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Volume 45 Number 16, May 30, 2015 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Queen's Speech 2015:

No to the Conservatives' Counterfeit
and Sinister Programme!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Queen's Speech 2015:
No to the Conservatives' Counterfeit and Sinister Programme!

From the Debate in the House of Commons on
the Government's Legislative Programme

What Has Been Said

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Queen's Speech 2015:

No to the Conservatives' Counterfeit and Sinister Programme!


Manchester

The tone of the Queen's Speech was set in its opening lines. This is a tone where everything has a double meaning, as a cover for a deeply antisocial and even sinister legislative programme.

"My government will legislate in the interests of everyone in our country. It will adopt a one nation approach, helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged and bringing different parts of our country together."

Every word is loaded, each phrase represents an attack. But the Conservative government will be judged by its deeds. Past experience, its present programme and its future actions reveal the meaning of its words.

The Speech followed by declaring that so-called austerity will continue:

"My government will continue with its long-term plan to provide economic stability and security at every stage of life. They will continue the work of bringing the public finances under control and reducing the deficit, so Britain lives within its means. Measures will be introduced to raise the productive potential of the economy and increase living standards."

The irony of the monarch speaking about living within our means is not lost.


In this vein, the Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill will make £1.5bn of welfare cuts, with the aim of further rolling back the welfare state, punishing the unemployed and vulnerable and those with health problems and forcing people into low-paid work. This is the tip of iceberg, with £12bn of welfare cuts per year promised. In particular, the Bill would freeze working-age benefits, tax credits and Child Benefit for two years from 2016-17, and will lower the benefit cap to £23,000 for a non-working family. Further it would create a new Youth Allowance for 18-21 year-olds conditional on taking apprenticeships, training or community work placements and remove the automatic entitlement to housing support for this age group.

In an attempt at distraction, the Conservatives made various last-minute promises on tax in the run-up to the election. The National Insurance Contributions Bill/Finance Bill will therefore legislate that there will be no income tax, VAT or national insurance rises over the next five years. Lost in this promise is that the rich are the ones who will benefit the most from this legislation. Separate measures will ensure that those earning the minimum wage for 30 hours per week will not pay income tax, and will raise the income tax threshold to £12,500. The tone is that the government is being generous and also incentivising those who are prepared to work long hours for little pay. It would indeed be an additional scandal if those whose income is under £12.5k had to further suffer the indignity of the government claiming a share of the value which these minimally paid workers create.

Aside from being a pre-election bribe, the claim is that these Bills will "reward those who work hard and do the right thing". This is a recurring theme of the legislative programme, a theme of increasingly forced labour and cutting of welfare benefits. These tax measures are therefore actually a part of the austerity agenda, part of a carrot and stick approach in this context. Similarly, the Childcare Bill, which will "help hard-working families with the costs of childcare and support parents in work" by increasing free childcare entitlement to 30 hours a week for eligible working parents of young children, is a Bill of this kind.


Manchester
In terms of social programmes, the government is set to continue the offensive against the NHS started when in coalition, under the smokescreen of integrating health and social care and creating a 7-day health service. There is no legislation to reverse the direction of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which might have conferred any meaning on these promised measures. Rather, under the guise of introducing measures to ensure the health service meets the needs of the people, the government is entrenching the fragmentation, under-funding, cutting-back and privatisation of the health service, while absolving itself of the responsibility for the functioning of the NHS. At the same time, the agenda and its direction comes from the government, and the whole structure of NHS management and organisation which is causing so much suffering, stress and marginalisation to health workers who bear the brunt of the anti-social direction of the NHS, is consolidated.

The Education and Adoption Bill will increase the government's powers of intervention in so-called failing and yet-to-be-defined "coasting" schools. Regional Schools Commissioners will be given new powers to bring in leadership support. The aim is convert as many schools as possible to Academies under the slightest pretext. The government also plans to greatly expand the setting-up of Free Schools. The aim is increased private involvement in the school system.

The Bill will also increase the scale at which adoption services are delivered, by introducing regional adoption agencies.

