THIS week, 15 years ago, Labour MPs called on Tony Blair to set a firm date for leaving No 10 in the wake of the party's local election drubbing and the dramatic sacking of Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

Backbenchers queued up to insist only a timetable for handing over power could restore the Government's authority.

It was reported that a letter was being drawn up to be circulated for signature by up to 50 mainstream Labour MPs calling for an "early end date" to the Blair era.

And three North-East Labour MPs - Blaydon MP Dave Anderson and Newcastle MPs Doug Henderson and Nick Brown - stepped forward to urge the Prime Minister to set a date for leaving Downing Street.

The first organised effort to unseat Mr Blair was revealed after a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle that also saw scandal-hit Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott stripped of his department.

To everyone's surprise, Margaret Beckett was promoted from environment to foreign secretary, replacing Jack Straw, who was relegated to leader of the House of Commons.

Ruth Kelly was moved from education to community and local government secretary, but Patricia Hewitt clung on to her job as health secretary, despite the growing job losses in the NHS.

Hilary Armstrong, the Durham North MP, lost the post of chief whip, but stayed in the Cabinet as social exclusion minister, taking the title Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Metal detectors introduced at region's railway stations

Meanwhile, metal detectors were to be used at main line railway stations in the region to cut down on knife crime.

British Transport Police toured stations with the walk-through sensors to deter people carrying weapons when they travel.

They were in Newcastle and would go on to visit Durham, Darlington and York as part of Operation Shield.

The Northern Echo: The metal detector in use at Newcastle Picture: BRIAN CLOUGHThe metal detector in use at Newcastle Picture: BRIAN CLOUGH

Police said they scanned 378 people for weapons and arrested a man from London.

The scheme was piloted in London when officers also arrested a number of people for carrying drugs.

More than 10,000 people have passed through the detectors, 1,034 people have been searched, 48 were arrested for weapons offences and 104 were arrested for other offences.

Sixty-eight weapons have been confiscated and 85 people were arrested for drugs offences.

Due to its success, Operation Shield was being extended across the country.

Officials from independent rail consumer watchdog Passenger Focus welcomed the scheme, but said it must not interfere with people being able to catch trains on time.