Business groups have warned David Cameron that he cannot expect companies to automatically raise wages to compensate for cuts in tax credits that are likely to be unveiled in the summer budget.
Industry organisations, including the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) and Institute of Directors (IoD), spoke out after Cameron gave a speech criticising what he claimed was a “welfare merry-go-round” and suggested higher pay should replace tax credits.
There has been speculation that Downing Street could unveil a plan to encourage companies to pay their workers more at the same time as the government announces £12bn of welfare cuts, including reductions to tax credits, next month.
Steve Hilton, Cameron’s former adviser, claimed in a Daily Mail article this week that it was a “complete travesty” that giant retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury’s are making billions of pounds in profits while they are “subsidised by the taxpayer so they can pay their workers a pittance”.
A church minister has written a stirring and emotional letter to David Cameron, urging the Prime Minister to meet with victims of austerity and consider the “social and human cost” of Tory policies.
In a letter posted on the social network Facebook, which has been shared over 100,000 times and sent to Downing Street, Reverend Mike Walsh says he agrees with the PM that the best route out of poverty is by moving into work. But says David Cameron doesn’t seem to understand that people are scared about “what your policies will do to our communities and families”.
“Scared of what will happen to our health service and our schools. Scared of losing our family homes for the sake of a few quid saving from the bedroom tax, or not being able to heat our home and have enough left to buy food.”
Reverend Walsh, from The United Reformed Church, says Tory policies are “couched in terms of reducing the deficit and balancing the books”, and pleaded with Mr Cameron “to govern for everyone and unite the country”.
“The country isn’t a business, it’s its people. All its people. And you are everyone’s Prime Minister whether we voted for you or not.”
David Cameron may better understand the human cost of austerity measures if he spent “a week or two living on the minimum wage, or volunteer in a food bank”, says Reverend Walsh.
“Go to Liverpool and meet people with disabled dependents who can’t afford even one nanny, or to Newcastle and talk to people still living in poverty due to the demise of the coal industry.”
He added: “If you do that, then maybe you can heal some of the fractures in our society. Without this I just don’t believe you can see just how crucial these issues are.”
Foodbank charity Trussell Trust gave out more than one million food parcels in 2014/15, with benefit delays cited as the primary cause of rising food poverty in the UK.
The full letter reads:
Dear Prime Minister,
I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I have some things I wish to say to you.
You have won the General Election and command a majority in the House of Commons, and as such will feel you have a legitimate mandate to govern. However, you must also know that you don’t command a majority of the British people.
Although our political views are very much at odds on many issues, I’m willing to believe that you are a good man, as sure of your ideals as I am of mine, and believe your plan is what’s best for us all. You said today that you will govern for the whole country and bring back together that which has clearly fractured. I hope you will.
But Prime Minister, though you can obviously see your party did not win the confidence of Scotland and huge swathes of the north of England, I’m not sure your party quite understands why. It’s not because we’re all ‘loony-left’ or extremists and nationalists, it’s because so many of us are scared. Scared of what your policies will do to our communities and families. Scared of what will happen to our health service and our schools. Scared of losing our family homes for the sake of a few quid saving from the bedroom tax, or not being able to heat our home and have enough left to buy food.
I don’t disagree with you that the best way out of poverty is to work, nor do I think that people should get something for nothing and expect the tax-payer to support people indefinitely if they are able to work. Who would think that that was ok and fair?
But your party’s policies on these issues, couched in terms of reducing the deficit and balancing the books, don’t seem to take into account the social and human cost of such actions. The country isn’t a business, it’s its people. All its people. And you are everyone’s Prime Minister whether we voted for you or not.
You said today you will govern for everyone and unite the country. I hope you do. But to be able to do so you need to make it a priority in your first 100 days, to spend time in Scotland visiting people on zero hours contracts. Come to Manchester and talk with those who have been sanctioned for having a spare room, but have nowhere else to go. Go to Liverpool and meet people with disabled dependents who can’t afford even one nanny, or to Newcastle and talk to people still living in poverty due to the demise of the coal industry. Spend a week or two living on the minimum wage, or volunteer in a food bank for a whole day.
Then Prime Minister you might begin to understand the cost of your policies from the other side, to see people as more than their net contribution to the economy, or as deliberate drains on the system. If you do that, then maybe you can heal some of the fractures in our society. Without this I just don’t believe you can see just how crucial these issues are.
So please Prime Minister, leave Westminster for a few hours a week and truly strive to govern for all of us.
