HUGE DEFEAT FOR GOVERNMENT ON SUNDAY TRADING LAWS
The Government suffered a serious defeat in the Commons as Labour stood up for working people. The Government had planned to give councils the power to relax Sunday trading laws. But Labourstood in solidarity with businesses, workers, trade unions and faith groups, which have long been campaigning against this proposal, to defeat the Government.
Labour believes that the current arrangements work well, and mean that retailers can trade, customers can shop, and shop workers can spend time with their families. Extending Sunday trading hours would also lead to the gradual reduction of workers’ pay and rights across the UK. With our 'Keep Sunday Special' campaign, Labour led the charge against the Government’s plans and were joined by other opposition parties and Tory backbenchers to vote against the proposal.
Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State, for Business, Innovation and Skills, Angela Eagle, warned the Government that unless they pulled their plansthey would face ahumiliating defeat on the floor of the House of Commons. That is exactly what happened. After the victory Angela Eagle said “the Government must now listen to the settled will of the House of Commons and confirm that they will not attempt to bring back these plans, which were not in the Tory election manifesto.”
The Government's whole approach to this issue had been tawdry and on Wednesday the Labour Party showed what can be achieved when you stand up for working people.
LABOUR MARKS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
The plight and achievements of women, were marked by MPs from all sides in a debate honouring international women’s day. As many around the world celebrated this occasion, Labour MPs united in the chamber to recognise how far we have travelled in the fight for gender equality. Labour has a strong record on advancing women’s rights and freedoms that we can be proud of. Almost every major piece of legislation that has improved the lives of working women has been introduced by a Labour Government. We brought in the Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, The Equality Act, the minimum wage and introduced Sure Start.
While there has been progress, it is clear we still have much further to go. In 2016, women in the UK are more likely to work for less pay than men, in low paid sectors and be disproportionately affected by cuts to public services. The UK gender pay gap currently stands at 19.2%. This is well above the EU average of 16.4%. Despite repeated calls from Labour, the Government has refused to publish a cumulative impact assessment of their policies on women. The Tories like to talk about equality but their entire suite of policies do much to embed and entrench gender inequality.
Labour is not going to stand by while this happens, we will be the party that stands up for women. Our challenge now must be to build on past achievements and push for full equality for women: financially, in the workplace, in families and homes and in public spaces. That is why we have announced the creation of a Women's Economic Commission. Our aim is to develop strategies to break down the barriers that keep women and girls from taking up the opportunities and jobs of the future. Because an economy that truly works for women will work for the benefit of all.
TORY FAILURE ON POLICING AND CRIME
The Government’s Policing and crime bill does nothing to tackle the Tories’ failure on policing and crime. There are two major issues where we believe the Government has failed to make a compelling case – the Fire Service changes and Police volunteers.
The Tories plan to move the fire service under the remit of Police and Crime Commissioners. Although we support increased collaboration and recognise there are already some very effective examples of emergency service collaboration across the country. Under the Government’s proposals, there is no underpinning of the independence of the fire service as a statutory body and there is no protection of the fire service budget. A merger must not be a smokescreen for further deep cuts to fire or police. The fire service has already been cut by 23% in the last Parliament, thousands of firefighters have gone and response times are getting longer. Further cuts will put public safety at risk at time when the UK is facing an unprecedented terror threat.
The second issue of concern is the proposal to expand the use of volunteers in the police service. There are many issues of concern around training, management and access to data in relation to volunteers that the Government has not set out clearly. There is a significant difference between using volunteers to add resource capacity to the Police and replacing axed officers with volunteers. Public safety demands a properly trained, resourced and accountable police service. They are trying to provide ‘policing on the cheap’ with a volunteer army.
That’s why this week Labour Labour’s Shadow Home Office team held David Cameron to account pushing to secure a statutory underpinning for the fire service and a protection of budgets. This Bill does not add up to a vision for emergency services - the Tories cannot be trusted to protect services and keep communities safe.
This week started for Labour when Toby Perkins responded to an Urgent Question about the Royal Navy joining NATO forces in the Mediterranean. Later that day Andy Burnham and the Shadow Home Office team held David Cameron to account for cutting at least 12,000 front-line police officers and thousands of firefighters, as well as highlighting other Home Office failures, during the Policing and Crime Bill debate.
Tuesday marked International Women’s Day. Labour pushed for more to be done to protect and improve the life chances of women at home and abroad during this year’s IWD debate.
Angela Eagle led the charge to stop the Green Investment Bank being pulled apart during the Enterprise Bill debate. The Government is now proposing to sell off the Green Investment Bank and the sale would strip it of any legal requirement to back exclusively green projects and promote a low-carbon economy.
At PMQs on Wednesday Jeremy highlighted how the Tories are making the wrong choices - they are cutting support for some of the most vulnerable in the country while those at the top get tax breaks. He showed that the Tories are failing to invest for the future, in the skills, homes and economy we need, and are putting family prosperity and the economy recovery at risk.
Later that the day the final stages of the Enterprise Bill were debated – including the proposed Tory changes to Sunday Trading laws. When the House voted that evening, the government suffered a humiliating defeat and their current plans were scuppered.
Throughout the week, Labour MPs also held the government to account on a range of other issues including government support for our ceramic industry, autism diagnosis waiting times and the management of the Health and Safety Executive. The Secretaries of State for Education, Justice, Transport and the Cabinet office were also held to account during departmental question times.