Monday, November 23, 1998 Published at 19:03 GMT
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.
The index will comprise facts and figures, ranging from housing to wild bird populations, which can be used to judge the government's progress.
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."
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 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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