Category Archives: labour

Child Benefit 40% Tax Policy in Trouble

The government’s plan to withdraw child benefit from households in which one or more taxpayers pay 40% income tax is in serious trouble.

I have just come from a parliamentary debate in which Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, exposed a whole series of problems with the policy to which the minister, David Gauke MP, had few if any answers. The government line is simply not convincing, one suspects because the policy was drawn up in a rush before our 2010 Conference without being properly thought through.

More seriously still from the government’s perspective, it is not clear that it has a majority in Parliament for the policy. The LibDems, of course, love the idea, but Labour appears set to oppose it, having somewhat opportunistically deemed the households affected to belong to Ed Miliband’s rather elastic “squeezed middle”.

Meanwhile, a very significant number of Conservative backbenchers have concerns and, in many cases, these are sufficiently serious that I would expect them to be expressed in the voting lobbies.

The policy is particularly toxic for colleagues who want to see the government do more to promote marriage and the traditional family, given the lack of movement so far on the government’s promise to recognise marriage in the tax system. However, the policy is also objectionable for those who want the tax system to be neutral between personal choices, since it clobbers single earner householders, most usually with a stay-at-home Mum, relative to dual-earner couples.

Ministers cannot answer colleagues who question them about the sheer unfairness of one family with a single earner on £45,000 losing their child benefit, while a family with two earners, each earning around £40,000, get to keep their child benefit. Certainly, I don’t feel that I am currently able to give constituents a satisfactory answer as to how this is fair, particularly when we continue to pay child benefit to many thousands of children in EU countries such as Poland and Lithuania, where costs are much lower, even when they have never set foot in the UK.

Given the four figure sums involved, the equivalent of £4,000 of marginal gross income for a family with three children, it is no surprise that many people have contacted their MP on this issue. I have had several dozen constituents raise it with me, but another MP says that he has been contacted by over a thousand people. Adding to the weight of such representations is the fact that, at least in my case, they do not appear to be part of an orchestrated campaign.

Colleagues had expected the Treasury to come forward with proposals to mitigate the unfairness of the policy, but now it is suggested that this would be too complicated and difficult, given the implications of household means testing for independent taxation.

If so, the Treasury would be well advised to use the Budget to drop this policy. The alternative may be that it is defeated on the floor of the House.

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The Price of Coalition

Subjugation to the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, and the consequent release of Abu Qatada, is part of the price we pay the Liberal Democrats for the votes of their MPs in the House of Commons.

Last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron raised the intriguing possibility that we may not need to pay that price much longer. He noted that Labour “even support our police commissioners so strongly that droves of Labour MPs are going to quit to try to become them”.

Yesterday I followed up, asking the Home Secretary “We cannot currently repeal the Human Rights Act because the Liberal Democrats will not let us. However, so many Labour Members are running in the police elections that, come November—if they all win—it is possible that we may have a Conservative-Democratic Unionist party majority. Will we use it?” 

If even a few Labour MPs step down to become police commissioners, or big city mayors with Gisela Stuart and Peter Ainsworth for example keen to run for Birmingham and Coventry, it would be a crucial development because the current parliamentary arithmetic that makes us dependant on the Liberal Democrats is so tight.

Current House of Commons

Con 305                Lab 256    SNP 6   Lab ‘rainbow’ allies 9

DUP 8                    LD 57                (PC 3 + SDLP 3 + NI Other 2 + Green 1)

= 313                     =313                                     

(Sinn Fein and Deputy Speakers excluded)

Fear that Labour could cobble together a ‘rainbow’ coalition with the Liberal Democrats and several minor parties (although not the SNP) caused us to offer the Liberal Democrats concessions for a coalition which included no action on the EU or the Human Rights Act / ECHR.

If three or more Labour MPs step down in November, or just one if a Conservative MP were by then to have replaced Chris Huhne in Eastleigh, then the putative Labour, Liberal Democrat and ‘rainbow’ alliance would not have the votes to win a confidence vote in the Commons.

We could embark on repeal of the Human Rights Act and an EU referendum/repatriation and, if needed, force an election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act whether Ed Miliband and the Liberal Democrats liked it or not.

