Updates from Westminster - 22th Jan 2016

LABOUR FORCES A VOTE ON TORY PLANS TO SCRAP MAINTENANCE GRANTS

Scrapping maintenance grants in favour of loans deliberately targets students from the lowest income families who are working hard and doing the right thing. This week Labour called for the Tories to abandon their plans. 

Instead of investing in future generations, the Tories are betraying students and making life harder for those from the poorest backgrounds. An estimated 500,000 students from lower income families will leave university with substantially higher debts than their better-off peers.

The Government’s own equality impact assessment shows that mature students, women, disabled learners, students from BME backgrounds and Muslim students will be detrimentally impacted by the scrapping of maintenance grants. The Government is curbing young people’s aspirations and limiting their opportunities to get on in life. 

Labour is clear that the Government should be doing all it can to ensure that those from the poorest backgrounds reach their full potential. Whether that’s going into higher education - via university or further education institutions - or getting a good quality apprenticeship.

 The Tories attempted to force through these sweeping changes in a Committee - rather than on the floor of the House of Commons- a policy that wasn’t even included in the Conservative Party election manifesto.  

It was Labour that forced the Government to debate these plans. It’s Labour that will continue to fight to reverse these damaging changes.

5 YEARS OF TORY FAILURE, 5 YEARS OF BUS AND RAIL FARE RISES

Under David Cameron, regulated rail fares have gone up by an average of 25%, the cost of some season tickets have risen by up to 38% and bus fares have also risen by an average of 26%. 

The Tories are out of touch on the rising cost of public transport. Tory ministers say that passengers need to realise that ‘they are paying fair fares for comfortable commuting,’ but prices have risen three times faster than wages under their watch.

As a consequence of decisions made by the Tory-led Government after the 2010 General Election, some commuters’ rail fares have risen by far more than average while service standards continue to decline.  

More than 2,400 Local Authority supported bus routes have been withdrawn or downgraded since 2010. David Cameron promised to keep Labour’s free concessionary bus pass, but he has cut the bus services instead. Ministers wasted five years before finally accepting Labour’s call to reform the bus industry to provide more comprehensive networks and hold down the cost of bus travel. 

This week Labour called for the Government to rethink their plans. Labour forced a vote in the House of Commons and will continue to fight for fair fares on public transport.  

SAVE OUR STEEL

This week Tata Steel confirmed plans to cut 1,050 UK jobs, taking the job toll in the steel industry to more than 5,000 in the past six months. While over half of SSI steel workers in Redcar are still looking for work four months after the steel plant closure last year.  For all of the workers, their families and communities affected, this is more devastating news. 

Responding to this announcement Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle criticised the Government for sitting on their hands while the industry has descended further into crisis.  Labour has continuously urged the Government to take immediate and decisive action, but our warnings have been ignored. The Government have been far too slow to tackle the underlying threats which are eroding both our industrial base and our steel industry.

Now the consequences of inaction are far reaching. Job losses, a declining industry and harm to the wider economy. So much for the Tories’ talk of rebalancing the economy.

To make sure our steel industry survives, Labour is again calling on the Government to take immediate and decisive action on all of the asks made by the steel industry and trade unions.

They must also do more to help get people back into work.  Owen Smith Labour’s Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary stressed the need to “to learn the lessons from Redcar and make sure that the best possible support is available to the steel workers who have been told they are at risk of losing their jobs this week” 

The steel industry is of vital strategic importance to the UK economy, and the latest developments show that it is at crisis point. The time for action is now. 

 

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