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US crisis 'a warning for Britain'
The budget crisis in the US reinforces the need for the Coalition's austerity measures, David Cameron has insisted.
As the American government began a partial shutdown after Congress failed to strike a last-minute deal, the Prime Minister said the situation should serve as a warning to Britain.
"It is a reminder to all of us that we that we need to have properly planned public expenditure systems, properly planned tax, properly planned arrangements for getting our deficit down," Mr Cameron said in a round of broadcast interviews at Tory conference in Manchester.
"I know some people want to get away from the subject of deficit reduction and sorting our economy out and turning it around.
"But I think we will see lots of reminders over the coming months, like what is happening in America, that it is absolutely vital that we grip it."
Mr Cameron also dismissed Labour's pledge of a 20-month freeze on energy bills, saying the Government was acting where it could by freezing fuel duty.
"The real cost of living plan the country needs is to go on growing the economy, creating jobs," he added.
The premier also stressed the need to keep mortgage rates low and cut people's taxes.
"We done all those four things and we can go on doing all those four things," he added.
Highlighting Chancellor George Osborne's promise yesterday to freeze fuel duty until 2015, Mr Cameron said: "What we have done over this Parliament is to remove the planned Labour increases in petrol duty.
"We recognise that for many families it is unavoidable to get in the car to do the school run, to get to work, or to visit relatives.
"So we want to keep those costs down. We have also frozen council tax (and) we want to get people on the lowest energy tariffs possible."
Mr Cameron said the Coalition had made "very difficult decisions".
"I think we can now say to the British people that the economy is turning the corner," he said.
"We have not solved Labour's debt crisis but we are on the way."
The Prime Minister praised a £50 million scheme to encourage GPs to offer weekend and evening appointments, which was announced overnight.
He insisted the pilot project could help cut the pressure on stretched A&E departments.
"A lot of people going to A&E need a doctor rather than A&E, so I think this pilot scheme of having around the country GPs' surgeries open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, is a very good step forward," he added.
Asked about the possibility of a deal with the UK Independence Party to avoid splitting the Tory vote, Mr Cameron said: "I don't want to see pacts or agreements.
"If local Ukip supporters or local Ukip candidates want to back a local Conservative MP or candidate... then obviously that is something I would welcome," he said.
"But no pacts or deals."
More than 700,000 US government workers face unpaid leave after a midnight deadline passed despite a last-ditch bid for an agreement by President Barack Obama.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have made delaying Mr Obama's healthcare reforms a condition for passing the budget.
It is the US government's first partial shutdown in 17 years.
The Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, welcomed the plans for GP surgeries to be open until 8pm every day as "good news for everyone".
"I think it is great - I might be able to get to see my GP," she quipped.
"Remember GPs always used to do that, and I know most of them want to be open longer , so this is good news for everyone."
Mr Cameron defended the Government's mortgage guarantee scheme, Help to Buy, amid concerns that it could re-inflate the housing bubble, saying it was "the right thing to do".
Told that there was little support for it, he replied: "I would argue you need to get out more and listen to ordinary people who want to buy a home, who can afford mortgage payments, they've got good jobs but they can't get a mortgage."
Drawing a distinction between the housing and banking crises, the Prime Minister said: "This is not really a housing market problem, it's a banking market problem. Because of the damage done to our banks, they're not offering the 90-95% mortgages, which have been part of our life for many, many years."
He said there were strict controls in place to prevent people from defaulting on payments.
"Let's be clear: these are not self-certified mortgages, they're not interest-only mortgages, there are controls in place with the Bank of England that are very, very robust. I don't want to be the Prime Minister who stands aside, who says you can only buy a flat or a home in our country if you've got rich parents, that's not fair," he said.
"The problem in our housing market was 110% mortgages, a mortgage for more than the value of the property, the problem was self-certified mortgages, when you are just setting out your earnings without them being properly checked, the problem was irresponsible lending by banks, it wasn't 95% mortgages."
He said without this help, people would remain "trapped in rental accommodation paying high rent to somebody else on their home".
He added: "We have given the Bank of England all of the powers necessary to examine this scheme, in which they've been involved and to control the levels of debt in our economy - we're the first government to do that, so I'm very confident this is the right thing to do."
Mr Cameron denied that the coalition's intervention in the mortgage lending market was comparable to Labour leader Ed Miliband's pledge to freeze energy bills under a future Labour government.
"There's a big difference which is the mortgage market today isn't working," said Mr Cameron.
He acknowledged a need for additional housing stock, pointing out the Government's planning reforms, and added: "But let's also understand this intervention in the mortgage market is also a supply measure, as well as a demand measure, it will encourage developers to bring forward homes that they will only build if they know that people can get a mortgage to buy."
Mr Miliband's energy market proposals were not "properly thought through", said Mr Cameron. "We all want to see low energy prices - we need to see them for 20 years not just for 20 months."
He also went further in committing the Government to extending its freeze on petrol duty, saying they would find a way to make it work.
"Yesterday, you heard the Chancellor yet again say we're going to freeze petrol duty, because we want to help families fill their car."
Mr Cameron said: "We will find the money, I am quite convinced we will, because this is a real priority to make sure families do not face huge bills when they want to fill up their car."