Cameron v Clegg On EU Treaty: Analysis

Originally posted in the Daily Express, 12 December 2011

OUR Prime Minister was as good as his word.

He said that if he could not protect the city from EU regulation then he would veto any new EU treaty.

The Deputy Prime Minister agreed this moderate and reasonable demand, but it was too much for Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy. They want control of the City.

Therefore the Prime Minister said “no” and, for the first time since joining the then Common Market in 1973, we vetoed a European treaty.

David Cameron was as good as his word and said no to the EU treaty
Mark Reckless, Conservative MP

The other EU countries can create the political and fiscal union that they want, essentially a country called Europe, but Britain will be outside.

In the words of one of our most respected City figures, Terry Smith, Britain will be “as isolated as somebody who refused to join the Titanic just before it sailed”.

Of course, we wish our friends in Europe well, and want them to fit lifeboats for their currency.

However, Greece and Italy and Spain cannot compete in the same currency as Germany. Having the Germans tell their governments to make more cuts won’t help.

If they break free though, and return to national currencies, then they could sell to us competitively again, we could afford holidays there, and their economies would grow again.

We want to be friends with France and Germany too, to allow them to develop Europe as they would like, without us forever standing in their way.

They must in turn let us be an independent country, trading with Europe, but governing ourselves. It is better to be friendly co-operative neighbours, than for us to stay in their European home as a surly and unwelcome tenant.

Our veto logically leads to a better future, where the EU countries retain the EU institutions they spent 55 years developing, and where we have free trade access and democratic government, the EU deal with Switzerland.

Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats said before the last general election that we needed a real referendum on Europe. The Coalition is now working together to put Britain back on track.

If Nick Clegg wants to put the case for Britain to be part of a country called Europe, then we can have a referendum, rather then fight a general election.

The Daily Express made the right call, the UK/EU relationship is changing fundamentally, and our Prime Minister is standing up for Britain.

Restoring British Freedoms

PoliceThe police must be supported in their vital work upholding the rule of law. However this does not mean that we should compromise our freedoms which ultimately the rule of law is there to achieve.

After a mere eighteen months the coalition government has made substantial progress in rolling back the damage done to our civil liberties by the authoritarianism of the last government. Ordinary British people must have the right to go about their daily business without an overbearing nanny state watching, monitoring or demanding information from them. The scrapping of ID cards, deletion of innocent people’s data from the national DNA database and reforming the criminal record check system so it is fit for purpose were all unreasonable overreaches by the last government which we have rolled back. They not alone damaged the freedoms of each and every British citizen in the United Kingdom but also wasted our tax money on massive Whitehall bureaucracies.

But there is still much work to be done, the European Union is another source of intrusive regulations which goes against the traditions of British justice. The UK must extract itself from the European arrest warrant, a system which provides the vital function of tying up the UK police in nonsense cases like extraditing alleged Polish pig thieves. The UK is now infamous for the widespread use of CCTV cameras which blight the country. These can be useful in preventing crime but should only be used where they make sense and not blanketed across the country.

Terrorism is a serious danger to Britain, but the abuse of anti-terrorism laws undermines public support for legitimate public safety laws. The use of intrusive laws by local councils for matters ranging from school catchment enforcement and littering is surely not generally justified. Everyday across the UK absurd rules are regretfully enforced by the police. These range from an event in Chatham High Street in July 2009 where an amateur photographer was arrested, to a father being questioned by police for taking a picture of his daughter eating an ice-cream in a shopping centre in Scotland, allegedly for reasons to do with terrorism.

It is clear that the legacy of the last government in the area of civil liberties is of an overbearing, distrustful state which used laws to harass normal people. This government is moving away from this to a more sensible and common sense approach consistent with British traditions of liberty.

Mark Reckless Welcomes £12 Million Extra For NHS In Medway

NHSFrom today – 1 April – the NHS in Medway will enjoy an extra £12 million, to support key Government priorities such as the Cancer Drugs Fund, investment in talking therapies for those with mental health conditions, 4,200 extra health visitors, and support for carers’ breaks.

Spending on healthcare in our local area this year will total £435 million overall.

