Tagged: Blyth Valley

Northumberland Greens launch their election battle

Campaigners hoping to turn Northumberland in a Green Party powerbase defied dreary weather to officially launch their election battle.

Natalie Bennett’s party will fight all four Northumberland constituencies at the General Election next month, placing energy, anti-austerity, public services and transport at the heart of their strategy.

Taking shelter under bright green umbrellas, the candidates chose Druridge Bay Visitor Centre, near Amble, for the event, close to the site of a planned opencast mine, which the Greens are petitioning against amid fears it will damage the environment.

The party’s candidate for Hexham and chairman of the Northumberland Greens Lee Williscroft-Ferris, said:

“Today has been a huge success.

“Despite the poor weather, many Green Party members from across the four Northumberland constituencies have come to Druridge Bay to show their support as their candidates officially launch their general election campaigns.

“Although we are each fighting hard in our own areas, we share similar concerns. These include an urgent need to improve public transport and protect our public services, as well as a mutual objective of fighting against the unsafe exploitation of our natural resources through fracking, open cast mining and underground coal gasification.

“We offer a people and planet-focussed alternative to ‘business as usual’ politics and to the narrative of austerity – the number of people here today proves that there is a genuine appetite for a positive, Green vision of hope here in Northumberland.”

It comes as the Greens celebrate being the third-largest party, in terms of membership, in England as the party enjoys unprecedented exposure in the TV leaders’ debates.

While the Greens are not anticipating victory in Northumberland a surge of support for them could make a decisive difference in the key marginal of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Following the retirement of long-serving Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith, Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan is neck-and-neck with Lib Dem Julie Porksen, but the Greens’ candidate Rachael Roberts is holding her own.

Dawn Furness is taking on Labour’s Ronnie Campbell – who polled a 6,668 majority in 2010 – in the Blyth Valley constituency while Chris Hedley also faces a tough opponent in Wansbeck where Ian Lavery will stand for Ed Miliband’s party.

The Save Druridge campaign has a petition, which can be found online: http://www.savedruridge.co.uk

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Apr 2015

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UKIP to target Blyth but sitting MP calls their campaign ‘ageist’

UKIP’s deputy leader has confirmed the party is targeting Northumberland’s Blyth Valley seat.

Nigel Farage’s second-in-command, Paul Nuttall MEP, was in the coastal constituency for the second time in a matter of weeks and said the seat – which is widely regarded as safe Labour territory – is a target for Ukip, while neighbouring Wansbeck was also “of great interest”.

Sitting Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell’s majority has dropped to 6,668 in 2010 from 17,736 in 2001.

The 71-year-old – who is for having a referendum on membership of the European Union – said Ukip was running an “ageist” campaign.

He added this election will be the last time he stands but he was nonetheless confident of a Labour victory.

It comes three months after Ukip opened its North East headquarters off Blyth high street, just a stone’s throw away from Mr Campbell’s office.

“Demographically, it is perfect for Ukip if you look at the people who came over to us at the recent election,” said Paul Nuttall, who is an MEP in the North West.

“We are investing in the constituency and building for the future.

“We are going to put in a very good performance – but it isn’t just about the short-term political gain, this is a long-term target seat.

“With Hartlepool, Blyth sticks out and we did very well in the South Shields by-election too, remember.”

Ukip has remained tight-lipped about its target seats but the MEP could not deny Blyth is now ranked among them.

He could not cite any polling data which says Blyth voters are shunning Labour but confirmed the party will be throwing resources at the campaign there.

“The reports that we hear are very positive, as are the ones we get from Wansbeck,” said Mr Nuttall.

“I’m not going to deny that we are parking our tanks on Labour’s lawn in Blyth. Barry Elliott is a great candidate and he has a good team around him.”

 

Mr Campbell said:
“This will be my last election. I will fight this but then no more. After that, I will retire.

“Ukip has nothing to offer Blyth. We do not have a problem with immigration at all.

