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Weekly Parliament Roundup : 17th September – 25th September

Britain to pay extra €2.1 bn into EU budget by December

Britain has been told it must pay an extra €2.1bn (£1.7bn) into the European Union budget by the end of next month because the UK economy is doing better compared to to other European economies. This demand will definitely be used by the euro sceptics as another reason why Britain should leave the EU. British and European commission officials confirmed that the Treasury had been told last week that budget contribution calculations based on gross national income adjustments carried out by Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, showed that because of the UK’s economic recovery, there was a huge discrepancy of what they were asked to contribute and what they should be paying realistically. Cameron currently refuses to pay the EU budget. Nigel Farage also condemned the EU budget demand by stating, “Having come to Britain to set fire to David Cameron’s migration ideas, José Manuel Barroso [European commission president] has returned to Brussels to pour more fuel on the flames.’’

Johann Lamont quits as head of Scottish Labour

Johann Lamont is to stand down as leader of the Scottish Labour party, after describing some of her Westminster colleagues as dinosaurs who do not understand the politics they are facing since the referendum. Lamont accused colleagues of trying to run Scotland “like a branch office of London”, an accusation backed by the former Labour first minister Henry McLeish who claimed the Westminster party did not have a clue about “the realities of Scottish politics” and faced a problem of “historic, epic proportions” that could cost it the next general election. The leader has represented her constituency since 1999, taking over as leader in December 2011 after the party’s bruising defeat by the SNP in the Scottish parliament elections that year.

Government borrowing increases to 10%

The chancellor’s plan to cut the deficit this year looks increasingly unrealistic after borrowing in September pushed the deficit 10% higher in the first half of the year, lessening the chances of a pre-election giveaway at December’s autumn statement. Borrowing last month was £11.8bn, £1.6bn higher than in September 2013, illustrating how the tax take has failed to keep up with government spending, despite recent economic recovery. Economists said it was looking increasingly likely George Osborne would miss his target of reducing the deficit by more than £12bn in 2014-15. Alan Clarke, economist at Scotiabank, said that if the current trend continued, borrowing would come in around £10bn above the target.

By Gloria Ganda

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 3/10/14-10/10/14

Government commits further £330K to stop practice of FGM

The government is to put forward an additional £330,000 towards the battle against female genital mutilation (FGM). This plan was announced on the UN’s International day of the girl (11/10). The announcement came after campaigners had complained that while £35m was promised by the government to eradicate FGM abroad, just £1m has been allocated to tackling the problem in the UK. The new funds from the government equalities office will be used for projects that offer expertise and support to vulnerable groups, with £100,000 for work to support victims and survivors of forced marriage, and £150,000 for community engagement in the highest risk areas for FGM and forced marriage.

Red Ed under pressure to toughen immigration policies

After a very slim by-election win of of 617 votes in Heywood and Middleton, Labour has put Ed Miliband under pressure to toughen its immigration policies. The small victory has led Labour to have a sense of unease towards the fact that UKIP’s growing influence could deprive them of northern marginal seats at next year’s general election. Labour officials have acknowledged that Miliband would do more to highlight the party’s policies on immigration in the future. Miliband admitted that disillusionment with Westminster politics, building for a long time, had led some traditional Labour communities to choose Ukip, adding in a direct message to Ukip supporters: “It is not prejudiced to worry about immigration.” But he said he would not make any false promises and resisted any immediate changes to a policy that he said had already been changed in 2010.

Voters trust Cameron and Osborne most with the economy

According to a recent ICM poll, 39% of voters say the prime minister and the chancellor, George Osborne, are the team they would most trust “to manage the economy properly”, and compared with just 19% who say they would trust the opposition Labour leader, Ed Miliband and his shadow chancellor, Ed Balls. These results come after David Cameron announced his proposals to impose more income tax cuts, amongst other factors. Within the poll, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, got his most negative rating ever in a measure of whether he was doing a good job or not. Despite being trusted with the economy, 46% of those who participated said that Cameron was doing a ‘bad job’, further illustrating the public’s distrust in politicians. When it comes to Miliband, only 20% say that he’s doing a ‘good job’.

