Cameron warns of 'economic chaos'
David Cameron has warned of "economic chaos" unless voters back the Tory plan to get the nation's finances under control.
The Prime Minister urged voters not to pass on a crippling "legacy of debt" to their children and grandchildren as he set out Conservative plans to eliminate the deficit and run a surplus.
Speaking in Nottingham in front of a slogan promising "a Britain living within its means", Mr Cameron insisted that he would not treat people like a "bottomless pit" to be taxed more to balance the books.
Setting out the "key themes" of the Tory manifesto, the Prime Minister said: "In the coming weeks I am going to set out the commitments of the next Conservative government in each of these areas: on jobs, on taxes, on education, on home ownership, and on retirement."
But the first of those themes was "the goal on which all these other things rest" - getting Britain back living within its means.
He said: " Nothing we want to achieve will be possible unless we eliminate our deficit and deal with our debts.
"The security of your family depends on the stability of our public finances. Your job, your home, the mortgage you pay, the schools your children go to, the hospital you go to when you're ill, the streets we live on, the very stuff that makes life worthwhile in our country - all these things depend on sound public finances.
"We cannot overstate how important this is.
"If we fail to meet this national challenge, the writing is on the wall."
More borrowing would mean higher debt interest payments, taking money away from services.
There would be higher taxes and a rise in interest rates "punishing home-owners, hurting businesses, losing jobs".
"In short, economic chaos," he said.
"And this isn't just about the straightforward economic arguments.
"It is about the values of this country: whether we, as a nation, are going to pass on a mountain of debt to the next generations that they could never hope to repay.
"To every mother, father, grandparent, uncle, aunt - I would ask this question: When you look at the children you love, do you want to land them with a legacy of huge debts?
"Do you want to limit their future to make life more difficult for their generation because we refuse to do the right thing in our generation?
"I say we have a responsibility to act.
"We can get Britain back to living within our means in a way that is fair and sensible and secure."
The speech comes a day before a Commons vote which Tories hope to use to highlight differences with Labour over economic strategy in the years after 2015/16. Chancellor George Osborne has accused Labour of setting the scene for tax rises equivalent to 3p on income tax by refusing to match his pledge to balance the books by spending cuts alone.
But Ed Miliband accused him of "plucking figures out of the air" and said Labour would eliminate the deficit by "commonsense" spending cuts, tax rises targeted on the rich and a wage boost for the lowest-paid workers which he said would increase tax revenues and cut the bill for in-work benefits.
MPs will be asked tomorrow to approve a new Charter for Budget Responsibility committing the Government to a goal of eradicating the structural current deficit on a rolling three-year horizon - which at the time of the next Budget will be 2017/18 - and ensure that debt is falling as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2016/17.
Labour has said it will back the plan, which it believes is compatible with its plans to eradicate the current deficit "as soon as possible" in the next parliament.
The Prime Minister committed the Tories to ensuring Britain lives within its means by running a surplus before the end of the next parliament, cutting spending and waste, rather than raising taxes.
Mr Cameron said: "You cannot treat the hardworking people of this country like a bottomless pit to be taxed and taxed again.
"The reason we have a deficit in this country isn't because we tax people too little, it's because we spend too much."
He also promised to c ontrol the welfare budget, crack down on tax avoidance, and ensure that those who can afford to pay most do.
With the NHS at the centre of a bitter political row, Mr Cameron confirmed Tory plans to increase spending.
"Not a penny will be cut from the NHS budget - instead it will carry on rising," he said.
"I am a father, a son and a husband who has relied on the NHS many times.
"When you are sick, when your loved ones are ill, when you feel at your most vulnerable, you need to know the NHS is there.
"That is why we are making this commitment. That is the right thing to do for the sick, the frail and the vulnerable in our country.
"And the right thing for the NHS long-term is to get Britain back to living within its means.
"Because Conservatives understand something instinctively. You can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy."
He said Labour would offer "higher taxes or general chaos" and claimed they had not set out how to find the £30 billion of savings required in the charter being voted on tomorrow.
Asked about the absence of immigration from his key themes, Mr Cameron said: "These areas I am talking about are very directly related to people's concerns about their lives and their security.
"It's about people's jobs, people's taxes, the homes they want to buy, the schools they want to send their children to, and their retirement.
"Through this prism we will address every single issue."
The Prime Minister said he had already set out "the most radical set of actions that any government has ever contemplated in this country" to tackle European immigration through curbs on access to benefits.
Mr Cameron also insisted that the NHS was "at the heart of this commitment for Britain to live within her means".
He added: "People can see a real track record, a real commitment and it's at the heart of what we are saying."
The absence of immigration and the NHS from the key themes set out by the Prime Minister were seized on by rivals.
Speaking at a question-and-answer session in Stevenage, Labour leader Mr Miliband said that for Mr Cameron the NHS was the subject that "dare not speak its name".
"The reason David Cameron and George Osborne have failed on the deficit is because they have failed on living standards," he said.
"Unless we have higher wages and living standards, we won't get the revenue to reduce the deficit.
"Their plan will keep failing on living standards and therefore keep failing on the deficit.
"And now they want to go even further: back to the 1930s on public spending.
"No wonder David Cameron has gone from saying the NHS were the three most important letters to him to the health service becoming the subject that dare not speak its name."
MEP Steven Woolfe, Ukip's migration spokesman, said: "Despite all his rhetoric last year, David Cameron's omission of immigration as a major topic during this year's election is yet another example of the Prime Minister running away from debating the big issues.
"Immigration is the one common theme across all areas of policy, whether it's putting pressure on the NHS with a growing population, driving down wages and affecting jobs, leading to overcrowding in schools and falling education standards, or posing big questions about social cohesion. The matter absolutely cannot be swept under the carpet.
"Ukip is not afraid to address the issue head-on, unlike the Prime Minister, who knows he can't control our borders while in the EU and wants to dodge the topic altogether.
"For far too long political correctness has stifled discussion and diminished accountability. But the majority of the British public now recognise that we need to face up to reality and put immigration firmly back on the political agenda. Ukip is the only party doing that."