a positive agenda but it shouldn't be one of a constitution with more powers and more centralisation. So a clear choice for people.

ANDREW MARR: There was an interesting article about one of those people who wants to, is thinking of joining UKIP or at least voting for UKIP - Tim Congdon who was a professor, big supporter of Margaret Thatcher.

And he makes the argument that there are basically two kinds of politics. There is paternalist politics which believes in the state and the state's power to help people and it's a Conservative tradition - Tory paternalists as well as socialist ones. And there is the sort of free market, small state style of politics.

And he takes you seriously but he says you are a Tory paternalist. You're somebody who believes that the state should carry on roughly the same size. And therefore he feels that he has no choice but to vote for somebody else.

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think he's missing the big argument that's taking place in British politics which is between Labour and Conservative, between me and Gordon Brown. My view is very clear.

We need a revolution in responsibility in this country. We need more individual responsibility, more professional responsibility, trusting doctors and nurses rather than Whitehall bureaucrats.

We need more civic responsibility. A huge devolution of power to local government. That is the social responsibility revolution the Conservative Party wants to see. The Labour Party is about more state control. That is what we've seen over the last ten years. Much more running things from Whitehall. Much less trusting people, more central government.

Now that's the big choice. And I think what Tim Congdon and others are failing to understand is the idea of social responsibility, of giving more power to parents and to families and to local government and to business and to civic leaders, that that actually is a very rich vein of Conservatism.

ANDREW MARR: To get that responsibility the state is going to have to pull back quite a lot. Do less, and presumably spend less.

DAVID CAMERON: Well in some cases, let's take a specific. I think it's good to try and get this to specifics.

ANDREW MARR: Yeah, sure.

DAVID CAMERON: Let's take the health service where we've seen over the last decade an enormous amount of centralised, state controlled, top down central targets. If we're going to have a revolution of professional responsibility, allowing doctors and nurses and local managers to decide more, the state has got to take some action. We've got to get rid of some of those central targets.

We need in my view to have much greater independence for the NHS and take the politics out of the health service. So yes the state has to take some action. But in response I think we'll see a great flowering of professional responsibility. Doctors and nurses ..

ANDREW MARR: Does that mean ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. who feel incredibly frustrated today, that they know what's right to change in their hospital or in the their GP's practice but they can't do it because the state is, is regulating and controlling them so much.

ANDREW MARR: Staying on, staying on the ..

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. specific cos it is interesting. Does that mean that for instance you would want to see an individual in charge of a hospital trust or a group of individuals in charge of a hospital trust or a hospital, able to do things, perhaps inevitably to make mistakes which would then become a media storm, and yet as prime minister you would not intervene to sort it out? You would say no, no, that is their responsibility, that is their duty and you'd stay out of that?

DAVID CAMERON: Yes, you've got to have that. I think the idea that you can have a single National Health Service run by one person from Whitehall, hearing the clattering of the, the bed pans in the hospitals as Nye Bevan put it, I think is completely out of date.

We should be devolving power and responsibility to the individual hospitals and GP's practices. I think it's a very forward looking vision for the Health Service, that all hospitals should be foundation trusts, that they should own their own buildings and land, they should employ their own staff, they should choose their own speciality.

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: This is I think the way forward for the Health Service.

ANDREW MARR: The West, the West Blogshire Health Trust ..

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. decides it's going to change its cleaning arrangements to save some money and MRSA starts to become more of a problem in their hospitals. Big national story, lots of complaints. You, you, you would be prepared to insist that that's their issue not your issue?

DAVID CAMERON: They are much more likely to take the right action locally to deal with the problem. What we've seen with MRSA is often local managers who, who know that what needs to happen is a ward needs to close so you can actually make sure it's clean and get rid of the bug.

But because of all the government targets they can't go ahead and close that ward. And that's why it's the top down, centralised, state control model, that's the Labour model that has failed. And it's time for social responsibility with the Conservatives of actually devolving more power, professional responsibility, in our, in our hospitals and in our education service.

ANDREW MARR: And this fict...