Lord Hill already stirring up fury among Tory Euro sceptics

Lord Jonathan Hill has sparked fury by predicting that the UK will still be part of the EU after the promised 2017 referendum. Lord Hill suggested that the result of the vote was a foregone conclusion. Ukip claimed the Tory peer had ‘let the cat out of the bag’, saying the comments proved that the Prime Minister’s real plan was to keep us in the EU no matter what. Lord Hill made his prediction as he was grilled for a second time by MEPs, who had to ratify his appointment as EU commissioner for financial services. He set out his vision for Europe in 2019 to show how he would work to beef up the EU.He said: ‘Big picture for 2019: the European Union is stronger and more cohesive – and more responsive to the economic and political concerns of its citizens. And our Union, by the way, remains a family of 28 member states – including the United Kingdom.’

By Gloria Ganda

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 26/09/14-3/10/14

Cameron pledges to scrap Human Rights Act for British Bill

David Cameron has announced during the Conservative Party Conference that a future majority Conservative government will repeal Labour’s landmark legislation and replace it with a “British Bill of Rights”. The proposed British Bill of Rights will intend to transform Britain’s relationship with the European court of human rights. There have been many criticisms towards this new proposal and some argue that the British Bill of Rights would be ‘incoherent’ in the sense that  it will only increase the number of cases that go to Strasbourg, and will almost certainly produce more, not fewer, negative rulings against the UK. Cameron and some Tories would argue that the Human Rights Act gives Strasbourg the power to order British judges around. However, it is evident that it does not since Strasbourg’s power is derived entirely from the international agreement from which we are not withdrawing (for now). All the act does is advice UK courts to take Strasbourg jurisprudence into account.

More tax cut promises from Tories

During the Conservative Party Conference , the Prime Minister promised that a future majority Tory government will raise the personal income tax threshold by £2,000 a year as well as lifting the 40% tax band to £50,000. Furthermore, Cameron plans to Increase the tax-free personal allowance from £10,500 to £12,000, saying that it will ensure that full-time workers on the minimum wage were exempt from paying income tax. Lifting the 40% tax rate would cost £1.6bn to implement if the Tories did so in April 2020. Also, he argued that by raising the income tax threshold to £12,500, a further 1 million people would be taken out of paying income tax altogether. This would cost £5.6bn and would mean that people in a full-time job on the minimum wage would pay no tax. The personal tax threshold is due to be raised to £10,500 from next April after strong pressure from the Liberal Democrats.

Lord Hill recalled for more questioning by MEPs

The UK’s candidate to join the European Commission, Lord Hill, has been asked to attend another hearing of MEPs to assess his suitability for the job. The Conservative politician, nominated by UK PM David Cameron is running for a financial position –one which is quite doubtful since the UK is not in the Eurozone. On Wednesday, he told MEPs he will act for all 28 EU member states and is not a representative of the City of London. All 27 commissioners nominated by EU states must get the approval of the European Parliament before they can join Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s top team. He was seen to have underperformed at his first hearing, with certain MEP’s describing him as ‘’charming but empty’’. He promised to work in the general interest of all 28 EU countries, but many MEPs still see him as David Cameron’s man. Hopefully, he succeeds in convincing the MEPs that he’s the right candidate for the position.

Ed Miliband vows to increase funding for NHS

Ed Miliband has said a future Labour government would pay for 36,000 more doctors, nurses and midwives, partly funded by a tax on tobacco firms. The Labour leader told his conference the £2.5bn funding pledge to “save and transform” the NHS by 2020 would be the centrepiece of his plan for government. It will be paid for by a “mansion tax”, a crackdown on tax avoidance and a levy on tobacco firms’ market share. Moreover, he stated that Labour’s mission is to ‘restore people’s faith in the future’. Mr Miliband said he would boost NHS funding without extra borrowing or asking working people to pay extra tax. The extra resources, he said, would provide for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more care workers and 3,000 more midwives by 2020.

By Gloria Ganda

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-19th September 2014

Cameron promises more devolution after no vote in Scottish independence referendum

After  Scotland’s  referendum results on Thursday which confirmed that the Scottish people wanted to stay in the United Kingdom with a no vote of 55%, David Cameron has  promised a ‘devolution revolution’ across Great Britain, including votes on English issues by English MPs at Westminster, as he hailed Scotland’s decision to remain inside the UK. In the speech that he made after the referendum results, Cameron made clear that the constitutional reforms, including in Scotland, would not be delivered until after the general election, and that Scottish measures would proceed in tandem with changes in England. He insisted that, “We have heard the voice of Scotland and now the millions of voices of England must be heard,”  Now that Scotland will be getting more powers, many cities such as London are able to look forward to the prospect of being able to make more independent decision.

