Conservative Party Conference
Manchester, Lancashire UK
I want to get straight to the point.
We all know how bad things are, massive debt, social breakdown, political disenchantment. But what I want to talk about today is how good things could be.
Don't get me wrong, I have no illusions. If win this election, it is going to be tough. There will have to be cutbacks in public spending, and that will be painful. We will need to confront Britain's culture of irresponsibility and that will be hard to take for many people. And we will have to tear down Labour's big government bureaucracy, ripping up its time-wasting, money-draining, responsibility-sapping nonsense.
None of this will be easy. We will be tested. I will be tested. I'm ready for that - and so I believe, are the British people. So yes, there is a steep climb ahead.
But I tell you this. The view from the summit will be worth it.
If we win the election the first and gravest responsibility I will face is for our troops in Afghanistan and their families at home.
I know that.
I know about the mothers and the wives, the husbands and the children, counting the minutes between news bulletins, fearing the announcement of the next casualty. I know what they want - and deserve - from their government. A ruthless, relentless focus on fighting, winning and coming home.
That must start at the top. Instead of a revolving door at the Ministry of Defence with a second rate substitute in charge, we need a politician from the front rank, and in Liam Fox we have one.
We need a clear chain of command that flows right from the top. My national security council, with the key ministers and defence chiefs, will sit from day one of a new government, as a war cabinet.
We need a strategy that is credible, and do-able. We are not in Afghanistan to deliver the perfect society. We are there to stop the re-establishment of terrorist training camps.
Frankly, time is short. We cannot spend another eight years taking ground only to give it back again.
So our method should be clear......send more soldiers to train more Afghans to deliver the security we need. Then we can bring our troops home.
And I know the most urgent requirement of all. That those brave men and women we send into danger have every piece of equipment they need to do the job we ask of them. I will make sure that happens.
And I have something else to say. When the country is at war, when Whitehall is at war, we need people who understand war in Whitehall.
That's why I'm proud to announce today that someone who has fought for our country and served for forty years in our armed forces will not only advise our defence team but will join our benches in the House of Lords and if we win the election could serve in a future Conservative Government:
General Sir Richard Dannatt. As we welcome him to serve with us, let us all salute those who serve our country.
FAMILY, COMMUNITY, COUNTRY
We could have come to Manchester this week and played it safe. But that's not what this party is about and it's certainly not what I'm about.
When I stood on that stage in Blackpool four years ago it wasn't just to head up this party, sit around and wait for the tide to turn. It was to lead this party and change it, so together we could turn the tide.
Look what we've done together. More women candidates, campaigning on the environment, the party of the NHS. And this year, here in Manchester, our most successful, dynamic conference for twenty years.
I'd like to thank everyone involved, the police who kept us safe and your chum and mine, Eric Pickles.
But also this year, in these difficult times, we've won the argument on the economy and debt as George Osborne showed in that magnificent speech on Tuesday.
That was the success we achieved this year.
But for me and Samantha this year will only ever mean one thing. When such a big part of your life suddenly ends nothing else - nothing outside - matters. It's like the world has stopped turning and the clocks have stopped ticking. And as they slowly start again, weeks later, you ask yourself all over again: do I really want to do this? You think about what you really believe and what sustains you.
I know what sustains me the most. She is sitting right there and I'm incredibly proud to call her my wife.
My beliefs. I am not a complicated person. I love this country and the things it stands for.
That the state is your servant, never your master. Common sense and decency. The British sense of community.
I have some simple beliefs.That there is such a thing as society, it's just not the same thing as the state. That there is a ‘we' in politics, and not just a ‘me.'
Above all, the importance of family. That fierce sense of loyalty you feel for each other. The unconditional love you give and receive, especially when things go wrong or when you get it wrong. That powerful sense you have when you hold your children and there's nothing, absolutely nothing - you wouldn't do to protect them.
This is my DNA: family, community, country. These are the things I care about. They are what made me. They are what I'm in public service to protect, promote and defend. And I believe they are what we need in Britain today more than ever.
I know how lucky I've been to have the chances I had. And I know there are children growing up in Britain today who will never know the love of a father. Who are born in homes that hold them back. Who go to schools that keep them back.
Children who will never start a business, never raise a family, never see the world. Children who will live the life they're given, not the life they want. That is what I want to change.
