Monday the 3rd of March marks the beginning of climate week. It is a timely and much needed opportunity in which we can raise awareness as to how we can best react to and combat climate change to create a sustainable future.
As you may recall, the PM used to profess climate change was his passion above all else, but now he is happy to have climate change deniers in his Government.
David Cameron pledged he would lead the greenest Government ever, however, not long after, he was allegedly quoted telling his staff to “get rid of all this green c**p”.
So much for “vote blue, go green”.
The increasing frequency of extreme weather events in the UK has increased the risk of flooding. According to the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) up to one million homes could be at significant risk of flooding by 2020.
I am sure my constituents won’t forget the floods which occurred in June 2007; they affected areas of my constituency including Agbrigg, Hemsworth and South Elmsall causing disruption and damage to homes and roads.
I know, from talking to residents, the devastating impact the floods had, one elderly lady in South Elmsall told me how she could do nothing but watch the flood water from a local beck slowly rising up her back garden until it flooded into her home. She was, understandably, very distressed.
Worryingly, recent data from the Environment Agency has revealed over 730 homes are at risk of flooding in my constituency, 280 of which are at a ‘significant risk’ with a 1 in 75 chance of flooding or greater in any given year.
The Committee on Climate Change is clear that the current level of Government support for managing flood risk will not keep pace with the combined effects of climate change and economic development in the future.
The Government cut funding for flood protection from £670 million in 2010/11 to £576 million in 2013/14. This month’s decision to partially restore funding still leaves the budget at £63.5 million below the budget in 2010.
Despite the abundance of research showing this extreme weather is directly linked to climate change, the current Government are denying climate change exists. They need to get real.
A Labour motion in parliament in 2011 condemned cuts to flood defence investment funding and called on the Government to bring forward spending on rural infrastructure projects for flood defences . (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111026/debtext/111026-0003.htm)
This cut in flood protection spending, coupled with the Tory climate change deniers, creates a recipe for disaster.
Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has failed to be briefed on climate change since taking up his Cabinet post:
“The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, has never been briefed on climate change by the Government's chief scientist since taking up his Cabinet post 14 months ago...a Freedom of Information request revealed that the man in charge of preparing Britain for the effects of climate change has received just two briefings on the subject since taking up his post. Neither of them were from Sir Ian Boyd, the Chief Scientific Adviser at Mr Paterson's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).”
Extreme weather caused by climate change is not our only concern; Labour has always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies.
The events of the last few weeks have shown this is a national security issue in our own country too with people's homes, businesses and livelihoods under attack from extreme weather. The climate change consensus that once existed has frayed. Labour stands ready to work with good people from all parties to do what is necessary.
We need action on climate change now, this won’t happen while David Cameron and his climate change deniers are still in Government.
Monday the 3rd of March marks the beginning of climate week. It is a timely and much needed opportunity in which we can raise awareness as to how we can best...
Today, the National Housing Federation (NHF) released the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of the bedroom tax one year on; it has highlighted the disastrous impact of this cruel Tory policy.
In the Commons, after Prime Minister’s Questions, my colleague Ian Lavery is to propose a Ten Minute Rule Bill on the Bedroom Tax. This will give MPs the chance to vote to end the deeply unfair tax for good.
The study by NHF, which surveyed 183 housing associations, highlighted that 66% of their residents hit by the bedroom tax are in rent arrears, with more than a third reported to be in debt because they were unable to pay the bedroom tax.
I know from speaking to people affected by the bedroom tax in my area that it is impacting hard on families that are already struggling. . A report published by Wakefield District Housing studied the impact of the bedroom tax only 200 days after its implementation and found 5,600 residents were affected. 4,722 individuals were in a worse financial position and 90% had increasing debt.
Many of my constituents have told me they feel like they can’t make ends meet, they are being forced to borrow money from friends, family or pay day loan companies. Many feel rising levels stress and anxiety over the prospect of losing their homes.
The government is failing the most vulnerable in our society.
Councils do not have sufficient housing for 96% of people affected by the bedroom tax somany people, including my constituents, are accumulating debt that they simply cannot pay off.
