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Volume 47 Number 12, July 1, 2017 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Need for Empowerment:

The Grenfell Tower Tragedy

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

The Need for Empowerment: The Grenfell Tower Tragedy

The Grenfell Tower Tragedy:
London, Whose City?

The Battle for the Future of the NHS:
The Government and NHS England Direction to "Think the Unthinkable" on NHS Cuts and Closures Will Be Another Disaster for Society

Minority Government's Queen's Speech:
A Reactionary Programme for "Global Britain"

Queen's Speech at a glance:
All the Government's legislation for the new Parliament

The Need for Empowerment:

The Grenfell Tower Tragedy

On June 14, a fire broke out at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey residential housing block in North Kensington, London. At the time of writing, the official figures are that at least 80 people are dead or missing presumed dead, though the reality is that the horrific inferno has claimed the lives of an unknown number of residents, which many are putting at well over a hundred. The tower, which provides social housing, contained 127 flats. The block is owned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but management of the block is the responsibility of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

WWIE takes this opportunity to add its heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost family, friends and neighbours in this tragedy, and its sympathy to all those who have been affected and traumatised. Our thoughts are also with the firefighters who had to heroically cope with the immensity of the tragedy under very difficult circumstances. Our solidarity also goes out to the local people and other volunteers that stepped in to do the work which by right is the responsibility of the public authorities.

It was clear that the fire spread rapidly up the building and the concerns which have been raised over recent renovations and the lack of fire safety measures in place are proving well-founded. We condemn the social irresponsibility and the criminal negligence of the ruling elite that has led to this tragedy. But those affected are not sitting idly by. It is a fact that the grief which has been experienced is turning to anger and to action, as the demand is put forward "Justice for Grenfell". There have been mass protests by local residents and other concerned people, and the realisation is that what has led to the tragedy is a crime of national dimensions, involving widespread breach of safety regulations, flammable cladding and "refurbishments" which have played fast and loose with residents' lives and safety. Experts and others who have investigated have been horrified. Furthermore, cladding from all 149 tower blocks in 45 local authorities which have so far been tested have failed fire safety tests. All this represents the complete anarchy which prevails in the economic sphere, and which pervades all political, social, cultural, national and international affairs. Where is the authority which will take responsibility?

Letter from Kensington Council Solicitor to Grenfell Action Group in 2013 threatening legal action if they do not remove criticism from their website in relation to investment on the estate

This terrible human tragedy is one more factor which has led to even more demands from all quarters for Theresa May to go. Her lack of humanity and the government's pursuit of an aggressive austerity agenda have fuelled these demands. Even the Queen herself put Theresa May in the shade by visiting survivors of the tragedy, which May refused to do. Perhaps it was realised that the deployment of the head of state was necessary to prevent the spontaneous revolt of the people.

Nevertheless, the people have resisted and are demanding answers. In fact, it is clear that they themselves have the answers, but wish to have justice. What they are coming up against is the private interests in cut-throat contention with each other who see no authority but their own self-serving drive for profit, and let the devil take the hind-most.

It has been revealed how Housing Minister after Housing Minister has sat on reports even from Westminster's own Select Committees which have drawn attention to the stark dangers which were lurking, and demanding that the government take action. The very last of these was Gavin Barwell who lost his seat at the general election, and was then appointed May's head of staff in a private capacity.

The Inquiry which has been set up under the chairmanship of Sir Martin Moore-Bick has the narrowest terms of reference which focus on the mechanics of the fire, deliberately excluding who should be held accountable, how the concerns and campaigns of the community were dealt with or ignored, and the response of the public bodies, including the Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council and Theresa May's government itself, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, as well as the resources which must be made available. Nor is the Inquiry to deal with the issue of the provision of social housing, the right to food, clothing and shelter. And despite Theresa May's claims that those most affected by the tragedy would be involved and consulted, the people have in fact been excluded from participation in setting the terms of reference, from voicing their concerns, and from putting forward the crucial issues which have affected their lives. Indeed, it could be said that the Inquiry has the aim of covering over and burying these crucial issues.

What this whole tragic and sorry affair is bringing home in the wake of the election is that the people must have the power which belongs to them by right, and which they must take into their own hands. The working class and people as a whole must join with the residents and victims of Grenfell Tower in the fight for the rights of all, in which the security of the people lies.

