Houses, Social Care and an end to UK sponsored tax havens – an alternative Queen’s Speech

April 18, 2012 4:24 pm

Recently Progress have been asking for suggestions as to what could constitute an alternative Labour Queen’s Speech, ahead of the real one. You can read some of the suggestions here, and mine is below.

——————

The Queen’s Speech is nearly upon us. It seems likely that the coalition government – having pushed through many of their “reforms” in the first two years of the parliament – will present a relatively slim line legislative agenda (preferring to focus on deficit reduction). Yet Labour people should be restless for change and accept that Britain is (as Cameron would once have argued) Broken. The need for deficit reduction is of course acknowledged by the party, but that doesn’t mean we should accept the scale, scope or focus of coalition cuts.

Here are five areas in which the party could look to push the government, some ambitious, some relatively small, but all significant, and all Labour:

1. One of Britain’s biggest problems is a chronic shortage of housing, which both fuels an unsustainable house price bubble and makes it almost impossible for young people to get onto the property ladder. The government have committed to building 3 million new homes by 2020, so let’s enshrine that in law – and set targets for affordability.
2. Another big one, but again a problem that we can either tackle now or face the grim consequences of in a decade – an aging population and a completely inadequate national system of adult social care. Ignore the inevitable caterwauling from the Tories about “Death Taxes” – we need a National Care Service, paid for through national insurance contributions if necessary. Wouldn’t you pay a few pounds a month to know that the care of your parents or grandparents was assured? I know I would.

3. Peter Mandelson once said New Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich – as long as they pay their taxes” - so why does the British government allow British Crown Dependencies to act as tax havens and cost Britain billions? Crown dependencies should be compelled to co-operate with UK tax authorities, or the UK government should place them on the OECD international tax haven blacklist.

4. In government Labour began, but did not finish, reform of the House of Lords. Nick Clegg will try (and probably fail) to reform the upper chamber, but the very least that Labour should be looking to achieve is the removal of the final 92 hereditary peers from the Lords. That would at least remove the grotesque spectacle of by-elections places in the Lords, with hereditary peers competing to replace the deceased.

5. And finally, Freedom of Information has come under attack lately with the government suggesting that a charge could be placed on requests in future, but Labour should be pushing for further transparency in government, and expand FOI to include all public sector contracts. We should have a right to know the how private companies are spending public money, in the same way that we can find out how the public sector is spending public money.

This was originally published at Progress Online.

  • http://twitter.com/sprogglie Sprogglechops

    I don’t know about other Crown Dependencies but Gibraltar certainly co-operates with the UK tax authorities.  This was signed about 3 years ago …

    http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/international/gibraltar-eol.pdf 

  • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

    On Point 3, I think it was an idea of Mark Thomas’s (or was it from his audience? – don’t remember), to invade the Channel Islands. We are meant to be in control of them after all. And it would, so to speak,  send a message…

    • GuyM

      The channel islands actually owe allegiance to the Queen, not to the UK government. Hence “crown dependencies”.

      They are the remains of Duchy of Normandy territory that came with William I.

      The UK government is only responsible for defence and international/diplomatic representation.

      Acts of Parliament do not generally apply to the Bailiwicks and they run their own economies.

      So no we are not “meant to be in control of them” and having spent many holidays in Guernsey and on Herm their residents are quite clear that the UK is not “in control of them”.

      What tax rates they set are entirely up to them and are not a matter for the UK government.

      • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

        Well that told me. Still think we should invade though. Just do so a bit more illegally.

  • peteyvv

    On point 2 I believe the ‘death tax’ was good policy. Surely NI is better of scrapped. On 5, having worked for a private firm on a public sector contract more public disclosure is necessary. This should be extended to lobbying activity. Too many big businesses use lobbyists to win contracts and we deserve the right to know.

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    On housing, agree with the objective but I’m not sure about how effect this approach of enshrining  a target into law is.

    There’s a lot of different parties involved – land owners, construction companies, local councils/planning departments, central government planning laws/regulations. If you don’t hit the 3M target – who do you hold accountable?

    The other issue is – setting an arbitrary house building target is trying the cure the symptom rather than the disease. Rather than having a housing industry and planning system which swings between house building famine and feast, which needs active political intervention everytime housing shortages become acute, we need a system which responds naturally to changes in housing demand.

    It shouldn’t take a political intervention every time we need to ramp up house building.

    Supply of housing needs to be like supply of food, cars, televisions, all the other manufactured good – it needs to meet demand.

