Labour intention to cut trade union ad budgets sparks row

A row has erupted between Labour and the trade unions over proposals by the party to curb the advertising budgets of unions during general elections.

A row has erupted between Labour and the trade unions over

proposals by the party to curb the advertising budgets of unions during

general elections.



Unions are opposing Labour’s plans for pressure groups, including

unions, business organisations and charities, to be allowed to spend no

more than pounds 1.5 million on their campaigns.



The issue has arisen because Labour has proposed a pounds 15 million

campaign spending limit for each political party. It that argues a

ceiling is also needed on outside groups, to prevent the parties using

them to get around the spending restrictions.



’It would make no sense to impose a limit on political parties, only to

see these eclipsed by free-spending pressure groups,’ Labour says in its

evidence to the Neill committee on standards in public life, which is

investigating party funding.



But Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of Unison, the public service

union, told the committee that its campaigns were not intended to

encourage people to vote for a party but to state its position on

particular issues.



’The price of advertising is not cheap,’ he said. ’If unions were

spending pounds 150 million and parties were limited to pounds 15

million, then curbs might be necessary. It is a matter of degree. We do

not have the money to push that level. I only wish we had.’



At last year’s election, Unison spent pounds 1.1 million on a press

campaign through BMP DDB, Labour’s agency. At the 1992 election, Nalgo,

its predecessor, spent pounds 2 million on ads through BMP and ran more

press ads than any political party.



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