Dods at Party Conference 2019

Labour | Conservatives | SNP

4 November 2019
TV licence

Labour would bring back free TV licences for the over-75s if it wins the election, the party has announced.

The BBC announced it was axeing the £154.50-a-year benefit for more than three million old people after being given responsibility for funding it at the time of the last charter renewal. According to the corporation, maintaining the perk would have cost £745m - a fifth of its total budget - by 2021-22, forcing it to make cuts elsewhere. Instead, from next year the free licences will only be given to over-75s who receive pension credit. Theresa May had pledged to maintain the benefit at the last general election in 2017. Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson said the universal perk would be saved if Labour forms the next government. He said: "Four in 10 older people say the TV is their main source of company, but from next year 3.7 million older people will lose their free TV licence. "It's disgraceful. Our message is clear - vote Labour to save free TV licences." Last month, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the Governmenthad been wrong to “bounce” the BBC into...
4 November 2019
Heroin use

UK ministers have been urged to reconsider their opposition to drug consumption rooms in Scotland after the number deaths from substance abuse in the country reached an all-time high.

The Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee said policy needed to be “substantially reformed” north of the Border following 1,187 drug-related deaths in 2018. MPs said consumption rooms, where users take drugs in a safe and sterile environment while being supervised by medical staff, had been “proven” to reduce overdoses, deaths and to lower rates of infection. The cross-party group said their “extensive” inquiry took evidence from agencies, health services, academics and governments and that they had visited Portugal, Germany and Canada to study their drug policies. The group also expressed “deep regret” at the Home Office for blocking a proposed pilot facility in Glasgow, adding that the case for it was “the most compelling in Europe”. They added that if ministers refused to change tack, then power to introduce the rooms should be handed to Scottish Government ministers, who back the proposals. However, the MPs said the SNP administration at Holyrood “could be doing...
4 November 2019
Infrastructure

Government often asks how they can help businesses; the answer is simple: provide clarity over future policy and investment and stick to it, says MPA. 

Following a broad-based weakening in the first half of 2019, construction market demand for mineral products, including aggregates, asphalt, ready-mixed concrete (RMC) and mortar, improved in 2019Q3 compared to the previous quarter. Growth in mortar sales was the strongest, up 5.2% compared to 2019Q2, followed by asphalt (4.1%), aggregates (2.7%) and RMC (1.4%). Whilst welcome, this improvement has not been sufficient to lift the market performance for 2019 so far. In the first 9 months of the year, markets for asphalt and mortar remained broadly flat compared to the same period in 2018, while sales of aggregates and RMC declined. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that construction output increased by 2.6% over Jan-Aug 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, with growth driven by housebuilding and new infrastructure work. Work on commercial sites, including retail and office buildings, continues to decline. Aggregates and RMC are ubiquitous to any type of...
4 November 2019
John Bercow

Dods People draws together a list of appointments in Westminster politics, the devolved administrations and the public affairs sector in the last week.

Houses of Parliament: House of Lords Lord Mann joined the House of Lords on 29th October as a non-affiliated life peer. Lord Ranger joined the House of Lords on 29th October as a Conservative life peer.            The Bishop of Blackburn joined the House of Lords on 29th October. Lord Hendy joined the House of Lords on 28th October as a Labour life peer. Baroness Hunt of Bethnal Green joined the House of Lords on 28th October as a crossbench life peer. Baroness Emerton retired as a crossbench life peer on 1st November. Lord Carswell retired as a crossbench life peer on 29th October. Lord Pearson of Rannoch has left the UK Independence Party and now sits as non-affiliated. High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill Committee – Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe appointed as Chair. Lord Flight, Lord Jones of Cheltenham, Lord Haselhurst, Lord Liddle, Lord Porter of Spalding and Lord Snape named as members. Democracy and Digital...
4 November 2019
Jeremy Corbyn flanked by the Shadow Cabinet

Jeremy Corbyn has ordered his Shadow Cabinet to get behind the party's Brexit policy as he told them the debate about it is "now over".

Labour has been deeply divided over its stance on EU membership, with some Mr Corbyn's top team openly pushing for the party to back Remain in a second referendum. But the Labour leader told The Guardian he had laid down the law at last week's Shadow Cabinet meeting, at which he also told them the party would be backing a December election. Mr Corbyn said he made clear that no one should stray from the Labour position of pledging to renegotiate the current Brexit deal and then putting it to a referendum, with Remain as an option. However, the party would not decide how to campaign in it until after it wins the general election. "I just said, ‘look, this debate is now over," he said. "We’ve done it, the party has now made its decision, and that’s it; and that’s what we’re going to campaign on’." Mr Corbyn also made clear that he had personally decided to back...
4 November 2019
Northern Ireland pro-choice activists

It is shocking that many basic rights for women and the LGBTQ+ community have not been available to people in Northern Ireland. We must keep campaigning to ensure these long-overdue changes are delivered, despite those who resist, writes Karin Smyth MP.

