Campaigners target Labour

Click to follow
A NATIONAL campaign against the Maastricht treaty will be launched today by Labour MPs with backing from five trade unions, writes Colin Brown.

They will aim to persuade the Labour leadership to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. Bryan Gould, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet to oppose the treaty, said: 'Labour must speak up for the people of Europe as well as for the people of Britain.' Labour abstained on the Second Reading and, since taking over the leadership from Neil Kinnock, John Smith has reserved his options on voting against the Third Reading in the new year, on the ground that it does not contain the social chapter.

Culminating in a rally in London before the Third Reading, the anti-treaty campaign will be sponsored by the local government workers' union Nalgo, the Fire Brigades Union and the Union of Construction and Allied Trades and Technicians.

The Labour leadership is not attempting to wreck the Bill during its lengthy committee stage. Labour MPs are on a three-line whip against closure motions, which may be used to curtail debate and accelerate progress, but unofficially, it is not being applied with force.

The Government has privately ruled out more days for the Committee Stage before Christmas, but the government whips will have to run it hard in the new year, probably with two days a week for a month or more.

Labour may be willing to support a guillotine to force the Bill through on a strict timetable, but only if there is cross-party agreement that the rebels have had enough time for debate. That is only likely to come after the rebels have exhausted themselves, and their colleagues.