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Cameron vows 'full employment' bid

David Cameron has promised to try to deliver "full employment" in Britain if Conservatives win the general election in May.

The Prime Minister admitted it had been a "tough few years" for UK plc, but said the country was "coming out the other side" - and urged voters to stick with his plan.

And he accused Labour critics of trying to "talk down the economy" by suggesting that the 1.75 million jobs created under the coalition Government were dominated by low-quality or zero-hours positions. More than nine out of 10 jobs created over the last year were full-time, he pointed out.

Speaking in Ipswich, Suffolk, Mr Cameron said: "After a tough few years, we have a good record of getting people into work - 1,000 jobs every day this Government has been in office. We've created more jobs here in Britain than the rest of the European Union combined.

"I hope people will stick with this plan. We haven't solved all our country's economic problems, but the plan is working. We are getting Britain back to work and increasingly with those jobs people can see a better living standard, better security for themselves and their families.

"That's what I want to continue with ... To me, nothing is more important than a Britain with full employment where everyone who wants to work can work and in that way we get higher living, standards, greater prosperity but above all security for you, your family, and for our country. That's what I'm about."

The premier outlined five key Conservative commitments for the next Parliament:

:: Continue getting British people back to work by controlling immigration and delivering a robust welfare system for EU migrants;

:: Encourage enterprise and support small business, keeping jobs taxes low and cutting red tape;

:: Invest in infrastructure to attract business and good jobs across the whole of the UK;

:: Reward work, help people into a job and lower the benefit cap;

:: Create three million new apprenticeships.

Declaring the Conservatives the "party of the roofers and the retailers", Mr Cameron also announced a trebling of the Start Up Loans scheme, which hands out sums of around £5,000 to help young entrepreneurs. At least 75,000 loans will have been made by 2020, according to the PM, creating at least 100,000 jobs.

"Our aim is very clear - our aim is for a Britain of full employment," said Mr Cameron. "What I mean by that is a higher rate of employment here in Britain than in any other advanced economy. Full employment means for me that anyone who wants a job is able to get a job in our country."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "David Cameron's empty promises of full employment will mean nothing to so many people struggling with empty wallets as a result of the low-wage economy."

Afterwards Mr Cameron visited start-up businesses on the Rackheath Industrial Estate near Norwich.

While there he had a go at engraving a necklace for his daughter, Nancy, with staff from Lisa Angel Jewellery.

But as his lettering went skew-whiff, he remarked: "I don't think this will be her favourite present."

He was delayed leaving the industrial unit by 30 minutes while staff hatched a plan on how to avoid a man in a chicken costume, carrying a placard reading "Don't be a chicken Mr Cameron: join the TV debate", on behalf of the Daily Mirror newspaper.

Eventually Mr Cameron's staff left in his official car, while the Prime Minister left through another exit as police looked on.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "It's right that full employment should be a goal for every political party. Unemployment is never a price worth paying.

"But we also need to create decent jobs with good pay and prospects. Zero-hours contracts, job casualisation and the underemployment of the three million people who can't get the full hours they want all demonstrate the scale of the problem.

"And with the Prime Minister promising to scrap a million public sector jobs, along with huge post-election spending cuts that will slow the economy, the prospect for jobs is far from good."

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Full employment should be a goal for any government, but it can only be achieved when Britain's businesses are firing on all cylinders.

"Start-up loans are excellent, but the bigger prize is ensuring that growing companies - many of which have been around for years - can get the finance they need to grow. The long-standing structural problems facing business finance, which successive governments have failed to address, desperately require a once and for all fundamental review.

"Until this takes place, we will continue to have an underdeveloped medium-sized business sector, since the current environment stifles the growth aspirations of small businesses."

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