David Orr, the Chief Executive of the NHF said “analysis of the bedroom tax a year on since it was introduced shows the extent to which this bad policy is having disastrous impact. It can’t be allowed to go on... the most depressing figure of the lot is that one in seven of those penalised by the bedroom tax has now had a notice of seeking possession issued to them”
This is why a Labour would scrap the bedroom tax as one of its first acts in government. We would pay for this by reversing the Government's planned tax cuts for hedge funds, cancelling the Government's 'shares for rights' scheme and by cracking down on the tax lost through disguised employment in the construction industry.
We would bring in a fairer approach to deal with under-occupation; we would assist local authorities to move people to suitable accommodation, by using the funding set aside by the Government through Discretionary Housing Payments for dealing with the problems caused by the Bedroom Tax.
I have seen so much suffering in my area as a result of the bedroom tax. We all know it is a shameful and unfair policy and that is why I will be supporting the ten minute rule bill, on behalf of my constituents, to put an end to this bedroom tax once and for all.
Today, the National Housing Federation (NHF) released the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of the bedroom tax one year on; it has highlighted the disastrous impact of this cruel...
Yesterday in the Commons we were asked to decide whether or not to ban smoking in cars where there is a child present.
It is a shocking fact that 85 percent of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by smoking and is by far the most preventable cause of cancer. Evidence has shown that children who breathe in second hand smoke have an increased risk of developing asthma, meningitis and hearing loss. Cot death is twice as likely in babies whose mothers smoke. Worryingly, children who grow up with a family member who smoke are also twice as likely to smoke later in life.
Smoking affects my area more than most and smoking related deaths in the local area stand at a startling 260 per 100,000 of the population. This is not just a statistic; these are mums, dads and grandparents across our area dying each year due to smoking.
The prevalence of lung cancer in the area I represent is also much higher than the national average, standing at 65.9 per 100,000 and costing the local NHS £20.1 million; a cost that’s too high for the families that loose loved ones.
Labour called for this ban in the House of Lords but what has laid most heavily on my conscience and informed the way I voted in this important debate is the conversations I have had with constituents who have lost loved ones due to lung cancer.
We cannot ignore the fact that something needs to be done. As Cancer Research UK reports, smoking is an addiction that mainly takes hold in childhood, with eight in ten smokers starting by the age of 19 and more than 4.5 million taking up the habit before the age of 16. There are a number of evidenced-based measures that Labour has called for the government to act on. Most notably we have called for the introduction of plain packaging and believe that there is already clear evidence that it would make smoking less attractive to young people, make health warnings more effective and refute the utter falsehood that some brands are safer than others.
But we can be optimistic that things are changing, according to ASH (Action for Smoking and Health) the level of smoking in the UK is on the decline. We can also be proud of our health service which is working hard to ensure that people have access to early diagnosis and optimal treatment. Because of this ethos we have seen that the one year survival rate for all cancer is very close to the national average (67.1% compared to 67.7%). Cancer Research UK has also noted that the area has comparatively good one year survival rates and my constituents have good access to treatment.
Although this is positive news and whilst there is still a need for greater awareness of smoking and its impact within my constituency, it remains a fact that smoking related deaths in the area I represent are at a higher than the national average. It is for this reason that I voted for the ban.
Yesterday in the Commons we were asked to decide whether or not to ban smoking in cars where there is a child present. It is a shocking fact that...
On Tuesday, an important debate took place in the Commons Chamber on energy bills. A large focus rested on the unfair charges for payment other than direct debit.
45% of standard electricity customers and 43% of gas customers in the UK don’t pay using direct debit, yet energy companies charge, on average, £115 extra for people who do not pay by direct debit – this hits pensioners and the poorest the most.
1 million people of those who do not pay by direct debit do not even have bank accounts, yet they subsidise those who do pay for their energy bills using direct debit.
I know, from speaking with people in my constituency, that financial exclusion is a real issue. For example, the closure of Ryhill Post Office has left my constituents with almost no financial services at all in their village. Many of my constituents live in rural areas without access to banks or ATM’s and for many access to the internet is extremely limited, making paying by direct debit largely unfeasible.
