Blair: ‘Specific polices’ needed for most marginalised

Broad based policies aimed at encouraging marriage will do nothing to help the most disadvantaged families, the prime minister said today.

In his monthly press briefing, Tony Blair argued that specific intervention at an early stage is needed to help the most dysfunctional families.

The prime minister disputed claims, made recently by David Cameron, that the UK is experiencing a generalised social breakdown. Instead he argued that high-profile issues, such as the spate of shootings in London, were “specific problems” experienced by “specific families”.

Labour has enacted policies, such as Sure Start and tax credits to benefit all families, Mr Blair maintained, but if the focus is on shootings, gangs and so forth then the debate needs to be conducted on “specific terms” not a general discussion on family values, he argued.

Broad policies, such as tax breaks for married couples, will not address the multiplicity of problems faced by the hardest to reach families, the prime minister warned.

Support for families must be balanced with tough action on some dysfunctional families, the prime minister suggested in response to a question about ‘carrots and sticks’. He pointed to the Respect Action Plan, which ties the right to social housing to certain types of behaviour, as an example of the balance the government wishes to strike.

Mr Blair also denied claims that the government is split on this issue, arguing that seemingly opposing positions often have a lot in common. People who support marriage do not want to stigmatise loan parents, he added.

The prime minister began his monthly briefing by outlining the government’s progress on poverty and he defended it against claims that relative policy is increasing.

He denied that the government could cap the highest salaries, arguing that, in a global market, top earners would simply go elsewhere.

“What motivates me, and why we can be very proud as a government, is lifting the incomes of the broad mass of society,” Mr Blair said.

Pointing to the recent figures on university admissions, he added that worries about tuition fees had been “misplaced” and the government would now look at reforms of vocational education and adult skills.