Labour Calls for Income Tax Increase in Scotland

keziadugdale

Kezia Dugdale, the Leader of Labour in Scotland, has called for an increase in income tax of 1p to raise an additional £500 million in revenue. The Scottish Parliament will have the power to control its own tax rate for the first time in April 2016 with a more substantial transfer of power later on.

Dugdale said:

“We will tear up this SNP budget that simply manages Tory cuts and instead use the power we have to set the Scottish rate of income tax 1p higher than the rate set by George Osborne. This will provide an extra half a billion pounds a year to invest in the future. We don’t do this because we want to use the powers for their own sake. We do it because there is no other alternative to cutting into our nation’s future”.

The Labour proposals also include the payment of £100 to those earning under £20,000 to ensure that they are not made worse off.

John Swinney, the SNP Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy, said:

“Around 40 per cent of the adult Scottish population don’t earn enough to pay any income tax, and the lowest paid would actually lose out, because anyone earning less than £11,000 – mostly women in part-time work – can still pay National Insurance but would not benefit from the proposed £100 rebate. In addition, these proposals would create an unfair distortion in the system as someone earning just under £11,000 wouldn’t get the £100 hand-out while someone earning £11,000 would. Labour’s plans for administering the £100 rebate appear to be uncosted but would clearly run into the tens of millions of pounds”.

The SNP have said that they will consider changing tax rates and bands but only when the enhanced financial powers are delegated to the Scottish Parliament, which isn’t expected until at least 2017.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have also said that they would increase income tax by 1p which would be spent entirely on education. Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said that “this would be the biggest investment in education since devolution”.

 

Donald Tusk to Announce EU Deal

donaldtusk

Donald Tusk, the EU Council President, is to announce today details of the compromise agreement which was led to the UK. It is expected to include giving new powers for Parliaments to veto new EU legislation and for reform to when benefits are paid to migrants from within Union.

The agreement, which is still subject to negotiation, will be presented to other EU leaders at a special conference to be held on 18 and 19 February 2016. If agreement is reached it is then expected that the referendum in the UK on whether to stay in or leave the EU would take place in June of this year.

Tusk said in a Tweet yesterday:

“Tomorrow around noon I will table proposal for a new settlement for #UKinEU. Good progress last 24 hours but still outstanding issues”.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, is expected to continue on a tour of EU countries meeting leaders in a bid to gain their support.

Government Sets Date for Manchester Mayoral Elections

jameswharton

The first Mayoral elections in Manchester will take place on Thursday 4 May 2017 the Government has announced. The new Mayor of Manchester will oversee a range of new powers which are being transferred to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

James Wharton, the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, said:

“Building a Northern powerhouse is central to our plans to rebalance the economy – key to that is handing powers back to local areas.

Greater Manchester are leading the way and on 4 May 2017 local people will have a direct say over who they want to run their city-region.

Six other areas have already signed devolution deals, and with our change in the law to devolve even more powers from Westminster, I’m confident many other areas will soon follow suit”.

The new powers being transferred include:

– control of a £300 million Housing Investment Fund

– powers over strategic planning, including the power to create a statutory spatial framework for Greater Manchester. This will need to be approved by a unanimous vote of the mayor’s cabinet
responsibility for a devolved and consolidated transport budget, with a multi-year settlement to be agreed at the next Spending Review, and responsibility for franchised bus services (subject to consultation by Greater Manchester), and for integrated smart ticketing across all local modes of transport

– control of a reformed earn back deal, within the current envelope of £30 million a year for 30 years – this gives Greater Manchester the certainty they need to extend the Metrolink to Trafford Park

– take on the role currently covered by the police and crime commissioner

Guardian Reports That 100 Judges and Magistrates Have Received Death Threats

Shailesh Vara
Shailesh Vara

The Guardian newspaper has reported that 100 judges and magistrates have received death threats over the last five years.

Responding to a question from Andy Slaughter asking for figures, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, the Government Justice Minister Shailesh Vara replied:

“In 2011 – 20; in 2012 – 12; in 2013 – 19; in 2014 – 18; and in 2015 – 31”.