Under the banner of helping small businesses and cutting so-called “red tape”, the Enterprise Bill is aimed at deregulation. The premise of the Bill is the capital-centred outlook that workers' concerns and well-being is an impediment to the functioning of business. This itself is a fraud, while the manufacturing base is not considered fundamental to a self-reliant economy, and the monopolies continue to dominate the direction of the economy. The Bill will also introduce a cap on exit payments made to public sector workers. Small businesses, both through their obtaining of funds and their typical path into being bought up by big businesses, form a reserve for the monopolies, through which they make inroads into markets and sectors. The details remain to be seen, but in this context, it involves the deregulation of private businesses alongside constraining the operations of public sector institutions.


Barnet
The Housing Bill will do nothing to guarantee the right to housing and shelter. Instead, it will extend the so-called Right to Buy, which is not a right at all, introduced to undermine Council Housing in the 1980s, to housing association tenants. It will also require local authorities to sell off highly-valued empty council houses. In a bid to promote private and individual house building, it will take forward the "Right to Build", along with other measures.

The Energy Bill will establish an Oil and Gas Authority, for oversight of domestic oil and gas recovery. The Bill will also devolve powers to consent to planning applications for onshore wind farms to local planning authorities. The talk is of energy security; the aim appears to be to keep shale oil and gas extraction (fracking) on the agenda along with new nuclear power.

The so-called Extremism Bill is particularly sinister, introduced as "promoting social cohesion", which is claimed will "stop extremists promoting views and behaviour that undermine British values". On the back of creating an image of an enemy within and "home-grown terrorism", allegedly created through a process of "radicalisation" by "extremist ideologies", the Bill will further restrict the right to conscience through new measures including:

Disruption orders to limit "harmful activities" such as airing certain views in public, particularly on university campuses;
New powers to close premises, including mosques;
Increased immigration restrictions for anyone believed to be preaching "extremist" views;
New powers for the communications watchdog Ofcom to act against channels that air "extremist" content.

This is backed up by the Investigatory Powers Bill, which resurrects the previously-blocked and widely-opposed "snooper's charter" on tracking individual internet use, and goes even further to cover the bulk interception of communications by the security services.


Bristol
Further, though it did not make it into the Speech due to the level of mass opposition and divisions within the Conservative Party, the abolition of the Human Rights Act is on the agenda. Dressed as a proposal for a British Bill of Rights, the aim is to replace this post-war arrangement that, though tainted by the context of the Cold War, came out of the defeat of fascism and the subsequent developments of the time such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, the aim is to pragmatically redefine "rights and responsibilities" (in their words, "restore common sense") to fit with the logic of the Extremism, Investigatory Powers and other Bills and future legislation in the context of all being subordinate to the rights of the monopolies.

Workers' rights will be further eroded by the Trade Unions Bill, which will "ensure hard-working people are not disrupted by little-supported strike action". This Bill will raise the voting thresholds for strike action, which will be high still in certain public services (health, education, fire and transport). It will also introduce time limits after which a new ballot would have to be held. The Bill would also legislate on the political fund, requiring that this be an opt-in process. Again, the whole premise of the Bill is anti-worker, as well as being profoundly anti-social.

An Immigration Bill will "control immigration, making sure we put hard working British families first". The introduction of a new criminal offence of illegal working has already been widely condemned, and includes draconian powers to seize the wages “illegally” paid. In addition, it will require banks take act against such migrants' current accounts, while there will be a "clearer bar on access to services". The Bill will require employment agencies that recruit from abroad to also advertise the jobs in Britain. The government openly declares it will apply a guideline of "deport first, appeal later". Further, all "foreign offenders" released on bail will be electronically tagged.


Norwich
The European Union Referendum Bill is also sinister. Anything but opposition to the Europe of the monopolies, it has the aim of infecting the debate with British chauvinism, in the context of competing empire-building programmes by sections of finance capital in the US, Britain and Europe. The working class will have to take the lead on this issue and make its own perspective the determining factor in the debate that this referendum will open up, and put defence of sovereignty and the creation of a progressive anti-austerity alternative at the centre of considerations.

British chauvinism was a big feature of the Speech, with the Queen promising that the "government will continue to play a leading role in global affairs, using its presence all over the world to re-engage with and tackle the major international security, economic and humanitarian challenges". Explicit reference was made to the Middle East, "a political settlement in Syria", "support to the Iraqi government's programme for political reform and national reconciliation", "pressure on Russia" over Ukraine, and "an enhanced partnership with India and China". As required historically, it will present an Armed Forces Bill. It also announced a full strategic defence and security review.

