Morris attacks unions' 'political corruption'

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Unions that threaten to withdraw funds from Labour to force the Government to adopt left-wing policies are involved in "political corruption", the leader of one of the party's largest affiliates has declared.

Sir Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G), warned the increasingly powerful "awkward squad" of leading trade unionists that "cash for access" destroyed the Tories and urged them not to allow "cash for policy" to kill off the Labour movement.

In his valedictory address to his union's biennial conference, Sir Bill said: "To those who say 'if you don't get the policy, you don't get the money', I say this: when millionaires try to trade cash for policy, we condemn them and call it political corruption. So if it is wrong for big business to link cash with policy, it is also wrong for trade unions."

However, Tony Woodley, who will be taking over as general secretary of the T&G in October and is considered to be a paid-up member of the awkward squad, later delivered a broadside against government policies. He said ministers had "surrendered" to big business over employment rights by blocking improvements on hours and holidays. British workplaces were "profit-friendly, not family-friendly".

Sir Bill warned union leaders who want to "reclaim" the Labour Party that they could help the Conservatives to return to power.

It is known, however, that Sir Bill had originally intended to deliver an entirely different address, arguing that he did not believe unions got "value for money" from donations to the party. However, disclosure of his intentions in The Independent led to pressure from senior government figures that changed the contents of his speech. To a degree, Sir Bill will rely on government backing for posts he intends to take up during his retirement. Nevertheless, Sir Bill argued in favour of a review of the T&G's relationship with Labour - a policy supported by union activists.