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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 18:08 GMT
Blair outlines election pledges
The prime minister unveils his sixth pledge
One girl was a little distracted as Mr Blair made his final pledge
Tony Blair has completed a whistle-stop tour of England signing his party's six pre-election pledges.

Starting in London, he visited marginal constituencies pledging to build on Labour's achievements in the economy, crime, education and public services.

But the Conservatives and Lib Dems said the pledges - set to underpin Labour's election campaign - were "worthless".

Meanwhile, John Prescott warned Labour delegates not to be complacent that the party would win a third term.

'Trust us'

Mr Blair kicked off his tour at Battersea Reach housing development in Wandsworth, south London, with pledges to raise the minimum wage, do more to help first-time buyers and encourage more people off benefits and into work.

"We'll make sure that the British people get the economy that we need and also that we equip them for that economy in the 21st Century," he told Labour activists.

I can't tell you that because I don't know it
Tony Blair on the date of the general election

Chancellor Gordon Brown said Labour was the only government that could be trusted with the British economy.

Mr Blair sidestepped questions about the date of the general election, widely expected to be 5 May, saying: "I can't tell you that because I don't know it."

He refused to give a pledge on tax and praised Mr Brown's management of the economy.

Waiting lists

In Kettering, Mr Blair signed a pledge card emblazoned with the phrase "Your family treated better and faster".

He told staff at Kettering General Hospital, in Northamptonshire, that current waiting list targets of nine months for an in-patient appointment would be brought down to six months and then 18 weeks in 2008.

Hunt supporters
Hunt supporters protest outside the Labour conference in Gateshead

"Having brought these waiting times down, we've got to do a lot better," Mr Blair said.

Health Secretary John Reid said: "We have halved waiting times for operations and if Labour is elected for the next four years, then we are going to halve them again, and then halve them again."

Mr Blair was greeted by pro-hunting supporters carrying banners as he arrived at Myton School in Warwick to launch Labour's education pledge "Your child achieving more".

Illegal immigration

They were prevented from getting close to the prime minister, who went on to outline his party's plans to ensure modern schools for all, strong discipline and a guaranteed place in training, the sixth form or an apprenticeship.

It is striking that Labour's economic pledge doesn't say a single word about tax
Oliver Letwin

In Yorkshire, Mr Blair stopped off to pledge the introduction of ID cards and the enforcement of "strict controls that work to combat asylum abuse and illegal immigration".

Under the heading of "Your Community Safer" Labour's fifth pledge promises "local policing teams cracking down on graffiti, gangs and drug dealers".

But Tory leader Michael Howard questioned why voters should believe Mr Blair's pledges.

"Mr Blair has had eight years and now, just weeks before an election, he expects people to believe that he's suddenly going to get a grip on the problems Britain faces," he said.

"Hard working families who play by the rules and pay their dues know that Britain is heading in the wrong direction."

'Stunt'

Lib Dem chairman Matthew Taylor said: "From tuition fees to the war in Iraq, Labour has failed to be honest and straightforward with the public."

HAVE YOUR SAY
We all know that at election time, words speak louder than actions
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

Mr Blair's tour was a "stunt which might have been believable in 1997 but it just won't wash with the British public now", he added.

At Labour's spring conference in Gateshead, thousands of pro-hunt supporters gathered to protest against next week's ban.

Mr Prescott called for party unity and told delegates: "We have got every reason to be proud of what we have done, but we can't be complacent - the threat is real."

The prime minister ended his helicopter trip in Gateshead and unveiled his final pledge under the title: "Your children with the best start".

It would mean expanding the Sure Start scheme for new parents in disadvantaged areas, more parental choice over paid maternity or paternity leave and more childcare for the under-fives and after-school care for over-fives.

He said it offered a "proper decent start in life" for children and more help for parents balancing work with family life.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Highlights of Tony Blair's whistle-stop tour



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