Vara added:

“We have a robust security and safety system in place to protect all court users. Any threats to judges or magistrates are taken extremely seriously, and within Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service there is a security team to co-ordinate effective judicial security and incident investigation, working closely with senior judiciary and police agencies to provide the necessary support”.

A report by MPs condemns Kids Company Trustees led by Alan Yentob

kidscompany

A report by The Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee into the Kids Company has strongly criticised the activities of the trustees. It also said that there were failings by Camila Batmanghelidjh and Government Ministers including Oliver Letwin.

The report, which was published today, was led by Bernard Jenkin, the Chairman of the committee. There was substantial criticism of Alan Yentob, the Chairman of the Trustees:

“Mr Yentob denied historic failures in financial management and insisted that there were no questions about the financial resilience of Kids Company until 2014. Given the charity’s historic hand-to mouth existence, its continual failure to build up reserves, significant periods on the brink of insolvency and its inability to meet its obligations to HMRC, this is an inaccurate and alarming interpretation. The evidence Mr Yentob gave to the Committee suggests a lack of proper attention to his duties as Chair of Trustees and a continuing inability to recognise those failures. With his fellow Trustees he was unwilling or unable to impose sufficient control. Together, they failed to exercise their proper function as Trustees.

Mr Yentob acknowledges his poor judgement in respect of his position at the BBC during the summer of 2015. His actions were unwise at best, and deliberately intimidating at worst. He has since resigned his main position at the BBC but he still retains substantial responsibilities within the organisation and oversees substantial budgets. It is not within the remit of this Committee to comment on the governance of the BBC, but the proper governance of conflicts of interest and standards of behaviour – particularly amongst its senior executives – is a very serious matter for any reputable organisation. That a senior figure could act in this way and it could take so long for action to be taken reflects poorly on the BBC’s leadership”.

Referring to the money spent by Government Ministers the report said:

“In neither his letter of direction nor his oral evidence has Mr Letwin provided convincing justification for his and Mr Hancock’s decision to ignore the comprehensive advice of senior officials, whose concerns Mr Letwin acknowledged as accurate and valid. This grant should not have been authorised contrary to advice”.

There are also criticism of some of the work conducted by the charity:

“Kids Company’s handling of an allegation about a very serious failure of safeguarding was inadequate and irresponsible. It is not appropriate for a known supporter of Kids Company to conduct a supposedly independent investigation, and that confidential information about an employee’s personal circumstances were used to assess her credibility, without transparency about where the information had come from, or permission being given for it to be shared. This represents a serious failure on the part of Trustees to ensure the existence and observance of appropriate processes for handling allegations relating to the safeguarding of vulnerable young people”.

Despite the failing of the Kids Company the report added:

“The failure and public criticisms of Kids Company must not be allowed to taint the whole charitable sector; we have no reason to doubt that the majority of Trustees and charities act responsibly and
in accordance with their charitable purposes”.

Sajid Javid admits that the Google tax settlement is not a “glorious moment”

CBI Conference

Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, has said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the settlement reached between HM Revenue and Customs and Google does not represent a “glorious moment” for the Government.

Javid said:

“I speak with thousands of companies; small, medium size, as well as, of course, large companies, and there is a sense of injustice with what they see. They do look at this and say, ‘look, I don’t operate all these multiple jurisdictions around the world, I can’t share profits around, what about me? Where’s the level playing field?’ And I share that sense and the sort of sense of unfairness that exists. In a sense I actually think it’s much wider than that. I think there’s a concern amongst many people about capitalism itself, when they look at, you know, companies are cheating on emission tests or banks that are rigging libor, they fix rates, and they say what’s going on? Now, I passionately believe that the free enterprise system is still the best system, is the best way to raise living standards, but this is a challenge”.

Javid added that work still needed to be done:

“When George Osborne, you know, led this issue at the G20 he made a stronger case than anyone else on this issue and we have led the way. But what I do accept is that there is still more work to do. We need to do more work with our international partners and work out more ways to stop companies, large multinational companies, from being able to shift profits so easily”.

