Tag Archives: paid

Cameron cold-shoulders calls to limit commercial corruption of MPs

Cameron's attitude to Parliamentary corruption: When he brought in the Lobbying Act, it ensured that rich corporations had unfettered access to MPs and the Prime Minister, while effectively banning the public from speaking out against it.

Cameron’s attitude to Parliamentary corruption: When he brought in the Lobbying Act, it ensured that rich corporations had unfettered access to MPs and the Prime Minister himself.

The Labour Party is banning its MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies, to ensure that their only interest is their duty to their constituents.

Labour MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates have been put on notice that, from the coming General Election, the party’s standing orders will be changed to prevent them holding such second jobs.

The measure, which Ed Miliband has confirmed will be included in the party’s manifesto, would ensure no Labour MP holds a paid directorship or consultancy.

Labour is also consulting on legislative measures including placing a strict cap – similar to one that exists for members of the US Congress – on any additional money they can earn beyond their salary as representatives of the people.

Mr Miliband’s actions follow a series of allegations over recent years, about how MPs from both sides of the House of Commons have risked a conflict of interest by seeking or taking paid work from outside organisations.

Most recently, former Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw (Labour) and Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative) were secretly filmed apparently offering their services to a private company for cash.

It is claimed Mr Straw – a major figure in New Labour – said he had used his influence to change EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 a year.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who is chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, is reported to have told reporters posing as representatives of a fake Chinese firm that he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world.

Mr Miliband has written to Tory leader David Cameron, challenging him to impose on Conservative MPs the same restrictions as are being placed on Labour’s.

The letter states: “I write … not just as leader of the Labour Party but as someone who believes that we all need to act to improve the reputation of our Parliament in the eyes of the British people.

“The British people need to know that when they vote they are electing someone who will represent them directly, and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others.”

He added that Labour “is also consulting on legislation to make this a statutory ban, as well as imposing a strict cap on all outside earnings by MPs”.

Vox Political applauds this move by Mr Miliband and Labour.

Long-term readers may remember this site’s e-petition, on the government’s website, to ban MPs from speaking or voting in debates on matters which could lead to them, companies connected with them or donors to their political party, gaining money.

Labour’s move goes further than that, by banning MPs from having any financial connection with commercial operations and interests.

It seems unlikely that Mr Cameron will do the honourable thing, though.

He has removed the party whip from Rifkind, but said he has no control over the chairmanship of the Intelligence committee. Rifkind has stated that he will not willingly step down from it.

Cameron said he approves of MPs having second jobs.

He said Labour would allow someone to be a trade union official but not “to run the family shop” or something similar, which is a gross misinterpretation of the issue.

This is not about running family shops; it is about taking money from huge corporations, to impose commercial priorities on the nation to the detriment of the general public. But Cameron will never admit that, or speak out against it.

He supports it.

Positive story of the day: Labour to double paid paternity leave to four weeks

150210paternity

Here’s a story that might have been buried in the hubbub over HSBC. It could be a huge vote-winner for Labour, so let’s give it another chance. The BBC reported:

A future Labour government would double the amount of paid paternity leave available to new fathers from two to four weeks, Ed Miliband has announced.

The Labour leader has also pledged to increase statutory paternity pay by more than £120 a week to £260 a week, paid for by savings in tax credits.

Since 2003, new fathers have been entitled to two weeks’ paid leave if they meet certain criteria, such as having worked for their employer for a defined length of time.

But Labour says only about 55% of new fathers take the full two weeks off because of financial pressures forcing them to return to work.

Ed Miliband said current entitlements are “outdated” and giving fathers an “independent right” to a month off to care for their children would help 400,000 families give their children the “best start in life they can”.

The Labour leader has pledged to substantially increase rates of statutory pay, currently set at £138.18 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is less.

Under Labour, the amount fathers would receive would rise to at least £260 a week, the equivalent of a forty-hour week on the minimum wage.

“At the same time as women are under pressure in their careers, more fathers want to play a hands-on role in childcare, particularly in those first crucial weeks of a child’s life,” Mr Miliband will say in a speech on Monday.

