NEWS THIS WEEK – from Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington March 8 2016
08 Mar 2016International development matters - Urgent question on the refugee crisis
Last Wednesday, as Labour’s Shadow International Development Secretary, Diane Abbott MP contributed to a debate around an urgent question to Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, from the Shadow SNP Spokesperson on Immigration, Asylum and Border Control, Stuart C. McDonald on the developing humanitarian crisis in Greece.
You can watch the debate here and read the debate transcript here.
Labour forces delay to Chancellor’s crude housing benefit cuts
Three weeks ago Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked David Cameron whether he would carry out an impact assessment of his planned cuts to supported housing benefit, which thousands of elderly and vulnerable people depend on (see video here.) Now, the government has announced a delay to a cut to housing benefit which Labour has warned will affect thousands of elderly and vulnerable people.
Responding to the Government announcement John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, said “The Chancellor’s crude cuts to housing benefit are set to close thousands of specialist homes for elderly and vulnerable people [but] just weeks after Ministers insisted they were pressing ahead with these damaging plans, they have now backtracked and said they’ll delay the implementation of these cuts,” adding that “this is a victory for common sense and overdue recognition that the Chancellor’s cuts plans are in complete chaos.”
Osborne’s failure to deliver on new housing stock is blowing out the Housing Benefit Bill
Data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that nationally private rental prices paid by tenants rose by 2.6% in the 12 months to January.
The ONS data – which showed the situation was even worse for private renters in London, where rental prices increased by 3.9% - comes on the back of a little noticed official benefit expenditure forecasts slipped out by the Department for Work and Pensions in February. These revealed that the total amount of Housing Benefit the government now expects to pay over £8.5 billion (in today’s prices) in housing benefit to private landlords in 2020-21, £350m more than it forecast at the time of George Osborne’s summer budget.
Seema Malhotra MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who challenged George Osborne on his support for housebuilding during Treasury Questions last week, said: “British families are now literally paying the price for George Osborne’s failure to deliver enough affordable housing to buy and rent, “adding that “it’s bad news for public finances too [as] housing Benefit paid to private landlords is soaring because of lack of housebuilding.”
Tory austerity leads to alarming rise in child poverty
A report issued by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has contained the alarming figures that by the end of this Tory government one in four children will be living in relative poverty with a rise to 2.6 million children living in absolute poverty.
Responding to the report, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP said "As the report clearly states, the government’s planned tax and benefit changes are a major reason for these rises in relative and absolute poverty over the next 5 years. If you could take out the Tory planned regressive reforms then you would be able to take out the Tory increases in child poverty too.”
Women to lose out in pension changes
Labour has repeatedly called on the government to bring forward proposals for transitional arrangements for women adversely affected by the speeding up of the state pension age. This issue is of growing prominence as women affected by both the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts begin to retire in July this year. Over the next four years, women’s state pension age will rise by nearly three years.
Labour supports the equalisation of the State Pension age for women to 65. What we don’t support is the unfair way this Government is implementing the changes. With little personal notice, the Government brought forward the timetable for change. Women’s State Pension age will now be 65 by 2018 and 66 by 2020, instead of 65 by 2020 as was previously promised.
So recently Labour held an opposition day debate and forced a vote on transitional state pension arrangements, making it clear that it’s not good enough for the Tories to just look the other way. We need to keep up the pressure on Ministers to address this injustice. Inaction is no longer an option.
International Development Matters – The stealth aid raid: militarising Britain's development budget
I have written an article expressing my concerns that with regards to our International Development budget “people will find themselves to be sadly mistaken in thinking that the £12 billion they pay each year in taxes towards Britain’s aid budget is deployed only to reduce poverty in the developing world” as concerns grow that the Government is militarising Britain’s development budget. You can read the full article here.