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Strange bedfellows

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Stephen Crabb: Cross-party consensus favouring amendment he voted against

Stephen Crabb: Cross-party consensus favouring amendment he voted
against

THE LAST week has seen causes close to the hearts of many people receive support from somewhat unlikely quarters.
Last Tuesday, (Conservative) MPs voted against a proposed amendment to the finance bill, which would have forced George Osborne to outline a strategy for negotiating with the EU to remove the 5% VAT from tampons.
In the end, only three Conservative MPs voted in favour of the amendment, but prior to the vote, rumours of strong cross-party support for the amendment were rife, and commentators believed that Eurosceptic Tories would vote against the party line and follow their own agenda, as UKIP’s solitary MP did.
It will be interesting to see how many times Douglas Carswell votes in favour of a motion put forward by a Labour MP who has described herself as a ‘feminist and Trade Unionist’ in the future.
The three Conservatives who defied the Whip – Philip Davies, Philip Hollobone and David Nuttall, are all confirmed opponents of Britain remaining in the EU. Their vote in this matter, like that of Carswell, would appear to be an attempt to put Mr Osborne in a position where he was unable to secure EU approval, which would serve to highlight perceived problems with Britain’s EU membership ahead of a referendum.
The reasons given by Conservative MPs for voting against the amendment made for amusing reading. Realising, perhaps, that around half of their constituents were female, they queued up to tell local papers that they were in favour of reducing VAT for tampons – even though they voted against an amendment which was specifically about doing just that.
A Herald journalist contacted Stephen Crabb to ask his reasons for voting against the amendment The Secretary of State for Wales said that there was ‘cross party consensus’ that the UK should be able to abolish VAT on sanitary products.
“Ministers are about to commence discussions with the European Commission and other EU Member States.
“Given that the Minister has already promised to report back to the House of Commons on these negotiations, the amendment was unnecessary and so I voted against.”
The prospect of a Labour amendment succeeding presumably did not cross Mr Crabb’s mind when he cast his vote. The same could not be said for Gower’s Byron Davies, who was happy to say: “People also need to realise that it’s not that I voted against the abolition of the tax. I’m all for abolishing the tax or at least making it lower.
“But, I am a member of the Conservative Party; hence I am unable to vote in favour of a motion proposed by Labour.”
Mr Davies also said: “There is a lot of miscommunication around this issue at the moment.
“The decision to lower the VAT on sanitary items is not within the power of the UK government. This power lies with the European Union, who introduced the tax because they are not considered essential items.”
Whether or not this is the result of miscommunication, the amendment quite clearly stated that:
“Within three months of the passing of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement on his strategy to negotiate with the EU institution an exemption from VAT for women’s sanitary protection products.”
As such, arguing that it is not within the power of a UK government seems to be a flawed premise. However, it is one shared by Conservative MP for Monmouth David Davies, who also voted against the amendment.
“The problem is we’ve got the ludicrous EU regulations. They’ve got to change,” he told a local newspaper.
“People blame the government for things like this, but we don’t have any control over it.
“It’s something we need to bear in mind when there’s a referendum on our EU membership.”
It is perhaps surprising that David Davies voted against this amendment, given that he is willing to support other groups with, shall we say, differing political beliefs against the common enemy that is the EU.
The People’s NHS Wales have been vocally campaigning for the NHS to be made exempt from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Readers in Pembrokeshire will be aware of their numerous attempts to meet with Stephen Crabb to discuss the issue with him, including attending two (cancelled) constituency surgeries.
The People’s NHS is fiercely critical of NHS privatisation, and the current Conservative government. The Welsh group has been attempting to raise the profile of TTIP, and the possible effects that privatisation in England could have on the Barnett differentials for Wales, as well as the risk that any privatisation would be irreversible.
This would, on the face of it, appear to be a fairly socialist agenda, in that it encourages government spending in the public sector. However, Mr Davies has lent the group his support, and has written what the People’s NHS Wales describe as a ‘strongly worded letter’ to the Minister for Trade and Investment calling for the Government to ensure that the NHS is protected.
In his letter to Francis Maude, Mr Davies said: “I therefore hope the UK government will call on the EU to change the wording of the TTIP proposal in a way that would rule out the privatisation of the NHS. If the EU ignores our wishes as is sadly possible, then I will advise all those who have lobbied me to take account of this when they vote on Britain’s membership of the EU in the forthcoming referendum.”
The wording of this missive carefully avoids making any reference to the role of the Conservative Party in this matter, or that one of the main concerns of the People’s NHS is that the Conservative Government will use TTIP as a means to a programme of privatisation which will be irreversible as a consequence of multinational companies being given the power to sue governments which make decisions that cost them money.
It appears that, to the hardened Eurosceptic, any cause that furthers the ‘Brexit’ agenda is to be championed regardless.

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Chancellor’s economic update includes VAT cut for hospitality sector, and customer discounts

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THE CHANCELLOR, Rishi Sunak, set out the measures in his summer economic update in the House of Commons on Wednesday (Jun 8), as he faces pressure to assist those who are most vulnerable to the financial crisis.

The Chancellor said he will cut VAT from 20% to 5% for food if people eat out to help those businesses which he said had been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The chancellor announced discount to encourage people to eat out in August.

He says restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels as well as other attractions will be able to claim the money back within five days. It had been reported he was considering giving all UK adults a £500 voucher to spent with companies hit by coronavirus, but the Chancellor has decided not to go ahead with that proposal.

