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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2007, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
David Cameron reflects
On Sunday 08 July Andrew Marr interviewed David Cameron MP, Leader of H.M. Opposition

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

David Cameron MP
David Cameron MP, Leader of H.M. Opposition

ANDREW MARR: Well we've been looking backwards, inevitably.

Let's look forwards now. Gordon Brown, great clunking fists swinging by his side, has by most accounts had rather a good first ten days or so as Prime Minister.

But the new era has barely begun and we don't know much about how the Conservative's David Cameron is going to try to deal with Brown.

He's a bit down in the polls, he's lost a defector, it's rather harder pounding at the moment.

So how does he feel as the Tories unveil their ideas on healing what's been called our broken society.

Yesterday I met David Cameron at his constituency home in Oxfordshire.

Does he accept that in the turmoil of the terror attacks the new Prime Minister and Home Secretary had made a confident start?

DAVID CAMERON: Oh I think the new Home Secretary has done well, I think struck exactly the right tone, and there's a great consensus across the House of Commons, and I will work very closely with the Prime Minister, with the Home Secretary, to make sure we put in place what we need to do to defeat terrorism. That is absolutely vital.

ANDREW MARR: And I know there's been a great controversy over extending 28 days' detention. What's your current mood about this? Are you genuinely open-minded about extending it further, if not to the original 90 days, at least further than we are at the moment?

DAVID CAMERON: We've said that we don't currently see a case for extending from 28 days. And remember, that 28 days is a very long time, long compared with other countries, other liberal democracies like ours. But we've said if new evidence is produced of course we'll look at that.

But what we have suggested, which I think is very, very helpful, is to say that they should pass a law saying you can go on questioning suspects after they've been charged. Now if that happens you don't have people bumping up against the 28-day limit. And we put that proposal to the government and I believe they're going to take it up.

ANDREW MARR: One of the things Gordon Brown has done is he's brought in outsiders, particularly when it comes to terrorism, he's brought in people like Lord Stevens who was advising you.

DAVID CAMERON: He is advising me.

ANDREW MARR: So he's advising both sides!

DAVID CAMERON: He's a man of great talent and I think we can all benefit from his advice. What he's working with me on, and I'm having a meeting with him next week, is our proposals which Lord Stevens supports, for a British border police force. We think a lot of crime, a lot of guns, a lot of drugs, a lot of illegal immigration, comes through our borders.

A dedicated border police armed force could really help to stop that. Lord Stevens has a very powerful group with other former chief constables on it, looking at that for us, and it will be reporting, I think, in the autumn, an interim report. And it's a very good idea. And I hope the government will take it up which is why I pressed the Prime Minister about it at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

ANDREW MARR: And if they did pick it up we would start to see an extraordinary consensus of these matters across both of the main parties?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I mean we come into politics to get things done, I mean what matters is do you have the right ideas, and do they get put into place?

ANDREW MARR: And there are many people that you're both talking to because, Digby Jones, ex of the CBI, was, if we've read this correctly, at one point a possible contender as Conservative candidate for London, and now he's going to be with Gordon Brown.

DAVID CAMERON: Well conversations were had but I think private conversations should remain private. But, yes it was something he was considering.

ANDREW MARR: Were you shocked by that when you picked up the paper and saw he'd gone over?

DAVID CAMERON: No, not at all. Because actually something else I've been saying for months and months is we need a proper trade minister, and I hope he will fly the flag for British business.

I hope he'll go on being as frank about some of the government's economic failings as he has been in the past. He said that Gordon Brown hasn't spent nearly enough time listening to business, he thinks that the European constitution is a bit of a con. So I hope he'll be as frank and clear as he's been in the past. I hope he'll be that clear in the future.

ANDREW MARR: But this government of all the talents so called is not something that you're worried about?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I don't quite see it like that. When I look at the Cabinet, specifically, I see the same old faces (talking over each other) but in pretty different places.

People who've been running the country for the last ten years, you know, Jack Straw was Home Secretary, these are people who've been - Alastair Darling has been in almost every government department. These are people we're very familiar with. They're responsible, in my view, for many of the failures of the last ten years.

ANDREW MARR: I'm interested you mentioned Alastair Darling because, given what he is saying about the taxation of the super-rich, the hedge fund managers and so on. And given what George Osborne is saying about something that looks like income should be taxed like income, it's beginning to seem as if he's trying to come at you from the right, the pro-business side of the argument. And you are moving to positions which would be traditionally on the left of politics.