DAVID CAMERON: There's a big, big division ..

ANDREW MARR: Sure.

DAVID CAMERON: .. in British politics which I think this year's going to be all about.

ANDREW MARR: And this fictitious boss of a, a local hospital might decide for instance that he can get away with paying nurses or consultants or cleaners a bit less, not the national rate any more. That's also acceptable?

DAVID CAMERON: Well more likely in some cases to be a bit more. If you take many hospital trusts in the south of England they have a huge problem in recruiting and retaining staff. In my area, often fourteen, fifteen per cent vacancy rate for nurses. And there's huge use of, of agency nurses that cost the NHS a fortune.

But because of the way the current arrangements work you don't have that flexibility. Now in business, in industry, managers have greater freedom to arrange pay and other remuneration to make sure you can get the people you need ..

ANDREW MARR: So ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. in, in, in the business. So yes ..

ANDREW MARR: So, so goodbye ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. more flexibility.

ANDREW MARR: Which means in turn goodbye to a lot of these national pay rates.

DAVID CAMERON: Well over time much more flexibility yes. If hospitals employ their own staff, if they're in control of their own destiny. It's a very different vision. It's a fully national health service.

In my view actually this sort of arrangement would probably lead to much better national outcomes, less of a postcode lottery than we have today. But you cannot in the twenty first century run a health service as we are today.

And we've got to get the politics out of it and give it greater independence. We've already set out a lot of detail on this with Andrew Lansley and there'll be more detail to come during this year.

ANDREW MARR: Okay. Okay. Let's, let's look at another area where traditional Conservatives are a little worried which is tax and spending. Because you say that you're going to spend as much on the Health Service and the increases will be as great as under Labour. You say the same thing about education.

You want to spend more as I understand it on the army. You want to spend more on prisons. And people say well actually it's going to be very, very hard given all of that to get the tax burden down at all. Let me read, because it was a very good piece by a chap called Martin Wolfe in the, in the FT, you may have seen it.

And he says this, he says "The UK seems to have moved without serious debate towards a political consensus in favour of a high tax, high spending state, even though there is next to no confidence, the state knows how to spend the money well. That's an extraordinary success for Mr Brown. And a no less extraordinary failure by the Conservatives".

DAVID CAMERON: Well I don't accept that analysis at all. And we've set out again a big difference ..

ANDREW MARR: You must accept bits of it.

DAVID CAMERON: Well let me explain. We've set out a, a very different approach to Gordon Brown. He has tended, over this last decade - and we don't have to you know, look in the crystal ball. We can read the book. He's been there for ten years.

ANDREW MARR: Yes.

DAVID CAMERON: The tax increases are his tax increases. Over this last ten years as the economy has grown he's used the proceeds of that growth on spending. And much of that, too much of that money has been wasted. Just this week we saw the Asset Recovery Agency which was meant to get money off criminals. It costs twenty million pounds a year to run. It's only raised four million pounds.

So we see waste throughout Gordon Brown's regime. We have a different approach which is to say as the economy grows, as money comes into the Treasury, we should share the proceeds of that growth, between the extra public spending we need, and we do in areas like health and education. But we should also use some of the proceeds of that growth for reducing taxes.

To relive the tax burden on hard working families and on businesses over time. It's a different approach. It would lead to a different outcome. It, I think, would help families with the cost of living. And they're seeing the cost of living go up. And it would make our economy more competitive.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think a low tax economy is a better economy?

DAVID CAMERON: Yes I do. I think a low tax economy is a more competitive economy. And a stronger economy.

ANDREW MARR: And do you, do you have a ..

DAVID CAMERON: And sharing the proceeds is the right we're doing. I don't - you were going to ask me have you got some ..

ANDREW MARR: No.

DAVID CAMERON: .. mythical percentage that you ought to aim for.

ANDREW MARR: I'm not. I'm not. I'm going to ask you whether you've got the steel to actually achieve it. Whether you've got the toughness to cut budgets or to, not to give the increases that everybody is trying out for. Because as Margaret Thatcher found out it's a very, very hard thing.

