In a democracy every person should have an equal voice to express their views and be heard. A small community group should have the same access to decision-makers as a company; a constituent should have the same access as a millionaire.
But this is not the case in Britain. Our democracy is asymmetrical. A local charity campaigning on cancer in my constituency does not have the same access to the political process as the big tobacco companies.
Under the government’s “gagging bill”, now an Act, this asymmetry has been made even worse.
The gagging bill is an outright attack on healthy democracy; it is a cynical attempt to deceive the public by gagging campaigners and charities. My constituents, like so many others, are not falling for it.
I voted against this Act right the way through Parliament as I believe that lobbying is an essential part of our democracy, it allows charities and campaigners to be heard and stand up for the issues they fight for.
I have been contacted by a large number of my constituents asking what Labour would do. We are clear; a Labour government would abolish the gagging Act.
Labour recognise there is a real need for political reform. There is already a widespread sense of alienation from politics; the disillusionment partly stems from a feeling that Britain is governed by a closed circle at the top which excludes the millions of hard-working people who play by the rules but who are struggling to get by.
We need to open up the lobbying world, not legislate to silence charities and campaigners who want to hold the government to account. This is why Labour will repeal the gagging law and legislate for the real reform our politics needs.
Labour, should we win the 2015 election, will make the lobbying industry more transparent by introducing a register of all lobbyists backed by a code of conduct and sanctions, we will make the changes a fairer Britain needs.
In a democracy every person should have an equal voice to express their views and be heard. A small community group should have the same access to decision-makers as a...
Energy bills are up by almost £300 under David Cameron. The “big six” energy companies are seeing their profits soar. Yet, people in my area have to choose whether to heat their home or eat. It is shameful.
Fuel poverty affects 7,000 people in my constituency. Finding it difficult to juggle heating their homes, paying their bills and working in low paid jobs, this government have inflicted a cost of living crisis on ordinary people that I had hoped we would never see again.
The recent launch of a full market investigation into energy companies prices is a clear admission that Britain’s energy market is broken and that radical action is needed.
One of my constituents told me that having a hot bath and heating his home is a luxury he cannot afford every day, most days he is left piling on the layers just to stay warm.
Something needs to be done.
Labour called on the government in 2013 to impose an energy price freeze. David Cameron rejected this Labour proposal, saying it was unworkable. With the energy company SSE recently announcing an energy price freeze David Cameron was clearly wrong, it is now plainly obvious he just did not want to help ordinary people.
It is clear that the Tories stand up for the few at the top not the old lady trying to stay warm in her home. David Cameron has cut tax for people on over £150,000 a year while raising it for the shop-worker who is on a zero-hours contract. This Government will not do anything to address the cost of living crisis and help people out of fuel poverty.
That is why Labour would help with everyday costs in a fair way, to benefit everyone. We would freeze energy prices until 2017 which would save a typical household £120 a year. Labour would also provide 25 hours free childcare per week for 3 and 4 year olds, scrap the unfair and unjust bedroom tax and tackle low paid jobs and zero hours contracts to help get more people back on their feet.
Energy bills are up by almost £300 under David Cameron. The “big six” energy companies are seeing their profits soar. Yet, people in my area have to choose whether to...
Tony Benn lived a long life and was a man born into a highly political background. He met Gandhi and Lloyd George as a young man.
He inherited a peerage when his father died, but rather than taking a privileged seat in the House of Lords, he fought a successful campaign to renounce his title so that he could sit in the House of Commons in order to represent the ordinary working people. Such was his commitment to democracy.
My best memory of him was in an encounter over 30 years ago.
It was in 1981. I was running the campaign in Yorkshire in support of him becoming the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. There is no doubt that that election campaign against Denis Healey was a seminal moment in British politics.
We decided to take the enormous risk of putting on a meeting in Leeds Town Hall, to be addressed by Tony. It was a risk because the Town Hall is vast. We were not certain whether we would fill the Hall or whether only half a dozen people would turn up making us appear ridiculous.
As it turned out, the meeting was massive with people outside on the Town Hall steps. He held the meeting rapt in attention with his stirring oratory and charismatic personality. Even people who didn’t agree with a word he said came along and afterwards told me that it was a fascinating evening.
But the point of this anecdote is a different one.
Because before the meeting started, he and I met in a small side room in the Town Hall.
Even though the evening was all about him, and it would have been normal to expect him to be preoccupied with what he would say, he spent the whole time asking about Leeds and more particularly about me and my background.
He was at the height of his powers at this time. He was continuously vilified by the establishment who often attacked him personally, rather than challenge his ideas. But he took an interest in me – an ordinary person.
I was a building worker at the time and was passionate about politics but was not a politician. He got out his pipe and then his tape recorder. He then proceeded to record all his questions and my responses.
He was true to the fourth Socialist Sunday School commandment: “Honour good people, be courteous to all, bow down to none.”