  • Johndclare

    Great – I loved the ideas.
    In the continued absence of a formal Party policy, the membership seem to be developing their own!

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    I would like to see a compulsory course in life saving first aid delivered to all school leavers, probably straight after they finish their final school exams.  Basic first aid is very straightforward, but can be astonishingly effective in preventing avoidable deaths, and mitigating trauma.

    With each year that passes, we would place into our society around 2 million people who know rather more about first aid than the normal person on the street, and while it is impossible to forecast with precision, we may be able to prevent 5-7,000 deaths that occur annually before paramedics arrive on the scene.

    The figure of 5-7,000 is my own calculation from the 2007 total morbidity rate of 17,420 for accident and trauma, and the 68,974 from respiratory diseases, based on figures for the breakdown of respiratory diseases and those assessed by paramedics to have been viable but for arriving to late to make an intervention.  I include respiratory diseases as they can often be managed by a layperson until the paramedics arrive.  I do not include circulatory diseases as they cannot.  It does quickly get a bit subjective, and the data sources are not entirely clear, but I am content to stand by those figures.

    5-7,000 people a year remaining alive is a lot of grief avoided, and a lot of future contribution to our society.  It is worth doing.The course I have in mind would be 3 days, with an introductory module on diagnosis and shock management, how not to become a casualty yourself, and what to look for to report over a phone to paramedics.  Followed by four half-day modules on the 4 standard priorities, and a half day test / recap.  However, organisations such as St John’s Ambulance can do a very basic course in six hours, which is better than nothing at all.I am sure someone may worry about legal implications:  I have done some research and do not believe that someone administering first aid to a casualty could ever be liable for damages.  I am not a lawyer but firmly believe that to be the case from my research.I would also like to see a balanced budget law, compelling all Governments to produce budgets that balance over the 5 year life of a Parliament.

    • treborc1

      Well better to do it in school then after school, I did my course  in the army way back in the dark ages, it was basic, when we went out I was the idiot who patched up people who had fallen over, then we had major trauma training. How to administer injections and how to put in catheters how to to put in ventflon.

      All basic….

    • derek

      To be honest @Jaime I wouldn’t mind if you were to be the champion of this endeavour, if your calculation are correct and I’ve no reason to doubt them, then it certainly is a very worth while initiative.Saving 5 to 7 thousands life’s every year should be a priority initiative schools should sign up to.Good luck on this!!!!! 

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        Thank you Derek, it is a bit of a long term project of mine, but it has been on “the back burner” for a while as I have additional responsibilities and slightly less personal time.  That is why the data is from the 2007 figures, but I do not expect it to have changed at all.  I have a 45 page plan still in draft for a regional pilot and then a national scheme, with a CD full of supporting data, but it requires more work to be robust enough to stand up to scrutiny.  There are costs involved, and as “there’s no money left”, it would be difficult to convince the Treasury, so the argument needs to be completely compelling.

        If ever I finish it, I would give it to my local tory MP who I know a little bit as I know that he would pass it to Sec State for Health and to Sec State for Education – it is a quick route to get it to decision makers, but if they took it up, it would then become a tory plan.  That would not bother me, because I believe this is not an issue for party politics.

        • Peter Barnard

          @ Jaime,

          You have mentioned this (excellent) idea before – at least a year ago, if my memory serves me correctly.

          Just a couple of points (constructive, I hope) :

          (i) instead of having a three-day course at the end of the last year, perhaps some long-term education and training in first-aid (over five years?), beginning with the very basics, so that the pupils have it “soaked into them,” if you see what I mean, so that they don’t forget ;

          (ii) even then, lack of practice dims the memory and “refresher courses” would be necessary over a lifetime. I had lots of first aid stuff when I was working for the oil company in Saudi Arabia (including that  technique for the relief of choking – stand behind, locate something in the upper half of the body with both hands clenched together, and give the “something” a sharp inwards action, and out pops the obstruction?). Sadly, it’s all forgotten, now.

          As I say, excellent idea. Perhaps, instead of “going regional,”  you could stay fairly local to begin with – two or three schools, maximum – which would be less time-consuming?

