A Government that's not listening
Posted by Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, at 09:44, Fri 27 January 2012:
The government’s now been defeated 6 times in the House of Lords on proposals in its Welfare Reform Bill.
And by no means has all of the opposition come from Labour. Cross benchers, bishops, LibDems and even some Tories have voted against proposals that would restrict benefits for cancer sufferers, force single parents to pay a fee to the CSA to get money for their children from a former partner, and could make families homeless.
But the government isn’t budging. Next week, all these proposals come back to the House of Commons, where Ministers say they will reverse the Lords’ amendments.
Of course people who could get jobs ought not to be claiming benefits. But with unemployment rising to record levels, how can it be right to penalise people who’ve made every effort to find work but haven’t been successful?
And it’s downright indecent for children, or people with life threatening illnesses or disabilities, to be left in hardship or put at risk of homelessness.
But this is such an arrogant government. It won’t listen even when it’s losing the argument. We saw another example of that this week, when despite losing two court cases on their plans to cut the so-called feed-in tariffs for solar power, the government said it would now appeal to the Supreme Court.
We have a special interest in this in Old Trafford. The St John’s Sunshine project would have enabled the community to take advantage of payments under these feed-in tariffs by installing solar panels, and using the payments received to fund local community projects.
Now there’s total uncertainty about whether the project can proceed.
The government says it wants local community projects to thrive, and it’s dead keen on its idea of the Big Society. That’s exactly what the Sunshine project would have been.
So I went into the Chamber to ask energy secretary Chris Huhne what guarantees he could give to St John’s. He repeated what he’s been saying for months - that there would be a “consultation” about it.
That’s no help to the project. They need to know they can afford to proceed.
And while on the subject of energy, local campaigners will be interested that David Cameron expressed his support for biomass energy sources in Prime Minister’s Questions this week.
I’ve no doubt Breathe Clean Air Group members will be tackling the Prime Minister on his remarks, and I’ll be delighted to pass on concerns and correspondence.
Meantime, police numbers were released this week showing the biggest fall in police numbers in decades, down 8,000 cross the country since the general election.
Last Friday, I held a public meeting in Old Trafford to discuss residents’ concerns about crime and antisocial behaviour.
It was good to have the neighbourhood policing team there, and we were pleased to get assurances that there were no plans to cut it.
But with personal crime (like violence, robbery and theft) up 11% (following a 40% drop under Labour), news of police cuts is very worrying.
All this bad news was compounded by the growth figures this week, which showed the UK economy going backwards. George Osborne’s now been in charge for nearly 2 years, and it’s clear his economic strategy isn’t working.
Ordinary people are paying the price, and it’s time for a change of direction.
But, like I say, this is an arrogant government. There’s no sign that Osborne or Cameron are listening.
That’s why we’ll be campaigning hard in the local elections to get more votes for Labour: to send a message to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor about how angry and worried people feel.
If they lose lots of council seats across the country, maybe then they will start listening.