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UK Government To Act On Living Costs - British PM

Government to act on living costs - PM

The Government is to focus its attention on tackling the rising costs of fuel, food and energy for British families, the PM has said.

Speaking to journalists during his monthly press conference, Mr Brown promised to produce a "comprehensive short and medium term plan" to deal with the cost of gas, petrol, food and mortgages and its impact on family finances.

The PM said:

"For all the attention other issues may have had, important though they are, the issue of greatest current concern - and what matter most today to most members of the public - is the impact of the costs of fuel and food on family finances.

"And it is these concerns i will address today. And tomorrow. And the day after. And for the next few weeks as we engage with other governments on the root causes of what most families are worried about now and the ways forward."

The PM said that the issue of rising costs was "a real problem" to be dealt with "on the global stage". He pledged to make oil and food key areas of discussion in the forthcoming EU Council in Brussels and the G8 Summit scheduled for early July.

Mr Brown said the UK will call for action in three ways: a new global approach to oil and energy policy that removes barriers to increased supply and strengthens measures to reduce demand; a new world trade deal that reins in protectionist sentiment; and a new approach to food policy that eliminates controls on production and restrictions on trade, and encourages a greater focus on improving agricultural production and productivity.

The Prime Minister also revealed that Saudi Arabia had agreed to his request to host high-level talks in Jeddah to address oil supply and demand. Mr Brown will take part in the summit on 22 July and has offered to host follow-up discussions in London.

This weekend G8 finance ministers will discuss UK proposals to change the balance of supply and demand in oil, and on Monday the PM and President Bush will meet to discuss how to tackle the energy challenge and how to make progress a world trade deal.

***

FULL TEXT

PM's opening statement

For all the attention other issues may have had, important though they are, the issue of greatest current concern - and what matter most today to most members of the public - is the impact of the costs of fuel and food on family finances.

And it is these concerns I will address today. And tomorrow. And the day after. And for the next few weeks as we engage with other governments on the root causes of what most families are worried about now and the ways forward.

I believe Britain is well placed as an economy - and I am well placed because of my experience to seek and deliver international progress on action that will address these pressures and keep our economy moving forward.

We have benefited greatly from the global economy in terms of jobs, cheaper goods, access to markets. But there's a downside too - vast and rapid economic change, the credit crunch, and most recently the oil and food crises. Sometimes problems like the oil and food crisis can, to some extent, be alleviated by national measures like the winter fuel allowance and freezing fuel duty - but in the end they require solutions that no nation can deliver alone. Global problems need global solutions.

World oil prices have trebled, and wheat and maize prices have doubled - hitting us and every country hard. And we are currently at a stage when prices are continuing to rise because, for the foreseeable future, people expect growth in demand to outstrip growth in supply.

So the world's economic leaders need to make long term decisions on energy, food and finance -- and if we make the right decisions I believe Britain is well placed to come through the current economic difficulties

As yesterday's record employment figures have again shown, Britain's economy remains strong -- and are better placed than other countries for the difficult world challenges ahead.

One important stabilising factor is that for the first time large numbers of public sector workers - 1.6 million - have now been covered by three year pay deals.

And we are - with new proposals published today - announcing measures to compel the unemployed not just to seek jobs but skills for jobs.

To keep the economy moving forward 22 million people will have a tax cut this autumn.

And because we have low debt both historically and in contrast to other countries, our borrowing can rise at a time of economic difficulty to support the economic strength that has been built step by step over the last decade.

But I know the difficulties that families are facing and I am determined to do more to help

So over the coming months, I and every member of the government will focus on building a comprehensive short and medium term plan to deal with the critical problems - the cost of gas, petrol, food and mortgages so we can help british families and businesses.

Because we know that these are ultimately international problems requiring international solutions, we will press other world leaders to take joint action to address the supply and demand and thus the cost of food, fuel and money - and to keep the world economy moving forward.

So I will ask at important international meetings that the EU, G8 and the entire international community take action, seeking agreement on:

· A new global approach to oil and energy policy that removes barriers to increased supply of oil and gas and strengthens measures to reduce demand - both from an open and transparent dialogue between producers and consumers

· Immediate agreement on a new world trade deal - which could rein in costly protectionist sentiment now threatening every continent and increase global gdp by as much as 300 billion dollars a year by 2015;

· A new approach to food policy that eliminates controls on production and restrictions on trade, and encourages a greater focus on improving agricultural production and productivity.

Last week I called for a producer-consumer dialogue on oil. This week I have talked to the king of Saudi Arabia and to several G8 leaders. We will continue to work closely with the Saudi government to bring oil prices down to sustainable levels. This can only be done through dialogue. The Saudis have now agreed that they will convene a high level meeting in Jeddah a week on Sunday to address oil supply and demand. I strongly welcome this initiative, and will travel to Jeddah in order to launch it with King Abdullah. I have proposed to the King that, if necessary, I will be happy to convene a follow up summit at heads of government level, and have offered London as a venue.

Britain is today also publishing a detailed paper that we are tabling for the G8 setting out a comprehensive analysis of short and long term trends in the commodities markets, particularly food and oil.

With greater energy efficiency and with a diversity of energy supply - renewables and nuclear - we can reduce our dependence on oil. So later this month, the british government will be setting out our proposals to increase dramatically - by 700 per cent -- the proportion of our energy which comes from renewables, and at the same time raise energy efficiency. And how Britain can lead this green technological revolution.

And crucially, also this morning, John Hutton is also setting out details of new measures to facilitate and - where we can - speed up the building of new nuclear power stations here in Britain.

The latest estimate is that to meet climate change and energy requirements in the next forty years the world could need as many as 1,000 nuclear power stations with all the serious implications that has for security as well as cost and change.

Expansion of nuclear like the 700 per cent growth of renewables round the world will lessen our addiction on oil. And while I know that there are nuclear protesters who object to any nuclear power, they need to know that if they had their way the resulting energy crisis would bring less security, more instability, faster climate change and more poverty - all the things they claim they want.

So let me tell you how we will work internationally to affect the price of oil, food and finance.

At the weekend the G8 finance ministers will discuss UK proposals to change the balance of supply and demand in oil.

On Monday I will meet with President Bush to discuss how we can tackle the energy challenge and how we can make faster progress on completing the world trade deal. I have also already spoken to Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Singh, and President Barroso about how all of us can work together to achieve the energy shift we need and about the trade deal - and will speak again to President Lula in the next few days.

As part of our preparations for a new approach to long term energy supply and demand, on Tuesday I will meet the Prime Minister of Norway - a country that is a key source of UK gas and a shared owner of the North Sea continental shelf.

On Wednesday Alistair Darling will set out the detail of our proposals for reform of UK banking regulation to protect consumers and help address the continuing problems in the financial markets.

On Thursday I will meet President Sarkozy and then travel to the EU summit - where on energy I will argue for a tougher EU-wide fuel efficiency target and a joint commitment to explore the scope to accelerate the introduction of electric vehicles across the EU; and on food I will say that the EU can take immediate action on the elements of the common agricultural policy which raise the cost of food for EU consumers.

So yes there are pressures on family finances that affect us all;

Yes, the government fully understands the difficulties they cause - and the causes that underlie them;

And yes, the Government is acting - with other governments - to ensure action on the global economy at a global level;

And acting at home to preserve and enhance the strength of the British economy.

ENDS

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