DAVID CAMERON: I've never believed in sort of politics as a sort of positioning exercise. You know, where are your opponents and work out where you should be - to me politics is about looking at the arguments, looking at the evidence and trying to do the right thing.

And on this issue of taxation, George Osborne has quite rightly said we must do nothing that threatens the competitiveness of London and the City, and Britain more widely. But we do need to look at this issue because, as he said, if it looks like income it should be taxed like income. And we'll be having a very good conversation with those people and organisations involved to make sure we have a fair tax system.

ANDREW MARR: The other thing that we've had from Gordon Brown, I suppose, are the constitutional proposals.


ANDREW MARR: Particularly the apparent, it's early days, return of Cabinet government, and ideas to give the Commons in particular, and Parliament generally, greater powers. All of that presumably stuff you welcome?

DAVID CAMERON: Well actually, it's stuff that we proposed. I proposed some months ago the idea that Parliament should vote on going to war. I proposed that Parliament should have a lot of those royal prerogative powers about rearranging departments, signing treaties. We put forward the idea of public officials being questioned by select committees before their appointments. So, lots of ideas. Is it frustrating for you.

ANDREW MARR: No - you're turning into Gordon Brown's think tank.

DAVID CAMERON: As I say you go into politics to get things done. And the sensible ideas we've put forward are going to be taken up, that's great. But the great failure of Gordon Brown's constitutional package is it completely ignores the really big constitutional issues.

There aren't many that I think, you know, people really do talk about in their daily lives. But I think, give us a say about Europe, try to deal with the consequences of devolution. I think those are questions people do want answered, and he's not going anywhere near them.

ANDREW MARR: I'm interested you should raise those, because those are also two issues that your predecessors, as Conservative leaders, were banging on about, a lot. Particularly William Hague.

DAVID CAMERON: I haven't banged on about them...

ANDREW MARR: But you're raising them as the two things that need to be addressed, and I'm wondering if what Brown is trying to do is to nudge you back towards the traditional right of politics, whether on these sorts of issue it's working?

DAVID CAMERON: Not at all. I think if you look at what's actually happening in British politics, the conservative party under my leadership has been setting the agenda. Why is it Gordon Brown has announced a huge review of the NHS, because we have been setting the agenda on saving the NHS, on real plans to give it independence and get the politicians out of the management of the NHS. We're the ones who've been setting the agenda on the environment.

I think a lot of this, you know, why is he talking about change all of a sudden? It's because he knows there is a party out there, the Conservative Party, under my leadership, really offering change, offering something different. So I see what he's doing as responding to the lead that we've given.

ANDREW MARR: And yet, when we hear Alan Johnson saying "no more top down changes to the NHS, we're going to let people manage more". When we hearing briefing that local communities are going to be given more power through referendums and so on, to work out where money is going, when they hear these ideas. You may say these were all our ideas but nonetheless it does feel like change, it does sound like change.

DAVID CAMERON: But Andrew that's right, it sounds like change, it's good words, but look at the reality. Just take the last one you mentioned. The government announced in a blaze of glory that local councils are going to give local people more say over how money is spent. I've just been reading an email from the council leader of Salford, supposedly one of the pilot schemes where this is going to happen.

And the council leader says all the government is doing is taking our example, what we're already doing, not giving us any new money, not giving us any new initiative, and just highlighting that as something they believe in. So there's the spin. Spin hasn't died with Gordon Brown. Spin, if anything, I think has been reborn and been given another boost.

ANDREW MARR: I joked a little while ago that, you know, there was a danger of the Conservatives under yourself becoming a kind of think tank for Gordon Brown as he kind of swiped one idea after another, or modified them and incorporated them. That is a real danger for you, isn't it?

DAVID CAMERON: I don't think so, because people will look at Gordon Brown, look at the Labour government and say look these are the people who've been running the country for the last ten years. These are the people who've bankrupted the pension system, these are the people who've introduced all the stealth taxes.

These are the people who've been closing hospitals and maternity units and accident and emergency units, that took away my right to have a GP visit in the middle of the night, that have made it so difficult to find an NHS dentist - these are the people who've failed, and it's time for a change. And I think people will look at Gordon Brown and his team and they will realise they cannot be the change that Britain needs.

