Speech

PM direct in Nottingham

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Transcript of Q&A given by the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in Nottingham on Thursday 24 March 2011.

Prime Minister

It’s good to be here and it’s particularly good to be here the day after the Budget, and the Budget really was about two things.  The first was trying to make Britain the best place in the world to start a new business, to run a business, for a business to expand and invest, because what we desperately need in Britain today is for businesses in the private sector to fire up and employ more people and sell more goods and make more things and export more.  So that’s why we cut the corporation tax, that’s why we announced enterprise zones where businesses won’t have to pay so much taxes, including one right here next to the Boots site in Nottingham, and that’s why there’s a big move to try and deregulate and get rid of some of the rules and regulations that stop businesses growing. 

That was the first part of the Budget.  The next part, which Nick’s going to say something about, was trying to help consumers through what is inevitably a difficult year for Britain.

Deputy Prime Minister

That’s right.  There’s a lot of uncertainties, living costs are going up, we’re acutely aware of that, but it doesn’t mean that government can’t do things to help.  And that’s why, if you look at what we announced in the Budget and, indeed, the last few months, millions of people are going to get a tax cut starting this April.  Over the next year, £320 in cash terms back in your pocket because the income tax allowance has gone up.  A triple guarantee if you’re a pensioner that your pension will go up by earnings or inflation or 2.5%.  Council tax freeze everywhere.  Extra money in terms of child tax credits, £180 this year, £110 next year.  And then of course the announcement yesterday, that if you actually look at what we’ve said about fuel, it’s going to be six pence cheaper than it would have been otherwise.  That’s about £4 or so cheaper every time you fill up a normal family car. 

So we just hope all of these things when you put them together will get the wheels of the economy really moving again, but also, crucially, will help people as they face these difficult times and these high costs.

Prime Minister

Thank you.  Now, today’s all about your questions and our answers and we’ve made a promise that we’re going to be brief in our answers, so you’ve got to hold us to that.  Well, we both promised, we’ll see. 

Who wants to go first?

Question

Prime Minister? 

Prime Minister

Yes.

Question

Thank you very much.  We were delighted to hear yesterday in the Budget that Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, known as D2N2, will be in the first round of the enterprise zones.  On this basis, would you, Prime Minister, agree the importance of good strategic road and rail links to the success of our proposed enterprise zone and can you please now confirm that the LEPs will be given more responsibility over the allocation of regional growth funding in round two and would you please recognise the strategic importance of dualling the A453 as a crucial part of the region for our LEP?

Prime Minister

Right, very good.  I was warned about this particular scheme and we do want to.  First of all, the good news: we are going to be announcing later today the extension of the Nottingham tram scheme and I think good transport links are vital for economic success, particularly a business like this you rely on being able to get your goods and products all across the country, so we understand the point.  The tram will be upgraded. 

The Local Enterprise Partnerships are vital and we want them to have a big role in helping to advise which transport projects go ahead.  That particular scheme we do want to make progress on it.  We’ve put money into capital spending, so we will do what we can, but it’s good that the LEP is going to be holding our feet to the fire and saying, ‘These are the things that we need.’

Deputy Prime Minister

Can I just?  I mean the A453, I used to live in Ruddington on the Green there, so I know how you feel, believe you me, but anyway we hope we’ll be able to sort it out one day. 

Who’s next?  Who wants to ask the next question?

Prime Minister

And you can ask about anything.  It doesn’t have to be about the economy; it can be anything you like.

Deputy Prime Minister

Yes, it doesn’t need to be just about the A453.

Question

Good morning, it’s a question for the Prime Minister.  Prime Minister, Boots is a practical business, our leaders are very, very hands on in the way that we run our business and yet I read an article about you somewhere where it described you more as the chairman of the board and you prefer to be hands off.  Do you think, a year into office, this has changed and is there anywhere actually you’d have preferred to have got maybe a bit more hands on in the way the business is run?

