Finance Bill debate goes under guillotine

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LABOUR'S campaign of Parliamentary non-co-operation last night had its most dramatic result when the Government was forced to take the rare step of putting a strict time limit on the Finance Bill, writes Donald Macintyre.

Last night's announcement of a guillotine on the Bill - enacting the measures in last November's Budget - provoked furious protests from Labour MPs and severely limits the scrutiny the Bill will receive in the forthcoming Committee stage.

Tony Newton, Leader of the commons, said last night the reason for the guillotine 'is that it has taken a day to debate only one clause - on the air passenger tax - and in a form that made it clear that delay was intended'.

Meanwhile a fierce internal debate within the Labour Party over economic policy will surface today with a left-wing inspired attempt to unseat the two leading officers of Labour's backbench Treasury affairs committee.

The chairman of the committee, Alan Milburn, and the secretary Peter Mandelson, face challenges from Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, and and Roger Berry, MP for Kingswood, in a contest which is in part a spin off from the recent row between Labour and the Tories over tax.

The move by the left came after rumblings against the leadership line on taxation and spending policy expounded by Gordon Brown the Shadow Chancellor - that Labour would not make spending pledges until the state of public finances were clear much nearer the election.

An Early Day Motion signed by several members of the Campaign Group called for 'a clear socialist commitment to be made now about future economic, fiscal, industrial and social policies'.