Tory spring conference speeches in full
Read David Cameron and George Osborne’s speeches to the Conservative party’s spring conference in full.
In just twelve months’ time, the people here in this room may be asked by our country to undertake one of the greatest challenges we have known in the long and great history of our Party.
I don’t want you or me or anyone else to be in any doubt about the scale of the task ahead.
To deal with a debt crisis that threatens to blight a generation.
To recover from the deepest recession since the second world war – and to build, from the wreckage of a broken economy built on debt, a new economy where we save and invest for tomorrow.
To reshape government from the bloated waste and broken assumptions of an age of irresponsibility to the new rigours of an age of austerity – so that it serves the people who pay for it.
And – most difficult of all – to restore the trust of our fellow citizens in a political system mired in the scandal of smears and parliamentary expenses and the corrosion of spin;
so that we prove to our fellow citizens that not all politicians are the same;
so that we show them that their government can be not the focus of their anger, but the agent of the change they so desperately want to see.
That is the magnitude of the challenge.
The changes that we have brought to our party, the hard-won battle to be the modern and progressive force in British politics, and the leadership we have be shown by David Cameron – should give us the confidence to say to the British people: if you give us the chance, we will not let you down.
We can’t afford to let you down.
For if we fail, then there really will be no hope.
Our opponents are exhausted and discredited.
They don’t have any answers to the problems they created.
We saw that on Wednesday.
What a totally dishonest, disastrous Budget that was.
It should have been the day when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was straight at last with the British people about the consequences of the decade of debt.
A day to bring immediate relief to the savers and pensioners who are the innocent victims of this recession, and prepare for the looming jobs crisis for young people leaving school and college this summer.
A day to set out a credible and serious plan to deal with that debt as recession turns to recovery.
And if he had made difficult choices, and stood up to his Prime Minister – then the Chancellor would have earned the respect of many.
Instead what we got was a fiction based on a fantasy.
The fiction that government can delay the hard decisions on spending until after the general election.
Based on the fantasy that the Prime Minister who promised he’d ended boom and bust, is now going to take us straight back from bust to boom.
Did they really think that no one would spot that they were using hopelessly optimistic forecasts of future growth?
Didn’t they really not consider what would happen just two hours later, when the IMF produced its own forecasts – or two days later when we got the real figures on the size of the recession?
That Labour think they can still fool people shows how disconnected from the real world they have become.
Alistair in Wonderland, some have called it.
Well then, that makes the Prime Minister the Mad Hatter and it leaves the rest of the Cabinet looking like his Tea Party.
For the real revelation last Wednesday was not the size of the borrowing, or the doubling of the national debt, or even the fact that we’re now going to be spending more on servicing that debt that running our schools.
No, the real revelation was that the Labour Government has no answers.
They have run out of ideas.
The economy is on its knees, enterprise is suffocated, we’re falling behind in the race to the future.
And what is there proposal?
A return to the 1970s with a 50% top rate of tax.
With the dishonesty of trying to present a £2 billion tax rise on the wealthy as the answer to a £200 billion borrowing requirement.
So out goes all that New Labour talk of ‘aspiration’ and ‘opportunity’ and owning the centre ground.
In comes all that Old Labour language of ‘soak the rich’ and ‘make the pips squeak’.
We will look back at this time and realise that we were hearing the last, sour notes of a requiem mass.
New Labour. Born 1994. Died April 22nd 2009.
Private funeral. Don’t send flowers.
We Conservatives don’t need convincing that higher tax rates discourage enterprise and damage economic activity.
Like you, I believe in the virtues of lower taxation.
That’s why stopping that national insurance tax rise on the incomes of everyone earning £20,000 is the number one task.
Our priority must be to stop the tax rises on the many not just the few.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that the great New Labour experiment ended like this.
It was always built on an economic lie.
The lie that you could go on increasing spending faster than your economy was growing, and never have to pay for it.
At first, they promised there would be ‘no tax increases at all’.
Then they turned to stealth taxes, like the tax raid that did so much damage to pensions.
After that they tried stealth spending through PFI.
And still it was not enough.
So they sold our gold at a record low, and then they started to borrow when our economy was on a high.