Article Index

The Grenfell Tower Tragedy

London, Whose City?

Rowland Atkinson, Le Monde diplomatique - English edition [extracts]

The fire that destroyed Grenfell Tower and killed so many who lived there made clear what many have felt for years: London has become a city for capital not people. It builds for financial transactions, not for homes.

Government ministers seen as responsible for unceasing cuts to public services gave uncomfortable street interviews after a massive fire rapidly engulfed Grenfell Tower, a public housing block in one of London's most affluent districts. The disaster made clear the terrible results of ideological commitments to cut corners and costs in building safety regulations, including the installation of what may have been fire-conducting cladding. Besides the anger and trauma at the loss of life (some 80 dead), people are questioning the political and economic choices that forced low-cost safety choices. There is a strong sense that poor people matter less in a city run for the rich.

Cutting funds to local authorities and public services, and red tape around health and safety regulations, combined with deep social inequalities to produce a catastrophe with major political repercussions. The tower was in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a parliamentary constituency that changed in the general election, by just 20 votes, from Conservative to Labour for the first time, mostly due to concerns over housing. The borough ran budget surpluses and offered council tax rebates, while choosing to do public housing maintenance and safety on the cheap. London's inequalities are most evident in the social geography of its inner western zones, where public estates offer vital affordable housing to those on no and low incomes among multi-million pound homes whose prices are inflated by offshore investment capital and wealthy buyers.

The slow-motion social disaster of austerity created a burnt-out landmark as a visible symbol of the callous political choices of the past decade. People sensed that the poor mattered less and got a raw deal in social and physical protection; some began to feel that the disaster might even be part of a plan to rid the area of unsightly low-income housing and poor people. The disaster seemed the defining moment of a precarious government struggling to build an alliance to govern, as promises to posture aggressively at Brexit negotiations were being broken.

The mood of London and its populace is changing. There is a sense of possibility that may generate more emphatic changes at future elections, with a now engaged youth vote and new respect for Labour's Jeremy Corbyn. People are asking who London is for, and the answer isn't capital. The Grenfell disaster has led to calls to invest in and reconstruct high-quality and affordable housing, and to recognise that declining public investment and the callous treatment of the urban poor are the problem, not public housing.

Most of London's current and future high-rises aren't public housing (1). More than 400 high-rise developments are now in progress or have received planning permission. Almost none of their homes will be affordable, and very few are public housing. In the stories now told of London's massive inequalities and housing problems, the private towers signal the city's social extremes and the inability of state or market to resolve social needs. These pads are intended for the global elite and look like a disposable environment that fits the need, in many cases, to rest money. The 'community' imagined by starchitects and estate agents on billboards and in brochures is a sales pitch to a floating class of the rich and investors. Whatever drugs the architects of the gold apartment block at Battersea Power Station were on, their inspiration was a pound sign, not the floating pig on Pink Floyd's Animals album cover. Much of the development along the Thames is a parody of place and a mirage of communal life. These are dead spaces and dwellings, their lifelessness important for the realisation of maximum exchange value, rather than being valued for their residential use. The question of who benefits from such development is an ongoing irritant to managers and politicians.

London's position as a beacon for the global super-rich has not been good news for its wider population. When the good times rolled, they were marked by an aggressive expansion of gentrification, private tenant evictions, the demolition of dozens of public estates, welfare reforms and household displacement. The investment and destruction may be related; with Brexit deliberations, the potentially negative role of international investment has been glossed over by London's elite.


If you want to see this process of accumulation and emptiness, wander past One Hyde Park or the many empty mansions lining The Bishops Avenue north of Hampstead Heath. People are exercised about the cost and lack of housing in London because they witness competition for these resources juxtaposed with a landscape of empty shells that should be homes. A surprising percentage of private housing is rarely or never occupied, while many households on local authority waiting lists are exported outside their borough or outside the city; and a third of a million households remain on waiting lists for public housing in London. Walking along the Thames's south side near Nine Elms, you can see many new towers, apparently suspended along the river's corridor. Like dead mackerel, these developments shine, but also stink of corrupt planning agreements and a housing system out of sync with the needs of ordinary folk.