I want every child to have the chances I had. That is why I'm standing here.
But we won't help anyone unless we face up to some big problems. The highest budget deficit since the war. The deepest recession since the war. Social breakdown; political disillusionment. Big problems for the next government to address.
And here is the big argument in British politics today, put plainly and simply. Labour say that to solve the country's problems, we need more government.
Don't they see? It is more government that got us into this mess.
Why is our economy broken? Not just because Labour wrongly thought they'd abolished boom and bust. But because government got too big, spent too much and doubled the national debt.
Why is our society broken? Because government got too big, did too much and undermined responsibility.
Why are our politics broken? Because government got too big, promised too much and pretended it had all the answers.
Of course it was done with the best intentions. And let's be clear: not everything Labour did was wrong.
Devolution; the minimum wage; civil partnerships, these are good things that we will we keep.
But this idea that for every problem there's a government solution for every issue an initiative, for every situation a czar....
It ends with them making you register with the government to help out your child's football team. With police officers punished for babysitting each other's children. With laws so bureaucratic and complicated even their own Attorney General can't obey them.
Do you know the worst thing about their big government? It's not the cost, though that's bad enough. It is the steady erosion of responsibility. Our task is to lead Britain in a completely different direction.
So no, we are not going to solve our problems with bigger government. We are going to solve our problems with a stronger society. Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger country. All by rebuilding responsibility.
THE DEBT CRISIS
The clearest sign of big government irresponsibility is the enormous size of our debt.
If we win the election, we will have to confront Labour's Debt Crisis, deal with it, and take the country with us. I want everyone to understand the gravity of our situation.
Our national debt has doubled in the last five years and our annual deficit next year will be over £170 billion.
That's twice as big as when we nearly went bankrupt in the 1970s. It is a massive risk to our economy. If we spend more than we earn, we have to get the money from somewhere.
Right now, the Government is simply printing it. Sometime soon that will have to stop, because in the end, printing money leads to inflation. Then the Government will have to borrow it.
But we'll only be given the money if lenders are confident we can pay it back. If they're not, we'll have to pay higher interest rates and that could stop our economic recovery in its tracks.
So we have three choices.
Option one: we can just default on the debt. Not pay it. Other countries have done that in the past. But I don't think anyone in this country wants to go down that road.
Option two: we could encourage inflation, which would wipe out the value of the debt, making it easier to pay off. But that's not just an economic disaster - it's a social disaster too. It doesn't just wipe out debts, it wipes out people's hard-earned savings.
So we have the third option - for me the only option. We must pay down this deficit. The longer we leave it, the worse it will be for all of us.
I know there are some who say we should just wait.
Don't talk about the deficit. Don't even plan for what needs to be done. Just wait. Don't they understand - it's the waiting that's the problem.
The longer we wait for a credible plan, the bigger the bill for our children to pay. The longer we wait, the greater the risk to the recovery. The longer we wait, the higher the chance we return to recession.
Here's the most obvious reason we can't wait. The more we wait, the more we waste on the interest we're paying on this debt.
Next year, Gordon Brown will spend more money on the interest on our debt than on schools. More than on law and order, more than on child poverty.
So I say to the Labour Party and the trades unions just tell me what is compassionate, what is progressive about spending more on debt interest than on helping the poorest children in our country?
The progressive thing to do, the responsible thing to do is to get a grip on the debt but in a way that brings the country together instead of driving it apart. That means showing leadership at the top which is why we will cut ministers' pay and freeze it for a parliament.
It means showing that we're all in this together which is why we'll freeze public sector pay for all but the one million lowest paid public sector workers......for one year to help protect jobs.
And it means showing that the rich will pay their share which is why for now the 50p tax rate will have to stay and Child Trust Funds for those on middle and higher incomes will have to go.
Yes we have made some tough choices. But in British politics today that is the only responsible thing to do.
Dealing with this debt crisis is not just about cuts in the short term. We must also live within our means over the long term. Everyone knows we have an ageing population.
Our pension system was designed in a time when many people didn't live till 70 .... It is out of date and it has to change. That's why this week we made the difficult decision to bring forward the raising of the pension age.
I know that working longer will be tough for many people. But it will also allow us to help pensioners more.
