Conservative Diary

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David Cameron questions Burkha-wearing teachers and offers Opposition time for the Royal Mail Bill at his monthly press conference

We have already published two items from David Cameron's press conference this morning:

Here are some of the other highlights of what he said:

On Sharia law/Burkhas
On the subject of the story in today's papers about the extent of sharia law "courts" in Britain, he said that "there can only be one system of law in a a country like ours" and that whilst people should be at liberty to seek guidance from religious officials, this "cannot override your rights in law". In other words, we need to make sure that people who are using sharia courts "are well aware of their rights in British law". As regards the wearing of burkhas and niqabs, he said that it's a free country and that people have to be free to wear what they choose; however, he said there were issues in some areas such as regards school pupils and teachers: "You can't wear the full garb and be an effective teacher," he said.

On the delay in Royal Mail part-privatisation
He said the claim of Lord Mandelson that there was not enough time for the Second Reading debate on the bill on the Royal Mail was "extraordinary" given the long summer recess approaching. He said that the Conservatives would be happy to surrender one of their Opposition Day debates to allow for the Second Reading and/or sit for a bit longer into July. He said he was sure Lord Mandelson would find the offer "very helpful".

On Labour spending claims and attacks on "Tory cuts"
He said that Labour "can't relinquish the comfort blanket of spin and deception" and that they were failing to state the real facts on public spending. The Prime Minister is "spinning like it's 1999", he said, and that there was "a thread of dishonesty running through his premiership". The Government is in "a complete shambles" and is showing a "lack of respect for the people of this country". "Cuts cannot be avoided whoever wins the election," he added. On the claims being made by Labour about "Tory cuts", he said: "I don't know how the PM gets out of bed each morning". Some of the claims being made in leaflets in Norwich North such as abolishing free TV licences are "complete and utter rubbish".

On the cancelling of the spending review
It's all about political manoeuvring. A Conservative Government would be having a spending review - the Government has its head in the sand, he said.

On sharing an office with George Osborne in Government
Francis Elliott of the Times raised the ConHome story of the weekend about how David Cameron and George Osborne intend sharing an office once in government. He replied that there was "not a shred of ounce of complacency in me or my top team" and that he was focused on developing policy and that "no time is being spent on who would sit where".

On MPs' expenses
He said the party's scrutiny panel went beyond the letter of the rules in looking at claims and that dozens of MPs had paid money back. He said this "does not indicate guilt, but a recognition of public anger". He added that he had written to the Speaker asking for quicker publication of the 2008/09 expenses, and without "a sea of black ink".

On leaving the EPP
In response to Catherine Mayer of Time magazine, he defended the new Conservative grouping in the European Parliament, which is comprised of parties which "don't want to see endless integration". He added that  some of things which have been written about the party's new partners has been "ludicrous", especially to the Latvians, who had been on the end of "insulting" coverage. They are a reasonable,  responsible Centre-Right party he said.

On social action
He highlighted the Social Action Conference the party is hosting on Wednesday and said this represented the "new politics the country is crying out for". He said that candidates were embarking on 150 social action projects around the country and that he wanted  them to be "as important to candidates as campaigning on the doorstep".


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