Labour chiefs attempt to cut unions' hold on party

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Labour's high command wants changes to party rules aimed at reducing and even eliminating trade union influence over the Government, according to a secret internal document.

Labour's high command wants changes to party rules aimed at reducing and even eliminating trade union influence over the Government, according to a secret internal document.

The paper warns unions that ministers are reneging on the Warwick agreement on employment rights and that party officials want to ensure future Labour governments will not be forced to make such concessions.

The report, marked "Private and Confidential" and circulated among leaders of the most powerful unions, notes that if union mergers came to fruition the newly enlarged Amicus would command 26 per cent of the vote at annual conferences.

Written by a union-appointed Labour official, the document acknowledges that under the present system 48 per cent of the conference vote is controlled by just eight people - the general secretaries of the main unions. If Amicus were to merge with the Transport & General and the GMB general union it would be just six people.

The reforms are to be proposed by the party on 16 July and are expected to cut the unions' power at conferences and reduce their influence in policy making.

The paper, understood to have been written by Byron Taylor who works for the Trade Union Liaison Committee, was "withdrawn" because of party sensitivity. However, there were few people in the Labour movement yesterday who were prepared to rubbish it.

The author said Labour was "seeking to shift the balance of power" within the party and that the Government was not honouring the Warwick deal which secured the unions' financial commitment and silence throughout the election.

The document - leaked to Tribune magazine - says party officials are considering substantial changes to the way policy is determined. "This is extraordinarily unhelpful behaviour, undermining both trust in the Government and creating unnecessary tension which could damage the relationship and party unity."

"The challenge ... is to maintain our position within the party without appearing to be undemocratic or reactionary," the report said.

A Labour party spokesman said: "As it is not a document we have produced, it is not something we will comment on."

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