Rev’d Mike Walsh
The United Reformed Church
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 May 2015
Margaret Thatcher was privately warned to break off relations with a shadowy adviser who claimed to have masterminded the defeat of the miners’ strike, according to newly released government papers.
Files released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show officials feared David Hart – a wealthy Old Etonian property developer – was exploiting his links with No 10 for his own ends.
They warned that unless the Prime Minister severed her links with him, he would end up causing her “grave embarrassment“.
The flamboyant Mr Hart had managed to ingratiate himself with Mrs Thatcher with his enthusiasm for her free market policies, offering informal advice on a range of issues, but it was during the miners’ strike, which began in 1984, that he came into his own.
From his suite at Claridges, he established himself as a go-between between Mrs Thatcher and National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor while making regular forays to the coalfields in support of the working miners in his chauffeur-driven Mercedes.
He was said to have bankrolled the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers and organised the legal action by working miners which led to the strike by Arthur Scargill‘s National Union of Mineworkers strike being ruled illegal.
He later boasted that Mrs Thatcher came to rely on him completely, claiming: “It got to the point where she really let me run it.”
While the true extent of his influence has been questioned, the files show that by the time the strike was drawing to a close in 1985 there was mounting concern in Downing Street about his activities.
In February 1985 Mrs Thatcher’s political secretary Stephen Sherbourne wrote to warn her that while Mr Hart had proved “useful” in the past, he had begun to pursue his own agenda, briefing against ministers like Energy Secretary Peter Walker.
“For example, while professing total loyalty to you, he has not shrunk from denigrating Peter Walker’s activities even though the latter was carrying out the line agreed with you and ministers.
He said that Mr Hart had even sought to interpose himself as an intermediary with the White House in discussions over Ronald Reagan‘s “Star Wars” strategic defence initiative, and warned that he may try to interfere in Northern Ireland as well.
“So long as he feels he can telephone me regularly on whatever issue, so long will there be a risk of grave embarrassment to you,” he wrote.
“I think therefore we must consider how we sever the link with DH in a way which is clear to him but does not unduly offend him.”
In the event the link was abruptedly broken not long afterwards when a misjudged attempt by Mr Hart to lobby the Americans on behalf of a British defence supplier resulted in the contract they were seeking being awarded to the French.
He nevertheless re-emerged in the 1990s as an adviser to Conservative defence secretaries Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Portillo.
Source – Durham Times, 30 Dec 2014
Depending on who they were, Ministers in David Cameron’s Government were either celebrating promotions or mourning the end of their political career after being invited in to Downing Street to hear their fate in today’s re-shuffle.
With a ruling Coalition that has only four North East MPs – all on them on the backbenches – any re-shuffle is not likely to have an obvious immediate impact on the region.
Yet Mr Cameron’s various moves on the chessboard, widely seen as part of his strategy to try and win the next election, will have been followed by many in the region.
It is a fair bet that many a champagne cork will have been popping in school staffrooms at the re-shuffle’s largest casualty, the Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Being unpopular with teachers is almost a job requirement for Education Secretary, but Mr Gove seems to gone above and beyond that brief, not least with teachers in part of the North East after he attacked schools in County Durham with the slightly odd comment that “when you go into those schools, you can smell the sense of defeatism.”
The re-shuffle effectively saw Mr Gove sacked from his Education job. Instead he will become Chief Whip, responsible for imposing discipline on Conservative MPs, and will represent the Government on television, according to the Prime Minister’s official spokesman – which led to him being dubbed “Minister for TV” at Westminster.
Although Mr Gove is popular with sections of his party, and hailed as a hero by supporters of his school reforms, his departure from the education brief is likely to please some North East teachers and heads.
The new Education Secretary is Nicky Morgan, who became in MP in 2010 and was previously a Treasury Minister. After making it into the Commons in 2010 at the second attempt, the former corporate lawyer was quickly earmarked by Mr Cameron as a potential star and was made a ministerial aide within months, a whip in 2012 and a junior Treasury minister last October.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 July 2015
Unite Union Press Release:
Migrant domestic workers will be gathering at Old Palace Yard, Westminster this Sunday (15 June) to demonstrate against the government’s changes to the domestic workers visa.
Despite strong opposition from many individuals, organisations, charities and unions, the government, in April 2012, abolished the rights of domestic workers to change employer once they are in the UK.
