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Prime Minister Tony Blair
"For Britain's home owners, nothing is more important than mortgage rates"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Blair defends 'key workers'
nurses
Blair wants to protect "frontline" workers
A clampdown on people who attack doctors, nurses and teachers has been pledged by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He told an audience at Newport, Shropshire, that a second term Labour government would encourage harsher sentences for people who assault frontline workers.

Plans to ban disruptive parents from school premises were also revealed during the keynote election speech, which focused on social responsibility.

Mr Blair also said he aimed to "get to grips" with adult illiteracy and innumeracy, with compulsory basic skills tests for job seekers, backed up by financial incentives and sanctions.

'Reform'

"We have a responsibility on behalf of society to give chances to people, and we also have a responsibility to take chances and make most of them," he said.

His plans also involved "rights and reform", and Mr Blair said a returned Labour government would introduce an Employment Tax Credit - a wage top-up for low-paid workers without children.

Mr Blair also said he intended to simplify housing benefit by introducing a fixed rate of payment for six months.

Mr Blair then turned to crime - and said his slogan "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", still applied for a second term.

"Crime is most commonplace in areas of economic disadvantage, family breakdown and endemic drug abuse," he said.

He said investment in fighting crime would be matched by radical reform of the criminal justice system.

Economy

It would focus particularly on catching, convicting, punishing and rehabilitating more of the 100,000 persistent offenders.

"It is time to put the victim first," he said.

He also pledged to establish a criminal assets recovery agency to seize the assets of major criminals, and introduce a register of drug dealers.

The speech follows his earlier appeal to home-owners to back Labour in the election.

At the party's morning news conference, the prime minister contrasted Labour's record on the economy with that of previous Conservative governments.


People should remember their mortgage rate is on the ballot paper

Tony Blair

He said the choice was between stable growth under Labour, with interest rates now set at 5.25%, or boom and bust under the Tories.

Mr Blair held out the spectre of 15% interest rates and negative equity, which he said could result from failing to back Labour.

He said that people should remember what not backing Labour might mean.

Postal votes

"Today it is the Labour Party that is the party of homeowners and the party of hard-working families."

Wednesday is the deadline to apply for a postal vote.

The prime minister estimated that, for the first time, up to 2m people would be casting their vote by post in advance of polling day, now the system had been made simpler.

"When people are casting their votes today, tomorrow, and indeed, of course, on 7 June, they should remember their mortgage rate is on the ballot paper.

"Their financial security, for them and their family, is on the ballot paper and the current economic stability is an issue in this election," he said.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said Labour wanted to increase the number of homeowners in Britain - now standing at 17m.

"Labour is the party of the homeowner.

"The Conservatives are the anti-homeowner party - for ever remembered as the party of boom and bust, where the cost of Conservative policy was paid by millions of homeowners," he said.

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30 May 01 |  Vote2001
Last chance for postal vote
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