Another announcement is that employers who take back staff on furlough and continuously employ them until January will get £1,000 cash bonus per employee.

Instead Sunak announced a discount worth up to £10 per head for eating out in August. He said his final measure has never been tried in this country. It is an “eat out to help out scheme”, offering customers as discount worth up to £10 per head when they eat out from Monday to Wednesday in August.

Speaking in the Commons today, he said: “Our plan has clear goals, to protect, support and retain jobs.”

Regards furlough scheme, he said it must wind down, adding: “flexibly and gradually supporting people through to October” but that he is introducing a bonus for employers who bring staff back from furlough.

Employers who bring someone back from furlough and employ them through to January, paying them a minimum of £520 a month, will receive a £1,000 bonus.

He says that “in total we have provided £49bn to support public services since the pandemic began”.

He added: “No nationalist can ignore that this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.”

Mr Sunak says the UK economy has already shrunk by 25% – the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years.

He also announced:

  • A £2bn kickstart scheme paying employers to take on unemployed 16 to 24 year olds for a minimum of 25 hours a week – he says the Treasury will pay those wages for six months plus a sum for overheads. He says there is no cap. This will apply in England and Wales.
  • VAT on food from restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels will be cut until January 12 from 20% to 5%
  • Funding for apprenticeships and trainee-ships in England, there will be a separate announcement for Wales.
  • £1bn for the DWP to support millions of people back to work through Job Centres
  • A £2bn green homes grant in England to cover two thirds of the cost, up to £5,000, for energy efficient home improvements. Again the Welsh Government will have their own proposals on this given time.
  • A temporary cut to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland.

Stephen Crabb has given his strong backing to the Chancellor’s coronavirus recovery plan, calling it “a huge step towards getting Pembrokeshire back on its feet”.

The Preseli MP said that the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ includes a £1000 bonus for businesses to bring back furloughed staff and the Kickstart scheme which will provide high quality work placements for unemployed youngsters. In England businesses will also be offered £1000 bonus to take on a trainee and £2000 for each new apprentice. Welsh Government has been given equivalent money to support their training schemes.

Speaking in the House of Commons following the Chancellor’s statement, Crabb said: “Make no mistake, this action to save a generation of young people from bearing the brunt of the economic crisis is incredibly positive and to be welcomed.”

The MP has previously warned about the prospect of a surge in unemployment as a result of the lockdown.

The Chancellor also announced a cut in VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector, giving a much needed boost to some of the sectors hardest hit by coronavirus. Early on in the lockdown, Crabb wrote to the Chancellor to call for a package of support for Tourism that included a VAT cut.

Responding to the announcement today, he said: “I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened to the proposals that many MPs from coastal areas have put forward. Tourism and hospitality need a real shot in the arm and the VAT cut will be very welcome.”

Today’s statement also saw the launch of a new ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, giving people 50% off meals out to encourage more families to eat out or get a takeaway during the month of August.   These measures will be important for Pembrokeshire’s many hospitality businesses who are still awaiting an announcement from Welsh Government on when they can open again.

On Friday Stephen Crabb will be bringing together more than thirty local pubs and restaurants for an online discussion with the County Council and others about how the sector can re-open safely and successfully.

 

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Cllr Beynon suspended as school governor at Pembroke’s Ysgol Harri Tudur

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL said that they are unable to comment on the suspension of a Pembroke Dock councillor as a school governor.

Cllr Beynon confirmed that he has been suspended as a school governor at Pembroke’s Ysgol Harri Tudur.

“I’m looking forward until when the ombudsman throws out the complaints,” Cllr Beynon said.

Paul Dowson, a fellow Pembroke Dock councillor, recently resigned from the board of school governors of Ysgol Harri Tudur.

Cllr Dowson said after he resigned: “I feel a recent smear campaign reflects badly on the school even though its untrue.”

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Union wants council investigation into Councillor Paul Dowson’s conduct

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Councillor Paul Dowson’s public statements criticising the Black Lives Matter movement should be formally investigated by the council, according to UNISON.

The trade union said Mr Dowson’s use of a phrase adopted by the racist Klu Klux Klan was deeply offensive when people around the world were united in protest at police brutality and the murder of George Floyd.

UNISON questioned whether the councillor is fit to hold public office.

Mr Dowson used his Facebook page to attack Labour councillor Josh Beynon’s suggestion Pembrokeshire County Hall could be lit up in support of Black Lives Matter’s commemoration of Mr Floyd’s death.

Cllr Dowson posted that “White lives matter” a White supremacist phrase which originated in 2015 as a racist response to protests against police brutality against Black-Americans in the USA. Councillor Beynon received an online torrent of racist and homophobic abuse.

Manuela Hughes, UNISON Pembrokeshire branch chair said: “The Black Lives Matter movement has shown everyone that racism is rife in society. Black people are more likely to have been subjected to police brutality, more likely to live in poverty and more likely to be unemployed as a result of systemic racism. Their contribution is often written out of the history of this country.

Black workers have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and in the NHS, care and transport sectors, Black people have paid with their lives for caring for the whole community.

“This is the climate in which Councillor Dowson made his comments. He has brought Pembrokeshire County Council into disrepute. It is important that everyone stands together against racism and the council must formally investigate his behaviour.”

Mr Dowson was criticised for his Facebook comments in April last year that former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, should commit suicide.

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