Under the Tied Domestic Worker visa, implemented by this government, domestic workers entering the UK have become modern slaves.
They are ‘tied’ to the one employer (who brings them here) making them much more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and preventing enforcement of the employment rights they are supposed to be entitled to.
This effectively traps them with that employer, and they will have to return either to their country or that of their employer within six months.
There is a real danger that domestic workers are now driven underground as many employers enslave, abuse and exploit them more because the current system allows them to do so.
Two years on, thousands of migrant domestic workers have found themselves in this situation of being ‘tied’ to their employer, with no redress if they are abused and exploited and living with the added fear of deportation if they speak out.
These workers, some of the most vulnerable workers in our society, are enraged that after decades of campaigning to get the same rights and privileges we all enjoy, this government demolished their achievement by replacing Overseas Domestic Worker visa with the Tied Domestic Worker visa.
Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “It had taken many years of campaigning to get some of the most vulnerable workers in our society the same rights and privileges that everyone should be able to count on, but this government has demolished these vital achievements.
“Justice for migrant domestic workers cannot be swept under the carpet by this government. They have reintroduced modern day slavery and Unite and others are absolutely committed to ending it and reinstating the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa.”
Marissa Begonia, Justice 4 Domestic Workers chair, said: “The trauma of repetitive abuse of migrant domestic workers on the Tied Domestic Worker visa with no access to justice is inhuman. For this government to facilitate and tolerate slavery in the UK is an unforgivable crime.
“This government must end the abuse, exploitation and slavery of the already vulnerable migrant domestic workers. It’s time to restore domestic workers’ rights.”
Kate Roberts, Kalayaan community advocate, said: “Given this government’s stated commitment to combating slavery in the UK we are dismayed at its rejection of the important recommendations of the Joint Committee for the draft Modern Slavery Bill to reinstate the original visa and corresponding rights.
“Two years since domestic workers were tied to their employers the evidence is clear; that these workers are far more likely to be abused and enslaved than those who are not tied and are effectively imprisoned in these conditions by the current immigration rules.
“With this knowledge it is unforgivable to maintain the tied visa which must be replaced urgently with the original Overseas Domestic Worker visa, a system proven to work well and to allow migrant domestic workers a chance for justice.”
> And who’d like to bet against this government attempting to extend these kind of conditions to the rest of the workforce at some stage ?
Source – Welfare News Service, 13 June 2013
This article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for theguardian.com on Friday 14th March 2014
Bailiffs are to be given access to benefit claimants’ credit reference records in an effort to clamp down on bogus claims.
The move is aimed at making it easier to confiscate high-value possessions if claimants have failed to pay back fraudulently claimed benefits.
The latest sweeping power was given to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) late last year and follows the controversial decision to give HMRC access to all claimants’ credit reference records.
Until last year the DWP only had access to credit reference records on an ad hoc basis if there was reasonable suspicion of benefit fraud, but the DWP now has complete access to credit reference data.
No 10 predicted cars, luxury items and state-of-the-art TVs belonging to “those who have stolen money through dishonest claims” would be targeted.
> A declaration that ought to have had all those MPs who dishonestly claimed expenses sweating. If only , of course, it applied to the rich as well.
It is estimated that £1.2bn was lost to benefit fraud last year and ministers are determined to do more to get that money back. Downing Street claims recent cases have found individuals claiming multiple benefits for years despite having full-time jobs, property portfolios and undeclared capital.
> Is this really true ? Given how many hoops the average claimant has to jump through just to get basic help, how do people get away with this alledged fraud on a massive scale ? I wish they’d share the secret…
Of course its probably just another bit of spin – some people fraudulently claim benefit, therefore all benefit claimants are probably suspect, seems to be the implication.
The new power means fraudulent claimants will see their benefits repaid through the sale of their assets.
Downing Street said the use of bailiffs would act as a strong deterrent and encourage more people to make arrangements to pay back what they owed without the knock on the door.
Benefits can be – and are already – docked to recover fraud debt.
This year has seen the launch of a publicity campaign to encourage more people to correct errors in their benefit claims early and to persuade members of the public to report suspected benefited cheats.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “Getting the welfare budget under control is a key part of our long-term plan for the economy. We want to end the something-for-nothing culture and deliver for people who want to work hard and play by the rules.”
In December 2011 the HMRC said it was to draw on the expertise of credit reference agencies to tackle fraud and error. The departments have signed a 12-month contract with Experian.
Source – Welfare News Service, 14 March 2014