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Below is the text of the speech made by Damian Green to the Road Haulage Association’s Spring Conference in Portugal on 21 May 2004.
“I was struck in my early weeks in this job that, for politicians, too often transport consists entirely of the railways, when rail provides only 6% of the journeys taken, and for most people road transport is much more important in their lives. All politicians are obsessed by polls, and it is instructive that MORI, in their regular polls about public attitudes to the parties in relation to the big permanent political issues, only ask about the parties’ policies towards public transport—no mention of roads and motoring. So I want to take a balanced and unemotional approach to transport planning.
Having said which, of course rail and bus policies are vital. If we don’t get the railways right, for freight as well as passengers, then increasing numbers of people will take to their cars, or their trucks, in despair, adding to the congestion we all suffer from. John Prescott notoriously said “I will have failed if in five years time there are not fewer journeys by car.” Well traffic is up 7%, and motorway congestion is up 250%. So you can’t make our roads more effective without making the railways more effective as well.
So with that as the background I want to set out three principles which will act the basis for our policies.
First, Governments should give people genuine choice about the mode of transport they choose.
Secondly, Long-term transport success will come from steady and predictable investment policies, sheltered from incessant political interference.
Thirdly, The necessary investment levels will require private sector money, and this is as important for roads as it is for railways.
Those are our guiding principles. What do they mean in policy terms? Indeed, what do they mean for your industry and its reliance on the road network. My basic pitch is that the Government should call off its war on the motorist—not least because making driving miserable for private motorists also inevitably means making it miserable for commercial motorists—including all of your drivers.
We have already made some proposals, including an audit of the positioning of speed cameras to make it clear that every one is contributing to road safety and not just acting as a silent tax collector for the Chancellor. We believe speed limits should be revisited, with higher maximum speeds possible on motorways and lower speeds necessary on some other roads.
All of these ideas are designed to make our roads flow more freely, so that no one is holding up your trucks unnecessarily, and that your trucks are not holding up other drivers unnecessarily.
Our second principle, recommending steady investment, is designed to avoid the stop-start nature of big transport investment in Britain. You will all have seen the full page adverts in papers this week arguing for more and better transport investment—the RHA was one of the bodies placing them. They laid particular emphasis on the most serious pinch points: the M1, the M4 near London, the M6 north of Birmingham, the M62 and the M25. And it is very often schemes to relieve these bottlenecks that take an age to come to fruition. There will always be planning issues, and genuine environmental issues, which cause delays. But what is most frustrating is that such schemes are often delayed further after we have gone through all the planning delays, because the Government finances of the day don’t permit large-scale blocks of extra expenditure. It applies on the roads, it’s applying to the Crossrail Scheme in London at the moment.
This is where our third principle comes in; that if we are to have a steady, well-planned flow of big transport projects, we will need to use private money more than in the past. The details of this are being worked on at the moment, and we will be coming out with announcements later this year, but I am absolutely convinced that unless we change our attitude towards the use of the private sector in building, operating and maintaining roads, we will keep suffering the same problems.
For more than 50 years, under every type of Government and through good economic times and bad, our road system has been inadequate. There is no sign that this is changing. The last progress report on the Government’s Ten Year Plan said that although we were promised less congestion when it was launched in 2000, supply chains will have to cope with growing congestion and unreliability. So even under a government that is committed to taxing and spending, the current system shows no sign of improvement. The figures are depressing. The Ten-Year Plan promised a 5% reduction in inter urban congestion, and an 8% reduction in large urban areas. The result has been a predicted increase in journey times of 30% by 2010.
The solution won’t be a single magic bullet. We will need to use our roads, especially in urban areas, more intelligently—using some of the methods I spoke about earlier. We will need more by-passes. We will need more dualling, and possibly more motorway routes. To fund these new roads, we will need more private finance.
So we need a complete change in the way we deal with transport policy. It is obvious that the life-cycle of any particular big transport project is very likely to be longer than one particular Parliament, or of one particular Party’s period in power. We need to be grown up about this. In particular we need to set up funding systems so that the temptation for new Governments or new Ministers to drop existing ideas in favour of their own pet projects is minimised.
So those are the principles. Let me turn now to the specific issue of fuel prices. No one expects the British Government to be in complete control of the oil price. But what the British Government can control is the level of fuel taxes. The Conservative Party voted against Gordon Brown’s increase of 1.9p a litre which he is due to bring in this September. At Prime Minister’s questions this week, shortly before we were all interrupted by noises off and powder on, Michael Howard asked the Prime Minister whether he would reverse this increase. There was a good deal of bluster but no answer. So we have to wait and see what the Government will do. But let me put on the record once and for all that we think this extra imposition should not happen.
On over-regulation Europe, and specifically the Working Time Directive, I am conscious that later this morning you will be hearing from Philip Bushill-Matthews, my colleague from the European Parliament, and I don’t want to tread too hard on his territory. Apart from anything else, it is bad enough to have to cope with European Directives without having to listen to two different speeches about them in the course of one morning.
So I will simply set out the main lines of our proposals. We want to get rid of at least a quarter of all existing EU regulations and directives and introduce sunset clauses for new ones. And by this we mean 25% of the total number of regulations and directives, not just a quarter of the pages in the current Acquis, which is the limit of the Commission’s ambition.
Now you will have heard politicians talk about the desirability of deregulation before. And it’s just possible you may be a little cynical. It’s even possible that I would not blame you for being cynical. You need to know how we would do it. So here goes. There are five points.
· We want a designated Commissioner with explicit responsibility for meeting deregulation targets.
· We will use the confirmation hearings for new Commissioners this autumn to test their individual commitments to the deregulation agenda
· We will use the European Parliament better for the deregulation agenda by initiating pre-legislative scrutiny of legislation, and the impact on competitiveness made explicit in every proposal.
· We would introduce the right of repeal of legislation to the European Parliament, which would mean the Commission would lose its exclusive right to delete existing laws.
· We would allow national parliaments to block proposed legislation if the thought it infringed the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
So these are practical measures which my colleagues in the European Parliament will pursue, and the more of them we elect on June 10th the more likely they are to be effective.
Moving on to one of the worst accusations against British Governments, Are they guilty of gold plating European Regulations? Yes they are. Gold plating is a very difficult concept to pin down, but it often means simply making a regulation more detailed and prescriptive in English law than it was when it left Brussels. One way of measuring this is the simple number of words used to transpose a directive into the country’s own legal document. On this basis, the UK adds a staggering two and third times as many words to the average regulation as it had in the original. This is much more than France, and overwhelmingly more than Portugal and Germany, the three countries where these comparisons have been made.
Changing this requires a change in the culture of Whitehall, which will only come about from a Government committed to deregulation as a central part of its economic thinking. The next Conservative Government will do that.
Moving briefly onto the Working Time Directive, our desired outcome when we were considering it was the minimum amount of regulation compatible with safety and reasonable comfort. I urged the Government to lobby for extending the reference period over which average working time is calculated. I agreed that a 17-week reference period would be too short, and would damage businesses that have a seasonal focus.
There has been much progress in the past few weeks. The six-month reference period for calculating the average week is an improvement. So is the definition of night time working. But I still think the omission of a definition of periods of availability is worrying. I hope it simply means that the Department is trying its best to find a definition that will be most helpful to those trying to run a business in difficult circumstances. I know there is a strong case for saying that driving time should be the key measure, and I would be interested to hear your views on this.
As a final specific point I should address the vexed subject of Road User Charging for lorries. It is good to know, looking at the Austrian example, that this kind of system can be made to work technically, especially when you look over the border at Germany and their problems. And certainly the current situation when British hauliers are put at a competitive disadvantage to other European companies by our own Government because of our fuel duties is neither sensible nor sustainable.
But the Chancellor’s latest delay in implementation means that the original idea, that UK hauliers deserved a more level playing field, has been forgotten until 2008 at the earliest. I know that many of you believe that the level playing field argument was always a convenient front for introducing technology that would lead to all-out road pricing. That may be true.
What is beyond argument is that we should be looking for other ways of levelling the playing field between now and 2008, if it can be done in a revenue-neutral way. I have been investigating thoughts of charging lorries that come into Britain on the basis of the mileage used when they are using our roads. So far, all the schemes I have looked at would be effective, but would also be illegal under competition law. So I am still searching. I am sure that many of you will be able to help me in this quest, and I am very receptive. UK hauliers deserve a better deal than the one they currently get from the Government, and I want to work with you all to make sure they receive it.
One last observation on the Ten Year Plan as a whole. It was, frankly, over-hyped as a solution to our transport problems. The slow progress of the Multi-Modal studies has meant that the implementation of specific road improvements has remained a weak area in the plan. Congestion charging seems to create at least as many problems as it solves. Rail planning is back in the melting pot. Tax incentives for cleaner vehicles are offered with one hand and taken away with the other.
