Nick Clegg claims coalition unity on free school meals policy

 
Nick Clegg in a school dining hall Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg announced the £1bn school meals policy late last year

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Nick Clegg has said ministers are at one over plans to give all pupils under seven in England free school meals.

It came after Education Secretary Michael Gove and Lib Dem schools minister David Laws declared they were "not at war", after reports of a rift.

Penning a joint article in the Times newspaper, they said that plans to bring in free school meals from September had "cross-party support".

The deputy PM did not deny reports that he had told them to write it.

Pressed on whether he had ordered the article to be written, Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Of course I want the government in support of a policy that I think is going to make a dramatic difference.

Education Secretary Michael Gove was asked if he "kissed and made up" with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

"It's going to save families a lot of money. Every family that has to pay for a school meal for their children is paying about £400 a year."

Recently leaked emails have suggested coalition tensions over funding for school meals, after a former adviser to Mr Gove, Dominic Cummings, criticised the idea as "dumb" and a "bad gimmick".

But the Lib Dem leader said the former adviser had been "wrong" to say the free school meals policy had been put together "on the back of a fag packet".

"We've actually been piloting this for many years," he said.

"The first pilots in Durham and Newham and elsewhere show that not only does it save families money, it has a dramatic educational impact, particularly on children who are poorer and not receiving free school meals at the moment.

"It also has a very significant social impact, because it gets children sharing lunch together during the middle of the school day."

Critics of the policy have questioned whether the cost of providing the food can be met without damaging other core educational aims, like providing school places, and whether enough money has been set aside for upgrading school kitchens to enable them to cope with the increased demand.

In April, a BBC Daily Politics investigation used freedom of information requests to reveal that more than 2,700 schools in England will not be able to start serving the hot school meals on time.

Stephen Watkins, the headteacher of Mill Field Primary School in Leeds, told the Today programme: "We will be providing the free meals in September."

But he said it was "curious" that ministers were claiming the policy was fully funded "when I found out yesterday that... I have to pay 50% of the new extra equipment I'm going to need in my kitchen".

He said: "I don't yet know what that cost is, because they haven't told me."

The sum would "have to come out of the school budget", he said, which he had just spent a fortnight working on, and the unanticipated cost would make it harder to fund some of his other priorities, such as installing wireless internet connections in the school and supplying pupils with tablet computers.

'Last survivors'

In the article, Mr Gove and Mr Laws wrote: "To judge from the latest breathless headlines, you might expect the two of us to be crouched under our desks like the last survivors in a Bruce Willis movie, only popping out occasionally to blast each other with shotguns."

They said the reality of politics was "a lot more prosaic than some like to suggest", adding that, on free school meals, "This is that rarest of political treasures: a policy that has true cross-party support."

David Laws and Michael Gove David Laws and Michael Gove said reporting of their apparent feud had been "breathless"

From September, all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children in state-funded schools in England will be entitled to free school meals under the scheme announced by Mr Clegg last autumn.

But leaked emails made public earlier this month revealed that senior officials in the Department for Education had warned that funding the change could mean cutting school places.

In their article, Mr Gove and Mr Laws acknowledged implementing the policy on time would be difficult.

"Some schools will find it easier than others to expand catering services, but at present the overwhelming majority seem to be on track and we are confident the policy will be delivered on time and on budget," they wrote.

Over the weekend senior Conservative and Lib Dem sources strongly criticised each other over education.

Mr Gove was accused of being "ideologically obsessed," while Conservatives said the Liberal Democrats were "pathetic."

But on Wednesday a source close to the Conservative education secretary said "it was time to move on".

 

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  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 601.

    The biggest problem facing the future finances of this country is a growing social and welfare bill. Nick Clegg has decided that loading a pointless universal benefit onto the bill is a good idea. He would do better to get irresponsible parents to start looking after the rearing of their kids rather than smoking and gambling away their child benefit. My kids get fed and I look at their homework!

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 580.

    My children sometimes want a school meal, sometimes a packed lunch, depending on the menu. I am happy to pay for the meal. The hall at school is already full with children eating the school meals, so those bringing sandwiches eat in one of the classrooms. I wonder how they are going to cope with this new policy. They have taken child benefit from the richest, but now bring this in. Bizzarre!

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 570.

    I can't see what's wrong with free school meals. I don't have children so it will only cost me money.