The sense that there are outright winners and vulnerable losers raises big questions. If we bought the argument that the wider economy and population benefit from such investment, the new skyscape might be defended. Yet such arguments are threadbare. Those with economic and political power identify property and finance as the machine driving living standards and reputation. London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, has moved in a slightly different direction, launching an enquiry into the number of unoccupied homes bought by offshore investors. A recent study examined utility records to locate homes with abnormally low electricity use, concluding that around 21,000 homes are empty long-term. Around 5% of homes in central and western London lie empty according to the government's statistics agency (2).

Non-partisan groups have also highlighted the criminal and anonymous purchase of thousands of homes. The head of the National Crime Agency has suggested that criminal money has driven up London property prices, and hundreds of millions of pounds of purchases are under criminal investigation as suspected proceeds of corruption, yet these figures only represent a fraction of the total (3). Transparency International has revealed that around 10% of properties in Kensington and Chelsea, the borough in which the Grenfell tragedy occurred, are owned through a 'secrecy jurisdiction', tied to £122bn of offshore money. Many cases are not pursued by resource-starved tax authorities.

One of the worst injustices is that while essential workers and even those on respectable incomes struggle to access decent housing, London is building thousands of apartments for people who may never use them. How broken is a planning system that does not challenge the construction of blocks of hundreds of flats in which a studio costs over £600,000, while including a few affordable homes is said to threaten market viability? Evidence shows that developers and planning consultants work hard to circumvent their duty to offer affordable housing or cash contributions to the local authority. Criticism has been growing for years, but now there is intense and rising anger, even if effective resistance remains elusive.

In 1951 the population of Greater London - its 32 constituent boroughs and the square mile of the City - was 8,164,416, making it a peak year for London (and many British cities). But by 1981 and the nascent Thatcher government, the population had fallen to 6,608,513 due to a changing economy and outward migration from most of Britain's major cities to suburban areas. It is now hard to remember the time when Britain's inner cities were places of economic stagnation, social decline and out-migration, and 'inner city' evoked a social imaginary marked by these features as much as any geographical place.

The most recent census, of 2011, shows London's population at an all-time high of 8,173,900. Yet this apparent demographic health belies massive shifts in the structure of London's economy and new casualties in housing markets. With changes in London's economy as it moved towards becoming a node in the world financial economy came changes to many neighbourhoods previously thought untouchable by gentrification.

Today London again faces an uncertain future. Economic pre-eminence in a global system of urban command centres is giving way to anxieties about the city's future, including the possibility that financial institutions may move away. Trying to keep the goose that lays the golden eggs, even if it does little for London's working class, is ever more the name of the game under Brexit.

Such worries add vigour to capital's grab for land and sky, with projections for the numbers of the super-rich in London set to grow significantly. Those criticising construction aimed solely at international investors are called out of touch with the realities of selling in a global market (4). Yet even the trade in premium real estate appears fragile in the context of Brexit and the possibility that key financial institutions may be lured to competitor cities as crisis talks continue, with sales at the top of the market dramatically reducing in volume. Despite this, concerns about social inequality and exclusion have been pushed aside by a government that is scrambling to attract buyers and institutions to keep the national books balanced.

London's patrician class recognised where the money is some time ago. What was once the establishment might now be better called ushers to capital and vendors of prized assets and products. The international rich come for financial services, generate construction and jobs for decorators and nannies, and are prepared to pay fees and taxes on property sales (or work hard to avoid them). Property professionals and financial wizards offer portentous assessments of how tariffs, taxes or regulatory moves would kill the flow of capital investment. This may be true now but it wasn't just two years ago when selling £10m flats before they were built was possible. The systemic threats being revealed today will injure London's poor and working classes even more given the inability of governments to extract more from the presence of the wealthy when times were good. If in the last decade we hung on to the Maserati exhaust pipes of the super-rich, our grip must tighten in the future. There will be less going spare.

The City's strength is London's Achilles heel. While the economic role of the City is well understood, its asymmetrical dominance in the structure of the urban economy presents risks. Any economic geographer will tell you that a key danger for any single-industry town is that it is more likely to die as its fortunes change because of competition from rivals. Where such change once devastated Glasgow, Sheffield, Birmingham and many others, London's fate may be to lose core services to Dublin, Paris or Frankfurt. Analysts are now pondering how many bankers or institutions will leave after Brexit. The likely answer is thousands. Even if banks are not as mobile as the currencies and services they deal in, an orderly or partial evacuation over years remains a real possibility.

