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Another day another broken promise from David Cameron and Nick Clegg reports @labourpress

Angela Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, responding to the publication of data on the number and cost of Special Advisers employed by the Government, said:

“Another day, another broken promise from David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

“David Cameron promised to get the cost of politics down but under him the number of Special Advisers spirals ever upwards – the public are now picking up bill of over £8m to pay for his appointees.

“This also shows how you can’t trust a word Nick Clegg says. The Lib Dems used to say that Special Advisers shouldn’t be paid for by the public but as soon as he got his feet under the Cabinet table he broke his word. The cost to the public of Lib Dem Special Advisers is over £1.7million – Nick Clegg alone has more advisers working for him than he has female MPs.”

“This is a Government which breaks its promises and leaves hardworking people to pick up the bill.”

Background briefing: Broken promises on special advisers

  • Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are breaking pre-election promises on special advisers.
  • The Conservatives said that they would put a cap on the number of special advisers – but since the General Election they have steadily increased the number. The latest list of special advisers shows that there are 107 special advisers in post as of 30 Nov 2014[1] in comparison to 98 on 25 Oct 2013, and up from 71 on 28 Oct 2010.
  • The Liberal Democrats said that special advisers should be paid out of party funds, not by the taxpayer – but special advisers to Liberal Democrat ministers are paid out of public funds.

The Tories and Special Advisers

  • Before the election David Cameron repeatedly talked about “cutting the cost of politics” and said that too much public money was being spent on staff.

“If we’re going to take our country through these difficult times, those who lead must lead by powerful example. That means getting our own house in order and cutting the cost of politics.”

David Cameron, Speech, Cutting the Cost of Politics, 8 September 2009 

“Too much money is spent on pay for staff and going on foreign trips.”

David Cameron, Speech, Cutting the Cost of Politics, 8 September 2009 

  • From 2006 onwards David Cameron said the Conservative Party would introduce a statutory limit on the number of Special Advisers.

“So this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to put a limit on the number of special advisors and protect the independence of the civil service.”

David Cameron, 8 February 2010

“The latest edition of the Cabinet Office’s press officer directory reveals there are now an astonishing 3,238 press and communications staff across Whitehall. The Ministry of Defence has 229 spin doctors and the Department for Work & Pensions has 181. We will put a statutory cap on the number of special advisers, as part of a wider Civil Service Act to strengthen the independence of the Civil Service.”

David Cameron, Speech to Welsh Conservative Party Conference, 1 March 2008

“The list of Mr Cameron’s proposals involve:

• Reversing the trend towards Tony Blair’s Presidential-style “Department of the Prime Minister”.

• Creating an independent mechanism to investigate breaches of the Ministerial Code.

• Introducing tighter caps on the number of paid and unpaid ministers and a statutory limit on the number of special advisers.

• Ending the practice of MPs setting their own salaries.

• Considering a reduction in the size of the House of Commons.

• Passing a Civil Service Act to re-establish and entrench the independence of the Civil Service.”

Conservative Party press release, 29 September 2006

  • The Coalition agreement published in May 2010 promised to introduce a “limit on the number of Special Advisers”.

“We will put a limit on the number on Special Advisers”

Coalition Agreement, May 2011, p.27

  • The latest list of special advisers shows that there are 107 special advisers in post as of 30 November 2014 (including appointees to the Council of Economic Advisers)[i], in comparison to 98 on 25 October 2013[ii], 71 on 28 October 2010[iii], 74 on 19 July 2011[iv] and 83 in July 2012[v].
  • The Special Adviser paybill for 2014 was £8.4m compared to 7.2m[vi] in 2013, and compared to £5.9m in 2009[vii].
  • The Government’s Ministerial Code, published in May 2010, set a limit of two Special Advisers for each Cabinet Minister.

“With the exception of the Prime Minister and the  Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers may each appoint up to two special  advisers (paid or unpaid). The Prime Minister may also

authorise the appointment of one special adviser by Ministers who  regularly  attend Cabinet. Where a Minister has additional responsibility additional advisers may be allowed. All appointments, including exceptions to this rule, require the prior written approval of the Prime Minister, and no commitments to make such appointments should be entered into in the absence of such approval.”