Speaking on the same BBC programme Andrew Marr asked Peter Barron, a spokesman for Google, about the tax settlement which has been much criticised. Barron said:

“We would and we’ve spoken about this in the past. We think that the international tax system which has been around for long time, since the 1920s, could do with reform and we would like to  see more simplicity and more clarity, not least because we would like to be seen to be paying, to be paying the right amount and being seen to be paying the right amount”.

Labour Split as Shadow Business Secretary Criticises Leader’s Low Pay Strategy

angeleeagle

Angela Eagle, the Shadow Business Secretary, has criticised an idea proposed last week by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, on penalising low paying employers.

Eagle said to the Sunday Times that Corbyn’s policy was “an interesting idea, but it does not actually work”.

Jeremy Corbyn had said at a keynote speech at the Fabian Society earlier this month:

“Only profitable employers will be paying dividends; if they depend on cheap labour for those profits then I think there is a question over whether that is a business model to which we should be turning a blind eye”.

Eagle also criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on discussing the future of the Falkland Islands with Argentina. Eagle said “the Falklands issue was settled when I was at university” after Corbyn had said “there should be reasonable accommodation with Argentina”.

Jeremy Corbyn has yet to comment on Angela Eagle’s comments.

Politicians pay tribute to Sir Terry Wogan, the entertainer who has died at the age of 77

terrywogamn

Politicians from across parties have issued tributes following the death of Sir Terry Wogan, the entertainer known primarily for his work on BBC TV and radio. Wogan, who presented a long-running morning radio show, a 1980s chat show, Eurovision and BBC’s Children in Need died at the age of 77.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said on Facebook:

“My thoughts are with Terry Wogan’s family. Britain has lost a huge talent – someone millions came to feel was their own special friend. I grew up listening to him on the radio and watching him on TV. His charm and wit always made me smile”.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, said on Twitter:

“Very sad news about Terry Wogan. A wonderful & iconic presenter who’ll be missed by millions. My thoughts are with his family & friends”.

Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said on Twitter:

“Terry Wogan was a national institution. A brilliant broadcaster who brought so many shows alive. He will be missed by millions”.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, said on Twitter:

“Sad news. A broadcasting institution. Not sure we make them like #TerryWogan anymore. RIP”.

David Lammy to Lead Report into Race Differences

davidlammy

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, has accepted a request from David Cameron, the Prime Minister, to look at the high rate of black and minority ethnic (BAME) defendants and how they are more likely to be sentenced.

The report has been commissioned after figures showed that over a quarter of prisoners comprised of BAME individuals, compared to their representing 14% of the wider population in England and Wales.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said:

“If you’re black, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university. And if you’re black, it seems you’re more likely to be sentenced to custody for a crime than if you’re white. We should investigate why this is and how we can end this possible discrimination.

That’s why I have asked David Lammy MP to lead a review of the over-representation of defendants from black and ethnic minority backgrounds in the criminal justice system. And this will include examining possible sentencing and prosecutorial disparity”.

David Lammy, who has served as the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community since 2010, said:

“I’ve been working in this area for almost two decades and am very pleased to accept the Prime Minister’s invitation to lead this comprehensive, independent review across our criminal justice system.

With over a quarter of the prison population coming from a BAME background the urgency here is clear.

I look forward to leading a team that will evaluate what works in the UK, draw on lessons from abroad and listen to a broad range of voices from the justice system and our BAME communities”.

Birmingham Police Question Allegations Made by Jess Phillips

jessphillips

A senior police figure has questioned comments made by Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, on BBC’s Question Time regarding the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne.

The Cologne attacks involved up to one hundred suspects and there were three reports of rape and tens of reports of sexual harrassment. Women were allegedly surrounded by up to thirty or forty men and there were reports of theft of phones and money.

Phillips said on BBC’s Question Time that:

“A very similar situation to what happened in Cologne could be describing Broad Street in Birmingham every week”.

Andy Parsons, the Police Commander for Birmingham, said:

“There are numerous opportunities and points at which people could report such conduct. And I think that’s the important point – that we would urge people if they have been subjected to that to do so. The fact is we’re not seeing that come forward”.

Phillips has yet to provide evidence for the comments she made and she has also refused to apologise. A spokesman for David Cameron, the Prime Minister, rejected Phillips’s comments.