The practice of overcharging people who do not pay by direct debit, in order to target the lowest prices at the most active end of the market, is part of a broader problem in the energy sector. It’s unfair, unjustifiable and against the rules for energy companies to cash in on their most loyal customers or to penalise customers for their payment methods.
In other industries companies have all kinds of schemes to reward their most loyal customers, but in the energy market loyal customers pay most. It is difficult to explain the reasoning behind these price variations other than the fact that suppliers are charging what they think they can get away with.
These revelations show why we need a tough new regulator – replacing Ofgem which has totally failed in protecting the most loyal and vulnerable customers – as well as reforms to the energy market to stop these firms from overcharging. And until these reforms kick in, a Labour Government will put a stop to unfair price rises by freezing energy bills until 2017.
My constituency is a rural one. The area consists of a series of former mining villages
On top of soaring energy bills, recently, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee found that rural households pay on average £2,700 per year more on every day goods compared to those in urban areas.
One Nation Labour would tackle the cost of living crisis in rural areas.
One Nation Labour would bring off grid energy under the control of a new energy regulator which we will have set up by 2015, we would abolish the bedroom tax which has a greater effect of splitting families and causing neighbourhood disruption in rural communities and we would tackle digital exclusion by transferring £75million into a digital fund which would allow businesses and constituents in rural communities to enjoy the same advantages as people in urban areas, enabling them, if they desire, to pay by direct debit and use conveniences such as online banking
On Wednesday, the Labour Party initiated debates to call the Government into question concerning the ongoing A& E crisis and the drastic fall in living standards.
We called on the Government to reverse its changes to the NHS competition policy; a policy that isholding back the integration needed to help solve the A&E crisis by diverting essential resources which should be better spent on improving patient care.
The stark reality is that in the last 12 months, our hospitals have been pushed into total chaos. Emergency admissions have increased by 633,000 in the first three years of this Government, compared to 16,000 in the last three years of the Labour Government. This, in turn, has led to almost one million people having to wait more than four hours to be seen in A&E.
The Coalition has caused the A&E crisis by denying people adequate alternatives to access health care and advice, for example, by cutting a quarter of walk in centres and by abolishing NHS Direct. What's more, the guarantee of a GP appointment within 48 hours has been scrapped and now the Royal College of GPs are warning that it will soon be normal to wait a week for an appointment –for many people in my area, this has already become reality.
Every day I see how this crisis is directly affecting people within my constituency. I regularly receive letters of concern regarding the poor service my constituents receive from the local NHS. The complaints do not question the hard work and dedication of NHS staff but the problems clearly associated with underfunding. Many constituents have been seriously affected by the lack of room and waiting times in Pontefract and Pinderfields A&E departments and are therefore left waiting for hours, being given inadequate care or transferred elsewhere. My constituents also regularly express concern that they cannot book appointments when necessary and many appointments are being cancelled without warning.
The NHS would be better off under a Labour Government; we would stop the fragmentation and privatisation and put NHS values back at the heart of healthcare. We would make it work in the era in which we live.
Labour also called on the Government to adopt a proper industrial strategy to help create more high-skilled, better paid jobs so Britain can earn its way out of the cost of living crisis with stronger and better-balanced growth.
We are all well versed in David Cameron’s rhetoric that Britain is in a ‘global race’ and continually professing that the economy is back on track, but nobody I speak to feels any better off. Low skilled jobs, stagnant wages and sky high electricity bills are just a few of the struggles faced by many of my constituents.
As we all know, the quality of life for families across Britain has seriously decreased under the watch of the Coalition, with the working person being at an average £1,600 a year worse off.
I know, from listening to the concerns raised by my constituents, job security is an enormous worry. Due to the prevalence of warehouse and factory jobs in my constituency many individuals are working under zero hours contracts, some of them for agencies.
There has been a marked rise in the number of employees on zero-hours contracts since 2010, with some estimates that there could be as many as 1 million employees on them. A recent YouGov poll demonstrates that the number of people feeling insecure at work has almost doubled in the past three years since the Tory-led government took office from 6.5million to 12million.
It is clear the pressure is on, people are feeling the strain in all areas of life but unfortunately, we have a government that gives tax cuts to millionaires whilst millions suffer.
