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  1. Mr. Speaker, This is it? Every family in the country is faced with an additional £1700 onto their energy bills and this is the best the government can do? The scheme the Prime Minister has announced today doesn't even begin to grapple with the cost of living challenge faced by millions up and down the country. The government has put forward a plan to only insulate 1.5% of UK homes, the scheme likely won't insulate those 400,000 homes in time for the winter and price hikes and everyone else is told to hold on tight as their household budgets are decimated? Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister talks of this being a scheme of unprecedented ambition; to the 24 million households across this scheme who won't feel any benefit it is an insult. I want to be absolutely clear Mr. Speaker that the Labour Party unreservedly supports any effective insulation scheme. It is an improvement that 400,000 households across the country will finally see the benefits of insulation. We have repeatedly called on the government to do better on this front since April and insulate 2 million homes. Their failure then has now led the government to panic and rush to produce something they hope is passable but is fundamentally flawed. But it is a change of pace from the past 12 years of failure not overseen by 'government's of all parties', but primarily a failure overseen by the Conservative Party, who had cut investment into insulation at a time we needed it most. If this government is hoping a slap dash and quick insulation scheme can compensate for this decade of failure, they need to wake up and smell the coffee. Because we need to see something bigger and bolder than this, Mr. Speaker. The Labour Party has made clear that if the government put forward a decade long proposal to insulate all of Britain's houses the benefits would be immense. Less reliance on Russian energy - or gas and oil in general. A 10% reduction in our carbon emissions. Economic growth across the country. 450,000 jobs created. Bills slashed for every household by £600. Cases of people dying of cold and asthma reduced. If the government had shown real courage, real determination, and real ambition for our country and the nations, regions and towns within it that would be what they were announcing today. Instead, what we see is a timid and last minute hashed out plan that the government hopes looks like action. But it isn't nearly enough. Even more worrying, Mr. Speaker, are the holes in the plan: I fear the government has not put enough investment or manpower towards a scheme that is already limited in scope. I will always commend British troops without reservation, and their willingness to step in and help insulate these homes during a cost of living crisis shows their unwavering commitment to British public service. But it is not the job of the British army to insulate our homes, and them needing to step in shows that where the army has shown service this government has shown failure. Labour's own projections are that for the government's scheme to work, we'd need 5,000 skilled workers. The government is only offering 1,000 from this scheme. Did the government consult the MoD to see if they had the skilled capacity to carry out the scheme? Were they consulted to see the impact putting British soldiers elsewhere would have on Britain's combat readiness? The truth is, Mr. Speaker, that despite the valiant and best efforts of our army there is the real risk of government incompetence leading to even an insulation scheme this unambitious will not meet the targets it has set. The government have made it clear this scheme is entirely voluntary - so what plans does it have in terms of outreach? How will the government ensure that every single one of the 400,000 homes eligible for this scheme will know of the scheme and know how to sign up to it? We need to be clear, Mr. Speaker, that the decision to employ the army isn't only impractical, but this profound lack of ambition and fear to invest in our towns will mitigate some of the most beneficial aspects of an insulation programme, with fewer jobs likely to be created, fewer workers upskilled and the impact of growth likely to be less felt across communities. An insulation programme isn't just an effective way for us to cut bills and hit net zero: it's a powerful tool for us to level up, one the government has clearly given up on completely. British families up and down the country needed to see an effective cost of living package to get them through this winter and the following year, Mr. Speaker. And in the meantime the government should have rolled out a comprehensive, long term insulation scheme that insulated all of Britain's homes to leave households in a more secure position in future winters while creating jobs and wealth in the process. Hearing the Prime Minister's words today, and hearing the fanfare he built for this measure, I had almost allowed myself to feel a false sense of hope. A sense of hope this government was finally prepared to take the cost of living crisis seriously. Hope this government would finally take the threat of climate change seriously. Hope that it could provide real support for families in a genuinely ambitious attempt to tackle both challenges. Instead, we're only met with a sense that the government and Prime Minister have rushed to try and do something - anything - that could give them good PR while they avoid taxing oil and gas giants who have used the global energy crisis to mop up every penny they can from hard working British families. The government is offering the British people crumbs: only 1.5% of households seeing any benefit from the government’s scheme while oil and gas giants are given licence by this government to make record profits. If this is the Prime Minister's interpretation of ambition, Mr. Speaker, I worry for British people in the months ahead. We need a government that is so much more ambitious than this. We know it is possible: Labour has both outlined to this government a plan to insulate 2 million homes a year and a fully costed package to help families with the cost of living. But instead we are left with a government which is on the side of oil and gas giants over working families, and a Prime Minister who is out of touch, out of steam and out of ideas.
  2. Good afternoon, And thank you for joining me. I know after an uneventful week you’ll be hanging onto everything I say. The last week has made clear there’s only one sector that can depend on this Conservative Party, and that’s tabloid journalism. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is crying out for a new economic vision. Just as in 1979 Britain had to confront that its economic model was no longer working, we must once again confront the reality that our approach has once again become stale. Underneath the democratic demand we leave the European Union there was something more profound: a demand for change and taking back control. Under the neoliberal consensus we’ve operated under, that loss of control has been felt by communities for too long. Despite empty free market rhetoric of giving people more control over their lives, the reality is that people feel as if their fate and their destiny has been outsourced to unaccountable corporations, to unaccountable bureaucrats in Whitehall or – as we’ve seen in recent days – to the whims of politicians and governments abroad. There is a reason the slogan of the Leave campaign resonated so profoundly with the British public, even those who voted Remain. But while we’ve left the European Union, we’ve had Conservative governments refuse to return that control to the British people. This hasn’t just worn down the social fabric of our country, with Britons feeling more lonely, more divided and more powerless than before. It has economic consequences too. The Conservative Party has resided over continuous low growth, low productivity and low wages. These are not coincidences. Instead of an economic model which promises wealth creation, the reality is we’ve seen wealth extraction. The Tories’ low growth economy has unhealthily coincided with record profits for the richest few every year and Britain producing more and more billionaires exclusively from its upper middle classes. The privatisation and outsourcing of public resources meant for everyone has done little to benefit British families, but has gone far in establishing a crony capitalism that profited from the pandemic on the back of taxpayers. All this while workers in the North and Midlands struggle on insecure pay and conditions, knowing their children and grandchildren will only have avenues opened for them if they move to the capital. Communities that once powered Britain through industrial revolutions and wars have been left operating call centres or Amazon warehouses, taking dignity and opportunity from these proud towns. Meanwhile professionals in London and the South East wonder if they’ll ever be able to afford a home and securely raise a family despite doing everything society told them to do. While the rest of the country has been neglected, Londoners have been hurt by an overheated economy and housing market. This is not sustainable. I want to be clear: I do not believe the solutions do not lie in the Old Labour solutions to centralise, nationalise and create a command economy. Those solutions were necessary and worked when it came to guiding our country through a great war and its aftermath. But they ceased to work then, and they won’t get us through this challenge now. Similarly, while New Labour harnessed a neoliberal economic model to share prosperity and opportunity, we must be frank that in the wake of the global financial crisis an uncritical embrace of the current economic model will no longer work and deliver the change the British people demand. William Croft and Cole Harris are simply not up to the job. They want more and more of the model that has for too long been allowed to let Britain fail. Instead of prioritising investing in the country and in the small businesses that put in the graft, they want to hand £20 billion in a corporation tax cut to big multinational corporations. While the former Chancellor decried inequality, his interventions have simply not stepped up to the challenge. A bailout for energy companies here and the creation of an advisory quango within the Treasury there won’t create good jobs in Hartlepool or help young people afford a home in Hampstead. It is completely devoid from grappling with the economic reality of so many working families. I want to be clear before I outline some of the policies Labour will support both now and the future: when the challenge is this grand, no policy is a single silver bullet. But if we’re going to even need to address the problems so many feel, we need to begin to allow the British people to take back control and to have more agency within their community, their workplaces and their public services. That will be the underpinning of our economic strategy. Firstly, while William Croft tries a divide and conquer strategy on public sector pay – deeming that some public sector workers wages will drive up inflation, some won’t, and letting off the people at the top who continue to have massive bonuses funded by record profits – Labour is clear that we must listen to public sector pay boards to find a reasoned way forward. But we know all too often that while public sector pay boards make recommendations informed by fantastic industry representatives we know their sector, the recommendations are often too separated from the lived reality of workers who have seen their pay squeezed or even cut in real terms time and time again in the past decade and are being told once again to make immense sacrifices during a cost of living crisis. We can find a path forward. But it’s crucial workers’ voices are an integral part of that. That is why Labour would pledge to put workers on public sector pay boards. Their personal experience is vital for us finding a compromise. We know when workers are put into crucial decision making processes, they participate reasonably and effectively: the Low Pay Commission has been a resounding success not in spite of but because of the Trade Union representatives within it. And we need to ensure workers have a bigger stake in their workplace and their voices are heard throughout the economy and throughout different sectors. That is why Labour would legislate that workers are represented on company boards, guaranteeing workers have representation and a stronger voice in their workplaces. We have seen that this model in Germany doesn’t just increase job security, but has a positive effect on investment. When a company has a range of voices from the shop floor to the very top contributing, it’s more likely to make stronger decisions on its day to day management. And we must give sectors that are vital to our economy and society more recognition and prestige. When establishing our sectoral fair pay agreement structures, we’d ensure Royal Colleges are established across those sectors, starting with social care and retail, so workers are given a national voice to improve standards and inform policy. And we must ensure that we prioritise British industry and ensure we make, sell and buy more in Britain. Prioritising our industry should have always been a given, but recent events have made the case for an industrial strategy. As Chancellor, I would immediately begin work on an industrial strategy and make industrial strategy a cornerstone to our economic strategy. We have a fantastic manufacturing sector, but we know if it was prioritised it could be world leading. We know we can make more in Britain, but we choose not to, letting so much of Britain’s potential and the potential of workers, towns and communities across Britain go to waste and contributing significantly to our low productivity economy. Abandoning industrial strategy was one of the most self-destructive things done by this Conservative government, met with derision from the TUC and the CBI alike as it left businesses and industries without a framework to tackle the challenges facing businesses and the country, removing business certainty and disincentivising investment into Britain in the process. And we know a well-crafted industrial strategy can be a crucial asset in the challenge to level up the country. But it is crucial that towns and communities across Britain are provided not just with more power, but with more wealth in the process. I would prioritise the levelling up agenda. That’s why in the Treasury, a Labour government would immediately set up a local wealth building unit with representatives of each of the UK’s regions and nations so we can come up with a bold and clear strategy to level up with clear targets that must be met, with our first priority to be a root and branch review of Treasury green book rules so that strict orthodoxy can no longer hold back the potential of Britain’s towns. For too long, we’ve been told if money is put in the hands of the largest multinationals and Whitehall we can trust that it is put back in the pocket of workers, towns and communities. And for too long we’ve seen poor decisions be made nationally and locally, because those most empowered to make the best decisions are disempowered. It’s time we follow some old fashioned common sense and put that money back in the hands of the communities it is meant to serve. Only Labour will put an end to our failed economic model and forge a new way forwards instead of more of the same. A Labour Treasury’s priority will be restoring power to communities, workers, and families across Britain – to you: and we’d ensure we grant the funding to boot. Thank you.
