The man who could be a future leader of the Conservative Party - and perhaps Britain - toured the area on Friday.

David Davis, who shadows Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, joined MP Gerald Howarth for a lunchtime question and answer session at Farnborough's Wings Cottage.

A tall, impressive man of 54, he will be a front runner in any contest for the party leadership. Thoughtful and articulate, he journeyed from a tough London estate via grammar school to Harvard University in the States. On the way he has forged policies that should appeal to a party that has lost its direction.

l On Europe, David Davis said that what worried him more than the Euro, on which he thinks Tony Blair will lose any referendum called, is the forthcoming constitution for the EU, which makes it impossible for countries to leave.

l On Iraq he thinks evidence to justify the likely invasion will be found after the war - but says that it is the subsequent garrison requirements which could be the real problem for overstretched British soldiers.

l On immigration he said an incoming Conservative government would have to look hard at all the conventions currently hindering efforts to throw out unwanted asylum seekers - and see whether Britain needs to resign from any of them to give us freedom to act in our own interests.

l On the need for better roads, Mr. Davis said that when John Prescott recently claimed he would put more money into road-building, he reminded Mr. Blair's deputy that he was the man who cancelled 57 major road projects in England alone.

"When the last Conservative government took office it found the roads in a terrible state of repair and the pattern is being repeated, as when you halt road project planning it means that for years down the line there is a backlog of work," Mr. Davis explained.

Married, with three children, David Davis looks like the leader the Conservatives have been seeking since Margaret Thatcher was forced from office. He does not believe in the woolly idea that the party can appeal to widely differing strands of moral and political thought and, for example, voted against the lowering of the age of homosexual consent to 16.

Although it is currently not a headline hogger, what is happening in Europe will have a profound effect on our future as a nation - indeed, will decide whether we have a future as a free, independent nation. David Davis says that the idea that Europe can have a single foreign policy is looking less plausible after the recent antics of the French and Germans over Iraq.

"The terrifying thing for me is the proposed new constitution. It would bring on déjà vu for anybody who read the history of the United States in the 1850s and 60s, when the Southern and Northern states fought a war over seccession. The idea that you cannot remove yourself from the EU without the permission of everybody else will cause a huge argument and should be subject to a referendum of the British people…..The ability to walk away gives you power."

He added that to give up that right would fundamentally alter the balance of power in the EU: "To the major detriment of our country forever."

Although he doesn't believe Britain should leave the EU, which on present trends Gerald Howarth believes is inevitable, David Davis wants the type of "guts, clear thinking and imagination which Margaret Thatcher used to roll back Socialism" to be used to cut the EU mandarins and their red tape down to size. He also made the point that the Euro has been a political project from the start - not an economic one, and that the nation state is a moral concept, whereas this view is not shared in several continental countries with "different mindsets."

Gerald Howarth estimated that there are 22 million people entitled to claim asylum in Britain, but Mr. Davis put the figure for those with right of entry far higher "now we have the provisions of the European Union-you've got the asylum seekers plus others from Europe with legitimate entry rights." He said we should learn from how Australia, Holland and Canada had set about limiting immigration.

Of equal concern to voters beset by tax rises, from council tax to Gordon Brown's stealth taxes and pension grabs, David Davis is a tax cutter.

Getting the message across is hard: "I made a speech about cutting tax and we got just half a column in one newspaper. We are also going to have to take a strong grip on the burgeoning regulations and it will be painful. Every regulation has people who support it."

His aim is to make the Conservatives the freedom party-"freedom from high taxes, freedom from meddling, freedom to choose your school or hospital….within the context of a strong nation state" and within a moral framework.