And I think when people see you they think he talks a lot about what he wants to spend and the warm stuff, does he really have what it takes ..

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah.

ANDREW MARR: .. to make those tough decisions.

DAVID CAMERON: Yeah government is tough. You have to make difficult decisions. We have to cut out the waste. One of the things I've done which in a way is tough on my own party is to say look I'm not going to make up front promises of tax cuts which I can't fund. I'm going to be very clear. It's a different approach, sharing the proceeds of growth. But I'm not going to make promises that I might not be able to keep.

ANDREW MARR: Do you ...

DAVID CAMERON: And I think that's very important. But there is waste. I mean you know regional assemblies, what is the point of them? Let's get rid of those all together and save money that way. There's a huge amount that can be done to cut out waste and bureaucracy in, in government.

ANDREW MARR: Do you know in your own mind where you're going to cut?

DAVID CAMERON: We are having a proper policy review to make sure we look at all of the options and we look at all of the programmes where the government is currently wasting money. And we see what can be done.

ANDREW MARR: Is the government having to come out of areas of, that it does at the moment?

DAVID CAMERON: Well as I said I think you know you've got areas like the regional assemblies, a vast mistake, hugely costly and we could change ..

ANDREW MARR: But that's history. That's history.

DAVID CAMERON: Well except for they're there. They're still there. The Shadow Regional Assemblies are there. They cost money. The regionalisation of housing and planning and transport, something that nobody wanted in this country. And that's something that we could undo.

But as well as looking at, at the spending side, we also think there's an argument for rebalancing the tax system. We think there's an argument for actually green taxes on things like pollution and using some of that revenue to reduce taxes on things that are good like families and enterprise.

ANDREW MARR: Tim, Tim Yo(?) your spokesman has said this weekend that he would like to see a virtual end to domestic flights in this country through taxation. Do you agree with that?

DAVID CAMERON: I think Tim puts it in his own way. I, I wouldn't go ..

ANDREW MARR: That means you don't agree with it?

DAVID CAMERON: .. I wouldn't go as far as that. I think what we need to have is we've got to make sure that air travel, more accurate... accurately reflects all of the costs.

And if you like the, what's called, the Economist would call the externalities, the pollution cost. I think that is important. And I think that would lead to a fairer competition between, between rail and air travel, particularly within the UK.

ANDREW MARR: Five years time, David Cameron government. Are we going to pay a lot more for air travel?

DAVID CAMERON: I think any government we're going to see the cost of air travel go up. Because I think we're going to see more of the costs involved in air travel included in the price. I think that is inevitable.

But I'm not one of these people who believes that this whole environmental agenda has to be some massive hair shirt. There's no doubt that people do want to travel, that business requires travel.

All of those things are true. That's why emissions trading schemes where we should include air travel into those schemes as part of environmental approach makes, makes good sense.

ANDREW MARR: Another ..

DAVID CAMERON: But yes there are painful choices. There's no doubt on the environment that you know in terms of the gas-guzzling cars and air travel, there are some things that will inevitably become more expensive ..

ANDREW MARR: But you wouldn't go as ..

DAVID CAMERON: .. as there's a price ...

ANDREW MARR: .. you wouldn't go as far as no or very few domestic flights? You, you're not going that far?

DAVID CAMERON: Well it's not for politicians to sort of sit in an office in Whitehall and say that flight needs you know let, let's, let's ..

ANDREW MARR: Well up to a point it is.

DAVID CAMERON: Well no it isn't. Because what we need is a price for carbon. The problem with global warming is too much carbon emissions. So let's put a price on carbon.

And then you let individuals and businesses and others choose what the outcome is. It may be we can stop doing things that are very damaging in one area so that we can go on doing other things in another ...

ANDREW MARR: Damaging things in another area. ...

DAVID CAMERON: But let's price carbon. Rather than have, you know this is not about banning things. That's the, I think the whole thing ..

ANDREW MARR: It's surely about price, pricing them out of people's reach ..

