Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blair Pledges Radical Jolt for Services

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blair Pledges Radical Jolt for Services

Article excerpt

Byline: By Zoe Hughes Political Editor

Courts, councils, schools, pensions, and the NHS face reforms, Prime Minister reveals

Tony Blair launched a full-scale assault on the courts yesterday after declaring that he had been too timid in reforming public services.

Responding to criticism that the Government was not doing enough to tackle anti-social behaviour, binge-drinking and crime, the Prime Minister said it was time to put community rights ahead of offenders' and said the criminal justice system was "itself the problem".

Announcing plans for sweeping summary powers for police and local authorities, Mr Blair told the Labour conference in Brighton that it was time to end the 19th Century Dickensian approach to crime and decide whose human rights "come first".

In one of his strongest attacks on the legal system, Mr Blair said the primary duty of courts should be to "allow law-abiding people to live in safety.

"It means a complete change of thinking, it doesn't mean abandoning human rights ( it means deciding whose come first."

Mr Blair has come under heavy attack for encouraging binge-drinking following the Government's controversial decision to relax licensing laws and allow 24-hour drinking.

Thrusting his "Respect" agenda to the heart of his speech though, Mr Blair announced plans to tackle fears of escalating public disorder and unveiled proposals for more officers on the beat, more competitive sport in schools and more powers to deal with problem families.

This year's conference has been dominated by speculation over when Mr Blair plans to stand down as Prime Minister, but his speech revealed no signs of a man willing to let go of the reins of power. He warned instead that the party had to reform further to survive.

He said: "Every time I've introduced a reform in Government, I wish in retrospect I had gone further."

And he called on delegates and unions to become "change-makers" in the future, reinforcing New Labour values and securing a fourth historic win. …

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