  3. Mr. Speaker, Before I continue, I want to make one thing clear: the Labour Party welcomes the government’s multiple u-turns as it’s become increasingly clear the scale of the situation we were facing. After a week of Ministers showing indifference in the face of an unprecedented cost of living crisis, we have finally seen some level of action. I am glad we have pushed the government into keeping its original cost of living proposals and I am glad the government has ensured the energy price cap will not rise this winter. Whatever issues I have with the proposals – believe you me Mr. Speaker there are issues – my constituents and people up and down the country, for this winter at least, will be provided with a temporary respite that will get them through the worst of this winter. That is always something the Labour Party will welcome, and though we did not get everything we wanted I am glad the Labour Party went some way in pushing for action on the cost of living crisis in the face of Conservative indifference. That is the difference Labour in opposition makes, and the case for Labour in power could never be stronger. Because Mr. Speaker we must be clear that what the Conservatives have offered households today is not enough. The Conservatives have stretched out the costs and told the British public to be grateful for it. When the former Chancellor, the Right Honourable Member for Richmond Yorks, told this very House he would give energy companies a loan to get us through the crisis, we knew that bailout was not good enough. Now we're given a bigger bailout with interest payments attached and are told it is the panacea for struggling households. This represents what constitutes a significant bailout for energy companies: a bailout that doesn't pass the smell tests when those very companies are making a profit. I know Centrica will bemoan that British Gas “only” made profits of £97million. But we should be clear Centrica made 1.3 billion in profit. When being on the precipice of financial oblivion, the British public will not be shedding tears for Centrica and other oil and gas giants who have had to endure the misery of £97 million in profit in a single division of their business. And when 75% of energy is domestically sourced, we need to make clear it is a deliberate choice to put up prices for consumers. It is fair to ask them to cut bills instead of demand the taxpayer fund a bailout and consumers pick up the tab for it later down the line. We need to be clear Mr. Speaker that when asked to provide any financial relief for hard working families the Prime Minister and Chancellor refuse, dither and eventually are forced into providing that relief kicking and screaming if we’re lucky. But the moment the gas and oil giants ask for a handout the government will provide that – £6.8 billion in taxpayers’ money, I’ll add – proudly and without a second thought. All while a 5% hike is still forced on consumers with interest on top for the long term. This is still a deal that prioritises oil and gas giants over businesses and families across Britain which is why the Labour Party will be opposing it. Because while the government are adamant interest payments will go back to the Treasury, we know exactly how energy companies will make up the shortfall put on them through interest payments: by putting the cost onto consumers. The interest payment the government have put on the energy companies is little more than an extra tax on energy bills. That £6.8 billion will have to be paid back, and we know energy companies will not hesitate to make British consumers bear the brunt of that bill. A £6.8 billion bill. We also know the Chancellor’s claims to save the average household £1,000 are wrong because his sums are based on an annual cap. I know he isn’t a fan of doing his homework, but this loan only covers three months. This bailout is snake oil because the Chancellor knows he could have chosen Labour’s plan, to provide further support to every household and to extend that additional support to the most vulnerable as Labour has offered. I suspect the government knows that this delays instead of cuts costs. But because they know how poorly the former Chancellor’s energy company bailout was received, they have tried to present this as something it is not to the British public. So, Mr. Speaker, Labour is clear that gas and energy giants should be taxed to support British households through this crisis, the Conservatives are adamant that it is the consumers that have to pay in the end, with their plan creating the conditions for consumers having to deal with higher energy bills in years to come. And this £6.8 billion is not risk free. If you owe a bank £100, that’s your problem. If you owe a bank £1 million – or, let’s say hypothetically, £6.8 billion Mr. Speaker, that’s theirs. On top of a cost of living crisis the government has now made the viability of energy company's the British taxpayer's problem. And, as this government have been privy to doing, this Chancellor and Prime Minister have swindled taxpayers’ money on a political bet, with all of us needing to pick up the pieces if that bet falls through. I know the Prime Minister has enjoyed discussing Labour's proposals. I think there is some well needed clarification: The government seems to think the Labour Party is not committed to long term solution because we do not think the solution is to pollute the country, wreck our planet and trash our net zero goals. But we know that investing in cheaper and more effective renewables can bring Britain closer to energy independence, push down bill costs and help us reach our net zero target. But the government has not announced a single initiative which would support Britain’s renewable energy sector. We know we need to work with global partners to come up with a wider strategy to resolve Britain’s supply chain issues. The government has not shown that it has even began to take that global action, let alone act on it. But we also know that to get people through the winter, the sacrifice cannot be made by British taxpayers and consumers at the expense of oil and gas giants. While people’s wages will be driven down, the government has made clear to oil and gas companies that their profits can stay high in the process. That cannot stand. This hashed out loan, a tribute act of previous ineffective government schemes makes one thing clear - we have a government that is out of ideas, out of steam and out of touch. Only a Labour government will be on the side of British households, not oil and gas giants who have profited from a cost of living crisis we have all had to suffer through.
  4. After visiting foodbanks in Dewsbury with the Leader of the Opposition Dame Arya West, the Shadow Chancellor Jim Riley gave a speech to the press: “Good afternoon, First, I’d like to pay tribute to the volunteers and campaigners who work at food banks, meal centre or soup kitchens across the country. As the Conservatives have allowed poverty and inequality fester, it shows there is still so much our country has to be proud of that people stepped up and ensured the most vulnerable were fed through these most difficult of times. Every volunteer I have met is brilliant and dedicated, and if their energy was not spent fighting the poverty created by this government I know our country could go on to achieve even greater things. We thought it was bad when we saw the rise of foodbanks in Britain. All of us here want to see a government that will put foodbanks to an end. Instead, we are left with the grim reality where some are ending because people across the country are having to scale back and are no longer able to keep food banks supplied. In a matter of weeks, we know energy bills could be as high as £4000 a year. Addressing this should be the Chancellor’s main priority. Instead, he is spending time in Parliament reciting sermons and tweeting. When he is confronted with questions on how he'll resolve the cost of living, he'll simply roll his eyes as if he is the one inconvenienced. I know he has never had to choose between heating and eating – the only electricity expense he’s ever worried about is his luxury air conditioning. I know he’s never been too afraid to open an energy bill. But his absolute refusal to even discuss the cost-of-living crisis, let alone address it, feels like a slap in the face for the millions of hard working families across the country who take on more hours and can’t keep up with their bills rising. This is my promise to the British people: I know what it’s like to worry about going without. It is my priority that I would work tirelessly, night and day, to draft viable proposals that will ensure that you can put food on the table through these hard times. Thankfully, Labour have already forced the government’s hand. After demanding a windfall tax on oil and gas companies who have made record profits so that we can help people through this cost-of-living crisis, we saw reasonable proposals that saw every household supported but with support targeted towards those struggling the most. So unlike the Chancellor who has already given up on the hard work the Treasury put towards supporting families this winter, I’ll promise this: Labour would keep those proposals almost in full to provide a lifeline for families up and down the country through the coming months. However, there’s three problems we have identified with the original package. Firstly, far from supporting families through a cost of living crisis by fairly taxing oil and gas giants who have made unprecedented profit in the previous months, Rishi Sunak still find time to give a £1.9 billion tax handout to oil and gas giants. Since those profits have increased even further, we know the handout he has given them will be significantly bigger. Oil and gas giants aren’t worried about their breadline; but working people are. To have given them a significant tax break was reprehensible. Secondly, while the original cost of living proposals were distributed effectively – with those needing the most support receiving it – there was one area in which it fell short: in supporting children and families with children through the winter. Households receiving lump sums of support have seen that money more eroded should they have children. With 4 million children in the UK in poverty, it is clear more must be done to safeguard and feed children. Labour is clear that is the priority. Last, we understand that this was a cost-of-living package designed to address a much less sharp rise in energy bills than we anticipated and its clear a further wave of support is needed. There is good news though: we can address the second and third problem and partially fund it through the first. By doing this, we can provide stronger cost of living support that can be funded through the multiple tax handouts and giveaways that have been handed to the wealthiest and most well connected in the past decade. Labour has always been clear that the livelihoods of British households, not the profits of the wealthiest few, must be prioritised. This is a plan that makes clear moral sense but also makes business and economic sense: if consumers can’t even afford the basics, what hope do they have in going out and buying from our high streets? As well as removing the Chancellor’s tax handout to oil and gas companies, we’d scale back on his immoral proposals to scale back the bank surcharge, we’d remove the ineffective business asset disposal relief and we’d clamp down on loopholes in inheritance tax which have done little for farmers but has given loopholes that the rich have exploited to avoid paying their fair share. With this, we can create a further cost of living package designed for the winter to supplement the existing package. It would include a £500 cost of living payment to Universal Credit recipients this winter. It would include further measures to support children and families with children through the crisis – by providing £200 to all children receiving the child element of UC. And we would eliminate VAT on domestic fuel: so while the Chancellor looks to keep taxes on oil and gas giants as low as possible, we’re clear we’d look to keep taxes on ordinary families as low as possible, saving the average household up to £100 in the process. Everyone is struggling through this crisis and is worried about the winter ahead. We’d provide every household with the support they need – up to an extra £350. But, more crucially, we would work tirelessly to ensure the poorest households in the country do not go under as a result of profiteering from energy giants by providing the most vulnerable households with a further £900. Protecting working households is my first and utmost priority as Shadow Chancellor. All of this will be fully funded with the measures I have outlined today alongside the additional tax receipts the government has stated it will be receiving. But I want to be clear: there are two interloping crises and what Labour is proposing today won’t resolve those. The current energy crisis and crisis of inflation can still be solved in the longer term. The Chancellor must actively be part of a global effort to strategies and resolve supply chain issues, and must take the necessary action to reach net zero so we are no longer reliant on the whims of despots and dictators. And there is a long term crisis of poverty in Britain, created by the Tories refusal to craft a strategy that will boost wages and their insistence of implementing a welfare system that is punitive and cruel and punishes working families the most. The Chancellor must also acknowledge and get to grips with this. But these are long term solutions. British households need a lifeline to get them through this winter. Only Labour's plan is providing that funded, credible lifeline for working families, and we will be