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Conference round-up

NEWS

AT A LABOUR Party conference dominated by the terrorist attacks in America, chancellor Gordon Brown promised that transport spending would not be cut.

In these times of adversity, commitment to transport would not suffer and public services would improve, Brown said.

John Edmonds of the GMB Union told the conference that by cutting back and making redundancies, industry would be doing 'exactly what the terrorists wanted'.

He implored industry leaders not to have the 'arrogant self-centred nonsense of Railtrack' and look only at short term profits.

'Now is the time to come to the aid of the country, not shareholders, ' he said.

Environment minister Michael Meacher said the government's energy review would not lead to 'nuclear renaissance'.

He restated Labour's commitment to a huge increase in renewable energy use, including solar and wind power.

Speaking to an 'energy in a changing climate' session at the conference in Brighton, he said the review would be open ended and would not be an excuse for a huge nuclear power station construction programme.

Labour was sticking to its long term target of 50% of energy produced from renewable sources, he added.

Meacher emphasised the UK's intention to meet the reductions in greenhouse gases agreed at the international energy summit in Kyoto, but said countries needed to go a lot further.

'Remorseless pressure' must be put on the US to ensure it reduces emissions, he said.

Meacher later told the conference that water companies would have to accept greater competition.

But he promised he would not allow a 'Railtrack scenario' to develop, leading to fragmentation of the industry.

He said greater fines would be introduced, that in 'exceptional circumstances' could lead to fines of up to 10% of a company's turnover.

Stephen Byers told delegates that taking the helm at the Department of Transport Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) was a poisoned chalice, but promised to deliver.

This would start with a safe and value for money public private partnership for the London Underground.

Byers promised that politicians would not make safety critical decisions during the 30 year tube upgrade. That would be the responsibility of the Health & Safety Executive, and no deal would go ahead without its approval.

He said he would personally be accountable to ensure the three contracts would provide value for money.

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