Prime Minister’s broadcast 10 November 2000 – Pre-Budget Report
If your home or business is flooded, or your journey to work badly disrupted because of floods or work on the railways, it’s not been a pleasant time.
I saw for myself last week the devastation caused by the flooding. But few people would have thought that a week later the floods would, in many places, be getting worse.
We will, as I promised, do all we can to help both in the short-term and long-term.
And although I realise it will be scant comfort to those waiting to clear out water from their living room, it’s the long-term – what I call the big picture – I want to talk about today.
I’ve always said that the Government is dedicated to the long-term. Determined to take the long-term steps needed to build a better future for people.
It’s what I mean by concentrating on that big picture – on the economy, on jobs, on investment, on public services. The fundamentals, if you like.
So of course no Government’s perfect and we haven’t got everything right. But on the big things, these fundamentals, I believe we are moving in the right direction.
Gordon Brown’s pre-budget statement demonstrated what I meant. The economy he could describe – an economy of low inflation, low interest rates, debt being repaid, record employment levels may be taken for granted now.
But you only have to look back a few years – less than a decade – to a time when the exact opposite of all this was true in Britain. To a time, when for instance, when interest rates were at 15% for a whole year.
I heard someone complain that Gordon’s statement did a lot for pensioners but nothing for the middle classes.
Now leave aside the fact that many pensioners are middle class or that I suspect almost everyone believes poorer pensioners deserve more help.
It also ignores the fact that it is homeowners who are benefiting from low interest rates because of the decisions taken.
Now this webcast is not the time to repeat Gordon’s statement but one figure shows just how much has changed – and how much we could lose if we repeat the mistakes of the past.
Over the last two decades, 42 p of every pound of Government revenue – that’s your money – went on paying back interest on Government debts or on social security. In fact in the early nineties, the figure reached 50p in every pound.
But now, because so many more people are in work and because so much of the debt has been paid off, that figure has fallen from 42p to 17p.
So it means more than 80p in every pound can now be spent on our hospitals, schools and vital services, not wasted on debt repayments. Money at last which will allow us to tackle the long-term under-investment in Britain.
And this hard-won economic stability is also enabling us to pay off some of the debts of honour our country owes.
Last week, I talked to some of Britain’s Far East Prisoners of War. They suffered terribly so future generations could enjoy peace and freedom. For many of them, the scars, emotional as well as physical, will never heal.
So I was pleased, that after many years, we could offer them some compensation for their sacrifice and pain. It was an obligation met if you like.
And I was pleased, too, that Gordon could announce the package of real help for all our pensioners. It’s another debt, at least, partially repaid.
But that help for pensioners – and our determination not to risk the hard-won economic stability we have worked so hard to build – meant, of course, that those who wanted dramatic cuts in fuel duty will have been disappointed.
Now I believe the package of help for motorists – and for the haulage and farming industry – did show that we have genuinely listened to concerns about the high cost of motoring.
I believe we did what we can – what a responsible Government looking at the long-term interests of the country could responsibly do.
And of course it won’t satisfy everyone. It certainly won’t satisfy those who want a 26p cut in fuel duty.
But in the end, Government is about making choices. It’s about making decisions, sticking to them for the long term, even if they are unpopular in the short term.
And I hope that on the things that really matter to the long-term future and prosperity of our country – on the economy, jobs, investment, public services – the right choices we’ve made far out-number any wrong ones.