Prime Minister

I think in politics when you’re trying to be an effective Prime Minister, just as in a business you’ve got to appoint really good ministers and then you’ve got to give them a clear sense of what you want them to achieve and then you’ve got to let them get on and try and achieve it.  And I think in the past sometimes the Prime Minister’s tried to be the chairman, the chief executive, the chief finance officer, the chief operating officer and, as a result, hasn’t got the best out of their team.  And I think it’s very important to make sure, you know, we’ve got Michael Gove, a great Education Secretary, Andrew Lansley doing a very good job at Health, I think the Chancellor yesterday showed a real grip of the Budget and the economy, and I do think the role of Prime Minister is to try and bring the team together, help with the strategic direction, but don’t think you can run the whole thing yourself, because if you do you’re going to get into trouble.  So no, I think that model is the right one.

Who wants to go next?

Question

Prime Minister, petrol’s gone up about 5p in the last couple of months.  Isn’t your 1p cut really rather mean for hard-pressed families in this current climate? 

And if I can ask the Deputy Prime Minister, the oil companies always managed to pass on the fluctuations in oil costs to the consumer.  Why won’t they do it with your new tax?

Prime Minister

Well, first of all, I would say this is a multi-billion pound tax cut.  It’s a very big decision that we’ve taken, because not only have we scrapped the so-called ‘fuel escalator’, the one pence increase in fuel tax all the way through this parliament.  That was coming down the road and we’ve scrapped it.  Not only have we done that, but we’ve put off the increase in terms of the inflation-linked increase this year, so that doesn’t go ahead and we’ve cut fuel duty by one pence.  So, in total, as the Deputy Prime Minister said, in total that’s 6p less than it otherwise would have been.  That is £4 off filling up the typical family car.  It’s a very substantial reduction.  It has meant this new tax on the oil companies that Nick will talk about, but I think it’s absolutely the right move to take.  Of course, one would always want to do more, but I think in terms of helping hard-pressed consumers, when you think about it, they’ve had their council tax frozen, a million people lifted out of income tax, a tax cut for everyone on basic rate, an increase in the pension in line with earnings, extra tax credits for the poorest families in our country, and this to help everyone who has to use a car.  I think in what is a difficult year those are good, helpful steps to help British people cope with the year ahead.

Deputy Prime Minister

And on that, the oil and gas companies themselves have said they’re not going to pass on this increased cost to us, the consumers.  I think it’s a fair deal, you know, that oil companies that are making huge, huge profits as the world price of oil is going up are asked to, you know, pay their fair share.  They’ll actually continue to make higher profits even after this tax next year than they have in earlier years and use that money to basically give a break to people I call alarm-clock Britons, people who work hard, play by the rules, who have to face these higher costs, pay their taxes and who need a bit of a break.  And I think basically taking a bit of money off the oil and gas companies in a way which doesn’t break the bank for them, allows them to continue to operate successfully and profitably, giving everybody else a bit of break is a good deal all round.

Prime Minister

Very good.

Question

Hello, good morning to both of you.  You mentioned about the extension of the trams and I just wondered if you would be able to share with us how much of that is going to come from the central government fund and how much is going to come from the workplace parking levy.

Deputy Prime Minister

Well, a fair amount of it, as I understand it, is about savings that have been identified by the local council.  So it’s as much about how the local finances work and then, of course, it’s up to central government to give the go ahead and that’ll be the announcement later today made by Norman Baker, who’s the Minister who will be visiting.  So he’ll be able to fill you in on more detail.  But from the point of everybody - all of you - in Nottingham, it’ll lead to those two extra extensions in the tram system.  As for whether that’s being funded from this highly controversial parking - I think I visited your site 10 years ago and there was discussion about the parking levy, so I realise how difficult it is, but I hope that there’s now been an accommodation reached between you guys and the local council on that.  But you’d need to ask the local council how much of that money might be used for the tram.

Prime Minister

Thank you.

Question

You mentioned a lot yesterday in the Budget about helping businesses grow and I’m just wondering what you see the role of Boots is in contributing to the economy specifically.

