Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 18:19 UK

Labour rejects union strike calls

Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the Labour National Policy Forum
The prime minister addressed delegates at the forum

The Labour Party has rejected trade union demands for less restrictive strike laws at its National Policy Forum at Warwick University.

Calls for measures to make strike action easier were defeated on the final day of the forum.

It was feared the unions would cause a further headache for Gordon Brown, who is facing speculation over his future after a recent poll defeat in Glasgow.

The forum also voted in favour of reducing the voting age from 18 to 16.

In addition, the National Policy Forum (NPF) voted for a fully elected House of Lords and to extend the full national minimum wage to people aged 21, rather than 22 as at present.

Ministers, unions and activists have been locked in negotiations on the contents of the party's next general election manifesto since Friday.

The party and unions issued a joint statement welcoming the agreement of a "serious set of policies for the future of Britain".

Dave Prentis, general secretary of public services union Unison, said: "We have moved forward on a package that covers a wide range of areas that the British electorate wants to see addressed...

"Importantly for us, it affirms the central role of the public sector in delivering public services."

Manifesto commitments

With unions providing 90% of party funds, the Tories had accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown of being their "helpless prisoner".

But Mr Brown had insisted he would not allow a "return to the 1970s" on issues such as secondary picketing, which is illegal and involves people picketing locations not directly connected to the issue of protest.

The decision to reject the strike demands will be a relief for the prime minister whose future has again been called into question after Labour lost one of its safest seats to the SNP at Glasgow East.

GMB union leader Paul Kenny told the BBC that while Mr Brown's leadership had not been discussed at the forum, there was a "herd of elephants in the room".

The 184-member NPF agreed that the right to unpaid time off to deal with urgent parental issues should be extended to all those with children up to the age of 16.

Controversial government policies such as building a new generation of nuclear power stations, a welfare crackdown and ID cards were also all approved, a Labour spokesman said.

"The agreement shows Labour backing Gordon Brown in policy," Mr Kenny said.

However, there was no commitment to free school meals for all primary school pupils, although it was agreed councils would be encouraged to copy a pilot project in Hull.

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