          I’m sure that the children would welcome seeing doctor(s) and nurse(s) in their school – the medical profession enjoys a high degree of respect and trust from people.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            @ Peter B,

            you have a good memory.  It was a while ago, and before LL changed to the new system when we lost all of our previous comments, so I cannot resurrect it.  I recall some of my ambition then to formally suggest the proposal in the following months, but that never happened.  It is a fault of mine that I like to design every detail before publicising anything at all.  What I should really do is to submit a 2 page outline and let the civil servants work out the details, but I suspect they would somehow screw it up, so tend to back into my comfort zone and the months pass.  I really could have been an engineer if life had worked out differently – this is classic engineering behaviour.

            To address your points, using your numbering system:

            (i) Possibly, and I am no expert in how knowledge is best imparted.  There are some problems with an already crowded curriculum, and also problems with getting the right trainer there on the day.  Do we want the biology teacher doing this?  My thought is “no”.  A concentrated course would be better, in my view, although it is shades of grey.

            (ii) I would disagree, and I call for reference the experience of my brother in law, with whom I have discussed this.  He was in the Royal Marines regiment, and the Army do lots of first aid training.  He told me of their system for the training of recruits, and it works.  The soldiers in the Royal Marines learn of the 4 main priorities as “Breathing, Bleeding, Breaks, and Burns”, which is exactly the correct priority for basic first aid.  A paramedic may reverse some of those depending on severity,  but it is not a bad start and is life saving.  Once it is learned, it sticks with them for life.  Even if someone is 50, they can remember those priorities if they were taught them when 18.  Of course, refresher training is welcome, and in my Paper I raise the possibility of the training team being contracted for 4 days, to allow a “community” refresher day after the annual course, but how to organise that is beyond my knowledge.

            On your dimly remembered knowledge, it sounds like the procedure for clearing a swallowed tongue or other obstruction in the upper respiratory tract.  There are several methods, but the easiest is simple.  If you can hoist the casualty to his / her feet, stand behind them and put your non-punching arm around their abdomen, low down around the hips, and bend them forward from the waist to about 45 degrees.  With your punching arm, but not a fist, strike them on the back around where the collar of a shirt would go,  possibly one inch lower (technically, on the Thoracic 1 vertebra, which is the first big one you feel with your fingers when you bend your head forward).  Use the heel of your hand.  Do not strike above the collar, as that will make the windpipe bend forward.  Do not be afraid to strike hard – really like a big punch.  Some bruising is better than choking to death.  It is a combination of velocity, throat straightness and gravity you are after.  After that, spin them around, and use a cocked finger to hook out anything still in their throat.  If you induce a vomit reflex, so much the good as it will also clear out anything lower down.  Once clear, put them in the recovery position.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZPXYLRVP4XOIGGDJWAL6HUO7U4 David

            It sounded to me like Peter was recalling the action formerly known as the “Heimleich manoevre” (apparently the name was changed as a result of a request from the Heimleich family).  Interestingly the action is not recommended by the medical authorities in Australia.

          • Peter Barnard

            Thanks, David (Heimleich manoevre). That rings a bell.

    • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

      “I would like to see a compulsory course in life saving first aid delivered to all school leavers,”
      An excellent proposal.

    • GuyM

      I have to disagree I’m afraid.

      Already the curriculum spends a lot of time on non core areas, whether it be PHSE or liberal studies.

      Far better that education concentrates on turning out students who can all read, write, add up and are able to hold down a job.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        @ GuyM,

        my proposal would be for a 3 day course after the final exams – currently at age 16, but moving to age 18 in a couple of years.  As far as I can work out, the exams take place in June each year, and term ends in July.  In my daughter’s school (she is year 7, so still far too young for this) there is already a programme of activities after the exams for those about to leave, around 3 weeks long.  It is in that period that I would see this 3 day course taking place.  I do not believe it would interfere with the core curriculum.

        • GuyM

          Ah now that is more reasonable.

          After the GCSEs in the June before the next stage would be a good idea.

          What I’m against is a regular slot in the academic week like PHSE gets over a long period of time.

      • derek

        Guy, I don’t believe it would be a broken bridge against the normal studies.

        Being in a position to help save a life gets the Blue Peter badge every time, a golden initiative and one I’d place on the mandatory list.

        Again…..Good Luck @Jaime!!!!!!!   

    • Redshift

      I think your first aid proposal is about your most well constructed argument ever. 

  • Peter Barnard

    On housing (Queen’s Speech) :

    The problem is not so much how many houses we have – in 2010, in England, there were 2.30 persons per dwelling, down from 2.35 in 1997, so the “demographic squeeze” was slightly alleviated, if anything. The problem is in the ownership of residential houses.