    Sad truth is parents in any social strata can not all be trusted to always do the right thing, and no child should be at any disadvantage.

    This has nothing to do with political ideology. It's social responsibility.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 553.

    I must be missing the point here. Back in the 60s, school dinners cost 1 shilling and everyone sat together and ate a no-choice dinner. It seemed to work. In the 70s we started to get 'choice' and some chose to skive dinners to save money. A French company I deal with still has a sit down, managers and workers, no-choice lunch. It's cohesive. It's not a bad idea just because it's from Clegg.

  • rate this
    +131

    Comment number 140.

    My mum worked in a primary school that had a breakfast club, because kids were coming in without being fed. Now there are free lunches. I know there are other factors at play, but what are the parents spending child support on if not to feed their kids? Surely that is the most important issue in raising them, is it not?

 

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Conservative conference

  1.  
    @nigelfletcher 11:35: Nigel Fletcher, ex-Conservative adviser

    tweets: Didn't even try to get into the hall for the PM's speech- watching instead in the #LondonLounge, my conference home from home. #CPC14

     
  2.  
    11:34: What we've done

    Michael Gove is listing the government's achievement, including on the economy, housing and pensions.

     
  3.  
    11:34: Tax pledge? Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    BBC political editor Nick Robinson describes the Conservative guarantee to ring-fence NHS spending as a "statement of the blindingly politically obvious", and says he suspects the rumoured big policy announcement by David Cameron will be related to tax: either raising the personal allowance on income tax up to a level ensuring no-one on the minimum wage pays income tax, or reforming National Insurance in a similar fashion.

     
  4.  
    11:33: Gove love

    David Cameron's warm-up act is Michael Gove - former education secretary, now Conservative chief whip. He's a huge hit with activists - who stand, whoop and wave their papers as he enters the hall.

     
  5.  
    Tweet: @BBCPolitics 11:32: Get involved

    @ultramodtro tweets: Just watchin' the @daily_politics while I finish my tea, before going into the spillover hall to watch the PM. #CFC14. See photo

     
  6.  
    11:32: Let the music play

    The hall is full and the press pack is huddled along the front of the stage. The Electric Light Orchestra's Mr Blue Sky plays through the speakers.

     
  7.  
    11:31: Cheers

    A standing ovation for Philip Hammond, as the hall readies itself for David Cameron. First up, though, is Conservative Chief Whip Michael Gove.

    Audience
     
  8.  
    11:30: Hammond concludes

    Britain cannot afford five more minutes, let alone five years, of Labour, Philip Hammond asserts. He tells conference only the Conservatives can deliver growth, jobs and an in/out referendum on the EU, as he brings his speech to a close.

    Philip Hammond
     
  9.  
    11:27: EU negotiations

    The foreign secretary says his priority between now and the general election in May is to lay the groundwork for EU reform negotiations, so that the Conservatives will "already be in pole position" if they win power.

     
  10.  
    11:26: Lib Dems attacked

    Philip Hammond quotes Margaret Thatcher now - which goes down well in the hall. He says slowly but surely other EU states are "coming round" to the need for change. Mr Hammond attacks Labour for "surrendering" sovereignty and taxpayers' money to EU - and counters that the Conservatives have started to "reverse that trend" - noting David Cameron's success in securing an EU budget cut. "All that in coalition with the most Brussels-loving bunch of Europhiles you could ever wish to meet," Mr Hammond says, and adds: "Just think what a proper Conservative government could do."

     
  11.  
    11:24: Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Treasury minister Priti Patel MP tells Andrew Neil she "will not speculate on other departments' budgets and cuts" at this stage, in a discussion about ring-fencing the NHS budget under a future Conservative government.

     
  12.  
    11:23: EU concerns

    Philip Hammond says foreign policy must support the government's long-term economic plan. He tells conference that worldwide exports are up 28% since 2009. Turning to the EU, the foreign secretary says he has been "aghast" as the common market has "morphed into an institution with the aspirations of a superstate" and "hoovers up" powers that belong to member states. It's not what the British people signed up to, he says.

     
  13.  
    11:20: Ukraine

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the UK has extended its hand to Russia over recent decades but President Putin has "torn up the rule book and chosen the path to confrontation" through his "illegal behaviour" in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

     
  14.  
    11:18: Assad

    Philip Hammond rejects suggestions that a deal should be done with Syrian President Assad to defeat IS: "Assad is the problem and he cannot be part of the solution," he says, to applause.