“Ukip has talked about being a target for a while. In the North East for them, it is Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, South Shields and us.

“I don’t know why they are targeting me. We are canvassing every day, I was out knocking on doors this morning. I hear that they tell people that I’m too old and that I should retire.

“I have a few years left in me yet. People don’t like ageism. Ageism is just as bad as racism.

“If they can manage to turn over my 6,668 majority then I haven’t done my job for the people of Blyth.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015

Will the Green surge win votes in the North East?

We haven’t yet ordered our coffee and already Shirley Ford, a school administrator and lead campaigner for the North East Green Party, is racing through her lines.

“As of this morning, we had 22 candidates selected with another five possibles,” she says, as we find seats at a quiet South Shields seaside cafe.

“But things are changing so rapidly now. If you had asked me before Christmas, I would have told you something entirely different. We are a small party, we don’t have much money so it is all about candidates’ enthusiasm.”

She seems nervous, but it is an extraordinary time for the Greens. The so-called surge is in full swing.

Calls for Natalie Bennett to be included in the TV leaders’ debates intensified until the dam broke and broadcasters changed their stance in what has been celebrated as a watershed moment for the party. Now, after 20 years on the sidelines, the region’s handful of Green councillors find themselves in the spotlight and, sometimes, the firing line.

“Yes, but that is exactly what we wanted – to be taken seriously,” said Shirley.

And, it seems, times are changing. The party in the region has tripled its number of parliamentary candidates since 2010 and, Shirley, who is sporting a fern green jumper and matching coat, does not by any means predict a win, but she is brimming with optimism.

“Five years ago, we ran just seven candidates and that tells you where local parties’ strength was at,” she says, with a wry smile.

We stood someone in South Shields, Gateshead, the three Newcastle seats, Tynemouth and Wansbeck. This time round we are looking at standing candidates in all but two seats. We might struggle to stand in Sunderland but things are changing every day.

“We didn’t think that Blyth Valley would have a candidate but suddenly we have had some key people joining there that have made it possible for members to select.”

The media glare, she says, is winning the party support but the Greens’ operation on the ground is gathering strength.

“I think that national and local media does make a difference as to what people think something is happening,” she said. “We don’t have very much money. It is up for members of each local party to raise the money for their deposit and for any research or materials.

“We have to be creative. We don’t have the resources to go and knock on everyone’s door or to carry out a poll of the constituency, but we are doing what we can.”

 

Shirley, who will stand in South Shields, was an organiser for the local Stop The War Coalition and has lobbied government as part of the Women in Black campaign against injustice, war and militarism.

“I joined the Green Party 11 years ago but I grew up in a family interested in politics,” she said. “I campaigned against apartheid when I was a student and I was always interested in human rights.”

She says people are finding the party via the Greens petitioning on specific issues, such their campaign against the Newcastle/Gateshead One Core Strategy, which could allow for homes to be built on greenbelt.

Greens are renowned for their passion for the environment and so have been smart in joining with organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage to organisation clean-ups.

But what does it all add up to? Where does she think the Green Party will do well in the North East?

Newcastle East is one to watch – we have been focussing campaign work in the Heaton area and we are very active in Jesmond,” she said.

“We campaigned during local elections on local issues, including on transport and housing. We have been in that area for two or three years building that campaign level up.

“We have been championing more affordable housing and we have seen a good response in the Newcastle North area. I think in Northumberland, in Hexham and Berwick, we will do well. The two parties wanted to link up on energy campaigning issues, such as the Druridge Bay opencast coal mining campaign.

“There has been a lot of – what’s the word – a lot of synergy. They have been linking up on local issues that they are passionate about and I think that comes across.

“We want people to get the message across we want renewable energy projects that are small scale that are not going to be having such a huge impact.”

While it isn’t likely the Greens can unseat the former Labour Minister Nick Brown in Newcastle East, it shows which demographic supports the Greens – students.

