Blair: Single mothers 'piling up problems' in Britain's inner cities

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Indy Politics

Single teenage mothers are "piling up problems" in the country's inner city areas, Tony Blair said yesterday as he spoke to faith groups about the importance of religion in politics.

Single teenage mothers are "piling up problems" in the country's inner-city areas, Tony Blair said yesterday as he spoke to faith groups about the importance of religion in politics.

After a speech to an invited audience at Faithworks, a religious group, Mr Blair was asked about juvenile crime and the role of schools in helping to steer youngsters away from crime.

Mr Blair said that, as well as boosting policing, politicians had to think about addressing the underlying causes of crime. "In the inner-city areas, some of our young girls, our young women, start families very, very young. We are piling up problems for the future when that happens. I think it is important that they get role models at school and in the community, where they see it is not a great life, trying to bring up a single-parent family at 17 or 18 ­ actually it is pretty miserable."

When the Conservatives were in government, Labour attacked them for targeting teenage mothers. The Prime Minister's official spokesman denied Mr Blair was being hypocritical. "I am not going to comment on what the Prime Minister may have done when he was leader of the Opposition ...I don't think the Prime Minister would be wanting to blame any particular group for the ills within communities."

Mr Blair said he did not want religion to be mixed up in the election campaign, after the Roman Catholic Cardinal, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, called for abortion to become an election issue.

"I do not want to end up with an American style of politics, with us all going out there beating our chest about our faith," he said. "Politics and religion... if it ends up being used in the political process, I think that is a bit unhealthy."

However, John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, threw his weight behind those calling for the upper time limit on abortion to be reduced from 24 weeks. He accused Michael Howard of "boasting" about voting for a lower time limit ­ but he had failed to do so. Mr Reid said he had voted for a reduction to 18 weeks when it was last debated in 1990.

Mr Reid, a Catholic, said "It has always been matter of conscience. Michael Howard, with serial opportunism, is attempting to exploit the issue rather than address it. I have taken a far more pro-life stance than Mr Howard on these matters."

* There are no plans for an invasion of Iran, Mr Blair told Muslim News. "Iran is not Iraq," he said. The search for a resolution to tensions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions was being pursued only by diplomatic means "at the moment", he said.

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