They borrowed and they borrowed, and they never stopped.
They should have fixed the roof while the sun was shining.
Instead they stored up debts that will take a generation to pay off.
And now they have reached a dead end.
Gordon Brown’s only argument was Labour spending versus Tory cuts.
His only policy was to throw money at every problem.
Now that there is no money left, he has no policy left. And no argument either.
No policy for how to govern in an age of austerity.
No plan to reform public services at a time of restraint.
With those smears and now that Budget, he has led his once all-conquering Party to the edge of moral and intellectual bankruptcy.
And so the public looks to us, now, for answers to the problems our country faces.
And we must provide them.
Because we want and we will need a democratic mandate for the changes we need to bring about.
The first and greatest change is from an economy built on debt to an economy that saves and invests.
The root of cause of our problems is too much debt.
Too much government debt, too much banking debt, too much personal debt.
We borrowed and borrowed, from the Chinese and others, to buy the goods that they made for us, and never stopped to think what would happen when the merry-go-round stopped.
Yes, we must deal with the toxic debts of the banks we now own.
They will be zombies until we do. Neither dead nor fully alive.
Yes we must get credit flowing through the veins of the economy through a proper national loan guarantee scheme.
Yes, we must deal with the failed regulatory system that let the banks behave so recklessly.
A week after the late and respected Eddie George died, let us remember that taking away the power of his Bank of England to call time on debt was one the greatest mistakes Gordon Brown made – and we will put it right.
But in the end, our banks held up a mirror to our society.
If they borrowed too much, so did we.
We have to be straight with people.
The days of easy money are over.
We’ve got to say to people:
If you want to buy a house, then you have to be able to afford a deposit for it.
If you think you want yet another store credit card, then think twice about it.
We will encourage families to save.
We will reward those who put away money for a rainy day and those who aspire to leave something to their children.
We will give incentives to our businesses to invest.
My parents started their own small businesses from scratch and their successes and failures were the rhythms of my childhood.
Forty years later, my father still runs the company he founded – and I am as proud of what he has achieved as it is possible for a son to be.
I believe it is a duty of Government to help and support the next generation who want to live with the dream, and sometimes the nightmare, of running your own business.
Giving a kick to the entrepreneurial spirits of the British people will be the urgent task of the next government.
We will need to create new jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people now losing their old jobs.
Every one of them is a mother who has to tell her children they may have to leave their home;
Or a father who has worked all his life and fears he will never work again;
Or a young person leaving college and joining the dole without any means of paying off their debts.
And Theresa has spoken about how we must help them.
They are our economic future.
And while we get banking back on its feet, and fight to keep London the centre of global finance, we must learn from the mistake of strapping the fortunes of the entire British economy on the back of the tiger of finance.
We need to support our industries – our aerospace, our pharmaceuticals, our low carbon pioneers and our high tech manufacturing.
I think you agree – it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Britain started making things again.
But we can’t do any these things – supporting saving, helping investment – if the institution in our society which saves the least, and borrows the most recklessly is our government.
Last autumn, I stood before you at our Party Conference and I told you that the cupboard was bare.
It’s worse than I thought. The cupboard itself is about to taken away by the bailiffs.
The public finances are out of control and that presents a clear and present danger to the prosperity of an entire generation.
We must act and act fast.
We need a government of thrift in this age of austerity.
David Cameron and I have earned the right to be heard on this.
It wasn’t easy standing up and telling the public that the country could not afford Labour’s temporary VAT cut, but we did it and we did it almost alone.
And it wasn’t easy standing up and telling some people in this party that sound money is the only route to real tax cuts – but we did that too.
We will take the measures necessary to restore order and sanity to our public finances.
That will mean very difficult decisions that won’t be popular with every lobby group and every vested interest.
Yes, we will make efficiency savings, and there are billions to be had. But we don’t pretend that they will be enough.
So we are considering the future of government programmes and procurement plans that look like a luxury we simply cannot afford.
We make sure that the welfare budget, the largest by far in Whitehall, supports the society we want to see not undermines it.
We are prepared to say that public sector pay must reflect the prevailing economic conditions.