Ministerial Code, May 2010,https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/61402/ministerial-code-may-2010.pdf

  • The Ministerial Code sets a limit of two special advisers for Cabinet Ministers but there are nine ministers with three SpAds (William Hague, Theresa May, Ian Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, Danny Alexander, Nicky Morgan, Jeremy Hunt, Patrick McLoughlin and Baroness Stowell. These exceptions to the rule will have required the prior written approval of Cameron.
  • There are more Tory SpAds in Whitehall (79) than Lib Dem MPs (56).

The Liberal Democrats and Special Advisers

  • Before the election the Liberal Democrats said that Special Advisers should not be paid by the taxpayer, but should be funded by political parties.

“The government currently employs 74 Special Advisers in the central departments, an increase of more than 90% since 1995, at a cost to the taxpayer of £5.9m each year. These are political jobs, and should, therefore, be funded by political parties. Special Advisors will not be paid for by the taxpayer”
Liberal Democrat policy paper, “A better politics for less”, September 2009

  • But now, Special Advisers assigned to Liberal Democrat ministers are paid out of public funds. The latest list of special advisers shows that 28 special advisers have been appointed by Liberal Democrat ministers, with a total salary cost to the taxpayer of at least £1,719,391 (it is not possible to calculate the exact figure because 13 Liberal Democrat Special Advisers are paid below the disclosure threshold of £58,200).
  • Nick Clegg alone has 20 special advisers, with a total salary cost to the taxpayer of at least £1,173,961 (it is not possible to calculate the exact figure because eleven of his Special Advisers are paid below the disclosure threshold of £58,200).

[1] Includes appointees to the Council of Economic Advisers.


[iii] The Prime Minister, Written Ministerial Statement on special advisers, 28 October 2010

[iv] The Prime Minister, Written Ministerial Statement on special advisers, 19 July 2011 -http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/July_2012/17-07-12/23-PM-SpecialAdvisers.pdf

[v] The Prime Minister, Written Ministerial Statement on special advisers, 17 July 2012

[vii] The Prime Minister, Written Ministerial Statement on special advisers, 16 July 2009 -http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090716/wmstext/90716m0008.htm

“Curbing basic human rights will not counter Terrorism” by @jeremycorbyn

The CIA torture report should be a warning as yet another security Bill comes before Parliament this week, says JEREMY CORBYN

“What really hurt me was the treatment Chelsea received in Quantico two years before the trial — stripped naked, kept in solitary confinement, made to stand in a corner, everything taken away.”

That’s what Sharon Staples, Chelsea Manning’s aunt, said about the treatment her niece had received. Manning ought to be seen as something of a hero for telling the world about the reality of the activities of the CIA in its intelligence gathering exercises around the world.

For her pains, she has been jailed for 35 years because she told the world about CIA rendition.

Last weekend, the CIA itself revealed that it had systematically misled the US Congress, and showed that US administrations dating back to George Bush and the war on terror did have knowledge of extraordinary rendition and did support it.

Britain cannot escape complicity in all of this.

Next year Britain will begin negotiations with the US on its renewal of the lease of Diego Garcia, the huge US military base in the British Indian Ocean Territory.

This territory was reputedly used for extraordinary rendition by the US, and the question remains whether the then British government knew of this, or whether this was done secretly by the US despite there being a small British military observation of the activities of the base ever since its establishment.

The role of Tony Blair’s government in extraordinary rendition has yet to be uncovered but what is clear is that ever since the launch of the war on terror in 2001 there has been systematic undermining of international human rights law by the aczzoccupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and the treatment of prisoners.

The British were willing accomplices of the invasions of both countries. The appalling treatment of prisoners at Bagram airbase and extraordinary renditions conducted by CIA flights still dogs Blair, and his foreign secretaries Jack Straw and David Miliband.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, who is handling a number of claims of people who were ill-treated in Iraq said, “these cases involving the most serious human rights violations imaginable pose immensely difficult questions. The British mindset in Iraq appeared to be one of savage brutality and a sadistic inhumanity irrespective of whether it was women, children or old men being tortured, abused or callously subjected to lethal force.”

British complicity extended to an extraordinary alliance with Colonel Gadaffi in Libya, to the extent that Mark Allen, a former director of counter-terrorism at MI6, sent a message to Colonel Gadaffi: “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq Bel Hadj. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years.”

Straw rubbished any questions about the use of Diego Garcia in 2005 when he claimed we would have to “start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying and that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States.”

Straw’s denial, Blair’s denials and later David Miliband’s denials have never been accepted by the victims of extraordinary rendition, or those with a seriously inquiring mind in the British Parliament or indeed some in the US Congress.

