Fears are rising that the Conservative will use the Covid-19 crisis to push for the closure of the National Health Service.
It seems they will lie to you that the NHS is responsible for failures to contain the disease, when in fact the problems were caused by their own political decisions.
This Writer had a few things to say about that:
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Fighting child abuse: Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.
Labour has announced its new policies to deal with child abuse, including tougher powers for the police to stop abusers and a new child protection delivery unit to work across Government and drive progress in preventing abuse and exploitation.
According to Labour, these new measures are being announced alongside new data showing that police forces are struggling to keep up with the big increase in cases coming forward at the same time as they face major staffing cuts.
Although there has been a big increase in child protection conferences (organised when a child is considered to be at significant risk of harm), in many areas police are attending only a small proportion and the number of cases where the police do not attend is rising rapidly.
Some forces are warning that a quarter of their local resources are needed for child exploitation, even though their budget has been cut by 25 per cent.
Overall child abuse offences reported to the police have increased by 33 per cent, but the police are getting fewer prosecutions – child abuse prosecutions are down by 13 per cent.
There are long delays in dealing with online child abuse, with some forces reporting year-long delays in getting computer checks done, while less than 1,000 of the reported 20-30,000 NCA cases under Operation Notarise have been fully investigated, one year later.
Research from the NSPCC suggests more than half a million children are abused each year, but police forces are overwhelmed, according to Labour.
The Government is failing to get to grips with the growth in online child abuse.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper says a revolution is needed in the approach to dealing with child abuse, with more support for children and adult survivors, stronger prevention measures including compulsory sex and relationship education to teach about respect and consent, stronger partnership working and requirements on professionals to report abuse, and stronger powers for the police to stop abusers.
She is also warning that 1,000 officers should not be cut from policing next year, as resources for child protection are badly needed.
Labour’s proposed tougher powers to stop abusers are as follows:
· A Labour Government will bring in new stronger police to allow the police to prevent an adult from contacting or communicating with a child if there is evidence of abuse, sexual exploitation or grooming.
· The new measure is part of a wider package of reforms to focus efforts on preventing abuse, putting in place stronger deterrents and making it easier to bring criminal sanctions against abusers.
· Labour will strengthen the law so that Child Abduction Warning Notices or Sexual Risk Orders can be used in all cases when the police are concerned a child may be at risk of sexual exploitation – with tough criminal sanctions if a suspected abuser attempts to make contact with them again.
· Currently Child Abduction Warning Notices have no criminal sanction for a breach – meaning abusers are getting away with it. Sexual Risk Orders require evidence of an “act of a sexual nature” having taken place – meaning the child has already been abused. Labour’s changes will make it easier for police to prevent contact between children and suspected abusers and to pursue criminal proceedings if this is ignored.
· Professor Jay’s report into Rotherham CSE found that though abduction notices were used, there was no criminal justice sanction involved and no abusers brought to justice: “Operation Czar, begun in 2009, led to the issuing of abduction notices, but no convictions. Operation Chard in 2011 led to abduction notices and 11 arrests but no convictions.”
· These new powers would also send a powerful message to the authorities that interventions are available and victims should not be criminalised. In one shocking case uncovered by Professor Jay in her report into Rotherham CSE, an 11 year old child was identified at risk of child sexual exploitation, but no action was taken. A month later, she was found in a derelict house with another child, and a number of men. She was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. None of the men were arrested.
· Labour will be voting to establish this tougher new regime through Child Abduction Warning Notices and Orders today in an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill – led by Sarah Champion MP and the Labour frontbench.
· But the Shadow Home Secretary will make clear today, if Conservative and Liberal Democrats oppose this move, a Labour Government will introduce it as early as possible after the election.
In addition, Labour is proposing a new Child Protection Unit in the heart of Government:
· A Labour Government will set up a new Child protection unit to improve standards in all agencies involved in keeping children safe and bringing those who abuse children to justice. The new Unit will put prevention, earlier intervention, stronger deterrence, and a firm pursuit of offenders at the heart of child protection.
· The Unit will be jointly run by the Home Office and Department for Education, but will work across Government to promote a more joined-up approach between Departments and to encourage more collaboration and information-sharing at a local level between police and other agencies.
Local collaboration will play an important part:
· Police forces are struggling to keep up with the scale of the problem. Labour is publishing new FOI analysis, and separate reporting from HMIC, showing huge increases in demand for police attendance at child protection meetings. These are intended to bring together representatives from all local agencies involved in protecting a child, if it is felt there is significant risk of harm to that child.
· This analysis shows more conferences are going ahead without police officers, with some forces attending fewer meetings year on year, and others forces not recording any information about their attendance.
· This raises serious concerns about how effective child protection conferences are and the capacity within police forces to fully respond when risks to children are raised.
· It comes on top of evidence from individual forces suggesting that in some areas 25 per cent of neighbourhood policing resources are now allocated towards the prevention of child sexual exploitation, that the cost of child protection investigations to forces has gone up substantially at a time when budgets have been heavily cut, and that there are long delays in pursuing online abuse cases.
