Unions `being excluded' from public bodies head here please

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Public Policy Editor

The Government appears to be winnowing out some of the last vestiges of trade union representation on public bodies.

In the past two years, trade union nominees on the Commission for Racial Equality have been reduced from two to one. On the Equal Opportunities Commission, the TUC nomination was rejected in favour of a general secretary from a non- affiliated union, and Sir Gavin Laird, the former engineering union general secretary, was not replaced on the Court of the Bank of England last year.

Now no trade unionist has been appointed to replace Tony Christopher, the former Inland Revenue Staff Federation general secretary, on the Audit Commission.

Ann Taylor, shadow Leader of the Commons, said the growing list of exclusions suggested a government way behind in the polls was "trying to fix the game for after they have gone". After nearly 16 years in power, she said, the Government had forgotten both what it was like to be in opposition and the need for a wide range of voices to be heard in public life. "Nothing better demonstrates that, although Margaret Thatcher has gone, the `one of us' mentality lives on," she said.

The growing tendency not to replace unionists comes as the Nolan Committee, after oral evidence, has asked the TUC to detail the way unions have been excluded from quangos.

In its submission, the TUC says: "We do not argue for a return to Seventies style corporatism". But there has been "a definite trend to reduce the voice of the TUC and trade unionists and to consequently reduce the ability of public bodies to fully represent the wide range of interests necessary if they are to maintain public respect and legitimacy".

Union nominees still sit on the conciliation service Acas, the Health and Safety Executive and the BBC and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.

On the new health authorities, a December survey showed that out of 2,629 chairmen and non-executive directors in 482 trusts, nine were trade unionists.

On 82 Training and Enterprise Councils, 12 have no trade union member, and another 70 have just one, the TUC said.