» Monday, March 22, 2004

PM’s Speech

The PMOS advised journalists that the Prime Minister would be making a speech on the economy today at Goldman Sachs. He would reinforce the Budget message that the Government would hold firm to economic stability, but use the fruits of that stability to invest in education, skills and science to ensure that prosperity was entrenched and spread. He would argue that the macro-economic stability that we had, and flexible labour markets, had allowed the UK to close the productivity gap with Germany and France, as well as lifting many families out of poverty and delivering rising living standards. The majority of the speech would be ‘forward looking’ to the challenges ahead for the country. He would warn that the pace of globalisation – the truly astonishing economic development

of India and China, for example, which he had witnessed at first hand in the last two years – had given added urgency to the reform agenda facing the country. He would say that we would entrench stability only by a shift in how we developed the creative potential of our workforce. He would talk about the importance of the Budget’s investment in education, skills and science, at the same time as keeping to fiscal rules. He would say that education funding would have risen to 5.7% of GDP by the end of 2008, from one of the lowest in the EU to one of the highest since 1997. But he would also talk about the importance of reforming the system and in particular about the importance of vocational training. He would say, “Last week’s Budget demonstrated the clear unity of purpose across Government. This is the British path to prosperity, to keep our hard-won economic stability, but to add to it investment allied to reform in education, science and technology, not just in our schools but also across our workforce. That is the best guarantor of opportunity and security in a changing world. This is the way to win in the future. Take this path and Britain can be the most competitive and successful economy of its size in the world”.

Asked if the Prime Minister would outline any new ideas about reforming the education system, the PMOS pointed out that a lot of reform was already going through the system. The Prime Minister would talk, in particular, about the importance of curriculum reform to ensure that that there was also a focus on vocational pathways, such as junior apprenticeships, in recognition of the need for vocational skills as well as academic excellence. He would also talk about the importance of understanding the way globalisation was changing the world and recognising that science was one of the ‘wellsprings’ of prosperity and of the future.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed that education was an area where there was more scope for private sector involvement in skills and training, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would not focus on public/private provision in his speech. However, in terms of ‘supply side reforms’ for public services, there was clearly a role for the private sector to play. The Government was working hard to develop the country’s skills agenda, such as encouraging the 7 million people, whose basic adult literacy skills were poor, to use Learn Direct and other publicly funded training initiatives.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. In the Budget the Chancellor announced the cutting of Civil Service Jobs by some 40,000. They got off to a flying start on Sunday with 5 jobs, at the thick end of five, and six figure salaries, advertised on the front page of the Sunday Times Appointments section, more inside! Do Lobby Journalists read the newspapers? Please explain, because some of the questions seem a bit weak.

    Comment by Hugh Tattersall — 23 Mar 2004 on 12:02 am | Link
  2. You must understand that politicians believe that you can apply private sector practice to the public sector (even though all sensible business theory points out that this doesn’t make sense). Therefore, when politicians talk about job cuts this always refers to people at the bottom who do the work not people at the top who take home the large salaries.

    On a separate point, I agree with the civil servants union leader when he pointed out that it was disgusting to see politicians laughing and cheering as they announced that 40,000 people were going to be sacked.

    Comment by Uncarved Block — 23 Mar 2004 on 11:17 am | Link
  3. – The idea is to sack administrators so as to free funding to create more "front-line" posts; perhaps some of the fired civil servants can retrain as teachers or job center advisors or whatever.
    – As ever, they’ll try to trim 40,000 jobs through voluntary redundancies, though as I understand it compulsory redundancies have not been ruled out.
    – Check back in six months and see how many administrators have actually lost their jobs.

    Comment by Chris Lightfoot — 23 Mar 2004 on 12:28 pm | Link

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