fighting tooth and nail to force this Chancellor to support hard working families." The Leader of the Opposition, Dame Arya West, then spoke: "Thank you Jim. It is important as politicians to never lose touch with the real and pressing issues that people are facing in their lives. The issues we are elected to help solve. Today is a stark reminder of that. A country as wealthy as Britain should not need foodbanks. The people who volunteer here and donate represent the absolute very best of Britain. But the fact that they have to exist at all should be a wake up call. If a country as wealthy as Britain should not need foodbanks, then what does it say that a country as wealthy as Britain is struggling to even find people in local communities with enough spare to donate to them? This cost of living crisis is real. My message to William Croft is this - you need to get real. Rein in your part time Chancellor, get him off twitter, and get him in Parliament offering real solutions and real relief, not empty platitudes and religious sermons. And we’re here to help. Jim has already laid out measures we can take to get more money to struggling families right now, building on the cost of living package the previous government delivered under pressure from Labour. But I want to talk specifically on energy costs. Very shortly, Ofgem is expected to announce a further £1,200 to £1,500 increase in the energy price cap. That is a financial disaster. People simply cannot afford it. To William Croft and Michael Marshall, that probably means a bit of belt-tightening. To your struggling family in Britain, it means making the kind of hard personal choices that you associate with the past, not a modern wealthy country. Can they afford to be warm. Can they afford to feed themselves and their kids well. Can they afford the basic necessities of life. This too will pass. The global energy crisis will not last forever. But people need real help while it’s here. And what they need like a hole in the head is for the people charging them those prices to be paying out record dividends. So Labour would introduce two further changes to support families with energy costs, which I promised during my leadership campaign. The first is on the energy price cap. Currently, the energy price cap is about as effective as a chocolate teapot. As soon as wholesale prices rise, the cap rises automatically. That is despite the fact that many suppliers benefit from higher wholesale prices. The point of a cap is to shield working families from these wild, and temporary, swings in prices by sharing the risk associated with energy providers, and prevent excess profiteering on the back of a basic human necessity; when most energy we use is produced domestically.. It utterly fails in that. Energy companies are planning to pay out billions in dividends on the back of record profits, and wild swings in prices on energy markets are simply being passed right through to consumers without any of that burden being shared by the companies who should take a fair share of the pain, or at the very least should not be benefitting. It comes down to this: energy is a basic human need and a social good, it is not just a privately traded good like something you should buy in the high street. Energy companies have a social obligation to provide a public service that people cannot live without, not just a profit motive. The Shadow Energy Secretary will set out our plans for resetting the regulatory environment for energy and water so ensure that they fulfil social obligations as public services, not just a profit motive. But in the meantime, Labour is calling for a stronger and more effective energy cap now, urgently, so that struggling families are not faced with excessive bill rises. We would achieve this with a temporary “price brake” mechanism in the energy price cap.That brake will share the cost of the increase in wholesale energy prices between the profits of the energy supplier and the consumer rather than entirely passed on. This is important as a matter of principle and would mean a smaller increase in energy bills this Winter. Ofgem would, effectively, take a longer-term view in setting energy price caps. Rather than expecting consumers to take all the pain right now from higher wholesale energy prices, it would look for a more stable energy price cap that fairly shared the impact of the instability we are seeing right now. That measure would include risk sharing measures in the industry to support smaller energy suppliers who do not have domestic sources of wholesale energy, like the big energy companies making record profits. The second measure we would take is to return the proceeds of growing revenues from the Emissions Trading Scheme to consumers. While other environmental levies return benefits to consumers in lower prices and insulation, the Emissions Trading Scheme imposes net costs. It is a critical part of our net zero ambitions as a country by limiting and creating a market for emissions in the UK. The price will rise, and revenues from the Government will rise. This year, the Government expects to raise nearly £6 billion in revenue - nearly £5 billion more than last year. Our policy would be to pay low and middle income households a twice-yearly “green dividend” equal to the money raised from the emissions trading scheme. This will support people with the rising cost of living, but also support our economy in a just transition to net zero Our intention would be that all households, except those with a higher rate taxpayer, would receive a twice-yearly payment based on their household size. The average household under this plan would receive more than £250 this year - a real help with rising living costs. This would simply be extra unexpected revenue foregone - rather than a new cost on the government. The package that Jim and I have outlined today is a credible, funded, fair response to the cost of living crisis. It recognises the immediate urgency of the crisis that millions of families are facing. William Croft and Michael Marshall now have a choice. They can adopt our common-sense proposals. I can promise that we won’t charge royalties. Or they can leave millions of families at the mercy of their cost of living crisis. For Labour, there would be only one choice right now. I urge them to make the right one. Thank you."
  5. Speech to the TUC: “The future of work: building a new deal on employment and workers’ rights” Keir Starmer's PPS, Jim Riley, spoke to the TUC. His remarks were: "Friends, It’s an honour to speak to the TUC, which represents our Labour movement, today. A movement that is not only crucial to our party founded by the Trade Unions that have loyally supported us ever since, but to the wider country. Eighty years ago, when the threat of Nazism threatened Britain’s values and the world, Trade Unions worked with the government to keep the country moving, producing and fighting. And just last year when the coronavirus pandemic threatened our livelihoods, NHS and economy the Trade Unions once again stepped up to the plate for workers, creating the furlough scheme that saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, helping deliver PPE on the frontline and so much more. In recent years, it is right our party has acknowledged the importance of business in producing prosperity and jobs. But if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that for a few years we could live without CEOs and big bosses, but we couldn’t live without our key workers. While we stayed at home, they put themselves at immense risk to keep shelves stacked, the lights on and hospitals running. We owe workers an immense gratitude – but let’s be clear: we always have. A business would be nothing without workers to sustain it and build it up. And yet while billionaires have raked in the cash throughout the pandemic and this government has funnelled billions of taxpayers’ money to donors and friends, workers are still going without. Wages have been stagnant for more than a decade. Work is more insecure than ever. We used to speak of work as the great route out of poverty, but now it feels after a decade of Tory rule it is the new poverty trap. I’m not calling to destroy the balance between business and workers. And I do not think this is what the Trade Union movement wants either – but it is time that balance is restored after decades of stagnant wages, poor conditions and power being concentrated into the hands of very few. It is time we reward carers with good pay and conditions instead of a round of applause on a Thursday night. It is time that instead of donating to and running foodbanks, we work to ensure workers never have to use one ever again. And it’s time that if companies like British Gas and British Airways want to use our name and our flag, they also make use of our values and treat workers with dignity and respect. That should – that will – be Labour’s core mission in government. Just as workers should deliver on their end of the bargain by showing up and doing a good days’ work as they always have done, it is time businesses fulfil theirs and deliver dignity and a good days’ pay. Businesses and workers collaborating to create and then share prosperity: that doesn’t have to be a utopia. It can be Britain’s reality. We have seen the Union movement step up to the plate and work with government and businesses in the national interest. But the Tories are disinterested in doing anything but hoarding wealth for the rich and well connected instead of for the wider country. Labour will work tirelessly to deliver for working people. That is why in the first 100 days in office, we would introduce Fair Pay Agreements to bring together representatives of workers and businesses in every sector to negotiate wages, so we begin the process of a race to the top for wages, not the race to the bottom we have seen in recent years. And we’re clear a crucial part of that will be banning the grotesque fire and rehire practices the Tories have allowed to fester through this pandemic. To tackle bad bosses, we’ll work to identify those bosses who often manipulate contracts and employment law to excuse bad practice. That’s why we’ll establish just one definition of a worker under law, and we will end the fractured system of employment which allows workers to be unfairly classified as self-employed despite putting their hours solely towards one business instead of themselves, being denied holiday pay, sick pay and parental leave in the process. And it is why Labour will put an end to mandatory zero hours contracts. We support flexible work and labour, but for too long the flexibility has been completely in the hands of employers and not for workers. And for that reason, Labour will put the right to flexible working into law. We’ve seen home working bring untold benefits to workers during the pandemic: more quality time with their families, lower costs, more control over their hours and increased productivity in the process. It is right that this is a benefit workers continue to enjoy in a post pandemic world. And we’ll further add legislation additional allowances for those who have caring responsibilities. The Tories have no argument against this fair settlement for workers. They know it’s wrong employers like Deliveroo will arbitrarily call their workers self-employed so that they can deny them sick pay or a holiday. They know it’s wrong employers like British Gas will fire masses of their staff – not because they can’t afford them or because they’ve been bad workers, but simply to bring them back on worse pay and worse conditions. And they know it’s wrong employers like Wetherspoons will attempt to deny their workers sick pay after they’re doing the right thing and self-isolating after contracting coronavirus. I even suspect they know that the simplest and cheapest way to level up this country as they’ve promised is to just give workers a voice and a stake. Instead, they’ll tell the Union movement they supported them through the pandemic that it is anti-business. We know it’s a falsehood. We know many businesses want to do the right thing and stand by their staff: many already do. But because the government want us to race to the bottom, they won’t be rewarded but will instead lose out. Labour will have their back and support them in fostering strong relationships with their workers. Instead of pitting business and worker against each other, we’re clear they can work as one unit. And we’ll all be better off for it. That is Labour’s founding vision and founding philosophy: everyone having a stake in their workplace, their life, and their community. Trade Unions are the most powerful driving force in achieving that society. And just as unions have had our back, we’ll be clearly we’ll have yours too. Thank you."
  6. Mr. Speaker, While I thank the Honourable Member for Penrith and the Border for his interjection, I’ll quote what the Foreign Secretary said on the sum of UK intelligence: He said and I quote “The central proposition was that, given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you would see a steady deterioration from that point, and that it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year.” When, not if. And despite having months there was no clear contingency planning, no clear preparation for a worst case scenario, nothing. The Honourable Gentleman should know this. It is the Foreign Affairs Select Committee he sits on which gave this warning to the government. I’m afraid his warnings fell on deaf ears. As for accusations which have come from Conservative Members of the House who have riled themselves up over fantasies that if I were in charge I would simply sit on my thumbs, I would just gently remind them should focus their ire to the reality that it was the Foreign Secretary who was sat on a sun lounger as Kabul fell.
