Modernisation will stay on track, says Byers

STEPHEN Byers, Trade and Industry Secretary, said recent cabinet resignations would not deflect the Government from its New Labour agenda.

Giving his first speech in his new post, Mr Byers told French and British politicians in Versailles last night that there would be no turning back from the party's modernising reforms. In an address seen as a rebuff to John Prescott's recent call for Labour to return to its "traditional values", Mr Byers underlined his Blairite credentials by heaping praise on Peter Mandelson.

Despite backbench criticism about Mr Mandelson's continued closeness to the Government, Mr Byers pledged to continue his predecessor's approach. "New Labour runs deep in the country and the party. It is about ideas, values and principles. If we are to create a modern Britain and a decent society, then the status quo is not an option.

"The process of reform must continue and I want the DTI to be in the vanguard ... I will be following the path set by Peter." Mr Byers said he was "delighted" Mr Mandelson was attending the meeting.

Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary, will today echo the New Labour line with a speech to the national policy forum when it meets in Swansea to develop a manifesto for the next election. Mr Cook, who chairs the forum, said New Labour was much more radical than Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s and said a second term was vital to establishing its lasting impact.

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