So the degree of certainty that many people in your industry hoped for when the Plan was unveiled has not happened. There is an alternative vision, where politicians step back from the detail of industrial planning and set the framework for companies and individuals to make their own decisions. That is the vision that I and my colleagues are developing, and I am sure that it can contribute to the long-term health of our the road haulage industry—an industry which itself is absolutely essential to the long-term health of our economy.
Below is the text of a press release issued by Theresa May, the then Shadow Secretary of State for the Family, on 24 August 2004.
Labour’s plans to improve access arrangements for children whose parents split up will prove to be a big disappointment, Theresa May has warned.
The Shadow Secretary for the Family accused Government ministers of “papering over the cracks” rather than addressing the real problems at the heart of Britain’s family justice system.
In a Green Paper being published by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, Labour is seeking to encourage separated parents to embark on a mediation process to find agreement on access and control over their children, rather than going to court. However, the Government has rejected the idea that parents should be guaranteed 50-50 access to their children, claiming that offspring cannot be divided up “like property” after a marriage founders.
Commenting on the proposals, Mrs May described the package as “a huge disappointment for families up and down the country”, and declared: “Rather than address the real problems at the heart of our family justice system, this Government would rather attempt to paper over the cracks. This is just another false dawn for all those many heartbroken parents and grandparents trapped for years in the courts and denied contact with their children.”
Highlighting the absence of a presumption in favour of equal rights for parents to have an influence on the upbringing of their children, Mrs May said: “This has meant that parents with residence have found it far easier to obstruct the other parent’s access to their children and their ability to have a say in how those children are brought up. Government must redress that imbalance.”
She added: “The Government has failed to grasp the real problem at the heart of the current system. What parents want is proper quality parenting time with their children, not the availability of more contact centres and warm words about ‘parenting plans’. Children need to have contact with their mothers and fathers if at all possible. The best parent is both parents. We need to ensure that children grow up with mother and father, and where ever possible Grandparents playing a full and active role in their upbringing.”
Below is the text of the speech made by Ken Livingstone, the then Mayor of London, on 25 May 2004.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak at the second conference the Guardian has organised about housing for key workers. So much is now not just being written and said, but actually done about this important issue that it is easy to forget that just four years ago it was hardly on the agenda as a priority for policy makers.
I would like to pay tribute to the work of Chris Holmes, the former Director of Shelter, who chaired the London Housing Commission I established immediately after the first Mayoral election. It was Chris’s Commission and their report which identified just how critical this issue was for London.
The Commission rightly said: “The economic importance of London to the whole country means that the capital’s housing problems are not just a parochial matter. If London begins to fail economically there will be serious implications for the national economy…..The evidence in the Commission’s report demonstrates that there is not just a housing justification for a major increase in the rate of provision of affordable homes but also an economic justification and a public service justification.”
Another central conclusion of the Commission was that “the definition of affordability must work both for people in traditional housing need and for people on moderate incomes who cannot afford market housing.”
Over the last four years since the publication of that report we have carried that analysis through into the statutory London Plan. This now sets a requirement for new developments to contain not just traditional affordable housing, but also what has become known in the jargon as “intermediate housing”, catering precisely for the needs of those on moderate incomes up to £40,000 who are priced out of London’s housing market.
And we have secured new backing from Government for this policy approach. Government has endorsed and agreed the London plan and its housing targets; they have accepted my view that we need to support homes for rent as well as for sale for the intermediate market; and most importantly of all they have backed the policy with the funding that it – needs especially the new £700 million programme announced in March. This programme will give new affordable homes to more than 8,000 key workers in London in the next two years alone. And we have secured 62% of the national pot of resources for London.
A vital element in the approach has been to set new, higher targets for affordable housing. When I gave my backing to the Housing Commission proposal for an overall 50% target for London there was a predictable outcry from some in the housebuilding and development industry. It was claimed that setting higher targets would hold back housing production and supply.
Well now we are getting the evidence which shows that the Jeremiahs were simply wrong. The latest ODPM figures for housebuilding completions released this month show that overall housebuilding in London is up 52% since 1999/2000 and private sector housebuilding up by 55%. These welcome increases have coincided precisely with the period in which tougher affordable housing policies have been put in place because of my London Plan. And we have achieved this with the support of greatly increased public resources secured for London from government – the Housing Corporation programme up from £260 million in 199/2000 to £886 million. At the same time the housebuilders have been earning more than reasonable profits.
And we are on course to deliver 10,000 new affordable homes this year up from 6,000 in 1999/2000. More to do, of course, but we have built a really solid track record of progress. Now there is much more widespread acceptance of the policy approach from the private sector.
Given this record it is remarkable that during the current election Steve Norris should now be suggesting cutting back on the 50% target. The only consequences of this would be fewer affordable homes for Londoners and higher windfall profits for developers.
Steve is also completely wrong to claim the target is inflexible. I am inflexible about getting the maximum possible number of affordable homes for London But I promised that site by site the new policy would be implemented flexibly to ensure development was not held back. And that is what I have done on the major developments that come to me, such as on Greenwich Peninsula where we agreed 41% as part of an overall package of transport and other social infrastructure.
Had our policy starting point at Greenwich been Steve Norris’s 35% rather than 50% we would have lost at least 600 affordable homes on that one site alone. And over the next four years we would lose 20,000 affordable homes right across London.
One other important lesson from the Housing Commission is that key workers are not just nurses, teachers and police, vital though they are. The people who clean and porter at London’s hospitals are just as essential as the doctors; the people working in hotels who keep London’s tourism industry going are key workers; and so are the lower paid office workers who support London’s back office finance sector.
I agree with the Commission that our longer term objective must be to create an intermediate housing market in London that caters for the needs of all these people on moderate incomes, not just for narrowly defined occupational groups. And, of course, many of London’s key workers on the lowest incomes need more social housing. The idea that you help key workers by cutting social housing is an illusion.
But it is good news that we are now creating more low cost home ownership opportunities in London than ever before. And I am delighted that many of these schemes are also at the cutting edge of high quality design and the best environmental and energy efficiency standards.
There are fantastic examples of this built or being built in London by the private sector and by housing associations. One of the earliest housing schemes to come to me for a planning decision was the Grand Union Village scheme on the canal on the borders of Ealing and Hillingdon. When I first saw the scheme I asked my planning officers couldn’t we get more homes on the site while still having a really well designed and attractive development. If that could be done, the scheme should be more profitable which would allow the developer to provide more than the 25% affordable housing on offer.
The GLA planners were able to negotiate successfully for more homes and an increase in the amount of affordable housing to 35% with a big key worker component. I was delighted to go and open the scheme and see how not only were we housing local teachers and newly recruited police community support officers. But the scheme also met the highest standards of energy efficiency and recycling provision and had created new high quality open space and restored the canal basins.
As so often the quality of the scheme which is low rise – and the experience for people living there – was so much better at the higher density.
This month has also seen two London shared ownership schemes built by housing associations winning awards. in Haringey Circle 33 have worked with the Council and Primary Care Trust to turn an unpopular local eyesore into another award winning scheme of 71 shared ownership and rented homes, a healthy living centre and a CAB.
And in Barking Tower Homes won the national Affordable Home Ownership award for its top quality scheme of 69 shared ownership and rented homes which again meets my aspirations for more sustainable housing – photovoltaic cells in roof panels, low energy fittings, all meeting the lifetime homes standards now required by the London Plan and all with private rear gardens. This was also a scheme which tackled affordability in the right way – the average share bought was 41 per cent and the average income of the main owner £18,850.
Right across London there are more and more schemes like this underway – showing it is possible to produce genuinely mixed tenure developments – market and discounted sale, shared ownership and housing for rent – and with all the tenures pepper-potted, indistinguishable and built to the same standard. This is the right and only way forward for London’s new homes programme.
So for the future we need to keep up the pressure to hit the targets for supply and affordable supply – this year a minimum of 10,000 new affordable homes; next year closer to 15,000 and keeping at least at that level. Maintaining the overall 50% target is absolutely vital; and delivering the target will mean that we need to achieve more than 50% on some sites. Obviously housing association developments will help with that – and so will the exciting new initiative by English Partnerships to assemble land for affordable homes, especially for key workers. This should produce at least another 4,000 affordable homes over the next two to three years.
Another approach I want to encourage is securing more key worker housing without the need for public subsidy. More developers and builders are now coming forward with schemes of this sort and these should be encouraged through planning policy. On suitable sites particularly in areas where there are already high levels of social housing we should encourage developments of 100% key worker housing for rent and shared ownership. Increasingly there are signs that big financial institutions are interested in investing in this type of development opening up a minor new sources of finance for more key worker homes in London.
And we must continue to be imaginative in the way we use land – encouraging high quality mixed use development and looking for new capacity to build more homes. We have worked with the major supermarket firms to encourage them to build more housing above and around their new stores. Again this month we have seen another big scheme coming forward with Tescos planning to build 104 new homes above a new store in Clapham.
I believe there is further major potential to build new homes – and especially affordable homes – on and around rail and Underground stations and I will be asking London Underground to work with partners such as English Partnerships, housing associations and house-builders to develop a strategy to maximise these opportunities.
