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Labour will increase paid maternity leave to 12 months and make it easier to work flexibly under plans to improve how women are treated at work.
Statutory maternity pay would go up from nine months so new mums could spend longer with their newborn babies before going back to work.
All employees could choose working hours that suit from day one in the job, allowing many parents to work part-time and flexibly.
And a future Labour government would require large employers to introduce a menopause workplace policy to break the stigma associated with that stage in life.
Labour also plans to create a new Workers’ Protection Agency working in partnership with HMRC with powers to fine organisations that fail to report their gender pay gap or do enough to close the pay gap.
For more on Labour’s plans to close the gender pay gap, visit this article.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Absolutely shocking Tory Chancellor Phillip Hammond should resign immediately .. he just blamed this Govts failure on low productivity on disabled people.. why?? That’s awful.. and also malicious and discriminatory.. pic.twitter.com/bjrsKEJG1M
He was lying, of course. There was no evidence to even suggest that disabled people in the workforce were responsible for the growing productivity gap.
But if Brexit really is keeping that gap open, you can see why Mr Hammond would want to mislead the nation.
It goes against the “Brexit is good for you” narrative that the Tories are trying to encourage, against all sanity.
Personally, my understanding is that the productivity gap has happened because employers find it cheaper – due to Tory policies – to employ more people than to invest in more efficient machinery. Of course, if the opposite had been the case, we’d be discussing unemployment. The ideal would be the best balance between employee numbers and new machinery.
We’re not going to see that under a Tory government, though. Working people are commodities, to them. And they need Brexit in order to hammer our rights.
The uncertainty caused by Brexit is deterring companies from investing and hampering Britain’s ability to close its productivity gap with other leading developed countries, a Bank of England policymaker has warned.
Silvana Tenreyro, one of the nine members of Threadneedle Street’s monetary policy committee (MPC), which sets UK interest rates, said 75% of the decrease in growth of output per worker since the financial crisis a decade ago was due to manufacturing and financial services, but that a period of catch-up was feasible.
The MPC member said that in the three decades leading up to the 2008 financial crisis Britain’s productivity grew by 2.3% a year on average, but in the decade since had slowed to 0.4% a year. The other six members of the G7 – the US, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan – had output per head 18% higher on average than the UK, leaving plenty of scope for Britain to close the gap.
Ultra-right-wing blog Guido Fawkes took a rare step towards criticising the government, with an article attacking the gender pay gap among Cabinet ministers.
“Following the government announcement today that they will force companies to disclose their gender pay gap,” writes Guido, “it seems only right to look at how David Cameron performs on the same metric.
“After carrying out an extensive gender pay audit, Guido can reveal that female members of the Cabinet are paid a shocking 8.4% less than their male counterparts. Men in the Cabinet are paid on average* £126,478 , while women on average* are paid just £116,693…”
Really? That seems a little low. While applauding Guido’s honesty in pointing out this sickening Tory misogynist discrimination, one wonders whether he has included all income claimed by these ministers.
*Calculation based on the mean average wage by gender for all who attend cabinet.
George Osborne’s most famous performance in Prime Minister’s Questions, from November 2014. What was he on?
George Gideon Osborne. Was there ever a more foolish fellow running the Exchequer?
Probably not. Did you hear him in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, trying to tell us that the UK’s social security bill makes up seven per cent of welfare in the whole world, and that this is “unsustainable”? What a berk.
The first question this raises is, can he prove his “seven per cent” claim?
No – he’s wrong. The claim is based on a comment by German Chancellor Angela Merkel about EU social security being 50 per cent of that in the world, making the UK’s share 7.4 per cent of the total. Unfortunately for Thick George, she was using World Bank data that only included 96 countries and excluded large economies like Canada and Mexico, where social security makes up 18 per cent and 17 per cent of each country’s GDP.
The Guardianreckons that, if all countries were taken into account, this would not seriously affect the UK’s share of the total, suggesting that it accounts for the rounding-down to seven per cent from 7.4 – but there’s no proof either way. The article also quibbles about definitions of social security spending.
What this really shows is not that the UK spends too much, but that other countries spend too little.Mr
Nearly half of the world’s population – three billion people – must try to scrape a living on around $2.50US per day – or less. Of those, 1.3 billion are in extreme poverty, having to survive on less than $1.25 per day. That’s around 80p.
The countries in which they live – mostly developing countries – don’t have social security at all; that is the scandal.
If they did, then Gideon could not quote his “seven per cent” figure – it would be much lower.
What’s stopping these developing countries? Well, the organisation most directly responsible is probably the International Monetary Fund, whose ‘Structural Adjustment Programmes’ have put these countries into a continual cycle of debt; they can’t help their populations without breaching the IMF’s rules. This is the same IMF that wants the UK to run a debt economy, by the way.