That was Tony Benn. A man deeply committed to democracy. To breaking down the barriers in Britain which mean that the privileged, rich and powerful continue rule to the exclusion of the vast majority of our fellow citizens.
I will not forget Tony Benn, his sparkling eyes and ready smile, nor his infinite curiosity in fellow human beings which he showed in that brief encounter in Leeds 33 years ago.
Tony Benn lived a long life and was a man born into a highly political background. He met Gandhi and Lloyd George as a young man. He inherited a peerage...
The Tories like to get their own way.
They also think they can run the NHS like a private business.
And now David Cameron has broken his promise to stop “centrally dictated” closures of A&E and maternity wards with this terrible Care Bill.
The Tory Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt recently attempted to close parts of Lewisham hospital. Lewisham was running a perfectly successful hospital when the Tory attack on the NHS began.
The Trust Special Administrator (TSA) handpicked by Jeremy Hunt was employed to review South London Healthcare. The nearby and successful Lewisham hospital did not come under the remit of this job. However, he nearly caused devastation in his attempt to sell off Lewisham Hospital’s buildings and push patients to use other hospitals which were much, much further away.
These moves were met with extreme opposition from local residents and the government were eventually blocked from closing departments of Lewisham hospital by a High court ruling. The Judge ruled that Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt had acted completely outside of his powers.
So, in the face of opposition by the courts, the Tories are now trying to pass Clause 119 of the Care Bill.
This clause, popularly known as the ‘hospital closure clause’ is extremely worrying. It could see departments, or even entire hospitals close without proper consultation with specialists, consultants, staff or the local community, regardless of whether the hospital is doing well or not.
I have been contacted by many of my constituents expressing their concern over the passing of Clause 119 of this Bill and I would like to assure them all that I will be attending the vote and opposing this Tory power grab.
Amendment 16 (NC16)will secure the right of doctors and patients to be included in decision making and would not allow a Trust Special Administrator to close a department or hospital without consultation, this would at least attempt to balance local and national decision making.
I will vote for the fundamental principles of the NHS. We need to keep our hospitals safe from damage by opposing fast tracked and financially driven closure which occur without even the pretence of proper consultation.
The NHS is simply not safe in the Tories’ hands.
The Tories like to get their own way. They also think they can run the NHS like a private business. And now David Cameron has broken his promise to stop...
On Thursday, an important vote will go ahead in the Commons.
MP’s will be asked to decide whether or not to ban the inhumane, ineffective and tremendously costly badger cull pilot introduced by the Tories.
I have always supported animal rights and as such I will be voting to end the cull.
I know my constituents care deeply about animal rights and I have been contacted by many people who have expressed their abhorrence over the findings that the badger cull pilot was cruel and, ultimately, unsuccessful.
An independent analysis of the badger cull highlighted the outrageous failings of this Tory pilot. The analysis, commissioned by the Government and leaked through the BBC, found that pilot has not achieved its primary aim of reducing the spread of TB and has ended in a tremendously costly failure by the Government.
The cull has not only proven to be ineffective, it was also found to be inhumane. Up to 18% of culled badgers took longer than five minutes to die; this incredible suffering cannot go on.
The Government stipulated that 70 per cent of the badger population should be culled within a six-week period, however, estimates show the cull has slaughtered fewer than 40 percent. It is astounding that reportedly £7.29m of tax payer money has been wasted, with Care for the Wild animal charity estimating it cost £4,121 to cull each badger.
It is likely that the cull has actually increased the risk of bovine TB, by spreading the disease into surrounding areas. This could partly be due to the fact that injured badgers carrying TB, hit but not killed, end up disorientated and may wander in a confused state from their habitat and spread TB to other farms.
The failure of the badger cull clearly demonstrates total Tory incompetence and an unwillingness to listen to the widespread concern from communities, farmers and experts before the pilot began.
The Government need to be pushed to adopt a science-led, evidence-based approach to controlling TB. And there are better ways to stop the spread of TB.
I will be supporting the ban of the badger cull, on behalf of my constituents, to put an end to this money-wasting, ineffective and cruel scheme.
On Thursday, an important vote will go ahead in the Commons. MP’s will be asked to decide whether or not to ban the inhumane, ineffective and tremendously costly badger cull...
On Saturday, alongside Cllr David Dagger from Wakefield Council I cut the ribbon to officially open a new cycle path and bridleway. The Bridleway runs from Wood Lane near Newmillerdam all the way to the Trans Pennine Trail at Old Royston.
A large number of cyclists from all over the district came along, as did an array of hikers and horse riders. The cycle path welcomes every form of transport, but is free from motorised vehicles.
Cycling is a great sport to watch and can suit everyone, regardless of your level, whether it is for leisure or as a means of getting from one place to another.
I have been passionate about cycling for many years; I used to race regularly when I had more time and won a number of medals. Even though my time is now limited I still cycle several times a week.
The creation of the new bridleway, which is the final stage of the Chevet Branch Line Bridleway, is of particular success for the Wakefield District Cycle Forum as it acts as a ‘missing link’ connecting with the Trans Pennine Trail at Old Royston and from there connects to many places including Barnsley, Nostell and Normanton and Altofts.
