Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Sunday, 4 October 2009 12:17 UK

Tories 'to get Britain working'

David Cameron on his party's "radical" scheme to get people back to work

David Cameron has said a "big, bold" welfare shake-up will be at the heart of the Tory conference in Manchester aimed at "getting Britain working".

He told the BBC the New Deal would be among schemes replaced by personalised help to get the jobless and those on incapacity benefit into work.

The initial start-up cost of the change would be £600m, the Tory leader said.

He declined to say if he would hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty if it were ratified before the election.

But he told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that he welcomed the prospect of a series of TV debates starting now and running up to the election, which is expected to take place in May next year.

Czechs and Poles

Mr Cameron said the theme for the conference was "to get Britain working again" and said tackling the debt and jobs crisis facing Britain were the key priorities.

He said that the welfare reforms would use tax reform and deregulation to help employers take on new staff and encourage the creation of businesses.

There would also be training courses for those unemployed for more than six months - with benefits cut if they refused to take the offer up.

Introduced in 1998
Aimed at reducing unemployment by providing the jobless with training, subsidised employment and voluntary work
Enables benefits to be withdrawn from those refusing "reasonable" employment
Architect of programme was LSE professor Richard Layard, now a Labour peer

The idea is for private training firms to be employed to prepare the unemployed for work and also to assess all 2.6m people on incapacity benefit to see what work they might be able to do.

"We recognise the jobs crisis is one of the most serious things we face as a country. If we don't deal with it it's not just bad for those people who are unemployed now - there's a danger that short-term unemployment becomes long-term unemployment and builds up massive problems for our families and our country in the future," he said.

He said that as well as Monday's unveiling of a welfare shake-up the party would also spell out in some detail plans to cut spending.

Asked how many jobs would be lost by Conservative plans to cut spending, Mr Cameron said that the "real danger - the clear and present danger" - to the British economy and people's jobs was not tackling the deficit.

So what does the self proclaimed "straight talking" guy say about one of the biggest foreign policy dilemma he's likely to face if he becomes prime minister? Nothing. Nowt. Nix. Zippo. Zilch.
Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

Mr Cameron was also pressed repeatedly about his stance on the European Union's Lisbon Treaty after the Irish referendum vote in favour of it.

He said his policy had not changed - there would be a referendum on the treaty in the UK should his party win the election before it has been ratified by all EU member states.

Mr Cameron said that he would not say what would happen if the treaty were ratified by all the EU member states before he became prime minister.

Pressed on the issue Mr Cameron said he did not want to prejudice what was happening in other countries - the Czechs and Poles have yet to ratify it - by saying what action the UK might take if it was delayed until next year.

Personal wealth

During the interview Mr Cameron was also asked about his personal wealth, which he said was mainly the house he and his wife own in west London.

Asked about a Sunday Times estimate that they were worth £30m, Mr Cameron said that figure was "absolutely ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous."

David Cameron: "Our main asset is the house that we own in London"

Asked what the real figure was Mr Cameron added: "I think what matters... what actually matters is... do you understand the problems people face in this country.

"Do you understand the challenges we face as a country. Do you have the right ideas to deal with them. That is what people are asking."

The Conservatives are the last of the three main UK parties to hold their annual conference, running from Monday to Thursday in Manchester.

They are currently running high in the opinion polls ahead of the general election which has to be held by next May at the latest.

But Mr Cameron told the Sunday Telegraph that the party would not be "playing it safe" at what will be their conference.

In response to the welfare plans Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper MP said: "David Cameron's plans are a con that would be devastating for people looking for jobs.

"Their welfare to work plans are just a rehash of what we're already doing but without the investment needed to make them work."

Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Adam Boulton on Sky there were only a few "rites of passage" needed before the Lisbon Treaty came into force and accused Mr Cameron of "dithering" because he did not "want to take on the euro extremists" in his party.

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