Social policy: Cameron facing public protest

DAVID Cameron was met by hundreds of protesting students as he arrived in Leeds to launch a Government family support programme.

The Prime Minister was forced to make a rapid exit out of the back door of the Shine Business Centre as hordes of demonstrators daubed the building with graffiti and chanted anti-government slogans.

Earlier he had announced a 30m funding package for deprived families, but had to mount a staunch defence of Government spending cuts as he was grilled by charity workers about what hope there is for families facing redundancy in the public sector spending squeeze.

Speaking to the relationship charity Relate, he admitted financial support for young people could not be ring-fenced, and said it was for local councils to decide what their priorities were for spending.

He said: "Whoever was the Prime Minister standing here today, they would have had to make cuts.

"When I walked through the door of Number 10, we had a budget deficit bigger than that of Ireland. We had to get that deficit under control in a way that was socially progressive."

Mr Cameron said that they were raising tuition fees and cutting spending so money could go to early years provision – to primary schools, children's centres and family support – because he believes that will improve social mobility.

He added that despite the increase in university fees, the 25 per cent poorest families would pay less than they would do under the present system and the threshold for paying back the debt would increase to 21,000 per year.

Despite the claims, students continued to protest yesterday – with about 250 campaigning at the entrance to the business centre, which was surrounded by a large police cordon.

Mr Cameron said the violence at the London protest on Thursday in London, culminating in an attack on a car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla, was "completely unacceptable" and called on the police to pursue the perpetrators "with the full force of the law".

He denied there was a rift in the coalition over tuition fees – many Liberal Democrats voted against the Government or abstained – and said his relationship with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was "strong".

The 30m will be spent over four years and will be used to deliver better support for couples in relationship distress, encourage couples to take up support, and minimise the negative impacts for children when relationships breakdown.

Mr Cameron said: "If we're honest, people's first instinct with these troubled families is to turn their backs on them. But that's self defeating.

"Some estimates suggest that just 46,000 families cost the taxpayer over 4bn a year.

"Take action now and we could cut these costs, turn lives around and sort out our neighbourhoods' worst problems."

Mr Cameron praised the former Labour government's Sure Start centres but said they had concentrated too much on support for children and "shied away" from relationships between parents.

He restated his commitment to introducing tax breaks for married couples – another point of conflict with the Lib Dems.

"Of course, I know not everyone agrees with this proposal – and as part of the coalition agreement we have agreed with the Liberal Democrats that they will abstain on any budget resolutions on transferable tax allowances for married couples," he said.

"But my view remains that we should recognise and value the commitment that people make to one another.

"And by the way, that's whether it's between a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and another woman."

Yorkshire entrepreneur Emma Harrison, owner and founder of A4e (Action for employment), will lead the family support programme and pledged to help six families personally.

Mrs Harrison said: "This scheme will allow all families, even those with the toughest circumstances, to gain a clear purpose through employment.

"I have over 20 years experience helping the long-term unemployed get back into the workplace and all the evidence shows that by providing focused, one-to-one support we will start to help troubled families.

"To help implement my vision, I will be forming an advisory board, made from the leading figures from across the main political parties as well as the third and private sectors.

"Our primary focus is to start by helping 500 'never worked' families into families that are working, paying their own ways and living great lives."

Police probe breach of royal security

TUITION fee thugs will face the "full force of the law" according to the Prime Minister as calls mount for an independent inquiry into the mob attack on the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

But the Prime Minister defended Scotland Yard's handling of the situation, insisting there was no excuse for the "appalling" violence and vandalism.

The son of Pink Floyd frontman Dave Gilmour has apologised after being identified as one of those who climbed on the Cenotaph, the nation's monument to its war dead, as thousands of youngsters vented their fury over MPs' decision to treble university fees to a maximum of 9,000 a year.

Police have so far arrested 33 people after the disorder in central London that left dozens of officers and protesters injured. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched a probe into one incident which left 20-year-old student Alfie Meadows requiring brain surgery after allegedly being hit with a truncheon.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said an investigation was being held into the security breach, and also said armed protection officers had shown "real restraint" not to open fire as the situation slipped out of control.

"I do think that the officers who were protecting their royal highnesses showed very real restraint - some of those officers were armed.

"Their priority was to get that car to the point of safety, which was the venue, and that was achieved, but it was a hugely shocking incident and there will be a full criminal investigation into it."

Tory backbencher Mark Pritchard insisted there should be an independent probe into why the royal couple were exposed to such danger. "This was an incident that was so very serious - and could have been even more serious -that it should not be left to an internal Metropolitan Police inquiry," he said.