The government is attempting to head off the movement for Scottish, Welsh and Irish sovereignty and decision-making power in the Scotland Bill, Wales Bill and Northern Ireland (Stormont House Agreement) Bill. It will continue to press ahead with the English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) proposals, via changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons rather than a Bill, as a further attempt to block Scotland's say in political affairs.


Cardiff
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill will provide for the devolution of powers to cities with elected mayors. This is part of the above agenda of using devolution to manipulate the demand for a say, as well as recognition of the increasing class division between the north and south and the accelerated implementation of the privatisation agenda. The pipe-dream currently touted is for a "Northern Powerhouse". Related to this, the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, carried over from the 2013-14 session of parliament, will empower the government to compulsorily acquire land required for HS2.

Other Bills include a Psychoactive Substances Bill, a Votes for Life Bill, and a Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill.

The speech therefore announced a programme that is thoroughly anti-social, anti-worker, national-chauvinist and opposed to the right to conscience; all in favour of bolstering monopoly right.

There are already signs that the programme is in difficulty, particularly given the government's slim majority, even during the writing of the Speech itself. However, it is the people's movements and the building of an organised Workers' Opposition that are the decisive factor. No to the Conservatives' counterfeit and sinister programme! The task presents itself, as underlined by this thoroughly reactionary Queen's Speech, to carry forward the struggle against the austerity agenda and to defend the rights of all.

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From the Debate in the House of Commons on
the Government's Legislative Programme

The debate in the House of Commons began on Wednesday May 27 after the Queen had delivered her speech on the government's legislative programme, known as the “Gracious Speech”, from her throne in the House of Lords, emphasising that ultimately power derives from the monarch-in-parliament, and not from the people. The debate technically takes the form of whether a “humble Address” be presented to the sovereign offering thanks for the speech.

After the general debate on May 27, the pattern of the debate was to follow: Thursday 28 May – home affairs and justice; Monday 1 June – Britain in the world; Tuesday 2 June – health and social care; Wednesday 3 June – devolution and growth across Britain; and Thursday 4 June – the economy.

We reproduce below some short extracts from what was said during the debate on Wednesday and Thursday.


May 27

Harriet Harman (Acting Leader of the Labour Party)

We fear that the reality of this Queen’s Speech will be very different from the rhetoric. The Queen’s Speech talks of one nation, yet the Prime Minister sets the nations of the country against each other. The Queen’s Speech talks of working people, yet he threatens basic rights at work. At a time when our economy, our constitution and our public services are fragile, we fear that this Tory Government will make things worse. As the dust settles, the real question is whether this Queen’s Speech will improve our country, our communities and people’s lives. That is the test that will be set for this Government and that is the standard to which we, as the Opposition, will hold them to account.

Angus Robertson (SNP Westminster Leader)

The Queen’s Speech, drafted by the Prime Minister, talks of a one nation approach, without acknowledging that the UK is a multinational state, or that the four nations of the UK elected different parties to lead in England, in Scotland, in Wales and in Northern Ireland. I genuinely hope that Government Members understand what that actually means. […]

The 2015 Budget showed that the cuts are set to grow. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlighted, the cuts will be “twice the size of any year’s cuts” in the last Parliament. The mammoth cumulative cuts to public services in the UK are estimated at about £146 billion. These decisions have a very real and devastating impact, most often on those vulnerable people and families who have the least. The IFS has found that the coalition’s tax and benefit changes have seen the poorest endure the largest proportionate losses. The IFS also estimates that by 2020 relative child poverty across the UK will increase to over 30%, affecting 4.3 million children - repeat, 4.3 million children - and that would be a scandal. All of this comes at a time of widening wealth disparity, with the top 10% of society owning 44% of the wealth, while the bottom half owns just 9%. […]

It is in the interests of everyone that better decisions reflecting local priorities should be taken closer to communities including with respect to the “northern powerhouse”, much vaunted by the Government side, although there might be differing perspectives on what constitutes “the north”. […]

The SNP will present a constructive, but tough opposition. The problem with the Queen’s Speech is that there is no recognition in it of the fact that Scotland completely rejected the Tory agenda. Instead, we are to be led by the Tories’ wrong priorities. At a time when people are suffering from the impact of austerity, the Tories are focused on the wrong issues. On the vow given to the people of Scotland, we will judge the Scotland Bill on its content.