If anyone running a quango wants to be paid more than the Prime Minister of the day, then they are going to have to justify that in person to the Chancellor of the day.
We are ready to hand over the political power Chancellors have enjoyed for centuries to make, and sometimes manipulate, budget forecasts to a new independent Office for Budget Responsibility
I believe that the spending decisions of government should be based on facts not fantasy.
And I want the public to know how their money is being spent, so we will let them Google their tax pounds and bring transparency to the government accounts.
We want to transform the whole culture of government – so the question for every Minister becomes not how much money have I spent, but how much value for money have I secured?
And we will reform our public services and tackle the real long term drivers of spending like poverty, welfare dependency, family breakdown and poor education.
No Chancellor can do this alone.
Gordon Brown downgraded the job of Chief Secretary and removed from his Cabinet colleagues their right to be involved in the overall spending decisions of government.
I want our Chief Secretary, Philip Hammond, the star of this week’s Question Time, to be one of the most powerful members of the government.
I want my colleagues in Cabinet to be collectively responsible for the spending decisions we take.
They won’t be the representatives of their departments in the Cabinet, they will be the representatives of the Cabinet in their departments.
Together, collectively, collegiately we will get our country to live within its means.
I know how impatient people are to get the detailed plans and hear all the figures. I get it every time I appear on the radio or on TV.
I am used to it.
In 2006 they wanted me to write my budget for 2010. And they wanted it in 2007 and 2008 too.
And if we had listened, I would be tearing it up now – just as the Liberals have been forced to tear up their tax plans this week.
And given how dramatically the borrowing forecasts have deteriorated and how fast this last Budget has unraveled, I ask how sensible would it be to write that 2010 Budget now?
Yes, we will give specifics.
Yes, we will seek a mandate.
But we will take our time and get it right – because we can see today with this government what happens when you get it wrong.
Ladies and Gentleman,
For years, we have been in opposition.
For years, we have laboured hard and not always seen the reward.
Now we have a year to go before what I believe will be the defining election of my generation.
As significant as 1945 and 1979.
I know your feet are weary from the pavements you have trod, and your hands are sore from the letterboxes you have stuffed, and our candidates are exasperated as they wait for the election that has been delayed.
But now is the time to redouble the pace.
We have the elections in June and the general election to follow.
The moment we have been preparing for, planning for, working for is upon us.
Let us go out there and show the country that there is an alternative.
That trust can be restored to our politics.
That confidence can be rebuilt in our economy.
That we can be a Government of thrift.
That an age of austerity holds out the hope of a future of prosperity.
That we can be the change our country needs.
And that we can step up to the great challenge of our times.
It’s good to be here in Cheltenham, and to see this great Party so united, determined and optimistic.
Look what we’ve achieved since our Spring Forum in Gateshead last year.
We’ve now got more councillors than Labour and the Liberal Democrats – combined.
We’ve won our first by-election from Labour in thirty years.
And we’ve got the first Conservative Mayor of London.
All this – because of you and your round-the-clock hard work.
Because every strand of this Party – the volunteers, the councillors, professionals and parliamentarians came together to work side by side in common cause.
It doesn’t get said enough: thank you.
But we haven’t just been winning elections together.
We’ve been changing our Party together too.
Candidates who represent Britain as it is today.
Social action projects in our local communities.
And new issues to campaign about.
Yes we’re the party of strong borders, law and order and low taxes – and we always will be.
But today we’re also the party of the NHS, the environment and of social justice too.
Ours has been a voyage of connection.
Not just with the modern world and the challenges of the hour.
But with the rich heritage of our own political tradition – that strand of Conservatism that celebrates the local, the civic and the social.
We have strengthened our liberalism and rediscovered our Conservatism building a movement that isn’t just about the individual, but about the community not just about the ‘me’, but the ‘we’ not just about the market, but about society too.
That’s what we’ve achieved, and we can be hugely proud of it.
But it has all been in preparation for what lies ahead.
The election could be just a year or so away.
This will not be any old election.
Its outcome will shape Britain for a very long time.
And it is an election we must win.
There are deep, dark clouds over our economy, our society, and our whole political system.