The Chilcott inquiry has still not reported on Iraq. If and when it ever does, it will show the way in which the obsession with supporting the US war on terror rode over every humanitarian consideration and British law.

Beyond that there has been significant damage done to civil liberties in this country through successive pieces of anti-terror legislation where terrorist suspects can be detained indefinitely under immigration law, and successive governments have given themselves executive powers to either detain people or limit their movements or virtually place them under house arrest.

Ministers always defend these measures as being of a necessary and urgent nature, whereas in reality they are an extremely dangerous departure from all norms of justice.

On Monday the House of Commons was debating the first stage of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which includes powers to exclude British nationals from returning to Britain if the Home Office believes they’ve been involved in terrorist activities or supporting Isis.

The Bill also empowers the Home Secretary to remove passports using her powers under the Royal Prerogative, and additionally, to peremptorily cease passports and travel documents at the point of departure of British nationals. These powers are due to be reviewed after 18 months in operation.

Having observed anti-terror legislation through successive parliaments, the pattern is quite simple: any piece of legislation that is brought in temporarily rapidly becomes permanent, and the dominant themes are firstly to give greater executive powers over the individual, and second, to protect operatives in the security services from being effectively questioned, either in Parliament or, more importantly, in the courts.

Britain prides itself on having a permanent narrative of supporting human rights and democracy around the world. While there is no debate about the vile brutality of Isis in its operations in Syria and Iraq, it is not the first and sadly probably not the last brutal army around the world.

Western countries, including the US and Britain have often been very selective in their concerns for human rights.

In the 1950s the British army committed the most abominable violations of human rights in the wars in Malaya and Kenya.

But this disregard for human rights was not restricted to British colonial interests, as the truth commission in Brazil revealed last week via a 2,000-page report on the abuse of human rights during the 1970s. Britain and the US trained Brazilian interrogators in torture techniques.

Perhaps in retrospect we need to think a bit more about our foreign policy objectives and whether or not sending British troops back into Iraq and building a new base in the human-rights- abusing state of Bahrain is not just a continuation of the same disastrous policy.

“My resolution….to kick out Cameron” by @MichaelDugherMP

Christmas is a time for families and friends to come together, to celebrate the past year and to look forward to the year to come.  It is also a time to think of others, like those facing hardship.

The economy has started to show some belated but welcome signs of improvement, but sadly the effects of this recovery aren’t being felt by ordinary working people suffering from the cost-of-living crisis – a crisis that David Cameron refuses to even acknowledge.

The sheer scale of the cost-of-living crisis was reinforced for me earlier this year when I visited the Fareshare distribution warehouse in Stairfoot and the foodbank in Kendray. I met volunteers to hear about the vital lifeline support they provide to so many in our community.

The recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK states that UK families on low incomes “have been hit disproportionately hard”, 3.5 million adults cannot afford to eat properly, 500,000 children live in families that can’t afford to feed them and 4 million people are at risk of going hungry.

I have huge admiration for the community spirit of the volunteers I met at Stairfoot and Kendray, but it’s a disgrace that we have to set up foodbanks in Barnsley to feed those in need when we live in the sixth biggest economy on the planet.

David Cameron and George Osborne have shown time and time again that they only stand up for a privileged few.  Under this Government, wages for hardworking people have fallen by £1,600 a year, but millionaires received a tax cut that cost the country £3 billion.

Labour will build a Britain that rewards hard work and ensures the next generation does better than the last.  We have to ensure that people can afford to live on the wage that they earn.

Ed Miliband’s promise of raising the National Minimum Wage to £8 an hour would put an extra £3,000 a year in the pockets of 5,400 of Barnsley’s lowest paid workers. We will also provide new incentives for firms to pay a Living Wage.

Labour will also freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 and reform the broken energy market to stop the cost of energy bills soaring. This would save the average household more than £270 a year from its energy bill.

Working parents shouldn’t face the prospect of taking a job that costs them more than if they stayed at home. So we will expand free childcare for working parents with three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week.

For some people including here in Barnsley and others across the country, Christmas will be a stark reminder of the cost-of-living crisis, with some people even being forced to choose between heating and eating. As we head into the New Year, it’s traditional to make New Year resolutions. This year, my resolution is to kick David Cameron out of Downing Street and help Ed Miliband create an economy that works for everyone, not just the few at the top.