     
  15.  
    11:18: Iraq action

    Philip Hammond talks about the "twisted ideology" of Islamic State and says the organisation is the "antithesis of everything we stand for". Britain must defeat it, he tells conference. As a defence leader in the world, it is right that Britain is taking part in international military action against IS militants in Iraq, Mr Hammond adds, and says it should be "proud".

     
  16.  
    @afneil 11:17: Andrew Neil, BBC

    tweets: We are on BBC2 now with two hour special from Tory party conference. Including Cameron speech #bbcdp

     
  17.  
    11:15: Hague quip

    Philip Hammond says William Hague is a very hard act to follow as foreign secretary - but quips that he has one thing that Mr Hague doesn't, and brushes a hand through his hair.

     
  18.  
    11:14: Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, is addressing the conference
    Philip Hammond addressing the conference
     
  19.  
    11:13: Hammond time

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond now has the stage - and begins by paying tribute to his ministerial team, and his predecessor William Hague - "who will surely go down as one of the truly great British foreign secretaries". Activists show their appreciation.

     
  20.  
    11:12: Safety promise

    Michael Fallon concludes by assuring conference that "this party, this government" will ensure the armed forces have all they need to help keep Britain safe.

    Michael Fallon
     
  21.  
    11:10: Trident

    Labour left a terrible defence legacy, Michael Fallon tells conference, including a "£38bn black hole" in the budget - but this has been fixed by the Conservatives in government, he adds. He also launches an attack on the Lib Dems - noting that there are none in the defence ministry. He says the party is only interested in "downgrading" Trident, which is "in a dangerous world is truly dangerous thinking".

     
  22.  
    11:09: David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the conference centre
    David Cameron arriving with his wife Samantha
     
  23.  
    11:07: Jobs

    The defence secretary says it is because the Conservatives have "sorted out" the budget that the government is able to spend £164bn on defence over the next decade. He reiterates this morning's announcement of a £3,5bn investment in UK naval bases, securing 7,500 jobs.

     
  24.  
    11:03: IS 'barbarity'

    Michael Fallon says the UK now faces "new threats to our security" - as he talks about the "chilling barbarity" of Islamic State militants, which if left unchecked would result in "a terrorist state on Europe's doorstep".

     
  25.  
    11:01: Services tribute

    Michael Fallon pays tribute to the 453 British servicemen and women who died during combat operations in Afghanistan, and all those who were injured. A round of applause ensues.

     
  26.  
    10:59: Defence budget

    Over to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon now. He says the UK has the biggest defence budget in Europe and the second largest in Nato. He pays tribute to his predecessor Philip Hammond - now foreign secretary - who he says put the defence budget on a stable footing.

     
  27.  
    10:59: 'Long nights, strange men' Tom Moseley, political reporter

    What would David Cameron have made of Ed Sheeran's dedication of a number to him at a recent gig? The singer said the only tune he had left to play was The A Team. Will it join Radiohead and REM on the PM's playlist?

    The opening lyrics:

    White lips, pale face

    Breathing in snowflakes

    Burnt lungs, sour taste

    Light's gone, day's end

    Struggling to pay rent

    Long nights, strange men

     
  28.  
    10:57: Summit

    Justine Greening welcomes the global Girl Summit - hosted in London over the summer - to end female genital mutilation and forced child marriage, and thanks all those who took part.

     
  29.  
    10:55: Pride

    Britain's response to humanitarian emergencies "sets us apart" from many other countries, Justine Greening says. The international development secretary praises British aid workers and adds that "we should be proud of our country, because we don't walk on by".

     
  30.  
    @tnewtondunn 10:55: Tom Newton Dunn, Political Editor of The Sun

    tweets: David Cameron does indeed have a jumbo rabbit in his #CPC14 speech today. A big new tax move to help C2 voters especially, I hear.

     
  31.  
    10:53: Ebola threat

    Justine Greening describes Ebola as "one of the most serious threats facing the world today", with estimates that 1.4 million people will be infected by January 2015 "if we don't act". She says an international coalition is working to contain and defeat the virus - and adds that the UK is overseeing the construction of treatment centres, and will treble the number of Ebola treatment beds.

