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British home secretary says department unlikely to improve until 2009

British home secretary says department unlikely to improve until 2009

Britain's Home Secretary John Reid, buffeted by criticism of prisons and policing, said Monday it would likely be two years before his troubled department showed any improvement.
Reid said he planned to see through reforms at the department, seemingly ruling himself out of the contest to lead the governing Labour Party once Prime Minister Tony Blair leaves office by September.
Reid, who has also served as both health and defense secretary, had been regarded as a potential challenger to Treasury chief Gordon Brown to succeed Blair.
He had previously refused to answer questions about standing against Brown, and another candidate, John McDonnell, for the job of premier but said Monday he planned to see through law and order reforms.
"I set down a time-scale for what I thought was necessary _ two and a half years," Reid told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"I am not daunted. I will see it through. If it needs endurance, if it needs determination, it will be there," he said.
Reid, who took over the post last May, has faced criticism over allegations he has pressured judges to pass fewer jail terms because of prison overcrowding. One judge cited a letter from the minister as the reason he had spared a pedophile from jail.
The Home Office has also been criticized over mishandling of criminal record files and a failure by police to properly track 300 registered sex offenders supposed to be under monitoring.
Rod Morgan, the head of the Youth Justice Board, resigned Friday claiming the department's reforms had swamped juvenile courts with minor offenders.
Reid declined to answer questions Monday on whether he expected to remain in his job if, as expected, Brown becomes prime minister.
"I never guess the future ... but I can tell you as late as last night I was discussing these matters with Gordon (Brown), and we continually discuss them," he told the BBC.
As the Home Office, which is widely seen as too big and unwieldy, came under further criticism, Blair's spokesman said Monday that proposals tabled by Reid to break up the department into a Ministry of Justice _ responsible for the courts _ and a Ministry of Security _ handling police, immigration and counterterrorism _ were being considered.
Blair's Cabinet would likely decide before Parliament's summer recess in July whether the government would back the proposal.
"It is being given serious consideration and there are serious issues involved, it is a matter we will address with some urgency," said the spokesman, who speaks only on condition of anonymity in line with policy.