In the good times before the Brexit vote (bear with me if you were on a waiting list, crammed two to a rented room or saving for a deposit to get on the housing ladder), we were told not to touch the market, in order to maintain a low-tax environment to enable overseas monies to benefit London. With the risks to London's economy from Brexit, this is more emphatic, and London now has a large neon 'for sale' sign. Many prized assets are the property of foreign wealth funds or individuals (Harrods, The Shard, Harvey Nichols). Much of the commercial property on Sloane Street is owned by the Qatari sovereign wealth fund. These changes symbolise shifts in class and taste and reflect a move from gentry and landed wealth to an expanding cadre of those who have benefited from globalisation, the lucky control of state assets, or associations with international criminal activity. Their brashness and raw money power is only matched by the hatred felt by the last wealthy long-term residents of inner west London who didn't realise that others in their class put up the first 'for sale' signs.


Rowland Atkinson is chair in Inclusive Societies at the University of Sheffield and the author (with Sarah Blandy) of Domestic Fortress: Fear and the New Home Front (Manchester University Press, 2016) and co-editor of Building Better Societies: Promoting Social Justice in a World Falling Apart (Policy Press, 2017).

LMD English edition exclusive

(1) Rowland Atkinson, 'Cities for the rich', Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, December 2010.

(2) Karen Gask and Susan Williams, 'Analysing low electricity consumption using DECC data', Office for National Statistics methodology working paper series, no 6, 2015,

(3) Ben Moshinsky, Business Insider UK, 6 April 2017.

(4) Even Khan's response to the reports commissioned by him to look into overseas investment recognised that 'international investment plays a vital role in providing developers with the certainty and finance they need to increase the supply of homes and infrastructure for Londoners',

Article Index

The Battle for the Future of the NHS

The Government and NHS England Direction to "Think the Unthinkable"
on NHS Cuts and Closures Will Be Another Disaster for Society

Marking the 69th Anniversary of the NHS with mass signing of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) Petition

It was revealed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ)i during the General Election that the government-led NHS England commissioners were planning "unthinkable" measures across 14 areas of England which included closing hospital Accident and Emergency departments, acute services, stopping treatments and systematically extending waiting times. This was kept secret during the election, as was the outcome of the consultations on the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) which had received massive opposition from health campaigns, councils and health staff in the run-up to the election. However, it was revealed in the Conservative manifesto and Theresa May's admission that her new government intended to implement the Naylor report which would accompany these closures of vital NHS services with a massive sell-off of NHS property.

In spite of the fact that May's government has not received a majority in Parliament in the June 8 General Election, it is pressing ahead with its anti-social offensive in health and social care. For example, in South Tyneside, a consultation to downgrade the hospital's consultant-led maternity and A&E starts on July 5. In addition, instead of addressing the funding crisis that they have created in the NHS, the government and NHS England have instructed fourteen other areas of the country to draw up plans to reduce overspending, including closures of maternity and A&E departments. These areas include: Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; Cheshire (Eastern, Vale Royal and South); Cornwall; Devon; Morecambe Bay; Northumbria; North Central London; North Lincolnshire; North West London; South East London; Staffordshire; Surrey and Sussex; Vale of York; and Scarborough and Ryedale. Also, speaking about the STPs, the British Medical Association has warnediithat nearly 23 million people in England - more than 40% of the population - could be affected by proposed cuts to A&E departments.

The cause of these deficits to hospitals and the health services they run have been mainly created by the annual "cost improvement" programmes which are imposed on them by government and their commissioner, NHS England. By 2016 the "deficit" just involving Hospital Trusts was £2.45 billion. Although a substantial sum, it is nothing compared to the whole budget of the NHS, which is in excess of £100 billion. Yet, the government's imposition of these "deficits" on individual hospitals has led to big cuts in services, and a situation where hospitals are scrabbling for income from private operations, charging for parking and so on, and have left most hospitals very seriously underfunded and with huge debts. The government then imposes, through its organisation "Monitor", coercion to get hospitals to divest themselves of hospital services and staff using the threat of outside takeover or merger. "Consultations" on NHS closures and downgrading then take place on the back of massive cuts and where the blueprints have been decided in the corridors of power without, or with little involvement of the clinical staff and the people are left with a rapidly reduced and poorer unsustainable and unsafe health service. As a cover the government tries to impose a mass media blame culture on the hospitals for "overspending" and even on the patients for "ageing" and demanding too many services. These are all smoke screens to hide the criminal role of a government hell-bent on taking no responsibility for the people's welfare, whilst directing the economy to pay the rich in Britain.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck MP taking part in the day of action in South Shields with activists of SSTHC