  7. Mr. Speaker, I'm going to have to respond to the statement the Member for Rugby because to me it just epitomises the learned helplessness of this government which leaves us looking inept and inactive on the world stage. He mischaracterises my statement by saying I wanted the Prime Minister to merely discuss a refugee resettlement scheme while Afghanistan plunged into chaos and to do little to nothing else. That's wrong on two fronts. Firstly, in the shorter term, the Honourable Gentleman acts as if the United Kingdom had two choices: an evacuation mission in Afghanistan or establishing a refugee programme, preferably an international one, that would provide urgent assistance to former government employees, journalists, ethnic and religious minorities, women and LGBT people. We know that is a completely false dichotomy. Government consists of more than one cog, and any Defence Secretary and Prime Minister worth their salt have been perfectly able to manage Operation Pitting and ensured government was working towards other aims. But where was the Home Secretary? Nowhere to be seen. Where was the Foreign Secretary? On a beach in Crete. And the Permanent Secretaries for the MoD, Home Office and Foreign Office were also too busy catching a tan and holidaying. All while, as the Gentleman outlines, Kabul burned and the Taliban hanged people in every city. Mr. Speaker, where was the initiative, the urgency or discipline from government in this moment of crisis? If the Foreign Secretary had time to go on holiday, and if the Home Secretary has the time to... well, we're still not quite sure what she is doing with her time other than briefing right wing media outlets, we could have had the foundations of a global plan for refugees in place by now if not an entire implementable strategy. Instead, the Prime Minister has told 20,000 Afghan employees, women, gay people, journalists, Christians, and many others who put their life on the line to help the British mission that they will be able to come to the UK "in time." All while, as the Honourable Gentleman has said, Kabul burns and people are hanged in every city. It's so pathetic that the government only this month has appointed a Minister tasked with overseeing Afghan refugees. We do not have a wider intelligence strategy, a strategy to deal with the Taliban regime, a strategy for aid or a strategy for regime. And every moment Tory backbenchers craft excuses the more that becomes clear - and the more they insult the British public. But let's take the Member for Rugby at his word, Mr. Speaker. After all, it is not out of the realm of possibility that this government is too inept to establish a comprehensive plan or do more than one thing at a time. The problem with even that proposition is the government had months to prepare for this. We're told by the government they need to be cut slack as there was flawed intelligence. But we know Mr. Speaker the flaw in the intelligence was not if Kabul would fall but how fast it would fall. The decision to withdraw was made eighteen months prior to withdrawal at Doha and four months prior the timetable for withdrawal was established, and yet no preparations had been made for a worst case scenario or, it seems, any scenario at all. The consequences of this incompetence are incomprehensible, Mr. Speaker. In July, the Shadow First Secretary of State warned the government they were not adequately preparing for that withdrawal. In May, the Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces was making those same warnings after the Foreign Select Committee warned of the grave consequences of the government's lack of preparedness for the upcoming withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was not something the government received no warning for, and so this failure and this shame is theirs and theirs alone. Our armed forces cobbled together, at the very last minute, a record breaking evacuation programme we can all be proud of. But think about what we could have had if more preparation had been made from the government. Ministers would not be on the airwaves at the very least admitting that people would be left behind and would die, and we would have a comprehensive strategy to deal with this dark new reality that faces the global community. We would be able to have the framework for a strategy on refugees, on aid, on security and a wider strategy for dealing with the Taliban, all while enacting an evacuation programme that could have saved the necessary British and Afghan lives alike. But that is not the world we live in. The government should hang their head in shame for that, and Members like the Gentleman for Rugby should join them for encouraging their delusion.
  8. Mr. Speaker, Allow me to echo what I imagine will be the sentiments of the whole House in expressing my gratitude and pride in the Armed servicemen and women who were on the ground through Operation Pitting and the wider Afghan mission. Their bravery and immense sacrifice, for 457 troops that ultimate sacrifice was paid for with their lives, can feel futile. But to those watching I want to make clear that your efforts were not in vain. There are countless people who are here today because of that sacrifice, whether that is those of us at home who are safe from the terrorist threat that emerged in Afghanistan, women who were able to receive the education they needed to live a more prosperous life and Afghans alive because of UK landmine clearing and water sanitation efforts. It is easy to give into despair when so much of the progress we fought and shed blood for has evaporated right in front of us. But we should all stress today that British bravery and sacrifice was not in vain. From beginning to the end, we saw immense heroism, courage and professionalism: thank you. And that thanks should also be extended to journalists, aid workers and UK diplomats in Afghanistan who have also worked tirelessly to save lives, let alone our fantastic Ambassador in Afghanistan who stayed behind at great risk to the very last possible minute to get everyone he could past the line. This indescribable public service feels like such a contrast to a government that throughout this process has shown complacency, weakness and selfishness. And to have government Ministers and the backbenchers that prop them up come to this House and bray about showing leadership rubs salt into that wound. The government have a tendency to rewrite history Mr. Speaker. A recent example that comes to mind is the Prime Minister claiming he conveniently sacked the Member for West Suffolk a day after he defended him and made the conscious decision to keep him in Cabinet after he was caught breaking the coronavirus rules he made. Not content with painting mirages for the British public, he wants to try and do it to desperate Afghans too. So now we're hearing that the former Foreign Secretary showed leadership from his Crete resort as Afghanistan fell and thousands of British and Afghan lives were put into danger. We all know the Prime Minister has a history of making grandiose comments he can never follow through on, Mr. Speaker - and we have a garden bridge and a road to Northern Ireland to show for it. But when thousands of Afghan lives depend on those promises, the government's pattern of promising and not delivering cannot do. Promises on refugee resettlement programmes cannot be believed when we look at a Prime Minister who scrapped the Dubs scheme after promising not to, and that's before we acknowledge the United Kingdom's paltry offer to begin with. We rightly encouraged women and girls in Afghanistan to take advantage of an education and to strive for positions of power. The same women and girls we supported are the ones in the most danger as the Taliban target them: the idea they can wait until we do something "down the line" would be laughable if it was not so bewildering and cruel. The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary or Home Secretary could have worked with key allies to create a global resettlement scheme which could be acting now to provide safe and legal routes for the most vulnerable in Afghanistan - former government employees, LGBT+ people, ethnic minorities, religious minorities and women. Instead, they have been told to wait and see. We know the Taliban will not wait and see, Mr. Speaker. And it's clear there is no strategy to support Afghanistan through what will clearly become a humanitarian disaster. I note the Prime Minister didn't even bother to mention international or humanitarian aid in his speech, months after he cut Afghanistan's aid budget in half: a decision which we now know will have devastating consequences and will leave Britain looking like it would abandon the people it pledged to protect at the most critical moment, diminishing our image on the world stage when we were promised a global Britain. It is important that Britain's aid budget does not end up in the hands of the Taliban, but that brings up questions as to whether the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary have even attempted to create the foundations of an aid strategy for what will be chilling and devastating future months. We have no idea if the Foreign Secretary or Prime Minister have liaised with the United Nations, NGOs or our allies to execute that plan or to even discern the capacity the United Kingdom and the international community have to deliver aid across Afghanistan in a way which is as swift as it is smart. We've heard talk of 'Shadow Generals' from the government benches. We did not need Generals to warn us of the worries of a potentially destabilised Afghanistan, Mr. Speaker. Both Conservative backbenchers and Labour frontbenchers, including the Labour First Secretary of State, warned the government of the increasingly fragile picture in Afghanistan. It fell on deaf ears. We have some of the best military minds, we are a leading member of NATO and yet the government is too busy creating excuses instead of creating a plan. It makes us look weak, feckless and unstable right in front of our enemies, including the Taliban regime itself. Instead of telling the British people how powerless we are, the Foreign Secretary or Prime Minister could be working to build up the intelligence framework beyond Kabul and leverage against the Taliban regime to promote the safety of Afghans and for us here at home and preventing Afghanistan becoming a breeding ground for global terror. These were plans the government should have had in place months ago. And yet they still cannot be bothered to cobble it together today. The Foreign Secretary not even bothering to pick up the phone to his desperate Afghan counterpart because he was enjoying a £1,000 a night holiday isn't a shameful exception for this government - it epitomises a shameful norm. Uncaring and unbothered as British citizens' lives are at risk and Britain's global reputation threatens being permanently damaged. That isn't leadership. It is a dereliction of the duty that British soldiers, aid workers and diplomats have shown in spades at this devastating and shameful time. It is just a shame we are left without a government that can support them.
  9. Name: James “Jim” Riley Avatar: David Harbour Age: 48. (b. 9th January 1973). Sex: Male. Ethnicity: White. Marital Status: Single. Sexual Orientation: Bisexual [not ‘out’ but it’s not a secret either. Has only had one serious relationship – with a woman]. Party: Labour. Political Outlook: Labour centre, so somewhere in the Open Labour-Brownite space with a fondness for Blue Labour economics. Constituency: Liverpool West Derby. Year Elected: 2017. Education: Thomas Gray Primary School, Bootle (1977-1984). St George of England High School, Bootle (1984-1991). BA Jurisprudence, University of Oxford (1991-1994). MJur, University of Oxford (1994-1995). LPC, University of Law Manchester (1995-1996). Career: Solicitor, Thompsons Solicitors (1996-2000). Senior Solicitor, Thompsons Solicitors (2000-2001). Head Trade Union Unit, Thompsons (2001-2005). Head of Military Claims Unit, Thompsons (2005-2009). UNISON, Senior Legal Officer (2009-2013). Head of Legal, TUC (2013-2015). Political Career: Member of Parliament for Liverpool West Derby (2017-). James “Jim” Riley was born in Bootle to 1973. His father was a docker and his mother a housewife. Jim states he had a “pleasant, straightforward” childhood. Despite his working class background, he was noted to have been an exceptional student and was encouraged by his teachers to aim high. He became the first in his family to go to University and the first in his sixth form to go to Oxbridge, where he studied law. Having been considered to be an exceptional mind in law, he obtained his MJur at Oxford and moved back up North to complete his LPC in Manchester. A Labour Party member since 16 and passionate defender of the Trade Unions with deep family links, Jim specialised in employment law and worked with Thompson’s Solicitors due to their connections to the Trade Union movement. He worked in the Liverpool and Manchester branches and quickly rose up the ranks, heading up crucial branches and divisions in the country. After 9 years of working at Thompsons, Jim moved on to work within UNISON and eventually headed the legal division within the TUC. He left but was respected as one of the country’s most respected Employment solicitors, and had provided advice to the Business, Defence and DWP Select Committees and legal guidance to various charities, organisations, councils and Trade Unions whilst doing freelance work after leaving the TUC. Working primarily in his home city of Merseyside, Jim was selected to be the Member of Parliament for Liverpool West Derby and won (to no surprise) in 2017. Jim has not been a notable MP, and was neither a noted Corbyn loyalist nor rebel. Following the disastrous 2019 General Election, he supported Lisa Nandy for leader and Angela Rayner for Deputy Leader. He is a member of the following AAPGs: Carers, Children of Alcoholics, Green New Deal, Homelessness, Immigration Law and Policy, Liverpool City Region, Northern Culture, Palestine and Youth Affairs. He is the chair of the Homelessness AAPG. He is vice chair of the Northern Culture and Green New Deal AAPGs. In his personal life, Jim lives with his sister and his mother, with his sister being his mother’s carer. He is a lapsed Catholic. He is “not strictly teetotal, but virtually teetotal” and is interested in boxing, football and Scandi noirs.
