New British cabinet set to work on immigration, education
LONDON (AP) – Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Cabinet on Sunday began laying out plans to fight drugs, improve education and ease illegal immigration following his resounding re-election win in British elections.
”You can’t have any excuses at the second election,” Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told BBC-TV. ”You have to go along and deliver strong economy, public services and what the public wants, which is why we’ve had such an emphatic victory as we did Thursday.”
Labor won 413 seats in the 659-seat House of Commons, just five short of the landslide that took them to power in 1997 and ousted the Conservative Party.
New Home Secretary David Blunkett, whose department is responsible for police and immigration, was given the additional responsibility for the battle against drugs.
He also said a new system of permits for foreign workers was under consideration to provide ”a controlled but legal route for people who seek work to fill the skill shortages in our country.”
Blunkett also pledged to take on the ”gangmasters” who smuggle immigrants into Britain. The desperation of immigrants was highlighted last year when 58 Chinese suffocated in a Dover-bound truck while trying to get into Britain illegally.
Responsibility for Blair’s promises to improve education and hire more teachers falls to Estelle Morris, the new education secretary, who said there must be a ”real transformation” in secondary schools.
She told Sky television that one way to deal with a teacher shortage would be to make it easier for middle-aged people to study for teaching certification while continuing in their existing jobs.
In financial matters, Blair promised on Friday to hold a referendum on joining the euro – the common European currency.
While polls indicate most Britons want to keep their pounds and pence, many believe adoption of the common currency is inevitable. The Conservative Party had pinned much of its losing campaign on opposition to the euro.
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