UK's Brown aims for fresh start with new laws

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LONDON, Nov 6 (Reuters) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will unveil proposals today to step up anti-terrorism measures and address a crippling housing shortage in a new policy platform meant to revive his ruling Labour Party .

Brown, who took over from Tony Blair in June, needs a new start after his decision in October to pull back from calling an early election undermined his prestige and gave a boost to his Conservative opponents.

Laws to be introduced in the year ahead will be set out in a speech to parliament by Queen Elizabeth in an formal ceremony.

The programme will include a plan to build 3 million houses to tackle a housing shortage, tougher counter-terrorism measures and a climate change law that aims to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050.

Brown and opposition Conservative leader David Cameron will then cross swords over the proposals in a parliamentary debate.

Brown's assured handling of a series of crises in his first months in office helped Labour open an opinion poll lead of as much as 11 points over the Conservatives and tempted Brown to call a snap election -- two-and-a-half years before he needs to.

But he was forced into an embarrassing climbdown after new conservative proposals to cut taxes and help first-time home buyers led to a surge for the opposition in opinion polls. Labour has yet to recover, with one poll last week showing the party trailing by five points.

That has led to grumbling among some Labour insiders that the party is stuck in a rut after a decade in power and demands for Brown to show he has the vision to lead the party forward.

Warwick University politics professor Wyn Grant said today's speech was an opportunity for Brown to show he had a vision and ''a coherent underlying set of principles''.

So far, Brown has kept faith with most of the centrist policies that brought Blair three election victories while scrapping controversial proposals such as supercasinos and distancing himself from the unpopular war in Iraq.

Brown says he wants to cater to Britons' rising aspirations after a decade of solid economic growth. Critics say he lacks vision and accuse him of stealing Conservative policies.

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said Brown's programme offered ''opportunities for families right across the country''.

''It's simply not fair if people aren't getting the education opportunities they need or they aren't getting the affordable housing they need,'' she told Sky News.

Brown has already outlined his legislative proposals in July but is expected to give more detail today.

Controversially, he wants to try again to extend the time police may hold terrorism suspects before they must be charged.

Parliament blocked Blair's plan to extend the pre-charge detention period in terrorism cases to 90 days from 14 in November 2005, compromising on 28 days. Police Minister Tony McNulty has indicated Brown wants to extend this to 56 days.

REUTERS SS SSC1440

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