“Thanks to the last Labour government, fathers have two weeks’ paid paternity leave. Millions of families have benefited with parents saying this has helped them support each other, share caring responsibilities and bond with their children.

“But the money isn’t great and too many Dads don’t take up their rights because they feel they have to go back so they can provide for their family.”

Some business leaders have said the £150m move amounts to a business “tax”.

A new system of shared parental leave championed by the Liberal Democrats comes into force in April.

The Lib Dems are also proposing, in future, a month’s worth of paternity leave after a child’s birth on a “use it or lose it” basis.

The Conservatives have supported greater flexibility in parental leave, arguing that all future spending policies need to pass a “families test”.

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National interest? Cameron governs in his own – and that of the rich

znationalinterest

We were discussing David Cameron and the respect due to him for his record in government.

You may recall that the phrase used most often when the Coalition was formed (publicly, at least) in May 2010 was “in the national interest“.

This week, his government’s work has included extending the amount of time new claimants will have to wait for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) from three days to seven days. This will be music to the ears of payday lender companies like Conservative Party donor Wonga.com, whose shareholder Adrian Beecroft has given more than £500,000 to the Tories since 2006.

The Coalition also awarded a contract treating NHS patients with brain tumours to the private healthcare company Hospital Corporation of America, a firm that has been accused by the Competition Commission of overcharging for its services by up to £193 million between 2009 and 2011 – but that has also donated at leave £17,000 to the Conservative Party since it came into office.

According to the National Health Action Party, £10 billion worth of NHS contracts have been awarded to private firms since the Health and Social Care Act was passed in 2012. How many of these have donated money to the Conservative Party, and in what quantities?

Meanwhile, a record five million working people are now in low-paid jobs, according to the Resolution Foundation. That’s around one-sixth of the total workforce. This is a direct result of government policies that threaten people on benefits with the loss of their financial support if they do not take any job available to them – at whatever rate of pay is being offered. The insecurity this creates means firms are free to offer the bare minimum, and keep workers on that rate for years at a time, and pocket the profits for themselves – after donating money to the Conservative Party for making it all possible.

There has been no benefit to the national economy from any of these actions; the deficit that Cameron said he would eliminate is currently at £100.7 billion per year and the national debt is almost twice as high as when he first darkened the doors of Number 10. This is because any improvement in the national finances would interfere with his real plan, which is to dismantle all public services (except possibly national security and the judiciary – albeit a court system available only to the rich) and hand the provision of those services to the private sector in return for fat backhanders from the companies involved.

The evidence is beyond question. David Cameron said he would govern in the national interest but has used his time as prime minister to further enrich his already-wealthy business donors, and consequently his own political party, through the impoverishment of working people and those who rely on the State for support.

What sort of respect is due to a man like that?

By custom, here in the UK, the prime minister is given a degree of respect due to his or her position as the head of the government – but respect must be earned and we judge our politicians on their actions.

Cameron has earned nothing from the British people other than our disgust. He is a liar, at the head of a government whose mendaciousness seemingly knows no bounds. And he is a thief; every benefit claimant who has had their payments sanctioned or their claim denied had paid into the system – via direct or indirect taxation – and had a right to expect the support they had funded.

He should be in prison.

Unfortunately, we (the people) do not currently have the wherewithal to put him there. We have to register our opinion in other ways.

This means he gets no respect at all. He is not the prime minister – he is the Downing Street squatter. There is no need to make way for him when he passes – Dean Balboa Farley was right to run into him. There is no need to pay attention to the things he says – if you get a chance to talk to him, just talk over him as though he wasn’t there. He is a pariah; he should be shunned at every opportunity.

He has disrespected and dishonoured the highest public office in the land. He deserves no better.

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Jobs for the boys – and a possible conflict of interest – in new government contract

[Image: Ktemoc Konsiders - http://ktemoc.blogspot.co.uk/]

[Image: Ktemoc Konsiders – http://ktemoc.blogspot.co.uk/]

The Coalition government has named the company that is to carry out its new programme to discourage people from claiming incapacity benefits – and, like all Coalition decisions, it is a disaster.

The contract for the new Health and Work Service in England and Wales will be delivered by Health Management Ltd – a MAXIMUS company.