The real scandal of these "deficits" is that responsibility lies with the government and the Department of Health to meet all the needs of the NHS budget and provide a modern health service that meets the needs of all and provides comprehensive acute, community mental and social care services accessible to all in their localities. The Francis Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Enquiryiii pointed out the devastating effect on safe and sustainable healthcare in one hospital where management focused on "financial issues" cutting nursing staff which led to hundreds of patients being left without food and water and proper care and many dying as a result. It said: "It is clear from the evidence at both inquiries that the Trust was operating in an environment in which its leadership was expected to focus on financial issues, and there is little doubt that this is what it did. Sadly, it paid insufficient attention to the risks in relation to the quality of service delivery this entailed." In other words, the hospital Directors who are employed to keep the hospital in budget and meet "cost improvement" - cuts that government was imposing on the NHS - led to this disaster of healthcare at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. This was the environment of government cuts that concentrated everything on issues of finance rather than of patient quality and sufficient staff and wards.

Consider the implications of further extending this environment across our whole health service, not just affecting quality, but now even access to these health services as local A&Es and other acute services close, which is precisely what the government is implementing. Add to that further unsafe and unsustainable funding for hospitals and acute health services that remain. Health services will not become safer if services are moved to a fewer number of acute hospital sites where A&E departments cannot cope. This is not only likely to increase waiting times for more overstretched services, it also means people have to travel further distances from their communities seriously increasing the risks to patients lives. This further impacts already overstretched ambulance services, bus services, car parking, etc., further exhausting the resources of society and impacting on the most vulnerable whose right to life, let alone the right to healthcare, will be threatened.

In an interview in the Independentiv, Janet Davies, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said on the eve of the national day of action this week, that they were organising a summer of lobbying, as a "final warning" to ministers to take action or face its nurses striking for the first time ever against plummeting nurse recruitment, and chronic low pay and high stress pushing people out of the NHS. She said that dire staffing shortages have left the NHS on the brink of another Mid Staffs hospital scandal, putting hundreds of lives at risk. She warned: "They are risking it again. They are aware of the problem, but their solutions are not working."

The fact is the aftermath of the tragedy of Grenfell Tower and the large number of horrific and avoidable deaths has exposed the whole rotten edifice of the pay the rich system in Britain. The direction of government and NHS England to "Think the Unthinkable" on NHS cuts and closures will be another pending disaster for society imposed by such a system. For health workers and for the working class and people, turning this around requires an organisation that empowers the people and that unites people regardless of political and other views to organise themselves to deprive the ruling circles of their power to deprive the people of what belongs to them by right, that upholds the right to health care and the rights of all. The people's demand for an anti-austerity agenda and the demand of the ruling circles for private interests to prevail are face-to-face in Britain as never before since the anti-social offensive was unleashed during the Thatcher years and when New Labour became its champion under Tony Blair. This experience must be summed up by the working people, the initiative kept in their own hands as they strive for empowerment. Let us take control of economic affairs and make the claims on value that workers and public service workers produce. Let us build the Workers' Opposition as the new public authority to shape the direction for society to stop paying the rich and invest in a new social economy that meets the needs of all!





Article Index

Minority Government's Queen's Speech

A Reactionary Programme for "Global Britain"

Following the disastrous election campaign, the resulting minority government of Theresa May presented its delayed Queen's Speech on June 21, with the Conservative manifesto widely being said to be in tatters. It is certainly the case that the government has had to tactically retreat from its policies for new grammar schools, end free school meals for infants, abolish the Serious Fraud Office, scrap the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, shelve a vote to reverse the ban on fox hunting, and others. Yet the manifesto's reactionary kernel remains firmly in place. With the announcement that this will be a two-year parliament, the Speech was a declaration of the intent to rule regardless. It still represents what May herself has come to represent: arbitrary rule through police powers.

