Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Brown vows to complete transfer of policing powers

As he came out fighting at the Labour Party conference Gordon Brown made clear he is aiming to complete the transfer of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland in the next few months.

In his keynote speech the Prime Minister pledged “every support” to achieve what he referred to as the “yet unfinished stage” of the peace process.

Ahead of resuming negotiations with First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness on a financial package to underpin the handover, Mr Brown praised his predecessor Tony Blair for starting the process.

“Let me say to the people of Northern Ireland we will give you every support to complete the last and yet unfinished stage of the peace process which Tony Blair to his great credit started and which I want to see complete — the devolution of policing and justice to the people of Northern Ireland.”

To applause from delegates, he went on: “We want to see it happen in the next few months.”

Mr Brown told his party to “never stop believing” they could beat the Tories.

The Prime Minister set out an ambitious raft of policies designed to power a Labour fightback in the upcoming General Election.

And he rallied delegates at the party conference in Brighton with a call “to fight, not bow out, not walk away, not give in, not give up but fight — fight to win for Britain”.

In a defiant denial the party's time in power was coming to a close, he said: “Since 1997 Labour has given this country back its future. And we are not done yet.

“We love this country. And we have shown over the years that if you aim high you can lift not just yourself but your country — that there is nothing in life which is inevitable, it's about the change you choose.”

In his final conference speech before the election the Prime Minister outlined a controversial plan to deny young mothers council homes.

He said pregnant 16 and 17-year-olds should no longer be “given the keys to a council flat” and left on their own, but will be offered shelter and support in a network of supervised homes.

Presenting himself as sharing “the values of the mainstream majority”, the Prime Minister promised action to clamp down on anti-social behaviour, including new powers for councils to ban 24-hour drinking in their area, “tough love” intervention for the country's 50,000 most difficult families, and police action squads to tackle disorder in the run-up to Christmas.

Introduced on stage by wife Sarah as “my husband, my hero”, Mr Brown won a rapturous reception from the party faithful with a speech designed to fire up Labour ahead of an election that pundits insist they are set to lose.

He warned voters that the upcoming election will present them with “the biggest choice for a generation” between “Conservatives who embrace pessimism and austerity and progressives like Labour who embrace prosperity and hope”.

Eye-catching promises included free personal care in their own homes for elderly people with the highest needs, a one-week maximum wait for cancer tests and free childcare for 250,000 two-year-olds.

The Prime Minister responded to the furore over Westminster expenses with plans to shake up the democratic system, including a new power for constituents to recall misbehaving MPs, a referendum on voting reform for General Elections and a commitment to a “democratic and accountable” House of Lords.

He vowed to ensure that ID cards do not become compulsory during the next Parliament and promised to protect frontline spending on services — particularly schools. And he pledged to increase the minimum wage, child benefit and child tax credit every year in the new Parliament.

Mr Brown said he had acted “decisively and immediately” to prevent a great depression caused by the banking crisis.

He was given a standing ovation as he completed his hour-long speech with an appeal to activists: “Never, never stop believing. And because the task is difficult the triumph will be even greater.”

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