This is triply bad for the United Kingdom.

Firstly, MAXIMUS is an American company so yet again, British taxpayers’ money will be winging its way abroad to boost a foreign economy, to the detriment of our own.

Next, MAXIMUS is already a Work Programme provider company in the UK. The Work Programme attempts to shoehorn jobseekers – including people on incapacity benefits – into any employment that is available, with the companies involved paid according to the results they achieve (on the face of it. In fact, it has been proved that the whole system is a scam to funnel taxpayers’ money into the hands of private firms as profit, whether they’ve done the work or not). Health and Work, on the other hand, is a strategy to slow the number of people claiming incapacity benefits with an assessment system – think ‘Work Capability Assessment’ designed to fast-track sicknote users back to their jobs.

We know from the government’s original press release that it has failed to reach its target for clearing people off incapacity benefit, so it seems that Health and Work has been devised to make more profit for MAXIMUS by ensuring that it can claim fees, not only for the number of incapacity benefit claimants it handles on the Work Programme, but also for the number of employees it ensures will NOT claim incapacity benefits.

It’s a win-win situation for the company and a clear conflict of interest – logically the firm will concentrate on whichever activity brings it the most UK government money. MAXIMUS may claim there are ‘Chinese walls’ to prevent any corruption, such as one activity being carried out by a subsidiary, but this must be nonsense. MAXIMUS will do what is best for MAXIMUS.

Thirdly, we have a new layer of bureacracy to torture sick people who only want peace and quiet in order to get better. Look at what Vox Political had to say about the scheme when it was announced in February:

“‘The work-focused occupational health assessment will identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly.’

Health doesn’t get a look-in.

“No, what we’re most probably seeing is an expansion of the “biopsychosocial” method employed in work capability assessments, in an attempt to convince sick people that their illnesses are all in their minds. Don’t expect this approach to be used for people with broken limbs or easily-medicated diseases; this is for the new kinds of ‘subjective illness’, for which medical science has not been prepared – ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia and the like.

“People with these conditions will probably be sent back to work – with speed. Their conditions may worsen, their lives may become an unending hell of pain and threats – I write from experience, as Mrs Mike spent around two years trying to soldier on in her job before finally giving up and claiming her own incapacity benefits – but that won’t matter to the DWP as long as they’re not claiming benefits.”

That previous article was wrong, in fact. There is a health angle to this.

It is a plan to stitch us all up.

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The depth of corruption in the Conservative Party’s new, privatised health system

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You can’t call it a National Health Service any more, can you?

The corruption imposed on the system by the Conservative-led Coalition government has reached new depths with the award of huge contracts to companies that donate to the Conservative Party, and plans to stop the corrupt re-hiring of executives who had already received large payoffs – after this has already happened.

Especially to blame are the Liberal Tory Democrats who made sure that this desecration could take place by supporting it in Parliament.

Did anybody else find it laughable when the Telegraph reported plans for the Queen’s Speech this year to include stopping highly-paid civil servants and NHS executives from receiving large redundancy pay-offs and then being re-hired only a few months later?

The plan, apparently part of the legislative programme to be announced by Her Majesty tomorrow (Wednesday), is effectively fixing the barn door after the chickens have come home to roost; already thousands of NHS executives who were sacked from their jobs in the pre-Health and Social Care Act service have been re-hired – at great cost to the taxpayer – into the new one.

The new law won’t be able to stop any of them from doing what they have already done, and Treasury Financial Secretary Nicky Morgan’s claim that “We must make sure hard-earned taxpayers’ money is not being squandered” is meaningless.

Meanwhile, health companies have been rewarded with ‘NHS’ contracts worth almost 1,000 times as much as the money they have donated to the Conservative Party.

According to the Daily Mirror, Circle Health has been given £1.36 billion of health work after investors gave £1.5 million to the Tories; and Care UK – who bankrolled former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley with £21,000 during the seven years he was secretly working on the Health and Social Care Act while Tory leaders were denying any plans for the top-down reorganisation it would authorise – has won £102.6 million in contracts and its chairman John Nash has been made a lord, in return for a £247,250 donation to the Tories.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham was right to say, “Nobody gave David Cameron permission to sell the NHS to his friends.”