So much for Osborne’s claim that social security spending in the UK is too large a proportion of the world’s spend. What about his “unsustainable” comment?
He said: “We can either carry on on a completely unsustainable path or we can continue to reform welfare so that work pays and we give a fair deal to those on welfare and indeed a fair deal to the people, the taxpayers of this country, who pay for it.”
Ignoring for the moment the fact that those on social security are in fact taxpayers themselves, let us consider the fact that the UK government does not collect as much tax as it could, and in fact offers extremely lucrative tax avoidance opportunities to the obscenely wealthy.
Did you know that you could fit the owners of half the world’s wealth into a double-decker bus, with space to spare? Less than 80 people own more money than the other seven billion, and you can bet that the majority of those with UK citizenship aren’t paying their full whack of tax!
A report by Tax Research UK has indicated that the amount of tax being avoided is around £122 billion every year. Compare that with the UK’s current budget deficit of £107 billion per year and you will see that – in a perfect world in which it was all collected – we would be running surpluses of at least £15 billion per year.
The Conservative government, of which Osborne is Chancellor, tells us the most effective way of tackling the deficit is by cutting the public services on which many people rely. They say it is the only option without increasing taxes.
But, with more than £100 billion in taxes going uncollected, why is the government slashing funding to the HMRC investigative branch?
Over on Tax Research UK itself, Richard Murphy has taken David Gauke, the financial secretary to the Treasury, to task over his fudged claims about the tax gap.
Gauke said: “The tax gap as a percentage has been lower in every year under us than it was in any year under the Labour Government”.
Mr Murphy replied: “Percentages are the evasive politician’s favourite tool, so I think that claim can be dismissed. What remains baffling is David Gauke’s apparent inability to see just how wrong his data might be. The government claims that the tax gap is £34 billion. And then it claims that HMRC recover £26 billion a year. Or to put it another way, £60 billion of tax abuse is attempted and 40 per cent is recovered.
“Is there anyone who thinks that remotely likely?”
He goes on to completely trash Gauke’s – and the Conservative Government’s – claims, and it is strongly recommended that you read the article for the details.
Mr Murphy says HMRC’s tax gap estimates should be subject to independent economic audit to check their credibility. He says HMRC’s claim of tax recovered should be subject to independent scrutiny to ensure that it is credible. He says a review of HMRC is overdue, with a panel of independent experts including from unions and civil society being included in the task. And he says it is time we had an Office for Tax Responsibility, reporting to the Public Accounts Committee, to ensure that this most critical department of government is held to account.
He states: “A recovery of £26 billion out of more than £100 billion I could possibly accept – except to say it could be so much better. But that rate of recovery out of anything less is absurd right now – as is HMRC’s tax gap estimate.”
So, under analysis, Gideon the Towel Folder’s claims are no more than silly attempts to confuse us.
If he bothered to collect all the taxes owed him, he would be running a budget surplus tomorrow.
Snouts in the trough: Martin Rowson’s Guardian cartoon goes straight to the heart of the matter – fracking isn’t about ending the energy crisis, or even extracting shale gas in a reasonable way; it is about GREED.
Labour has tabled a legislative amendment to prevent fracking in the UK unless 13 outstanding loopholes in the regulation are closed.
The party first set out its conditions for fracking to take place in March 2012, but says the Government has repeatedly sidelined genuine and legitimate concerns, ignoring gaps in the regulatory framework.
“David Cameron has repeatedly ignored people’s genuine and legitimate environmental concerns over shale gas,” said shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint.
“Despite clear evidence that existing regulations for shale gas are not fit for purpose, the Government seems prepared to push ahead with fracking at any cost.
“While eight out of 10 homes still rely on gas for heating, shale gas may have a role to play in displacing some of the gas we currently import and improving our energy security. But that potential benefit cannot come at the expense of robust environmental protections or our climate change commitments.”
Tom Greatrex MP, Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister, added: “Labour have always said that shale gas extraction cannot go ahead unless there is a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection.
“The Tories have belatedly acknowledged that the current regulations are inadequate, conceding to Labour pressure for reform on a small number of issues. But these piecemeal concessions cannot overturn a Tory mindset which is zealously opposed to any further regulation of shale gas in the UK, despite clear evidence that this is necessary.
“There are significant concerns about independent inspection of well-integrity, fugitive emissions and protections for national parks. Labour will force a vote on Monday to prevent shale gas developments in the UK unless these loopholes are closed.”
The message is clear: Unless these dangerous loopholes are closed, Labour wants all plans for fracking in the UK to be abandoned.
This may not be as much as many anti-fracking campaigners wanted, but it is much more than the Coalition Government has offered – and offers a suggestion that Labour may move still further away from any support for the controversial mining method in the future.
