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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
TUC showdown postponed
Tony Blair at TUC conference
Tony Blair abandoned his planned speech at the TUC conference
By BBC News Online's Steve Schifferes in Brighton

The TUC conference came to an early close after the terror attacks in the United States.

But the central issue of this year's conference - the debate with the government over the issue of privatisation - will not have gone away.

TUC President Bill Morris told BBC News Online that he was bringing the conference to a "dignified close" on Wednesday in order to support the government after the terrorist attacks in the United States

"It would be inappropriate to criticise the government at this time, there will be another time and another place to raise these issues," he told BBC News Online.

Prime Minister Tony Blair had been due to deliver a keynote speech on Tuesday, billed as a showdown with union leaders over private involvement in public services.

And the conference had been due to vote on Wednesday on a motion critical of the government's plans for greater private involvement in public services

But after news that attacks had destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, Mr Blair abandoned delivery of his speech, returning to Downing Street to chair a crisis cabinet committee meeting.

Clash with unions

Copies of the prime minister's speech were distributed to delegates.

TUC delegates
Delegates were left stunned
It revealed that Mr Blair was planning to confront the unions over their opposition to the use of the private sector in reforming public services.

"Where the use of the private sector makes sense in the provision of better public services, we will use it. Where it doesn't, we won't."

Mr Blair was to have said that he had a sense of deja vu after his previous fight over changing the Labour Party constitution to modernise Clause IV which had committed the party to nationalisation.

"The reform programme to improve public services is every bit as crucial to the future of Britain as changing Clause IV was to the future of the Labour Party," he was to have said.

Although Mr Blair was to promise the unions more investment in public services, and more job protection for public sector workers, he was unlikely to have satisfied union critics.

Union leaders had said that the government needed to go back to square one on the issue, and a highly critical motion had been agreed by all the main TUC unions.

Pro-Europe

Mr Blair was also due to send a strong pro-euro signal.

One of the key things affecting the UK's long-term strength, he was to say, was based on continuing to play its part in Europe and being part of the single currency if the economic conditions were met.

"This government believes Britain's proper place is at the centre of Europe, as a leading partner in European development, " he was to say.

"There is nothing more damaging or destructive to the true national interest than anti-European isolationism of today's Conservative Party."

The TUC was due to debate a resolution calling for stronger government support for euro entry.

Leaders of manufacturing unions have been concerned about the loss of export jobs due to the high pound.

See also:

11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
US attacks stun TUC
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair's statement in full
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair arrives for union showdown
10 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Unions give minister frosty reception
10 Sep 01 | Business
Grassroots fears at TUC
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Tories suspend leadership contest
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