In Durham, the party had been quite dormant but in the county council local elections we stood 15 candidates and we came second in the City of Durham division of Neville’s Cross,” she said.

“A good number of student residents live there. We also did well in other wards in the city where there is a high proportion of students.

“We have maintained the momentum that that gave us.”

So, the Green Party is relying on the region’s student vote?

“That is part of the strategy, to engage students and to encourage students to stand. Some of our parliamentary candidates are students. Middlesbrough and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland are students, while others are Young Greens.”

The Greens are also popular among socialists after announcing the party would scrap Trident, renationalise railways and offer everyone a single payment ‘citizens income’, though the party has yet to set out exactly how that will be paid for.

> Well, just scrapping Trident alone would save around £1.5 BILLION a year, not to mention the plans to spend over £100 billion on a replacement for  Trident.

But, Peter Pinkney, the President of the RMT Union, is standing for the party in Redcar as a result, proclaiming that “the Greens are now the party of the left.”

Shirley said the move was welcome news:

“Peter has been a member for quite a long time now and he spoke at the Green Party conference 18 months ago on the whole railway issue. The national part is very excited about it.

“It is really exciting.”

It comes as the Greens announce membership nationally has grown by 120% this year. Now, their leader will share a platform with David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

“It gives people a sense of a change and there might well be a place for a smaller party,” said Shirley.

“This lets people hear our policies and gives people a chance to make their own mind up.

“Last time, we imported the American presidential debate but that isn’t how our system works. You vote for your local candidate on policies and the debates last time didn’t reflect that.”

 

And it is on local issues that the Greens stand to make the most ground in this election.

The Coal Authority has granted licences for companies to explore parts of the North coast to see if underground coal gasification is possible.

The Green Party is mobilising its forces and it is when talking about this that Shirley is most animated.

“We are going to campaign on this off-the-coast, underground coal gasification because this issue has been bubbling along,” she said.

“We are keeping an eye out to see if there are any actual planning applications for anything onshore for both the drilling rigs and the processing plants.

“The argument that is always made is that we have got to have jobs – jobs jobs jobs – but they don’t think about the jobs that will be put at risk, such as tourism jobs and fishing jobs.”

Shirley is keen for the party not to be seen as an extension of eco-charities but as a party with a social agenda.

“We have petitions on particular issues in lots of places,” she said.

“Here in South Tyneside we have a schools campaign to bring back glass bottles and in Jarrow we have a petition to save the walk-in centre.

“We are trying to find solutions to the things that really matter to people.”

Winning in a region where Labour is so strong will be tough. On this issue, Shirley found herself agreeing with the leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, who branded the North East a “one-party state” ruled by Labour.

Shirley says because of this dominance by the big parties, the Greens’ long game will be to campaign on voting reform.

It is sad,” she said “It is partly our electoral system. All of the focus is on those marginal seats and if you are in a safe seat then you are very much taken for granted.

“That is one of the things we want to change.”

She added: “In 2010, a lot of people in the North East told us that they support Green but that they were going to vote Labour because of fear that the Tories could get in.

“Well, the Tories did get in anyway.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  11 Feb 2015

Blyth MP says North East has ‘unfair deal’ after missing out on emergency social care funding

A North East MP has accused Government ministers of ignoring the region’s “first class” healthcare when dishing out emergency cash awards.

This week, Westminster approved a £25m injection into social care for older people in areas where hospitals are facing the biggest problems over delayed patient discharges.

But of the 65 local authorities in England to receive the money, which must be spent by the end of March to ease pressure on wards by moving patients into care in the community, none are in the North East.

Ronnie Campbell, Labour member for Blyth Valley, claims the funding is “almost all southern based where local authorities haven’t been on the receiving end of same level of ConDem cuts as Northern authorities” which have still managed to provide “a first class service”.

