Hurd and Portillo in ILO clash

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Indy Politics
Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, and Michael Portillo, Secretary of State for Employment, are at odds over the threat to leave the International Labour Organisation if it censures the Government for its ban on unions at GCHQ, writes Donald Macintyre.

Mr Hurd was said to oppose linking the threat of censure to any separate debate over whether membership of the UN agency is worth the pounds 7.9m it costs a year. Sources say Mr Portillo will consider withdrawal if the ILO criticises the ban in its annual report.

Yesterday Douglas Hogg, Foreign Office Minister of State, was interpreted by MPs as reassuring them Britain was committed to membership. He said he commended to MPs written answers earlier this week from Mr Portillo. But Mr Hogg had been relying on a draft of answers that Mr Portillo had not in fact made. The draft said "membership ... brought important benefits to the UK". Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, last night complained that Mr Hogg had misled the Commons.