I will continue to work with and support other new initiatives to provide more key worker homes. Later at the Conference you will be hearing about the ‘More than Halfway There’ scheme which brings together big employers and trade unions in London to support building more key worker homes in London. I was delighted that the GLA was able to work with Britannia Building Society and other partners to support this scheme with feasilbility money, and look forward to these and other similar initiatives bearing fruit and housing London workers.
The other major challenge we face is to make sure that we deliver the new infrastructure that is essential for building London’s new homes and communities. New public transport schemes are vital to connect new homes to jobs and allow better quality and more intensive development. Cutting back on proposed transport schemes would seriously damage the drive for new homes for Londoners.
Just as important as transport is delivering more high quality schools, health care and other community facilities. These are needed for London’s growing population but will also improve services and facilities for existing residents. I have been working closely with the NHS and the Department for Education to plan together how to make these extra investments in London’s public services.
We now have much better co-ordinated policy to support the new homes Londoners need – and we have started to make real, demonstrable progress on delivering more homes and serving a much wider range of people in housing need, especially key workers. The new office of Mayor has made a decisive difference in bringing planning, housing and transport policies together, securing extra resources, supporting new initiatives and setting the right targets for new affordable homes.
The Barker Review – on the heels of the Sustainable Communities Action Plan – was the latest and perhaps most significant sign of the greater political priority the government is now giving to building new homes. Particularly significant because it comes with the backing of the Treasury.
The Treasury have accepted Kate Barker’s important recommendation about the need to bring together responsibility for strategic housing and planning policy at the regional level. We have already made big strides in that direction in London and shown the approach delivers real results, more homes. I will work with government to implement the Barker proposals in London which should mean giving the Mayor important new responsibilities for strategic housing policy and investment.. Given the right powers, more public and private investment, working in partnership, but not relaxing our targets we can deliver more and more of the high quality affordable homes London’s public and private sector workers aspire to.
Below is the text of the speech made by Paul Maynard, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rail, Accessibility and HS2, on 15 November 2017.
I welcome the publication of these three pieces of important research today. I am grateful to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) for carrying them out.
And I am grateful to those in the rail industry who assisted in the research.
Many of whom are here today.
I take that as a sign of your commitment to learn from this research and to take action where it’s needed.
Because it is through research of this kind that we gain the hard evidence we need to improve services for passengers.
We learn what is being done well.
For instance, we learn how much of a difference can be made by helpful, caring, considerate staff.
And it’s right that we recognise those members of rail staff who not only fulfil their formal obligations to disabled passengers, but do so with a smile, with kindness, while allowing passengers to sense that their custom is valued.
And I know that later you’ll be hearing some case studies of good service provided by Network Rail, Virgin Trains East Coast, and the work of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.
But we also learn from research of this kind what is not being done so well.
And in this research we do learn rather a lot.
And, again, it’s right that we recognise what’s not working – and the need to improve.
So I’d like to spend a little more time discussing these areas.
Awareness of support
For me one of the most striking features of the research is that today disabled passengers are not sufficiently aware of their rights to access help.
In fact, over 71% of those eligible to use passenger assist don’t know anything about the scheme.
Of those who did know about their right to help, most learned through word of mouth.
Either from helpful rail staff, or from friends and family.
That’s not a bad thing in itself.
But word of mouth isn’t enough.
After all, if you don’t know about help available in the first place, how can you tell others?
Greater awareness must come from better communication by train operating companies themselves.
Reliability of service
The next striking finding of the research is that customer satisfaction is most commonly linked with 3 elements.
The first is whether passengers actually receive the help they request.
Now, I understand that things can go wrong.
But if there’s one thing train companies need to be good at, it’s getting people to the right place at the right time.
But at the moment, most of the explanations put forward by passengers for assistance failures include:
– staff not arriving to meet them at agreed points
– staff being late
– trains not arriving on time, so staff or equipment to help with alighting are not available as they should be
– or stations at either end not being aware of their journey.
These should be easy things to fix.
Getting people to the right place at the right time, and communicating information down the line; this is the bread and butter of any rail company.
But for a variety of reasons, disabled people aren’t getting the service they are owed.
Then there’s the second big concern of passengers – the attitude of staff.
I’ve already said what a positive difference caring, considerate staff can make.
And the overwhelming majority of staff on the railway are exactly that – often going above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a quality service to vulnerable passengers.
But it is equally true that it can only take one disappointing interaction to rob someone of their confidence in using the transport network.
Passengers have talked about being made to feel an inconvenience.
When a disabled passenger turns up at the station, they are maybe asked “have you booked?” – in what can seem like accusing tones.
Staff may be unable to spot or react properly to hidden disabilities, such as learning difficulties.
Or they may seem sceptical whether help is really needed.
Yet as the prevalence of hidden conditions such as dementia increases in our society, the ability of the railway to respond properly must increase accordingly.
Again, this shouldn’t be too difficult to remedy.
A lot of it is about good and thorough staff training.
Of the kind that should elementary for anyone working in a customer-facing role today.
In my own constituency, I’ve seen the superb work done by Jane Cole of Blackpool Transport to improve the understanding of bus drivers of the needs of disabled passengers; work informed by Jane’s previous role in setting up Virgin’s original passenger assist programme.
Jane is now the government’s Champion for Accessible Transport working with the Disabilities Minister, and I hope we can tap into her undoubted expertise.
The third major influencing factor – after whether requested help is received, and staff attitudes – is whether facilities are up to scratch.
General accessibility, toilets, lighting, seating, lifts and everything else.
Now I recognise that, of the 3, in some circumstances this can be the most challenging to get right.
That’s one legacy of operating the oldest rail network in the world.
Built to Victorian standards.
And I am glad that Network Rail and others have worked hard to find creative ways to fit accessible solutions within historic architecture.
But while getting it right may be challenging, it’s still essential.
We need to do more to ensure more toilets on board trains are in service more of the time.
But where they are out of order, we need to fix them, and do it fast.
And until they’re fixed, inform passengers in sufficient time before they board.
No one should suffer being caught short while trapped on a train.
Just as no one with vision or spatial awareness challenges should find themselves on a dark platform, illuminated only by a flickering light.
I could go on, but you don’t need me to spell out all the possible scenarios in which things can go wrong.
The research is already quite clear on what the issues are, and what needs to be done about them.
Need for enforcement
And all of the above explains why enforcement of these duties is so important, and why the ORR has such an important role to play.
Not only is it the railway’s economic regulator, but it is also the passenger’s champion when it comes to the handling of complaints, the provision of information during disruption and the provision of services to disabled passengers.
These duties are not in conflict, but rather are complementary.
At the same time, each duty requires a very different mind-set.
I know the ORR has always fought to make sure operators do the right thing for passengers – including holding train operating companies to account for their finances.
And I strongly believe there is no-one better positioned to influence operators, to re-balance the railway in favour of the passenger.
In this role, I see ORR having a visible presence, upholding the legitimate expectations of the fare-paying passenger.
ORR cannot do this alone.
It needs to bring the industry with them on the journey towards higher standards.
But just as justice delayed is justice denied, so is justice in the shadows justice denied.
My inbox and postbag overflows with complaints from those who have not received the level of service they are entitled to when seeking passenger assistance on the railway.
People need to see the strong hand of the ORR guiding these improvements.
ORR holds many enforcement powers that it could be using right now to deliver justice.
As the ORR builds up its evidence base, and negotiates improvements by consensus, I would like to see them wielding these powers.
To become an earnest advocate for passengers who need them the most.
To think creatively about how its consumer-facing role requires an outward-facing advocacy on behalf of disabled passengers.
To seize the opportunity presented by the impending arrival of the Passenger Ombudsman to complement that work by ensuring that the consumer duties it has are explored to their fullest extent.
And by challenging the industry at each and every opportunity.
So as a next step, I would welcome the thoughts of the ORR on how it intends to respond to complaints about levels of accessibility on the railway.
Whether through published league tables, through examples of bad and good practice, or through naming and shaming the very worst.
With creativity, I know that the ORR can truly make a difference.
So, thank you again for this vital work.
It gives us the evidence and the information we need to make things better.
It give us a new opportunity.
So let us be the ones who seize that opportunity.
And make travelling better for everyone.
Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Edward du Cann, the then Conservative MP for Taunton, in the House of Commons on 23 April 1956.
I have the honour to represent the ancient and historic constituency of Taunton, in the County of Somerset, which comprises not only the Boroughs of Taunton and Wellington but also their rural districts and the rural district of Dulverton, and which includes some of the most beautiful countryside in Somerset, if not in the whole country.
The industries in my constituency are many and varied. They range from the production of cider—fortunately not affected by the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or perhaps I should make a speech rather different from that which I am now about to deliver—to the textile trade; from the manufacture of gloves, shirts and collars to the manufacture of precision instruments; from engineering to withy growing.