And he accused the Government of bailing out councils who are failing to organise their discharges from hospitals properly, while not rewarding Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle councils who are facing up to the challenges.

He explained:

“I’m very worried that local authorities like Northumberland are having their budgets hacked to bits and yet they’re coping with the transfer from NHS care to local authority care.

“They’re under enormous pressure to deliver other services to the general public yet Eric Pickles and Jeremy Hunt are rewarding councils which happen to have marginal constituencies in them. 

“This doesn’t seem to be the ‘fair deal for Northumberland’ local Tories are trumpeting – in fact, this ranks up there with the 20% cut to transport funding and £3m further cuts to the council budget as an example of how the ConDems are targeting the North for purely party political reasons.”

The Department of Health emergency fund was authorised by a special ministerial committee, which has met weekly to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.

According to NHS England, one in five hospital beds was occupied over the Christmas period by someone ready for discharge but unable to move on because of blockages in the system. About a third of these blockages were attributed to lack of social care services.

The average cash boost for each of the 65 councils is £380,000, with money to be spent on extra support for people in their homes and short-term places in residential homes.

Responding to Mr Campbell, Coun Peter Jackson, Tory leader on Northumberland County Council, said:

“The truth is that this Government has fully protected NHS funding from day one.

“Rather than acknowledge this or the indication that our local health care services are performing much better than others across the country, Labour are once again resorting to scaremongering tactics and displaying financial illiteracy.

“Mr Campbell appears to be deliberately misleading the public by confusing local government and health care funding.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Health added:

“We planned for winter earlier than ever this year. We constantly review what additional measures we can take to ease the pressure on services.

“In preparation for the Better Care Fund, the NHS and local authorities are already preparing joint plans to work together better, keep people well and avoid hospital admissions. This money helps speed up that work for this winter.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Jan 2015

Northumberland is dying on its feet

A stark warning has been issued about the future of Northumberland, which has been described as a political no man’s land that is dying on its feet.

It was delivered by the Labour MP for Wansbeck, Ian Lavery, after official figures revealed it to be one of the worst-performing economic areas in the whole of Britain.

Its perilous state was shown in the ‘gross value-added’ (GVA) statistics for 2013, which detail the value of wages and profits from goods and services produced.

For Northumberland, the figure is just £13,481 per head of population, the fifth worst in Britain, and dwarfed by the highest figure of £135,888 in inner London west.

Mr Lavery said at the root of the worrying figures was the fact that traditional heavy industries like mining have never been properly replaced, while the county struggles to compete with Scotland, which gets much more Government financial help.

“We have some great small businesses here but they are not on the same scale as mining,” he said.

“We’re a political no-man’s land. I really fear for the future. People need to be encouraged to invest here and it should be made a special case. It’s dying on its feet.”

His comments were echoed by fellow Northumberland MP Blyth Valley’s Ronnie Campbell, who said the figures showed how the county had been abandoned by successive governments of all colours.

“To put it right we need to be made a special case,” he said.

“We don’t want to be a basket case. They have to come up with a new Barnett formula which benefits this region.”

There had been talk of scrapping the Barnett formula, a local authority funding mechanism which favoured Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when drawn up 34 years ago to provide a boost to economies there, which were then struggling.

However, in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum, in what was seen as an attempt to ensure a ‘No’ vote victory, all three major parties vowed to continue it.

Mr Campbell said as a result of the extra cash, Scotland can offer more inducements to new companies to invest there.

It’s only 50 miles up the road. When the Barnett formula was drawn up, it was done to help Scotland, which was struggling. Now it isn’t and we are, it should be redrawn to help us.”

North East Chamber of Commerce Policy and Research Manager Mark Stephenson said:

For many years we have campaigned about the lack of fairness of the Barnett formula, which seems to be having an increasingly negative impact on the GVA figures.

“Northumberland has many excellent businesses and a thriving tourism offer, but it is one of the counties that has been adversely impacted by the public sector cuts.”