Prime Minister

I’m not just saying this because I’m here and you should always be polite about your hosts, but I think Boots is quite a model for what we want to see more of in Britain.  I mean the truth is, over the last decade too much of the growth in our economy was based on financial services and government spending and a boom in housing and it was too much confined to one corner of the country, the southeast and the City of London.  And what we need to do as a country is we’ve got start making things again.  We need to manufacture more, we need to export more, we need more business investment and we need that investment spread across the country. 

And when I look at Boots, what’s so fascinating about your business is you put money into R&D, you invent new products, you do high-level research, you create new intellectual property, you create new products, you manufacture many of them here in the UK, then you distribute them and I’ve just seen the expertise in your distribution.  And then you’re a very successful retailer where you’re not just selling things to people, you’re actually starting to improve their health and starting to take their blood pressure and starting to advise them about healthy living.  So it seems to me you’ve got a very big role to play in a rebalanced economy in the modern world, which is absolutely what we need in this country. 

And I hope the Budget yesterday, with the patent box, so if you invent things and manufacture in Britain you get a lower tax rate, I hope that helps you.  The cut in corporation tax, I hope that helps you.  I hope all of what we’re doing about allowing greater capital allowances in manufacturing, I hope that encourages you to do more here in the UK.  So you’re a big part of the sort of economy we want to see in the future.

Deputy Prime Minister

And I’d add also we’ve allocated more money to science and research, which is the absolute genesis of inventing things, designing things, innovating and being a world leader in not just services and financial services, which we’re great in and we need to make sure that we continue to be great in that, but as David said, that we - I think we’ve been a little bit shy as a country about celebrating our success as a really important manufacturing company.  I’m speaking this evening at an event in Sheffield celebrating manufacturing in South Yorkshire and Sheffield and I kind of think we should really get onto the rooftops and crow about the fact that manufacturing is growing faster than it has done for years and years and years.  It’s a really important bright spot in the British economy and it really lays the groundwork for the future of a more sustainable British economy where we don’t put all our eggs into the basket in one industry in one corner of the country, but you have growth spread across the country for everybody.

Question

Good morning.  I’m from the transport industry and we’re looking to see if the government would look at assisting low-carbon fuels for vehicles.  We’re the only country in the whole of Europe that taxes renewable fuels for vehicles, whereas the continentals have lower tax models.  Is it something that you could consider in the future that if we want to have a renewable fuels market we have to help it through the taxation?

Deputy Prime Minister

I think you’ll know more than I do, I think the VED, the Vehicle Excise Duty system does try and act as an incentive for more fuel efficient and low-carbon vehicles already and the Congestion Charge systems in London and elsewhere give exemptions to low-carbon or no-carbon vehicles.  But I think it’s kind of part of a bigger thing, isn’t it?  We not only need to rebalance the economy, as we’ve just been talking about, after the haemorrhage in the banking system and make it more balanced that way, we need to make it more environmentally sustainable and that’s why yesterday in the Budget I think it’s really important that we did two very big things.  Firstly, we said that the price of carbon in what businesses do has got to be properly reflected, so we’ve set a what they call technically a ‘carbon price’ for the first time.  I think we are world leaders in saying carbon costs us all, so it should cost - that should be reflected in the costs of businesses as well and that will act as a real incentive to renewable energy production rather than fossil fuel energy production. 

And then we’ve set up this Green Investment Bank.  More money at the beginning than everyone expected, £3 billion upfront.  It’ll be able to start a year earlier than it would have done otherwise and once we’ve sorted out the mess in our public finances it’ll be able to start borrowing and that’s going to be a really exciting way of getting public and private money into the kind of green infrastructure you need: transport, energy and so on for the future.

Prime Minister

Thank you.  Any more questions?  I’ve noticed in Boots that it’s almost two to one women to men, so I think that’s the ratio of questions.  It’s probably why you’re so successful; that’s what my wife would say anyway.  So I think we should have the questions like that.

Question

Thank you.  A lot has been talked about the Big Society in relation to volunteering and charity work and it would just be good to know a little bit more about your wider vision on that today.

Prime Minister

Right, okay, thank you very much.  A very simple idea, which is if we want to build a stronger country, a better society, then it’s not just the government that’s got a part to play, we’ve all got a part to play, as individuals, as families and as businesses, and Boots is a good example; it puts a lot back into the community. 

