Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 13:36 UK

Honesty needed on cuts - Cameron

Cameron vows to 'confront' UK deficit

David Cameron has defended his party's "difficult" spending cuts plans, saying it is acting "like a government".

The Tory leader said people wanted "decisive" leadership on reducing the public deficit, which he said was a "clear and present danger" to the UK.

His plans to freeze public sector pay, cut tax credits for higher earners and raise the retirement age have been criticised by Labour and the unions.

But the Tories say they have to be honest with people before an election.

Mr Cameron told the BBC it would be "dishonest and irresponsible" not to spell out their plans if they were to win public support for their programme and deal with the "huge" deficit.

"We have to explain to people this is a clear and present danger to the whole country. If we don't deal with this deficit taxes will have to go up even more," he told the BBC.

Pay freeze

"We think we have to confront this issue. We have to talk about it in advance of the election, we have to take people with us and we have to explain some of the difficult decisions."

He added: "It was, I thought, quite a contrast with the government. It was an opposition behaving like a government when we've got an government behaving like an opposition."

On Tuesday, shadow chancellor George Osborne proposed £7bn in annual savings during the next Parliament, including a one-year pay freeze for most public sector workers.

If you won an election in the current economic climate on a false prospectus then it wouldn't be worth governing
George Osborne

He denied his plans represented an electoral gamble, saying the country had "run out of money" and tough action was required.

"Whoever wins the election is going to have to take these choices," Mr Osborne told the BBC's Today programme.

"Anyone who tells you otherwise is frankly lying to you."

The "real choices" in British politics were how to protect jobs while getting the public finances under control, he said.

His proposed public sector pay freeze in 2011 - which exempts the frontline military and anyone earning less than £18,000 a year - goes further than the one announced by Labour on Monday, which will be restricted to GPs, judges and other high earners.

'Small shopping list'

Other cash-saving measures include reducing Whitehall costs by a third, axing child trust funds and cutting middle income tax credits - a sign, the Tories say, that the better-off must take their share of pain.

Mr Osborne also confirmed plans to bring forward a rise in the age at which men can claim a state pension to 66 from 2016.

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Robert Chote, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the measures outlined by Mr Osborne were just a "small shopping list" and much more would be needed to address the gaps in public finances.

He added that "£7bn makes some contribution to that, but it's only a small part of the whole".

Public sector unions said there could be industrial action if either the government's or the Conservatives' plans for a pay freeze came into force.

Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: "This is a scandalous attempt by both the Conservatives and the government to outmanoeuvre one another on public sector pay and job cuts. It is playing politics with people's lives and the services we all rely on."

And Unison leader Dave Prentis said: "Millions of public sector workers will be left out in the cold by this pay freeze. Other staff will have to pay with job and service cuts, while bankers and tax cheats escape with a slapped wrist."

For the government, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne said Mr Osborne's plans failed to match the government's pledge to halve the deficit in four years.

"He said 'we're all in this together', but then attacked the mainstream middle while defending a tax cut for the richest families," Mr Byrne said.

Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Vince Cable called the pay freeze proposals "Lib Dem Lite".



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