Meanwhile Mr Lavery said: “When people talk about the North East they think of what Newcastle and Sunderland are getting, they think of Nissan and the Tyne and Wear Metro.

“But Northumberland is a million miles away from this.

“The best thing about this county is the resilience of its people.

“They will deliver if given the opportunity; they just need equal opportunities.”

Across the region the GVA per head stands at £17,381, compared with £40,215 in London. Only Wales, at £16,893, and Northern Ireland, at £17,948, have lower figures.

Tyneside performs best in the North East, with a GVA per head of £20,514, although this is still some way below the UK average of £23,294.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  12 Dec 2014

Northumberland prison is a ‘powder keg’ according to MPs

> Another success story for privatisation….

The prison service is “a powder keg” and it’s only a matter of time before staff are seriously hurt, an MP has warned.

Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, urged Ministers to act over a dramatic increase in assaults on prison officer staff.

And speaking in the House of Commons, he highlighted staff cuts at HMP Northumberland, which was transferred to private management 12 months ago.

Sodexo Justice Services now runs the prison after winning a 15-year contract worth an estimated £250 million.

It comes after a number of MPs raised concerns about working conditions in the nation’s prisons.

Work commissioned by the Prison Officers’ Association and conducted by academics warned of high levels of stress among prison staff, and found 65 per cent of prison officers often thought about quitting the job.

A Commons motion warning MPs are “deeply concerned at the findings of the report” was signed by Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell and North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon as well as Mr Lavery.

The MPs urged the Government “to conduct an urgent inquiry into the prison system and the terms and conditions of those trying to professionally carry out an important public service under the most difficult of circumstances”.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Lavery said:

“The Prison Service is not only in crisis, but is a powder keg.

“Somebody must be held accountable because someone, somewhere will be seriously hurt in the Prison Service.

“Nine members of staff are assaulted daily, which means 3,400 a year, up 9.4 per cent.

“More dramatically, serious assaults on staff have increased by 36% since 2010.”

He highlighted the situation at HMP Northumberland, where around 50 inmates took over a wing in riots in March.

He asked Justice Minister Andrew Selous: “Does the Minister share my concerns about the situation at HMP Northumberland, which is in my area?

“When that prison was privatised, Sodexo immediately reduced the work force by a third, yet the prison population has been increasing.

“Have not prison officers who are left to carry out the work every right to be stressed? What will the Minister do about it?”

The Minister told the Commons:

“Those who manage contracted prisons absolutely have a duty to make sure that they keep their staff as well.”

The Government was taking action to protect prison officers, he said.

“We are working towards a new protocol for escalating matters when prison staff are victims of assault to the  which rightly recognises the seriousness of these incidents.”

“The evidence that the Prison Service continues to provide a rewarding career in which staff are able to change lives is irrefutable.

“It is demonstrated in the commitment and tenacity that prison officers have shown in recent months in the difficult circumstances that I have described.

“It is also evident in the organisation’s ability to attract 1,700 new prison officer recruits.”

Sodexo Justice Services operates one prison in Scotland and three in England.

It is part of the French multinational Sodexo Group, which provides services including catering, cleaning and security.

The first jail to be transferred from public to private operation was HMP Birmingham, which is run by G4S.

Fourteen other prisons in England and Wales have been privately managed since they were opened.

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith has also expressed concern about staff cuts introduced by Sodexo at HMP Northumberland.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  11 Dec 2014

North East Labour MPs back firefighters in pensions dispute

MPs have spoken out to back firefighters, following a four-day strike over pensions.

Labour MPs from the North East urged Ministers to negotiate with firefighters.

And Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, hit out at plans to make firefighters work until they are 60 before they can receive their pension.

Currently, firefighters can retire at 55 but plans to make them work another five years are one of the contentious issues that have led to the strike.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Campbell said:

“I worked down the coal mine for 29 years, and I watched old men of 60 struggling at the coal face. What must it be like for firemen of 60 trying to save lives from fire and flood?”

