Jo Cox stood for the best of Labour

Jo Cox was a unique Labour MP whose approach to politics, international development and her family marked her out as compassionate and clever. Her work in Westminster and life outside Parliament were cruelly cut short in an act of senseless barbarity in Birstall, West Yorkshire, 16 June 2016.

MPs, activists and the wider Labour movement are grieving today while the deepest pain is borne by her husband and their two children.

See tributes to Jo Cox in LabourList [Here]

Spring 2016 Budget – Typical Tory Budget

Typical Tory Budget

On Wednesday 16 March 2016, the Chancellor, George Osborne, delivered his eighth Budget. A budget that was a culmination of six years of his failures — Jeremy Corbyn let him know:
This budget failed on the deficit, failed on debt, failed on investment, failed on productivity, failed on his own welfare cap and failed to tackle inequality in the UK.

This budget has failed you – See Jeremy Corbyn reply in the Commons on Wednesday

Nearly 801,000 workers are on zero hour contracts. The Chancellor announced £3.5 billion of additional public expenditure cuts, which would further reduce stimulus to the economy. George Osborne has paid for tax cuts for the wealthy by taking money from disabled people. Another £1.4 billion of welfare spending cuts will mainly fall on people with disabilities and further erode the purchasing power of many citizens.

Wednesday was a day of humiliations for the Government. George Osborne’s budget statement clearly demonstrated that the ‘long-term economic plan’ is disintegrating. Across the hall, the Government was decisively defeated in the House of Lords in three separate votes on the Trade Union Bill. On the Political funds, the Government had its heaviest loss, with Peers voting 320 to 172 to limit the measure to new members, and allow a 12-month transition period. The Government’s proposed ban on allowing electronic balloting for votes on strike action also suffered a crushing defeat, of 320-181. The Government is insisting on forcing the bill through, so we may be looking at another Tory rebellion.

Will George Osborne, Chancellor, publish his personal tax return ?

Tory Government puts the interests of multinational corporations at top of their priorities

The Government continues to say that the ONLY alternatives are spending cuts or tax increases. They always ignore the tax dodgers who never pay their whack – and they continue to put the interests of big business first over the British working people. Possibly if everyone paid their dues, there would be no need for any austerity.

The UK economy is in trouble as we well know – otherwise why the austerity – Government debt is increasing at about 3 per cent of GDP each year. To get that under control we need the corporations who avoid paying tax to pay what they are due not reach secret agreements with HMRC behind closed doors to pay trivial amounts of tax. The tax system probably needs complete overhaul, but that will not happen until we get a Labour Government. Until then the least we can push for is that the Government stops paying lip service to dealing with multinational corporations.

It is not just the UK that is losing out, but France and other EU countries that these corporations operate in. For example Netflix paid absolutely no UK corporation tax in 2014 despite being estimated to have around 4.5m UK subscribers. However, it did pay tax in Luxembourg, but at an equivalent rate of about 5 per cent. Vodafone made £1.97bn of profits in the year to March 31, 2015 but confirmed that it paid no UK corporation tax in 2014/15. Of the top 10 companies on the London Stock Exchange, six paid no UK corporation tax in the period covered by their latest annual accounts.

The EU has for far too long, been dragging it’s feet on this issue, but Labour MEPs together with other Socialist and Democrats in the European Parliament have been backing measures to combat corporate tax dodging. Needless to say the Tory MEPs have consistently voted against any measures of this type while paying lip service to the need for them.

The European Commission announced on 28 January 2016 proposals for new laws to tackle tax avoidance and evasion in the EU, which echo the recommendations of Labour MEP Anneliese Dodds’s recent report.

The plans include making more companies report, country-by-country, where they make their profits and where they pay their taxes. Other proposals include applying sanctions to tax havens and companies using them. The new legislation will mean EU countries will need to take a common approach to preventing tax avoidance and tackling tax havens. It’s no wonder that David Cameron wants the UK to be able to ignore EU directives, but still be a member of the EU.

John McDonnell said: “The mask has finally slipped. The Tories have been saying they want to clamp down on tax avoidance to the British people, but when they think our backs are turned they are telling their MEPs to oppose any measures to make it happen. The truth is they run a ‘don’t know, don’t care’ approach to tax avoidance.”

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, has written to George Osborne, Chancellor, to ask him for full disclosure and transparency of the Treasury’s tax deal with Google. See the letter in full [Here]. John has published his own tax return in the Sunday Mirror and has called on George Osborne to follow suit.