ANDREW MARR: They did put a lot more money into the NHS, and they have brought down waiting times, albeit there are problems.

DAVID CAMERON: But what's interesting today, the government has had to set up a year-long fundamental review of the NHS because they do not know what to do. The opposition, the Conservative Party, has a clearly worked-out plan, an NHS White Paper where we make the NHS independent. We give it an independent body to run it, we take the politicians out of the way, we put power in the hands of GPs to commission care on behalf of their patents.

We turn the Department of Health into the Department of Public Health so it really looks at obesity, at hepatitis, and the sexually transmitted diseases. We're the ones with the plans, with the ideas. And they are in a complete funk and having to have a review, it's a fascinating turnaround.

ANDREW MARR: Well let's move on to your next piece of agenda-setting, the broken society, and Ian Duncan Smith and the Social Justice Commission. Explain why you believe this is now central in politics, that, if you like, the arguments over the economy have gone away and we should be talking about broken society?

DAVID CAMERON: I think this is absolutely the big question, the big argument of our times. It's not now necessary to in the same way mend Britain's broken economy. But it's absolutely necessary to mend Britain's broken society. I mean, we are getting richer as a country. But I think everybody knows that there's something deeply wrong with our society. You can see it in the fact that we have such high rates of teenage pregnancy, such high rates of drug abuse, such high rates of children stuck in failing schools, incredibly high crime rates compared with other countries in Europe, huge prison populations.

And we think that the major cause of this is family breakdown, and this report that will come out next week, an extremely powerful report, not just charting what has gone wrong with Britain's society and how we do have so much social breakdown, but really beginning to come up with the answers of how we change that. And it is long-term important generational change above all really supporting families, all the evidence shows that children do best, that we can tackle social breakdown, if you encourage families to come together and stay together.

The kids do best if mum and dad are there to look after them. And today we have a benefit system that encourages families to break up, encourages couples to be separate, we have no recognition of marriage in the tax system. These things have got to change. They're long-term generational changes but we're determined to make them.

ANDREW MARR: Well let's look at one example, concrete example, of this which is the proposal to allow transferable tax allowances from one person to another. There seems to be some doubt whether this is a policy about poverty or it's a policy to strengthen the family. So do we know, do you know yet whether it'd only be for two people who were married or whether it would be for two people, or whether it would be for two people who were in a relationship?

DAVID CAMERON: I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself. What I've said is I think that marriage should be recognised in the tax system. The reason for that is that I think all the evidence supports marriage as a great institution. This is not some religious argument, it's just that unmarried couples, half of them split up by the child's fifth birthday.

ANDREW MARR: Hang on it was religion.

DAVID CAMERON: Well, I'm just trying to make the argument. If you look at unmarried couples, half of them split up by their child's fifth birthday. The figure for married couples is one in twelve. So the evidence is incredibly strong. I've said we should recognise marriage in the tax system.

That's not the only thing we should do, we've got to look at the benefits system, we've got to look at how we support relationships, we need a big cultural change in favour of fatherhood, in favour of parenting, in favour of marriage. But we haven't said yet specifically how we'd do that. The report next week will make proposals but you'll have to wait until that report comes out to see what those proposals are.

ANDREW MARR: Sure, but out there there's an awful lot of single people with children, there's a lot of people who've been living together for 20 years with children. And they will be watching you and wondering whether they are going to be disadvantaged as you change the tax system.

DAVID CAMERON: Look, what I would say is that single parents often do a fantastic job bringing up children. It's hard enough, as I know, as a married couple with three children, it's hard enough doing it together. Single parents do a fantastic job bringing up their children, no one is stigmatising or blaming them.

Many couples choose not to get married, and that is absolutely their decision. The point I'm making is that marriage is a good institution, it should be supported, it should be recognised in the tax system, and we need to go right through our tax and benefits system and ask ourselves why is it encouraging people to live separately?

ANDREW MARR: But isn't to recognise it to privilege it, which suggests that people who aren't married somehow do worse off by comparison?

DAVID CAMERON: Well I think it's an important institution, it should be recognised, and that would be a benefit, yes of course.

ANDREW MARR: Let me ask about another related issue when it comes to families. You've appointed a Communities Minister in the House of Lords who is strongly against sex education at all in schools, and who says that we should be talking to the extremists. Are those positions that you would endorse?

