When Theresa May became Prime Minister, she stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised that she would govern in the interests of the “just about managing” acknowledging that people can work every waking hour and still be struggling to make ends meet. But this agenda is increasingly looking like a sham. Last week, the entire Social Mobility Commission which was set up under the Tory and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government resigned, with the Chair, Alan Milburn saying that “the worst position in politics is to set out a proposition that you’re going to heal social divisions and then do nothing about it.”
The numbers are damning. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity has published a report this week setting out figures showing that since 2010/2011, nearly 400,000 more children have fallen into poverty, and they mostly come from families where the parents are in work. This is compunded by the proposed two child limit on child tax credits, that the Government is insisting on ploughing ahead with. Analysis by the trade union UNISON has found that a couple with one earner, who have a third child born after the 6th April 2017, will be £2,780 worse off as a result of the Tories’ two children limit on tax credits. This breaks the Prime Minister’s promise to help the “just about managing”, represents a direct tax on a child, and is an attack on the idea of family. It will leave some families unable to make ends meet.
We also know that the amount of unsecured debt is spiralling in the UK as families struggle financially. But, calculations by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies show that this Tory tax credit “reform” will make things worse for just about managing families, not better. Nearly 600,000 families with 3 children will on average lose around £2,500 per year and 300,000 families with four or more children will on average lose £7,000 per year once the change has been fully rolled out.
These changes are a deliberate tax imposition on third children born on or after 6th April 2017, but they of course impact on all members of affected families, adults and children alike. The changes make no allowance for families falling on hard times, no matter how hard the parents have worked, or how much they have paid into the system.
The new rules are an attack on the very idea of family. If a single dad caring for two children and a single mum with a child of her own, wanted to join their families together under these rules they would face a financial penalty of £2,780 if any of those children were born after April 6th 2017. Families come in all shapes and sizes, with circumstances that can and do change.
These new rules punish working families. A child born after 6th April 2017 is no less a child, and has no fewer needs, than a child born a day earlier. There can be no policy important enough, or the marginal saving worth enough, to justify deliberately placing children into poverty. Let’s be clear, without this money some families will be unable to meet their basic needs. Hunger and cold do not discriminate between the “deserving” and "underserving". Therefore, every child deserves support regardless of the choices and circumstances of their parents.
Which brings me onto the other element of this dreadful policy; the “rape clause” exemption.
Exemptions to the tax credit limit of two children include children who have been conceived as a result of “non-consensual” conception.
The rules require rape victims to relive their trauma in trying to justify their tax credit claim on an application form they must complete. They must name the child. The Department of Work and Pensions have described the changes to tax credits as a “key part of controlling public spending.”
I can think of a lot better ways to do this. I bet you can too. That’s why I am supporting the campaign to overturn this dreadful policy.
When Theresa May became Prime Minister, she stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised that she would govern in the interests of the “just about managing” acknowledging...
Earlier this month I visited the Rohingya refugee camp in Kutupalong, Bangladesh as part of a fact finding visit with the UNHCR and a small number of MPs. Nearly 1 million Rohingya people have fled Rakhine Provine in Myanmar (Burma). Since 25th August 2017, over 600,000 people, mainly women and children have arrived in the refugee camps. Many are victims of sexual violence and torture and many have witnessed the murder and rape of members of their family by the Burmese military as they have fled. Their homes and villages have been destroyed by the military. Yesterday I spoke in a debate about the crisis. We were limited to 3 minutes so I didn’t have enough time to say everything I wanted to.
Earlier this month I visited the Rohingya refugee camp in Kutupalong, Bangladesh as part of a fact finding visit with the UNHCR and a small number of MPs. Nearly... Read more
Yesterday's budget from the Tory Chancellor was massively disappointing. We needed creative solutions and rapid action to fix the growing problems in our economy but we didn’t get them.
We needed an end to the Universal Credit chaos with the roll-out paused and the system fixed.
We got a 1 week reduction on the 6 week wait without any money. This means a family claiming tomorrow would still not automatically recieve any money before Christmas. On top of that no pause, no fix and there are still inbuilt cuts affecting people with severe disabilities.
We needed the public sector pay cap lifting and money for Welsh Government to give all public sector workers a well deserved, above inflation pay rise. It’s the least that should happen.
We got the typical Tory divide and rule tactic. Apart from the NHS, any increase in public sector pay above 1% will have to be met from existing budgets. So more failed austerity and no fair funding for Wales.
We needed funding for infrastructure across the country including funding for the redevelopment of Cardiff Central station, the go-ahead for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon pathfinder project and reinstatement of rail electrification from Cardiff to Swansea.
We got nothing.
We needed proper, sustainable funding for our public services; health, education, and local government after seven years of austerity budgets for Welsh Government.
We got a measly £1.2bn over 5 years for the Welsh Government. That’s £80 a year for each of us. More austerity. No fair funding.
