Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Brown's free cancer drugs won’t apply in Northern Ireland

Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown's plans to give cancer patients free prescriptions and every child internet access at home will not extend to Northern Ireland.

As he battles to rescue his premiership in a make-or-break conference speech today the prime minister announced a number of populist policies in a bid to revive Labour's fortunes.

They include plans to scrap drug charges for all cancer patients and, eventually, for long term chronic illnesses. And one million households will get up to £700 to pay for computers, broadband, software and technical support – an initiative designed to make plain that only Labour will “give everyone a chance”.

But the pioneering plans will only be extended to Northern Ireland if the Assembly decides it also wants to adopt them.

Asked if Mr Brown's crucial speech this afternoon will include proposals that will reach out to the devolved assemblies, an aide said he “was sure it would”, although it is not clear what they might include.

Other sections of Mr Brown's speech will strike a much a harsher tone, with pledges to to crack down on the workshy and shut out unwanted migrants in a “something for something Britain, a nothing-for-nothing Britain”.

He was telling activists in Manchester: “Everyone who can work must work, so that the dole is only for those who are looking for work, or actively preparing for it.

“The other side of welcoming newcomers who can help Britain is being tough about excluding those who cannot. That's only fair to the taxpaying public and the migrants who uphold the rules.”

Mr Brown was also setting out how he plans to “clean up the City” amid rising public anger at reckless lending and outrageous bonuses — in stark contrast to the “walk way” Tories. He pledged a crackdown on greed in the City through spot-checks on bonuses blamed for encouraging irresponsible risk-taking by financiers.

Attempts by rebel MPs to bring down the PM have stalled because of the banking crisis, but the ceasefire will not hold unless Mr Brown can win back public trust.

Meanwhile, one old enemy of the prime minister – EU commissioner Peter Mandelson – refused to offer his backing. Quizzed on Mr Brown's leadership, Mr Mandelson smiled, but remained silent, although he said the prime minister's analysis of problems in the global economy was “absolutely right”.

And Mr Brown found himself ranked a lowly tenth in a conference survey of ‘Labour heroes' among his own MPs, Attlee. Even worse for the prime minister, Tony Blair was placed fifth.

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