And when I talk about a Big Society what I mean is basically three things.  First of all, we should devolve more power locally so that people who want to take a bigger part in their local communities are able to do so. 

The second thing we ought to do is in our public services is we should make them less top-down and more with people being able to participate and change the way they’re delivered.  So allow communities to set up new schools - you’ve got a great plan here with Nottingham City Council to have a university technical college.  That’s a great example of the Big Society devolving decisions about public services - education - down to businesses and city councils so they can do more to create a stronger society.

But thirdly and crucially, we should do more to encourage volunteering and philanthropic giving and asking people to put more back into the country, and that’s why in the Budget yesterday I was delighted that the Chancellor extended Gift Aid.  So now if you shake a bucket in the high street or you do a collection in the church, you haven’t got to fill in all those forms to get the Gift Aid, you just get it automatically.

The vision is of a country where we all recognise we should all do more individually and collectively to build a bigger, stronger society.  It’s as simple as that, and some people say to me, ‘But we’ve been doing this for ages.’ And I say, ‘Yes, of course.’ There are great organisations in our country that have been all about building a Big Society, and I just say let’s help them do more and let’s all do more because in the end that’s how I think we’ll have a better country for our children to live in.

Question

Can I ask, in a world where bad business leads to bailout, what real incentives are there for the banks to change the way they work?

Prime Minister

Good point.

Deputy Prime Minister

I think, firstly, we shouldn’t live in a world where the bad practice is rewarded by the rest of us bailing them out.  We’ve got to move away, over time.  We can’t do it overnight, it’s a very complex thing.  We’ve got to move away from this situation where they were so big and so, kind of, overwhelmingly important that we had no choice but to kind of bail them out.  Basically, in banking, much as in your business, if you really mess up, you should pay the consequences of that, not the rest of us.  So we’re having to pick up the pieces from a really big mistake, basically, where we allowed the whole thing to become too risky, for people to take risks with what turned out to be our money.  And what we’re doing is we’re saying to the banks, ‘You’ve got to lend more money to businesses, you’ve got to pay yourselves lower bonuses and you’ve got to pay us all more tax.’

And that’s exactly what we’ve recently agreed with the banks, and then separately we’ve set up a commission of terribly clever, wise people, looking at this big problem of how do you get away from this ‘too big to fail’ dilemma, that we pick up the tab when, you know, when things go wrong in the banking system.  And all countries around the world are looking at the same dilemma and they will report, I think, in September of this year and then we’ll take it forward from there.

Prime Minister

Just can I add two points to that very quickly?  First of all, the reason we had to bail out the banks is in an economy, if the banks collapse, you don’t just get a recession, you get a full-on depression.  So I think we had to do that, the last government had to do it, but the real lesson to learn, as well as what Nick has said, is there wasn’t any one organisation really in charge of regulating the banks, and what we’re doing is putting the Bank of England back in charge, to give the people with the authority, with understanding of banking and how it can go wrong, put them in charge of calling time on bad behaviour and bad lending and bad decisions, and I think a clear line of accountability, like in any business, is just as important in government.

Question

People seem very concerned about the number of immigrants moving to this country.  However, what people may not realise is that many immigrants have the right to work, live and study here because they’re from the EU or a Commonwealth country.  I know how difficult it has been to finally get citizenship and with it the right to vote, being an immigrant myself, so I was wondering, why are you making it more difficult for immigrants from overseas to come here, especially students who wish to get a British education?

Prime Minister

Well, first of all, let me say, immigration is good for Britain.  The fact that people want to come and work here and come and make a living here and contribute here, that has been good for our country.  I think the problem, though, we inherited - there was a system that was slightly out of control.  I think the numbers coming in were too high, and also there was a huge amount of illegal immigration, people coming over and then just disappearing.  And if you take the issue of students, we had a situation where up until last year, about 90,000 students a year were coming, but not to universities or colleges that were highly recognised, but to colleges that didn’t really have proper recognition at all.