This year has been a momentous one for human rights in Northern Ireland. It came as a shock to many that basic rights for women and the LGBTQ+ community were not there for people in Northern Ireland as they were to people in England, Scotland and Wales.   The Government – rightly so - puts resource into tackling these inequalities in other countries, yet was denying these rights from some of its own citizens. As a feminist, I firmly believe in furthering women’s rights - in solidarity with women across the world. Women’s reproductive rights are at the core of that internationalism and solidarity. Women die as a result of being denied access to life-saving abortions. This is a key human rights issue.  Earlier this year, I joined my colleagues Stella Creasy MP and Diana Johnson MP, actors from Derry Girls and some of the women affected by this in London for Amnesty International’s abortion rights demonstration. It was a powerful women-led...
4 November 2019
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage

Top Tory eurosceptic Steve Baker has warned Nigel Farage that he risks becoming "the man who threw away Brexit" over his opposition to Boris Johnson's EU deal.

The European Research Group chair said the former Ukip boss was wrong to stand hundreds of Brexit Party candidates in next month's election. He said that increased the chances of a hung Parliament and putting Brexit at risk. Mr Baker said he was "flabbergasted" by Mr Farage's decision not to mount an eighth bid to become an MP. The Brexit Party leader has branded the Withdrawal Agreement the Prime Minister struck with the EU last month a "gigantic con", and insisted the UK should instead leave the bloc without a deal. He has given Mr Johnson two weeks to abandon his deal or face a challenge from the Brexit Party in every seat in England, Wales and Scotland. But Mr Baker told The Telegraph: "Whilst there are some...
3 November 2019
A hospital

Labour has blasted the rising number of cancelled operations as a “shameful indictment” of the Tory government as it continued its bid to put the NHS at the centre of the election campaign.

According to research by the party, the number of operations cancelled due to staffing issues and equipment failures in the health service has increased by a third in two years.  Freedom of Information figures from acute hospitals in England showed that there were 8,231 cancelled procedures due to staffing issues in 2016/17. However, that figure rose to 10,909 by 2018/19. The number of cancellations due to equipment failures also rose from 3,739 to 4,858 in the same period.  Meanwhile the number of urgent and elective operations cancelled at the last minute due to non-clinical reasons ran up to nearly 80,000 last year.  Lack of beds, adverse weather conditions, booking errors and equipment problems were among the reasons cited.   Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "That so many more people in pain and distress are forced to endure cancelled operations, including increasingly on the day they were...
3 November 2019
Ross Thomson and Boris Johnson

A close ally of Boris Johnson is standing down from Parliament after being accused of groping by a Labour MP.

Ross Thomson, who ran Mr Johnson's Tory leadership campaign in Scotland, said he had been the victim of "a political smear" and vowed to clear his name. In a statement on Sunday afternoon, he said: "I always believed politics was about noble pursuits and doing what you believed to be best for your country.  "My experience is that our politics is now so poisonous that we will never attract good, honest and decent people in the first place. "I have therefore made the most difficult decision that I could ever make. I have decided that I will stand down as the Scottish  Mr Thomson spoke out after Paul Sweeney, the Labour MP for Glasgow North East, told the Mail on Sunday that the Conservative backbencher had tried to put his hand down his trousers in Strangers Bar in the Commons. He said: "I felt paralysed. It was just such a shocking thing. I was in a cold sweat. It was mortifiying. Nobody knew where to look at the table. It’s embarrassing. [I] couldn’t fight, so I took flight." Mr...
3 November 2019
Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage has confirmed that he will not mount an eighth bid to become an MP in December's snap election.

The Brexit Party leader - who has previously hinted that he could stand for election - said he could better "serve the cause" of leaving the EU by campaigning "across the United Kingdom". The MEP has failed to be elected to the Commons on seven separate occasions since the 1990s, most recently as Ukip leader in the 2015 poll. He told LBC earlier this year that he was "going to have to" stand at the next election out of a sense of "duty". But, speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday, Mr Farage said: "I've thought very hard about this: how do I serve the cause of Brexit best? "Because that's what I'm doing this for, not for a career. I don't want to be in politics for the rest of my life.  "Do I find a seat try and get myself into Parliament, or do I serve the cause better traversing the length and breadth of the United Kingdom...