Nobody did – Cameron lied about his plans for the NHS throughout his 2010 general election campaign, and then failed to win a mandate from the electorate.

But this is what David Cameron’s NHS was always going to be – a gravy train for rich asset-strippers.

The only losers are the sick – and Tories couldn’t care less about them.

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Are you going to let David Cameron abolish your rights without a fight?

Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?

Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?

You do realise what David Cameron means when he says he wants to re-negotiate our membership of the European Union, don’t you?

For a start, he means he wants to abolish laws that protect the human rights your ancestors fought tooth and nail to win for you.

He won’t make any deals in your interest. That’s not in his nature.

If he gets his way, you could lose the right to:

  • Written terms and conditions of work, and a job description – and the right to the same terms and conditions if transferred to a different employer.
  • Four weeks’ paid leave from work per year.
  • Not be sacked for being pregnant, or for taking time off for ante-natal appointments.
  • Come back to work after maternity leave, on the same pay, terms and conditions as before the leave started.
  • Health and safety protection for pregnant women, new and breastfeeding mothers.
  • Parental leave.
  • Equal treatment for workers employed through an agency.
  • Tea and lunch breaks during the working day for anyone working six hours or more
  • One day off per week.
  • Time off for urgent family reasons.

In addition, Cameron could relieve employeers of the legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers, including undertaking risk assessments, acting to minimise risks, informing workers of risks, and consulting on health and safety with employees and their representatives. In his cost-cutting brave new Britain you’d just have to take your chances.

Health and safety representatives from trade unions could lose the right to ask employers to make changes in order to protect workers’ health and safety, and they would lose their protection against unfair treatment by their employer for carrying out their duties in relation to this.

The ban on forcing children less than 13 years of age into work could be lost, along with the limit on the hours children aged 13 or more and young people can work.

Children who could then be forced into work, regardless of the effect on their education, would have no rules protecting their health and safety, and the rules that say they can only be employed doing “light work” could also be abolished.

Protection from discrimination or harassment at work on grounds of gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation – direct or indirect – could be dropped.

And the right of disabled people to expect their employers to make reasonable adjustments for them at work could also be abolished.

These are just your rights at work!

Cameron himself has said, as leader of the Opposition: “I do not believe it is appropriate for social and employment legislation to be dealt with at the European level. It will be a top priority for the next Conservative government to restore social and employment legislation to national control.”

And as Prime Minister: “Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon. Just as excessive regulation is not some external plague that’s been visited on our businesses.”

To find out what he meant by those words, we must turn to the former leader of the British Conservative MEPs, Martin Callanan, who said: “One of the best ways for the EU to speed up growth is to … scrap the Working Time Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive and all of the other barriers to actually employing people if we really want to create jobs in Europe.”

Of course, they distort the facts. These rules aren’t barriers to employing people at all; they are structures within which people may be employed responsibly.

The Tories want to ban responsibility in the workplace. They want a return to dangerous employment conditions, abuse of workers and the removal of any legal protection from such abuse that they may have.

They will tear apart your rights at work.

So, if you are living in the UK and you’ve got a job, please take a moment to consider what this means for you. You might agree with the Coalition on its benefits policy that has led to thousands of deaths of sick and disabled people; you might agree with its bedroom tax and too-low benefit cap that has led to a rapid rise in debt and homelessness among the unemployed and those on low wages.

But now you know they’re coming for you, too.

What are you going to do about it?

Are you going to sit on your thumbs and do nothing – just meekly wait for them to rock up and tell you they’ve abolished all your rights at work and you can now go and slave for them in appalling conditions with absolutely no legal protection at all?

In other words, when it’s you that’s threatened, are you going to let it happen, just like you let it happen to the sick, disabled, unemployed and low-waged?

Or are you going to take action and make a difference?