Emily Thornberry (Labour, Islington South and Finsbury)

The Conservatives say that a benefit cap of £23,000 will reward hard work, but we know from the past two years that such a cap does nothing of the kind. In my constituency, it pushes people out of Islington; children from established families in Islington have to leave their primary school and move out not because £23,000 is not enough for the family to live on, but because it is not enough for their landlords to live on. The rents are so high and these people are expected to pay ridiculous amounts. Neither the Conservative manifesto, nor the Queen’s Speech contains any answer to the housing crisis in inner London, across the south of England and, indeed, across the country. It is no answer to the housing crisis to say, “We will allow people who have secure tenancies in good affordable housing to buy those properties at a huge discount and local authorities can then pay the housing associations compensation by selling more affordable housing.” The only answer to our housing crisis is to build more homes.

Jonathan Edwards (Plaid Cymru, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr)

My country will not be left behind. I warn the UK Government that the most powerful message in Welsh politics is about equality with Scotland. There will be a heavy price to pay at the ballot box at next year’s National Assembly elections if the Westminster parties continue to treat Wales like a second-class nation. […]

I have called on the National Assembly to hold an urgent vote on a motion indicating its support for the Human Rights Act. If the Westminster Government were to ignore the sovereign will of the National Assembly for Wales, the matter would more than likely end up in the Supreme Court. That would have significant constitutional implications.

Graham Allen (Labour, Nottingham North)

I fear that having gone from a situation of great political volatility, we may now try to assume that it is back to business as usual and that, because there is a majority, this place is a sausage machine that is here just to ram through legislation. That would be a disaster for the nation at any time, but particularly when fundamental issues impacting on our democracy are going to come before us over the next five years. “Back to normal working” is a bad philosophy. We need to respect those who have different views and, through our processes and procedures in this House, to accommodate these debates. If we fail to do that, we will be putting a lid on things that will explode off our democracy in the not too distant future.

John Martin McDonnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington)

The fundamentals of our economy remain completely unaddressed: we have an unbalanced economy; production, manufacturing and construction have still to recover to their 2008 levels; and the finance sector is oversized and unregulated. At the last estimate, 60% of the big five banks’ profits since 2011 have been lost as a result of scandals. There is now a current account deficit of 5.5%, and a massive outflow of capital from this country. We have a debt of 80% of GDP, the bond markets are extremely volatile and the eurozone is unstable. These are all the ingredients for another crash, yet we do not seem to be debating that at the moment, despite the continuous warnings from the Office for National Statistics and the Office for Budget Responsibility in recent months. […]

We need to remind Governments to have an element of humility. This Government were elected by 25% of the electorate; 75% of the electorate failed to support them. That is why I issue this warning. There are real frustrations within our political system. People whom we represent are angry because successive Governments have not delivered the basics to them, new Labour and Conservative Governments alike. They have not provided people with decent jobs, decent wages or the ability to live in a decent home with a roof over their head and in a decent environment. Unless Governments acknowledge those frustrations and they are reflected in this House, they will be ventilated elsewhere.

If the Government fail to listen, opposition will surface on picket lines no matter what the legislation states. We will go back to the days of wildcat strikes, whether or not union members comply with the legislation proposed in this Queen’s Speech. These problems will be seen on the streets, just as we have seen tonight in Parliament Square, which has been blocked by people who are angry at not being listened to and angry at the production of this Queen’s Speech.

Meg Hillier (Labour/Co-operative, Hackney South and Shoreditch)

The Prime Minister spoke earlier about his one nation vision for Britain, and I hope that when he next visits Tech City he will also take the time to visit the Wenlock Barn Estate or other estates in my constituency and see the face of poverty, so that he really means what he says about one nation. In Hackney, 47% of children live in poverty. One local housing association recently told me that it has more working tenants on benefits than tenants who are not working. In many of the excellent secondary schools in Hackney, which are doing a great job, headteachers have a supply of clothing because so many children cannot afford to replace school uniforms. Only recently, one headteacher told me how she had had to buy a pair of shoes for a child after much cajoling to get the new shoes they had been promised but could not afford.

John Mann (Labour, Bassetlaw)

We want a vision in the Labour party. I have got a good vision. How about we let those in education run education, and we let those in the health service run the health service, so that local communities have a proper say? I do not want this Government trying to shut my ambulance stations like they did last time, or trying to shut my accident and emergency, and trying to shut my maternity department. I did not want it, my community did not want it, and we fought back.


