Cameron puts European rights law on notice

DAVID Cameron yesterday indicated that he is ready to pledge to abolish the Human Rights Act in the Conservatives’ manifesto for the 2015 general election.

The Prime Minister said he would do “whatever that takes” to ensure Britain can deport foreign criminals that the government believes pose a threat to national security, including replacing the controversial piece of European-derived legislation, a policy that will be welcomed by many Tory backbenchers.

“As Prime Minister, I want to know can I keep our country safe,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “So, for instance, are we able to chuck out of our country people who have no right to be here, who threaten our country? I say we should be able to do that. Whatever that takes, we must deliver that outcome.”

But Cameron made it clear that it would only be possible to deliver this in the case of a Conservative majority government, since the Lib Dems would be likely to block any change.

The announcement fits with the party’s focus on core issues such as immigration, the economy and Europe under campaign chief Lynton Crosby.

His comments came at the start of the Conservatives’ annual conference in Manchester. Over the weekend a new deal was also revealed addressing the difficulty for Chinese tourists in getting UK visas (see Bottom Line, p3).

Meanwhile, with a government reshuffle expected next month, former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell made a rare public appearance at a fringe event organised by ConservativeHome.

He warned that “raw socialism is flowing through the political aqueducts” following Ed Miliband’s commitment to freeze energy prices and praised George Osborne, branding him a “recovery stock” whose political standing is set to increase.

Mitchell has kept a low profile since resigning following the so-called plebgate affair, where he was alleged to have sworn at police on the Downing Street gates.

Several police officers have now been arrested after CCTV footage appeared to exonerate Mitchell.

WHAT HAVE THE CONSERVATIVES ANNOUNCED?

MARRIAGE TAX BREAK

What?
■ Married couples will receive an income tax break worth up to £200 from the 2015-16 financial year. Individuals will be allowed to hand up to £1,000 of unused personal allowance to their spouse, reducing his or her bill. But higher rate taxpayers will not be eligible, meaning it will be limited to couples where one partner earns less than £41,451 a year and the other partner earns less than £10,000.

Why?
■ The official line is that David Cameron wants to recognise the benefits to families of long-term commitment and it fulfils a manifesto pledge. But George Osborne is not a fan and the policy is a result of sustained pressure from backbench MPs.

Reaction
■ Labour said it doubts people will “get married for £3.85 a week”.

UNEMPLOYMENT

What?
■ George Osborne will today announce that the long-term unemployed who have failed to get a job through the government’s Work Programme will be subject to tough requirements if they want to remain on the dole. Some will be required to do 30 hours of community work a week and some will have to attend their JobCentre every day rather than every fortnight.

Why?
■ Conservatives believe that different approaches to benefits are a clear dividing line between their party and Labour – and polls show the public agree with the Tory stance. Campaign boss Lynton Crosby wants the party to focus on welfare payments.

Reaction
■ Labour is instead proposing a guaranteed paid job for all long-term unemployed.

HELP TO BUY EXTENSION

What?
■ The second stage of the Help to Buy scheme will now launch within days, rather than in January as originally planned. The scheme involves the government backing mortgages on any house – old or new – worth less than £600,000. Buyers will only need a tiny deposit to take part in the programme, heralding a return to mortgages worth 95 per cent of the value of the house.

Why?
■ Conservatives say they want to help first time buyers get on the housing ladder and this scheme will cut the risk for banks of lending to such people. The Tories hope launching early will result in more people take part in the scheme.

Reaction
■ Banks and business minister Vince Cable appeared to be surprised by the announcement.

HUMAN RIGHTS ACT

What?
■ David Cameron yesterday suggested he could attempt to abolish the Human Rights Act, which is Britain’s version of a European Convention signed by 47 different nations. Abolishing it would stop foreign criminals who are facing deportation using the law’s provisions on the right to a family life to stay in the country. It is likely that a UK-only replacement would then be created.

Why?
■ The Prime Minister’s comments will be popular with Tory backbenchers who were infuriated when the likes of radical preacher Abu Hamza took advantage of the act to avoid deportation for years. It also appeals to Ukip voters.

Reaction
■ Lib Dems are set against the plan, which would require a Tory majority government.