  10. Mr. Speaker, With your leave I wish to make a statement to the House on my negotiations with the Irish Foreign Minister pertaining an agreed route forwards on Northern Ireland. I understand many in the House have not wanted us to reach this stage. I know some in the House will argue that in the recent Westminster election, nationalists have more seats in the House of Commons than Unionists do and that the SDLP won the highest share of vote. In Stormont, it would additionally be argued that nationalists won the plurality of the vote and this makes the case for a border poll. I know many others would make the counterargument that both in Westminster and in Stormont the nationalists did not win an overall majority and that in Stormont the UUP has won the most seats, so a border poll would be premature and rushed. Personally, my views will be known to this House. I am a member of the Conservative and Unionist Party. I am the Foreign Secretary in a Conservative and Unionist government, Mr. Speaker. But I am also a representative of the British government. A British government that is a signatory of the Good Friday Agreement. A government that has agreed to be a neutral arbiter between nationalist and unionist communities in Northern Ireland. A government that takes its responsibility to promote peace and to protect all citizens and communities in Northern Ireland seriously. To that end, the government has had no choice but to confront that fundamental truth that there is rising Nationalist sentiment in the United Kingdom that cannot be ignored. This government has chosen to address that sentiment and to pave a path forwards in response to it that Northern Irish communities can unite behind. It is important that path forward is agreed with the Irish government, which is what the government aimed to do in its discussions. Mr. Speaker, before I continue I would like to pay credit to the Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin, who was as committed as I was in putting forward a reasonable, sustainable and peaceful path forwards that would unite both of Northern Ireland's communities. We came to an agreed path forwards and have set the conditions on which the Republic of Ireland and United Kingdom would agree a border poll would be necessary. If Nationalist parties win a majority in Westminster and Stormont, a process will be triggered in which the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland will establish an intergovernmental group which will comprise of civil servants, statisticians and pollsters to measure public opinion in Northern Ireland over the following year. If public opinion shows that 45% of the Northern Irish population support reunification on average through the year, a border poll will be held. There are some points both I and the Irish Government wish to clarify throughout that process, Mr. Speaker: Firstly, it will be the mean throughout the year which will be determinant on if a border poll is held. One month of bad polling for those who want reunification will not disqualify the prospect of a border poll completely. By ensuring we measure it over a year, we'll ensure we capture long term opinion on the matter without the process being derailed by 'flash in the pan' political reactions. Further, we will ensure any outliers of more than 5% will be disqualified from the polling. This ensures that any extreme outliers which may not be representative of political opinion in Northern Ireland disqualify or spur on the prospect of a border poll unfairly. We will ensure four pollsters take two polls a month each in Northern Ireland, so that a representative average can be captured and the Northern Irish public will be polled frequently. Recognising our sovereignty over Northern Ireland, we have agreed to pay three quarters of the cost to fund this polling and the intergovernmental body overseeing the polling. The Irish government, as fellow custodians of the Good Friday Agreement and as fellow participants of the body, will pay a quarter. Finally, to ensure the process has the support of all signatories and communities going forwards we have agreed that collected data will be checked in Dublin, London and in Belfast for any discrepancies being publication with the relevant bodies being able to object to any discrepancies. To ensure any political influence from Stormont is removed, we will ensure the body responsible for checking such data in Stormont has representatives from nationalist, unionist and non-sectarian opinion - and that two of the three would need to object to the data for it to be noted and delayed. Mr. Speaker, the path forwards put by the British and Irish governments represent a way forwards that is fair, measured and democratic. It is crucial we are sure that support for reunification is significant enough in Northern Ireland so that a potentially contentious border poll is not unnecessarily held, but ensures that clear criteria are met so that the democratic will of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland's right to self determination is still exercised. It comprises of an electoral test in Northern Ireland, but ensures the question of reunification is also put directly to the people of Northern Ireland before any border poll is to be held. However, I wish to stress this agreement is a preliminary path forward put by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Further discussions will follow with the relevant political parties in Northern Ireland, the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister so Northern Ireland can continue with that agreed path forwards. Further, Mr. Speaker, the government of the United Kingdom is all too aware that it is only the first hurdle that has been passed - an agreed route to a border poll. What happens should the electoral tests set by the governments of the Republic Ireland and the United Kingdom be met will also require discussion, and will be approached by those respective stakeholder in successive discussions. But the agreement we have is still a significant victory for the peace process and for democracy. Today, the British and Irish governments have shown the world that deeply contentious issues can be resolved through democratic means and the ballot box than by violence, and that the British people are better off for it. The political process in Northern Ireland is clearly fluid and perhaps even unpredictable, but through these discussions I have every confidence that peace and diplomacy will prevail.
  11. Name: Deborah (Debbie) Ureta née Crowther. Avatar: Patricia Clarkson (namely in the 90s/early 00s). Age: 45 b. 26th August 1962. Sex: Female Marital Status: Married to Nicolás Ureta (m.2000). Two adopted children, Mary Ureta (b. 1999, adopted 2002) and Dominic Ureta (b.2003, adopted 2004). Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual. Party: Conservative. Political Outlook: Tory Reform Group. A respectable Tory through and through. Constituency: York Outer. Education: Harrogate Ladies College, 1966-1980. BA Classics, Somerville College, University of Oxford, 1980-1983. MPhil, Egyptology, University of Oxford (1983-1985). Career: KMG, Consultant (1985-1987). KPMG Consulting, Consultant (1987-1989). KPMG Consulting, Senior Consultant (1989-1993). Press Officer, Women’s Institute (1993-1996). Head of Press, Women’s Institute (1996-1998). NFWI Chair, Women’s Institute (1998-2001). Political Career: Press Officer, CCHQ (2004-2005). Member of Parliament for York Outer (2005-). Biography: Respectable middle class background. Father was a Vicar in the CofE and her mother a housewife in Harrogate. Went to Oxbridge, then networked through the Tory Party and Women’s Institute of which she had always been a member and rose to the top of the WI. Took a career pause to become a housewife after marrying her husband Nicolás, a successful Chilean business mogul a decade her junior, who she met years before while she worked in consulting. Being unable to have children, they adopted two Cambodian children. The adoption later caused controversy from The Guardian because the children were renamed and had contact from their biological parents completely cut off against their will. Deborah went into politics, enthused by Cameron’s vision, and became an MP for York Outer. She professionally still goes by her maiden name, even though it is not her legal name.