So what we’re trying to do as a government is saying let’s keep hold of the good and positive immigration, people like yourself coming here, studying in university, wanting to work afterwards in a graduate job.  Let’s keep that, but we must deal with the illegal immigration and with the bogus colleges which has brought forward the problem, because at the last election I think we both found, going round the country, this was a real issue of concern, but the message from the British people was very clear: we don’t want no immigration, we want to have immigration, but we want it controlled and properly organised, and that is what we are aiming to do, and the rules we’ve put in place this week about students is actually saying, if you are coming over to a British university, that’s great, and after you’ve finished university you can work for two years in a graduate job, so our universities can market themselves across the world and say this is a great place to come and study and come and work, but we must try and keep control of what had become a very large industry of really almost quite illegal immigration, people coming over supposedly to study but actually to go into different parts of the labour market.  So I think we can get this right, I really do, and I profoundly believe we can get the numbers to a place where people have much more confidence in the system than they do now.

Deputy Prime Minister

I just want to add, it’s exactly as David said.  It’s a question of balance.  You want to open the door to people who come here who want to, you know, work and study by the rules, who want to come and study in universities and then find a graduate-level job.  We’ve said this week, they are welcome, more than welcome, they’re great for the future of this country.  We want to close the door against, you know, illegal routes into this country, abuse of the system, bogus colleges where people ask to come here to study but they don’t actually study at all.  It’s getting that balance right, and I think we’ve been spending a lot of time on this together.  It’s getting the balance right and I think we’ve struck the right balance on that student issue this week.

Prime Minister

The citizenship test is tough, isn’t it?  There are some of the questions - someone showed me some of the questions and it included, ‘What exactly is the role of the Mayor of London?’  I could answer that a lot of different ways, but we won’t go there right now.

Question

Thank you.  Political parties are essentially coalitions themselves, and leading a political party brings its own challenges.

Deputy Prime Minister

Tell me about it.

Question

Do you feel your formal coalition has made your roles as political leaders harder or easier?

Prime Minister

Good question.

Deputy Prime Minister

You want me to answer first, do you?  Right.  Thank you very much!

Prime Minister

I think in a word, harder.  I think we’d say the same thing.  You’re right, all parties are coalitions and I think the thing about a coalition is that it does make the process of government a bit more formal.  With this Budget, we spent a lot of time in advance, the Chancellor, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister, the Chief Secretary, Danny Alexander, really going through it in a much more formal, collective way, as you would in a business, and that’s a good thing.  But it does mean, I think, the harder part is we’ve both got to keep our parties - who sometimes want different things, they don’t always agree; of course not, otherwise we’d have one party, not two - we have to keep them going along with what the coalition is deciding.  So it’s more work, more consultation, but that’s not a bad thing.

Deputy Prime Minister

I think, you know, parties are tribal creatures and they like to tear strips off each other, and what I think we both as leaders need to do is remind people that you - not us, you, the British people - told us, the politicians, that no-one won the election and that you wanted us to work together, which is what we’ve done, in the national interest.  And I think, at the end of the day, we’re doing, in a sense, what you asked us to, which was not to say, ‘Oh, well, let’s have constant series of elections.’  Let’s get together, for once, and you have to do this in business, you have to do this in families, you do this in all walks of life, you sometimes have to work with people that you aren’t conventionally used to working with for the benefit of everybody, and that’s what we’re doing.  You just need to explain that over and over again, because I think sometimes people kind of forget the marching instructions that we received from the most important people of all, which was the British voters.

Question

I believe the principles of the NHS reforms are about improving patient care, improving patient outcomes and about improving the experiences that patients have, and to do all of that at less cost.  My experience in personalised care and making such enhancements is that it actually costs more money, so how will you achieve it?

Prime Minister

Very good question.  Do you want to go first on this one?

Deputy Prime Minister

You go ahead.

Prime Minister

I think the key here is trying to deal with the bureaucracy.  Now, I’m a big fan of the NHS.  I’m passionate about it.  I think it’s a brilliant organisation.  The fact in this country if you get ill, or your children get ill, you can go to hospital, no one asks for your credit card or how much money you earn, you get treated.  It’s a brilliant thing.  But, the bureaucracy in recent years has built up and built up to such an extent that when we formed a government, the number of bureaucrats was growing five times as fast as the number of nurses.  So the way to try and get more for less is, I think, to try and remove that bureaucracy, put more power in the hands of the clinicians, and make them the decision-makers, the doctors and the nurses, and I think we will be able to get more for less.

