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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Key points: Blair grilled
Here are the key points from Tony Blair's September news conference:

Reshuffle

  • The prime minister said that his cabinet reshuffle will take place by the "end of the week".

  • He insisted that ministers were picked on the basis of ability and they came from all parts of the Labour Party.

  • New Labour was the most "ideologically united" government for many years.

  • Mr Blair said that Chancellor Gordon Brown did not have a veto over who got what government job and neither did anyone else.

    Russian school massacre

  • Mr Blair expressed his horror at loss of life in the Beslan school siege.

  • He said he rang Russian President Putin on Monday to express the sympathy of the British people.

  • The UK prime minister said the attack by militants was an example of the "terrorism without limits" that could now strike anywhere in the world.

    Pensions

  • Mr Blair said it was not true to say that all Labour's measures on pensions had failed and "every government around the world" was grappling with the issue of funding retirement.

    Hunting

  • Mr Blair refused to confirm rumours that a hunting bill would be introduced into Parliament and he insisted that Lords reform would not be connected to how peers reacted to any bid to ban foxhunting.

  • He said any announcement on the hunting bill would be made first to Parliament.

    School Standards

  • Mr Blair highlighted exam results as showing "real and hard evidence" of an improvement in school standards.

  • He said: "The extra investment, the hard work by teachers, the hard work by pupils and the commitment of parents is seeing a real and substantial change in educational standards in the country."

    Northern Ireland

  • Tony Blair said he thought there was now a clear understanding in the republican movement "that the way of violence does not offer any hope".

  • But there could not be a lasting peace deal until all the violence had ceased.

  • Mr Blair said he hoped that a deal could be reached to restore devolution.

  • "There will be no deal unless two things happen: one, that it is clear that any party that wants to sit in government is not connected in any shape or form with paramilitary activity and that all paramilitary activity ceases, all of it, completely."

    Olympic bid

  • The prime minister said London's bid to stage the 2012 Olympics was "strong and getting ever stronger".

  • "The government is 100% behind the bid," Mr Blair said.

  • "Hosting the Games would be a tremendous thing for the country and a tremendous thing obviously for British sport."

    Drinking laws

  • The prime minister defended government plans to liberalise drink laws and overhaul the legal framework for gambling.

  • "It is not a question of saying there is going to be boozing and gambling encouraged by government," he said.

  • "It is getting a simple legislative framework."

    Iraq

  • Mr Blair conceded there had been mistakes made in Iraq but he argued that the issue was now about the threat of terrorism in the country.

  • "Do we allow the Iraqis to determine their affairs by the ballot box or do we allow their affairs to be determined by a gang of terrorists," he said.

  • The US-led coalition was trying to prevent the loss of life in Iraq, he argued.

    Israel

    Mr Blair condemned terror attacks on innocent people in Israel but he stressed the UK had made its views clear on the country's security forces carrying out targeted reprisals.




  • SEE ALSO:
    Shadow hangs over reshuffle
    07 Sep 04  |  Politics
    Departure comes at 'tough time'
    06 Sep 04  |  Politics
    Profile: Andrew Smith
    06 Sep 04  |  Politics
    'Big hole' left by resignation
    06 Sep 04  |  Politics
    Resignation letters in full
    06 Sep 04  |  Politics


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