Updates from Westminster - 06/02/16

LABOUR EXPOSES OSBORNE’S FAILURE ON TAX AVOIDANCE

The past couple of weeks has shown the scale of the Chancellor’s failure on tax avoidance. As a result, Labour challenged the Tories to take a more open and transparent approach to dealing with the crisis in tax avoidance by large multinationals.

Osborne described the tax deal between HMRC and Google as a ‘major success’. A deal, which independent experts have estimated implies an effective tax rate of just 3%.  Frankly this deal is insulting to working people all over the UK. This deal is unacceptable. Google, and other major multinationals, should pay a fair rate of tax- just like everyone else.

That’s why we have asked the Government to publish the details of their deal with Google. Having greater transparency of this Tory deal is the only way we can get to the bottom of whether or not taxpayers are getting value for money. We have also called on the Government to deliver much needed reform and to make publicly available country-by-country-reporting by big multinationals, so that we get proper transparency of tax arrangements.

In Parliament we have been fighting the Tories hard on this. John McDonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor forced the Treasury team to answer questions at the despatch box , Jeremy Corbyn grilled the Prime Minister at PMQs and the Party led an opposition day debate calling for the Chancellor to back Labour’s proposals and forced a vote in Parliament.

We have offered George Osborne a real chance to stop blocking important reforms and achieve a fairer outcome for taxpayers. It is a shame that he refuses to do this and is refusing to publish the details of the tax deal- it is time he does.

 

EU REFERENDUM: REFORM IS A PROCESS

After months of negotiation David Cameron finally presented us with his promised draft EU reform deal. Thanks to Labour pressure, workers’ rights have been successfully excluded from Cameron’s negotiations. He did announce an initial agreement on an emergency welfare brake, which would put in place a four year ban on in-work benefits for EU migrant workers. Labour supports the principle of fair contribution. But on the emergency brake, we need to see further details on how it would work in practice.

The EU has brought us enormous benefits and as a country we are better off in. Of course there are areas in which it needs to be reformed. But reform is not an event, it is the constant process of trying to make Europe more effective in generating jobs and growth, further improving protections for workers, making us more secure and deepening our influence in the world.




Leaving would put all of that at risk, and could lead to an erosion of the protections for workers and the environment secured by our membership of the EU, because any future Tory government would suddenly be free to launch an assault on labour and environmental legislation.

Labour will set out its priorities for European reform in due course. Our focus will be in areas including: putting jobs, growth, investment and research at the heart of EU decision making and policies; reforming the EU budget reform away from agriculture and towards job creating industries; and providing greater protections for working people and wages across Europe.

Cameron’s negotiations have mostly focused on issues that will not have a decisive impact on what the EU delivers to people in Britain. It is also important to note that the proposed deal we saw this week is only a draft. The sooner these reforms are formally agreed, the sooner we can we can step up the campaign to keep Britain in Europe and end the uncertainty around our EU membership.

 

WOMEN TO LOSE OUT IN GOVERNMENT PENSION CHANGES

Labour supports the equalisation of the State Pension age for women to 65. What we don’t support is the unfair way this Government is implementing the changes. With little personal notice, the Government brought forward the timetable for change. Women’s State Pension age will now be 65 by 2018 and 66 by 2020, instead of 65 by 2020 as was previously promised.

The consequences of this are far reaching. In the UK around 2.6million women born in the 1950s are set to be affected. In Worcester alone 3770women in their late 50s or early 60s will be hard hit by the changes.

Thousands of women in this country are having to change their retirement plans at short notice, dig into their savings or rely on their husband's pension. What makes it worse is that the Tories are putting in no transitional arrangements.

Hard working women and campaign organisations alike have been outspoken critics. The Women Against State Pension and Inequality started a petition which secured more than 140,000 signatures triggering a debate in Parliament. Introducing the debate, Labour MP Helen Jones – who was born in 1954 – criticised the Government for not informing women of the changes. She called it a “gross dereliction of duty” that “cannot be defended”.

But Shailesh Vara, the Work and Pension’s Minister, did exactly that. He defended the policy by insisting it needed to be considered in a "broad context" and his solution was to reel of a list of benefits available to women who may be affected. This is an inadequate response from the Government.

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