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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Leadership defeated twice
Paddington disaster
Delegates backed new safety measures everywhere
The Labour leadership has suffered two defeats at its party conference in Brighton - the first for several years.

One was on rail safety, the other on protecting the environment from pollution.

Less than 50% elected will fall short of the promise we made to the British people

Paul Simpson on Lords reform
But the party's hierarchy was relieved at fighting off a threatened rebellion over the next stage of reform of the House of Lords.

A change in voting arrangements this year allows conference delegates to take up "alternative positions", set out by the new National Policy Forum, in opposition to proposals by the leadership.

Prescott's appeal

On rail safety, conference members called for the Automatic Train Protection system to be introduced on all lines as soon as possible, not just high-speed lines.

Signal 109
The Paddington disaster happened when a train crossed a red signal
The leadership had wanted ATP restricted to high-speed lines only.

ATP, already in place in much of Europe, is a more sophisticated but expensive safety system than the Train Protection Warning System, which is currently being installed across the network.

The inquiry into the Paddington crash, which killed 31 people, heard that ATP would have prevented the tragedy.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott had appealed to delegates not to go against the leadership's proposal, promising to implement whatever was required as a result of the inquiries into the Southall and Paddington disasters.

He said he would not make a decision on policy until Lord Cullen's inquiry into Paddington was completed.

Pollution penalties

In the second defeat, delegates called on the government to consider introducing penalties for directors of companies who pollute the environment.

Labour's high command had wanted the fines to be limited to the companies.

A wholly-elected second chamber will have the right to block, block and block again

Michael Foster
On Lords reform, however, Labour avoided an embarrassing defeat when delegates backed the leadership and voted for a mainly-appointed chamber.

A group of party activists, MPs and peers had called for half the upper-house members to be elected.

The government had been sufficiently rattled by the possibility of defeat on the issue that Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam - a conference favourite - wrote to every delegate urging them to support ministers.

And party leaders worked behind the scenes to persuade delegates and union officials to support the party line.

One-third limit

Worcester MP Michael Foster - whose private member's bill tried to introduce a ban on fox-hunting - urged delegates to back the government.

He said: "A wholly-elected second chamber will have the right to block, block and block again measures such as those to bring about a ban on hunting."

But Paul Simpson, of the National Policy Forum, said: "Less than 50% elected will fall short of the promise we made to the British people. We are a democratic party - let's have democratic reform of the second chamber."

The leadership's plan to limit any elected element to a third at the most was passed.

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What a missed opportunity
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