    Justine Greening addressing the Conservative conference
     
  32.  
    10:50:

    Justine Greening says international aid - including the government's commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on it - is a vital component alongside the defence and diplomacy.

     
  33.  
    10:48: Greening

    International Development Secretary Justine Greening is introduced to the hall. She opens by saying she is "proud" of what the Conservatives have achieved in government. Ms Greening says her department's international development programme has been improved since 2010, with a much greater focus on jobs and economic growth.

     
  34.  
    10:47: 'We'll deliver'

    London Conservative MEP Syed Kamall is addressing the hall now - and stresses that "only the Conservatives can and will deliver" a referendum on the UK's relationship with the European Union. He criticises the previous Labour government which "gave away" British taxpayers' money and powers to Brussels. Now is the time for the Conservatives to "roll up our sleeves" and make the case for reform, he says - and adds that this must be done by working with Britain's allies across Europe. Mr Kamall leads the European Parliament's European Conservatives and Reformists group.

     
  35.  
    The Times 10:46: Newspaper round-up

    Theresa May, says (£) Ann Treneman, gave "the best speech of her life" yesterday. Her "unflinchingly serious" performance was followed by "clown-man" Boris Johnson, whom the Tory audience adored.

    The paper claims David Cameron will today attempt to move the discussion from being about the party's "long-term economic plan" to talking about "individual benefits offered by a recovering economy". A YouGov poll commissioned for the paper shows 41% of those questioned saying they trust the Conservatives more to clear the deficit, compared to 13% for Labour, but when asked which party is most likely to improve living standards "for people like you" 31% chose Labour against only 25% for the Conservatives.

     
  36.  
    10:44: Ed inspired by Dave

    Here's Ed Sheeran, who apparently dedicated a song, called the A Team (not the A-list), to the PM at a recent gig he attended. His music was not in evidence in the conference hall this morning before speeches got under way. Instead the Starship song Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now was blasted out of on the PA system. The year of its release - 1987 - was when Mrs Thatcher won her third term in office. Some misty eyes in Birmingham?

    Ed Sheeran
     
  37.  
    10:37: Jess Denham, for the Independent

    writes: Ed Sheeran dedicates song to David Cameron. Ed Sheeran has admitted dedicating a song to the prime minister at a private house party this summer. Read more

     
  38.  
    10:33: Out of the blocks

    The conference is officially under way. Steve Bell, vice-president of the National Conservative Convention, is opening proceedings.

     
  39.  
    10:32: Sell off the banks?

    Conservative MP and former Welsh Secretary John Redwood proposes a way to tackle the deficit on his blog: "Total borrowing in the next Parliament could be reduced substantially by selling all the remaining shares in banks. This would be a good idea for a variety of reasons and would be the single biggest way of reducing the loan mountain."

     
  40.  
    10:28: Newspaper round-up The Daily Telegraph

    Peter Oborne, chief political commentator, says (video) that David Cameron must navigate three major points of controversy: projecting himself as a "war leader" after the recent Commons authorisation of action against Islamic State; scrapping the Human Rights Act; and, the "most dangerous" potential pitfall, drawing a line under the recent defections to UKIP.

    Michael Deacon, in his sketch of yesterday's conference activity, describes Boris Johnson as "the politician who reduces the sketch writer's role to mere transcription", but says that despite the theatrics Boris's great strength is that he makes the party "believe they can win, and deserve to win".

     
  41.  
    10:22: Story

    David Cameron appears at 11:15 BST. In the meantime, here's our main story about his speech.

     
  42.  
    10:19: Line-up

    Just over 10 minutes until we get going again. The first of the big-name speakers will be International Development Secretary Justine Greening.

     
  43.  
    @TheGreenParty 10:17: The Green Party

    tweets: #Cameron=austerity forever; #Miliband=austerity-lite. If you're fed up with their policies join us. Please RT #CPC14

    The Green Party slogan
     
  44.  
    10:11: Newspaper round-up The Guardian

    Theresa May's speech is described as "both highly accomplished and highly disturbing", saying that for a Conservative home secretary to open by issuing a "frank challenge" to the police "felt like a kind of cultural revolution". She now proposes, however, a range of powers which "in classic abuse-of-civil liberty mode, could be misused", not least the so-called "snoopers' charter" which was "rightly blocked by the Liberal Democrats two years ago".

