Throughout history, our nation has faced challenges that would leave many daunted. But every time, something extraordinary has happened. The people of this great country have dug deep and got on with building a better future.
This morning, as a new year begins, we face another such difficult moment. I know people are looking ahead with apprehension, anxious about their energy bills, about waiting times in the NHS, and about illegal migrants crossing the channel in small boats.
So, our first task is to give people peace of mind. When I became Prime Minister, I said I would place economic stability and confidence at the heart of the government’s agenda. That means taking difficult decisions, which we have done and we have been honest about the reasons for those decisions.
In just ten weeks since I took office, we have announced a £26 billion package of support to help with the cost of living.
Nearly half of that is going to help people with their energy bills, capping the amount the typical household pays at around £2,500, saving £900 until April.
We’ve got a plan to get borrowing and debt under control. And experts like the Bank of England expect inflation to come down significantly. Cutting inflation is the single most significant way we can cut the cost of living for people across the country and we’re starting to make progress.
We are working flat out to provide peace of mind in other areas too, for example looking at what more can be done to protect the public and minimise the disruption and anguish caused by strikes.
And this year we will be putting into action our comprehensive plan to stop people crossing the channel in small boats. Because it is unfair on the British people who play by the rules and do the right thing, to see – and in some cases subsidise – those who are coming here illegally. And it is not right to allow criminal gangs to continue this heinous trade.
So we are acting now and decisively – with measures including a new Small Boats Operational Command in the channel with 700 new staff, and a commitment to clear the initial asylum backlog by the end of 2023.
Our second task is to move beyond the immediate challenges and get on with building a better future for tomorrow.
And when I look around, I have every reason to believe we will emerge stronger and more resilient.
Why am I confident about the future? I’m confident because of the inherent strengths in our economy and the determination of the British people.
There are millions of dynamic businesses, of every size, that can be found right across our country, selling everything from Scottish salmon to English sparkling wine to countries around the world.
We’ve got world beating industries, like tech making their home in the UK. We’re a magnet for global investment.
We’re world leaders in life-sciences. In FinTech. Green technologies. And the Creative Industries.
We’re home to some incredible innovations. And it will be innovation that will power our economy and drive growth, create jobs and produce higher wages in the future.
That’s why we have protected the budget for research and development – £20bn by 2024/5 – the highest level of R&D this country has ever seen.
I’m confident also because of our outstanding public services that make a real difference to people’s lives.
Our NHS, the first priority for many people up and down the country, and in which we are investing record funding as it tackles the Covid backlogs.
We now also have record numbers of doctors and nurses working in our NHS, with almost 4,000 more doctors, and over 9,300 more nurses compared to September 2021.
Our schools and universities. Some of the best in the world. Eighty-eight percent of schools are now rated good or outstanding. And we will not rest until every child is given the opportunity of a world class education.
I’m confident about our future because of the role we play in the world defending freedom and democracy. We’ve been unequivocal in our support for Ukraine in the face of Putin’s appalling aggression. And we will continue standing by Ukraine for as long as it takes.
But more than all of this, what gives me most hope for our future, is what has got us through every other difficult moment before: the many thousands of dedicated, hard-working compassionate people up and down the country.
The entrepreneurs who get up every day, to run their businesses and support local jobs, even on cool January mornings like today.
Those who serve their communities, looking after the elderly or striving to give every child the chance to reach their full potential.
The people with brilliant ideas for a new business, a creative project or an innovation that will change lives for the better.
And those in our armed forces, making huge sacrifices to keep the people of this country safe.
Every day, people are working to make lives better, striving for their families, and putting other people first.
That’s why I know we will get through these winter days. That’s why I know better times lie ahead.
And it’s why the government I lead will work day in and day out, doing everything we can to build a better future for all our children and grandchildren.
So wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, let me simply wish each and every one of you, a very Happy New Year.