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David Cameron: Getting our country moving again

Welcome to what I hope will be my last monthly press conference as Leader of the Opposition.

Thank you very much for all your texts. Before I take your questions I want to talk briefly about two things - the lobbying scandal that has blown up in the past couple of days, and the Budget that will happen tomorrow.

First, the lobbying.

Anyone who watched any of the Dispatches programme last night could not help but be disgusted by what they saw.

Former Ministers talking about being 'cabs for hire', talking about turning contacts and knowledge into hard cash, saying that they were too ill to meet constituents but had plenty of free time to make money.

And yes - a Conservative backbencher who attempted to up his value by suggesting he would get a peerage.

I can tell you that is not going to happen.

No wonder there is a deepening suspicion that politicians are out to serve themselves and not the country.

A couple of months ago I said that this was the next big scandal waiting to happen.

I warned that the culture of excessive lobbying and quiet words in the Minister's ear was threatening to do even more damage to the battered reputation of Parliament.

I am not claiming to be some great forecaster.

The fact is that the last government ended with scandals like this - and the current Government is ending with scandals that are frankly, if anything, worse.

And I am sure that if we win the general Election, corporate interests will be all over any new government like a rash.

So we need to act now.

We're going to make absolutely sure that ex-Ministers are not allowed to use the contacts and knowledge gained in government for their own private gain.

We'll double the time when it's forbidden for ex-Ministers to lobby government from twelve months to two years.

We'll extend to ten years the period during which ex-Ministers must seek advice from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

We'll put that Committee on a statutory basis, so ignoring its advice will be an offence.

The first task of an incoming government will be to instruct the Prime Minister's advisor on the Ministerial Code to undertake a full review of this episode so that the government can learn the lessons of what has gone wrong, and change the rules to stop it happening again.

And we've also got to put a stop to the practice of one part of government lobbying another part of government.

That's why we'll serve notice and cancel government agencies contracts with lobbying firms.

We'll also look favourably at all other suggestions, including all those on how we can better regulate lobbying.

But let's be frank: we can't be sure that any of these would have stopped the situation we saw in the Dispatches programme last night.

That is why we need a proper inquiry.

The case for one is incredibly strong.

Ministers say different things.

Stephen Byers says he didn't lobby Lord Adonis.

Lord Adonis says he did.

Stephen Byers says he called Peter Mandelson and got regulations changed.

Lord Mandelson says he didn't.

We need a proper inquiry into all this.

All we know is the policies referred to did change.

So we need to see the minutes of the meetings, the emails, the phone logs.

It was serious enough to strip these former Ministers of the party whip.

So surely it's serious enough for an inquiry?

But Gordon Brown decided to rule out an inquiry - even before Labour whips had seen the programme and decided to take action against their MPs.

Then there's the latest revelations last night about declarations of foreign trips.

This is a problem of a different nature - it is one where there are clear rules, but they appear not to have been adhered to.

Clearly the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner must get to the bottom of what has happened in each case and we must look at the penalties that apply when the rules are broken.


But let's be honest about what's happening to British politics.

Our political system is looking ever more ragged and broken.


Because it depends on public trust, and that trust has not just been damaged - it is in danger of disappearing altogether.

Every time we patch up one part of our broken politics, another crack appears.

So we need to start from scratch

We need a new parliament.

A new government.

New energy to fix this broken political system once and for all.

After the Election we will have a once in a generation opportunity to bring about real change.

To bring transparency and accountability to the system.

To look at every option for restoring trust and confidence in our politics.

And above all, to show that a new generation of MPs, a new generation of Ministers understand the anger and disgust that people feel with politics today, and are determined to put things right, and to show what public service really means.


Now let me turn to the economy.

Tomorrow we have the last Budget of this Parliament - and what I hope is the last Budget of this Government.

We know the form by now with Labour's Budgets.

There's a whole load of giveaways up front while all the nasty stuff is stashed away in the small print.

So this year we're going to do something a bit different.

We're going to crowd source the Budget.

Instead of just picking over the small print ourselves we want to throw open that process so that everyone can have a dig around to see what Labour are hiding.

So we're going to publish the Budget on the Conservatives website, page by page in a simple, easily readable format.

We want people to log on, have a look, pick out the misleading bits and help us hold Labour to account.


Of course we're not completely in the dark about what will happen tomorrow.

From what we know already of this Budget's contents and ambitions, it is clear that Labour have completely run out of the ideas and answers this country needs.

The Chancellor has admitted that it's going to be 'workmanlike'.


We've got the biggest budget deficit in the developed world.

We've had one of the weakest recoveries.

One in five young people unable to find a job.

Labour's workmanlike, defeatist, do-nothing attitude is the last thing we need today.

The country is crying out for urgency, for energy, for vision, for action.


We need action now to cut the enormous deficit.

Labour say if you just so much as touch the deficit, if you do anything in this coming year the country will tip back into recession.

That is completely wrong.

It's not taking action that risks the recovery, it's inaction - just sitting there and putting things off while our country slides into the danger zone of lower confidence and higher interest rates.

Everyone knows that with your credit card debt, the longer you leave it the worse it gets.

It's time government learned the same lesson.

And there is a whole load of people lining up behind us to agree.

The Institute of Directors. Some of Britain's top business people. World-leading economists.

All of them are saying we don't have time to waste.


And as well as action on the deficit we need urgent action to get growth going.

It is our fundamental belief that it's not governments that build strong recoveries - it's business, it's enterprise, it's entrepreneurs.

This economy is going to recover when we get the private sector going, by boosting enterprise.

And I want everyone to know how ambitious we are on this.

It is our mission to make Britain the best place in Europe to start a business, the best place to locate a business, one of the fastest places to set up a new business in the world.

Yes, it's a big ambition and a bold ambition but we can do it.

Just weeks into a Conservative government we'll hold an emergency budget to boost enterprise.

We'll abolish national insurance on the first ten workers taken on by new firms.

We'll stop the rise of red tape.

We'll cut corporation tax rates and the small companies' rate.

Across economic policy from welfare to infrastructure to banking reform we will do everything possible to get behind entrepreneurs and send out the clearest signal that Britain is back open for business.


So that's the stark difference revealed by this Budget.

Labour say 'stick with us' - stick with our workmanlike vision, stick with the ones who got us into this mess.

We say we are stuck with you - nothing is moving, we're stuck with your debt, your waste, your taxes.

This is a time for fresh thinking, for new ideas, for new energy.

And today it is only the Conservative Party that can deliver that energy, get our economy going and our country moving again.

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