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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 20:41 GMT 21:41 UK

UK Politics

No Cabinet row PM insists

Tony Blair says he and Mr Prescott share the same aims

Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected suggestions that he and his deputy John Prescott are at odds over the government's attitude toward the public sector.

The BBC's Robin Oakley: "Westminster is abuzz about the apparent differences"
However, in a special edition of Question Time broadcast on Thursday, Mr Blair acknowledged that he and Mr Prescott were from "different parts of the Labour Party".

Speculation about a row between the two men arose after Mr Blair, in a speech on Tuesday, accused the public services of being too slow to change.

The BBC's Nick Jones: "Mr Blair appealed for the acceptance of the need for change"
Mr Prescott, one of the more 'Old Labour' members of the Cabinet, then went out of his way on Wednesday to praise the public sector.

Mr Blair used his Question Time apperance to play down suggestions of a rift.

'A decent, good man'

The prime minister said that while he and his deputy came from different backgrounds both believed in the same things.

[ image: John Prescott: Old Labour minister in a New Labour Cabinet]
John Prescott: Old Labour minister in a New Labour Cabinet
"I don't say we come from the same part of the Labour Party because we don't and I don't say we come from the same background because we don't," he told the audience in London.

"We do come from different backgrounds in the Labour Party."

"He is a decent, good man who has been a wonderful deputy to me and although he comes from the traditional wing of the Labour Party and I come from the modern wing of the Labour Party we both believe in the same things," Mr Blair said.

The BBC's Nick Jones: "Mr Blair is on the offensive"
Earlier, Downing Street announced that the prime minister was to launch a campaign lauding the public services.

A series of speeches, initiated by the premier, will celebrate the government's achievements so far in the public sector, a spokesman said.

'We have got to have change'

Mr Blair has again insisted that public servants must change the way they worked.

"What we actually both believe in are strong public services, but they need to change," he said on Question Time.

"If we are going to deliver really good public services, whether it's in our schools and hospitals or whatever, then we have got to have change.

"We are putting in extra money and extra investment but we have still got to have that change and I want to work with people in the public sector to do it."

He said the public was "impatient" for improvements in the NHS and the government was providing extra money and more doctors and nurses. But it would take time for all that to filter through, he warned.

In the meantime "we have got to find new ways of working".

Hague attacks

[ image: William Hague says the Cabinet is at war with itself]
William Hague says the Cabinet is at war with itself
The Tories have capitalised on the apparent row, claiming that there is "outright warfare" within the Cabinet.

Conservative leader William Hague said that the country was suffering because the government was in disarray.

"We have got an incompetent government now," he said.

"If you look what's been happening in the last few weeks: we have got 500,000 people waiting for passports. We have got 500,000 people waiting to see a hospital consultant.

"Half a billion pounds has been lost on the bungled sale of the country's gold and at this point the deputy prime minister and the prime minister are at war with each other.

"They need to sort it out and sort it out fast."

You can see all of Question Time with the prime minister by clicking on this link.

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