Tony Blair is being urged to get the government back on the front foot by focusing on public service reform.

As he prepares to face a crucial press conference before heading off on holiday, the prime minister is being told to refocus his energies on issues such as hospital and school improvements.

With parliament pausing for breath following the foundation hospitals rebellion and the school funding row, leader of the Commons Peter Hain said Labour’s key objectives should not be sacrificed due to events surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.

The cabinet minister warned that the Kelly affair should not divert the focus of his colleagues away from their bid to join the euro.

Ahead of his press conference on Wednesday, Blair is also being urged to get back to “bread and butter” domestic issues such as public services reform.

But his monthly joust with journalists is likely to be dominated by Kelly-related questions as it provides the first opportunity for the media to pursue issue in-depth with the prime minister.

Blair was on a flight from Washington to Tokyo when he first heard of the apparent suicide.

With the House of Commons in recess he has been able to lie low since.

Blair will be forced to face the questions he has carefully avoided with his call for “restraint and respect” in the wake of Dr Kelly’s death.

However he will try to move the agenda on from Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, saying the relevant details will be better left to be dealt with by the judicial inquiry he established under Lord Hutton.

Newspaper reports suggested the head of the government’s delivery unit, Professor Michael Barber, will be invited to outline progress made on meeting public policy targets.

Echoing Hain’s call, the Blairite former transport secretary Stephen Byers will also use a speech on Wednesday to back the focus on health, education and crime.

He will tell the Social Market Foundation that ministers “must not allow pressures of the moment to distract or divert it from giving full attention to the three policy areas that will count at the time of the next election: the economy, the quality of public services. and safety in our homes and streets”.

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