Steering our country through this storm; reaching the sunshine on the far side cannot mean sticking to the same, wrong course.
We need a complete change of direction.
I’m not just talking about changing one group of Ministers for another.
Or one set of policies, plans and proposals for another.
I’m talking about a whole new, never-been-done-before approach to the way this country is run.
Because the world has completely changed.
In this new world comes the reckoning for Labour’s economic incompetence.
The age of irresponsibility is giving way to the age of austerity.
Labour’s Debt Crisis.
The highest borrowing in peacetime history.
The deepest recession since the war.
Labour are spent.
The money has run out.
Now some people say: let’s get through the recession, let’s get through the election we can keep on spending more, keep on borrowing more, and deal with the debt crisis later.
Wrong – seriously wrong.
The alternative to dealing with the debt crisis now is mounting debt, higher interest rates and a weaker economy.
Unless we deal with this debt crisis, we risk becoming once again the sick man of Europe.
Our recovery will be held back, and our children will be weighed down, by a millstone of debt.
So this is no time for business as usual.
This is no time for more of the same.
There is only one way out of this mess, and that is through massive change.
I’m frustrated it’s not happening.
I’m impatient to get on with it.
And today I want to explain what the change needs to be.
First, the age of austerity demands responsible politics.
Over the next few years, we will have to take some incredibly tough decisions on taxation, spending, borrowing – things that really affect people’s lives.
Getting through those difficult decisions will mean sticking together as a country – government and people.
That relationship, just as any other, is strengthened by honesty; undermined by dishonesty.
Gordon Brown doesn’t understand how important this is.
Despite the gravity of this debt crisis despite the serious consequences of not dealing with it he still can’t stop his politics of spin; smoke and mirrors; treating people as fools.
Remember, two years ago it was the election that never was.
He told us he bottled it because he thought he was going to win.
This time last year it was the 10p tax con.
He taxed the poor for the sake of a headline, claimed that no-one lost out, and then spent billions of pounds compensating them.
Last week it was the U-turn on YouTube.
After telling us to wait for the independent enquiry on MPs’ expenses, he suddenly popped up to announce his own plan.
And what was that great new plan?
Paying MPs to turn up for their job.
No questions asked.
More taxpayers’ money.
But the most cynical trick yet came in last week’s Budget.
Everyone could see through what they were trying to do:
“Don’t look at this vast hole in the public finances over there look at this pathetic piece of class war posturing over here.”
When I see Brown and Darling, I’m reminded of those people who come to your door; one pretends to read your gas meter, while the other robs your house.
50p income tax when you have a budget deficit of £175 billion?
That’s not responsibility – it’s distraction burglary.
There’s no responsibility left in Labour.
They’re already set to have the highest borrowing in the G20.
And yet, unbelievably, this Government is planning to spend and borrow even more.
They’ve just announced a spending increase – not a cut, but an increase – of £20 billion for next year.
They’ve delayed the cuts until after the election.
Now I wonder why that could be?
Last week, Labour had their chance to set out their alternative, to show how they would lead us out of this crisis and they completely blew it.
And now, I just think people are completely sick of it.
Sick of Labour’s cynicism; sick of their incompetence; sick of their irresponsibility.
So it will fall to this Party to offer the responsible politics the country expects in this age of austerity.
But it expects more from us than a hair shirt and a stern lecture.
Over the past three years, we have set out a particular vision of the good society.
A fairer, safer, greener Britain – where opportunity is more equal.
Good schools. A better NHS.
Our broken society – on the mend.
Our battered economy – rebuilt, with modern, hi-tech enterprise; well-paid, rewarding jobs; where our standard of living and quality of life rise together.
We have explained that we want to achieve these progressive aims through Conservative means:
Personal responsibility. Social responsibility.
Taking power from the state and giving it to individual people and communities.
Is this vision dead?
Does the age of austerity force us to abandon our ambitions? No.
We are not here just to balance the books.
There’s more to our mission than coming in like a bunch of flint-faced accountants and sorting out the finances. By the way, I want to make it clear I’ve got nothing against accountants.
The last time I talked about flint-faced accountants I got a letter from the wife of an accountant saying: “Dear David Cameron.my husband isn’t flint-faced – he’s actually very good looking.”