David Cameron: “Like an ox… a stupid animal.” [Image: BBC]
Gogglebox, the recursive Channel 4 programme – in which, while watching TV, we watch people watching TV – has become a highlight of the Vox Political viewing week; especially when there’s a political item.
This week’s show featured responses to the Conservative Party’s election broadcast. One can only conclude that the Conservatives will have been panicked by the response.
None of the viewers featured on the show had a single good word to say for the Tories. They were unanimous in their condemnation – not only of the Tories’ election plea but also of their record in government over the past four years.
In the broadcast, reading between the lines, the Tories begged us to let them keep their seats in the European Parliament and not to vote for UKIP instead.
They did this – apparently – by stealing UKIP policies and by harping back to events they have claimed as achievements, whether they were or not, such as cutting the deficit (by one-third, according to the broadcast; in fact they’ve cut it by around 1/17), reforming the NHS and education.
“[They’ve] made our NHS weaker and our education poorer, and the gap between rich and poor has never been so big,” said the Reverend Kate.
Claims that a record number of people are in work met this response from German-born Ralph: “I can’t feel that I have more money in my pocket.”
His partner Viv added: “We’re worse-off, since the Conservatives came into power, than we were before.”
Another commenter said: “This is the ‘I Will Ruin your National Health party’, and then make out and pretend that they’re doing a wonderful job.”
The voiceover – by an unnamed Welsh woman – came in for particular scrutiny: “Where have they got this voiceover? Why haven’t they got him speaking?” (“Him” being David Cameron.)
“A lot of people don’t like his voice.”
Rev Kate’s husband Graham made it clear that this ploy wasn’t fooling anybody: “I can’t believe they’re trying to use a Welsh person to voice over it! They’re trying to say, ‘Look – Welsh people can vote Tory as well!’ I bet she don’t even vote Tory!”
The broadcast moved on to tick off a list of all the things the Tories say they would do in the European Parliament, starting with “taking back control of justice and home affairs”.
The responses: “Who gave it away in the first place?”
“It’s ridiculous! They’re talking about taking back all these things…”
“… That they gave away!”
“Every single one of those… has been stolen from UKIP, because they’re terrified they’re going to be outflanked by UKIP at the general election.”
Finally, Conservative leader (and comedy Prime Minister) David Cameron was wheeled out to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do.
“I believe that you have the right blah blah blah…” jabbered the Face of Modern Conservatism.
Response: “Oh, he just makes me want to punch him.”
Let’s leave the last word to Ralph – he is, after all, a European gentleman who has come to live in the UK. His opinion? “[Cameron is] like an oxen, you know?… Ox is a stupid animal in Germany.
Schizoid report: José Ángel Gurría, secretary general of the OECD. He’d probably object to the way we’ve defaced his sign, but it now provides a more accurate description of his organisation’s opinions.
How can the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tell George Osborne that he should invest in infrastructure projects but continue with his policy of cutting public spending, when the first public spending he cut was infrastructure projects?
Is this a sign of the delirium into which the western economies are sinking, partly through slavish adherence to neoliberal nonsense – in the face of all the facts – and party through a lack of raw intelligence?
The OECD, according to The Guardian, has revised down its economic growth forecast for the UK. What a surprise; they haven’t revised our growth upwards since before Osborne became Chancellor – and that alone indicates where the problem lies.
It says spending cuts and a lack of consumer and business confidence are restricting what we should all call “the recovery” only in mocking terms.
But, as the newspaper reports, “it [the OECD] backed George Osborne’s plans for further spending cuts, saying: ‘With a high budget deficit and gross government debt rising to 90 per cent of GDP in 2012, further fiscal consolidation is necessary to restore the sustainability of public finances.'”
What? It’s still supporting the discredited view that when public debt hits 90 per cent of GDP, growth is slowed? Hasn’t that idea been comprehensively rubbished – not only on paper but in the fact that UK growth hit standstill point the instant Osborne came in as Chancellor and inflicted his policies on us all?
It isn’t the amount of debt that’s the problem – its the stupid things that blinkered upper-class idiots do in response!
The OECD said the Labour market was “resilient”, so it obviously has been paying too much attention to DWP press releases when it should have looked up the facts. According to the Resolution Foundation (yes, another thinktank), as reported in The Independent, “The jobs market remains weak and is likely to continue to struggle well into the second half of the decade, making this a more severe downturn for employment levels than the two previous recessions”.
The article states: “The Resolution Foundation has performed an analysis of the total adult employment rate – which reflects the increase in the size of the population and the growth of the available workforce – and found that there remains a “jobs gap” of 930,000. This is the number of new jobs that would be required to restore the employment rate from its present level of 58.5 per cent to the 60.3 per cent recorded in 2008. This jobs gap has actually grown from 830,000 in the final quarter of last year.”