I got an email from a lady who wrote to me in desperation. She doesn't want me to reveal her name because she's so frightened of what might happen to her.
She and her husband left school at fifteen and started work straight away. They bought their own home, where they've lived for forty years. But they've been let down terribly. She lost out on the 10p tax and took a drop in her pension. She and her husband aren't entitled to pension credit because they saved for their old age.
Here's what she says:
"during the cold spell this winter, we sat watching TV with blankets wrapped around us.
The drug dealer and the druggies who live nearby had their windows wide open and the heating full on.
We don't bother watching police dramas on the TV, we just look out of our window.
Our savings are making no money.
If one of us dies we cannot afford to stay in our home."
This lady doesn't want pity. Pensioners don't want pity. They just want to know that if they've lived responsibly, they'll be looked after in their old age.
Parties have been talking about raising the pension in line with earnings for years. But it never happens.
Well let's be the party that finally makes it happen. Because of the difficult choice we've made on the pension age we'll be able not just to deal with our debt but to raise the basic state pension in line with earnings. Not just for one year, but for every year.
Cutting back on big government is not just about spending less. Getting our debt down means getting our economic growth up.
Let's be clear where growth will come from. Not big government, with its Regional Development Agencies and National Investment Corporations but entrepreneurs. New businesses, new industries, new technologies.
I get enterprise. I worked in business for seven years. And let me tell you what I learned during that time.
Complicated taxes, excessive regulations they make life impossible for entrepreneurs.
So I will always put the same questions to Ken Clarke and his business team.
What are you doing to make it easier to start a business? Easier to take people on? What are you doing to make regulation less complicated? To make locating a business here more attractive?
Ken Clarke and David Willetts this week helped launch our plan to Get Britain Working.
It is a plan to boost science, skills, self-employment a plan to improve training, technology, tax incentives for entrepreneurs.
This is what it means.
It means the man who's lost his job and his confidence saying yes, I can set up on my own, I can take responsibility, there's nothing to stop me.
It means the people he takes on, who thought they were written off, thinking yes I've got another chance and I can provide for my family again.
Self-belief is infectious and I want it to spread again throughout our country especially through the poorest places where Labour let hope fade away.
In Britain today, there are entrepreneurs everywhere - they just don't know it yet. Success stories everywhere - they just haven't been written yet. We must be the people who release that potential.
And just a quick word to the man who says he abolished boom and bust and then saved the world.
It was you Gordon Brown who designed the system of financial regulation that helped cause the financial crisis. You want to keep it the same. We say it needs to change.
That's why we will give back to the Bank of England its power to regulate the City powers that should never have been taken away.
But once we're generating economic growth - what are we going to do with it? What kind of society do we hope to build?
Look at Britain in 2009. It is, in so many ways, a great place to live. Great culture and arts, great diversity, great sport.
And think of the great sport coming up next year England in the World Cup, then the Olympics, then rugby and cricket too. And yes, let's get the Football World Cup here in 2018 as well.
But in Britain today there is a dark side as well. After twelve years of big government, we still have those stubborn social problems.
Poverty, crime, addiction. Failing schools. Sink estates. Broken homes.
The truth is, it's not just that big government has failed to solve these problems. Big government has all too often helped cause them by undermining the personal and social responsibility that should be the lifeblood of a strong society.
Just think of the signals we send out. To the family struggling to raise children, pay a mortgage, hold down a job.
"Stay together and we'll give you less; split up and we give you more."
To the young mum working part time, trying to earn something extra for her family "from every extra pound you earn we'll take back 96 pence."
Yes, 96 pence.
Let me say that again, slowly.
In Gordon Brown's Britain if you're a single mother with two kids earning £150 a week the withdrawal of benefits and the additional taxes mean that for every extra pound you earn, you keep just 4 pence.
What kind of incentive is that? Thirty years ago this party won an election fighting against 98 per cent tax rates on the richest. Today I want us to show even more anger about 96 per cent tax rates on the poorest.
And in that fight, there's one person this party can rely on. He's the man who has dedicated himself to the cause of social justice...and shown great courage in standing up for those least able to stand up for themselves. Iain Duncan Smith
And I am proud to announce today that if we win the election he will be responsible in government for bringing together all our work to help mend the broken society.