The question is: how does government help achieve these wider aims in the age of austerity?
And the answer is: by delivering more for less.
That in turn means four big changes for government and the role of the state.
First, a return to traditional public spending control.
Second, a new culture of thrift in government.
Third, curing our big social problems, not just treating them.
And fourth, imagination and innovation as we harness the opportunities of technology to transform the way public services are delivered.
So the first, and most obvious part of delivering more for less is to deliver the ‘less.’
The days of easy money are over, and we have no option but to weed out spending that is not essential.
In opposition that means not making pledges you can’t keep – and we haven’t.
It means not signing up to spending plans you can’t afford – and we didn’t.
We’ve made a good start by making sure we won’t arrive in government with a whole bunch of unaffordable commitments.
We opposed the £12 billion Labour wasted on the VAT cut.
We were against the fiscal stimulus.
We said they should reduce their spending plans back in 2008.
And now we’re saying they should abandon their irresponsible plan to increase spending in 2010.
Controlling public spending and delivering more for less must start right now.
Not next year, not after the election – now.
We’ve made it clear that a Conservative government would spend less than Labour.
We’re not frightened of their idiotic ritual chants about “cuts.”
Everybody knows that Labour’s Debt Crisis means public spending cuts.
And instead of putting them off, Labour should be making them today.
Here’s how they could start – by reversing those extensions of the state that do more harm than good and which Britain would be better off without.
So scrap the ID cards scheme.
Cancel the ContactPoint database.
And get rid of Regional Assemblies and all that useless regional bureaucracy.
Those may be easy choices for Conservatives.
But we’ll need to make hard choices too.
It is not easy, or popular, for governments to take money away from people.
But when there are still millions of people in this country living in poverty, and when the age of austerity means we must focus on the real priorities can we honestly say it’s right for people earning over £50,000 a year to get state benefits in the form of tax credits?
With a Conservative government, tax credits will be there to help make society fairer, not the state bigger.
And we must apply the same discipline throughout government.
That means making sure that public sector pay and pensions reflect the realities of the economic situation.
Let me make it clear to everyone who works in the public sector: we will honour existing pay deals, including any three year pay deals.
But many of them end next year.
And this is the deal we’ll be offering you then:
We will help you by getting rid of the central direction and bureaucracy that undermines your professional autonomy and morale.
And in exchange we will ask for your help in solving Labour’s Debt Crisis by keeping the cost of public sector pay only as high as the country can responsibly afford.
Ever since I became leader of this Party in 2005, people have been asking me to tell them, not in general terms but in specific detail what a new Conservative government would do on tax and spending in a Budget in 2010.
George and I have resisted that pressure and I believe experience shows we’re right.
Detailed plans or shadow budgets would become quickly out of date.
But in the weeks and months ahead, the Shadow Cabinet will redouble its efforts to identify wasteful and unnecessary public spending.
Make no mistake: I am very clear about how much more work there is still to be done in order to identify significant future savings.
We will carry out this work.
We will do so responsibly.
And in time, we will set out the hard choices that lie ahead.
But cutting spending the country can do without is not going to deliver the scale of change we need.
Delivering more for less can’t just be about top-down cuts imposed by ministers.
We need a massive culture change at every level of government, to make the state careful, not casual, with public money.
Every pound of public spending has been earned on the shop floor, the factory floor, in the office.
It’s not government money, as Labour like to say.
It’s your money.
If Labour remembered that, maybe they wouldn’t have wasted over £2.3 billion – yes £2.3 billion – refurbishing the offices of the Ministry of Defence.
That’s more than they take in one year from Air Passenger Duty.
So next time you’re in your airline seat, just be grateful you’ve helped buy a comfy new chair for some bureaucrat.
This kind of extravagant waste is absolutely run of the mill in government.
From the £90,000 wasted on pot plants in the Department of Transport to over twelve billion wasted on the NHS computer they don’t think twice about splashing your cash.
Because of the culture of profligacy Labour have created.
Where spending money is a good in itself, regardless of what it gets you.
Where Ministers brag about getting a bigger budget than the next guy.
