Today is an important milestone. In May 1997, we pledged that we would get 250,000 young unemployed people off benefit and into work. The figures published today show that 254,520 young people have gone into work through our New Deal programme.
A promise made. A promise kept.
When we first brought the idea of the New Deal forward, we did so against a background of some cynicism. The privatised utilities who would have to fund it through their excess profits were sceptical. There was cynicism from young people who'd had experience - either themselves or in their families and friends - of job programmes in the past. Nobody talks about skivvy schemes now.
For the first time, the New Deal brought together for 18-24-year-olds a comprehensive and individually-focused programme aimed at helping them find a job, and at improving their prospects of staying in work. It brought together young people, employers, private- and public-sector providers, environmental and voluntary organisations and the Government's Employment Service.
I believe passionately that the New Deal has offered young people real hope. Real opportunity. Under the New Deal, yesterday's rejects are today's and tomorrow's successes.
* 250,000 young people off welfare and into work.
* long-term unemployment at its lowest for over a generation: at the mid 1980s peak of unemployment, over 1/2 million young people were unemployed for 6 months or more. Today the figure is 36,500 - all benefiting from the New Deal
* a 70 per cent fall in long term youth unemployment since May 1997
* over 200,000 young people have undertaken education or training whilst on the New Deal - for example, over 27,000 young people have received training in IT skills
* over 80,000 employers have signed up to the New Deal
* hundreds of cities and towns have benefited from environmental and voluntary initiatives being taken forward under the New Deal.
But above all, for many of those who have taken part in it, the New Deal has transformed their lives.
I believe Britain is now facing important choices. Vital choices. And the New Deal shows the kind of direction this Government will take - and the direction I believe that the British people want us to take.
The choice between economic stability, and boom and bust.
The choice between investment in our public services, and cuts in our public services.
The choice between a government helping you through change, or a government which would leave you to fend for yourself.
The choice between building strong communities, and a worldview which sees no such thing as society.
The choice between leadership and engagement or weakness and isolation.
And today, we highlight the choice between tackling unemployment, or tolerating unemployment as a price worth paying.
But alongside opportunity there must be responsibility.
We made it clear from the start that after the New Deal's four options, there would be no fifth option of a life on benefit.
The total number of option sanctions that have been imposed is around 32,000. And the vast majority of those who have been sanctioned have been so only once.
So it's tough. But it works.
When I talk about rights and responsibilities, it's not some idealistic, impractical idea. It's real. It's a genuine balance. And the New Deal is the best concrete example of it.
So on the dividing line which the New Deal indicates, between a government helping you through change or a government which leaves you to fend for yourself, we know where we stand.
Our purpose has always been to marry enterprise and fairness. To lay the foundations of an opportunity economy, and upon it build a responsibility society.
A decent education and a job are the best anti-crime policy; the best anti-welfare spending policy; the best strong community policy; the best anti-poverty policy we can have.
And we do not rest here, the election pledge having been met. There are still young people of talent and potential who do not see their potential fulfilled. There are too many adults who cannot read and write properly who want to work. We need to help them get the skills they need. There are lone parents still finding it hard to match work and family. We have to help them too. There are still many disabled people who could work and want to work, and we have to help them too. So the work of the New Deal is not complete. It goes on. It is one of the Government's proudest achievements. I want it to do more.
As Gordon and David will make clear, it will do more.
And as Alistair will make clear we will also continue to bear down on the costs of social and economic failure, so that we have more to invest and continue to marry opportunity and responsibility.