"My government's priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union," opened the Queen's Speech. This hope for the "best deal" is tied to the notion of what the government is calling "Global Britain". This pipe-dream is the British empire-building aim around which the Conservatives are attempting to create a post-Brexit consensus, the latest incarnation of Blair's "make Britain great again", and even more dangerous.

Their manifesto elaborates this thoroughly reactionary idea:

"The United Kingdom is a global nation. Our history is a global history; our future must be global too. We believe Britain should play an active, leading role in the world. Not because it is our right or inheritance, but because our leadership in the world is the surest way to defend and advance the interests of the British people, and to extend around the world those values that we believe to be right.

"The United Kingdom is already a global power. We have a leading diplomatic service and one of the largest overseas development budgets in the world. Our armed forces are respected around the world and enable us to project power globally. Our global businesses and London's position as the global centre of finance make us more interconnected with the global economy than any other comparable nation."

Irrationality runs throughout these conceptions, which, now that the election has sharpened all of the contradictions within the Conservative Party, in parliament, between the factions of British capital, in the nations, and internationally, have become even more incoherent and pragmatic.

The Speech therefore announced the bill to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, which is the Act through which EU law has force in Britain. The Act would bring this EU legislation into British law. The parts of this previously EU law would then be kept, amended or repealed. At the same time, the Speech mentioned additional legislation to establish "new national policies on immigration, international sanctions, nuclear safeguards, agriculture, and fisheries", all of which represent points of contention between the rival empire-building projects of Global Britain and the EU.

Immigration policy in particular cannot at all be expected to be based on the principle of treating movement first and foremost as a matter of humanity, a matter of people's needs and the rights they have by virtue of being human. As well as further cynical manipulation of people's status as a bargaining chip in winning the "best deal", immigration policy can instead be expected to be based on what competing oligopolies require of movement of labour and capital in the context of Global Britain.

The irrational idea is that there is some kind of business deal good for Britain as a whole. The Speech talks of "a deep and special partnership with European allies", while referring to new trading relationships across the world - the Speech announced bills on trade and customs - reflecting the developing contradictions between these big powers as well as their collusion.

On foreign policy, the Speech reiterated the manifesto commitment to use, for example, "international development" to "project British values around the world", as well as to continue to spend at least two per cent of national income on the military as required by NATO. The speech specifically mentioned continued political and military intervention in the Middle East.

This foreign intervention is matched at home with further government via police powers in the name of security. The Speech announced a new commission for countering extremism, for "stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread".

Regarding the Internet, a new law on protecting personal data will be brought forward as well as proposals for a new "digital charter".

The government will review counter-terrorism strategy, to ensure that "the police and security services have all the powers they need" and the "length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences are sufficient". The Speech also announced legislation to change the legal process, specifically to "modernise" the courts system.

On the economy, the Speech reflected the tension between continued austerity to push the burden of the crisis onto the backs of the general mass of the population, particularly the working class on the one hand, and the problems austerity is causing and the growing demand for investment and to shift to generating growth on the other; for example, the so-called productivity problem and the demand for safe places to invest capital. Thus the Speech mentioned both "continuing to improve the public finances" and "investment in infrastructure to support economic growth".

The Speech also mentioned "a new modern, industrial strategy". This again relates to Global Britain, as how British business can find its niche or place in the global market in terms of spearheading new industries - the Speech explicitly mentions electric cars and commercial satellites. It also mentioned a new high-speed rail bill, further developing a network that is in the interest of certain sections of big business rather than the population as a whole.

Regardless of a sop to increase the National Living Wage, the strategy does nothing at all to invest in social programmes. When it comes to education, the Speech referred to schools being "fairly funded". Also a "major reform" of technical education indicates the government's further intent to press ahead with the capital-centred direction for education.

On health and social care, it referred to "reform" of mental health legislation and a consultation on the proposals for social care.

On the problem of housing, the government plans to "ban unfair tenant fees" and "promote fairness and transparency in the housing market" as well as generating more house building.

All are market solutions, and will do nothing to guarantee the right to decent, safe housing. On that issue, the government has had to respond to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and promised a full public inquiry and also to introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquest. Yet such measures are damage limitation and risk mitigation measures at best. Not only are the root causes unaddressed, they are set to deteriorate further. The whole programme continues with austerity, does nothing to restore the public authority which lies in tatters, and does not provide rights with a guarantee.