Labour says it is important to recognise the scale of online child abuse:
· Just as people turned a blind eye to child abuse in care homes, in the BBC and the NHS or child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxfordshire, Labour says we are now turning a blind eye to online child abuse
· Reports suggest the National Crime Agency has details of between 20,000 – 30,000 people who have accessed child abuse images, and has investigated fewer than 1,000.
· There are long delays in passing on intelligence on online child abusers to local police forces. In the case of Myles Bradbury, a paediatrician from Cambridge, the delay of more than a year meant children were placed at unnecessary risk.
· The government is still withholding important information on the scale of online abuse cases reported to the police and NCA, and the extent of delays in investigating them, both nationally and locally. Labour has called on the Home Secretary to publish details.
That is a lot to take on board in one sitting. At first sight it seems that a great deal of work has gone into these policies. But are they right?
Labour’s proposals follow the revelations of tax avoidance on a massive scale at HSBC Bank while it was run by Stephen Green – who later became a Conservative lord and minister [Image: Daily Mirror].
In a clear response to the HSBC tax avoidance revelations, Labour is setting out its plans to tackle the issue if elected into office after May’s general election.
With campaigners and non-government organisations calling for a “Tax Dodging Bill”, Labour has announced that its first Finance Bill will act to tackle tax avoidance – and was due to set out the measures in an Opposition Day Debate today (Wednesday, February 11).
Labour’s motion notes that just one out of 1,100 people who have avoided or evaded tax have been prosecuted following the revelations of malpractice at HSBC bank, which were first given to the government in May 2010, after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government had taken office.
It also calls upon Lord Green and David Cameron to make a full statement about his role at HSBC and his appointment as a minister in 2011.
The proposed Finance Bill includes plans to:
· Introduce penalties for those who are caught by the General Anti-Abuse Rule
· Close loopholes used by hedge funds to avoid stamp duty
· Close loopholes like the Eurobonds loophole which allow some large companies to move profits out of the UK and avoid Corporation Tax
· Stop umbrella companies exploiting tax reliefs
· Scrap the “Shares for Rights” scheme, which the OBR has warned could enable avoidance and cost £1bn and is administered by HMRC, and so ensure HMRC can better focus on tackling tax avoidance
· Tackle disguised self-employment by introducing strict deeming criteria
· Tackle the use of dormant companies to avoid tax by requiring them to report more frequently
Labour’s measures to tackle tax avoidance will also include:
· Ensuring stronger independent scrutiny of the tax system, including reliefs, and the government’s efforts to tackle tax avoidance
· Forcing the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to produce publicly available registries of beneficial ownership
· Making country-by-country reporting information publicly available
· Ensuring developing countries are properly engaged in the drawing up of global tax rules
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: “David Cameron and George Osborne have totally failed to tackle tax avoidance in the last five years. They have failed to close the loopholes we have highlighted, and the amount of uncollected tax has risen under this government.
“I am determined that the next Labour Government will act where the Tories have failed. We will close loopholes that cost the exchequer billions of pounds a year, increase transparency and toughen up penalties – and we will act in our first Finance Bill.”
Shabana Mahmood MP, Labour’s Shadow Exchequer Secretary, said: “The Tories and Lib Dems should back our motion to show that they are serious about tackling tax avoidance and evasion. We have a clear plan for our first Finance Bill after the election – they need to back that or explain why they don’t.”
This is a terrific move by the Labour Party. It seems clear that Labour was planning to tackle tax avoidance in any case – and should gain recognition for that alone, after the Coalition Government spent the last five years blowing hot air at us and doing nothing.
But it’s not perfect. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, wrote yesterday evening: “There is no commitment to extra funding at HMRC. Nothing will happen without that.
“There is no direct reference to the tax gap and making explicit that these issues are meant to close it. Whilst HMRC works with the current deficient version of the tax gap this problem cannot, again, be resolved.
“I want a general anti-avoidance principle, not a revised General Anti-Abuse Rule, but penalties sure as heck help.
“There is no mention of the extra resources needed to make sure Companies House works properly, which is as important as the changes in dormant company reporting.
“There is no mention of BEPS implementation or action on things like permanent establishment and controlled foreign companies.
“And there’s no Office for Tax Responsibility as yet (although the hint of one has, I note appeared, so I am hopeful).”
All these criticisms are valid and it is to be hoped that Labour will adapt its bill to accommodate them. Even if this does not happen, Mr Murphy himself adds: “Let me stop complaining for a moment because I will probably never be completely satisfied.
“This is a package that indicates commitment to listen and commitment to change. It is a package that looks across the board at the issues of concern. And it addresses a fair range of items into debate. I welcome that, of course. The devil is always in the detail but there is room for manoeuvre in here and many statements are moves in the right direction when those are sorely needed.
“That is what is needed for now, and I’ll take it at that level.”
Do any of the other parties have anything at all to say?
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