Taunton market is the finest in the West, and the largest single industry in the constituency is farming. Therefore, not only do we earn foreign currency by our work in this constituency, but we also save foreign currency as well. Perhaps I may say, in parenthesis, that one must recognise that for all the support which the farming industry is receiving at the moment from the taxpayer, small farmers and hill farmers particularly eke out a not very satisfactory living.
The division has been represented in this House by many distinguished men, although it failed to elect the great Mr. Disraeli when he stood as a Tory candidate at a by-election in 1835. Not least among those distinguished men has been my immediate predecessor, Lord Colyton, to whom I owe a great deal—far more than I shall ever be able to repay. I see the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) in his place, and perhaps I may say that both he and my predecessor the noble Lord represented Taunton with distinction and rendered great service to their constituents. They have both set me a hard example to follow, and I shall do my best to follow it.
I confess to being in some difficulty in addressing the Committee today because, on the one hand, I understand that by the tradition of this House a maiden speech may not be contentious, but, on the other hand, I recall the turbulent history of the West Country. Names like Monmouth and Judge Jeffreys come to my mind. Perhaps it is just as well that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is not in his place. So we in the West Country are rebels yet, and suffer no Government gladly, particularly when they have their hands in our pockets in which we keep our loose change.
For all that, it is true to say that my constituents and the majority of the people of this country support my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his grand design and aim to contain inflation, to encourage private, and more particularly Government, saving, to keep Britain solvent and to build up our reserves and keep us paying our way. We recognise, too, that if these things are done we are certain to maintain our standard of living and, perhaps, in the future to build it up. If these things are not done, we shall perish and the result will be tragedy for our people.
It is with regard to the methods by which my right hon. Friend seeks to attain these aims that there may be differences of opinion. As to the detail of his Budget, I wish to refer, first, to the sensational announcement—for it is that—about the new Premium Bonds and then later to other matters.
We shall have to wait for details of the Premium Bonds scheme, but it is is, perhaps, appropriate to make four points. The first is, that it is clear that the public imagination has been caught by the idea. That augurs well for its success. It seems to me important, if it can be arranged—as I have said, we do not know the details at the moment—to start the scheme as early as possible. I hope very much that we shall not be kept waiting for as long as my right hon. Friend suggested.
Secondly, when we have secured the interest of the people, we surely want to maintain it. It occurred to me that it would, perhaps, be better to draw these bonds every month instead of every three months.
Thirdly, my right hon. Friend announced that the bonds would have a par value of £1 and that the maximum holding would be limited to £250. I agree with the figure suggested for the holding, but I am not so sure about the par value. At a time when investments tend to be cheaper so far as their par value is concerned in order to encourage working and middle-class people to buy them, it seems to me that it would be better to reduce the par value to 10s. or 5s. One recognises the difficulty when a great investment company like Cable and Wireless has to do that in order to attract investors. Therefore, it seems to me important to make the point here today.
Lastly, bearing in mind a letter in The Times on Friday last which quoted a precedent in Queen Anne’s day, it seems to me that my right hon. Friend might be able to get over the objections of some people—one can sympathise with and understand them—to the speculative nature of these bonds if some small rate of interest were paid on them. The net rate to be paid is 4 per cent. and if we gross it up it is about 7 per cent., which is a very high yield when compared with the ordinary share yield index quoted in the Financial Times, which is just about 5½ per cent. Surely 1 per cent. could be paid on these bonds, since my right hon. Friend has said that registers are to be kept.
Leaving the subject of the Premium Bonds, I should like to say that I have—and I know that my constituents have—followed the Chancellor’s reasoning when he says, in effect, that this is to be a “hold-the-fort” Budget and that there could be no tax concessions this time. We are also pleased that no severe increase in taxation has been imposed either.
I should like to register a point for the next time, and talk about two sections of the community, those who receive the most and those who receive the least—the Surtax payers and the old-age pensioners. I am, clearly, not an old-age pensioner, though, pray God, I may be one day, and neither am I a Surtax payer.
The present initial level for Surtax is the same as it was in 1928–29, and if we take account of the fall in the value of money, it would appear, bearing in mind current values, that Surtax begins at a level of about £600 or £700. In these days, when the middle-class is expanding so fast—and we welcome that expansion—it is surely illogical and out of date to keep the lower limit at that figure.
I am not suggesting that one should not recognise the social purposes of taxation, as the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) mentioned in his speech, nor am I suggesting that we should not keep the upper limits of Surtax high. I am talking about the middle ranges of Surtax. We must surely recognise that Income Tax and Surtax discourage the people with special skills and trades. They discourage, too, the young and rising managers and executives. They stultify endeavour and kill incentive, and they are morally bad in the sense that they encourage the payer of Income Tax and Surtax to look for his remuneration in indirect ways.
As to the old-age pensioners—I am sure that my right hon. Friend bears their needs very much in mind—much has been done for them, not least by the present Administration. I think that is a fair point to make, but much more needs to be done for them. On the subject of the tobacco concession, I have found among my constituents dissatisfaction, not because the concession has not been increased by 2d., but because the concession exists at all. Many think that it would be much better to give all old-age pensioners an extra 2s. 6d. a week rather than give one section an extra benefit. Although 50 per cent. of old-age pensioners take advantage of the tobacco concession, one does not know how many of them are habitual smokers. It would be fairer to give the 2s. 6d., or whatever the sum may be, to all of them.
Another point which has been put to me very strongly, and with which I strongly sympathise, is that it would be a great aid for the old people if something were done to raise the earnings limit for them. I know that that is a matter which is being investigated at the present time.
Finally, I hope and believe that my right hon. Friend’s language in his Budget speech gives great cause for hope that his second Budget may implement the promise of his first, and that when inflation is mastered and our trade position in the world improves, as we pray may be the case, we may look forward to enjoying the great tax reforms and reliefs of which our heavily burdened nation stands so sorely in need.
Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Gwyneth Dunwoody, the then Labour MP for Exeter, in the House of Commons on 8 July 1966.
If that riveting opening phrase, “I rise to make my maiden speech and to beg the indulgence of the House” causes you to sink a little lower in your august Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will forgive me.
I warmly welcome the Bill as a step in the right direction. With the greatest respect, I welcome it also since I rather feel that I might not always find myself in such wholehearted agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) during the rest of my Parliamentary career.
I represent a very beautiful city. It is one for which I have great affection. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet), I represent a city that has many historic associations and many beautiful buildings. To anyone who has the opportunity to sit, as I do, on a local authority planning committee, it is sometimes a little disheartening to discover how easy it is to destroy the beauty that men have left us over the years. Although we are able to preserve individual houses, it has in the past been only too easy to destroy the entire character of streets and cities by not considering an area as a whole.
I am delighted that a Clause is provided in the Bill to deal with that aspect. I have had the slightly disheartening experience of taking part in a discussion on how to preserve a very beautiful view on one of the most beautiful rivers in Devon. Had it not been so tragic to me, I should have been amused at the sort of solution arrived at. It was decided that it was possible to leave a gap between two large sheds; and that this would preserve a very beautiful amenity.
We have various other problems in Exeter on which I hope to have a chance to address the House on other occasions. We face the thorny problem of what is known as development. We desperately need to marry the best of the old with the best of the new. I always feel that beautiful cities, rather like beautiful women, require a certain amount of judicious preservation—I was about to say that they do better to be lived with; but perhaps that might be misinterpreted.
If we are to provide the sort of environment in which people can live their lives to the full, we must be able to preserve the best houses and the best architectural points of interest. We certainly must do something about the rage we sometimes seem to have in modern society only to destroy and not to preserve. I have been startled by the number of ways in which it is possible to, shall we say, evade some of the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Acts.
If it is true to say of people Thou shalt not kill, but need not strive Officiously to keep alive it is also true of trees. I welcome the provisions for the preservation of trees because there is here one aspect that we have not considered. Trees are living things, and can be easily destroyed.
One can judiciously find that their branches are in need of lopping, one can destroy their roots, or find perhaps that they are a danger to new developments it is necessary to do away with them. In those circumstances, it is all the more important for local authorities to have the kind of provisions contained in this Measure to require developers or builders to replace trees in areas from which they have been removed.
Those of us who have served on local authorities want to see our cities made not merely utilitarian and as a sort of background against which can be produced better jobs and a better future for our children, but a warmer, livelier and more beautiful environment. As this island becomes more and more crowded it becomes more incumbent upon us to protect areas such as the South-West which have great natural beauty where cities have grown up in very pleasant juxtaposition one to another, but which, if they are to live and not merely to be developed, must be developed in such a way that they will provide even greater beauty than in the past.
I know that I do not need to draw the attention of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), to some of the problems we have in the South-West. I live in what is called a gem town. The problem for this particular gem is that the setting is one which we are very anxious to preserve. We look to the future to provide opportunities for better planning of growing towns. It is important that they should be the sort of towns which provide the environment we want for our children.
I most warmly welcome the Bill.
Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Stephen Dorrell, the then Conservative MP for Loughborough, in the House of Commons on 13 June 1979.
I begin, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by thanking you and the House for the honour you do me by listening to me this evening. It is a particular honour, because as the youngest Member of this new House I think that it is perhaps remarkable that I should be called to speak in the debate on what is, I think by general consent, one of the most important Budget Statements the House has heard in recent years.
My first and very pleasant duty is to congratulate the new hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) on what I think every hon. Member will agree was a cogent and well-informed speech, and one that is fitting for the successor to Barbara Castle. He has a very difficult task to follow his predecessor. I should like to associate myself with the hon. Gentleman’s wishing her well as the leader of the Labour group in the European Parliament.
Tradition is a great help to a newcomer in placing an ordered series of duties on him when he rises for the first time. My second duty, and again a pleasant duty, is to refer to my predecessor, Mr. John Cronin. He had represented the seat since 1955, a total of 24 uninterrupted years. During that time he built up a formidable reputation both in the House and in the constituency as a very able, very intelligent and very civilised man. His constituents who went to see him always found a sympathetic ear. He was always prepared to take up the case of people who needed help and to do everything he could to help them. He will always be remembered in the constituency for the kind way in which he dealt with his constituents and the effective way in which he took up their problems.
Mr. Cronin will also always be remembered in the House for the wise counsel he gave in speeches, particularly on defence, a subject that interests him very much. Both the House and the Labour Party will be the poorer for his loss. I am sure that every hon. Member wishes him well. I certainly do.
The third priority that tradition places on a new Member is that he should talk about his constituency. I should like to begin my comments about my constituency by remembering two other, relatively recent, predecessors. The first is the man who sat for Loughborough during the war, Lawrence Kimball, father of my hon. Friend the present Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball). His predecessor was a man called Winterton, who Labour Members may be interested to hear sat as a Socialist.
The constituency that I represent is a combination of urban and rural areas within the charmed triangle of the three great industrial towns of the East Midlands. It is almost equidistant between Nottingham, Leicester and Derby. The economy of the Loughborough town is based on a wide variety of small and vigorous companies in the engineering, pharmaceutical and textile knitwear industries. There is a very low level of unemployment. The population of the town is increasing and I believe that we can say that the economy of the Loughborough area is in a healthy state.
In addition to industry, we have a new university of technology and a college of technology, so that in a sense education is a local industry.
I should like to mention the 5,000 people of Asian origin who came to Loughborough during the 1960s and early 1970s as refugees from odious regimes, largely hi East Africa. They have integrated very well into the community, where they perform a valuable job. I believe that they are accepted as equal members of the community. We have a very good record of race relations in Loughborough and I very much hope that that will continue indefinitely.
I suppose that “diversity” is the key word for the make-up of the constituency outside the town. It is made up of a series of towns and villages and a broad cross-section of interests. We have farmers and a large group of miners, because half the Leicestershire coalfield falls into the constituency. We also have the East Midlands airport
Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe that when it comes to my suggesting that I have a particular constituency interest in speaking I shall have that argument at my disposal for a broad range of debates. The argument is nowhere more true than in talking about the Budget.
I believe that I speak for the majority of my constituents when I welcome the basic thrust of the Budget. I believe that it will be welcomed throughout the community because it honours the basic priority that the Conservative Party put to the electorate at the general election—that we should, by reducing the deductions from the wage packet, increase the incentive for a man, first, to go to work, but, secondly, to do an extra hour’s overtime, to acquire an extra skill and to bring about that increase in productivity which is essential if our country is to be able to compete with our competitors elsewhere in the industrialised world, and particularly in Western Europe.
The most dangerous fact for our economy, and the greatest danger that we face, is that the British worker on average produces less than comparable workers do in West Germany, France, Holland, Belgium and the other countries of the EEC. Until we can make it worth while for our workers to produce extra goods and bring our productivity up to those levels abroad, we cannot look for the standard of living that the people in those countries enjoy and which hon. Members on both sides of the House want to see for our own people.
That is why I believe it is so important that the emphasis of the Budget is on reducing the burden of income tax, particularly the marginal rates. The incentive argument is at its strongest at the marginal rates, where it involves the decision as to whether one does an extra hour’s overtime or acquires a particular skill. That is where the incentive is at its greatest. If we can bring down the rates at the margin, the incentive is there to do that extra bit of work.
No one on either side of the House likes the 3½ per cent. to 4 per cent. rise in the retail price index which my right hon. and learned Friend deems necessary to bring about that increase in incentive throughout the income tax structure. However, if we are to bring about the increase in productivity that I have been talking about, we have to give first priority to making that incentive available so that we can get the increased productivity and build a stronger industrial base.
The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday that the Chancellor had taken a reckless gamble. I believe that in a sense my right hon. and learned Friend has taken a gamble—not a reckless one, but a calculated gamble. It is because these are in a sense high-risk policies, because my right hon. and learned Friend is taking a calculated risk, that it is perhaps now more important than ever that, in addition to honouring our pledge to reduce taxation, we should also honour our pledge to increase the role of the National Economic Development Council, so that trade union representatives and the representatives of all other interested parties are brought into discussion on the future state of the economy during the summer and before the next wage round begins.
My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) said that any Government can have a wage policy. I think that he is right. The argument is not about whether one should have one. A Government have to decide on the wage levels of all the people who are their direct employees, and they also have a large say in the pay levels of their indirect employees. That, whatever one chooses to call it, is a wages policy. The only argument is whether one decides that policy by confrontation on the picket line or by discussion round the table.
The latter is the role that we saw in Opposition for the NEDC—a table round which these things can be discussed in the context of a conflict which can to some extent be neutralised. I hope that our pledge in this respect will not be forgotten by the Government in forming their economic policy during the next three or four months. I recall in conclusion the words once used in very different circumstances—we shall never negotiate out of fear, but, likewise, we shall never fear to negotiate.
Below is the text of the speech made by Angela Crawley, the SNP MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, in the House of Commons on 16 November 2017.
It is perhaps not surprising that while Brexit dominates most political debate, issues of huge importance sometimes slip through the scrutiny of this place, and I believe that the Child Maintenance Service falls into that category. After several months of working through the formalities of this House, I am delighted finally to have the opportunity to raise my concerns and highlight in the Chamber the real struggles faced by my constituents.
My constituency office has dealt with a huge variety of problems with the Child Maintenance Service, including the tax on survivors of domestic violence—the Minister may be aware of that issue since I have been campaigning on it for some time. I would also like to raise further constituency cases beyond that campaign, and I hope that the Minister will to respond to my remarks.
The Child Maintenance Service was established in 2012 to replace the Child Support Agency—an organisation that was arguably worse. The new system was built on the ethos that children fare better when their parents have a positive relationship. However, that is not the case for all former partners, and some of the ill-judged changes made in the transition to the CMS included glaring oversights in the administration of the system. The stubborn refusal of the Government to acknowledge their mistakes has meant that the current system is not always fit for purpose.
The essence of child support is simple. When both parents are not in a relationship, or if they break up, the child should not suffer financially. For some children, the CMS is their means of avoiding poverty. As a result, that organisation forms one of the most important roles of government—the protection of children. It is therefore vital that such a service should be treated with no less complacency than any other Department.
To allow the CMS to fulfil its important duty, some changes should be made. It currently operates three different payment systems, two of which—the family-based scheme, and the direct pay scheme—operate without charge. The collect and pay scheme, however, has a number of charges. The family-based scheme essentially runs without the involvement of the CMS. Parents can sort out financial arrangements without the bureaucracy of Government interference. It is designed for former partners who can maintain an amicable relationship, and it is the most advantageous scheme for all those involved. It is cost-neutral to the Government, beneficial to the child, and ideally involves no ill-feeling between the parents.
The direct pay scheme is where child maintenance is directed to the receiving parent without using the CMS. That happens after a maintenance calculation has been made by the Department. Parents essentially agree between themselves how and when maintenance will be paid, and the onus is on both parents to monitor the payment and highlight any discrepancies within the agreement. The direct pay scheme does not check whether maintenance has been paid, and neither does it offer any enforcement for either parent. Instead, if the scheme does not work, the CMS offers a move to a managed service—the collect and pay service. That scheme is available to those who have failed to receive payment, and if there is a reason why someone may not wish to interact with their ex-partner, or if the parent requests to use that scheme, in many cases the CMS can collect child maintenance payments and pass them on to the parent with day-to-day care of the children.
Paying parents must pay a 20% collection fee on top of their usual child maintenance balance, and receiving parents must pay a 4% per cent collection fee that is deducted from their usual child maintenance amount. There is a £20 application charge for the collect and pay scheme, which is waived should the receiving parent be a survivor of domestic abuse. This scheme is the safest of all. Even in this instance, however, the system can be open to exploitation and abuse. The protections include wage deductions and the removal of any possible contact with an abusive partner. As the Minister will know, one of the biggest barriers to independence for survivors of domestic abuse is financial control, which is why it is welcome that the £20 application fee for the collect and pay scheme is waived for survivors of domestic abuse.
