Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said before local elections that ‘the issue of reform of public services in health, in education, in criminal justice – this is the big challenge that this government and the Labour party faces’. His words were seen partly as a warning to the Left of his party and partly as a demonstration that his mind was on domestic affairs. He then flew off to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin for talks about the future of Iraq; Mr Putin rejected Mr Blair’s call for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and emphasised that the existence of weapons of mass destruction must be resolved. Mr Blair had earlier said that Mr Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, had not brought a clear answer from the Irish Republican Army to the question, ‘Is there going to be an end to all paramilitary activity of the sort that gave rise to the very problems we have?’ Mr Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, said that observers would be sent to airports in countries where Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was rife to see if passengers bound for Britain were being screened. Lynn Chadwick, the sculptor, died, aged 88. Some 800,000 families were found not to have received the new tax credits they were entitled to; helplines were always engaged. Corus, the steel producers, announced the cutting of another 1,150 jobs, mostly from the Stocksbridge plant in south Yorkshire. HSBC welcomed a new director, William F. Aldinger III, with £13.2 million in shares, a salary of £628,000 and an annual bonus of £2.5 million for the next three years, as well as free health and dental care for his wife and himself for the rest of their lives – even if he is sacked. North Korea opened an embassy in Ealing, west London.
The United States presented Palestinian and Israeli leaders with the ‘road map’ for a peace settlement.