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Deficit pledge by Cameron and Clegg
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have pledged to continue the Government's programme of deficit reduction as they appeared together to launch a mid-term review setting out the coalition's achievements so far and its plans for the remainder of this parliament.
Two and a half years on from the famous press conference in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street which marked the formation of the coalition, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister made a rare joint appearance before the media at No 10 to unveil what was billed as a "stock-take" of the Government's progress.
The 46-page document, entitled The Coalition: Together In The National Interest, lists actions from reducing the budget deficit to introducing reforms to the public services.
And it sets out plans - many of them previously announced - for further action in the period to the general election scheduled for May 2015.
Insisting that their actions to reduce the level of public borrowing were "necessary and right", the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister committed themselves to continuing to "pursue our deficit reduction plan while protecting vulnerable groups and key long-term investments".
And they confirmed that detailed plans will be published before the summer for public spending for the 2015/16 fiscal year, which are expected to extend the age of austerity beyond the general election and effectively commit Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to a degree of shared economic policy after 2015.
Mr Cameron insisted the coalition had confounded expectations that it would not last.
"Some people thought our coalition wouldn't make it through our first Christmas, but this Government is now well into its third year, because this coalition was not and is not some short-term arrangement," he said.
"It is a serious five-year commitment to give our country strong, stable and determined leadership that we need for the long term.
"At the heart of that commitment is one simple fact - Britain is in a global race, and that means an hour of reckoning for countries like ours. Some countries will sink, others will swim.
"For Britain to be a success, we need to take the tough decisions that will enable us to compete and thrive. We need to fix the nation's finances by dealing with our debts. We need to rebalance and rebuild our economy and we need to back the aspiration of families and businesses that want to get on and do the right thing.
"The challenges are great and there is still a long way to go, but we are on the right track and we are making progress."
Mr Cameron promised the coalition would continue to go "full steam ahead" in reforming the economy and tackling the deficit.
He said: "We have not balked at the tough decisions necessary to secure our future.
"Instead we have ended the chronic short-termism that has too often let down our politics in the past and seen far too many previous governments just leave vital issues in the pending tray marked 'too difficult'."
Mr Cameron highlighted education reform, the changes to university funding, transport modernisation, public sector pensions and banking regulation as examples of the coalition's effectiveness.
"We have put the national interest at the heart of this Government and put this country on a path to being a winner in the global race," he said.
Outlining policies for the second half of the coalition's term in office, Mr Cameron acknowledged there had been "difficulties along the way" but said that was inevitable given the "broken" public finances.
The Prime Minister said the Government would set out further reforms before the Budget including:
:: New investment to help working families cut the cost of childcare.
:: More help for families who cannot raise a deposit for a mortgage.
:: Measures to limit state powers and extend personal freedoms.
:: "Big new steps" on issues including pensions and "capping the potentially huge cost" of social care.
:: Consulting on how to get private investment into motorways and trunk roads.
:: Extending the HS2 high-speed rail line from Birmingham to the north of England.
Mr Cameron said: "The road ahead won't be easy, there have always been issues on which we disagree and doubtless there will be more in the months ahead.
"But the key point is not whether you have disagreements, it is how you handle them."
Disputes were tackled in a "reasonable and civilised way", he said.
"More importantly, Nick and I are completely united on the big issues that brought our two parties together in the national interest and which remain this Government's sheet anchor today."
Mr Cameron added: "Our resolve and sense of shared purpose, if anything, have got stronger over these last two and a half years.
"So over the next two and a half years it will, as far as we are concerned, be full steam ahead as we continue to put political partisanship to one side and do what is right to serve our country and its national interest."
Mr Clegg said that the "big purpose" of the coalition remained the building of "a stronger economy in a fairer society".
He contrasted the willingness of the two parties to work together with the political divisions in the United States and parts of Europe.
"It is a source of immense pride to me - and I think everybody in the coalition - that we, by contrast, have put partisan differences aside to act in the national interest and have acted fast and have acted boldly to deal with the economic challenges that this country faces," he said.
He said they had already delivered "big, bold, long-lasting reforms" that would stand the test of time and that it was the willingness to act in the long-term interests of the country which underpinned policy initiatives for the second half of the parliament.
He acknowledged that the Lib Dems had had to endure criticism from across the political spectrum for its role in the coalition.
"Pretty well from day one there were voices on the right saying the Liberal Democrats were too strong in the Government and voices on the left saying that the Liberal Democrats were too weak in the Government," he said.
"I have always thought that if both sides make diametrically opposed criticisms you have probably got it about right."
The Prime Minister backed away from the marriage imagery that has become associated with his relationship with Mr Clegg, describing it instead as "a Ronseal deal".
Asked whether they would see out the five-year term, he said: "For me, absolutely, it is a five-year plan, a five-year parliament, a five-year government and it is about work, it's about delivery, not partisanship."
He added: "We are married, not to each other. We are both happily married, and you know this is a government not a relationship."
"To me it's not a marriage, it is if you like it's a Ronseal deal, it does what it says on the tin - we said we would come together, we said we would form a government, we said we would tackle these problems, we said we would get on with it in a mature and sensible way, and that is exactly what we've done.
"Two and a half years in, we haven't chosen to separate and do something different, we have chosen to continue just as we said with a five-year government to tackle these deep seated problems."
Mr Clegg added: "Ronseal deal, you could call it the unvarnished truth."
The Prime Minister said he would support the continuation of televised general election debates between the party leaders, introduced in 2010 for the first time.
"On TV debates, I'm in favour of them, I think they are good and I think we should go on having them, and I will play my part in trying to make that happen," he said.
Mr Cameron has previously indicated that he might want changes in the precise format for the debates. Today he said he did not feel that they had affected the result in 2010.
"I think actually from memory the polls going into the start of the last election were pretty similar to the polls coming out of the last election, so I suspect the result would have been pretty much the same anyway," he said.
Mr Clegg added: "I'm a firm believer in the TV debates."
Labour leader Ed Miliband dismissed the coalition review as "empty promises" with no real substance.
"All the promises they made to us about what they would achieve about economic growth haven't come true. They are struggling to reduce the deficit this year, the central promise that they made to the country," he said.
"It is all empty promises, but no real substance and no real detail."