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Highlights of David Cameron's monthly press conference

By Jonathan Isaby

The Downing Street press conference this morning was delayed by about an hour owing to the developments about the death of Linda Norgrove, news of which Mr Cameron opened the press conference.

Here are the key points he made (not verbatim):

Death of Linda Norgrove: The British aid worker who died during a hostage rescue operation in Afghanistan may have been killed by a grenade detonated by the US forces conducting the rescue operation. Mr Cameron said that this was a "deeply distressing development" and that he had spoken to her father and to General Pertraeus this morning.  He said that the statements about her death made on Saturday were made in good faith and that a thorough investigation will now take place to establish the facts. However, her life had been in grave danger and that he profoundly believes that it was the right decision to conduct the rescue operation.

Student finance: Everybody [in the Coalition] is going to have to make compromises on student fees. The key principles are that there needs to be well-funded universities; that Higher Education can continue to expand; that there has to be a reining back of public spending; and that universities must be strong and independent. Mr Cameron said that the status quo cannot deliver these things and that the Government will read tomorrow's Browne Review and respond accordingly. He said that he doesn't fundamentally believe in a target for the number of people in Higher Education - people have to make the choices that are right for them. It was however vital to help those from poorer backgrounds to go to university, and there should be a progressive element to the funding of Higher Education. But a pure graduate tax would be "extremely unfair" - the Government has looked at it over the summer and couldn't see a way of making it work: it would raise the deficit and would be "full of problems". He expressed a desire for all politicians to com together an agree a way forward since the status quo is "unaffordable and unrewarding" for universities. 

Universal benefits: Mr Cameron repeated that Labour had been "telling lies" before the election when suggesting the Conservatives would end the universality of such benefits as the winter fuel allowance and free TV licences for pensioners. On child benefit, he said that he didn't define higher rate taxpayers as rich, but that with all the difficulties we face, it was not fair to pay child benefit to those people - and that means-testing child benefit for couples earning between £50,000 and £80,000 would bring added cost, complexity and intrusion. It is impossible to deal with the deficit unless we deal with welfare. Iain Duncan Smith is being a  radical, successful and bold Secretary of State.

Tax Allowance for married couples: Mr Cameron reaffirmed his belief in a transferable allowance for married couples and said that is was something "we want to achieve".

Tackling the deficit: He did not explicitly slap down Chris Huhne for his remarks at the weekend, but emphasised that it was not sufficient to halve the deficit in four years. He described himself as "a fiscal conservative and monetary activist".

The euro: "As long as I'm Prime Minister, we won't join the euro."

Philip Green's report on Government waste: Mr Cameron described it as a "very solid report" exposing "crazy" decisions made over the last decade about property, IT and shared services. It makes "chilling reading" and contains some "very good pointers" about how to save money.


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