But we recognise that care costs money and that’s why, although we’re making cuts in many government departments - because we have to - in health, actually we’re putting an extra £10.7 billion in over the next four years, which will mean that the health budget is going up rather than going down, but it’ll still be challenging, because you’ve got the new treatments coming on, the new drugs - which obviously Boots are going to provide, at a very low cost, to the NHS, thank you very much - and obviously you’ve got the aging of the population, so there are a lot of pressures in the Health Service, but I think deal with the bureaucracy, give the doctors, the professionals more power, allow the patients greater choices, and I think we can have a better health system.

Deputy Prime Minister

The only thing I would add, there’s lots of debate and there continues to be lots and lots of debate about what this government, as in all governments, want to do with the NHS.  And I think, you know, if you actually strip it right down to what we’re seeking to do, it’s quite simple and I think most people would agree with it, which is firstly make sure that the people who know the patients best, the GPs, you know, have got kind of more say about how the whole system works so that they can make decisions which are based on your medical needs and then also make sure that the money follows those medical needs.  That’s sort of point one, pretty uncontroversial.

And secondly, it’s an incredibly centralised, bureaucratic system, layers upon layers upon layers of quangos and administrative layers which, of course, some of which do really important work, but some of which frankly can be scaled down, and we think it makes sense to ask people who are accountable to you, and everybody else in this room, the local council and the local authorities, to have a bigger role, for instance, to make sure that health care and social care work together.  Because anyone who’s had anything to do with either, the gap between social care and health care, will know how important it is to make sure these two things come together.  That’s the basic, kind of, underlying motivation which we think is a good one, but clearly, rightly, because everyone cares so much about the NHS, it is also a subject of controversy.

Prime Minister

Another thought.  We’ve just been looking at your amazing automated warehouse.  So your electronic point of sale system in your warehouse means that your staff in your shops can spend all their time thinking about the customer.  That’s the sort of thinking we need in the NHS, that actually if you get the bureaucracy right, the people in the NHS can spend more time caring for the patients.

Deputy Prime Minister

It doesn’t mean endangering the NHS; it doesn’t mean privatising the NHS.  The NHS remains free at the point of use, based on need and nothing else.  That sacred principle of the NHS will always, always remain.

Prime Minister

Absolutely.

Question

We have four exceptional but quite diverse universities within 15 miles of where we’re gathering this morning.  What role do you want your university sector to play going forward?

Deputy Prime Minister

A massive role.  We talked earlier about the way we put actually more money in the Budget yesterday into science research and development.  Look at the enterprise-zone announcement we’re making today that will take place here.  Part of the reason we think it will be successful is it can draw on the research skills which can then be commercialised into products and services which can be sold or can help create jobs that are first invented in a lab or in a research department in the university.  I’m an MP from up the M1 in Sheffield and the universities, they are absolutely crucial to making sure that that city remains right at the forefront of engineering and the latest advanced techniques in manufacturing.

Without great universities, I think in this globalised world where it is knowledge and innovation and insights that matter more than anything else, that are worth their weight in gold, without our great universities, we will be nothing in the future and that’s why we think the universities should be absolutely an integral part of these new initiatives that we’re providing to universities and to business.

Prime Minister

I agree with that.

Question

A follow-up from Carl’s question about the NHS.  Sir, you mentioned about not privatising it and free at the point of care.  What’s your advice to us as a company, for Boots, about how we can partner you on the massive transformation within the Health Service?

Prime Minister

Well, my advice would be to work very positively with local GPs as the new system starts to evolve, because what you do is absolutely vital, which is trying to build a healthier nation.  I mean, this really goes to Carl’s question: how do we have a health system that is first-class and affordable when we can’t always just throw more money at it?  And the answer is we’ve got to become a healthier nation.  We’ve got to think more of preventative health.  You know, if actually we improve diet, if we cut down on smoking, all those other things, we deal much better with diabetes, with all the things that flow from obesity.