  12. In Cardiff, the Liberal Democrat Leader Grace Saunders unveiled the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Budget. [See: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1v_mI4h6GLdEXUeVdQU93GA2WrqXjz6_dSHejOOf5Peg/edit?usp=sharing ] Thank you for coming, It won’t surprise you when I tell you the Liberal Democrats think the main two parties have once again failed. But I truly think the British public look at Westminster and now agree with us. We have a government that still has made no progress on creating a viable inspections regime in Iran after needless sabre rattling and, up to the budget, spent months not making a single statement on the NHS. So the Tories failed as we feared. Who are the alternative? A Labour Party that has tried to cheat ex-miners out of pensions and benefits. A Labour Party that has called for an illegal General Strike. A Labour Party that is constantly embroiled in a civil war. It doesn’t inspire. Their budget proposals don’t either. Let me be frank: the Chancellor’s attempts to raise equity in the financial sector are important. As someone who has spent my whole life working in the third sector, I have little personal experience in stocks and shares. But I do know how vital stocks and shares are in financing and fundraising for charities. That’s before we go into pensions, mortgages and savings. Labour Members of Parliament quickly discovered the important a strong financial sector is to all of our wellbeing, whether you’re a miner or a Labour MP. Similarly, the Chancellor is right to approach stimulus at this time. But the Chancellor has approached the economy as if her role is merely to manage it. Management is important, and we’ve consistently supported the Chancellor where she was right. But people need change. We know that before the financial sector experienced turbulence people felt like the system was not working for them. We taxed unfairly and we spent unfairly too. Fundamentally, the Chancellor did not change that. There’s no point managing a system that is broken, no matter how good a manager you are. Labour have recognised that system is broken. But their alternative is simply not credible. They’ve applied the worst of New Labour and Old Labour: Old Labour’s unsustainable stealth taxes and accounting tricks to mask spending and debt, and Old Labour’s belief in a state run economy with sky high taxes that we know does not work. When you combine that with their newfound love of Zimbabwean quack economics, it’s a recipe for disaster. Labour are right that people aren’t numbers. But we know what working people would endure under their new radical proposals: unemployment, inflation and stagnation as they allow businesses, mortgages and pensions to crumble. Jim Connelly has been around the political scene for a long time, and it doesn’t matter what problem you give him, he always provides the same solution: hike taxes and nationalise more things. He is not a serious man for serious times, and his budget is not a serious budget. It leaves the Liberal Democrats to put forward a solution that is as sensible as it is compassionate, that offers help to businesses and public services and grows wealth as much as it redistributes it. From opposition, while Labour have tried to undermine confidence in the financial sector, call for damaging strikes and take miners’ pensions and benefits from them, the Liberal Democrats have scrutinised the government and delivered real tangible safeguards for the self employed and for those who have lost their home. That is the work we can do from opposition. But we’re excited to unveil what we’d do from Government. On tax we’re offering the lowest tax burden of any of the three main parties for the poorest and middle class. While we welcome the government’s moves to halt Labour’s tax rises on ordinary people, we believe they’re not doing enough to lift the poorest out of tax altogether. So we’ve lifted the personal allowance for income tax by £1075 and the lower threshold for national insurance by £1040, lifting millions of low income workers out of tax altogether and saving British households £351. Compare this to a Labour Party who says ‘people aren’t numbers’ – but freezes the lower threshold of national insurance, dragging the poorest into their tax trap and hiking fuel duty to hit motorists with hundreds of pounds more in tax, hitting working and low income people the hardest. The Labour Party’s tax tricks are all the same smoke and mirrors. We’re the only party offering to lift millions out of tax and offer middle class households a tax cut they can rely on. And businesses must be even more despairing when confronted with a Tory Party that has provided temporary relief through the recession. While we support loan guarantees for SMEs and the development of green industry, we know businesses wanted to see a more permanent and longstanding offer. The Labour Party have not provided it. They’ve rejected the government’s attempt to provide stability to the financial sector altogether and have given no offer to businesses, entrepreneurs or the self employed beyond higher taxes. It’s the Liberal Democrats who have provided that alternative for businesses. Not only have we accepted the government’s package for businesses, but we’ve built on it. And we’ve incentivised unemployment in the process. We’ve reduced national insurance on employers from 12% to 11%, cutting the burden of hiring and reducing the tax burden on businesses by nearly £6 billion in the process. And while the Tories boast of their freezing of business rates, I tell small business owners know this: We’d get rid of hated business rates entirely, instead choosing to replace them with a commercial land value tax. The tax we are proposing would be revenue neutral, result in lower taxes for more than 90% of businesses and removing up to half a million of SMEs out of tax altogether by focusing on landowners over businesses and development. It is businesses in underinvested local authorities, manufacturing and retail businesses which would see the most significant benefits. We expect their tax cuts to receive a 20% lower tax burden. Further, we’re the only party willing to acknowledge the powerful role Britain’s arts and entertainment industry play in our soft power as the world’s eminent cultural powerhouse and in the economic gains they bring to Britain. Arts and entertainment is a bigger economic contributor than oil, yet does not receive even a fraction of the financial support or recognition. During this difficult recession we want to give businesses in the cultural sector that recognition, which is why we will be establishing a £150 million fund to support the arts and cultural sector. The lifeline we are giving to businesses can not be overstated. But in reforming our tax system to be fairer, we won’t stop there. The government talks about freezing council tax. Again, we’ll scrap it and stamp duty tax to merge into a single property tax. In scrapping the purposely regressive and outdated council tax system which punishes the poor to subsidise the rich and hinges local government funding on property prices in 1992, we’d modernise how we fund local government and cut taxes for the vast majority of households in the process. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that the average council tax bill was £1009. Under our proposals, the poorest homes would be removed from tax altogether and the average bill would be £670. A cut of £339 for the average household. But it won’t end there. These proposals will raise revenue which we’ll be able to invest in local government to provide free personal care for the elderly and disabled. This free social care provision stands in face of the disastrous and unexplained ‘National Care Service’ proposals put forwards by Labour and the indifference from the Conservatives on a growing issue. While we’re clear we need to have cross party discussions on how we make social care viable in the long term, we’ve put forward practical funding proposals we lift the burden of high care costs on the hundreds of thousands elderly people and disabled in England who require personal care. And as the political descendants of William Beveridge, it is the Liberal Democrats more than any other party that understands the value in a strong, efficient and funded national health service. The other parties will argue about efficiency vs investment, but only we understand you need both. The government’s investments in the National Health Service this year were, simply put, insufficient. I can see why they rallied against waiting list targets, because while they talk of above inflation rises the truth is it is not enough for us to see real investment in our NHS that can yield results. Even Thatcher put more money in that this. I suppose this is the result of a government that appointed a Health Secretary who only made one – I emphasise one – statement during his tenure: and that was to defend the Foreign Secretary on Iran. But we can see Labour aren’t much better. In fact, when it comes to investing in lowering waiting times they’ve invested less than the Tories have. When you take away Labour’s disastrous National Care Service proposals, it’s the Liberal Democrats who have invested in our National Health Service. We’ve built the most hospitals, invested the most in tackling waiting times and put the most money towards public health and reducing wider strain on the NHS. On schools you can see a similar approach, with the Liberal Democrats investing more than the Tories who are obsessed with structure above all else and a Labour Party that can never be bothered to talk about education at all. And imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: while the Tories have put £600m towards the pupil premium, you can’t be the original. The Liberal Democrats have invested £2 billion to be put towards the most disadvantaged children where Labour haven’t put anything at all. Further, the Liberal Democrats are the only party that is prepared to give early years the investment it deserves. We know early years investment works wonders for parents and children’s short and longterm wellbeing alike. Early years investment is the ultimate investment. And yet the government obsesses over structures and the Labour Party have nothing to say at all. That’s reflected in the budgets we’ve been offered: The Government only provided additional hours, Labour provided nothing, and the Liberal Democrats ensured we have laid the foundation for a universal childcare system, with free hours of childcare provided for all age brackets and childcare expanded for all. And we’ll invest and reform Sure Start so it reaches its full potential, putting £200 million towards it early health, education and parenting interventions. On justice we’re the only party willing to acknowledge the obvious that the main parties are failing when it comes to building a fair and sustainable justice system. Beyond funding, we must review how justice operates in this country. There must be an end to criminalising more things and intensifying punishments as kneejerk policy and more community based strategies. That is why in this budget we’ve invested significantly in prevention over treatment. So while we have hired 3,000 new bobbies – more than the Tories – I’m particularly proud of the £250 million we’ve put into rehabilitation funding. But unlike Labour, I recognise the problem of prison overcrowding. And while we’d be keen to fix that by reforming the justice system, we’d still invest in 5,000 new prison places. In Foreign Affairs and defence we’re the only party that has put our money where our mouth is when we say Iraq was a disastrous, immoral and legally dubious venture and getting out must be a priority for any government. The government promised to withdraw but we’ve seen no progress. Labour have talked tough with their new leadership but not promised to match it with their money. We’re clear we’d withdraw — and reinvest a portion of the funds into the defence budget in the process, pledging more in defence maintenance and defence procurement than the other two big parties while maintaining other aspects of defence and foreign affairs spending. And on welfare, we’ll take a more strategic approach than the other parties. We commit more money to the poorest children and pensioners than Labour, invest significantly in our pensions where the Tories failed and help renters through this tough period by topping up housing benefit significantly. I’m particularly pleased in our move to match carers allowance with unemployment benefits. It is shocking that more than a million unpaid carers in this country get less weekly than they would if they were unemployed. We’ve rectified that, ensuring those who take on the immense duty of caring for a loved one receive £291 more a year. It’s clear that climate change we’ve been forced into two arbitrary debates by the two main parties: whether we should give the private sector the power and freedom it needs to become green or whether the state must take strong action to help us meet our international carbon reduction obligations. The Liberal Democrats are clear we want to do both. That’s why we’ve supported and will enact the government’s initiatives to promote green businesses. We’ll also help support them in their quest to make public transport more green. But it doesn’t stop there: we’ll ensure the government is also investing significantly in renewable energies and in insulation so we can help the British people live greener lives and cut their energy bills down in the process. The money we’ll invest in green energy and insulation is more than Labour’s, but we are the only party who will tackle climate change with a comprehensive plan that fires on all cylinders. Our comprehensive spending plans may sound like they’re ringing on deaf ears in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland like Labour’s have. While I commend the government for giving the regions the paltry offer they provided the English people, Labour have gone on a spending spree in England and provided Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with the fiscal austerity the Tories would be proud of. The message could not be more clear that they take Scotland and Wales for granted. The Liberal Democrats do not. That is why we’ve frozen taxes on whisky, a key strategic industry in Scotland, where Labour and the Tories want to hike it. It’s also why we’ve provided a £2 billion ‘Union Fund’ in spending to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland more than the two big Westminster parties – because they matter too. And we’ll be supporting rural communities where the Conservatives and Labour Party have failed. We support the government in freezing beer duties to help rural pubs – though we’d go further and freeze all alcohol duties, freezing fuel duty to help rural motorists and investing in rural broadband and insulation. But we’d also establish a £150 million fund to support rural bank branches and post offices. I’m glad the Conservatives have played catch up, but it is the Liberal Democrats who have consistently championed rural communities in this Parliament. That is our offer. Labour will tell you during this crisis we cannot think practically. We can print money, hike taxes to unsustainable levels and have the state take control of more and more of your life. Any sensible management of the public finances has to be cruel. The Tories will tell you it is too risky to do anything other than to play the bank manager with the public finances. Any change to make how to tax or spend more fair is not practical. We know that to be untrue. If you’re an entrepreneur in Solihull, we’ll support your businesses and cut your taxes. If you’re a carer in Southport, we’ll lift your income by nearly £300 and ensure free personal care is available for the elderly and disabled in England. If you’re a farmhand in Shetland, we’ll protect your local bank branch, post office and pub. All while freezing fuel duty and investing in Scotland. And if you’re a new family in Sheffield, we’ll invest in childcare and fire on all cylinders when it comes to cutting your taxes: saving your household by more than £600. The Liberal way is the compassionate and pragmatic way in comparison to two out of parties who have played tug of war with our economy for almost a century, and failed the British people time and time again in the process. Thank you.
