The Labour Party in Blackpool: Unions defy NEC call in family poverty vote

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Several unions defied the Labour National Executive yesterday as a recommendation to put on hold a controversial and costly proposal to help families on the poverty line came close to defeat, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

The motion called for child benefit to be disregarded when calculating income support, effectively treating the families in the same way as others who receive the universal benefit, regardless of their earnings or income. It also urged that families on income support should retain half of any maintenance payments before benefit was cut.

The 2,746,000 to 2,565,000 card vote, the first of the conference, shows that several unions used the block vote in favour of the reform, despite a recommendation from the executive that it should be referred back for further consideration.

Labour's high command believes the policy is premature until John Smith's social justice commission has been set up, and would cost pounds 700m a year.

Robin Cook, shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, told the Building a Strong Economy dabate that the motion would mean families out of work would receive a double payment for children.

'This would dramatically deepen the poverty trap as those families would see support for their children halved on returning to employment,' he said.