So the healthy living agenda and the wellbeing agenda is absolutely vital to creating a more affordable Health Service.  At the moment, sometimes, we have too much of a national sickness service, as it were.  We need a National Health Service, and I think what you do in your stores and what your competitors do as well, I think, should be a big part of the agenda.  But you won’t get that from government asking, ordering you to do this and the GPs to do that.  It’s got to grow from the bottom up.  If you can demonstrate that you’re reducing the demands on the Health Service and making the population more healthy, you should be able to share in the system with the GPs who also, under the new system, will want the same thing.

Deputy Prime Minister

Can I just add: as I said, of course, you are not going to sort of privatise the NHS in the sense of flogging off the NHS to the private sector.  It doesn’t mean you and many others - voluntary groups, and other groups - can’t work in partnership to provide healthcare, public health advice, and services to people as, by the way, has been happening for a long, long time.  You’ve got what they call a mixed economy in health.  You have done for many years.  What we want to do is to make sure that the people who are making a lot of the decisions about where your money, taxpayer money, goes know the patients best, and that you have a kind of level playing field, so that people can play their role in providing NHS services, free at the point of use, on the basis of need, but in a way that makes sense to local communities.  It isn’t just the result of some diktat from someone behind closed doors in an office in Whitehall.

Prime Minister

Okay - last couple of questions.

Question

Prime Minister, a question about the current military action in Libya, if I may: under the current UN mandate, is it the coalition’s intention to target Colonel Gaddafi directly?

Prime Minister

Under the UN mandate, we are allowed to do two basic things.  The first is it says we should be able to take all necessary measures to put in place a no-fly zone to stop the Libyan regime air force and helicopter gunships from killing people on the ground.  We have done that.  We have a no-fly zone up and running and that is saving lives.  The second thing in the UN resolution is to take all necessary measures to prevent the loss of civilian life, so that has enabled us to make attacks on Libyan tanks and heavy artillery that are doing unbelievably brutal things in places like Misurata and previously in Benghazi, where I think, frankly, what we did with the French and the Americans helped to avoid a slaughter.  So, the targeting we have - and we shouldn’t comment on it, or give a running commentary on it, or say this is in, and this is out - the targeting is about saving civilian life and putting in place a no-fly zone.  I think it’s very important we don’t go beyond that in any way.

Deputy Prime Minister

Can I just say two things, as someone who leads a party that was fiercely against the Iraq invasion: it’s just to really recognise how very, very, very different this is.  This is not unilateral action; it has absolutely been done by the book, through the United Nations.  We are not doing this on our own.  We are doing this with a whole bunch of other countries.  Actually, we are responding, in part, to a demand from the Arab League, from the Arab world, saying: look, you’ve got to sort this out. 

The second thing I would say is: how would we, how would you - how would any of us feel if we hadn’t taken action and we saw on the evening news, a few days ago, Gaddafi’s tanks rolling into Benghazi and just obliterating that city, that town, and snuffing out the kind of hope of freedom and a new future that those very, very brave people?  I think we would have felt really wretched.  I think as a country, we would have felt we did something wrong by standing aside.  So, I think yes, this is controversial.  It is always difficult.  It is not easy to predict tidy outcomes.  It is not a tidy world.  But to have acted and acted together in the United Nations in the way that we have, I think, unlike previous conflicts, was absolutely the right thing to do.

Prime Minister

Thank you.

Question

As a consequence of the decisions that you are taking, please describe what life in Britain will look and feel like for the average person in five years’ time.

Prime Minister

Very good.  How long have we got?  What I profoundly hope is that in five years’ time, people in our country will feel that the economy is growing; that there are better jobs coming through; that they are keeping more of the money that they earn; that they are seeing change in their public services, so there are new good schools sprouting up to give their children a good education; that the Health Service is working properly.  But also, I hope, a real sense of fairness, and by fairness, what I mean is that people who work hard, who do the right thing, who get up in the morning to try and provide for themselves and their family, feel they are being treated fairly and rewarded for what they do, rather than being punished. 