The way we tackle the cost of living crisis is by building an economy that works for working people. We need to make work pay in order to see more balanced growth and create high-skilled, better paid jobs so we, together, can earn our way out of the cost of living crisis.
Britain will only succeed in the 21st Century with a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.
On Tuesday, an important debate took place in the Commons Chamber on energy bills. A large focus rested on the unfair charges for payment other than direct debit. 45% of standard...
The country is desperately in need of dynamic leadership.
Standards of living are flat lining or falling for the hard working majority, there are millions still on the dole, and the economy remains dangerously unbalanced.
But the centre right in British politics is in a state of factional civil war and increasingly out of touch. Trust between the two coalition partners is breaking down.
Meanwhile the different tendencies within the Conservative Party are openly contemptuous of each other.
Almost every piece of government legislation is contested both between the Labour Party and the Government, but also within the Governing Coalition.
Government whips cannot guarantee the PM a clear run through the Commons of even key items such the immigration Bill this week.
Parliament is a nuisance; something which Mr Cameron would prefer to ignore.
The Commons is increasingly finding that there is no significant business to conduct. Parliament is in danger of being sidelined between now and the general election.
But most people feel that the state of the economy and cost of living crisis demands urgent action by parliament and government. The consequence of his inaction is that Politics is falling into disrepute, and cynicism about Westminster is growing.
Labour has to be the Party which shows the way forward. Our task is to cut through the present stalemate.
We need to build a radical One Nation alternative, capable of governing on behalf of the whole country, capable of taking the strong decisions which the crisis means that we will need to take. Our government will need to deal with a complex economic and social crisis at a time when esteem in politics is at an all time low.
Given the scale of the challenge, several questions need to be posed: are the Labour Party and the Labour Movement fully prepared for the task at hand? Will the party be capable of sustaining our government in office given the size of the difficulties we will face?
And if our answer is that there is more we can do to prepare ourselves, can we make changes to our structures and culture which will help?
This is the context in which we must judge the proposals to reform and modernise our party on March 1st.
Our Party has always has been part of a much wider set of relationships which we describe as the “Labour Movement”. This idea of a wider ‘movement’ consisting of a network of associations, organisations and groups is well suited to the era in which we now live where the internet, for example, has meant that relationships are much more horizontal than they were in previous times.
Purely vertical or hierarchical organisations no longer fit the zeitgeist in the ‘Google era’. A wider and reformed Labour movement deeply rooted in the nations, regions, neighbourhoods, work places and communities which make up our country has the best chance to change our country for the better.
But this requires a proper democratic relationship between the leadership and the wider movement. It also requires the movement to be a living, breathing organisation, organically linked into the whole community. Constitutional changes on their own cannot change the party but they can help. The changes proposed by Ed Miliband present us with a significant opportunity to renew the movement and to prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.
The Labour movement is a complex but very strong structure which allows both organisations to affiliate, but equally to encourage individuals to join. Ed’s proposals build on this architecture in a number of ways.
At the heart of the Labour Movement is the relationship between the trades unions and the party. This relationship helps us to remain rooted in the communities which we represent. Trades Unionists’ voices express their views through their affiliation to the party and the principle will continue, although individual trades unionists will need to express a positive decision to continue with this.
Some Trades Unionists always went further and became individual members of the Labour Party. Historically, they have played a very significant role. But there are many more who have not joined. Ed Miliband has expressed the view that he wants to open up the relationship even further in order to facilitate the possibility that thousands more can join.
This is wholly welcome. It will be so much easier to build and then sustain in office a government which works for working people if we ensure that we have a mass party of working people. After all, there are currently almost three million trades unionists who belong to affiliate trades unions but they do not play an active role within the party. We will be far stronger if in every branch, constituency, district and regional party there are thousands of ordinary folk playing such a role.
It would be a transformative process for a Party which in turn aspires to transform the country.
Ed’s proposals allow us to consider how we can recalibrate our internal democracy in order to secure a relationship between the leadership and the grassroots Labour movement which is democratic and respectful of each other’s roles.