    The private rented sector increased from 10.3 per cent of the dwelling stock in 1997 to 17.4 per cent in 2010, while social housing dropped to 17.5 per cent (from 21.3 per cent) and owner-occupation dropped from 68.4 per cent to 65.2 per cent.

    Labour’s record 1997-2010 on housing was abysmal and those responsible should have the decency to own up.

    • derek

      Good reference to a very important issue @Peter and clearly an indicator that a balanced budget approach isn’t what’s required.If we fail to build the homes needed then the shanty towns will follow.If my memory serves me right, I think it was Paul Botang who quoted the Jam tomorrow remark way back in 1997, I wonder if he thought that  the layer of Jam would be so thinly spread amongst the population?   

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        “…and clearly an indicator that a balanced budget approach isn’t what’s required”

        Derek, try playing that game in the long term.  You’ll end up like the Mad Man of Fife, hated by an entire country whose grandchildren will be paying for his folly.

        It is a great shame that we do not have a crime of “economic treason”, punishable by one year in prison for every million pounds added to debt and deficit, with no parole. Time to be spent alternately breaking rocks and learning basic spelling so that when writing to bereaved families, you do not mis-spell the name of their dead son.

        • derek

          @Jaime, I’m well aware of your self obsession with GB and the economics of 2007/2010. I guess after all these years several still haven’t convinced you @Jaime of the real economic fracture that begun way back in 1979. Having a home is an necessity, cut home out of hard rock doesn’t please Wilma much nowadays, incedently I lov the Flinstone tune!! Yabadabadooo!!! seriously a bit like teaching life saving skills you’ve got to speculate to accumulate.
            

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            GB.

            Inherited an economic situation in 1997.  Went well for 3 years, paying down debt by running a surplus.

            Then, clearly, he got hit on the head by something.  Spent the next decade running up big bills on the national credit card, and also some dodgy accounting tricks with PFI, which even if he did not invent, he went wild on.

            Oh bugger.  2008 arrives with a double whammy of recession (predictable) and bank bailouts, and as Liam said in 2010 “there’s no money left”.

            Lose an election – inevitable, given how angry everyone is – and then retain a position as an MP, claim vastly on travel and expenses despite hardly ever turning up in Parliament, set up a Ken-style tax dodge company, and make large with the personal income.

            He is, without doubt, the worst Chancellor and Prime Minister this country has ever had.  He really ought to be in prison for his economic crimes, for life.

            I’m not a Labour tribalist, but I cannot understand why Labour tribalists do not join in this criticism, as a way of disinfecting the Labour brand.  If you ever want to be re-elected, start dis-owning this vile man and saying “never again will we spend like a drunkard in a bar with a fake lottery win in his pocket, on credit he does not have”.

            Unless of course that is the only answer to funding Labour’s current principles and likely future programme, in which case Labour is terminally unelectable, because the only gift that Gordon Brown has ever bequeathed to the nation is the wake up call that you have to have more income than outgoings. Labour needs to operate the social policies within that constraint, or else be laughed at.

          • derek

            @Jaime, I think it’s a bit controversial to be stigmatising folk as tribalist on a labour web-site. You’ll have the birds busying in the trees, hang on I’m solid gone………..  

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            There’s no stigmatism at all, I really cannot work out why it would not be a good thing for Labour minded people to completely disassociate themselves from an economic disaster in human form and a personally loathed ex-leader, for the good of future Labour success.  The more people on LL deny that GB was electoral poison, and ignore his economic crimes, the worse it will get.

            In short, he is history.  It would be a smart thing to throw everything onto his back, and then look forward.Do people think that the electorate is collectively stupid?  It would be the only explanation for this.

          • Mike Homfray

            Because we don’t agree with you. He made some mistakes but just about all that was good about the 97-10 government is down to GB. Blair’s only legacy is spin, soundbites and illegal wars.

          • AlanGiles

            “It would be a smart thing to throw everything onto his back”.

            That would be grossly unfair – and dishonest Jaime.
            Whatever his faults – and like all of us he had many, you cannot say that he took this country to war on a false p;remise, and though Brown had to rubber stamp the cheques for all the warmongerting Blair did at the behest of Bush, I very much doubt, had he been the PM in 2001 he would have tied himself so closely to Bush’s adventures.

            As Harold Wilson proved back in 1968, you can maintain friendly relations with the American government without becoming their obedient servant.