May 28

Joanna Cherry (Shadow SNP Spokesperson, Justice and Home Affairs)

The tone and tenor of the Government’s approach to human rights and civil liberties issues give me and my party grave cause for concern. While the Government appear to have been blown off course in their zeal to implement their manifesto pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act, I note that the Home Secretary has confirmed that a Bill will be brought forward to introduce a Bill of Rights and to repeal the Human Rights Act. Lest there be any doubt, I and my party are fundamentally opposed to the repeal of the Act and would consider it a thoroughly retrograde step if that were to be done. Any reduction in current human rights safeguards will threaten the fundamental freedoms to which everyone is entitled in a modern democratic society governed by the rule of law. We should not forget, as the shadow Home Secretary reminded us, that the people who have benefited from the human rights protection afforded by the Act are often the most vulnerable in our society for example, disabled people affected by welfare reform and the families of military personnel killed on active service because the Ministry of Defence supplied them with outdated equipment. […]

In Scotland, the Human Rights Act is part of a larger picture. The rights in the ECHR are written into the devolution settlement by virtue of the Scotland Act 1998. In Scotland, we have a national action plan for human rights and a UN-accredited human rights commission. The SNP’s commitment to human rights extends beyond the civil and political rights in the Act to economic, social and cultural human rights. We believe in Scotland that human rights are central to the way we address the overall challenge of building a fairer and more equal society. Repeal of the Act is strongly opposed in Scotland. Indeed, last November, the Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Act.

Margaret Hodge (Labour, Barking)

Migrants do not come to Britain to scrounge benefits. Many come to study, which is a good thing, as it brings much-needed income to our universities, strengthens our research and development capability and helps the next generation establish lifelong friendships and relationships that will support our international interests and strengthen UK security over decades to come. Most migrants come because they have secured a job, and we need their skills both to enable growth and to maintain our public services. Fewer than one in five comes to Britain to look for work. […]

We would all do well to understand that only 6% of EU migrants claim out-of-work benefits and many of them have earned that entitlement by working and living in Britain for many years. That does not absolve the Government of their responsibility to ensure that there are enough school places, GPs and hospitals and public transport facilities to meet the needs of everybody in our communities, including migrants and their families.

Rob Flello (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South)

Thirty hours on the minimum wage is not enough to live on, so someone working a typical 40-hour week on minimum wage will see a quarter of their income liable to tax. Call me cynical if you will, and many do, but let us see what tax cuts the richest in our society get in the same legislation. […]

I hope that I am wrong, but I foresee a grim five years ahead. At the end of the next five years, our NHS will be unrecognisable, and not for the good. Private companies will have cherry-picked the most profitable parts, with the remaining core being delivered by the public sector and paid for by an ever-squeezed budget. Waiting lists for non-emergency surgery will go the way they did in the 1980s, with patients waiting years to have a hip or knee operation or forced to suffer the rationing of expensive medicines. Some might say that I am overly sceptical, but the evidence is already there. In North Staffordshire our cancer and end-of-life care is about to be sold off on a 10-year, £1.2 billion project. In the running for the contracts are the likes of CSC Computer Sciences, which was paid billions of pounds to design an NHS record-keeping system that never worked, or United Health, also known as Optum, which is embroiled in the so-called hospice packing scandal in the US, or Virgin Care, which was warned by the Care Quality Commission about the operation of its other NHS services, or indeed Interserve Investments, the PFI provider that refuses to disclose the role in securing bids of Lord Blackwell, the former Conservative policy chief. I am afraid that all this talk of legalising euthanasia plays straight into the hands of a cash-strapped NHS. We are already hearing evidence of that in other countries.

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What Has Been Said

Below we reproduce some commentaries on the government's legislative programme.

Immigration Bill will fuel undercutting and hostility

by Rosa Crawford in ToUChstone, Trades Union Congress, May 27, 2015

Today measures for a new Immigration Bill were announced in the Queen’s Speech. The Bill sets out a fundamentally contradictory position, first aired by David Cameron in a speech last week, that you can tackle exploitation of workers by taking their rights away.

Helping bad bosses

The Bill will bring in measures to close a legal loophole to allow wages paid to undocumented migrants to be seized as proceeds of crime.