  13. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank the Chancellor for her comprehensive statement today. With the turbulence of financial markets dragging the economy into recession Mr. Deputy Speaker it’s clear that we have hit a crucial point. A point none of us hoped would come after being sold the myth that boom and bust had come to an end – now we’ve met with bust after a boom period. But that statement isn’t just a slogan and the numbers of unemployed we see on the budget aren’t just statistics. Behind that is the terrifying reality for millions across the country. Just one person becoming unemployed is devastating. Just one family home being lost is unbearable. In this House, we have to process the reality this is happening to tens of thousands up and down the country. I am scared, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Not scared for myself – in Westminster we’re comfortable and secure. Too comfortable, some might say. But I’m scared for my constituents. I’m scared for my neighbours. Scared for my friends. Imagine the terror others in the country must have, Mr. Speaker. Imagine the single mother wondering if she can keep her job. Imagine the new family who wonders if they can keep the home they worked hard to buy. Imagine the fear that hits all too many in the country when they hear the knock on the door, wondering if it’s the bailiff. For those people the government had a responsibility to act today. And it is for those people we on the opposition benches need to show serious scrutiny. Those people, scared to pay their bills, would not be reassured if they were watching this debate today Mr. Deputy Speaker. A serious and grave situation has quickly become a testing ground to play out weak populist slogans, personal attacks and not so clever gotchas. The British people surely deserve better. They deserve an honest appraisal of this budget, of measures worthy of support and critiques and questions. That is the approach I hope to take today. Mr. Speaker, I’ll be frank that I would be misleading the House if I told them with a straight face there were no redeeming features in this budget. I acknowledge that for many there’ll be vital lifelines within this budget, and I’m thankful for that Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want to extend thanks to the Chancellor for the cooperation she showed. In particular, the Liberal Democrats are proud with the role we played for many across the country, providing a voice for many who may not have felt considered in the initial wave of support offered by the Chancellor. In particular, I am pleased that after we had discussed those whose homes had been repossessed before the Chancellor took action and self employed people who primarily work from home have been considered in this budget. Putting repossessed homes into the social housing stock and the extension of the Mortgage Support Loan Scheme for the self employed are moves we commend wholeheartedly. From the anti-extremism unit, to expanded childcare, to the cooperative rate of corporation tax there are a plethora of policies that the Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly support. Unfortunately, a budget has to be more than a plethora of policies. It is a wider approach and strategy. And I do not have full confidence that the Government have taken the compassionate, encompassing approach and reforming strategy necessary during this crucial time. Further, while I acknowledge the Chancellor’s skills as a manager, the situation before us makes one thing clear: at this present moment we need more than management. To manage a broken system well does not change the fact it is broken. It is clear we need that change, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That is why the budget cannot receive our support at this time. On tax, while I appreciate the government bringing back the 10% tax rate as an alternative to Labour’s unfair tax hike on working people, we need to be frank about what that tax rate is: it’s a poverty tax rate. The government’s strategy must be centred on lifting the poorest tax altogether. I am sad to that end that National Insurance has not been considered. The government’s tax strategy should be focused entirely on lifting the poorest out of tax altogether, not small ameliorations. Further, while I agree with the government’s decision to freeze fuel duty and beer duty, I question their decision to freeze beer duty but to not do the same to wine and spirit duties. To do so would not only further offer assistance to the pub and hospitality industries, but would support the whisky industry in Scotland – a significant and strategic industry in Scotland and the United Kingdom that will need support through this critical time. But it is clear when we look at allocated public monies Scotland, Wales nor Northern Ireland have played significantly on the government’s minds. But this was a huge missed opportunity for the government to critically think about how we tax, particularly how we tax land and property. A measly £50 cut from frozen council tax is better than the constant stealth rises we’ve seen under Labour. But it does not disguise the fact that council tax, and business rates which have not been mentioned to the Chancellor at all despite the immense impact they have on so many SMEs, are a fundamentally broken, regressive and unfair system. We currently tax households, not owners, regressively based on the value of their property in 1991 – 1991, Mr. Speaker, when the new generation of homeowners were children. With business rates we tax business rates and investment explicitly over landowners, and disincentives development. Manufacturing and high street businesses in disadvantaged areas are particularly hard hit. And with stamp duty we disincentivise mutually beneficial transactions and reduces the incentive for people to move home, blighting social mobility in the process. Our tax system is built on unfairness, discouraging investment and perverse incentives Mr. Deputy Speaker. Today the Chancellor had the opportunity to change that in light of the immense economic difficulty that will be faced by households and businesses. She had the opportunity to create a tax system that encourages investment and was more fair. That opportunity, sadly, was not taken. In that meantime, I cannot help but feel appropriate action has been given to safeguard our public services Mr. Speaker. On Home Affairs, while I commend the considerable investments the government made on knife crime, on extremism and rehabilitation there is a fundamental truth the government have not acknowledged: that our prison system is broken. It’s made unsustainable by the government’s continued insistence that we criminalise more and more things, create tougher and tougher sentences for said things and call it a day. It has done nothing to decrease crime but everything to create a prison system that is as morally unsustainable as it is financially unsustainable. We have the largest prison population in Western Europe Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I know we do not have the largest criminal one. I believe in a better Britain than that. The Liberal Democrats beyond budgetary measures would ensure we reform the criminal justice system so it can focus on violent offenders instead of creating new things to criminalise, freeing up more money for rehabilitation, police and prisons in the process. Mr. Deputy Speaker, the government’s health proposals can look good on the surface. But in terms of a real term rise the offer is paltry when compared not only to previous Labour governments but previous Conservative governments. This would be all well and fine if rectified by reforms that can make money spent within the NHS more efficient, but we have seen nothing from the government for our health service since they came to power. Not a Ministerial statement. Not a bill. Nothing. The former Health Secretary spoke publicly about the Foreign Secretary’s career and Iran more than he did the Health Service, and we are seeing the consequences of that in this budget. Further, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the singling out of administrative staff for a pay cut is wrong. I get it appeases the tabloid press to be seen to have a dig at managers, of which I note nothing has been done to actually reign in on the perceived excess of NHS managers, but when one single group of public sector workers is targeted for a pay cut – and because of that reception workers, IT workers and others are shortchanged of almost £400. That isn’t just unacceptable, but it is immoral. I also find the government’s refusal to engage with social care bewildering Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand it is not high on the political agenda. But as we face an ageing population and long term viability of the social care sector, it is something the government has failed to address in its budget. There has been no offer for those who rely on social care and the more than half a million who work in care and the more than one million people who take on unpaid care work. The government could have learned from other devolved administrations and removed the financial burden of care and need for millions of families to sell their home to pay for care by introducing free personal care, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Further, there could have been action taken today to integrate health and social care – the most effective way we can introduce efficiency in our NHS. I am disappointed we have not seen that today. Mr. Deputy Speaker, education is an utmost priority for the Liberal Democrats as the great equaliser and the strongest economic and moral good the government can deliver. So on a practical level I am once again made to question the government’s academies programme. Despite much talk about it and despite the Education Secretary making academies the pillar of her reforms we’ve only seen a mere £13 million invested in the academies programme. This is despite the expansion of the academies programme as legislated by the Education Secretary being almost unlimited in its scope and with us in the knowledge academies are a larger burden to the taxpayer when compared with state maintained schools. It begs the question Mr. Deputy Speaker – how is this sustainable? While childcare has gotten some mention and attention from the government, I want to be clear if we want to drive up educational attainment and child development in this country in the long term we would do well to spend even a fraction of the time the government have spent obsessing over structures to instead invest in early years. Sure Start needs to be reformed and invested in so it can reach its full potential as a pillar for investing in early childhood development and the government should have used efficiency savings in childcare to build the foundation for universal childcare provision. Mr. Deputy Speaker, after much talk from this government I’m disappointed we have not seen any further efforts to withdraw from Iraq. We can see the budgetary consequences of this, and it’s unnecessary billions spent on supporting a war we now know to be immoral instead of supporting the British people. And on that subject while I’m heartened to see there has been serious attempts to tackle child poverty in this budget — action the government wholeheartedly supports – we find it is action on welfare where the government is most sorely lacking. Pensioners who have paid into the pot their whole lives deserve better than a pay freeze during a recession. But that is all the government has offered. Further, pension credit has been frozen. It is wrong the government has provided billions in funding to businesses of their choice, but has not spared money for the grandmother who has to pick between heating or eating. And when the Chancellor confirmed to me in person that there were concerns around renters, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and confirmed that the DWP would be there to support those requiring housing benefit I find it unconscionable that housing benefit has not been further increased. The Chancellor could have chosen to invest in housing benefit and chosen to create a stronger barrier between renters and homelessness. I think it is a shame that this path has not been taken forwards. Of course, the gravest threat to humanity at present time is climate change. While I appreciate the work the Chancellor has taken in supporting a greener private sector, we cannot just incentivise businesses and call it a day. While I am thankful for some of the Chancellor’s public transport initiatives, it is clear that we needed the government to show it was prepared to take its own initiative and invest in renewable energy and insulation to create jobs, promote clean energy and take the fight against climate change head on. So while I appreciate the Chancellor’s work in this budget to manage the economy and respond to recession, I think of those who can’t appreciate the budget in front of us today. The pensioner in Rhyll. The struggling high street shop in Rochdale. The renter in Romford. The carer in Reading. Because we need to be honest that when the financial sector was ‘stable’, Mr. Speaker, our economy still worked for too few. We taxed unfairly, spent unfairly and did that all on a fiscal model that was, as we can now see, unsustainable. That needs to change. But the Chancellor did not offer that change today. And the situation is so dire I can only support real change for those who need it most. Thank you.
  14. Mr. Speaker, I thank the Chancellor for her statements. Of course, while incentivising capitalisation is important, it is becoming increasingly clear that this must also be met with institutional change – both because there is a moral need and that institutional change is likely necessary to stabilise the financial sector in the long term. What steps will the Chancellor be pursuing to implement such change?
  15. Mr. Speaker, Being a Liberal Democrat, it’s not surprising to hear both sides talk to each other about the need for tougher spending and about the need for money tacked here and there, to then call it a strategy, pat ourselves on the back and call it a job well done. It’s an approach we’ve tried and failed again and again. Previous Conservative governments tried it. It didn’t work – crime rose during their last administration. The New Labour government tried it, and it didn’t work. And now we’re back to the same old pattern and the same old mistakes, with the government calling for tougher sentencing with throwaway cash and Labour supporting them. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Speaker, questions about the fair use of data are valid, as are some other points raised. But too many are missing the wider, more fundamental approach. Instead of being smart on crime, we opt to look tough on it even when that doesn’t work. Sometimes new sentences or harsher sentences are necessary Mr. Speaker. But often they merely make our prisons more unsustainable and put non violent or low risk offenders into a cycle of career crime, leaving our streets more unsafe in the long run. I fear this same kneejerk response is what we have seen from the government today. But it could be forgiven if the government had learned from successful evidence based, local led initiatives instead of throwing money at an array of disparate and disconnected groups. The House may be well aware of my recent attempts to promote the work of Glasgow’s Violence Reduction Unit — taking a local led, evidence based approach and learning directly from community leaders internationally who successfully tackled violent crime. That is the ambition Britain deserves. The successful approach we see in Glasgow is the approach we deserve to see replicated across the country. It is both more simple and yet more comprehensive, in contrast to both the Government and Labour Party tying itself in knots on this issue with kneejerk responses. But unfortunately we have not seen that ambition or clearheadedness from the big Westminster parties today, and while that is the case I fear we will see continual failure — failure where the burden of knife crime disproportionately falls on the poorest communities and young people.
