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EDITIONS
Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Brown and Prescott maul the unions
John Prescott and Gordon Brown
Mr Prescott (left) and Mr Brown make a pugnacious team
The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, have savaged union objections to a key government economic policy ahead of the Labour Party conference.


The issue is not public good, private bad - or private good, public bad

Gordon Brown
Mr Prescott accused the unions of putting at risk the benefits to patients, passengers, and school students by calling for a moratorium on the private finance initiative.

He said that local people would want to know why the government was not building a new school or hospital in their area.

The Chancellor defended the government's policy of involving private companies in the running of public services, and said that it had led to much greater investment in public services.

And he said there would be no backing down and no moratorium, whatever the Labour Party conference voted.

Billions at stake

More than 400 PFI contracts, worth more than 100bn, are currently in force or in the pipeline.

Trade unions have threatened to defeat the government over the issue at the Labour party conference.

Mr Brown said that "ideological dogma" must not block key projects, "such as 40 new hospitals, 150 new schools and scores of road and rail projects".

He has also warned of the dangers of any moratorium on PFI investment.

"Building sites would be left empty, thousands of construction workers would be left without jobs and - most importantly - the public would be deprived of the new hospitals, schools and public investment they were promised," he writes.

'Real divide'

The chancellor said the "biggest error" of opponents to PFI was to equate private finance to expand public services with their privatisation.

"The issue is not public good, private bad - or private good, public bad," he writes.

"The real divide is between the Labour policy of reforming and modernising the public sector, including private finance to build NHS hospitals, and the Tory policy of new charges, vouchers and putting hospitals into the private sector."

Trade unions, including Unison and the GMB, are set to call at Labour's annual conference next week for a moratorium on PFI projects while an independent review is completed.

A Guardian/ICM poll found 63% of respondents wanted such a review.

The government is hoping for the support of some key unions in defeating the resolution calling for a moratorium.

It also hopes the constituency parties - who will hold the balance of power in any vote - will rally round the government.


Public pay battles

Leadership battles

Labour and the unions

Analysis

FORUM
See also:

23 Apr 02 | Health
11 Jul 02 | Politics
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