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.

EU referendum voting – British Embassy Press release

EU referendum – Press release from British Embassy in Paris.

The British Embassy in Paris has launched a seven-day countdown campaign and competition to raise awareness of Overseas Voter Registration Day (OVRD) on 4th February among expatriates in France.

The press release is available [Here]

Our most secretive Government

This Government is the most secretive in our lifetimes.

Now David Cameron is trying to unpick the Freedom of Information Act, stopping the public knowing what he is up to.  No government should limit access to information that should be freely available.  It’s an argument we can and must win. Get involved in the Labour Party campaign to save the Freedom of Information Act – [Click Here]

If you sign the form you probably need to give your last UK registered post code.

The Labour Party campaign briefing is available [Here]

Some Success!

It now looks like the rush to get fracking has been slowed down. On 26 January the UK government accepted Labour proposals to tighten environmental regulations.

Significant regions of UK shale gas deposits have now been ruled out for exploitation. These include national parks and areas where drinking water is collected. One successful amendment to the bill means that potential fracking sites would be monitored for 12 months before any exploration takes place.

The change to trespass laws, which allow fracking under peoples’ homes without their permission, remains in the Bill. The Bill now goes to the House of Lords where further changes may be made.

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

Zero UK Tax Allowance for Expats

The following is the text of an e-mail from the Branch Secretary published on this site recently:

From: Richard Smith
Hello All,
I am sure that, by now, you will be aware that the UK government is proposing to remove the tax allowances for UK citizens that are resident abroad. This will affect all those that have taxable income in the UK such as Government Pensions (retired Teachers, Nurses, Policemen, Firemen, Military personnel and other public servants) that are covered by the Double Taxation Treaty between the UK and France. It will also include those people with UK property that is rented out – tax payable in the UK.
The current allowance is £10,000 rising to £10,500 later this year – the UK government is proposing to reduce this to zero. This means that you will pay UK tax on every penny of your pension or rental income.
The government is consulting on this proposal The– see link below – which closes on October 9th. Section 7 contains a number of questions and you can reply to as many as are relevant to you.

Unfortunately the consultation period has now ended. However, you can find out the outcome of the public feedback by visiting the Government web page – <HERE>.

We will post helpful comments on the Goverment decision as soon as we know and this will be one of the items on our next branch meeting agenda.

French Fracking Ban Upheld


The Constititional Council has upheld a ban on hydraulic fracturing

The French ban on hydraulic fracturing has been upheld by the Constitutional Council following a legal challenge by energy company Schuepbach.

The following report was published by The Connexion:   The verdict comes as the European Commission said that future plans to exploit shale gas and oil reserves would require an environmental impact study, with French MEP Corrine Lepage saying: “For once, the general interest has won out.”

All moves to drill wells to explore for shale gas in France were halted after the Sarkozy government banned development in 2011 with the law against hydraulic fracturation, the only known method for extracting the gas.

Schuepbach challenged the withdrawal of drilling rights in the Ardèche, Gard, Hérault, Lozère and Aveyron as an “abuse” of the principle of precaution over the risk of environmental damage.

However, the government told the Conseil Constitutionnel the ban was not through precaution but prevention, aimed at preventing environmental problems as hydraulic fracturing carried pollution risks to underground aquifers.

Schuepbach said the ban was not being applied equally as hydraulic fracturing was still allowed for geothermal energy projects.

Fracking is considered dangerous because it uses millions of litres of water plus a cocktail of chemicals and sand to crack open the rock to let the gas escape. It is feared the chemicals can leach into water sources – and no chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing for geothermal energy.

Anti-shale gas protests are to be held in many French towns on October 19 as part of a worldwide anti-fracking day.

An oil industry newsletter has said Schuepbach is claiming €1billion in damages over the withdrawal of its drilling rights, claiming lost profits over the next 50 years – although no study has shown there are proven resources.

Europe’s move to require an environmental impact study for hydraulic fracturing projects comes as the European Parliament reviews legislation that was passed before the controversial technique became well established.

European Commission Meeting – Voting Rights

Delegation meets with European Commission Vice-president

Brux-delegation0913On 5th September, at the invitation of Harry Shindler, I attended a meeting in Brussels at the European Commission representing Labour International. The meeting was with the vice-president of the Commission, Mme Viviane Reding, and her officials to discuss the problem of the disenfranchisement of citizens of some EU member states – principally the UK, but a total of 8 countries that deny their citizens the right to vote in national elections once they live outside their home country. There were also representatives of other political parties and interest groups present, including Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout, and at Harry’s invitation our delegation was fronted by Roger Gale MP (Con).

Mme Reding was very encouraging in her support and her team are investigating what action the EC might take to rectify the situation. She did, however, warn that the EC could not issue a Directive or take legal action unless given the competence by member states – usually in the form of a Treaty. She didn’t rule out the possibility of action through the European Court of Justice if there is a case to be brought on the grounds of restriction to the free movement Article. After she left the meeting we continued in discussion with her officials and legal team for a further hour, making points for them to investigate and answering technical questions posed by us.

She listened carefully to the arguments we put forward but said that we could not leave the matter totally in the hands of the Commission. As national elections currently remain in the competence of member states, it is up to the citizens of those states to bring pressure on their home governments. Our campaign must continue to persuade all parliamentary groups and political parties to change their attitude to expat voters in the hope of getting the 15-year cut-off removed from legislation and ultimately to get proper parliamentary representation.

The meeting concluded with lunch in the Commission restaurant where we discussed what further steps might be taken by the various groups to both assist the Commission and to increase pressure on the UK government. There was total unanimity amongst all present to change the Representation of the People Act amended as soon as possible.

Dick Smith
LICC member