David Cameron - how many cuts?

David Cameron on his plan to put UK economy into surplus

Is the Tory prescription for the nation's economic health another dose of austerity?

That is the question David Cameron faced on the morning after the promise before, a promise that in future government will spend less than it taxes, a promise which friend and foe alike have seen as likely to lead to seven more years of cuts.

This is what the prime minister said when I spoke to him:

"No, It doesn't necessarily mean that. We've set out our spending plans for 2015/ 16 and the spending totals for the following two years.

"What it means is not further cuts over and above that necessarily, but it means you couldn't possibly go on a spending splurge once you've done the difficult work and it wouldn't be right for the country to do so."

He insists that his and George Osborne's plan is common sense and not ideology.

"If you've had overdraft after overdraft year after year, it matters that in the good years you start putting some money aside for potentially rainy days that might lie a long way ahead."

I pointed out that no previous chancellor, no previous Conservative PM has promised a budget surplus year in year out precisely because it could lead to cuts in public spending.

He replied that: "If economy continues to grow, if tax revenues increase and if unemployment falls, there would be money to spend on other departments. But I'm not arguing this is an easy choice. It's a difficult choice."

In other words he hopes that higher tax receipts and lower welfare bills will mean that the Treasury does not have to raid one Whitehall department's budget to subsidise increases in another.

"Obviously you have to make the decisions about what you do with each department but we've demonstrated in government that you can make reductions but improve services.

"Here we've cut police budgets by 20%, but crime has fallen and policing is very visible.

"So I don't accept we should measure how effective government is by how much money it spends. We should measure government by what results it gets."

I also asked him why he was subsidising the mortgage of someone who could afford a £600,000 house - a subsidised loan worth the cost of an entire house in some parts of Manchester; why he was in favour of interfering in the housing market and not the energy market and about Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband's row with the Daily Mail. (You can watch the interview at the top of this page)

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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