Further criminalising undocumented migrants, simply makes it harder for bad bosses to be found out. As we have said before, undocumented migrants are unlikely to report an exploitative employer to the authorities when they know they are likely to face a criminal charge for being found out. This means bad employers will continue to be able to use undocumented migrants as cheap labour, hoping they are too scared to speak out against long hours, low pay or abuse.

You cannot tackle exploitation by reducing workers rights – they must be extended so all workers are treated equally. This is the reason why Cameron’s plans to reduce the rights of workers or EU migrants under his plans for renegotiating Britain’s membership of the EU will not improve the jobs or pay of those ‘blue collar’ constituents he has set out to win over.

False solutions on services

The new Immigration Bill also proposes to build on the measures in the Immigration Act to extend document checks by landlords and banks to stop undocumented migrants from renting housing or opening a bank account.

TUC Congress adopted a policy opposing the Immigration Act last year, partly due to the fact it will turn staff in banks, hospitals and landlords into border guards and encourage everyday discrimination in the housing, banking and health against anyone who doesn’t ‘look’ British. This will make it harder for migrants and BME groups to have access to essential services and will drive more vulnerable people into homelessness and sickness.

Last week, Cameron said in his speech that: ‘if you have uncontrolled immigration, you have uncontrolled pressure on public services’

Pressure on public services, however, has been caused by the billions of pounds of cuts the last government unleashed – and the present government is set to deepen – and a chronic lack of investment in social housing.

As non-EU migrants are not eligible for social housing at all, while far fewer EU migrants live in council housing than UK citizens. Scapegoating migrants is cheaper than investing in services but when the Immigration Bill fails to make more hospital beds available or increase the supply of public housing, the smokescreen of migration will start to wear thin.

Failing to tackle exploitation

The Immigration Bill proposes the creation of a new enforcement agency that ‘cracks down on the worst cases of exploitation’. Certainly we know employers exploit migrant workers, paying under the minimum wage and housing them in inhuman conditions, in order to get cheap labour in sectors such as agriculture, construction and meat processing.

Stopping this exploitation requires government to work with unions – as the only organisation that represents workers and negotiate with employers to end exploitation – as well as employers, migrants’ rights groups and enforcement agencies that already exist such as HMRC which enforces payment of the minimum wage and the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA).

However, the last Cameron government reduced the scope and powers of the GLA in 2013 – moves condemned by the TUC . In order to tackle exploitation the government must expand the GLA to cover other sectors where vulnerable employment is common such as cleaning and hospitality.

Good employers want regulation of these sectors by government as it decreases the risk to their business.

Exploitation of migrants is not only bad for business but bad for productivity too – as Mark Carney stated this month, Britain can’t become more productive economy until wages go up and employers invest in decent jobs.

Skills

The proposals for the Bill also state: ‘A consultation will be carried out on funding apprenticeship schemes for British and EU workers by implementing a new visa levy on businesses that use foreign labour.’

Unions believe migration should not be used as a substitute for long term investment in training of the domestic workforce. Any consultation into an apprenticeship scheme for British and EU workers should involve trade unions as unions have played a key role in assessing the skills needs of the workforce through Union Learning Reps and supporting Apprenticeships.

Today’s Immigration Bill offers little hope for workers no matter where they come from. It fails to stop some workers being hired on worse contracts than others or exploited due to their immigration status and offers little in the way of increased enforcement of rights. In this way it fails to address the concerns a significant number of voters expressed earlier this month about the growth of precarious work and migration.


Statement on the Trade Unions Bill

A Unite spokesman said:

“The Tories are taking Britain back to the 1920s with this shamelessly partisan attack on the funding of the opposition party. Political funds are already subject to approval being given in regular ballots by unions. Tory hedge fund and multimillionaire donors will face no similar restrictions, leaving boards free to write hefty cheques backing the Tory party.

“Absent from the Tory manifesto, there is zero popular mandate for this move which is just one more attack on working people. It is clear there is no place for trade unions in Cameron’s ‘one nation’.”


Unite statement on Queen’s Speech

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said:

“Given the profound challenges facing this nation, it is staggering that a priority for this government is not to create decent jobs and offer a helping hand to insecure workers but to attack trade unions.

“Seven million UK workers and their families turn to their unions for help. Our members are the people who clean our streets, care for our kids, work in our shops – they are not the cause of this country’s broken economy and deserve far better than the hostility directed at them by this government.

