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Monday, November 23, 1998 Published at 19:03 GMT


UK Politics

Prescott defends 'quality of life' barometer

The public will be able to measure educational standards

Individuals and industry will be urged to make improvements when the government publishes a new barometer showing the quality of life in the UK.


BBC Social Affairs Correspondet Alison Holt: An index for the quality of life and government performance
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has revealed a set of 13 indicators which will be published each year.

The index will comprise facts and figures, ranging from housing to wild bird populations, which can be used to judge the government's progress.


[ image:  ]
Mr Prescott told the BBC the government would make policy decisions based on the findings, but that it would also be down to business and people to help improve the quality of life, by being more environmentally-friendly, for example.

He said: "This is the first time any country has tried to put these indices - the social and the environment - alongside the economic and I'm quite proud to be doing it."


John Prescott: Dawn chorus a measure of the quality of life
The factors are to be compiled by five government departments and could be used to hold ministers to account.

Mr Prescott said: "We want people to know in their everyday life the things they can do to improve it."

He said: "Cleaner growth for all is a matter of gain, not pain - generating jobs and prosperity in a way which uses energy more wisely, creates less waste and pollution and is fairer to all in society.


The BBC's Roger Harrabin: "The measures are not without risk"
"We hope that the indicators will help government, business, local government and individuals to do their bit to help make 'clean growth' a reality."


[ image: John Prescott: Wants to put the environment at centre of decision-making]
John Prescott: Wants to put the environment at centre of decision-making
He said: "We are used to judging the economy's performance on the basis of the GDP, inflation and employment figures. I want these headline indicators over time to become just as useful and familiar, reported regularly on TV, radio and in the newspapers."

The areas covered will include not just social investment, but also water quality and numbers of wild birds, to show the severity of hedgerow destruction.

'Hundreds could be used'

But there is no reference to measuring poverty or crime in Mr Prescott's proposals, and he defended this.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World At One, he said: "I'm sure there are many more we could use.

"But with regard to poverty, people's housing, whether they have a job or not - these are very important aspects of poverty."

And he said work already being done under the Social Exclusion Unit would be taken into account.

"What it tries to do is say it's not for government just to do things to improve the quality of life and get international agreements, but we're also saying industry and individuals should do their bit.

"These indicators will show whether we're being successful or not."

He said there were hundreds of indicators could be chosen but an effective set of dials must be used. He said the indicators included were vital and dismissed as "semantics" suggestions that more indicators should be included.

Health Minister Tessa Jowell said: "I very much welcome the new initiative, which recognises the importance of human health as an indicator of sustainable development and highlights the interdependence of health and other policies."

Friends of the Earth gave a cautious welcome to the barometer, saying it was "the first faltering steps in the right direction".

But director Charles Secret said: "The acid test of the government's commitment to put the environment at the heart of decision-making will come when these indicators show that environmental destruction is getting worse as a result of economic growth.

"And the key question becomes: are the Treasury and Department of Trade and Industry going to change policies to protect the environment and we doubt that very much."

He called on the chancellor to change the tax system to reflect environmental interests.



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