It doesn’t take much. You could write to David Cameron and to your MP at the House of Commons. You could email them – just look up the addresses on They Work For You, or you could add your name to the letter being created by Unions Together. Yes, I know Mr Cameron says the unions are a bad thing, but in this case the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

As the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Glenis Willmott MEP, says: “Our rights at work are not ‘red tape’ to be slashed away. Don’t let Cameron and the Tories get away with this great European scam.”

Lord Young – a talking example of why working people should never vote Conservative

Unrepentant: Ignorant old Tories like Lord Young cannot see anything wrong with starving workers - and, through lack of tax revenue, the benefits bill - to make fat profits for greedy business bosses. The families of all those who have died because of these policies might have a different point of view.

Unrepentant: Ignorant old Tories like Lord Young cannot see anything wrong with starving workers – and, through lack of tax revenue, the benefit budget – to make fat profits for greedy business bosses. The families of all those who have died because of these policies might have a different point of view.

Apparently we are living in an excellent time for businesses to boost their profits – because labour is cheap.

That is what Lord Young, who advises David Cameron on enterprise, told the cabinet yesterday (May 11). His words make it crystal clear that working people who vote Conservative are classic examples of turkeys voting for Christmas. They beg to be exploited.

He said low wage levels in a recession made larger financial returns easier to achieve – in other words, he actually admitted that bosses could use the current state of the UK economy, as caused by his own government (not the previous Labour administration, for reasons we’ve covered in the past), to push workers’ wages down and keep more moolah for themselves.

Vox Political has accused the Conservatives of exactly this behaviour in the past, but we never expected to see a member of the government admit it so brazenly.

Perhaps this is more of the government’s pet ‘nudge’ theory at work. We have seen that benefit increases have been lowered in order to instil fear of destitution in the jobless, and in those who have low-paid jobs. Now, businesses are being urged to capitalise on this, exploiting their workforces with the obvious threat: “There are plenty of other people out there who’ll do it for less!”

Let’s just back this up with some statistics, courtesy of The Guardian , shall we? UK employees’ average hourly earnings have fallen by 8.5 per cent, in real terms, since 2009. That’s adjusting for inflation, and the newspaper got its figure from the Office for National Statistics.

Meanwhile, the 1,000 richest people in the UK are now worth more than £414 billion – up more than £155 billion in the three years to December 2012. And in April, the Tory-led government gave those people a £100,000 per year tax cut.

Lord Young is not to be confused with Sir George Young, the Tory Chief Whip who once famously said “the homeless are what you step over when you come out of the opera” – but he is cut from the same cloth.

He had to apologise after telling the Daily Telegraph that “for the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good, ever since this recession – this so-called recession – started”.

For this reason it is easy to suggest that he would have stepped over the body of Stephanie Bottrill, had he been the first to find it.

Oh – do you think that statement goes too far? Please, reserve your judgement until I have explained my reasoning.

Like so many members of the Tory government, this is a man who absolutely point-blank refuses to understand the relationship between the decisions he makes and the conditions in which the majority of us are forced to live.

This former advisor to the Prime Minister on health and safety laws has advocated relaxing them, ignoring the fact that this will increase the likelihood of work-related injury that makes it impossible for people who need the money to go to work.

This enterprise advisor was asked to conduct a “brutal” review of the relationship of government to small firms, presumably with a view to cutting off as much public assistance for small businesses as possible.

This former chairman of the Manpower Services Commission advised the late Baroness Thatcher on unemployment, and we may take it that it is due to this advice that joblessness skyrocketed during the Thatcher years.

He refuses to see that his attitude is causing the problem: By ensuring that Britain’s labour market remains “flexible” (read “low-wage”), he ensures that the national tax take remains far lower than it should be; low-paid workers form the overwhelming majority of the workforce. In turn, the low tax take means the government cannot pay off its debts and provides it with an excuse to cut public spending – especially on benefit payments.

Stephanie Bottrill had an auto-immune system deficiency, Myasthenia gravis, which meant she was permanently weak and needed constant medication. Doctors said she was too ill to hold a job, but she never qualified for disability benefits.

She committed suicide because she could not afford the cost of living after the Bedroom Tax was forced on her, and it has been said by others that she died for want of £20 per week.

It is the attitude of Tories like Lord Young that has deprived her of that money – and ultimately, of her life.