Sale of babies on internet to be outlawed

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The Independent Online

The sale of babies on the internet is to be banned under new laws proposed this week. The measure, in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, which will form Tony Blair's blueprint for office in the coming year, aims to prevent a repeat of the scandal of the twins brought to Britain by Alan and Judith Kilshaw.

Couples who import children without proper checks would be committing a criminal offence and face prison or a hefty fine.

The proposal is one in a package that Mr Blair hopes will bring "radical" changes in key election issues: health, education, transport and crime. At the top of Mr Blair's in-tray will be:

  • a Bill to fund GP trusts directly, giving family doctors greater autonomy;
  • measures to improve railway safety;
  • a promise to bring in a discussion paper on the future of secondary schools, which will look at new ways of providing high-quality vocational education and could take the first step towards the introduction of baccalaureate-style examinations for students aged 16 and above;
  • a crime Bill to clamp down on a hard core of repeat offenders by introducing tougher sentencing policies; and
  • a measure to stem the trafficking of drugs, firearms and people by confiscating the proceeds of crime from the Mr Bigs.

"The theme will be public-service reform," a Number 10 source said.

Gordon Brown will reinforce that in his Mansion House speech this week, saying that the economy must generate the money needed for improvements to hospitals, schools, police and transport.

Slots are limited but space has been found for:

  • a Bill to ban or regulate foxhunting;
  • a draft Communications Bill to relax cross-media ownership and bring in a new industry regulator, Ofcom;
  • new rights for tenants against landlords; and
  • an export-control Bill to take account of the recommendations of the Scott Report.

Despite promising younger voters, via text messages, that they could "drink longer under Labour", plans to introduce 24-hour drinking have been put aside.

Shifted from the Home Office, where it is understood to have been running into concerns that there are not enough beat officers to police the changes and that it sits badly with a "tough on crime" image, responsibility now lies with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The DCMS has also put off plans to privatise the Tote and reform gambling.

Also delayed are plans to reform the House of Lords. The new leader of the Lords, Lord Williams, could bring in a Bill to boot out the remaining hereditary peers, rework the relationship between the Lords and the Commons and bring in the first elected life peers before the end of the 18-month session. That will not be in Wednesday's speech.

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