  16. Mr. Speaker, I thank the Prime Minister for putting this legislation before the House. The legislation requires necessary but nonetheless bureaucratic requirements are being placed on the Environment Agency and Local Flood Authorities. What support will the government be providing to these bodies to ensure they would meet these statutory legislative obligations?
  17. Mr. Speaker, I thank the Foreign Secretary for the legislation. As someone committed to fighting for Britain’s strong cooperation with our European allies and to the wider success of the European Union, I look forward to taking to the public and making that case. To that end, I will be voting for the legislation.
  18. Mr. Speaker, I thank the Secretary of State for the bill she has presented. It is quite a large and comprehensive bill. I tend to find most large and comprehensive bills contain provisions that are good and then not so good. I made clear to the press this bill would not be receiving my support, but I do want the Secretary of State to understand that I do not think every element of her agenda is to be opposed. If I did not feel I had some disagreements with the bill that was fundamental to the bill's purpose, Mr. Speaker, I would be hoping to find a route forward via amendment. Unfortunately, I am unsure if a compromise can be found on this. I do also want to provide a fairer assessment of the Labour government's record than I feel the Honourable Lady was providing. In 1997, I believe in global education rankings the United Kingdom hit 40th and there were dismal results. I do think the first few years of Labour's record did see successes and improvements in education, but then the Secretary of State is right to say at some point this stalled. So I think from Labour's tenure in government we can look at successes and failures, and we can learn from both. But I want to be clear that the current results we are seeing is not enough, Mr. Speaker. Mediocrity is not enough. We need a new drive and we need more ambition for our children. Continued investment is desirable, Mr. Speaker, but we do need to think big so that can translate into results. To that end, I do applaud the Secretary of State's ambition. While I do not agree with all or even most of her prescriptions, I do not doubt she has strong ambitions for our education sector and for British children. That, at the very least, is a good start. Mr. Speaker I'll confess that structures mean very little to me when it comes to what makes a good school. I think there are times where academies work, times where local maintained schools work, times where schools need more freedom and times where schools require more guidance. To that end, I don't have an ideological dog in this fight. Having been a parent, what I wanted for my children was that they got the best schooling they could. To that extent, as long as my children were safe and received a good education, I cared very little for who ran the school, the size of the curriculum and whether the state supporting that school was a big or small one. I must be honest that I do not feel the Secretary of State for Education has quite comprehended that, and much of the content of the bill presented to the House today is part of a wider ideological crusade. I don't want a big state experiment to be unleashed on school children, but I'm unsure if a 'small state experiment' so to speak is the alternative. Because lets be honest: despite the Secretary of State’s vague assertion the evidence is on her side, we know that serious scrutiny of the evidence does not support that assertion. I would refer to the House to the report the Education Select Committee published in 2005, Mr. Speaker. It raised concerns at the Labour government’s expansion of the academies programme – an expansion the Secretary of State deemed to be too conservative, Mr. Speaker – on multiple fronts. The fiscal strain of academies was raised, with academies having a capital cost of £21 million per school in 2005, representing £21,000 per place compared to the government’s basic need cost multiplier of £14,000 per place. The select committee made clear the efficacy of the academies programme has not yet been established. Further from that, considering the extra investment put into academies it questioned if this was an effective allocation of resources. A study of academies showed that some not only failed to show an improvement in GCSEs, but that in some academies GCSE results fell. In academies there was also an increase in expulsions, and there are legitimate concerns that in academies that did see an increase in GCSE results came as a result of increased expulsions. Mr. Speaker, the next concern I’ll raise in relation to the academies programme has been branded a ‘moral panic’ by the Secretary of State. So I’ll quote directly from the Select Committee itself regarding valid concerns some can use the sponsor programme within academies to exert power and influence on the curriculum: “The Academy programme has raised controversy in many areas, particularly due to the nature of the sponsors involved in schools. A number of the existing Academies are sponsored by evangelical Christian groups and this has led to allegations that sponsors could have undue influence over the curriculum (for example, giving greater weight to creationism than the theory of evolution). This involvement can be bought relatively cheaply. For less than £1 million, as compared to an average of £25 million in public funds, sponsors can gain considerable influence or control over a school. Whilst we would not wish to suggest that this influence is being used maliciously, this seems a small price to pay, particularly for corporate sponsors.” With all these concerns raised, the Secretary of State’s determination to expand academies on a mass level is extremely concerning. To fundamentally change the whole system of schooling is something that should be done carefully – to do so without any evidence is reckless. And even then I have concerns as to the priorities the government is holding as it expands the programme. The limited evidence we do have is that academies best serve underperforming schools in underinvested communities. Why the government is choosing to prioritise well performing schools in the rollout is beyond me. The focus should be on those who need assistance most, not schools which are already performing well under the current model. Mr. Speaker one point of agreement I do have with the bill is the new governance framework for academies, and the cooperative model it seems to have been inspired from. It has followed an openness this government has shown towards cooperatives and mutuals broadly since its time in office, which is an openness welcomed by the Liberal Democrats. The Secretary of State, in my opinion, had the opportunity to be more radical and remove the more questionable “sponsorship” model altogether. Further, I am unsure if vital decisions based on a school should be done in AGMs. Accountability and transparency should not be a once in a year event, but a persistent and ongoing one. The Secretary of State is determined to prove that these reforms aren’t Whitehall led and top down in their nature. Firstly, I would question if this is the case why priority towards academy conversion is then being targeted towards high performing schools. Secondly, may I ask the Secretary of State to clarify broadly if this means all schools would become trust schools? Without the consultation of local communities? How is this not, as the Secretary of State denies, top down Whitehall reorganisation of our schools? In short Mr. Speaker, while there are initiatives the Liberal Democrats support whether it’s the slimming down of the curriculum – though the devil is in the detail there – or the removal of Labour’s ineffective and harsh truancy targets, the Secretary of State has not sufficiency communicated that she has taken an approach that is led by either consensus or evidence. She is asking the House to grant her the power to tear apart the framing of schooling as we know it with only the faith that this would work or drive up standards. I am afraid that I cannot operate on that faith. The Secretary of State could’ve chosen to take a more careful approach where the academies programme was expanded whilst rigorous examination and evaluation was still taken so we could say with certainty whether, or in what circumstances, it worked. We could have taken an approach where focus was put on underperforming schools, not schools that were already benefitting under the current model. e Unfortunately, despite some parts in the bill that could receive our tentative support, that careful approach was not taken, and as a result it will not be receiving support from the Liberal Democrats today.
  19. Mr. Speaker, I beg to move this as an opposition day motion.
  20. "That this House compels the government to honour the promise it made in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech that Parliament is guaranteed a vote on any proposed military intervention to be undertaken by Her Majesty's Armed Forces except in circumstances of direct self defence."
  21. Mr. Speaker, I thank the Chancellor for her comprehensive statement to the House. Northern Rock’s failure has left so many families and businesses across Britain unsure for their economic futures. As the Chancellor herself acknowledged, turbulence in the financial sector has affected growth in the United Kingdom. I, like many Britons, fear that further developments may have devastating impacts on jobs, wages and public services. To that end, the response from the Labour Party has, as I know it has for many Britons, left a sour taste in my mouth Mr. Speaker. This is a time where we need careful scrutiny and, in the national interest, need to make clear we will act and collaborate in the national interest. That the Labour Party have now resorted to convoluted “gotcha” questions and misguided populism has been disheartening. I do not think the Chancellor has shown herself at her most dignified in response. A significant portion of the British public will be watching the Chancellor’s statement today desperate for answers and solutions. That nearly half of her speech was set to prepare a political attack on the Labour Party is undignified and tone deaf. In times like these, we need less politics and more maturity. Fortunately, to that end, I want to make the Liberal Democrats’ intentions clear Mr. Speaker: we support the bill. The Chancellor was not left with desirable choices, Mr. Speaker, but it is my conviction that on balance she made the correct choice. Temporary public ownership is the least costly option, is the option that best promotes security for Northern Rocks’ customers and, as the government have signalled, will ensure good behaviour and a viable future can be secured for Northern Rock. I also think so far the Chancellor has executed that choice in a way which is measured, proportionate and responsible. The safeguards the Chancellor has implemented in this legislation seem imminently sensible. And the decision to relaunch Northern Rock as a building society is one the Liberal Democrats don’t only support but are enthused by. While the current leadership within Northern Rock is committed to the Chancellor’s aims to remutualise Northern Rock, I would appreciate if the Chancellor could outline how she would ensure that process was maintained when the time came to return Northern Rock to the private sector. I also think the Chancellor would do well if she could inform the House the broad terms in which she feels Northern Rock could once again be returned to the private sector. Further, could the Chancellor outline to the House what she believes would constitute more effective banking regulation to replace the current framework we now know to be ineffective? Finally, while there may have been failures here at home there are concerns that the implications are very much global in scope. Has the Chancellor spoken to any other Ministers of Finance and is it possible a global response or global regulatory framework could be negotiated?
  22. Name: Grace Saunders Avatar: Sidse Babett Knudsen Age: 52 (b. 29th August 1955). Sex: Female Marital Status: Divorced, 2 children. Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual. Party: Liberal Democrat. Political Outlook: Socially democratic liberal. Was in Labour and then the SDP. Constituency: Kingston and Surbiton. Education: Primary School (1959-1966). Grammar School (1966-1973). BA History, University of Cambridge (1973-1976). MA Political Science, University of Stanford. (1976-1978). Career: Head of Policy, Shelter. (1980-1984). Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communication, Shelter. (1984-1990). Chief Executive, Shelter. (1990-1994). Political Career: Political Advisor to Charles Kennedy. (1994-1997) Member of Parliament for Kingston and Surbiton (1997-). Biography: In short, came from a middle class family from Kensington, London. Father was a headteacher. She was very bright and went to top Universities and excelled in the third sector, becoming the Chief Executive of Shelter. Got married to a successful lawyer in 1980 and divorced in 1990. Has a son (born 1985) and a daughter (born 1988). Always been centre left in outlook. Parents were Labour supporters in the 70s and she followed, but moved to the SDP in the 80s in protest of Labour’s leftward turn and never left.
  23. Signing out. May not be permanent but I don’t really feel I have the energy and time for the game sadly.
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