Smith prolonging war of attrition: Campaign forces defeat in Scottish committee

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The Independent Online
LABOUR'S war of attrition with the Government over its decision to impose a guillotine on two important money Bills will continue with a vengeance in the new year, John Smith, party leader, said yesterday.

Mr Smith and senior colleagues successfully put the non-co-operation campaign into practice at yesterday's meeting of the all-party Scottish grand committee, forcing a 46-7 Government defeat.

In a letter to all Labour MPs, Mr Smith repeated that it was 'indefensible' that the two Bills, one shifting the burden of statutory sick pay to employers and the other increasing employees' National Insurance, should be scrutinised in one day.

The Government could hardly complain of a shortage of parliamentary time when they had decided to give the Commons a three-week Christmas break, he said.

Labour's decision to break off formal relations with the Government means that all non-contentious legislation will be opposed. The unusual attendance of Mr Smith and other prominent Scottish front-benchers at the grand committee ensured that a debate on the economy will continue in January.

George Robertson, Labour's Scottish affairs spokesman, said that the humiliation was a signal of 'how uncomfortable life is going to be'.

Later, the Government's legislative tactics over the Education Bill came under attack in a report from the House of Lords' Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. The committee of experienced and respected Parliamentarians was highly critical of the Government's resort to regulations to legislate over the financing of student union services.

If the Government refuses to amend the relevant clause it faces the prospect of a significant all-party revolt led by two Tory stalwarts, Baroness Perry of Southwark and Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorne, who have put down amendments to have the provision deleted.