» Thursday, May 12, 2005

Prime Minister’s Press Conference

[This is the transcript of one of the Prime Minister’s occasional press conferences; these
are the words of the Prime Minister giving a statement and answering the
questions of journalists. Unlike the PMOS’s briefings, this is a more-or-less
verbatim transcript of the Prime Minister’s words. Such press conferences
happen about once a month, and occasionally more often.]

The Prime Minister’s opening statement

The new Cabinet has just met for the first time and agreed next week’s Queen’s Speech. It will be a bold programme for the new parliament that starts to implement the manifesto on which we were elected.  I said on Friday that we had been listening hard to the British people during the election campaign.  It is clear that they value and want the extra money going into public services, it is also clear they want more for that money.

So our task now is to deepen the change, accelerate reform, and address head on the priorities of the British people in the National Health Service, schools and welfare reform, childcare and support for working families, crime, disorder, respect on our streets, asylum and immigration. That is what we will do in our third term and in the forthcoming legislative programme.

Our ambition is also to achieve an irreversible widening of opportunity in our society. That means investment in reform and education and skills, it also means delivering our national childcare strategy to give more help to mums and dads who have to juggle work and family life.  It also means a welfare state that continues to remove the barriers that are holding people back. So there will be a Green Paper on reform of incapacity benefit before the summer recess. People who can work, should be given the chance to work.

We must also have a welfare state that rises to the challenge of the population ageing, with a fair and sustainable long term pensions reform, providing decent living standards for all, and rewarding and encouraging saving. We await the conclusion of the Turner Commission report, and David Blunkett is setting out his thinking in a speech later today.

Along with the reforms to welfare, we must embed a culture of rights and responsibilities. Fairness is of course about social justice, but it is also about decent public services for all, and it is essentially about playing by the rules. During the election campaign I heard too often people talk about a loss of respect, in the classroom, on the street corner, in the way our hard working public servants are treated as they perform their tasks.

We need to address this problem, not just as a government, but as a society.  I will be setting out plans for this area of policy in a speech in the coming weeks.  But I just want to say this about it now.  A few years ago when I began the debate on anti-social behaviour, there were some who thought it gimmicky, even eccentric. The anti-social behaviour measures were opposed vigorously by many in the House of Commons, and fought very hard against in the House of Lords. These measures were introduced, and where implemented have had a real impact. But in reality they were only ever a part of a much bigger picture which was painted for me time and again during the course of the election campaign by members of the public. 

People like a society that is less deferential, they want a society free from old prejudices, but a loss of deference is very different to a loss of respect for other people.  A society without prejudice should not be one without rules.  People are rightly fed up with street corner and shopping centre thugs, yobbish behaviour, sometimes from children as young as 10 or 11, whose parents should be looking after them, of Friday and Saturday night binge drinking that makes our town centres no-go areas for respectable citizens, of the low level graffiti, vandalism and disorder that is the work of a very small minority, it is true, but makes the law abiding majority afraid and angry. 

I have no nostalgia for any by-gone era, so much of society has changed for the better, and it is good that people are free to express their views, lead their personal lives in the way they want to, are less hidebound by old thinking. But some things should endure, and one is respect towards other people. That is a modern yearning as much as a traditional one. Some of the causes of this may be very long term, some of the solutions difficult. I am determined to make this a central piece however of our third term agenda. So there is a busy agenda for change over the coming months and we are going to move forward with renewed purpose.  Thank you.

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

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