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The BBC's Guto Harri
"The PM will argue that he has a mandate for what he calls modernisation"
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Health Secretary Alan Milburn
"There are four specific areas where we want to harness private sector expertise"
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General Secretary of the GMB Union, John Edmonds
"Reform has to take place quickly"
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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
Labour 'won't flinch' from reform
Tony Blair
Tony Blair: No "veto" on reform of public services
Labour's controversial plans for public service reform will be set out in greater detail on Monday by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In a speech in central London Mr Blair will outline "a route map" for the reforms which will involve drawing in the money and expertise of the private sector in an attempt to improve key services such as schools and hospitals.

We can't vote the private investor out of office when we are dissatisfied with the level of our public services

Bill Morris
Public sector trade unions, whose members will be crucial in delivering the reforms, have already voiced their doubts over the plans.

But speaking ahead of the speech Health Secretary Alan Milburn told BBC News that Labour "won't be flinching from public service reform."

Mr Milburn said radical change of public services was the only way to ensure that the money being invested by the government in schools and hospitals is not wasted.

Mandate for change

He said Labour had a mandate from the recent general election to step up the pace of reform and referring to the Conservatives warned: "There is another party waiting in the wings whose agenda is about dismantling public services, not reforming them."

The health secretary said the government had taken a "hard-nosed look" at where the private sector could play a greater role in the National Health Service.

He said more use should be made of spare capacity in private hospitals, private sector expertise should also be used in the running of new surgical centres, that private finance initiatives should play more of a role in primary care provision and the establishment of information technology systems.

'Relationship not a takeover'

But despite the current focus on the private sector involvement by the government Mr Blair will say that his plans are for a "relationship" with the private sector - not a "takeover" by it.

He will add that improving public services will be the "great mission" of this parliamentary term and he wants to show the same "zeal and vigour" as Clement Attlee's government after the Second World War.

Conditions for staff in the public services should be improved, the prime minister will add, and the public service ethos should be maintained.

Union fears

Union leaders have already been summoned to Downing Street once in a bid to ease their fears over the reforms proposed during the election by Mr Blair.

They have issued fresh warnings about "privatisation" ahead of Monday's speech.

The general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, Bill Morris, told BBC News: "Everyone accepts that for some time now the introduction of a measure of private capital, particularly in huge projects which cost millions of pounds, has aided the process.

"But a new front has been opened up in the context of introduction of management into schools and a sort of laisser-faire attitude as to who provides what.

"What worries us is who is accountable for what. Governments are elected to be accountable to the electorate. We can't vote the private investor out of office when we are dissatisfied with the level of our public services."

Poster campaign

The GMB union is waiting to hear the speech before launching a 250,000 advertising campaign.

Two sets of adverts have been prepared, either praising the government or warning of a continued campaign to defend schools, hospitals and other public services.

Unison welcomed the prime minister's warm words for the public sector but called on him to clarify his reforms.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: "We want to engage in a genuine dialogue about how to improve delivery."

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See also:

10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blair has 'contempt' for unions
28 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair and unions 'on collision course'
28 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Unions flex muscles over private sector
24 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Hattersley accuses 'contemptuous' Blair
25 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair seeks to cool privatisation row
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