Only in government do people automatically think that the way to get things done is to spend more money.
But it’s just not true.
Our education departments employ nearly four thousand people, and Britain is ranked seventeenth in the world league table for maths.
Sweden is at number ten, and their education department employs just three hundred people.
In the London Borough of Southwark, a new social enterprise called Southwark Circle is delivering vastly improved care services for less money designed by elderly people for elderly people using local social networks to bring real improvements to people’s lives.
Our government spends nearly £400 million a year on advertising to reach sixty million people while Wikipedia, one of the largest websites in the world, spends about one per cent of that to reach 280 million people.
Sweden’s education department. Southwark Circle. Wikipedia.
They’re all delivering more for less.
If they can do it, why can’t our government?
Well I believe it can – by replacing Labour’s spendaholic government with a new government of thrift.
Here’s how we’re going to go about it.
With a Conservative government, if ministers want to impress the boss, they’ll have to make their budgets smaller, not bigger.
On my watch it will be simple: if you do more for less you get promoted if you do less for more, you get sacked.
If we’d had this approach over the last twelve years, I don’t suppose there’d be a single Labour Minister left.
But this culture of thrift must apply to the civil service too.
So we’ll impose a new fiduciary responsibility on senior civil servants – a contractual obligation to save the taxpayer money.
And every government department needs a proper finance director.
Some of them today aren’t proper accountants – flint-faced or not.
With such huge sums of public money at stake a Conservative government will make sure we have the professional financial controls the taxpayer has a right to expect.
But let’s not pretend that cutting waste, and turning round the culture, will be enough to deal with the decade of debt that will be Labour’s legacy.
Achieving more for less in this age of austerity is not just a technical question of managerial efficiency.
It is a philosophical question too.
It’s about your approach to the big social problems that government must help address.
And we have a fundamentally different approach to Labour.
Because Labour always want to expand the state, they focus on treating social ills leaving the state with an ongoing role.
Because we want to expand society, not the state, we focus on curing social ills so the state is no longer needed.
For example, when it comes to poverty, Labour’s approach is just to treat the symptoms by spending more money.
Our approach is to understand why people are stuck in poverty in the first place, and help them break free by tackling welfare dependency, addiction, debt, poor schooling and above all, family breakdown.
There is no way this country will prosper in the twenty-first century, let alone deal with the debt crisis if we keep asking taxpayers to foot the £100 billion a year bill for the broken society.
So our plans for school reform, welfare reform and strengthening families plans which might once have been seen as just socially desirable in the age of austerity become economically essential.
And here’s another way our philosophical differences with Labour give us an advantage in the battle for budget discipline.
We don’t believe in top-down central control: we believe in local control.
We don’t believe in taking power, we believe in giving it away.
And that’s the principle behind many of our most important reform plans: taking power from the central state and giving it to local people.
So in education we’ll end the state monopoly and allow new schools to be set up, giving parents real school choice for the first time.
In the NHS we’ll scrap those bureaucratic process targets and instead publish the health outcomes that matter, so patients can really choose where to be treated.
And in prisons we’ll redefine their purpose: from places where criminals are just locked up, to places where criminals are rehabilitated.
We’ll invite social enterprises, private companies and community organisations to help run our public services not in a limited, half-hearted way, like Labour have, but with passion and enthusiasm, because we really believe in it.
And we will pay these new providers by the results they achieve, so there’s a real incentive to improve.
Trusting people, sharing responsibility, decentralising and devolving power.
When it comes to running public services, that’s the way you get new ideas, new people, new ways of doing things.
And guess what, when you do that, you not only get better results.
You save money too.
In a phrase, you get more for less.
And there’s one more way to combine financial discipline with our positive vision.
Today, technology means everyone can have the information that was once kept by the privileged few.
In the hands of a party like Labour, that believes in central control, this opportunity is stifled.
Just look at computerising the NHS.
Labour say: let’s call in the expensive consultants. Let’s commission a massive IT project. Let’s make the state more powerful with a new, centralised computer to store everyone’s health records.
The result: NHS Connecting for Health, costing over twelve billion pounds.
