CO-OPERATIVE Party members voted to back the Government's proposals for foundation hospitals at last weekend's annual conference in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
It is the first time the issue has come before members and many showed their discomfort at policy being adopted by the Party without full consultation with the rank and file.
Delegate Barbara Moores said: "We weren't asked at all about foundation hospitals until today. We had to read the press that this is the journey we are about to embark on."
However delegates were convinced by party officials, Co-op MPs and sector specialists who told delegates this was the right way to go.
By a large majority conference carried the National Executive Committee's statement on foundation hospitals, which stated: "The NEC believes that the Government should be bold in taking forward reforms?. We urge all co-operators to engage constructively with the Government's radical programme, the most important and decisive move towards mutuality in the public sector in the history of our Movement."
Delegates also passed another motion that welcomed the proposal to establish foundation hospitals but believed, "legislation needs greater powers than those set out in the Guide to NHS Foundation Trusts for these could be overruled by either the General Agreement of Trade in Services or clever use of the Companies Act".
The Party's National Secretary Peter Hunt said: "This is a defining moment for the Co-op Party. Never since out formation in 1917 have we been able to influence the future direction of such a high-profile national policy. It is a chance to put our mission into action."
Other motions passed, with NEC support, included all Co-op MPs being invited to write about their co-operative work in the party's annual report; at least 20 per cent of each local Labour group should be recruited as members of the party for 2004; and the model constitution for party councils should be revised as soon as possible.
? Full coverage of the Co-op Party Conference in next week's News- weekending 27th September 2003.