Sunday shows: Reeves accuses ministers of “sowing chaos” in dispute with RMT

Sunday Morning

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves accused ministers of “sowing chaos” in the RMT dispute, following reports employers will be allowed to use agency workers to undermine the strike, and refused to say whether Labour would scrap the National Insurance increase if they win the next election, telling viewers: “We don’t know what situation we’re going to be in at the next election… We’ll set out the plans then.”

  • On cost-of-living support: “We need more than just sticking-plaster approaches. And that is what I fear we’re getting from this government. Lurching from one crisis to the next without a proper plan.”
  • Asked whether tax cuts are needed: “The Chancellor, instead of promising help in the future – it’s always tomorrow – shouldn’t have done this National Insurance increase that went ahead in April.”
  • Asked whether Labour would scrap the National Insurance rise: “The next election might be two years away. And so we don’t know where National Insurance, where income tax, will be by then. So we’ll set out the plans then.”
  • She added: “If I was in government now, absolutely I would. But I can’t say where we’re going to be in two years. You know what the economy’s like at the moment – we’ve got the lowest growth. We’ve got the highest inflation.”
  • Asked whether Labour would reduce income tax: “The thing that we should be doing right now is reversing that National Insurance increase. That would be my priority if I was Chancellor today.”
  • Pressed on what the Labour Party would do on income tax: “I’ve been very clear that I want to see taxes on working people as low as possible. At the moment, the priority should be not doing this National Insurance increase.”
  • On whether the government should cut fuel duty further: “What we need to have is a proper review by the Competition and Markets Authority… I would like to see them get a grip on what’s happening at the forecourts.”
  • On Labour’s overall plan is for taxes: “I’m not going to set out detailed policies for the next election, but I am setting out Labour’s plans for a stronger and more secure economy.”
  • Asked whether she supports the RMT strikes: “I don’t want to see strikes, but nor do people who work in the rail industry want to see strikes. They want to see the government working with the industry, working with trade unions to resolve this. But this government, as per usual, seem to be more interested in sowing chaos.”
  • Asked whether she is on the side of rail workers: “I fully understand the concerns that people have in the rail industry. And they are desperate for the government to get a grip and listen to their concerns.”
  • On the demands from the RMT: “It’s not just about pay. It’s also about redundancies in the sector, it’s also about safety in the rail industry… [The rail workers] are not the enemy here, they are looking to secure a good deal.”
  • On whether she agrees that Keir Starmer needs to put more “welly” in, as Angela Rayner said this week: “We all need to. We need to take the fight to the Tories.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the bill the government is bringing forward on post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland will not break international law and would “fix the issues” with the protocol.

The minister said Boris Johnson will not face another confidence vote if the Tories lose both upcoming by-elections and added that he thinks that the Conservative Party could do better in the upcoming by-elections than people expect.

On cutting taxes, Lewis said “we all want to see a low-tax economy” but that the government needs to be “fiscally sensible” and that any reduction in taxation should only happen “when we can afford to do it”.

On the rail strikes, he said it was “disappointing” that Labour had not condemned the strikes. Asked whether the government would bring in agency staff to keep the railways operating, he said the ministers have “got to look at every option”.

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Rachel Reeves urged ministers to “act like firefighters rather than arsonists” in relation to the dispute involving the RMT and said a plan to allow employers to bring in agency workers to break the strike “doesn’t make any sense”.

  • On whether the government’s proposals for post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland will break the law: “It does look like the government plans to break international law… This government seems to be developing a record for law breaking and it’s not one that the Labour Party can support.”
  • Asked what Labour would do: “The first would be to get a bespoke veterinary agreement between the EU and the UK to help speed up the movement of goods and services… New Zealand has got a veterinary agreement with the EU, it can’t be beyond the wit of the EU and the UK to negotiate one of those.”
  • On government plans to remove a legal restriction preventing employers using agency staff to cover striking workers: “It just doesn’t make any sense. The way to resolve [the RMT dispute] is to get people round the table… Would you feel safe going on a train knowing that it’s an agency worker rather than a properly skilled and trained up signaller? I know I wouldn’t.”
  • On the planned RMT strike action: “The government need to act like firefighters rather than arsonists and try and get some resolution… The people that will pay the price if these strikes go ahead are ordinary working people.”
  • She added: “Also people who work in the train industry will lose pay if they’re not going to work. So, nobody wants these strikes to happen. The government, though, are not an observer in all of this. They’re an actor.”
  • Asked whether, as Wes Streeting said earlier this week, she would have voted to go on strike: “They’ve already had those votes, those decisions made.”
  • Asked whether she would stand to be Labour leader: “The opportunity is not there. Keir is the leader of the Labour Party… I want to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. The only thing I don’t like about my job title today is the ‘Shadow’ at the beginning of it… There’s nothing to see here. There’s no leadership contest.”

Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union general secretary Mark Serwotka described the proposal to allow train operators to bring in agency workers to undermine strike action as an “outrageous act” and said he would “certainly like to see a lot stronger support from the Labour Party”.

  • On plans to allow employers to replace striking workers with agency workers: “That would be an outrageous act if the government goes down that road. We’ve already got the most restrictive anti-union legislation in the whole of western Europe. It is already incredibly difficult for unions to withdraw their labour.”
  • He added: “If you think about what Grant Shapps is trying to do with that legislation, it’s to make industrial action ineffective… It is a basic human right to be able to withdraw your labour. You only do it as a last resort and any attempt to bring people in to undermine disputes will not resolve the problems.”
  • He warned the Transport Secretary: “That dispute is not going to be resolved if people can be brought in… [Shapps] should try and resolve the dispute. Not pour petrol on the flames and make matter worse.”
  • On the workers striking: “When people go on strike, they lose pay. It is the last thing they want to do. But if a company is insisting on cutting your pay, cutting your pension, cutting your job, for example… it is the last thing you can do.”
  • Asked whether Labour’s response to the dispute has been “too bland”: “I would certainly like to see a lot stronger support from the Labour Party and of course many in the party have been quite supportive – whether that’s John McDonnell or Lisa Nandy in recent weeks.”
  • On Labour: “What the Labour Party are going to have to do is come up with a position because, the way things are going, we’re going to see more industrial action as the year goes on because people are facing such a catastrophic cut in their living standards.”
  • On the PCS’s unsuccessful legal action against the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda: “We’re in the High Court tomorrow appealing the decision.”
  • On why the union is opposed to the plan put forward by the government: “We have to test the legality of these proposals but also we need a debate about the morality and lack of humanity that the government is demonstrating.

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