Householders who resort to physical force to deter burglars will be given greater protection from the law, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, will announce on Tuesday as he abandons the legacy of his moderate predecessor, Kenneth Clarke.
In a sign of Downing Street's tougher approach on law and order, Grayling will pledge to change the law to ensure householders can use "disproportionate" force in certain circumstances.
Grayling's move is designed to show that No 10 is heeding the concerns of key voters, hailed by ministers as "strivers", who fear the government is losing sight of law and order issues as it grapples with the fiscal deficit.
The chancellor, George Osborne, reached out to the "strivers" when he told the conference he had agreed with the welfare secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, to cut as much as £10bn more from the welfare budget, starting in the pre-election year of 2015-16. He also ruled out the Liberal Democrat plans for a mansion tax. "The party of homeowners will have no truck with a homes tax," he said.
The broad proposals for an extra £10bn cut in welfare have been agreed with senior Liberal Democrats, Tory ministers claim. But this is being denied by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister.
The Lib Dems are likely to watch with care as Grayling makes a bid to become the toast of the Tory conference.
The justice secretary will say: "Being confronted by an intruder in your own home is terrifying, and the public should be in no doubt that the law is on their side. That is why I am strengthening the current law.
"Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self-defence are victims of crime and should be treated that way. We need to dispel doubts in this area once and for all, and I am very pleased to be today delivering on the pledge that we made in opposition."
The change to the law, which is likely to be signalled in the next Queen's speech, will for the first time mean that householders can use "disproportionate" force in exceptional circumstances. Under the current law, homeowners are allowed to use "reasonable force" to defend themselves in their home or on the street to protect others, to prevent crime or to protect property. But the force cannot be disproportionate.
Grayling's change will mean that if a householder uses force which he or she believed was reasonable at the time, but was in fact disproportionate, then that could be deemed to be lawful.
"This is not about letting people go on the rampage. There is a difference between grabbing a bedside lamp and whacking an intruder because you are worried about the children and hitting someone and then stabbing them 17 times," one source said.
The announcement by Grayling is designed to ensure there can be no repeat of the experience of Andy and Tracey Ferrie, who were held for 40 hours after using a legally held weapon to protect their remote Leicestershire cottage. Two intruders were injured.
The lord chief justice, Lord Judge, questioned whether angry and frightened householders should be treated like criminals. In the runup to the 2001 general election, the Conservative leader, William Hague, pledged to change the law after Tony Martin was jailed for confronting a burglar, Brendan Fearon, and his accomplice, Fred Barras, 16, at his Norfolk home in 1999. Martin killed Barras and wounded Fearon. The welfare cuts were one of three policies sprung by Osborne that left Lib Dem coalition colleagues uneasy. The other two policies were a new breed of company freed from Britain's unfair dismissal laws, and generous tax incentives for shale gas.
Nick Clegg indicated that more work would need to be done before the £10bn in cuts were agreed. The deputy prime minister is not wedded to the mansion tax but he insists the rich must make a greater contribution to deficit reduction if he is to agree to the £10bn cuts – something the Tories say they can agree to.
Clegg said: "Nothing in detail has been agreed on further cuts or savings to welfare. The Conservatives are, of course, entirely entitled to set out their stall about what we do as a country if we have to tighten our belts further, as we, indeed, were at our party conference. My attitude has always been very simple, very straightforward – which is that as we have to make more savings as country, as we do, we start at the top and work down – not the other way round."
In his speech Osborne said that 80% of the further £16bn deficit reduction needed from 2015-16 would have to come from spending cuts, not tax rises, putting an unavoidable squeeze on the welfare budget.
The Tories also claimed that the Lib Dems were backing plans to introduce a new breed of small business, unveiled by Osborne, in which the workers would be given shares exempt from capital gains tax in return for signing away most of their employment rights.
The proposal seems a way to reintroduce proposals backed by Adrian Beecroft to tear up employment rights, including an erosion of maternity rights, mainly in small firms.
Those plans were blocked by the business secretary, Vince Cable, but the pill has been sweetened by the commitment for firms to offer shares to their more flexible workforce.
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