Sunday, 9 December 2012

Westminster News - This week’s mini-Budget hits strivers, not shirkers


The evidence at the Leveson inquiry, including the harrowing testimony of victims such as the Dowlers and the McCanns, has shown the need for real reform of the press complaints system and to ensure that any new system is truly independent of both politicians and the press.

A strong, irreverent, fearless press that holds the powerful to account is essential to democracy. But a free press must also be a clean press – it can’t hold power to account if it is abusing power itself.

This is why the Labour Party has consistently supported a new press complaints system that is independent of both government interference and interference by the industry, able to enforce its rulings against all newspapers and accessible to everyone.

Lord Justice Leveson’s report recommends a new system of independent self-regulation, guaranteed by law, which the Labour Party accepts. It would be independent of politicians and the industry, should include all major newspapers and will be free for all to use. We are now taking part in cross-party talks to implement the Leveson recommendations. We have an obligation and an opportunity to bring about real change in the way our media operates and we must not let down the families like the McCanns and the Dowlers – and the wider public – who are counting on us to make the changes that are needed.

NHS set for a difficult winter thanks to Cameron’s cuts

Before the election, David  Cameron promised that he would “cut the deficit, not the NHS”. This week, we got confirmation that while the deficit is rising, the NHS is being cut by the Conservatives. David Cameron has come to the Commons time after time to claim that he is increasing real-terms spending on the NHS. But this week, the head of the independent UK Statistics Authority said that real-terms spending on the NHS has fallen the last two years. It’s the same old story.

You can’t trust the Tories with the National Health Service. The cuts are particularly worrying as winter takes hold and we’re seeing the reality of the NHS under the Tory-led Government. This week, the Care Quality Commission’s survey of patients’ A&E experience revealed that the Tories’ complacent spin is at odds with what’s happening on the ground. Ambulances are queuing for longer outside A&E, patients are being left on trolleys for hours on end and according to an independent survey, hospitals are “full to bursting”.

It is becoming clearer by the day: despite doctors’ and nurses’ heroic efforts, the NHS is struggling – and the Government is doing nothing about it.

This week’s mini-Budget hits strivers, not shirkers  

The full scale of David Cameron and George Osborne’s economic failure was made depressingly clear this week, with the Chancellor delivering his ‘Autumn Statement’.

Our economy is shrinking. Almost 1 million young people are out of work and prices are set to carry on rising faster than wages next year. The result of this failure on jobs and growth is that the Government is failing on the one test they set themselves – to balance the books and get the debt down by 2015. The Government’s efforts to hide this gloomy truth will not fool the people of [constituency] whose squeezed living standards tell a different story. While millionaires get a £3 billion tax cut, it is people who are already struggling to make ends meet – middle and lower income families and pensioners – who are paying the price for this failure. Why should a one-earner family on £20,000 with two children lose £279 a year from all the changes happening in April – on top of the cost of higher VAT when on the very same day, millionaires are pocketing a tax cut? The same goes for working mums whose maternity benefit will be cut when they take time out to look after a new born, thanks to what is already being dubbed the ‘mummy tax’.

Instead of a change of course, all we got on Wednesday was more of the same failing policies. What we needed today was a One Nation approach: an economy that grows, where everybody has a stake and where the rewards are fairly shared. We needed a real plan for jobs and growth, long-term reforms to make our economy stronger, including proper reforms to our banks, and we needed David Cameron and George Osborn to cancel their tax cut for millionaires at a time when millions of families and pensioners are paying more.