The increase follows the decision by the Coalition Government to protect NHS investment over the next four years – investment vigorously opposed by Labour.

Across England as a whole, over £89 billion will now be spent on doctors, nurses and frontline services in the NHS – an increase of more than £2.6 billion over the year before.

Welcoming the increases in NHS funding, Mark Reckless said:

“We recognise just how important the NHS is to this country – and to patients here in Medway. That’s why the Coalition Government is protecting the NHS not just today, but for future generations.

“Next year alone, our constituency will benefit from an extra £12 million of investment going straight to doctors, nurses and other frontline services.

“Under Labour, billions of extra spending was swallowed up as the number of managers increased at five times the rate the number of nurses. Their plans would have meant cutting the NHS, denying patients the improved services we are putting in place.

“Their approach – to spend less and keep things as they are – would leave the NHS in crisis.”

Decision Time On Immigration

The Government has promised to cut net immigration from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands a year. This was a key plank of the Conservative manifesto and one which was very popular with many of my constituents and across the country as a whole.

Damian GreenWe are fortunate to have the excellent Damian Green as Immigration Minister, a Kent MP who understands the impact which excessive immigration can have on our constituents. The fact that the Prime Minister appointed such a key figure in the party to sort out immigration also shows the importance which David Cameron places on our immigration commitment.

What is less clear is whether all my colleagues on the Home Affairs Select Committee really want to see immigration cut. We have already reported on work visas, but it was Damian Green who led the way to cutting these – by showing that many of the supposedly most highly skilled Tier 1 migrants actually worked in unskilled jobs.

Now we are dealing with student visas, almost 335,000 of which are issued every year, before moving on to family visas, where I am concerned that proper and appropriate restrictions may be struck down by the courts under European rules and the Human Rights Act.

Given the large number of overseas students and the ease with which many can stay on after graduating, it is essential that we take steps to reduce numbers. When the Home Office launched our policy on 7 December 2010 it said it was “seeking views on a range of measures to reduce the number of students that can come into the UK”. In particular, it very correctly proposed closing down the Post Study Work route, opened by Labour in 2006, which allows almost 40,000 foreign students to enter the UK labour force every year.

People expect Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee to engage constructively with government policy and our Chairman is known for his deft political footwork. Unfortunately, because my amendment was rejected by the Labour and LibDem majority on the committee, our report published overnight would leave a gaping hole in our immigration controls for foreign students to stay on and work after graduation. This is unacceptable and I strongly urge Damian Green to ignore the recommendations backed by the LibDem and Labour members at paragraphs 58 and 59 of the report. Our constituents in Kent and elsewhere expect the government to deliver on its promise to cut immigration, after over a decade of mass immigration under Labour, and Damian Green is the man to do it.

Local Residents Work 22 Days Just To Pay Labour’s Debt Interest

CCNew research has shown that someone on average earnings in Rochester and Strood will spend 22 days just paying the interest on Labour’s debts.

Labour left the country with an annual overspend of £156 billion, greater than at any point in our peacetime history. Money spent just paying the interest on their £790 billion debt bill is money that could otherwise be spent on front line services.

Commenting, Mark Reckless said:

“Labour’s addiction to debt means each and every taxpayer now has to spend weeks of the year working just to pay the interest bill.

“If we listened to Labour the debt would be £100 billion higher. They must never be put in charge of our public finances again.”

Notes to Editors

New research has shown that someone on average earnings in Rochester and Strood will spend 22 days just paying for Labour’s debt interest bill. Labour left office with the country owing £790 billion, more than at any time in our peacetime history (HM Treasury, Public Finances Databank, Table Key M, link).

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts debt interest spending of £42.7 billion in 2010-11 (OBR, Economic and Fiscal Outlook, Table 4.14, link). There are 30.5 million taxpayers, so on average each taxpayer will pay £1,400 in debt interest (HMRC, Number of individual income taxpayers, link).

Figures from the ONS show median earnings in Rochester and Strood are £22,959 (ONS, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Table 10.7a, 8 December 2010, link).

This means that 6.1 per cent of an average person’s income goes on debt interest.

This works out at 22 days spent just paying for debt interest.