Why is ANY investor-state dispute mechanism needed?

On 16 September 2015 Cecilia Malmström, the European Union’s Commissioner for Trade, put forward a proposal to change the current policy on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The proposal was to replace the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which is about allowing corporations to sue governments over laws which might affect their profits, with another system that would be used for all ongoing and future deals by the European Union (EU). This will be known as the Investor Court System (ICS).

TTIP is still being negotiated behind closed doors – in secret – so that the public find out as little about it as possible. Economic barriers between the EU and the United States are relatively low in any case, but the EU negotiating mandate of June 2013 for TTIP covers market access for goods and services by removing custom duties and gaining easier access to public markets and making it easier to invest. The hope is that it will produce jobs and growth. However, previous similar agreements with other areas have only showed slight benefits and real risks.

The agreement texts are being developed by 24 joint EU/US working groups who each consider a separate part of the agreement, in secret. Negotiations are held in cycles between the USA and Brussels with the first taking place from 7 to 12 July 2013 and the latest, the tenth took place from 13 to 17 July 2015. The EU is now producing reports on each negotiation, but these are little more than a very brief summary – not providing any detail at all. Worthless!

Many will find it incredible that Malmström has had to propose an alternative to ISDS at all. What is wrong with the existing courts that companies and corporations use all the time? Why set up any special system at all? There can only be one answer to that and it will certainly not support justice as we know it.

See Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons on 15 January 2015 when TTIP was debated: [Here]

Ed – Why I want to be Prime Minister

Ed Miliband –

So here are the promises I’m making to you about the kind of Britain I will lead:

First, I will undo the damage the Tories have done to our country:

I will scrap the Bedroom Tax, which unfairly punishes the disabled and the vulnerable
I will scrap the Health and Social Care Act, which damages and undermines our NHS
I will scrap the gagging law, which limits our freedom of speech and right to campaign
I will reverse the Tories’ £3bn tax cut for millionaires, so we get the deficit down but do it fairly

Second, I will take on the powerful vested interests that hold millions back:

I will force energy companies to freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017
I will give power back to those who rent their homes, by scrapping letting fees and stabilising tenancy agreements
I will raise money from tobacco companies, tax avoiders, and a mansion tax to fund doctors, nurses, careworkers and midwives for our NHS
I will reform our banks so that they properly support small businesses
I will stop recruitment agencies hiring only from abroad

Third, I will start to rebuild a fairer, better Britain:

I will raise the minimum wage, to ensure that everyone that does a hard day’s work is properly rewarded
I will promote the living wage by giving tax breaks to companies that pay it
I will ban the damaging zero-hours contracts that exploit British workers
I will bring in a lower 10p income tax rate, cutting taxes for 24 million workers
I will support working parents with 25 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds
I will help more young people get on the housing ladder by getting 200,000 homes built every year

Vivian Reding on European Justice Policy

Call to national leaders at the European Council by Vivian Reding

Viviane Reding
Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner

Justice past, justice present and justice future – three messages to the European Council

Event at the Centre for European Policy Studies

Brussels, 20 June 2014

Main messages of the speech

My call to national leaders at the European Council next week: Don’t discuss only about ‘people’ (and the jobs they should get) but also focus on policies for people.

The Lisbon Treaty was a game-changer for EU justice policy: no more deals done by national governments by behind closed doors; law-making in this policy area has thus become a lot more democratic and transparent.

The 2010s justice policy developments were comparable to the developments in the Internal Market in the 1990s. Over the past four years through over 60 initiatives, we have laid the building blocks of a true European area of freedom, justice and security at the service of citizens.

Justice policy used to be a rather isolated area, often perceived as “a playground for lawyers”. Today, justice has become an instrument to boost economic growth and employment.

Justice policy used to be held hostage to security concerns, consisting mostly of knee-jerk reactions to the latest scare that left no room for the needs and concerns of citizens. We have changed that by putting citizens first.

EU Justice Policy in future needs strategic priorities to tackle challenges. I see three tasks: to build more trust, promote mobility and contribute to economic growth.

The new rule of law framework is now in place and operational. Respect for the rule of law is the prerequisite for the protection of all fundamental rights. Fundamental rights would be an empty shell without the rule of law.

EU citizens’ right to free movement is not up for negotiation. The four freedoms – people, goods, services and capital – go together. No one has a right to pick and choose

By 2020, a true European area of Justice should exist. Citizens and businesses deserve nothing less.

