Party tells Blair to redraft crime policy

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR has been told by Labour party policy-makers that his draft policy on tackling crime is inadequate.

A document tabled by the Shadow Home Secretary for Labour's equality commission last week has been sent back for rewriting after criticism that it failed to take into account 'the gender dimension'.

Labour's home affairs team has been asked to add paragraphs on crime prevention and racism, and the commission said: 'They should also consider adding a gender dimension because that is a central part of the women's agenda.'

The equality commission, drawn from the Shadow Cabinet and the National Executive Committee and charged with ensuring that all party policy conforms with its equality strategy, further suggested that the original wording on drugs should be strengthened.

The policy-makers added: 'It is essential to make the point that crime does not only affect the poor, but all sections of the community.'

Labour sources were at pains to play down the implied rebuff for Mr Blair, arguing that his document on crime was simply being tested against the party's strong commitment to equality. But the demand for redrafting serves as a reminder that the front-runner in the leadership race cannot expect a free hand in policy-making.

When it has been rewritten, the crime policy document will go to the Shadow Cabinet-NEC Joint Committee for approval, probably in the autumn.

Mr Blair told a leadership hustings organised by Unison, the public service union, in Scarborough yesterday that unions 'have a crucial role in a democratic society as social partners'. He promised: 'We will put that partnership at the top of our agenda.'

He added: 'We must replace the old battles over industrial relations with a policy which looks forward, which recognises mutual rights and responsibilties on employers and employees.

'There should be a framework of law, which does not seek a return to the past but establishes a fair framework of legal rights and duties for the future.

'Unions are as relevant in 1994 as they were in 1894. The collective strength of the union empowers the individual. Yes, unions have had to change, to adapt to the realities of the modern labour market. But their role remains as critical for the members they represent. The Tories don't see this. They are still fighting the battles of the Seventies.'

Rival contender John Prescott won a standing ovation from sections of the audience with a promise to abolish NHS hospital trusts. 'They represent all that is not accountable in this country,' he said.

He also pledged to end compulsory competitive tendering, arguing: 'Public services are about public service. It is meeting public need, not private greed.'

Margaret Beckett was more cautious about NHS trusts, warning that Labour should not rush into imposing a single system throughout the country.