I am convinced if more people got on their bikes, we would be a healthier country with less heart disease and obesity.
Cycling is well known to benefit overall health, reduce stress and help people lose weight. It is also a great way to save on transport costs and is great news for the environment.
I feel that due to the many cycle paths springing up in our area, beginner cyclists are more likely to get on their bikes and cycle confidently on a smooth surface, in a traffic free zone. These cycle paths are an asset to our community, it is a place to begin to educate everyone on the benefits of cycling, including our young people and teach them to cycle in a safe area.
After the opening ceremony, I had the pleasure of cycling the whole way back to my home, having to spend less than 10 minutes on open roads.
Thanks to everyone involved in the project and I look forward to more off road routes being opened in years to come.
On Saturday, alongside Cllr David Dagger from Wakefield Council I cut the ribbon to officially open a new cycle path and bridleway. The Bridleway runs from Wood Lane near Newmillerdam...
This week marks the sixth annual Apprenticeship Week; it was first launched by Labour in 2008 and is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service. It is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.
Apprenticeships offer help to the economy and hope to our young people.
Labour had a strong track record for apprenticeships in Government; the number of apprenticeships under the Labour Government rose from 65,000 in 1996/7 to 279,700 in our final year in office and completion rates rose from a 37 per cent to 71 per cent.
Sadly, under this Government, we have seen the number of apprenticeships decline.
In my constituency alone the number of people starting an apprenticeship has fallen between 2011/12-12/13 from 1,090 to 980.
The latest unemployment statistics are shocking, they show that nearly one million young people aged between 16 and 24 are now out of work.
It does not help that there are 25,000 fewer apprentices starting than there were last year.
With so many young people without a job, investing in apprenticeships is an integral part of creating a better economy that works for everyone instead of just a few. The Tory-led Government needs to step up to provide the apprenticeships we need.
I know from speaking to young people in my constituency that apprenticeships provide a huge benefit, not only for the apprentice but also for the businesses training them. The Association of Accounting Technicians found that Last year, due to the 980 apprenticeships in my constituency, a total of £1.9m in 2012/13 was raised by local businesses.
They offer a clear path to a career for thousands of young people in our area. Unfortunately, too many are still being left behind by a Government that takes an indifferent attitude towards them and their future.
The quality, not just the number, of apprenticeships also needs to be examined.
Under the Tory government there has been a steep increase in the number of apprentices not receiving their legal minimum wage. According to a recent survey published by the government, the number of apprentices not receiving the legal apprentice minimum wage has increased by 45%.
Furthermore, one in five apprenticeships lasts for less than six months. And according to the Government's own research, one in five apprentices report receiving neither on nor off the job training as part of their apprenticeship.
This is not good enough.
One Nation Labour will create a new universal standard for apprenticeships so that they are qualifications that employers and young people can trust. Labour would use the billions spent through public procurement to boost apprenticeship opportunities by requiring companies bidding for larger contracts to offer apprenticeships. The Government has refused to do this and voted down a Labour motion to make this happen.
This week marks the sixth annual Apprenticeship Week; it was first launched by Labour in 2008 and is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service. It is designed to celebrate apprenticeships...
Yesterday, a YouGov survey, published by The Times, found that the public would rather have an MP that has shoplifted in the past than an “Old Etonian”. This revelation must be uncomfortable reading for the 19 Tory MPs who attended the elite school.
The survey showed that only 5% of individuals chose shoplifting as an unacceptable admission and 13% chose having taken heroin or cocaine in the past. In contrast, 38% of those asked thought that being an “Old Etonian” was an objectionable attribute.
I know, from speaking with my constituents, many feel that too many in the government have had no real life experience and have lost touch with the real world – especially as a result of policy like the bedroom tax.
This feeling of frustration is unsurprising seeing as 54 per cent of Conservative MPs attended fee paying schools compared with just seven per cent of the school population.
There has clearly been a breakdown between the small closed circle which runs British society and the broad mass of ordinary people.
Indeed the proportion of Members of Parliament who attended independent schools has increased under the Tory Government - reversing the downward trend which was seen previously.
It is a problem at every level of society; to better represent our population we need more candidates who hold varied work experience and more individuals from more diverse backgrounds to change the way parliament works.
Labour is completely dedicated to creating a party which better represents our society.
I continue to promote fairness and equality, running Labour's Future Candidates Programme. This programme is designed to increase the diversity of candidates whilst recognising the barriers many individuals face, we therefore provide a huge amount of support with training and mentoring to overcome financial and cultural barriers.
We are looking for people from all kinds of backgrounds, not the usual kind of suspects who come from a political professional background.
Help Labour work towards a real change and to create a more representative Government.
Yesterday, a YouGov survey, published by The Times, found that the public would rather have an MP that has shoplifted in the past than an “Old Etonian”. This revelation...
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...