We needed the UK Government to back a UK wide drive to build more homes to meet demand. Creating jobs, creating training and apprenticeships, boosting the economy and providing properly affordable housing for young people who have been shafted by the Lib Dem and Tory governments over the past seven and a half years.
We got more Government bungling. The budget contained an announcement on stamp duty exemption for first time buyers on homes up to £300k. But, the Office for Budget Responsibility confirms today that this will result in rising house prices and the main beneficiaries will be existing property owners. A solution that manages to create more problems and does nothing to help young people get on the property ladder.
Above all we needed a guarantee that Wales will not lose a penny from Brexit. I have asked the Government to confirm that the Shared Prosperity Fund that will replace EU funds after 2020 will match the £680 million a year in EU funding Wales will lose through leaving the EU.
The Shared Prosperity Fund was not mentioned once in the budget. And the preparations for Brexit (never mind the cost of actually exiting the EU) will cost £3 billion.
It is clear that the Tories are out of ideas. We need new ideas and solutions to fix our economy. They can only be delivered by a Labour Government.
Yesterday's budget from the Tory Chancellor was massively disappointing. We needed creative solutions and rapid action to fix the growing problems in our economy but we didn’t get them.We...
Yesterday, I asked the Immigration Minister what plans the Government has to make sure that post Brexit, the brightest and best international students are able to work here after their studies using their skills and talent for the benefit of the UK economy. Research by ComRes shows that 74% of people think that international students should be able to stay on the UK after their degrees to work before returning home. Most of the public don’t consider international students as immigrants and that’s why I pressed for their removal from the net migration figures that the government bases its targets on.
International students contribute significantly to the economy, directly contributing almost £170 million to our city economy through the Universities and local businesses. All I got from the Minister in response though were some warm words about the importance of international students but no answer on the critical issue of what will happen post Brexit.
Yesterday, I asked the Immigration Minister what plans the Government has to make sure that post Brexit, the brightest and best international students are able to work here after their studies using their... Read more
This morning I questioned the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the independent review the department has commissioned into the future of S4C.
Euryn Ogwen Williams' review will look at all aspects of the Welsh-language broadcaster and make recommendations for government on its future.
This morning I questioned the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the independent review the department has commissioned into the future of S4C. Euryn Ogwen Williams'... Read more
The festive season can be a very difficult time for people in uncertain circumstances.
For the last two years I've taken part in a collection of shoebox donations for women and children in refuges and shelters. It's not where anyone wants to be over Christmas, and many families arrive there having had to leave their possessions behind.
This year Cardiff Central resident Jess Martyn is co-ordinating the appeal, and I'm offering my office once again as a collection point for donations which will be distributed to organisations in the south Wales area including Cardiff Women's Aid, Bawso and Hafan Cymru.
The festive season can be a very difficult time for people in uncertain circumstances. For the last two years I've taken part in a collection of shoebox donations for women... Read more
Voting for the people who represent you is one of the fundamental rights of citizens in a democracy. There is, however, a problem with our current system. Millions of people are missing out on having their say.
Within the current procedure for voter registration, all eligible voters must pro-actively register with their local electoral registration office, and then re-register if they move address, even if it's within the same electoral area.
Along with making it hard for individuals, the system also relies on already over-stretched and underfunded local authorities to track down and chase missing voters in their area.
Evidence has shown that a large percentage of the people not on the register are younger or from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Clearly, this is not acceptable. The already marginalised are getting less of a say at the ballot box.
Fortunately, there's a better way. Today I proposed a Bill in the House of Commons that would require the government to register voters automatically.
This would happen when people are issued with a National Insurance Number or, for people already over 16, using data held by government departments like HMRC and the DVLA.
Using this existing, trusted data is the practical solution we need to fully enfranchise every eligible voter so they can have their say.
We're living in an age of big data and 'digital by default' so it seems counterintuitive for the government not to make use of the solutions available to make sure the electoral register is complete.
Around the world there are many successful examples of automatic voter registration systems, for example in Canada where electoral information is continually updated from records held by government agencies, and in Chile where a recent change added over 4.5million voters to the register, many of them under the age of 30.
Closer to home Denmark, Germany, Italy and Sweden all use a version of automatic registration.
I think it's about time we caught up here in the UK and moved to an automatic voter registration system.
Voting for the people who represent you is one of the fundamental rights of citizens in a democracy. There is, however, a problem with our current system. Millions of people... Read more
The Tories launched their Brexit Trade Bill last week. This is the legislation that will govern our trading relationship with other countries once we leave the European Union. This Bill would allow the Trade Secretary Liam Fox, to sign new trade deals, copy old ones and favour industries without having to put any of those deals before Parliament for them to be scrutinised and voted on. I agree with the assessment of Frances O’Grady the TUC General Secretary that it will allow the Government to “push through dodgy deals and undermine worker’s rights.”