One part of it is the Electronic Patient Records system – a central state-run database designed to let GPs, hospital doctors and nurses share your medical notes.
Now I want you to imagine how we’d have gone about it, if we’d had the chance.
We would have said: today, you don’t need a massive central computer to do this.
People can store their health records securely online, they can show them to whichever doctor they want.
They’re in control, not the state.
And when they’re in control of their own health records, they’re more interested in their health, so they might start living more healthily, saving the NHS money.
But best of all in this age of austerity, a web-based version of the government’s bureaucratic scheme services like Google Health or Microsoft Health Vault cost virtually nothing to run.
So this is where some really big savings could be made.
Not just shaving a bit off this budget here; that cost there.
Instead replacing whole chunks of the expensive, bureaucratic government machine with more modern methods – for a tiny fraction of the cost.
But it will only happen if you have a government that actually believes in giving power away.
And in an age when we’re asking people to put up with tax rises and spending cuts to pay for Labour’s Debt Crisis we can use technology to give people even more power – through transparency.
If a company is failing and new management comes in, transparency is the first thing they demand – opening up the books and seeing how every penny is spent.
It’s going to be the same with us.
So today I can announce our ‘People’s Right to Know’ plan – a democratic check on wasteful spending.
Every item of government spending over £25,000, nationally and locally, will have to be published online.
If you want to see how it could work, look at the Missouri Accountability Portal.
It will show you why transparency is such a powerful tool in controlling public spending.
And it can have an especially powerful effect when it comes to salaries.
Spending on public sector salaries has soared under Labour.
Where this has gone to nurses, doctors, teachers, police and other frontline stars, that is money well spent.
But it’s certainly not true of the wage bill for the swarm of unaccountable quangos that has infested our country under Labour.
In the age of austerity, where we’ll be asking frontline public sector workers to help us keep pay levels down we cannot leave the pay of public sector bureaucrats untouched.
People have a right to know exactly how much they’re getting.
So we’ll publish online all public sector salaries over £150,000.
Let’s see which officials have been getting rich at the taxpayer’s expense – and whether they’re worth the money.
Today we’re publishing a list of some we already know about.
Ed Richards at OfCom – he earns over £400,000 a year.
In fact, if you took the top thirty salaries at Ofcom, the communications watchdog, you could provide the whole of Cheltenham with free broadband access.
And then there’s the British Waterways Board.
The salaries of their top four employees – Robin Evans, Nigel Johnson, James Froomberg and Phillip Ridal – add up to £900,000.
That’s thirty nurses.
In the age of austerity we’ve got to ask ourselves what we really value in the public sector: and I know what the answer is.
It’s not the fat cats but the frontline workers.
This is the post-bureaucratic age.
With imagination and determination, we can deliver more for less.
For me, this is very personal.
Fifteen years ago, I was in the Treasury as we had to deal with public finances that had got out of control; debt that had got too high.
We had to put up taxes, and I hated it.
But it was the right thing to do and that lesson has stayed with me.
That’s why I’m a fiscal conservative.
That’s why, when it came to that big decision to oppose the VAT cut and the so-called fiscal stimulus, I didn’t consult a focus group or an opinion poll I just knew it was the right thing to do.
And there’s something else.
I know that if we win the election, we’ll be judged a successful government if we deal with the debt crisis – and a failure if we don’t.
Believe me, I get that.
I think people know by now that I want us to stand up for the poorest in Britain and to show that fiscal responsibility can go hand in hand with a social conscience.
And they know I will stand up for the aspiring and the enterprising, kicked in the teeth by a Labour Party reverting to type.
We will show that social responsibility can go hand in hand with personal ambition.
But what people also need to know is that I will stand up for responsibility and thrift.
Those are values this country needs today.
Labour’s leaders say only they stand for fairness.
These Labour ministers, saddling future generations with debt?
These Labour ministers, making our children pay the price of their incompetence?
Their “fairness” is utterly phoney.
So let’s turn our anger into passion ad our passion into action to give Britain the leadership she needs.
Yes if we win the election, we may not see the full fruits of our labours in the lifetime of our government.
But if we stick together and tackle this crisis our children and grandchildren will thank us for what we did for them and for our country.