David Cameron backs Osborne on 'squeeze' for rest of decade
PM says push for surplus is right and schemes such as freeze on fuel duty will be fully costed
DAVID CAMERON has offered a staunch defence of George Osborne's plan to squeeze public spending until the end of the decade, insisting the push for a budget surplus in the next government shows the coalition is "on the right track". In a wide ranging interview with the BBC's Today programme, the PM also spoke of his "disappointment" at losing the Commons vote on an intervention in Syria and said he'd welcome Boris Johnson as an MP in his government. Here are six of the key topics Cameron addressed:
The squeeze on public spending Cameron conjured up the ghosts of the past by affirming Osborne's observation that the financial crisis "took us [Britain] to the brink". He said his government was on the "right track" because the deficit had been reduced by a third and 1.4 million private sector jobs had been created since the election. But while the UK economy was showing signs of a recovery, it was right to plan for another "six to seven years" of restraint because "that's the scale of the mess we were left [by the Labour government]... Just like any family or business you can't go on adding to your debt levels – you have to put something aside for when the rain will come again."
Funding policy initiatives The PM insisted he would be able to find the cash to pay for schemes such as free school meals, tax breaks for married couples and the freeze on fuel duty until 2015 announced by the chancellor yesterday. He said budgetary details would be included in the forthcoming Autumn statement.
The Help to Buy scheme Cameron gave a passionate defence of the extended Help to Buy scheme allowing people to take out 95 per cent mortgages which will be introduced this week. Dismissing critics who say the £12bn initiative will distort the market and create a housing bubble, he said they needed to "get out and talk to ordinary people" who want to buy a home. "They [potential purchasers] have got good jobs but they can't afford a mortgage," he said. "I don't want to be the PM who stands aside and says you can only buy a flat or a house in this country if you've got rich parents."
Intervention in Syria Cameron admitted he was "disappointed" when he lost a Commons vote calling for armed intervention in Syria. But he rejected the idea that his response was "petulant", and argued that he handled the result with "reasonable grace". He added: "In politics there's no point in brooding about things that don't go right. You have to pick yourself up and get on with it". Cameron insisted that the Commons vote did not mean the UK had "given up" on Syria and said a programme to provide support to the rebels fighting the Assad regime would continue. "We certainly won't turn our back on Syria just because we lost a vote," he said.
Boris Johnson's future Although the London mayor has been widely touted as a leadership rival, Cameron said it "would be great to have him back in the House of Commons at some stage". Asked if he would be welcome to stand as a Tory MP in the 2015 election, the PM said: "Absolutely, but that's a matter for him. He's a massive asset for the country and the Conservative party." Click here for more on Dave and Boris from The Mole.
Press intrusion Asked about Ed Miliband's attack on the Daily Mail over an article that alleged his father "hated Britain", the PM said he hadn't read the original article or the Labour leader's reply. "If anyone had a go at my father I would want to respond very vigorously. I completely understand why Ed would want to get involved," he said. But Cameron said the solution to press intrusion was better "judgement" on the part of editors rather than tighter press controls. ·