Our trading relationship with the 27 EU member states, the 50 countries the EU has a trade agreement with and the 72 countries the EU is currently negotiating with, will have to be completely reworked. This covers 85% of our trade with foreign countries. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in Wales depend on us getting this right. So we should be carefully scrutinising each Bill and rejecting those which do not meet our standards, or might damage parts of our economy. It is imperative that we get this right.
Trade deals also need to be handled very carefully for other reasons, because without regulation foreign imports can quickly overrun domestic industries. For instance, a trade deal with New Zealand would seem pretty low risk, but cheap New Zealand lamb could quickly make Welsh sheep farming unsustainable and ruin the Welsh rural economy. Issues like this won’t even be considered if a trade deal with New Zealand doesn’t have to go through the scrutiny of primary legislation. That’s before we get on to the chlorinated chicken that the US is so eager to sell us.
This Bill shows that the Government is not interested in good deals struck to benefit the whole of the UK but fast and dirty deals that will give Liam Fox cheap personal wins. Having failed to do any of the trade deals that he so ridiculously promised would be so easy to do. Workers’ rights should also be an important part of our trade policy. It’s all too easy to see how, after we leave the EU, the government will argue that to be able to compete, we need less regulation in the workplace and fewer protections for workers. We’ll be well on our way to a bargain basement economy. This cannot be allowed to happen.
We need to make sure that the government is properly accountable and does not use Brexit as an opportunity to sell British industry to the lowest bidder.
The Tories launched their Brexit Trade Bill last week. This is the legislation that will govern our trading relationship with other countries once we leave the European Union. This Bill...
I’ve had lots of e-mails about my Labour colleague Jim McMahon’s Votes at 16 Private Members Bill. I know many constituents watched the debate on the television and one 17 year old constituent, came to Parliament to watch the debate from the gallery. I also know that a lot of people were concerned that MPs did not vote on the Bill. We may have the opportunity to debate the Bill again on the 1st December, but that isn’t guaranteed.
Most Bills that go through Parliament come from the Government and almost all of the Bills that become law, come from the Government because they have a majority (normally) and can order their MPs to vote down anything they don’t like. At the start of each Parliament, a small number of MPs are drawn at random and invited to bring forward a Bill of their own. These are called Private Members Bills. They are timetabled for debate on a Friday. Most MPs will be working in their constituencies on a Friday, holding advice surgeries, meetings and doing visits. If there is a particular Bill they are interested in then they will be in Parliament on that particular Friday.
However, there are a number of Conservative MPs who stay in Parliament on most Fridays whose sole mission is to stop Private Members Bills succeeding. Their tactic is talking. Talking about the wine list in their favourite clubs, allowing long interruptions from their colleagues who talk in endless circles. Talking on and on. There are very few restrictions for how long an MP can speak for, or on the number of interventions (where you interrupt a speech to ask a question or make a point). The sitting must finish at 2.30pm and so they talk and talk with the deliberate intention of running down the clock. Very often they succeed and a vote does not take place at all. This cabal of Tory MPs have “talked out” a whole variety of good Bills including transposing all EU workers’ rights legislation into UK law in advance of Brexit and allowing the use of off-patent medicines to treat terminal illnesses.
So on the day of the Votes at 16 Bill, those Tory MPs and some more of their colleagues began playing these games from the start of the day during an earlier debate and we ran out of time. Because there were still many MPs who wanted to speak in the debate and hadn’t been able to, no vote took place. It will come back on 1st December – but again with no guarantees about whether it will be debated or a vote will be held.
This all demeans a serious debate about a serious issue. It undermines Parliament and makes it look ridiculous. If the Tories do not want to vote against a Bill then they should let it pass. If they do not, they should be clear and vote against it.
We need to overhaul the system so that good Bills and political reforms are not blocked by a small group of people who appear to have nothing better to do on a Friday than play wrecking tactics and talk for a very, very long time.
A piece of crumbling masonry fell off Parliament the other week and smashed someone’s car. Thank goodness no-one was in it at the time. But I cannot think of a better metaphor for how Parliament’s archaic procedures are unfit for a 21st century legislature. Whilst everyone agrees that the building needs renovation, it’s clear that the procedures do too.
I’ve had lots of e-mails about my Labour colleague Jim McMahon’s Votes at 16 Private Members Bill. I know many constituents watched the debate on the television and one 17 year old constituent, came...
Ofcom has today announced that broadband and landline customers will get money back from their providers when things go wrong, without having to claim it.
Many people are not getting the standard they expect, or being adequately compensated when their service falls short.Waiting too long for a landline or broadband service to be fixed is frustrating enough, without having to fight for compensation.
So, earlier this year, Ofcom set out plans for people to be compensated automatically by providers for slow repairs, missed appointments and delayed installations. This means credit on a customer’s account – without having to ask.
As a result, BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Zen Internet – who together serve around 90% of landline and broadband customers in the UK – have agreed to introduce automatic compensation, which will reflect the harm consumers suffer when things go wrong.
Ofcom has today announced that broadband and landline customers will get money back from their providers when things go wrong, without having to claim it. Many people are not getting... Read more