    Looking forward to David Cameron's speech today, Denis Campbell, the paper's health correspondent, notes that Labour has been outflanked by the Conservative leader on NHS spending, and says that unless Ed Miliband "outbids the Tories yet again he risks being accused of not matching his fine words about saving the NHS with the cash needed".

     
  45.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 10:08: Get involved

    Adam Rees: Labour keep banging on about the Tories privatising the NHS. I've been hearing it for as long as I remember. It's still free at the point of use. There are some NHS services provided by private companies for sure but who introduced it for the very first time? Labour!

     
  46.  
    @Andrew_ComRes 10:07: Andrew Hawkins, ComRes Chairman

    tweets: ComRes/ITV News poll helps explain Tory struggles - immigration & NHS are 2 of top 3 voter concerns but rate as worst policies

     
  47.  
    @iainmartin1 10:06: Iain Martin, Journalist

    tweets: And so far all the defections to UKIP have been men. Serious diversity problem. May require quotas.

     
  48.  
    10:00: Air strikes

    As Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon prepare to address the conference a little later, the Ministry of Defence has announced that RAF jets fired four missiles at Islamic State (IS) vehicles in Iraq overnight. The MoD says the strikes - aimed at an armed pick-up truck and a transport vehicle west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad - were "successful". Parliament approved UK military action against IS in Iraq last Friday.

     
  49.  
    09:59: Newspaper round-up The Daily Mail

    Quentin Letts, at the Daily Mail, sketches yesterday's "duel of two would-be leaders". Theresa May, "fervid and Thatcherish", gave the "speech that deserves to be remembered". The home secretary attacked Islamist extremism from a "defiantly centrist position", quoting the Koran and opening with a condemnation of racial bias in the exercise of police stop-and-search powers, perhaps seeing that "there are votes in centrism", he adds. Boris Johnson, meanwhile, was "full of jokes", entertaining the Tory faithful but "the closing passages of the speech - the serious bits - sagged".

     
  50.  
    09:58: Carswell not bitter

    Douglas Carswell, the former Conservative MP who has defected to UKIP, has some fond words for Tory chairman Grant Shapps. Writing on his blog, Mr Carswell says: "I like him, and I've made no secret of my admiration of him in the past. If he has had to say some fairly strong things as Conservative Party chairman over the past few days, he is doing it because he is Conservative Party chairman. I know Grant is a thoroughly decent person and have always enjoyed his company. I might have changed parties, but I'm not going start pretending that everyone that wears a blue rosette is bad. Grant is one of the good guys." Mr Carswell also says he gave up going to Conservative conferences long ago, because: "There never seemed to be many Conservatives. The lobbyists outnumber the activists. The fringe debates seemed so sterile."

    Douglas Carswell
     
  51.  
    @Freeman_George 09:50: George Freeman, Conservative MP

    tweets: As JeremyHunt said ystdy: unlocking potential of #NHS R+D in Genetics+DiseaseData is DNA of NHS: pooling our resources to prevent disease.

     
  52.  
    09:45: BBC website reader responds to MP's tweet

    Richard Heath responds to Andy Burnham, Labour MP's tweet at 09:16: Is he honestly trying to accuse the TORIES of making promises without saying where the money is going to come from? Did he not see any of the speeches by Balls and Miliband?

     
  53.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 09:45: Get involved

    Bob, Cambridge: It never ceases to amaze me when the general election is close by how the Tories send out sweeteners to get voters to stay. No chance Mr Cameron we all know what your party is about and always has been and that is to persecute the poor for the mistakes of the rich.

     
  54.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 09:41: Get involved

    Henry Francis Naudi in London: Whatever the main political parties may say about the NHS and their determination to improve it, the fact of the matter is that the main reasons for a 'distressed' NHS are (1) massive wastage in bureaucracy and admin; and (2) leeching of the NHS by people who are either not entitled to it for free or who manage to get round it by not paying their dues.

     
  55.  
    09:36: Joe Shute, for The Telegraph

    writes: David Cameron: Can he draw a line under his month to forget? Ahead of his Conservative Party conference curtain call, the prime minister has endured the most painful of Septembers. Read more

     
  56.  
    09:30: What channel? Dave, maybe?

    A bizarre scene as David Cameron prepares his speech apparently watched by... himself.