To caricature an extreme position, it would not be right for the Leadership to totally trapped within the Westminster bubble. This is particularly the case when there is so much cynicism about the politics and the ‘broken’ Westminster model.
It is time now therefore to move to a position whereby the Leader and deputy Leader of the party are elected by the wider membership. The current proposals suggest that we should have One Member One Vote.
This means that for the purpose of electing the Leader there will no longer be special sections into which different types of member are corralled. It will produce a better, more democratic relationship between the elected leader and the wider Labour movement.
This change has two caveats.
In the first place, it will obviously tremendously strengthen any leader so elected if he or she is elected by a party which consists of hundreds of thousands electors. It is essential therefore that we ensure significant numbers of trades unionists make the positive choice to engage in our party.
Secondly, MP’s will lose the privileged role they currently have in voting within their own section, thereby allowing the election of the leader to break out of the Westminster village. But it is not unreasonable to suggest that any party Leader should be able to demonstrate that they have the confidence of a significant number of colleagues. This can be ensured by reserving the right to nominate the Leader to Labour Members of Parliament with a minimum threshold to demonstrate that they can command the confidence of the party in Parliament.
The tasks in front of the party are enormous. Nothing less than the reconstruction of our economic and social structures to meet the challenges of the economic, environmental and other crises in an increasingly global world.
Some will say that in this context, the drive to transform the Labour Party’s structures is a meaningless side show. Others will try to pick away at one minute detail or other of the proposals.
Both reactions are incorrect. Reconstructing the party is a central part of ensuring that our movement is ready for office and prepared to face up to the difficult challenges ahead.
Given the failure of the other parties, only Labour in office can get us out of the crisis our country faces. A mass, democratic party deeply rooted in our communities can not only secure our election into government but equally sustain and renew our ministers as they confront the challenges which they will face and help us to avoid the risks of lapsing into passivity or into technocratic decision making which has too often been the fate of centre left governments elsewhere.
This article was originally published on Labour List.
The country is desperately in need of dynamic leadership. Standards of living are flat lining or falling for the hard working majority, there are millions still on the dole, and...
Jon Trickett, commenting on David Cameron’s refusal to reveal the client list of his personally appointed adviser, Lynton Crosby, said:
“David Cameron needs to show some leadership on lobbying, instead of trying to cover for the lobbyist at the heart of his Downing Street operation.
He buried proposals for a register of lobbyists until last week’s scandal – a scandal which is only growing. Now he is resisting calls for his own lobbyist and advisor, Lynton Crosby, to publish his client list.
Yet again, David Cameron is out of touch and standing up for the wrong people. Public suspicion about a conflict of interests will never go away until David Cameron reveals whether Lynton Crosby’s clients will benefit from the decisions his Government makes.
It’s just one more example of David Cameron promising change but failing to deliver: he used to say that sunlight was the best disinfectant, but it seems that he wants to keep his relationship with his own pet lobbyist in the shadows.”
Jon Trickett, commenting on David Cameron’s refusal to reveal the client list of his personally appointed adviser, Lynton Crosby, said: “David Cameron needs to show some leadership on lobbying, instead...
Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, commenting on plans to reform lobbying, said:
“David Cameron is simply wrong to attempt to conflate the issues of party funding and cleaning up the lobbying scandal. It’s a shabby and panicked way to deal with such an important issue facing our democracy.
“The best way to proceed if you want to take big money out of politics and clean up the lobbying scandal is to act on a cross-party basis. Labour has called for immediate cross party talks on the introduction of a statutory underpinning for a code of conduct for lobbyists since the start of this Parliament.
“Such a statutory register should include all professional lobbyists whether third party or not. It will have to have a code of conduct, the first line of which should be to forbid financial relations between lobbyists and Parliamentarians. Any code of conduct must be backed by strong sanctions in case of any breach in order for it to be effective.
“In a democracy government needs to be open to influence from all parts of our society, from the smallest neighbourhood group to the largest commercial operators, and so there is a crucial role for lobbying. But it needs to be transparent, accountable and appropriately regulated.”
Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, commenting on plans to reform lobbying, said: “David Cameron is simply wrong to attempt to conflate the issues of party...