In response to the Speech, Jeremy Corbyn said: "This is a government without a majority, without a mandate, without a serious legislative programme, led by a Prime Minister who has lost her political authority, and is struggling to stitch together a deal to stay in office.

"We will use every opportunity to vote down government policies that failed to win public support and we will use every opportunity to win support for our programme."

The sheer brazenness and irrationalism is made starkly clear in the promise to "work with all of the parties in Northern Ireland", while simultaneously pursuing an agreement with the DUP. Their priority "to build a more united country" can only be through force when it sets out by holding the public, institutions and civil society in such contempt. The loss of authority, the inability to take control of anything or to make any accommodation is the underlying theme of the Speech; the need is to counter this and all its attendant dangers with a Workers' Opposition organised around an independent programme of its own.

Article Index

Queen's Speech at a glance

All the Government's legislation for the new Parliament


Repeal Bill

Previously known as the Great Repeal Bill, this bill repeals the European Communities Act 1972, transposing 43 years of existing EU laws into British statute.

Customs Bill

A bill to ensure the UK has its own separate customs regime after Brexit, with the "flexibility to accommodate future trade agreements with the EU and others".

Trade Bill

A bill to "cement the UK's status as a leading trading nation" with an independent trade policy after Brexit.

Immigration Bill

This repeals EU immigration policy, bringing an end to freedom of movement.

Fisheries Bill

A bill to return control of British fisheries to Westminster.

Agriculture Bill

A bill to support British farmers and protect the natural environment after Brexit.

Nuclear Safeguards Bill

This establishes a UK nuclear regulatory regime once Britain withdraws from Euratom.

International Sanctions Bill

A bill to establish a UK framework for implementing non-UN sanctions and "enable continued compliance with international law".


Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill

Allows for new charging points for electric and hydrogen vehicles, as well as extending compulsory car insurance to automated.

Space Industry Bill

This provides new powers to licence a "wide range of new commercial spaceflight", with an accompanying regulatory framework.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill

Sets out the next phase of HS2 between Birmingham and Crewe.

Smart Meter Bill

The bill extends powers to change smart meter regulations by five years and sets up a new Special Administration Regime to ensure the smart meter service continues to operate in the event of the provider becoming insolvent.

National Insurance Contributions Bill

Puts into effect changes made in the Budget and Autumn Statement, excluding the now-defunct proposals to hike Class 4 National Insurance contributions for the self-employed.


Travel Protection Bill

A bill to improve travel protection for tourists by bringing regulations up to date with online holiday bookings.

Draft Tenant's Fees Bill

This bill brings in substantial changes to the private rented market, banning landlords and estate agents from levying big fees and capping holding deposits and security deposits.

Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill

Building on the Tory manifesto, this would establish a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner, issue a new definition of domestic abuse and new protection orders and bring in sentencing which reflects abusive behaviour towards children.

Civil Liability Bill

A bill to clamp down on fraudulent whiplash claims and potentially reduce car insurance payments by £35 per year.

Courts Bill

Bring in a range of measures, including an end to victims facing direct cross-examination by alleged perpetrators, introducing digital services to speed up cases and improving the working environment for judges.

Financial Guidance and Claims Bill

This consolidates financial advice bodies into one organisation responsible for debt, money and pension guidance.

Goods Mortgage Bill

Updates Victorian era laws on 'logbook loans', protecting borrowers take out mortgages on goods such as their car.


Armed Forces Bill

Supports service personnel by enabling part-time service, limiting geographic deployment and easing the transition back from time off such as parental leave.

Data Protection Bill

A new law to replace the Data Protection Act 1998, modernising data processing by law enforcement agencies and allowing internet users to be "forgotten" if they wish.

Draft Patient Safety Bill

Establishes the Health Service Safety Investigation Body in statute, with powers to investigate safety concerns in the NHS, while protecting whistleblowers by prohibiting disclosure of their evidence, except if there is a risk to patients or evidence of criminal activity.


- A review of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy

- A new Commission for Countering Extremism

- A public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire

- Establishing an Independent Public Advocate to support families affected by public disasters such as Hillsborough

- Reform to the mental health system including a Green Paper on Children and Young People's mental health

- 'Proposals for consultation' on changes to the social care system

- A new Digital Charter to make the UK "the safest place to be online"

(John Ashmore, PoliticsHome)

Article Index

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