He was answered by local government minister Penny Mordaunt, who said:

We need older workers to stay in the fire service because they have great expertise. By offering protections on pensions and jobs for older workers and good practice for fire authorities to follow, we will ensure that in future they have the protections that Labour did not introduce.”

> Sounds like “we need to keep on older workers because we can’t be arsed to train younger ones.” ?

The last Labour government raised the retirement age to 60 for people becoming firefighters after April 2006. The Government’s plans would increase the retirement age for every serving firefighter, including those who expected to retire at 55.

Other changes include changing the way pensions are calculated, which effectively means people will receive less, and increasing contributions.

Fire Brigades Union members began a four-day strike at the start of the end of October .

North West Durham MP Pat Glass asked:

“We have just come through the longest firefighters’ strike in 38 years. When will the Government stop their politically motivated and disingenuous behaviour in this dispute and genuinely sit down with the Fire Brigades Union to settle this, as the Governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are doing?”

Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell asked the Minister:

“Why does not she treat them with the respect that they deserve?”

And Stockton South MP Alex Cunningham highlighted a letter from Mrs Mordaunt to a Labour MP in which she said:

“I am conscious that we will only have the ideas for the service to meet future challenges and aspirations if firefighters are engaged and feel an ownership for the service. Trust and good morale are key to this.”

He asked her:

“How does refusing to change a single word of the regulation improve morale, and how does refusing to negotiate improve trust?”

The Minister insisted that firefighters received “one of the best schemes in the public sector”.

She said:

“There has been extensive debate and consultation on these matters. I have dealt with any outstanding issues in the past few months, including those of the transition of armed forces pension schemes into the firefighters’ pension scheme and fitness protections.

“The regulations have now been laid, and it is evident from the questions coming from the Opposition that they do not understand the scheme. It is an excellent scheme, and to say otherwise would be to do firefighters a disservice.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  12 Nov 2014

Pulling out of the European Court of Human Rights is a “sop to UKIP and right wingers” say NE politicians

Tory plans to pull out of the European Court of Human Rights have been dismissed as a backward step and “a sop to Ukip and right wingers” by North East politicians.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling believes the extraordinary move would restore “common sense” to the British legal system, allowing judges in this country to effectively ignore Strasbourg.

The extraordinary move would give the ECHR no move than an advisory role and hand politicians and judges final say on issues like prisoner voting and life sentences. Mr Grayling also said it would stop terrorists and foreign criminals relying on human rights laws to stay in the UK.

But Labour peer Jeremy Beecham accused the Justice Secretary of pandering to the right wing.

He said: “This is a sop to Ukip and Tory right wingers.

“It was a Conservative Government which led the way on the EHRC, but the present Tory Party has a shocking record on legal aid, access to justice and judicial review and this just another example of its attitude, ironically in what will be the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta.”

Vera Baird, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The Human Rights Act benefits ordinary people on a daily basis and can help victims of crime.

“Recently it allowed two young women, who were victims of the black cab rapist John Worboys, to sue the police for failing to investigate his appalling crimes properly.”

She added human rights law was widely misrepresented in parts of the media and called on Chris Grayling to re-think the plans.

She said: “For instance in 2006 it was reported that police gave fried chicken to a suspected car thief who had fled from police and was besieged on a roof ‘because of his human rights’.

“Surprise, surprise, there is no human right to KFC – it was used as part of the negotiating tactics that encouraged him to come down.

“Nor is there a bar to deporting a criminal because he has a British cat, as Theresa May once claimed.

“Whether a foreign criminal stays or goes is a balancing act, which is far better done in our courts than in Strasbourg.”

But Labour’s Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell believes the country should be given a choice on its relationship with Europe.

He said: “On the whole it’s good to have a Court of Human Rights as they have made some good decisions, but I haven’t agreed with them all.