Download or view the full speech – [Here]

Speech: Justice past, justice present and justice future – three messages to the European Council
European Commission – SPEECH/14/481 20/06/2014

This text is taken from Press releases database.

Meeting with Electoral Commission

Overseas Voting


Electoral-Commission-6Aug131-260x260Labour International Coordinating Committee (LICC) meeting with the Electoral Commission, 6 August 2013.
LICC members held a meeting at the Electroral Commission to discuss issues pertaining to expatriate voting in UK elections. See the full report on Labour International web site – <click here>.
LICC members present at the meeting were (from the left) Dick Smith, Lorraine Hardy, and Dalvir Singh.

Chancellor Gives Tax Break to Fracking Companies

Chancellor gives huge amounts of our money to gas exploration companies

The Chancellor has announced enormous tax breaks for companies who want to increase the UK reliance on fossil fuels by fracking for shale gas.  The tax rate has been set at 30% which is far below the current top rate of 62% for new North Sea oil operations and up to 81% for the older offshore fields.

So far there has been little mention of regulation and control to ensure that chemicals used in the fracking process are disclosed or of assessment of the well integrity to ensure that boreholes are not prone to leaking.  The coalition Government has made no mention of any use of micro-seismic monitoring of potential drilling areas to determine the impact on local area.  As far as George Osborne is concerned it is a bonanza for his pals while he misleads the public into thinking that their gas prices will go down.

The truth is that the gas extracted will most likely be sold on the open world market and because of the costs involved in shale gas extraction in Britain compared with the United States, there will be no cheap gas for consumers in the UK, simply large profits for the fracking companies and energy companies at the tax payers expense.

No change there then!

See the letter from the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change where the six conditions set by the Labour Party for shale gas exploration are set out.

French PM Rejects Shale Gas


Prime minister rejects shale gas

July 12, 2013

PRIME Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has rejected a call for a rethink in the shale gas debate and said the government will not allow its exploitation in France.

He was speaking after Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg told a committee planning reforms to the Code Minier – which sets the laws on development of underground resources – that he would like to see a state-owned company involved in “ecological” exploitation of shale gas (gaz de schiste).

Mr Montebourg’s challenge to government policy came just a week after Delphine Batho was sacked as ecology minister for criticising a 7% cut in her budget.   He had said that such development would allow the country to cut its imports of petrol and gas.

However, the prime minister replied that the government had two main objectives in its energy policy: to cut energy consumption, and in particular fossil fuel consumption, and to change the balance of energy sources, by reducing nuclear power from 75% to 50% by encouraging a switch to renewable energy sources.

New Ecology Minister Philippe Martin said there was no such thing as “ecological” exploitation of shale gas and received support from Housing Minister Cécile Duflot, of the Ecology Party.

However, other leading Socialists also want a rethink on shale gas policy with Nord MP Christian Bataille – who co-authored a report in favour of starting exploitation – saying that shale gas could allow France to cut its trade deficit, with 85% of that being due to oil imports.

Reprinted from The Connexion


Rush to Start Fracking


Lord Browne is the most senior business advisor to the tory led coalition government and chairman of the UK’s only shale gas driller.  He said that “We will finance whatever it takes. If we succeed, it will be billions, over 10 years it will be billions of finance to provide”. This, if technical problems to recover shale gas are overcome, would translate into tens or hundreds of billions of profit for gas explorers for decades to come.

We would  argue that although it produces smaller amounts of carbon dioxide when burned than coal, its adoption on the scale that Browne wants would mean that the UK would not meet its targets on reducing greenhouse gases and it would distract from other investment needed in truly green technologies.  There is a growing body of evidence from the United States, where fracking is far more developed, that there are inherent and unacceptably high environmental and health risks associated with coalbed methane and shale gas extraction.

Drilling on a small scale in the UK has already given rise to small earth tremors.  Villagers in Singleton, Lancashire, were woken by small earthquakes in April and May 2011, caused by fracking by Lord Browne’s gas drilling company.

Shale gas, for all its associated environmental and health risks, is unlikely to arrive quickly enough, in sufficient volume, to drive down UK prices to below international levels.

“We don’t want British businesses and families to be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic,” Osborne said in his Autumn statement to parliament in December 2012.  Other countries in Europe do not share his view and are hesitant to endorse fracking because of the concerns that it pollutes water.  See this video which shows some of the problems associated with fracking by clicking this link.