I welcome the waiver, but it leads to the question that if the collect and pay scheme is the most secure mechanism for survivors of domestic abuse to exercise their right to child maintenance, and is free to apply, why is there an ongoing monthly charge for the survivors’ continued safety? The 4% collection charge is removed from the child’s entitlement. This is support that the Government have already determined through their calculations that a child is due, yet they see fit to remove it, taking vital financial support from families and penalising children.
In previous correspondence with the Minister’s Department, I was informed that the charges were to cover administering the cost of the service and to incentivise the use of other schemes within the CMS. Logically, however, that runs counter to the Government’s removal of the £20 charge. The Minister is essentially saying that the initial charges are intended to incentivise the use of other schemes, but the ongoing monthly, and more costly, charges are there to penalise those where this is not possible. I am sure that that is not the intention, but the Government are using the charges to encourage some of the most vulnerable individuals in the country to engage with their abusive ex-partners and to rely on Government bureaucracy or worse. That is unacceptable and it must stop.
The 4% tax on survivors of domestic abuse has rightly caused major concern with support groups and charities, including Women’s Aid, the White Ribbon Campaign, Gingerbread, Engender and One Parent Families Scotland. Those organisations all signed a letter in March this year, alongside Members from every party in this House with the exception of Government Members, calling for the abolition of the tax. Since then, the Government have lost their majority and this could carry the majority of the House. I therefore implore the Minister to do the right thing by vulnerable parents and send a message that the Child Maintenance Service should be a place of safety and security where individuals can exercise their right to child maintenance without fear of recurring abuse. I have been campaigning for this change for some time and have heard many weak excuses from the Department for its inaction. If the Minister in his reply plans to give me some of the same lines I have heard in the past, let me assure him that I have heard them all before. Let me try to counter them in advance and save him some time.
The Government have consistently advised me that the direct pay scheme is a safe scheme and that the collect and pay scheme is the best way to ensure that both parties are protected. The Prime Minister has told me that users can utilise anonymous sort codes and therefore hide their location and that, if a payment is not made, the domestic abuse survivor can move on to the collect and pay service. Let me tell the Minister why that answer is at best careless and at worst negligent. Giving abusers access to communication with their former partners through bank transfers, and the ability to leave messages while doing so, continues the cycle of abuse. Allowing abusers to pay late without fear of enforcement also continues the cycle of abuse. The system is open to exploitation and abuse, and I hope the Minister will take that into consideration.
Finally, while the collect and pay service offers the protection required, the charges come into play if a domestic abuse survivor is moved on to it. I am sure that that is not the intention. There is no way, even by the Government’s logic, that a survivor of domestic abuse can escape the tax applied by the Government without subjecting themselves to the possibility of continued abuse. Surely the Minister would agree that that is a flaw in the system? It must be reviewed and addressed accordingly.
Another argument proposed by the Conservative party is that the tax is so small that it does not matter. I would question whether it is the place of the Government to define what matters and what constitutes small or large. Is it the place of the Government to define what is materially impactful when vulnerable families rely on the service? In response to a letter, the former Minister highlighted the fact that the 4% charge was “miniscule” and, in her interpretation, was not materially impactful. That is not a position I would expect of a Minister. I would expect the Minister to listen and adopt the views of Opposition Members as well as Government Members.
I believe that the Minister’s response is contemptible at best, and I seek a better response from the Department. I want to raise two points. First, if it is not materially impactful, why apply it at all? Secondly, it might not have a huge effect on the Government’s budget, but for families living on the breadline, every penny counts. In advance of next week’s Budget, I ask the Government to consider who needs the 4% of child maintenance more—a family who will feel its material impact or the Treasury, which will not? I hope he will feed that back to the Chancellor along with my determination that the tax be scrapped.
The Government consider it a success that more people are using the systems outside the intervention of the CMS, but with one third of those applying for children maintenance citing domestic abuse as the reason, I wonder how many individuals are being put at risk to avoid these punitive charges. The CMS should be protecting, not punishing, those who have fled domestic abuse. It is time that the tax was scrapped. I have spoken at length about the domestic abuse survivors tax—an issue I have campaigned on and which needs attention—but it is just one aspect of the service that is not working, yet, as much of my constituency casework shows, it could very easily be addressed.
I wish to highlight a few further issues with the CMS, and I hope that the Minister will be able to respond. Several issues with its administration have clearly had an impact on my constituents. One of them had been in an abusive relationship but managed to cut off all contact while receiving maintenance for their child. However, the Department sent her a letter meant for her ex-partner, which caused her great concern, as she was worried that he would get mail meant for her and find out her new location. It is unacceptable that a simple administrative error could strike such fear and alarm into an individual and that any Department, no matter how easily administrative errors might occur, could allow someone to feel endangered in that way.
Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP) I rise to mention the case of lady in my constituency who approached the CSA back in 2005 and was assessed as only getting £18 a week. Eventually in 2013, after multiple letters and failures, it recognised that it should have been £68 a week. By that time, though, there were nearly £20,000 of arrears. That woman has been left in debt, and until recently we were told that the arrears would be cleared over the coming 15 years. By then, she would have been left servicing debt for 27 years. We have managed to get it sorted, but the idea that someone could write back to a woman who has raised children for 12 years on her own and say, “Don’t worry. In 15 years, it’ll be cleared,” shows a lack of comprehension of the real world.
Angela Crawley I wholeheartedly agree my hon. Friend that such errors, so glaring and so obvious, should be addressed by the Government.
The service levels offered to my constituents are often inconsistent, and CMS rules are often not followed by departmental staff. For example, requests to use the collect and pay service are often discouraged by advisers. I have previously raised the case of a constituent whose ex-partner was falling behind on payments and had requested to be put on the collect and pay scheme. She was told by a CMS adviser that this was not possible because the shortfall in payments was less than 10%. My constituent had not heard of this rule and, on asking where this was written in the legislation, was told to look it up herself.
I could not find it written down anywhere either, and on questioning the Department, I was informed that it was not policy. Will the Minister tell me if there are targets for staff to keep people off collect and pay? I sincerely hope that there are not. If not, why are excuses being made not to use the scheme? In calculating the amount owed by the paying parent, income details are taken from HMRC, but they are not always taken from the most recent tax year. In fact, HMRC can use historic income data from any year in the past six for which it considers it has complete details.
While this might work for most people, as was outlined in correspondence with the Department, it fails those who are self-employed or who tend to work on a contractual basis. For those people, income figures can vary dramatically year on year, so the calculation often does not reflect real incomes. The CMS system of annual reviews does not work for contractors, particularly when the annual review takes place before the end of the tax year. That simply causes more issues, with CMS payments being calculated on the basis of inaccurate income figures. There is currently no facility for a mid-year adjustment, and I ask for that aspect of the policy to be reviewed.
An additional failure in the system of calculation is that, should a contractor submit payslips to try to prove current income, the amount shown on them is extrapolated to produce an estimated annual income. The contracts are often, by nature, short-term, and a few months of high income may be followed by months of no work. This is what happened to my constituent George Gillan, from Carluke. As the Minister knows, I have written to one of his colleagues about it.
George worked offshore on a contractual basis, with a high income during the months when he was working, which were followed by periods when he could live on those earnings when out of work. At present, the CMS is calculating his payments on the basis of income from the tax year ending April 2015. George tried to submit evidence of a change in his circumstances by sending 12 weeks of payslips, but that was extrapolated across the whole year. The total estimated income did not breach the 25% threshold for a new calculation, so it could not be changed.
That left my constituent owing payments that he simply could not afford to make. His annual review takes place in February, and because a mid-year adjustment could not be offered, he cannot afford to take short-term contracts, as he will be expected to make payments based on his higher income from 2015. He has not worked since December 2016, because he is fearful that he will be penalised on that contractual basis. If mid-year adjustments were possible—I hope the Minister will consider them—things would be much easier for those who are self-employed or work on a contractual basis. I hope the Minister will agree that that would be an easy accommodation to make. There is a fundamental flaw in the current procedure for identifying accurate income details, especially those of contractual workers.
I am sure that I have given the Minister more than enough material to respond to, but Members and the public will know there are many issues I have not been able to cover today. Let me recap. I am asking the Minister to make the system fairer for survivors of domestic abuse by scrapping the 4% tax for those who use the collect and pay service. I am asking him to address the administrative problems that plague the CMS. I am asking him to ensure that its service is managed to a high standard and that policies are clear and correctly interpreted by staff. I am asking him to ensure that the CMS works for contractual workers by allowing accurate income details to be taken and allowing for mid-year adjustments. I realise that it is difficult for policy changes to be made, but I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to some of the injustices that my constituents and people across the country have experienced in their dealings with the CMS.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak. It took me rather a long time to secure the debate. I urge the Minister to take my pleas on board and to seek to improve the system to protect and support families, which is what the Child Maintenance Service should be doing.