    David Cameron
     
  57.  
    @_James_Lyons_ 09:26: James Lyons, Daily Mirror Deputy Political Editor

    tweets: All sorts of rumours about another defection at #CPC14

     
  58.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 09:25: Get involved

    Colin in Gloucestershire: If we really want to keep the health service as it is people MUST take responsibility for themselves. Smoking and use of other drugs maybe your 'god given' right but it should not be the responsibility of the rest of the community to pay for the consequences. Even if Cameron can deliver on this promise, which will only come about by painful cuts elsewhere, that will only delay the day that society will no longer be willing to support people unwilling to take responsibility for themselves.

     
  59.  
    @BBCNormanS 09:23: Norman Smith, BBC

    tweets: Tory sources accuse @ukip of trying to make a somebody out of a nobody over Arron Banks defection #cpc14

     
  60.  
    09:18: Coming up at conference

    So, what else is happening at conference today? Business kicks off at the usual start of 10:30 BST - and will focus on international development, defence and foreign affairs. There'll be speeches from the secretaries of states for each respective government department - Justine Greening, Michael Fallon and Philip Hammond.

     
  61.  
    Tweet: @BBCPolitics 09:17: Get involved

    @thisisamy_ tweets: So ukip, 'the anti-establishment, people's party' attracts another millionaire donor. Yup, they're definitely on your side.

     
  62.  
    @andyburnhammp 09:16: Andy Burnham, Labour MP

    tweets: NHS facing huge funding pressures in 2015-20 Parliament. It is just not credible for Tories to make new promises without finding new money.

     
  63.  
    @matthancockmp 09:16: Matt Hancock, Conservative MP

    tweets: Delighted to see the £600m MoD contract for maintaining the Royal Navy go to Portsmouth - supporting 2000 local jobs #Portsmouth #jobs

     
  64.  
    09:15: Defence announcements

    In other news, the Ministry of Defence has announced it has awarded £3.2bn of contracts to support the management of the UK's naval bases, securing about 7,500 jobs. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is due to make a speech to conference later this morning, so it's likely he'll make reference to this.

     
  65.  
    @Nigel_Farage 09:14: Nigel Farage, @UKIP Leader

    tweets: Arron Banks recognises that it is the European Union that is holding Britain and her businesses back. See blog post

     
  66.  
    09:13: Prop developer

    During his speech on Tuesday, London Mayor Boris Johnson wielded a brick to demonstrate his determination to get more homes built. Will David Cameron do something similar?

    Boris Johnson
     
  67.  
    09:12: Tory donor joins UKIP

    UKIP continues to cast a shadow over Conservative conference this week. One of the Tories' long-time donors is to announce later that he is joining Nigel Farage's party. Insurance entrepreneur Arron Banks has given the Conservatives more than £250,000 since David Cameron became leader - but will today present rivals UKIP with a £100,000 check. Mr Bank has also indicated he would like to stand as a candidate. The move comes after two Conservative MPs defected to UKIP - one as recently as Saturday, on the eve of Tory conference.

     
  68.  
    @Mike_Fabricant 09:10: Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP

    tweets: Another sunny day in Brum for #CPC14. An omen? See photo

     
  69.  
    09:08: Happy talk?

    David Cameron is expected to use his speech to show voters his party has more to offer them than austerity, and that with five more years the Conservatives, under his leadership, can improve people's lives.

     
  70.  
    09:06: Where is he?

    Samantha Cameron is in Birmingham to offer her husband support as he speaks later. Before that there's the obligatory walkabout.

    Samantha Cameron
     
  71.  
    09:05: More on the NHS

    The promise to protect NHS funding from departmental spending cuts is a repeat of the policy on which David Cameron fought the 2010 general election. Mr Cameron will say that a strong NHS is only made possible by a strong economy.

     
  72.  
    09:03: Midnight oil

    David Cameron has been working overnight on his speech. We are told he will deliver it using a script, rather than performing an attempted elephantine memory trick. This follows ridicule of Ed Miliband when he forgot a couple of passages of his address to the Labour conference last week.

    David Cameron
     
  73.  
    09:02: NHS spending pledge

    It is being reported that David Cameron will use his speech to pledge a yearly real-terms increase in NHS spending over the course of the next five-year Parliament, if his party secures victory at the election.

     
  74.  
    09:00: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the final day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. The day will culminate in the highlight of any party conference: the leader's speech. David Cameron will address party activists at 11.15 BST, in what will be his final conference speech before the general election.

     

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