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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 17:39 GMT
Blair launches talk initiative
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
Blair and Brown want more feedback to help shape Labour policies.
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown launched Labour's "Big Conversation" initiative in Wales.

With an interactive website, the Big Conversation seeks the views of party members and voters at large on policies ahead of the next general election.

Tony Blair said: "Our aim is to open a conversation with the British people about the challenges Britain faces and how together we can meet them.

The PM was flanked by his deputy John Prescott and Chancellor Gordon Brown at the launch, held at the Celtic Manor Resort, in Newport.

To spur the debate the Labour Party has produced a policy document "A future fair for all" spelling out the way ahead and asking for feedback from all sectors of the community.

In the forward to the document, Mr Blair promises to visit many parts of the UK in the coming months to discuss the questions posed in its pages.

He is up front about the changes he wants to see and the challenges his government is facing.

One of his mains points is changes to the Labour Party's 1945 Holy Grail, the welfare state.

Rhodri Morgan welcomes Tony Blair
Rhodri Morgan welcomes Tony Blair to the British-Irish Council talks

He says: "We need the courage to recast the 1945 welfare state which was right for the time, replacing a 'one size fits all' system with one of individual aspiration backed by strong communities."

Mr Blair also refers to the challenges for law and order and the need to recast the system for the 21st century in order to effectively tackle organised crime and anti-social behaviour.

Questions asked in the document include the viability of creating a single organised crime agency similar to the USA's FBI and also giving the police and other agencies the power to seize cash from suspected criminals from the current 10,000 to a much lower level.

In view of the current controversy on university top up fees, the document canvases opinion on how to ensure that those with the potential to take on higher education are encouraged and supported to apply.

There are also questions on how to streamline regeneration funds by cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy and perhaps devolving control of these funds to local authorities who have a strong record of delivery.

Health is also examined with the aspiration for a revitalised NHS laid out in order to avoid the danger of it becoming a "third rate safety net."

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern
Tony Blair and Irish PM Bertie Ahern discussed the Northern Ireland election results

People are asked if the advertising of unhealthy food targeted at children be banned and whether there should be a levy on alcohol advertising with the proceeds ploughed back into treatment and into advertising campaigns promoting responsible drinking by young people.

Mr Blair said: "This document is about issues which shape our future.

"It is time for a grown up discussion. Big issues need real debate, a big conversation between politicians and the people."

Earlier in the day Mr Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern held a summit meeting at the Museum of Welsh Life in St Fagans.

This took place during the British-Irish Council meeting being held there, hosted by Wales' First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern discussed reaction to the Northern Ireland Assembly results.

This was the fifth meeting of the council, which was set up as part of Northern Ireland's Good Friday agreement.

It is intended to promote co-operation between the constituent parts of the UK and Ireland.

As well as discussing the Irish election, the future of indigenous and lesser-used languages, was also on the agenda.


SEE ALSO:
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Blair launches 'Big Conversation'
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28 Nov 03  |  South East Wales
When Tony Blair visited Wales
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