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Wednesday, 30 September, 1998, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Closed door paranoia attacked by Tories
Conference
The seminars were held away from the main conference hall
Closed sessions at the Labour party conference to allow delegates to question ministers in private have been criticised by Tories for being "undemocratic".

On Tuesday morning, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook addressed a seminar on Europe, while in another Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling took questions on welfare reform from more than 100 party members.

Barred from listening

Journalists and visitors were barred from the 90-minute meetings, held away from the main conference hall.

The closed sessions attracted criticism from Tories who claimed their party was more open and democratic than Labour.

Conservative Party deputy chairman Michael Ancram said: "The Labour Party conference moves to new heights of paranoia today with its closed sessions of policy discussion, to which no outsiders, including the media, will be admitted and from which there is no guarantee that reports will be made public.

"This again proves the extent to which Labour has become an undemocratic, unaccountable government, afraid to let the public know what they are talking about in case a few home truths about their broken promises and failing policies are blurted out by their declining membership."

Delegates' decision

Labour party officials said the decision to ban the media from the seminars was at the request of delegates themselves.

The session followed a year of policy forum meetings around Britain at which party members have been able to discuss policies with ministers, also behind closed doors.

Similar seminars will be held on Wednesday on crime, with Home Secretary Jack Straw, and health, with Health Secretary Frank Dobson.


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