Blair reveals 'people's panels' plan

Tony Blair wants members of the public to have a direct say
Tony Blair wants members of the public to have a direct say

Tony Blair has announced a new layer of government which will help ministers make difficult policy decisions - 'people's panels'.

An aide to the prime minister said the decision to introduce the panels, which will be dominated by ordinary members of the public, were in recognition of the fact that "politics is changing".

In the new year, 100 people will be recruited and will later attend a summit along with civil servants and junior ministers. Prior to this, regional meetings will also be held to read relevant Whitehall briefings.

Controversial policy problems such as the extent of the government's interference in people's diets and their use of retail loyalty cards, such as those offered by major supermarkets, are expected to be discussed.

Public contracts, such as the educational maintenance allowance (EMA) scheme for young people continuing with education, are also expected to be on the agenda.

A report in the Independent goes so far as to claim that the obese, smokers and alcoholics could see cutbacks in the quality of their NHS service if they do not make efforts to amend their unhealthy lifestyles.

"The public level of expectations is rising both in terms of the provision which they receive and the right which they have to influence those services," the No 10 aide added.

Recommendations from the public panel could result in influences on the direction of future policies: "This engagement process will identify in more detail the areas which the public want us to focus on and develop a series of radical and progressive solutions."


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