With that sense of fairness, I think there should also be a sense of obligation - that too many people in our country have felt that actually there is an alternative of a life on benefits and a life on welfare where you shouldn’t have to offer yourself up for work, and I think that sense of fairness includes those people, if they are going to go on getting welfare, making themselves available for work and accepting work if work is there.  So, I hope a wealthier, more prosperous country, in which everyone is sharing in that prosperity, better spread round the country, as we have been talking about, and a sense of fairness that if you put in and you do your bit, you get out and you feel you are part of a stronger country. 

And I hope also a more self-confident country - a country that actually feels we do matter in the world.  We shouldn’t overstate who we are in Britain, but we’ve got some great advantages.  We’ve got the English language; as Nick said, some of the best universities in the world; brilliant businesses like the one we are standing in today; a sense that actually, we helped shape events in the world and improve life for others, as we are in Libya and we are with our massive international aid programme that even in difficult times is actually saving lives all over the world.  So, I hope a proud and self-confident, happier, more prosperous country, but it is a difficult road that we have to take. 

We inherited this vast budget deficit.  I am just about to go off to Brussels, lucky old me, and I am going to be sitting round the table with the Portuguese and the Greeks and the Spanish, and we have got a bigger budget deficit than them.  The only reason our interest rates are lower than them right now is because this government has taken tough and difficult action to sort out the mess we are in.  But I do believe, when we get to the end of this parliament we will have taken the tough steps, we will have come through the other side, and people will feel more confident about the future.

Deputy Prime Minister

Firstly, this is a sensitive issue between us, but I hope you will be voting in the election in 2015 on a different system than we have at the moment.  I thought I would get that in so he can’t answer and get his side of the story - ingenious, slipping it in right at the last minute.  The second thing is I very much hope, and David just said it himself, that actually come 2015, the really difficult stuff we are doing now, and it is really difficult - we don’t relish having to announce cuts and savings, and none of us went into politics to do that - will if not be a distant memory, at least people will know we have done the job, that when the next election happens, we are not going to be asking for more cuts, and that’s why I think it’s right, however difficult it is that we are doing it in this parliament. 

But the most important - if you ask me what I care about most, I think what I probably care about most is simply changing the country so that if you’re a child born, wherever you are born, you can kind of get ahead, irrespective of the circumstances of your birth.  I am going to go up to Sheffield after this event, and it just is not right that if you are born basically on the wrong side of the tracks, you’ll die several years earlier than someone who is born in a better part of town.  You’ll do worse at school from a pretty early age, and after that, the gap tends to widen.  You’ll have less chance to go to university.  That’s why some of the things that we’ve announced over the last few months - I know good news isn’t very fashionable at the moment, and it all gets obscured by the controversy about cuts, but actually slowly, bit by bit, we are doing some really important things which will help everybody to get ahead. 

You know, two year olds from all disadvantaged backgrounds will get free pre-school support for the first time.  All three and four year olds in this country will get free pre-school support for the first time.  We are introducing more money, so that you can target that attention to the kids who really need it at school.  We are making sure that there are more apprentices - 250,000 more apprenticeships than previous, under the previous government.  We are making the tax breaks that we have talked about, so that if you work hard, even on a low income, you make sure that you keep more of your money, that you don’t have to sort of think: oh well, it might be better to be on benefits.  It will always pay to work.  If you then retire, you’ll get a decent retirement, and you know that you’ve got this triple guarantee.

It’s that kind of - you know, from cradle right through to retirement that we want to see that everybody can get ahead and make the best of their own luck if they really want to.  That’s the kind of Britain we hope, and I certainly hope, you will see in 2015 and beyond. 

Prime Minister

Thank you very much.  I’m sure there will probably be television debates - we hope they will be a bit better natured between the two of us, but it will be interesting.  Thank you very much - you’ve been a fantastic audience.  It’s been lovely to come here today and see what you do in your business.  We very much hope the enterprise zone is going to lead this area to be even more successful than it is, but thank you for what you do, and thank you for coming today.  Thanks very much.