'Hillary' jibe at Cherie Blair

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

Cherie Blair last night controversially stepped into the political arena as she gave strong backing to proposals to strengthen discrimination laws and planning controls.

Speaking at the launch of a book compiled by the Society of Labour Lawyers, Mrs Blair praised a radical suggestion for shifting the burden of proving race, sex and other discrimination away from complainants to employers or other defendants.

Such a change would be hotly opposed by employers, who would have to prove that they had not discriminated, and the suggestion is is likely to be seized upon by the Tories as proof that Labour's "stakeholder economy" would involve new burdens on business.

The Labour leader's wifealso backed a change in planning law that would introduce a legal presumption against any development whatsoever.

In endorsing the proposals Mrs Blair strayed beyond existing Labour policy, prompting the Tory MP Nigel Evans to label her the "Hillary Clinton of British politics".

The discrimination proposals come in a chapter of the book, Law Reform for All, by Rabin-der Singh, a barrister from the same chambers as Mrs Blair.

He argues for current discrimination laws to be extended to sexual orientation, religion, disability or other status and, because claims are so difficult to prove, for the burden of proof to be shifted to defendants where complainants appear to have good cases.

Mrs Blair appeared to throw caution to the wind by stating: "Rabinder's proposals for a bill will be enacted, I am sure, by a Labour government."