David Cameron answers your questions
When Conservative leader David Cameron visited Gloucester earlier this month, we asked readers to submit questions to the potential prime minister. Here, Mr Cameron answers a selection of the best questions we received.
Mr Cameron, if elected will you withdraw from the Human Rights Act, so that this country can deport people hell bent on trying to change our way of life? John Thompson, Gloucester
Yes we will. We’ve said we’ll scrap the Human Rights Act, which has put our police in the ridiculous position of trying to tackle the most serious crimes without putting the faces of the most wanted criminals on posters, and made it incredibly difficult for the government to deport people who they know to be threat. Instead, what we need is a modern British Bill of Rights which clearly sets out people’s rights and responsibilities, and strengthens our hand in the fight against terrorism and crime.
What would a Conservative Government do to lift the low-paid out of the poverty trap? Sandra Pember, Gloucester
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The first thing we’d do is stop the government making things worse. It’s unbelievable that 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. That’s effectively a 96 per cent marginal tax rate on the lowest paid in this country. What kind of a crazy incentive is that? It’s got to change and we’ll make sure that happens.
Next, we need a long-term plan for beating poverty. What we’ve seen over the past decade is the government shifting money around in the tax and benefit system, when what we really need is a real focus on the causes as well as the symptoms of poverty. So yes, there’s been some progress - but the poor are still getting poorer and there are more of them. So we need a long-term solution is to break the cycle of family breakdown, debt, crime, drink and drug abuse and lift people up and help them to make the most of their lives.
That means strengthening families to help keep couples together and give our kids a good start in life. It means radical school reform to create more good school places and to give the poorest children the chance to go to the best state schools. And it means a new model of welfare provision based on payment by results to help get the millions of people who have never worked under Labour into long-term jobs.
Mr Cameron, do you think the NHS has too many managers and not enough nurses? Colin Batty, Gloucester
I think we’ve got a big problem when the number of managers in the NHS is rising almost three times as fast as the number of nurses. So what we’ve said is this: we’re going to protect the NHS budget, but we’ll also cut the cost of bureaucracy and admin by a third. That will free up more cash for the doctors and nurses on the frontline and help us to improve the whole quality of healthcare.
Would a Conservative Government increase the minimum wage? John Edwards, Gloucester.
We’re absolutely committed to the minimum wage and we’ve made clear we’ll keep it. The best way to decide the precise level of the minimum wage is listen to the advice from the Low Pay Commission who advise the government on what’s best.
Do you believe this country was right to go to war in Iraq? Paul Sutherland, Rodborough
I voted in favour – but there’s no doubt that serious mistakes were made in the run-up to the war, and planning for the aftermath of the invasion was hopelessly inadequate. That’s why William Hague and I worked so hard to press the government into holding the inquiry into the Iraq war which is taking place at the moment.
Does Mr Cameron think public sector workers have pensions that are too high compared to the rest of us? Asif Ali, Cheltenham
Let’s be clear: public sector workers do incredibly important work. A Britain without well rewarded and highly regarded teachers, police, doctors and nurses would be a poorer, less safe and seriously unhealthy place. So they are entitled to security in retirement, just like everyone else. But at the same time, we’ve got to be honest and deal with the massive debt crisis our country is in. This year we’re expected to borrow almost 14 per cent of our GDP – that’s nearly twice as much as when we nearly went bust in the 1970s. So we’ve got to take action now to deal with the deficit, and we’ll all in it together. That is why George Osborne is looking at imposing a £50,000 annual cap on the size of public sector pension payouts.
Can he ensure student that university fees would not rise under a Conservative Government? Jamie Bent, Stroud
I know it’s not the answer you want, but I can’t promise that, no. We’ve got to strike the right balance between putting the funding of universities on a stable footing and making sure that all young people have the chance to go to university. There’s a review into tuition fees being held at the moment and we need to look at what it says before drawing up long-term plans.
Does Mr Cameron think council tax is too high, and that rises above inflation are unfair? Lisa Angel, Gloucester
Council Tax has more than doubled under Labour, and that’s a massive hit if you’re a pensioner or on a low income or in a young family. I want to keep Council Tax bills down for everyone, and so we’ll work with councils to freeze council tax for two years, funded by cutting wasteful central government spending. We also want to give local people more power over the level of their council tax, and so we’ll give people the power to veto high Council Tax rises through a local referendum.
Would the Tories consider bringing income tax down if there was enough public support? Robert Gill, Cheltenham`
I’m a Conservative, so lower taxes are in my DNA. But with this debt crisis, cutting taxes without showing how you’re going to pay for it would be seriously irresponsible. Our first priority has to be dealing with the deficit. Most of that needs to come from spending cuts, but I can’t promise income tax cuts just yet.
What is Mr Cameron's opinion on fox hunting? Laura Perry, Gloucester
I was brought up in the countryside and personally I support rural sports. But whatever you think about hunting, it’s clear that the ban isn’t working. So we’ve said that we need to reopen the debate and hold a free vote on repeal.