September 26th, 2014

Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

I’ve been over in Manchester for the Labour Party Conference this week. I’ve brought with me a huge pile of surveys local people have sent me over the last couple of weeks. Together with views on everything from mortgages, pensions and the internet have been some very worrying stories about the pressure people in our area are under.

Natalie from Stanley wrote, “I’m a single mum, struggling with money, bills and the bedroom tax.” Another local pensioner couple said, “the decline of the NHS really frightens us.” And one Outwood mum struck a real cord with me when I knocked on her door a few weeks back. Her son, trying to get on and do well is on a zero hours contract, which means everyday he gets up not knowing whether or not he’ll get work that day. For him and thousand like him in our area I want to see an end to exploitative zero hours contracts.

So these were the people I was thinking about when I took to the stage on Monday.

Because we need action to deal with the cost of living crisis which has meant prices rising and people’s incomes not keeping up. I’m calling for a lower starting rate of income tax and an increase in the minimum wage to £8 an hour to make work pay, freezing energy bills and more childcare support for working parents trying to juggle work and family life.

And we will do whatever it takes to protect our NHS. Faced, as it is, with fragmentation, privatisation by the back door and pressures on its budgets, we need to save and protect it so that it is there for people like the pensioners who wrote to me last week to tell me their fears.

But balancing the books and saving our NHS means tough decisions too. We are committed to getting the deficit down in a fairer way, making different choices and asking those who have most to shoulder more of the burden. To get the deficit down, we would reverse the recent tax cut for the richest 1% – those on the very highest incomes.

But with the deficit still high, there will have to be other changes too. I want to see child benefit rising again but we also won’t spend money we cannot afford. So I also announced in Manchester that child benefit would only rise by 1% for the first 2 years of the next parliament to help reduce the deficit. And we will introduce a mansion tax on properties worth over £2million for the NHS.

These are difficult decisions but ones we have to take to make sure the sums add up. We can balance the books in a fairer way and protect vital services like our NHS.

You can read my speech here.

Posted September 26th, 2014 by Ed
September 24th, 2014

My column in the Morley Observer


I’ve been over in Manchester for the Labour Party Conference this week. I’ve brought with me a huge pile of surveys local people have sent me over the last couple of weeks. Together with views on everything from mortgages, pensions and the internet have been some very worrying stories about the pressure people in our area are under. Ian from Gildersome wrote about how tough it is making ends meet, “I’ve not had a wage rise for 4 years.” A pensioner couple from Morley said, “We are both in our late 60s and we worry about the care of the elderly and the decline of the NHS really frightens us.”

So these were the people I was thinking about when I took to the stage on Monday.

In my speech I also raised the case of a local mum whose door I’d knocked on a few weeks back. Her teenage son recently finished college and after struggling to find work is now a zero hours contract. He gets up each morning to call into work at 7am to find out whether they need him and whether he will spend the day at work, earning money, or at home, waiting around until he does exactly the same thing again the following day. When I spoke to her she told me how it breaks her heart. “He deserves more than this” she said.

And unfortunately her story is and too familiar one. There are thousands in our area on these contracts. So I’m calling for an end to exploitative zero hours contracts. I also want to see more action to deal with the cost of living crisis which has meant prices rising and people’s incomes not keeping up. So I want to see a lower starting rate of income tax and an increase in the minimum wage to £8 an hour to make work pay, freezing energy bills and more childcare support for working parents trying to juggle work and family life.

But it means tough decisions too. We have to balance the books and we are committed to doing it in a fairer way, making different choices and asking those who have most to shoulder more of the burden. To get the deficit down, we would reverse the recent tax cut for the richest 1% – those on the very highest incomes.

But with the deficit still high, there will have to be other changes too. I want to see child benefit rising again but we also won’t spend money we cannot afford. So I also announced in Manchester that child benefit would only rise by 1% for the first 2 years of the next parliament to help reduce the deficit.

These are difficult decisions but ones we have to take to make sure the sums add up. We can balance the books in a fairer way.