“Although I haven’t agreed with all the decisions made by the judicial system, I still think we should let the people decide, not the politicians, and have a referendum.”

Chris Grayling made the announcement as the Conservative Party Conference drew to a close this week and as the campaign for next year’s General Election gets underway.

He said: “We will always stand against real human rights abuses, and political persecution. But these plans will make sure that we put Britain first and restore common sense to human rights in this country.”

>  Translation – lets make Britain a feudal state where people like me who went to the right schools get to make the law that suits our best interests. Fuck anyone else.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  03 Oct 2014

Blyth MP says Tory crackdown on tax evaders has failed

A pledged crackdown on tax evaders who fail to pay tens of millions to the Treasury has been a failure, a North East Labour MP says.

Blyth Valley’s Ronnie Campbell’s comments come after tax expert Richard Murphy estimated around £80m was not paid to the Government last year.

The MP also called on the Conservatives to reverse job cuts at HM Revenue and Customs (HRMC) which he says have shrunken the workforce by 43% in just over a decade.

He said: “The current Tory-led coalition has promised a clamp-down, but have not acted on those empty promises.

“Think how many new hospitals, schools and care homes could have been built across the North East.

“It is a disgrace and the next Labour government will sort it out.”

The report, commissioned by the Public and Commercial Services union, revealed the overall amount of tax owed, evaded or avoided has barely reduced despite tough-talking pledges by the Government. It adds evasion could rise to £100bn by 2018-19.

The report focused on economic activities not recorded or declared so as to avoid government regulation or taxation; tax lost as a result of other criminal or fraudulent activity in the UK economy; capital gains tax and inheritance tax and offshore tax evasion; and tax evasion on investment and rental income.

The report recommends introducing a proper anti-avoidance rule into UK tax law; country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations; reform of small business taxation; and proper regulation of companies in the UK to ensure they file their accounts and tax returns and pay the taxes they owe.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  30 Sept 2014

North-East MPs explain why they voted in favour of RAF strikes against IS

> Never any money for welfare, always plenty for warfare..

 

RAF fighter aircraft were poised to launch air strikes against Islamic State (IS) jihadists after Parliament gave the green light for military action.

At the end of a marathon Commons debate, MPs voted by 524 to 43 – a majority of 481 – to endorse attacks on the militants in Iraq in support of the United States-led coalition, with Labour backing the Government motion.

> Of course Labour did… Cameron probably told them there were weapons of mass destruction only 45 minutes away. Well, it worked last time they voted us into a war…

Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs – meeting in emergency session – that Britain had a “duty” to join the military campaign as IS posed a direct threat to the country.

“This is not a threat on the far side of the world,” he said. “Left unchecked, we will face a terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean, bordering a Nato member, with a declared and proven determination to attack our country and our people.

“This is not the stuff of fantasy – it is happening in front of us and we need to face up to it.”

The US and its Middle-Eastern allies have already carried out dozens of bombing missions in a bid to stop IS over-running Iraqi positions.

The vote gives British military planners the go-ahead they have been waiting for to launch attacks on IS positions in Iraq – but not in IS-controlled parts of Syria where the group has training camps and command-and-control bunkers.

The first wave of attacks is expected to be carried out by RAF Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft based in Cyprus.

Flying from Cyprus will give RAF fighters an hour over IS-occupied Iraq – more than enough time to choose their targets. The Royal Navy is also expected to deploy submarine-launched cruise missiles.

The Prime Minister recalled parliament following an official request from the Iraqi government. The Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour leaderships all supported air strikes although some MPs expressed fears that the UK would get drawn into a wider conflict.

Military action was overwhelmingly backed by MPs of all parties from the North-East.

However, three Labour MPs – Grahame Morris (Easington), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) and Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) were among the rebels opposing air strikes.