“The Tory-led Government continue the dreaded Bedroom Tax….for the time being” by @GwynneMP

IMG_3990

Labour forced a debate and vote in parliament on the Bedroom Tax, which could have seen it scrapped by Christmas.  Sadly the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives outnumbered those favouring abolition by 298-266 votes, meaning this pernicious charge will remain for the time being.

Since the Bedroom Tax was introduced around half a million low-income households have been forced to find, on average an extra £700 a year. DWP official figures, released to the House of Commons show that in the Denton and Reddish Parliamentary Constituency, 628 homes have been hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Andrew Gwynne said:

This Christmas 628 homes across Audenshaw, Denton, Dukinfield, Reddish and the Heatons will struggle to make ends meet, many relying on food banks to survive because of the Bedroom Tax David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s government introduced in April 2013. The Bedroom Tax is wasting people’s money, time and talents, it’s another example of Tory Welfare Waste.

“This Wednesday Labour has forced a vote to scrap this failing policy once and for all. Sadly this Tory-LibDem Coalition used their whipping machine against Labour’s attempt to scrap this cruel and unfair tax.

“People will not forgive nor forget that this Bedroom Tax wouldn’t have happened without LibDem votes in the first place, and remains in place because of them too. If this government won’t scrap the tax, the next Labour Government will.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves, added:

“Around half a million people have been hit by the Bedroom Tax, forcing many into debt and to rely on food banks. It’s a cruel, unfair and costly tax with two thirds of those affected are disabled. Let’s scrap the Bedroom Tax and get rid of this failing policy which is leading to more Tory Welfare Waste.”

Notes for editors:

  1. Latest DWP figures on number of people hit by the Bedroom Tax:

NORTH EAST – 36,126

NORTH WEST – 74,031

YORKSHIRE AND HUMBER – 46,591

EAST MIDLANDS – 31,645

WEST MIDLANDS – 46,573

EASTERN – 30,036

LONDON – 48,247

SOUTH EAST – 32,232

SOUTH WEST – 24,896

WALES – 31,217

SCOTLAND – 70,291

TOTAL – 471,887

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/number-of-housing-benefit-claimants-and-average-weekly-spare-room-subsidy-amount-withdrawal

  1. Two thirds of households affected by the bedroom tax cannot find the money to pay their rents, according to new research from the National Housing Federation. Source:http://www.housing.org.uk/media/press-releases/two-thirds-of-households-hit-by-bedroom-tax-are-in-debt-as-anniversary-appr#sthash.Ljy35ky2.dpuf
  1. Housing benefit set to rise by £1billion over four year in March 2014 Budget (pg 132)http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/economic-fiscal-outlook-march-2014/

Figures contained in the Budget have shown the housing benefit bill will continue rising not falling, with an increase of £1billion forecast over the next four years.

“The Lib Dems and Tories fail to back equal pay for women” by @grahamemorris

 

Equal Pay

Easington MP Grahame Morris voted in Parliament this week to introduce pay transparency across large companies. The measure, put forward by Labour will require companies which employ over 250 staff to publish their own gender pay gap in their annual report.

Labour MPs were joined in Parliament by Gwen Davis, Sheila Douglass, Vera Sime and Eileen Pullen – four of the original Dagenham women who went on strike for equal pay leading to the Equal Pay Act of 1970, as well as the stars of the hit musical ‘Made in Dagenham’ including Gemma Arterton and Isla Blair.

Despite Labour voting through the motion this week, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs failed to vote in favour after the Government indicated that it did not intend to make pay transparency the law.

The campaign for pay transparency is being led by Labour in Parliament, and supported by Grazia magazine and employers including PricewaterhouseCoopers and Genesis Housing who are amongst just five companies known to voluntarily publish their pay gap.

Shockingly women still earn an average 81p for every pound earned by men, despite the Equal Pay Act being passed 44 years ago. To coincide with the vote Labour is releasing new analysis of official figures which show that – because of the gender pay gap, women earn an average £209,976 less over their lifetime than men.

Grahame Morris, Labour MP for Easington, said:

“Women and their families across East Durham will be wondering why the Tories and Lib Dems failed to back equal pay for millions of women across Britain. Women in East Durham shouldn’t have to wait another generation for equal pay. Pay transparency will shine a light on the problem and help employers to close the pay gap once and for all. This Government might not be prepared to act but a Labour Government will.”