DAVID CAMERON: If you're talking about Sayeeda Warsi who is the first Muslim in any Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet, she is an extremely talented person, a woman from west Yorkshire, and I think she'll make a fantastic contribution to our politics. She has very strong personal views as a Muslim, but she accepts Shadow Cabinet, collective responsibilities, the politics of the Conservative party she supports.

In terms of talking to extremists, if you read her interview in the Evening Standard which I think you're probably drawing from, it's an incredibly sensible interview saying how we ought to ban Hisbut Terria, the extremist group that I said to the Prime Minister why two years after you promised it would be banned it hasn't been banned. Sayeeda completely backs that, but what she was saying in that interview is we've got to get out into Muslim communities, to talk to young British Muslims and try to persuade them that it is very important that we have a more integrated cohesive country, and that is what she can help us do, that is good for politics, that's good for our society, and I'm delighted that she's joined the Shadow Cabinet.

ANDREW MARR: Talking of colourful characters, Boris for London?

DAVID CAMERON: Well, it is Boris's decision what he wants to do. If he'd like to stand for London Mayor that is his decision. Obviously I would like as many good candidates to stand as possible. We've got another, I think, ten days before nominations close. I think already there are over 20 applicants, but I'd like as many good candidates as possible.

ANDREW MARR: Would you like to see Boris Johnson selected, and if he was selected would he have to give up his seat?

DAVID CAMERON: Look, the way our selection process works is that every Londoner is being given a chance to select our candidate. It's a genuinely open primary. So it wouldn't be right for me as the leader of the party to put the black spot, as it were, on one candidate. If Boris wants to stand that's very much a matter for him, it's his decision. I want as many good candidates there as possible, and then Londoners will be able to decide.

ANDREW MARR: You've had your own reshuffle of course. Some people have said that you've been pushing down a few people because they were old Etonions or a bit posh, and you're trying to mould the Shadow Cabinet to look a little bit more representative.

DAVID CAMERON: That's just rubbish. I mean I promote people because they're doing a good job, and sometimes you do have to ask people to change jobs, or to stand aside so that you can freshen up the team and put the best people in the best jobs. It's not an easy part of the job, it's not one I relish, but it has to be done because I want the strongest possible team and I think if you look at the Cabinet, Shadow Cabinet reshuffle I've had, very strong new talent coming into the Shadow Cabinet - Michael Gove who I think will make an excellent education spokesman. Jeremy Hunt doing the culture job, a very talented young MP. Sayeeda Warsi, you mentioned, the first Muslim in any Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet. And Pauline Neville Jones who was head of the joint intelligence committee before we had dodgy dossiers and all of those sorts of things, someone really experienced in the foreign office, in the intelligence services, someone who I think can be a great security advisor both for myself, for our party and at the heart of the Shadow Cabinet.

ANDREW MARR: If you look at her appointment, Dame Pauline Neville Jones, and you compare it with Stevens and others on the Brown side, and if you look at some of the things that he's been saying and some of the things that you've been saying, there isn't a clear gulf at the moment, in many people's minds, in terms of what the parties actually want to do. It has been suggested that Gordon Brown intends to hug you to death.

DAVID CAMERON: There's a huge gulf Andrew. This is still very much a top down central planner. Our ideas, social responsibility, is that when you look at problems you ask "what can families do, what can society do, what can business do" - you push power outwards and downwards to local government and beyond. And when it comes to tackling social breakdown the really big question of our time, how do we mend Britain's broken society? It's not just government action we need, it is action at every level, it is giving more power to families, giving much more power to communities. This is a complete change, a complete gulf if you like between the two parties.

ANDREW MARR: And so when someone like Quentin Davis says you don't really stand for anything anymore, you think he hasn't been listening to this, and you're quite sure that there aren't more Quentin Davis's waiting?

DAVID CAMERON: Look, the Conservative Party has changed under my leadership. Quentin Davis doesn't like those changes, he didn't like our environmental policy, where we're prepared to take tough decisions including on airline taxation. He doesn't like our proposal to give the people a say over the European Constitution. But we think politicians have got to listen to the people. So he made his decision, and that's his decision, and the British people will be able to make theirs.

ANDREW MARR: David Cameron, thank you very much.


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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