Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 16:58 UK

Cameron would axe MPs' cheap food

Cameron: Taxpayers' cash is subsidising a politician's food and drink

David Cameron has pledged to end MPs' subsidised alcohol and food and reduce ministerial salaries if the Tories win power at the next election.

He also said the number of MPs and ministerial cars would be cut.

The Tory leader said it would amount to only a "pinprick" in overall savings needed - but politicians had to take a lead in bearing the "burden" of debt.

He also said government spending should be cut immediately, calling Labour's plans for next year "unaffordable".

Mr Cameron's first major speech since the summer political break coincided with what was seen as a key speech from Chancellor Alistair Darling warning about "hard choices" to come on the economy.

'Cushy lifestyle'

The chancellor stopped short of saying there would be public spending cuts - and warned that to do so before the recovery was established could prolong the recession.

But Mr Cameron said politicians had to be "frank" with the public and under a Conservative government, "public spending will be cut" .

He accused the government of wasting millions of pounds of public money funding "a cushy lifestyle for politicians" and pledged that, under a Conservative government, "the gravy train will well and truly hit the buffers".

We won't flinch from the difficult decisions that will be necessary, and we will always act guided by our core values of fairness and responsibility
Alistair Darling, chancellor

He restated plans to reduce the number of MPs in the House of Commons - currently 645 - to 585, which he said would save £15.5m.

And he said 169 government ministers and the three opposition party posts which get extra money on top of their MPs' salaries, would get an immediate 5% pay cut.

It would amount to a £6,500 cut for the prime minister and a £4,000 cut for cabinet ministers. Salaries would also be frozen for the whole of the next Parliament, he said, saving more than £250,000 a year.

On food and drink, which is subsidised in the Houses of Parliament, he said the cost would be raised to "match the prices normal people pay in cafes, restaurants and bars around the country" - which Mr Cameron said would save up to £5.5m.

Take a lead

He also went over plans to decentralise power, review quangos, publish all government spending over £25,000 online and axe MPs' Communications Allowance.

Other plans include slimming down the Electoral Commission, and stopping public sector bodies hiring consultants to lobby politicians.

Mr Cameron conceded that the £120m-a-year saved was dwarfed by the £175bn Budget deficit expected by the end of the 2009-10 financial year but said it was important politicians took a lead when they were asking others to tighten their belts.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed not renewing Trident. David Cameron wants to increase the price of salads.
Danny Alexander, Lib Dems

In an interview with the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson, he added: "People who say that Tories relish the idea of cutting things - rubbish. I don't relish this at all but we have got to deal with our deficit. If we don't, our country and our economy will be in trouble.

"If we do deal with it, we can have a very good future."

But for Labour, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne said: "David Cameron has just made the big divide in British politics crystal clear.

"We want to help people to stay in work and stay in their homes during difficult times, while David Cameron now admits that he'll cut public spending whatever the economic and social cost, putting the recovery at risk."

The Liberal Democrats' chief of staff, Danny Alexander, said there was an argument for cutting the cost of politics and his party had proposed reducing the number of MPs by 150.

But he said the Tories must stop "dodging the tough questions... the Liberal Democrats have proposed not renewing Trident. David Cameron wants to increase the price of salads".

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