Labour Party Conference: What He Said And What It Means

Click to follow
The Independent Online
"We are announcing a smart card to offer all 16-18-year-olds who stay in education cut-price deals at shops, theatres and cinemas and on trains and buses."

Youth cards were recommended earlier this year by the Government's Social Exclusion Unit and are a more sophisticated version of "learning cards" which are already being piloted. One difference is that most learning cards do not offer discounts on travel or transport. In general, they have proved a success only when they offer a financial incentive.

Controversially, youth cards, which will contain a chip, will have a Big Brother-ish dimension. Because they will be used to check course attendance and enrolment, young people who fail to turn up may lose their entitlement to the new educational maintenance allowances.

Costs have not yet been worked out but ministers are negotiating discounts with companies such as BT and Odeon cinemas.

Most academics will welcome the proposed increase in the numbers entering higher education though they will be worried that, as in the past, expansion will be done on the cheap.

"With the new DNA technology we have the chance to match any DNA at any scene of crime with those on police records.

We will provide the extra resources for a database where every known offender will have their DNA recorded and evidence from any scene of crime will be matched with it."

An additional pounds 34m has been ringfenced to extend the existing scheme of taking DNA samples from convicted criminals.

The money is part of a five-year plan to have DNA samples of all three million people with a conviction on a national computer system. At present, the database contains 640,000 profiles, mainly of people convicted of offences involving sex and violence. The additional pounds 34m will pay for about a million extra tests, leaving a shortfall of 1.3 million. The Government wants the police to test not just the most serious offenders, but every convicted criminal and people being investigated for imprisonable offences, such as car theft and burglary. The current law allows police to take a DNA sample from anyone suspected of, or reported for, an imprisonable offence.

Chief constables also believe that using DNA evidence to convict suspects is a major asset in the fight against crime, but most forces say they cannot afford to pay for tens of thousands of extra tests, which cost pounds 40 each.

Although the pounds 34m has been "ringfenced" so that police can only spend it on DNA testing, some forces are likely to spend less of their existing budgets on building up their databases.

"Walk-in NHS centres in all our major towns and cities, primary care surgeries that offer you all services on one site and everyone with the chance to go back on the NHS to see their dentist (within two years). The Government would start booked appointments for cancer and cataract patients next year."

NHS dentistry is in freefall. The number of patients registered has collapsed by five million, almost 20 per cent, since 1992, as dentists have taken on more private patients. They say the rates paid by the NHS are so low that high-quality dentistry is no longer viable on the NHS.

The Department of Health yesterday announced the setting up of 30 "phone and go" schemes, which will allow patients to visit a dentist and get treatment without registering. The move amounts to a sticking plaster, not a cure.

The "booked appointments" system is the Prime Minister's answer to NHS waiting lists. Instead of adding patients' names to the queue for treatment as they are referred by GPs you let them book an appointment for a specific day and time, perhaps months ahead. That way delayed treatment is transmuted into convenient treatment (on a day and time to suit you).