I am delighted to be here today at the launch of London First's Global Network and to be with such a distinguished group of people not just from London but of course from many other countries across the world.
This is a historic time for London.
In just four months time the eyes of the world will be on us as we celebrate the beginning of the next thousand years with the opening of the Millennium Dome in Greenwich. Nowhere else in the world is there anything on the scale and with the ambition of the Dome - a unique showcase of creativity, design and innovation.
It will be a beacon not just for London but for the whole of the country. And I am confident it will be an enormous success which will help Britain reach out to the future with confidence and with pride.
Today we launch a London Global Network which build's on London's tremendous strengths as a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic city.
From its earliest days as a bustling centre for trade and commerce this city has been home to people of all races and creeds. Over the centuries, as London has grown, so too has the number of different nationalities, cultures and languages. Today we are one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world with people from every corner of the globe living and working here in London.
London's successful mixture of cultures and communities makes it a richer city in every sense of the word. It plays a huge role in making London such a thriving centre of business and commerce.
In today's global economy, people with talent and creativity move to the best location. London has always known that to be successful, a society has to be open. That's why I am proud that it is such a magnet for creative and innovative people from all over the world. Their talent and hard work bring new jobs, business and wealth to London.
So I wish the Global Network well. It rightly recognises that London's diversity helps it to compete in today's global marketplace and it has a vital job to do in communicating London's strengths as a multi-ethnic open and multi-cultural business location to the rest of the world.
Of course in today's world, education is the key foundation to economic success.
Many children from ethnic minorities do extremely well in our system, but often pupils underperform too
For that reason the Government already makes extra help available to local education authorities to help improve educational attainment among ethnic minorities.
And today I am delighted to be able to announce that next year, this Minority Achievement Grant will rise by 6 per cent to ??146.8 million.
For the first time, every local education authority will receive help so that money will be made available in every part of the country and London will be a major beneficiary of the extra money available.
85 per cent of this grant will go directly to schools providing real help to employ more teachers and teaching assistants and to raise standards specifically among pupils from ethnic minorities.
The money I have announced today will be in addition to the ??60 million spent annually to improve literacy standards and the ??500 million for social inclusion over the next three years.
It is part of the Government's determined drive to raise education standards for pupils right across the board.
The best start any child can have is a good education, and the worst is a poor education. It is an opportunity we want to extend to all children whatever their background and I am sure that the money I have announced today will be of real help in our struggle to lift educational achievement above current levels.
Next year of course will see a new chapter in London's history with the election of the first ever directly elected Mayor. It is an idea I have supported for a long time. I firmly believe that the Mayor and the new assembly can give London the leadership it needs to make the most of its position as one of the greatest cities in the world.
Today I want to thank the business community in London for its positive approach to this change. Since the election the Government and the business community in London have had a very productive and useful dialogue on this issue and I want to keep that conversation going in the future.
The London Mayor is an immensely powerful position with the mandate of five million voters. And it needs to be because the challenges London faces are immense.
We all know that amidst the great wealth in this city, there exists poverty, hardship and homelessness. A new millennium gives us all cause to reflect when young people are still sleeping in shop doorways, when people are cast out from the security and comfort most of us enjoy.
There are other real challenges for London too:
Freeing up congestion and delivering a modernised public transport system;
Pockets of racism and intolerance which still exist;
Crime still too high;
Schools standards which are still too low;
London needs leadership and renewal if it is to meet these challenges and move forward.
What we need is government, business and the new Mayor to work together for the good of all London. That should be our aim so that together, we make this city and our country ready to face the next century even stronger than we leave this one.