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Wednesday, November 11, 1998 Published at 17:34 GMT

UK Politics

Text of the Lib Lab deal statement

Joint statement by the Rt Hon Tony Blair MP and Rt Hon Paddy Ashdown MP

In recent years the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have been willing to cooperate with one another on a number of different issues in the interests of the country. This made sense and has helped to widen support for important measures in the modernisation of Britain.

Nowhere has this been more true than over constitutional reform. Before the election, Robin Cook and Robert Maclennan (CRCT) negotiated a crucial agreement bringing together key elements of constitutional reform such as devolution, the incorporation of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) into UK law and reform of the House of Lords. That agreement also paved the way for the Jenkins Commission on electoral systems, whose report was publicised a fortnight ago.

Together we have moved the government of our country decisively and irreversibly closer to the people.

The Cook/Maclennan agreement has been important to the work of the government and has helped Ministers to make tremendous progress since the election.

Our two parties will continue to cooperate on constitutional reform. The modernisation of our politics is a vital part of the modernisation of Britain.

It will create a more democratic and pluralist Britain where the rights of the people are strengthened and where national diversity, which contributes so much to Britain, is properly recognised.

The key vehicle for cooperation over the past year has been the Joint Consultative Committee. It has met six times and has been an important and valuable forum to discuss how reform is to be taken forward.

Following the last meeting of the JCC, we have now agreed that Jack Cunningham and Alan Beith review its work and consider how to develop its effectiveness.

We believe it is now appropriate to widen the work of the JCC. This will be an important step in challenging the destructive tribalism that can afflict British politics even where parties find themselves in agreement. Of course we are two sovereign and independent parties working together where we agree and opposing each other where we do not. Our parties will continue to offer different choices to the British people in the ballot box whenever the appropriate opportunity arises. To do otherwise would weaken British politics and diminish the choices available to the voters.

We are confident this step forward can deepen cooperation and result in widening support for the kind of progressive change which we wish to see and to which we believe the British people are strongly committed.

Our aims are simply stated. To work together in building a modern Britain. To create a new, more constructive and more rational culture for our national politics. To ensure the ascendancy of progressive politics in Britain, against a Conservative Party which seems determined to travel further and further to the Right. And to continue the reshaping of British politics for the next century.

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