Blair Expects Welfare Reform Christmas Gift

Article excerpt

TONY Blair has given Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling an unbreakable Christmas deadline to launch the reform of the Welfare State.

The Prime Minister, stung over criticism of his sacking of Frank Field and claims that he has given up on welfare reform, is demanding rapid action.

He has written to Mr Darling, telling him bluntly: "The next six months are vital. We must show real progress before Christmas."

He has told him that welfare reform is a two-term project - but the bulk of the measures must be passed in this term.

At the first Cabinet after his summer holiday, Mr Blair will be looking for assurances that welfare reform will be the flagship bill in this November's Queen's Speech.

A senior Whitehall source made clear last night that the Prime Minister was fed up with the 15 months of inaction by Harriet Harman and Frank Field.

He said: "It is all right having ideas - anybody can have ideas - but it is policies we want and it was policies that we weren't getting. …