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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Has Labour kept its promises?
Labour's peldges
Labour has met nearly 80% of its 1997 election pledges, according to a major research project carried out by the BBC.


We have made it our guiding rule not to promise what we cannot deliver

1997 Labour manifesto

The research - commissioned to mark the fifth anniversary of Tony Blair's election victory - shows that 48 out of 229 manifesto promises are either too difficult to judge or have not been met.

The findings will be seized on by ministers as a sign that Labour is fulfilling its contract with the British people.

But critics are likely to point out that in several crucial areas - such as waiting times for cancer treatment, crime and electoral reform - Labour has failed to deliver.

'Unacceptable'

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith used Labour's fifth anniversary to launch an attack on Mr Blair's record on crime and transport.

Mr Duncan Smith mocked Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's 1997 promise that there would be "far fewer" cars on the road within five years.

"In this government no one takes responsibility, no one apologises and no one resigns," Mr Duncan Smith told MPs during prime minister's questions on Wednesday.

In response Mr Blair said road traffic had increased, partly because of Britain's economic growth.

And he reeled off a list of Labour successes, such as the minimum wage, record primary school results and low unemployment, which had been achieved in the five years in power.

Mixed sex wards

However, there are a number of specific promises Mr Blair has failed to deliver on, the BBC's research has shown.

He has failed to call a referendum on proportional representation.

And his manifesto pledge to "tackle the unacceptable levels of anti-social behaviour and crime on our streets" will have a particularly hollow ring five years on in the inner cities, where street crime is soaring.

Labour's commitment to phasing out mixed sex wards in hospitals and to strengthening the role of local Health Authorities, making them "the guardians of high standards", are also among the 21 pledges that have gone unfulfilled.

Benchmark

In carrying out the survey, the BBC's Analysis and Research Department identified 229 manifesto commitments in the 1997 Labour manifesto and researched each one to find out whether it has been carried out.

Labour's pledges
Done
181 (79%)

Not done
21 (9.2%)

On course
3 (1.3%)

Partially done
14 (6.1%)

Debatable
10 (4.4%)

The idea was to make an objective analysis of Labour's record over five years, using the terms of its own "contract with the people" as a benchmark.

No judgements were made on the quality of what the government has delivered - or the value of individual pledges.

Pledges where some government activity has been observed - such as House of Lords reform - have been marked "partially done".

Others, where no objective measure of the government's response can be made - such as "making prime minister's time more effective" - have been marked "debatable".

'Debatable'

Pledges that could be fulfilled in the next few months - such as the partial privatisation of the London Underground - have been judged "on course".

The government has been judged by the letter rather than spirit of its commitments - but comments have been offered where there is room for debate.

Cornerstone

New Labour has made use of pledges like no other party, setting specific targets for everything from class sizes to court waiting times.

In its 1997 manifesto, the party said "We have made it our guiding rule not to promise what we cannot deliver; and to deliver what we promise."

Its five key election pledges - printed on its famous pledge cards - were a cornerstone of its 1997 campaign.

The five pledges - on youth unemployment, primary school class sizes, economic stability, NHS waiting lists and waiting times for young offenders - have all now been met.

Some way off

But the BBC's research has also thrown up a number of areas where Labour has barely scratched the surface.

Perennial problems such as crime and health have proved particularly difficult to crack.

And small businesses might not think the 1997 promise to "cut red tape" had been achieved, following Chancellor Gordon Brown's decision to administer tax credits for the poor through company payrolls.

Labour's pledge to simplify the planning process is also some way off.

Quietly dropped

The government has also failed to carry out a raft of modish promises on the "new economy".

Its promise to "wire up schools, libraries, colleges and hospitals to the information superhighway" and to "make access charges as low as possible" remain on the still-to-do list.

As does its promise to provide "every child with an e-mail address".

Other specific promises - such as the creation of a new qualification for school headmasters and replace the Youth Training Scheme with a new "Target 2000" scheme - appear to have been quietly dropped.

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