Once again, we see the facts do not support Coalition government press releases.
The OECD’s claim that average real earnings are “weak”, on the other hand, is realistic and gives the necessary perspective to a report from the Office for National Statistics that the total number of weekly hours worked across the economy hit a new record high of 950.3 million in the first quarter of the year.
If everybody’s working so much, why haven’t we got any money? Answer: Because the Tory-led government has been pushing wages downwards, ever since it came into power. Average earnings for bosses of FT350 companies have rocketed upwards, but the worker on the street had a pay rise of just 0.8 per cent last year. Look at the way benefit increases have been pushed below the rate of inflation (the DWP again!) in order to make the unemployed desperate to take whatever work they can get – no matter how poorly-paid – and to put those who have jobs in fear of losing them, so that they won’t be demanding pay rises anytime soon.
Back to the OECD: It wants a house-building programme to spur jobs growth. Without this, it warned that house values could overheat, sparking another price bubble. Isn’t that what George Osborne wants? Look at the so-called “second-home subsidy” he announced in the March budget, when he said the government would underwrite a percentage of new house purchases. Already we have seen warnings (from Sir Mervyn King in this Vox article) that it will create a price bubble.
So not only is Osborne right; he’s also wrong. Growth is down because of his policy of cuts, but he should continue making them. Unemployment is down – but the jobs gap has grown.
Also, not only is Osborne wrong; he’s very wrong. Low wages mean economy-boosting demand is also low – but the government is pushing wages down still further. House-building is needed to spur jobs growth and prevent a price bubble – but he isn’t building houses and he is actively pursuing the creation of a price bubble.
That’s what the OECD report says. There’s no way Osborne should be using it to support his policies but I bet he will.
If I were the secretary of state in one of the government departments he’s trying to squeeze for more cuts, I would be phoning the local mental hospital, saying a dangerous madman was loose in Whitehall and demanding that he should be sectioned.
But it seems that, instead of this, the ministers who’ve dragged their feet will be subjected to a grilling by the all-new ‘Star Chamber’, which is the name for the public expenditure committee Osborne has set up. Apparently ‘Star Chamber’ has a “mystique” about it (according to The Guardian); in fact it will consist of Osborne, Danny Alexander and those ministers who’ve given in and agreed cuts, haranguing the dissenters until they fold up like cheap thugs who’ve been punched in the kidneys once too often.
The fact that they will all eventually capitulate means we can laugh at them next time they’re on television trying to act tough, but the whole sorry story leaves us with one immutable fact:
Iain Duncan Smith has been crowing about the private sector after the official unemployment figure dropped from 8.2 to 8 per cent of the workforce.
He reckons we should take our hats off to private sector employers for providing the new work. Well he would, wouldn’t he?
His attitude conforms with the narrative the Tories have been trying to build since 2010, that the private sector would rush in to fill the jobs gap left behind after the Coalition cut the public sector to ribbons – providing decent, gainful employment for the masses.
That story went straight into the circular file when the economy flatlined, right after George Osborne took charge – and resurrecting it now seems a desperate act, especially in the light of the facts.
Firstly, the Olympics have distorted the figures. We don’t know how many employers took on extra hands in advance of the games, so we don’t know how many of those jobs will go again, now that the major event is over. We do know that businesses suffered losses during the games because an expected influx of consumers did not materialise; how will that affect future figures?
Second, the number of people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job hit a record high of 1.42 million – the most since records began in 1992.
Third, the unemployment rate actually rose in around half of the British regions. This supports the claim that the Olympics distorted the figures, and points to a continuing downward trend.
Finally, if Mr Smith wants a more accurate monitor of unemployment, he should look at the suicide rate – according to a new report by the British Medical Journal.
It found that the suicide rate among men rose by 1.4 per cent for every 10 per cent increase in unemployment. This means that between 2008-2010, 846 more men ended their life than would normally have been expected; the corresponding number for women was an extra 155 suicides. On average, male unemployment rose by 25.6 per cent in each of those years, while the male suicide rate rose by 3.6 per cent each year. When male employment rates rose briefly in 2010, the suicide rate dropped slightly.
We already know that an average of 32 people per week are dying as a result of Mr Smith’s brutalities against the disabled; now we know that more than 1,000 have been driven to kill themselves because of the government’s unemployment policy.
Meanwhile, among those who do have jobs, we know that average wages now only last 21 days in the month, meaning that workers have to dip into their savings, ask family for funds, or go to loan sharks for help – increasing the national debt problem and creating a trend that could lead to even more suicides.
I notice Iain Duncan Smith, promoter of the private sector, hasn’t got anything to say about that.
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