Blair parades EU credentials to Brussels

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Tony Blair last night took another significant step towards positioning Labour as a positive and pro-European party, pledging to take a lead in the EU rather than "being dragged behind".

In one of his clearest indications yet that a Labour government would participate fully in moves towards monetary union, Mr Blair said the Government's insistence that EMU was "not on the agenda" was "simply not true".

Arguing that throughout Europe "people are debating monetary union and convergence", the Labour leader said this was a "dialogue which we we either join and influence now, or stand aside and fail to influence once again".

In a speech to top businessmen in Brussels last night, he gave only the barest glimpse of his thinking on some of the most sensitive political issues looming in the run-up to the 1996 inter-governmental conference on the EU's future.

But he set out for the first time an "agenda for reform" which Labour wanted to see enacted at the IGC.

Continuing to hold out the firm possibility of a referendum on EMU, the Labour leader added: "European integration ... must be with the people's consent."

A programme of substantial reform, he said, should include: n Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, including an attack on intervention which led to wine lakes and butter mountains; reform of subsidies which led to food dumping; new incentives for "socially and evironmentally acceptable land management"; and a crackdown on fraud.

n Incorporation of the social chapter.

n Moves to make common foreign and security policy "real".

n Institutional reform to make the Council of Ministers "more transparent"; use of the European Parliament to "enhance democracy"; changes in the role of the European Commission; and a change in the rotation of six-monthly presidencies to take account ofenlarged membership of the EU.