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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Delivery plans face a rough ride
The Queen and Prince Phillip
The Queen's speech focused on priorities
By BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder

Tony Blair focused his general election campaign on the pledge to radically transform Britain's public services - and he has now put his money where his mouth was.

In a hefty programme of reform outlined in the Queen's Speech, he has set out precisely how he plans to go about that giant task.

He has also shown that, unlike his first administration, the second New Labour government will not get bogged down in fringe issues.

So there are no plans, for example, to introduce 24 hour drinking, ban tobacco advertising or devolve power to the English regions, all of which could have sparked controversy.

By leaving those measures out of the programme, he will risk causing anger in some quarters.

The open-all-hours licensing laws were a surprise addition to the election manifesto and many will now believe it was simply a last-minute sweetener for voters which the prime minister had no intention of delivering.

Cigarette advertisisng
No tobacco ban
The decision not to include a ban on tobacco advertising will also revive memories of the row over the 1m donation made to Labour by Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone who is against such a move.

And the lack of a bill on further devolution will also heighten suspicions that the prime minister has been unimpressed by the development of the Welsh and Scottish assemblies.

Unfinished business

Mr Blair has promised another free vote on fox hunting, but has made no promises about how he will tackle the Lords if they throw a ban out.

Mr Blair has clearly decided he must concentrate most of his efforts onto his top priorities.

And this is a Queen's Speech all about delivery. The prime minister knows he will not be able to enter another election campaign in four or five year's time asking people to give him yet another chance to complete his unfinished programme.

So he has determined to press ahead with plans that aim to deliver on the pledges he made in the last election campaign - and even some of the unfinished business from 1997.

As a result, much-leaked measures to bring private sector provision into public services have been mapped out.

Trainee nurses and Unison members
Trouble from the unions
And there are surprise plans to complete reform of the House of Lords with a mixture of appointed and elected members.

It is an ambitious programme and will ensure the government runs into some serious confrontations.

Third victory

Public sector unions, notably Unison - whose annual conference coincided with the speech - are deeply opposed to the measures allowing private sector involvement in schools and hospitals and are certain to challenge them.

But Mr Blair may actually relish a battle with what he views as a vested interest - so long as he is confident he can win.

Plans to abolish the double jeopardy principle, which could see those previously accused of murdering Stephen Lawrence re-tried, will also cause huge controversy.

So it will not be an easy second term for Tony Blair - and he knows he has a lot riding on this programme.

He may have won his dreamed-of second full term, but he clearly now has his eyes set on winning a third.

And this time he will have to be able to go to the country able to point to real and visible improvements in the public services.

If this programme fails to deliver, his chances of scoring a third historic victory will be seriously reduced.


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