MANCHESTER, England Opposition leader David Cameron, tipped to become prime minister in an election due by June 2010, addressed his Conservative Party's annual conference on Thursday.
Following are key excerpts from his speech:
"I have no illusions. If we 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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"We must pay down this deficit. The longer we leave it, the worse it will be for all of us."
"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."
"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 It is out-of-date and it has to change.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."
"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."
"Complicated taxes, excessive regulations ... make life impossible for entrepreneurs."
"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."
"If there is one political institution that needs decentralisation, transparency, and accountability, it is the EU."
"Here is a progressive reform plan for Europe. Let's work together on the things where the EU can really help, like combating climate change, fighting global poverty and spreading free and fair trade."
"But let's return to democratic and accountable politics the powers the EU shouldn't have."
"And if we win the election, we will have as the strongest voice for our country's interests, the man who is leading our campaign for a referendum, the man who will be our new British Foreign Secretary: William Hague."
"We have to break this cycle of welfare dependency."
"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."
NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE
"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."
"With their endless targets and reorganisations, Labour have tried to run the NHS like a machine."
"This lever-pulling from above - it has got to stop ... 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."
"A Conservative government ... will reform the police, reform the courts, reform prisons."
"It is time to shake things up. We need to redistribute power and responsibility. It's your community and you should have control over it ... so we need decentralisation. It's your money and you should know what is being done with it ... so we need transparency. It's your life that's affected by political decisions and the people who make those decisions should answer to you, so we need accountability."
(Reporting by Matt Falloon and Adrian Croft)