DAVID CAMERON: It, it, it's about ..

ANDREW MARR: .. actually otherwise it's not going to make any difference at all to carbon emissions.

DAVID CAMERON: It's about pricing. It's about having an effective price for carbon. I think that's why the Conservative Party has got a lot to say on this environmental agenda because on the one hand we believe it's very important we pass on to our children a healthy green planet. But on the other hand we know that market based solutions, putting a price on carbon is one of the ways in which we're going to achieve that. ANDREW MARR: If you, if the price is high enough to stop people flying. Otherwise it doesn't make any difference at all. DAVID CAMERON: Yes I mean I think the last budget the Chancellor produced with these you know tax increases on flying and cars, it was so obviously just about raising a bit of money to help fill his black hole.

ANDREW MARR: So you want higher than that.

DAVID CAMERON: Well they've got to be about making sure we ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay let's move on.

DAVID CAMERON: ... behaviour rather than just - and also green taxes should not be net increases in taxes, otherwise we're going to completely discredit the idea of green taxes. If green taxes go up then we should see family taxes and business taxes come down. Again ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: .. another substantial difference between Gordon Brown's approach and my approach.

ANDREW MARR: Let me ask you about one other big area which is foreign affairs. There will be absolutely no difference in the way we deal with Iraq or Afghanistan under a Conservative government. True or false? DAVID CAMERON: I don't think that is true. I mean I don't go out to make differences over these very important issues of national security. I was ..

ANDREW MARR: Where would the differences be then?

DAVID CAMERON: Let me explain. I mean I was very keen last year to go to both Iraq and Afghanistan and to see our troops, to see the situation on the ground. And I did. I think the difference with Iraq is, is quite a big emphasis.

I mean I think that I would have liked to have seen President Bush's statement to have been closer to the Baker Hamilton proposals.

I'm slightly mystified by the British government on the one hand saying they support Baker Hamilton but on the other hand then saying they support everything that President Bush has said. I mean there's a danger of our government ..

ANDREW MARR: So which way do you go?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think closer to Baker Hamilton. I think the priorities in Iraq must be building up the Iraqi Army as rapidly as possible. Achieving an internal political settlement between Sunni, Shia and Kurds, so you have a strong Iraqi government at the centre that can start to disarm these militias that are doing so much damage.

And progressively asking as the British government, as the American government too I, I would hope as well, what more can we hand over to the Iraqi ... authorities and to the Iraqi Army. That should be the direction of travel. But combined with the Baker Hamilton proposals for more action on a Middle East peace deal, for an international ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: .. support group including neighbouring countries. And I think that is a difference. Look ..

ANDREW MARR: Right.

DAVID CAMERON: .. I'm responsible for what I say and how I set it out. If that's, I think that is different to the government ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: But I don't go out to make the difference.

ANDREW MARR: To make the difference. I understand. Politics is very personal in this country. In the course of this year you are going to be nose to nose with Gordon Brown. What do you really think of him?

DAVID CAMERON: I just don't ..

ANDREW MARR: As a person?

DAVID CAMERON: I just don't really know him very well. We've only met and talked you know a couple of times. Sometimes in politics you do have some, some sort of friendships across the floor of the Commons. But I just don't really know him. I mean I think you know a lot of what I will discuss with him is his record. I mean his ..

ANDREW MARR: Is he going to be a formidable, a formidable opponent?

DAVID CAMERON: He's, he's a formidable politician, no doubt about it. But I think his, his problem is his record. He's now launching a debate about Britishness. He's had ten years to do something about Britishness.

Why don't we teach British history properly in our schools? Why has the government been doing such profoundly un-British things like carving up the country into regions and ..

ANDREW MARR: Okay.

DAVID CAMERON: .. introducing a national ID card scheme. These are the things I will be challenging Gordon Brown ..

ANDREW MARR: Well we're hear much more of that in due course.

DAVID CAMERON: .. and I am looking forward to it.

ANDREW MARR: You're looking forward to it. All right, David Cameron, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

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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