Labour review to cover tax

THE LABOUR Party has begun a review of its most important policies including tax, spending, full employment and wealth creation.

The party has set up an Economic Policy Commission, which will review the entire range of Labour's economic policy. The group, which will work under the umbrella of the party's National Policy Forum, will meet for the first time in the New Year. It will operate to a two-year timescale, ultimately helping to produce the next general election manifesto.

Chaired by Gordon Brown, the shadow chancellor, and Judith Church, a member of the National Executive Committee, it includes Robin Cook, spokesman for trade and industry, John Prescott, employment spokesman and Alistair Darling, a front bench treasury spokesman. Some appointments have yet to be decided, but the inclusion of many of the Shadow Cabinet's most prominent figures will ensure that the group is highly influential.

The commission is part of the machinery which takes on the job undertaken by the Policy Review in the last Parliament. Policy groups on the environment and democracy are already working to produce reports due next year.

Bodies established last

week include one covering international affairs and defence - chaired jointly by Jack Cunningham, shadow foreign secretary, and Neil Kinnock, the former leader who is on the NEC - and on social affairs, covering health and education.

Members of the Economic Policy Commission group expect it to tackle issues of wealth creation, full employment and industry policy first, leaving tax and spending to the second year, by which time the party's separate Social Justice Commission will have reported. The Economic Policy Commission's first paper, on industry, is expected to go to the party conference next year.

Although the composition of the group is carefully balanced, the party's modernisers are pleased with the membership. Mr Brown is an arch- moderniser and Ms Church is a soft-left supporter. One source said the right would 'continue to press for a modernising economic policy rather than simply redistribution'. That raises the prospect of a rethink of taxation policy.

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