Below is the text of the statement made by Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, in the Commons on 16 November 2017.
Thank you Mr Speaker, with permission I will update the House on steps being taken to tackle harassment and abuse in Parliament.
Madam Deputy Speaker, as my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister has made clear – there can be no place for harassment, abuse or misconduct in politics.
I said we would take action in days, not weeks and that is exactly what we have done.
Getting this right matters to everyone here – and I want to thank the Honourable Member for Birmingham Yardley – who I know is taking a keen interest in this matter.
I hope today’s statement will answer some of her questions.
Last week, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of the party leaders to discuss this matter.
All party leaders attended and there was agreement to work together to make swift progress.
The proposals outlined by the Prime Minister for an independent grievance procedure have been embraced across this House, and I am reassured by the consensus.
All parties have acknowledged that any proposal must adhere to three specific criteria: it must have cross-party agreement, it must include both Houses of Parliament and it must be independent.
The new system will be available to all who work here – including all MPs’ staff, Lords staff including cross-benchers, interns, volunteers, journalists, and constituency staff.
It was agreed that the political parties would establish a cross-party working group to take this work forward, and I am pleased to report that the group met for the first time on Tuesday.
The working group is made up of representatives from every party and from both Houses – Conservative, Labour, SNP, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru, DUP, Green, and cross-benchers.
Very importantly, MAPSA, the Members and Peers Staff Association, and UNITE are representing parliamentary staff on the group, and are ensuring that their experiences, and their requirements, are taken fully into account.
The first meeting of the working group made clear that the voices of staff will be at the heart of this process. Any new system will need the absolute confidence of those who will use it.
The working group also agreed that the new procedure must be independent of the political parties – and that to inform the group over the next two weeks, we will hear from a number of different contributors.
This will include hearing from staff directly, as well as groups including ACAS, IPSA, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and experts on a range of topics that will help us to shape a new process.
Anyone wishing to submit their own thoughts or suggestions to the group in writing is also very welcome to do so.
This is early days for the working group, and we will certainly be working quickly but thoroughly to make sure we create a new procedure that provides confidence to all who use it.
I know that in addition, many members of staff have expressed an interest in the provision of HR training, as well as better employee support for staff.
All those employing staff need a certain amount of guidance and training that will enable them to be good employers.
This week the working group heard directly from the Clerks of the two Houses – who provided a very helpful account of the procedure used by House staff.
Whilst we have recognised that the Respect policy used by the House authorities provides an excellent reference point, the independent procedure we are seeking to build will take into account the specific needs of Parliament, and the group has acknowledged the need for more than just mediation.
The working group agreed a new system should provide support, advice and action on a wide spectrum of complaints around bullying and harassment.
We will do everything in our power to ensure the solution is transparent, fair, and effective.
And this fairness, Madam Deputy Speaker, must also apply to MPs and Peers, because we do recognise that right across both Houses we have many model employers who genuinely care about, and look after, their staff extremely well.
We are working to a tight timeframe – but we have all acknowledged that it is right we address this issue with urgency.
The publication of the final proposal will balance the need for fast action with the need for due diligence.
The working group, including staff representatives, are considering the timetable carefully, and aim to report back to the House before the House rises for Christmas recess.
Madam Deputy Speaker, you and the Speaker have said that you hope all parties will live up to their responsibilities by demonstrating both an appetite for change and a practical means of delivering that change.
That is exactly what we intend to do and I want to thank all parties for working together in a supportive fashion. We share this duty to bring about positive change.
People come to work in this place for a number of reasons – out of public service, to support the party of their choice, or to gain new work experience.
Nothing should deter them from pursuing those ambitions, and I know we are all determined to ensure that this is a safe and fair place to work.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Below is the text of the speech made by David Davis, the Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, in Berlin on 16 November 2017.
Thank you for inviting me to speak here tonight.
It’s a privilege to be here, at Berlin’s Museum of Communication, to talk to you about how the United Kingdom is approaching talks to leave the European Union.
I’m not here tonight to give you a blow-by-blow account of the Brexit negotiations.
I’m sure have already got that from the pages of Suddeutsche Zeitung already.
And I’m sure I’ll be answering questions about that once we’ve finished.
Just to say we have made a great deal of progress in the negotiations to date – far more than is understood by most people.
I’ve come to talk about the future for Europe these talks will create and their importance to generations to come.
Earlier this evening I spent a little time walking around this incredible museum.
To see the evolution of technology that has made our world closer and more interconnected than ever before.
Put simply, what I believe is this:
In that more interconnected world, it’s more important than ever that the United Kingdom and Germany work together to protect the values and interests that we share.
Values that define our relationship, and are more important than our membership of particular institutions.
Values of democracy.
Of the rule of law.
Of human rights.
Of economic liberalism.
And of freedom.
These are the values that will guide the new partnership we want with the European Union.
I know that the UK and Germany came to the EU from different starting points.
For Germany, and others, the creation of the EU is still seen properly as a foundation for peace and stability, democracy and justice, across our continent.
The UK’s experience is different.
For us the European Union — and the European Economic Community before it — was primarily an economic endeavour.
One that bolstered trade but which always provoked public debate about the political integrity of sovereign states.
Now this isn’t to say that one is right and the other is wrong.
Indeed they are linked.
Trade and peace have always been mutually beneficial objectives.
But simply we have always viewed the Union differently.
Germany was a founder member. We chose not to be.
Germany was a founder of the euro. Again, we stayed out.
It also doesn’t mean that we do not see the value in the wider political project for Europe.
There cannot be any doubt that we want to see the European Union succeed and flourish.
It’s in both of our interests.
And while the British people have had their say, and we have decided to leave the institutions of the European Union.
Brexit does not and will not mean the end of our relationship with the EU or indeed with Germany.
Or that trade between the UK and Germany should reduce.
Neither does it undermine, or reduce, our unwavering commitment to Europe’s security.
I believe, with determination from both sides, the opposite can be true.
So we need to create the right structures for after our European Union exit that will enable our partnership to thrive.
We will always – always – stand up to the shared threats our continent faces and cooperate on the security of Europe.
And the close economic ties that we both benefit from should continue, if not strengthen, in the years to come.
The weight of evidence requires it.
Bilateral trade between the United Kingdom and Germany is worth a total of 176 billion euros a year.
Spanning the entire economy.
And that’s more than a thousand euros to every man, woman, and child in both our countries.
In 2015, two billion euros worth of German aviation exports were sold in Britain’s markets.
In the same year 8.5 billion of chemical and rubber exports went to the UK.
And 29 billion of automotive exports, from your biggest manufacturers BMW, Mercedes and the like, end up on British roads.
That translates to roughly one in three cars sold in Britain — that’s 810,000 cars — coming from Germany.
For our part, Germany is the UK’s second biggest trading partner – receiving 9% of our exports — and we’re your fourth biggest investor.
Meanwhile 220,000 Germans work for the 1,200 British companies in Germany.
That trade creates jobs.
It boosts prosperity.
And it creates wealth not just in Britain, not just in Germany, but across the entire continent.
I have twice served on the boards of FTSE100 businesses and I’ve seen it myself first hand.
In the face of those facts I know that no one would allow short-term interests to risk those hard-earned gains.
Because putting politics above prosperity is never a smart choice.
Two months ago, our Prime Minister Theresa May explained a bold ambition for the form of our future relationship.
One that ensures these links with our friends and partners, such as Germany, are maintained and indeed, strengthened.
It goes beyond just wanting a positive outcome to the negotiations.
Because fundamentally, it is about the kind of country that the UK wants to be, after we leave the European Union.
I recognise that, since the referendum last year, some in the European Union have had their doubts about what kind of country we are or indeed what we stand for.
Now if you want to know the mind of a nation all one must do is read its press.
So with that in mind I looked through some copies of Suddeutsche Zeitung.
I read that “Britain wants to isolate itself”, that we are “short-sighted islanders”, or at least that’s how I translated “Inselbewohner”.
Well I’m afraid I have to disagree.
We are the same country we have always been.
With the same values and same principles we have always had.
A country upon which our partners can rely.
The sixth largest economy in the world and a beacon for free trade across the globe.
And when it comes to trade — as we forge a new path for Britain outside the European Union — I believe we can be its boldest advocate.
Continued security cooperation
Being a country that our partners rely on also means the United Kingdom continuing to play its part in maintaining the security of the continent.
From mass migration to terrorism, there are countless issues which pose challenges to our shared European interests and values that we can only solve in partnership.
That’s why we have already set out our ambition for continued partnership in areas such as security, defence, law-enforcement and counter-terrorism.
Drawing on the full weight of our military, intelligence, diplomatic, law enforcement and development resources to lead action both inside and outside Europe.
Hand in hand with our closest allies and partners our determination to defend the stability, security and prosperity of the European continent remains steadfast.
Because the threats that European people face are the same, whether they are attending a pop concert in Manchester, Christmas markets in Berlin or simply using public transport in Brussels, Madrid or London.