“Unite has said repeatedly that the way to increase turnouts in strike ballots is not to make it harder for people to exercise fundamental rights, but to modernise voting. This can be easily achieved through consensus and discussion, and without the division and fear that the government’s approach prefers.

“We urge this government to think again. People will not be fooled by claims to be the party of working people, if freedoms and democracy are swept away in a tide of repressive laws and showy PR.”


Trade unions undermined in Queen's Speech

Responding to the Queen's Speech today (Wednesday) in which the government announced its plans to pass legislation undermining trade unions, the CWU's general secretary-elect, Dave Ward, said:

"It is deeply depressing that the first Queen's Speech by a Tory government since 1996 seems more obsessed with attacking trade unions than bringing together a growingly divided country.

"It won't go unnoticed by people the fact that a government elected with the support of only 24 per cent of the entire electorate is demanding trade unions with fewer resources to do what they cannot.

"This is a Tory government that is planning to undermine the incomes and conditions of working people while at the same time cynically sabotaging the very means they have to speak out in protest.

"The Tories may have won the election, but they run the real risk of losing the country if they continue to pursue divisive policies that tear up working peoples' rights, conditions and incomes."


Right-to-buy would be destructive for London

By David Paine, Local Government Chronicle, May 28, 2015

Almost 5% of London’s council housing stock would have to be sold in the first five years under the government’s proposal to make local authorities sell off their most valuable properties, a snapshot study suggests.

The government confirmed its commitment to extending the right-to-buy to housing association tenants in yesterday’s Queen’s speech. The scheme will be funded through the sale of councils’ most valuable homes.

Ahead of that, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, and Islington LBCs commissioned data and economic analysts Liverpool Economics to compile an “interim” report on the impact of the policy. It found receipts from the sales of empty properties were unlikely to be sufficient to cover all of the costs as envisaged by the Conservatives – the party’s manifesto estimated selling properties as they became vacant would raise £4.5bn per year.

The report’s authors used data contained in a Conservative press release which outlined what would constitute an expensive property in different regions of the country. In London that varied from £340,000 for a one-bed property, to £1.2m for a property with five or more bedrooms.

Of the 73,727 properties owned by the four boroughs, the report estimated 3,467 would be sold under the policy in the first five years. It predicted Islington and Camden would be most affected with 1,843 of Islington’s 25,736 properties, and 1,509 of Camden’s 22,267 properties being sold in the first five years. Haringey only stood to lose 115 while it was predicted none of Enfield’s properties would meet the threshold of what constitutes an expensive property.

Property sales are expected to fund right-to-buy discounts by compensating housing associations for the loss of their asset, go towards building replacement homes, and also contribute to a brownfield fund to aid the development of additional housing on previously used land.

The report said as a result it was “highly likely that a substantial part of the cost of building a replacement home would have to be financed through additional borrowing”. It estimated that even if the new policy to replace homes worked, there would be a time lag of at least two years from the sale of a home to it being replaced. It argued some or all of the replacement homes might have to built in different boroughs which brought “a number of complications” as councils would either have to start buying land in other areas for letting to their own tenants, or funds would have to be transferred to other authorities or housing associations.

James Murray (Lab), Islington’s executive member for housing, said the policy was “likely to have a destructive impact” across London. He said: “Thousands of council homes would have to be sold, particularly in inner London boroughs, and the report underlines that there would be a big question mark over the government’s promise that the homes would be replaced.”

A recent survey by the Local Government Association, Chartered Institute of Housing, and the National Federation of ALMOs found only half or fewer of homes sold under the existing right-to-buy for council homes had been replaced.

Ahmet Oykener, Enfield’s cabinet member for housing and housing regeneration, called on the government to ease borrowing restrictions on councils so they can build more homes.

The report said the time lag on replacing homes would have a negative impact on families unable to get a council tenancy and the homeless.

Haringey’s leader Claire Kober (Lab) said: “Forcing councils and housing associations to sell off the few affordable homes that remain in areas where prices are skyrocketing will only serve to exacerbate, not resolve, the housing crisis.”

The extension of the right-to-buy has been met with opposition within the Conservative party. Last week London mayor Boris Johnson expressed concern about the policy, as had leading Conservative councillors in the run-up to the general election.

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