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SUMMARY OF BLAIR'S KEYNOTE SPEECH TO LABOUR CONFERENCE

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All the national papers cover prime minister Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party confererence at Brighton yeste...
All the national papers cover prime minister Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party confererence at Brighton yesterday. Apparently, The Daily Telegraph says (p1), he is looking forward to a new, 'giving age' in which people will have to contribute more towards their pensions and education to help to create a more compassionate society.

Eleven times in his 65-minute speech he warned of 'hard choices' in health, education and welfare. He said that the new attitude would be one of 'compassion with a hard edge', with zero tolerance of crime, and a reformed welfare state encouraging work not dependency. Teachers must also accept change, he said. Failing schools would be taken over and 'poor teachers will go'.

Blair also paved the way for new rules governing party political funding to be introduced by the next general election. The Nolan committee on standards in public life will be asked to examine the prospect of state funding for all political parties.

The Times (p8) prints Blair's speech in full. He is scathing in his attack on civil servants: 'When they describe (a new policy) as 'challenging', they mean there's not a hope in hell of making it work. And when they say of a policy 'really a brave proposal, prime minister', it means they've got the doctor outside waiting to sign the certificates and they've just applied for a transfer to a senior job administering one of our few remaining dependent territories.'

He also promised: 'The statutory national minimum wage is on its way for the people of Britain.'

As for housing: 'We said we'd legislate to release the money from selling council homes in order to house the homeless. We've done it, the money is being released.'

And: 'Education, education, education. Remember? Equipping our schools. We are publishing today details of agreements involving government and the private sector, for the biggest public/private partnership in any education system, anywhere in the world.' He refers to the financing of his education policy: 'And we are changing the amount of money we are going to put in the school repairs programme. We are setting a new target of o2bn for this parliament for our school repairs and equipment programme. A list of the first 2,300 schools to benefit is being published today.'

On public spending: 'We are cutting the Tory deficit. We are sorting out the public finances. Borrow only for investment. Hold debt down. Earn before you spend. Don't live on tick.' And: 'After 18 years of Tory government, of cuts and closures, of declining public services, the country was taxed more than under the last Labour government. This country will not just carry on paying out more in taxes and getting less. But it is compassion with a hard edge, because a strong society cannot be built in the real world on soft choices. It means fundamental reform of our welfare state, of the deal between citizen and society. It means getting money out of social breakdown and into schools and hospitals.... Housing benefit, in some areas, is virtually designed for fraud. It's true. It has to change.'

On crime: 'I back powers to tackle anti-social neighbours; to make parents responsible for their children; to overhaul the youth justice system.'

On the structure of government: 'We will publish a White Paper in the new year for what we call Simple Government, to cut the bureaucracy of government and improve its service. We are going to set a target that within five years, one quarter of dealings with government can be done by a member of the public electronically through their television, telephone or computer.'

On London: 'When the people vote for it, we will have a strategic authority and elected mayor for London as well.'

On discrimination: 'We cannot be a beacon to the world unless the talents of all the people shine through.... I am against positive discrimination. But there is no harm in reminding ourselves just how much negative discrimination there is.'

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