LABOUR AND POVERTY
Labour still have the arrogance to think that they are the ones who will fight poverty and deprivation.
On Monday, when we announced our plan to Get Britain Working you know what Labour called it? "Callous."
Excuse me? Who made the poorest poorer? Who left youth unemployment higher? Who made inequality greater?
No, not the wicked Tories... you, Labour: you're the ones that did this to our society.
So don't you dare lecture us about poverty. You have failed and it falls to us, the modern Conservative Party to fight for the poorest who you have let down.
We'll start with what is most important to me - and what I believe is most important for the country - families.
I believe that a stable, loving home is the most precious thing a child can have. Society begins at home. Responsibility starts at home. That's why we cannot be neutral on this.
Now I don't live in some fantasy land where every family is happily married with 2.4 kids. Nor am I going to stand here and pretend that family life is always easy.
But by recognising marriage and civil partnerships in the tax system and abolishing the couple penalty in the benefits system, we'll help make it that little bit easier.
But it's not just about money. It's also about emotional support, particularly in those fraught early years before children go to school. Labour understood this and we should acknowledge that.
That's why Sure Start will stay, and we'll improve it. We will keep flexible working, and extend it. And we will not just keep but transform something that was there long before Sure Start began - health visitors.
But making the country more family-friendly is not just about what government does. Responsibility goes much wider. It's about what we all do. It's about the way we live.
Why aren't we building homes with enough room for a family to sit round a table and actually eat a meal together?
It's about our culture. Why do so many magazines and websites and music videos make children insecure about the way they look or the experiences they haven't even had?
And it's about our society. We give our children more and more rights, and we trust our teachers less and less. We've got to stop treating children like adults and adults like children.
It is about everyone taking responsibility. The more that we as a society do, the less we will need government to do.
But you can't expect families to behave responsibly when the welfare system works in the opposite direction.
In welfare, big government has failed people in a big way. There are two million children in Britain growing up in homes where no-one works. Two million.
That is the highest in Europe. It is one in six children in our country.
We have to break this cycle of welfare dependency.
I got an email from a guy called Viv Williams. He lost his job last year and was desperate to get back into work. But he had a mortgage to pay so he went to register for Job Seeker's Allowance.
He'd twisted his ankle and walked in with a limp, so you know what they said? They told him he couldn't register for Job Seeker's Allowance because he wasn't fit to work so he'd have to go on incapacity benefit.
He told them there was nothing wrong with him, that he wanted to work. But no - he wasn't allowed to.
This is a man who wanted to take responsibility for himself and his family and the system said no, you've got to depend on the state.
As he says: "I told them, you're having a laugh." But it's not funny. The welfare system today sends out completely crazy signals.
We have got to turn it around and with Theresa May and David Freud in charge we will. We're going to make it clear: If you really cannot work, we'll look after you. But if you can work, you should work and not live off the hard work of others.
So we have to reform welfare and strengthen families. But when I think of my family, in the end there's only one thing that matters and that is that the people I love are healthy and well.
My family owes so much to the National Health Service. No, it is not perfect. But I tell you, when you're carrying a child in your arms to Accident and Emergency in the middle of the night and don't have to reach for your wallet it's a lot better than the alternative.
So we will never change the idea at the heart of our NHS, that healthcare in this country is free at the point of use and available to everyone based on need, not ability to pay.
But that doesn't mean the NHS shouldn't change. It has to change because for many people, the service isn't good enough. Mostly, that's not the fault of those who work in the NHS.
The fault lies with big government. With their endless targets and reorganisations, Labour have tried to run the NHS like a machine.
But it's not a machine full of cogs. It is a living, breathing institution made up of people - doctors, nurses, patients.
This lever-pulling from above - it has got to stop. With Andrew Lansley's reform plans, we're going to give the NHS back to people. We'll say to the doctors: those targets you hate, they're gone.
But in return, we'll do more for patients. Choice about where you get treated. Information about how good different doctors are, how good different hospitals are.
Information about the things that really matter, cancer survival times......the rate of hospital infections......your chances of surviving if you have a stroke.
We will give doctors back their professional responsibility.
But in exchange they will be subject to patient accountability. That's why we can look the British people in the eye and say this party is the party of the NHS now, today, tomorrow, always.