Labour votes promised for Maastricht

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The Independent Online
LABOUR MPS have put a shot across the bows of the new Labour leadership by assuring Tory ministers they will vote with the Government over the Maastricht treaty. And Giles Radice, a former Labour frontbencher, broke ranks last night by calling on John Smith to ensure that the treaty is ratified when he takes over the leadership.

Mr Radice told a Fabian seminar: 'Labour must avoid joining Tory anti-Europeans in voting down the Maastricht Bill. John Major should control the Tory nationalists, including Baroness Thatcher, head on. Their xenophobia is threatening Europe's future. And when he becomes leader, John Smith will have to take on Labour's Little Englanders as well.'

The action of some Labour MPs in assuring the Government that it will have their support will be seen as a betrayal, but it strengthened the conviction of ministers that they will secure the ratification of the treaty in the autumn. They say up to 60 Labour MPs will vote with the Government,

Douglas Hurd yesterday intensified the Government's counter-attack against Lady Thatcher and her supporters. The Foreign Secretary told a meeting in London: 'We gave our word with the full authority of the Cabinet and Parliament. Our integrity would be doubted and our influence decreased if we behaved like political spivs, changing our price and our minds at the first opportunity. That would not provide a basis for trust and influence in the future.'

That was seen as a pre-emptive strike against the dissidents, who are expected to give Mr Hurd a rough ride in the Commons today.

As Lady Thatcher took her seat in the Lords as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, Mr Major used Prime Minister's questions in the Commons to accuse her of inconsistency in criticising the Maastricht treaty, which seeks to plug some of the holes in the Single European Act, which she signed. He reiterated his commitment to ratifying the treaty last night in a speech to a Conservative Friends of Israel dinner.

Some of Lady Thatcher's former Cabinet ministers believe she would be wrong to use her Lords maiden speech tomorrow to attack Maastricht. The Tory dissidents are preparing to use the party conference in October to increase the pressure on Mr Major. They insisted last night that their numbers in the Commons were increasing.

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