Lib-Lab contacts to be extended

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Indy Politics

Charles Kennedy's first meeting with Tony Blair and his Cabinet ministers since the departure of Paddy Ashdown ended last night with agreement on more joint Liberal Democrat and Labour contacts.

Charles Kennedy's first meeting with Tony Blair and his Cabinet ministers since the departure of Paddy Ashdown ended last night with agreement on more joint Liberal Democrat and Labour contacts.

In spite of an ultimatum issued by the Liberal Democrat leader before last night's meeting at Downing Street and a threat to break off the contacts, sources close to Mr Kennedy said he was happy with the way the meeting went. He warned Mr Blair beforehand that he might call off the joint consultative committee (JCC) meetings between the Liberal Democrats and Cabinet ministers unless there was acommitment to voting reform in the next Labour manifesto.

Mr Kennedy has tacitly accepted that the Government will not deliver its last manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on proportional representation before the next election. "On the ultimatum, the Government's position hasn't changed and our position hasn't changed. Both sides are happy," a spokesman for Mr Kennedy said. "It was agreed that the remit of the JCC will be extended to include further discussions on the European institutions."

At the meeting, chaired by Mr Blair, it was agreed that Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, and Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesman,will hold talks in the new year to agree joint proposals for reforming the European Commission and the European Parliament.

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