Union chief backs Hain over taxing the rich

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The Independent Online

The leader of Labour's biggest union affiliate will call for a new higher tax rate today, reigniting the row in which Peter Hain was slapped down by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

The leader of Labour's biggest union affiliate will call for a new higher tax rate today, reigniting the row in which Peter Hain was slapped down by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

In his debut speech as leader of the Amicus union, Derek Simpson will issue a direct challenge to the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who will also be speaking to delegates.

Mr Simpson, a prominent member of the union movement's "Awkward Squad", will tell Mr Brown that if the Government were "truly in touch" with grass-roots supporters there would be a debate about raising the top rate of tax to reduce the taxation burden on nurses, teachers and manufacturing workers.

He will say that Mr Hain, Leader of the Commons, was suggesting "nothing outrageous" when he argued high earners should pay more so that others could benefit. Mr Simpson will say: "Fat cats should pay more tax so that vital public servants can take home more money to their families."

The Amicus general secretary will argue that there should be a new 50 per cent tax rate for those earning more than £100,000 - an assertion that was cut out of a speech to be made by Mr Hain after he incurred the wrath of Tony Blair and Mr Brown.

Mr Simpson, whose speech will follow an address by the Chancellor, will call for new policy-making procedures in the Labour Party.

He will say that members of his union were delighted when Labour won the general elections in 1997 and 2001. "They don't want to replace the Labour Government with any other, they don't want to sink the ship by reducing our funding of the party, they don't want to weaken the trade union link. But they do want a greater recognition of their needs and they deserve to see their voice resonate in party policy at the highest level."

Amicus has one million members, covering engineering, science and finance.

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