Britain always has – and always will – stand with its friends and allies in defence of those values that we share.
And, of course, the United Kingdom always has been — and always will be — a country which honours its international commitments and obligations.
This is more than just rhetoric.
If we spent the European Union average on defence and international development, and other foreign affairs, we’d spend 22 billion pounds a year less than we currently do.
That’s money that demonstrates how seriously we take our role on the world stage and it’s money that we’ll continue to spend in our mutual interest.
Future economic partnership
Because of our shared values and shared history, we’re ambitious and optimistic about our future partnership with the European Union.
Of course, life will be different. We recognise that we can’t leave the European Union and have everything stay the same.
And as we leave, we will be leaving the single market and the customs union.
This is not an ideologically driven decision but a practicality based on what our people voted for and the respect we have for the four freedoms of the EU.
It’s clear that the British people voted to have greater control.
Greater control over our borders.
Greater control over our laws.
And a greater say over the United Kingdom’s destiny in the world.
Now as we look to the future, we understand that the single market’s four freedoms are indivisible.
And that it is built on a balance of rights and obligations.
So we don’t pretend that you can have all the benefits of membership of the single market without its obligations.
However, we are seeking a new framework that allows for a close economic partnership but that holds those rights and obligations in a new and different balance.
That recognises both our unique starting point and our trusted, historic relationship.
We will be a third country partner like no other.
Much closer than Canada, much bigger than Norway, and uniquely integrated on everything from energy networks to services.
The key pillar of this will be a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement – the scope of which should beyond any the European Union has agreed before.
One that allows for a close economic partnership while holding the UK’s rights and obligations in a new and different balance.
It should, amongst other things, cover goods, agriculture and services, including financial services.
Seeking the greatest possible tariff-free trade, with the least friction possible.
And it should be supported by continued close cooperation in highly-regulated areas such as transportation, energy and data.
Race to the top
Because there is so much that, even after we exit the European Union, the UK will continue to share with our European partners.
Like our European counterparts, people in Britain do not want shoddy goods, shoddy services, a poor environment or exploitative working practices.
We cannot be cheaper than China.
And we’ll never have more resources than Brazil.
And that is why the UK is committed not only to protecting high standards, but to strengthening them.
So after we leave the European Union we will not engage in a race to the bottom.
That would mean lower standards for our consumers and poorer prospects for our workers.
After Brexit, Britain will have an independent trade policy and we will use it to lead a “race to the top” on quality and standards across the globe.
A race that both Britain and Germany are well equipped to win.
And where it makes sense for our economies where we can, we will want to do so by working in tandem with our European partners — and especially with Germany.
For example, we have worked closely with Germany in the G20, especially through the Financial Stability Board.
This has set global standards for financial businesses, aimed at averting any new international financial crises.
Goods and services
So the real question is how should this economic partnership work for the most important parts of our economy — goods and services.
Our trade in goods is deeply integrated — and I believe it’s in the interests of both parties that this is maintained.
That consumers and businesses must continue to have access to the widest possible range of goods.
That UK and European businesses should be able to continue to work together through integrated supply chains.
And that the safety of consumers, patients and food should be paramount in any agreement.
The first step is ensuring that we maintain tariff-free access across the board.
There is precedent for this already.
The Canada-EU free trade agreement will eventually remove tariffs on all industrial goods; and most tariff lines for non-industrial goods.
But we can go further than that.
Because we already have established supply chains.
And unlike other agreements, it is not a case of opening up a previously-protected market to new challengers from abroad.
We should be trying to maintain what we already have.
Think of a BMW car, produced here in Germany to be sold in the United Kingdom.
Currently, that car only has to undergo one series of approvals, in one country, to show that it meets the required regulatory standards.
And those approvals are accepted across the European Union.
That’s exactly the sort of arrangement we want to see maintained even after we leave the European Union.
We also fully trust each other’s institutions.
For decades we have been happy to let German bodies carry out the necessary assessments to make sure that products — from cars to medical devices — are fit to go to market in the United Kingdom.
And our regulators work together within European Agencies.
Collaborating on scientific assessments to authorise products from medicines to chemicals for use across the European Union and sharing data on public health and safety risks.
Leaving the European Union should not necessarily change our approach on cooperation — even as we diverge.
These principles are true, not only for goods, but also for services.
They form an essential element of both the United Kingdom and the European Union’s economy.
Both collectively and individually, we have been leading the way in opening up the trade in services across borders.
And our new partnership should keep with this tradition.
Our objective is that services can be traded across borders, in areas ranging from highly regulated sectors — such as financial services to modern ones such as artificial intelligence.
Even here, we will need a common set of principles to underpin our new partnership in services.
An obvious starting point for this is our shared adherence to common international standards.
To ensure that there is no discrimination in highly regulated areas between services providers.
Our approach here must be evidence-based, symmetrical and transparent.
But, of course, for such an approach to be lasting over time, there will need to be a couple of further things in place.
First, there must be continued cooperation between our public authorities, building on their long history of working together.
And second, we must have an effective dispute resolution mechanism.
This should provide for clear and proportionate remedies for any dispute which might arise.
You wouldn’t expect that arbitration to be in the UK courts, nor can it be the European Court of Justice.
It must be appropriate for both sides, so that it can give business the confidence it needs for this partnership will endure.
Movement of workers
But services trade is not only about regulation.
Even in today’s modern world, services are often still provided in person, on the ground.
This means people must be able to move to provide those services.
While the free movement of people will end when we leave the EU, the UK has been clear that this does not mean pulling up the drawbridge — or doing harm to our shared interests.
The UK will continue to welcome people, both from the EU and around the world, who want to work and contribute to our society.
Services provisions are commonplace in trade agreements today but as in other areas and given where we are starting, the UK and the European Union should seek to go beyond existing arrangements and existing precedents.
And in many cases, the ability for people to move to provide services will not be enough.
They will also have to have their qualifications recognised.
Again, another area where our unique starting point is important.
Currently, many UK qualifications are recognised across the European Union and vice versa.
Since the creation of the current recognition system in 1997, nearly 26,000 UK qualified professionals have succeeded in getting their qualification recognised in another Member State.
And after the UK leaves the European Union, the quality of training received at British universities and the high standards needed to gain these qualifications will not change.
And we are sure the same is true for the European Union.
We have recognised and trusted these qualifications on the current basis for over two decades.
And that’s why we would like to agree a continued system for the mutual recognition of qualifications to support these arrangements.
How we get there
So one of the biggest questions we face is how we get from where we are currently to this new partnership.
But as we work out the path together, I would urge us all to think creatively about how we can best exploit our unique starting point.
But no matter what approach we take, both sides will need time to implement those new arrangements.
And, that’s why the Prime Minister set out in her Florence speech that we want to secure a time-limited transition period.
And that would mean access to the UK and European markets would continue on current terms.
Keeping both the rights of a European Union member and the obligations of one, such as the role of the European Court of Justice.
That also means staying in all the EU regulators and agencies during that limited period which, as I say, we expect will be about two years.
This means that companies will only have to prepare for one set of changes, as the relationship between Britain and the European Union evolves.
There are three main reasons we see the need for such a period.
Number one — it allows the UK Government the time to set up any new infrastructure or systems which may be needed to support our new arrangements.
Number two — it allows European Union governments to do the same.
It should not be forgotten that, our new arrangements may well require changes on the EU’s side as well as on the United Kingdom’s side.
For example Calais, which sees over two and a half million road haulage vehicles come in from Dover each year.
They’ll have to accommodate for that.
And number three — and most importantly — it avoids businesses in both the United Kingdom and the European Union having to take any decisions before they know the shape of the final deal.
Without such an implementation period, some of these decisions would need to be taken in the near future on the basis of guesswork.
And that is why we want to agree this period as soon as the European Union have a mandate to do so.
There is urgency to this; for all 28 Member States, including the UK and Germany, and for our businesses and citizens.
My message to you is that when it comes to an implementation period, and our economic partnership, you are not detached observers you are essential participants.
Now I’ve laid out what I think the solutions, and even the opportunities, can be as we leave the European Union and forge a new relationship over the coming decades.
But I am under no illusions.
I know that the negotiations currently underway are difficult and they will be into the future.
Despite all this, as the United Kingdom exits the European Union, I have no doubt that the future for all 28 members is bright.
We’re very lucky, the Brits and the Germans.
We live in prosperous countries, whose inhabitants enjoy great lives, and great cultures.
Who have freedom and privacy, justice and democracy, with strong economies that support people into work, and provide a safety net for people who can’t.
And we’re lucky enough to live in a world where technology and globalisation — while challenging governments — creates huge opportunities.
Our future will be brighter still if we achieve the positive, ambitious partnership we are aiming for.
It’s one that is unprecedentedly close.
That allows for the freest possible trade in goods and services.
And that recognises that Brexit means that things must change but takes account of our unique starting point, as the basis for a new order.
And a new, exciting and enduring relationship between the United Kingdom and Germany as friends and allies into the future.