NHS is Labour’s priority for next General Election

Ed Balls has recently expressed the idea that Labour will seek to fight the next election on the twin issues of stagnant living standards and safeguarding the NHS. Balls also said that voters would only back labour’s promise of change if it seen to be credible and costed. In an effort to show his determination to be tough on public spending he ruled out free universal child care in the next parliament, as well as free bus passes for 16- to 18-year-olds.Furthermore, he said that he would not be imposing extra taxes to pay for the health service, but promised to do “whatever it takes to save the NHS”. Click here for information on the Labour party conference: 

Beheading of British captive will only strengthen resolve, says Cameron

David Cameron has insisted that the beheading of a British captive by ISA would only strengthen the resolve of the UK against Jihadists. He has not yet clarified whether Britain will join air strikes by the US designed to halt the advance of ISIS and support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces. Furthermore, Cameron made clear that Britain wanted to form part of a broad international coalition against the Islamic extremists working through the UN. Nick Clegg also mentioned that the government will not rest until the killers faced justice.

Victims to confront offenders in court in new law

The right of victims to confront their offenders in court is to be enshrined in law. This could possibly allow to the victims to have their say and to have a peace of mind in regards to telling their offenders how they feel and to question their actions and motives. This new law will also ban publicly funded lawyers from taking on sex offence cases unless they’ve had training. Furthermore, the suggestion in this law that a witness will be able to give evidence without going into the courtroom will benefit witnesses and allow them to tell their account without feeling intimidated or nervous in any way. However, according to Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary, the government are consistently letting down victims and this new law is probably one of the last minute plans of a dying government in the last few months.

By Gloria Ganda

Newspapers

Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers: 8th-15th September 2014

Fracking is a toxic issue for Conservative party grassroots

Anti-fracking campaigners near Westby, Lancashire.

Source: The Guardian

As Topic: Elections

A2 Politics: Environment

Fracking has the ability to give the UK another supply for energy, which has the potential to drive down energy prices for the economy. However, this has caused great controversy in safe Tory seats, with constituents pledging to run anti-fracking campaigns and research from Greenpeace and the Guardian has shown that 120 safe seats have protest groups in them. On top of this, 31 of the 40 key marginal seats identified by the party have these protest groups. This bodes ill for the Conservative party, who have deviated from green policy.

 

The TTIP hands British sovereignty to multinationals

Ukip TTIP

Source: The Guardian

A2 Topic: Economic Policy

The TTIP is a treaty between the EU and the USA, being marketed by its champions as a economic stimulus package for ailing Europe, providing up to £100bn in extra growth. It is presented as a free trade agreement, but existing tariffs on either side of the Atlantic are already weak because of common membership of organisations such as the World Trade Organisation. But you will not see UKIP nor Cameron riding to British defence as the actual aim is to strip away obstacles to large corporations making profits such as regulations that protect our privacy, the environment, food safety and the economy from a rapacious financial sector. And crucially TTIP further opens up public services to private companies motivated primarily by profit rather than people’s needs.

 

Chris Grayling unveils victims’ rights reform

Source: The Guardian

As Topic: Judiciary

A2 Topic: Crime and Order

The right of victims of crime to directly confront the offenders in court is to be enshrined in law, the government has said. And publicly funded lawyers are to be barred from taking on serious sex offence cases unless they have undergone specialist training. Grayling said: “Our criminal justice system can be daunting, and victims, especially the most vulnerable, can find it traumatic and difficult to know where to turn to for advice and support.” These reforms aim to put the victim first and solidify the victim’s rights in law.

 

Bank of England boss: interest rates likely to rise months before wages do

Mary Carney at the TUC congress

Source: The Guardian

A2 Topic: Economic policy

The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, has warned workers that interest rates will rise before they see a rise in real wages. At the TUC conference in Liverpool, Carney cited bank forecasts of real wage growth about the middle of next year. Wages fell 0.2% in the three months to June this year, a decline that contrasted sharply with inflation of 1.6% in July. Carney warned that workers would have to improve productivity and skills to have any chance of getting real-term pay.

 

EU olive branch for David Cameron as Lord Hill appointed to senior financial services post

Source: The Independent

A2 Topic: Britain and the EU

David Cameron’s hopes of winning a better deal in Europe for Britain were boosted today after Lord Hill, the UK’s new European Commissioner, was chosen for the key financial services post in Brussels. But Lord Hill’s honeymoon lasted only a few hours, as Socialist and Green MEPs threatened to veto his appointment unless he promises to take a tough line on bankers’ bonuses.