            On the question of housing – the truth is that as New Labour continued the right to buy option they should have insisted that for every council hose sold, a new one or a reclaimed one should have been put back on the social housing stock – as the economy was blomming in the late 90s and early 2000s it would have been feasible, but, as I always remind you, Dave Stone pointed out when the Blears woman was asked why New Labour didn’t do more about social housing she replied that “nobody [in the government] was interested in housing”.

            - Except – of course – for the furnishing and flipping of their own second homes at our expense.

            The major problems from the New Labour years are down to Blair much more than Brown.

          • Bill Lockhart

             Brown’s influence on the Gulf wars- which he supported both personally and through collective responsibility- was far more insidious than if he really had “rubber-stamped” the cheques needed. What he actually did was deliberately and wickedly starve the Forces of essential funding for adequate materiel, for reasons perhaps best left in the dark recesses of his dysfunctional mind. The results were avoidable deaths amonst our service people. He has British blood on his hands.

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/7378681/Iraq-inquiry-Army-big-guns-attack-Gordon-Browns-defence-budget-claims.html

          • Hugh

            “you cannot say that he took this country to war on a false p;remise”

            Yes, you can. He voted for it, and was one of the few in a position to demand to see the intelligence, which he said he did, and maintained it justified the war.

            “I had full information. There is no sense in which I had
            inadequate information. I was fully engaged in the discussions which had
            taken place. I was involved in the financial discussions in relation to the
            military options,” as he put it at the enquiry.

            He also maintained that the invasion was right: “I believe we made the right decision for the right reasons.”

            So in what respect does the evidence suggest Blair was culpable and he was not?

      • Peter Barnard

        @ Derek,

        I don’t think that it was the “balance of the budget” at fault – it was the dramatic change of ownership of rented houses from public to private, and the decline in the level of owner-occupation. 

        By and large, Labour had a positive balance on current expenditure – the deficits arose because of capital expenditures and, as far as I am aware, borrowing money for capital expenditure is generally regarded as a”good thing.”

        Regarding Paul Boateng’s remark – I don’t recall it ; what I do recall about Mr Boateng is that he was a pain to listen to – he just went into auto-pilot, whatever the question … very “New Labour ….”

        He wasn’t the only one ; clearly, many took to heart Jim Hacker’s advice to the hapless Bernard in a classic episode in which Bernard had been pushed by a horde of hacks into saying that the Prime Minister was above the law, “If they ask you an awkward question, Bernard, you say ‘that’s not the question ; the real question is’ …”

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Peter, 

          your example of current vs capital expenditure sounds good and indeed exculpatory of the last 13 years, but expressed differently it is the same as a poor household meeting their bills, but also going out and ordering a brand new Porsche on credit terms and assigning the debt to their children.  Only those with the sort of income to afford one of those cars should be ordering them.  As a country, we should have ordered a used Vauxhall Chevette on the capital budget, because that is what we can afford.

          • Peter Barnard

            Jaime,

            That’s not a tenable comparison.

            A Porsche, in the circumstances that you describe, is  consumption ; suppose the “poor household” had borrowed money to buy a house (“capital expenditure,”and saving on rent) which could be passed on, eventually, to the children and the subsequently acquired asset, when the parents shuffle off this mortal coil, then cancels the debt?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Well Peter, I will change the analogy, and not buy the Porsche car.  Instead, the poor family buys a 5 bedroom mansion house on a 5 times mortgage when in fact their budget and needs are more suited to a 3 bedroom house.

            In fact, that is what many individuals have done, and is a good analogy for our country.  I read in the newspaper that we have a “housing bombshell” about to happen, as it seems that many people are foolhardy enough to both buy on interest only mortgages, and also on tracker rates.  This is sustainable while the banks were prepared to lend on very generous terms, and while we have low interest rates, but is not when the interest rates rise, as they will.

          • Peter Barnard

            Jaime,

            The comparison between household debt and government debt is also not tenable.

        • derek

          @Peter I going to agree with you and that’s the Boateng I wrongfully named, I think he was relating Jam and Soweto, odd combination!
          Thank you @Peter, I’m grateful as normal.  

        • derek

          Sorry @Peter, Paul Boateng’s quote was when he won the South Brent election 1987, I’ll accept a clip around the ear-ole…LoL!

  • mikestallard

    5 points:
    1,2,3 are same old stuff: more tax and more hand outs to trickle to voters.

    House of Lords reform? Big deal! How about getting the EU out of our lives!

    Hmmmm. Freedom of information sounds interesting…….I wonder how much Global Warming  is costing us?

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