Two others – Jenny Chapman (Darlington) and Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) – did not vote.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, said:

“I think there had been a compelling case made. There are two or three elements that really convinced me, because any decision that parliament has to take to commit British military resources is a profound and sombre one.

“The first is this wasn’t Britain unilaterally going into a country almost like an invasion, this was at the request of a democratically elected government of Iraq who is very concerned about the collapse of that state.

“There is a regional coalition, with Arab states involved, it is classed as legal and there are no ground troops.

“That criteria, proportionality, regional cooperation and legality expressed by a democratically elected country, those were the things that clinched it for me.

“Of course, it goes without saying the atrocities that ISIL are carrying out, beheadings of British citizens, threats to others, the recruitment of Jihadists from Britain, we have to stamp this cancer out.”

Mr Wright said he had considered the views of his constituents, some of whom had contacted him ahead of the vote, before committing to the Government’s motion.

This is an issue where people appreciate the complexity, people appreciate that is not the same issue as was Syria last year,” he said.

“It was split half and half. People were saying you have to go in, they have beheaded some of our people, you have got to stop this, there’s a humanitarian crisis and then I had people saying we should not commit to air strikes, violence doesn’t help.

“You have to weigh up the arguments and work out what you think is for the best.”

Mr Wright said he was aware of the dangers of so-called ‘mission creep’ once the bombings began, but felt there would be adequate oversight .

You are always going to have to have close scrutiny from the parliamentary process, that goes without saying,” he said. “This will come back to the House.

“What was really striking in the minutes after (the vote) is that this was not done flippantly by any member of parliament, there was a really sombre mood in the house and in the corridors of Westminster afterwards. People were realising the gravity of what we have done, but thinking that given the situation this is probably the best approach.”

Sedgefield Labour MP Phil Wilson, ( Tony Bliar‘s successor) said he backed the strikes because: “ISIS is a barbaric terrorist organisation which needs to be eradicated. It is only right that we play an appropriate role in its destruction.”

In the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury backed British air strikes, saying: “The action proposed today is right.”

But he warned: “We must not rely on a short term solution, on a narrow front, to a global, ideological, religious, holistic and trans-generational challenge.

“We must demonstrate that there is a positive vision far greater and more compelling than the evil of [IS].

“Such a vision offers us and the world hope – an assurance of success in this struggle – not the endless threat of darkness.”

All the Tyne & Wear MPs (except Stephen Hepburn in Jarrow) voted for military action. Are we really suprised ?

Source –  Northern Echo, 27 Sept 2014

 

Here is a full list of the 43 MPs who voted against

Labour (24)

Diane Abbott

Graham Allen

Anne Begg

Ronnie Campbell

Martin Caton

Katy Clark

Ian Davidson

Paul Flynn

Stephen Hepburn

Kate Hoey

Kelvin Hopkins

Sian James

Mark Lazraowicz

John McDonnell

Iain McKenzie

Austin Mitchell

Grahame Morris

George Mudie

Linda Riordan

Barry Sheerman

Dennis Skinner

Graham Stringer

Mike Wood

Jeremy Corbyn (Teller)

Plus:

Rushanara Ali (Formal abstention)

Conservatives (6)

Richard Bacon

John Baron

Gordon Henderson

Adam Holloway

Nigel Mills

Mark Reckless

Lib Dems (1)

Julian Huppert

SDLP (3)

Mark Durkan

Alasdair McDonnell

Margaret Ritchie

Plaid Cymru (2)

Jonathan Edwards

Hywel Williams

Respect (1)

George Galloway

SNP (5 and teller)

Stewart Hosie

Angus Roberton

Mike Weir

Eilidh Whiteford

Angus Brendan McNeill

Mike Wishart (Teller)

Green

Caroline Lucas

 

> I’ve posted this vid of the Dead Kennedys Kinky Sex Makes The World Go Round before, but it bears repitition. Dates from the Thatcher/Reagan era,  but just change the names to Cameron and Obama and see if you can tell the difference…