You can read my speech in full here

**********

And of course we are better together! The other major event of the last week has been the historic referendum in Scotland. Like other people in our area, I didn’t have a vote but desperately wanted Scotland to stay. So on Friday morning I was delighted that the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The vote last week shows the need to change and reform and strengthen our union in a fair way. But decisions about constitutional change cannot and shouldn’t be rushed through. The people of Scotland have been discussing the issues around independence and last week’s referendum for over two years. The process should start from the people – not politicians.

And I’ve long called for more powers to be transferred to regional cities in England so that we get a regional economic plan that works for all parts of the United Kingdom. Nowhere is that more true that here in Yorkshire. I want to see a bold devolution to city and county regions to give regional economies like ours the chance to really grow and prosper.

Posted September 24th, 2014 by Ed's team
September 22nd, 2014

My speech to Labour Party Conference

Twenty years ago, starting at this Labour conference, we together took the historic step of reforming our party’s constitution.

The result is on the back of our membership cards today.

Our goal: ‘a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few.’

Our conviction, that: ‘By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone’.

Twenty years on, that Labour vision – our Labour values – are more relevant than they have ever been.

Because, while our economy is growing again, taxes are up, wages are down, NHS waiting times are rising, and most working people are still not seeing any benefit from the recovery.

It’s no wonder the country is crying out for change.

But at a time when trust in politicians is at an all-time low – and when even after deep spending cuts and tax rises for working people, our deficit is still high – this is our task.

Not to flinch from the tough decisions we must make. But to show the country that there is a better way forward.

Labour’s plan for Britain’s future. Our common endeavour: to build an economy that works for the many, and not just a few, for all working people in every part of our United Kingdom.

And Conference, when we think of those words – ’by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone’ – don’t they resonate more loudly after the events of the last few days?

Because Conference, we meet here in Manchester, a united party in our still United Kingdom.

And let us pay tribute to Johan Lamont and Margaret Curran, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, Anas Sawar, Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander, in my team Cathy Jamieson, all the MPs and MSPs, party workers and volunteers, many more beyond our own party too, who have worked so tirelessly to win last week’s vote. Conference, we thank them all.

But let us never forget, after all the campaigning and brilliant barnstorming speeches, the decision to stay together and shape Scotland’s future within our United Kingdom was not made by politicians or pundits but by the people of Scotland.

They voted to retain the shared prosperity, and security, and solidarity that our union delivers. But the people of Scotland did not vote for the status quo. They voted for the opportunity to shape Scotland’s future with greater devolution. And it is our duty to deliver on that promise – and for Wales and for the cities and regions of England too.

Yes, we do need to change our constitution and reform and strengthen our union in a fair way – a process which should start from the people, not politicians. But we know too that people in Scotland and across the rest of the United Kingdom want bigger change than that.

Change which goes beyond powers and processes, parliaments and constitutions. Radical change to build an economy that works for all working people.

Conference, knocking on doors in my constituency a few Sundays ago, I spoke to a mum in Outwood.

She told me her teenage son had finished college and had been looking for a job for ages.

She was so relieved when he finally got one, but worried he’s on a zero-hours contract.

Every morning he has to ring in at 7 o’clock to see if they want him.

And when they say no, and he can do nothing else until the next morning, she said it breaks her heart.

Because he deserves better than this. And she’s right. And that story is not the exception.

It’s one of thousands and thousands of doorstep stories all of us hear across our country every week.

Parents worried about whether their children will get a job or an apprenticeship and whether the next generation will be worse off than their own.

Relying on us – Labour – to make things better.

Families and pensioners seeing prices in the shops and heating bills going up and up.

Millions of people – in the private and public sectors – struggling without a pay rise or unable to get the hours they need, still not feeling the benefit of this recovery.

And relying on us – Labour – to make things better.

Young people struggling to save to get on and buy a house.

Disabled people and family carers forced to pay the government’s Bedroom Tax.

Thousands of people working in our NHS, millions more who depend upon it, worried about rising waiting times and creeping privatisation.

All relying on us – Labour – to make things better.

And Conference, we must not let them down.

And that is why it is our job to go on and win the General Election so we can change Britain and deliver our country from this unfair, out of touch and failing Tory Government.

Conference, we all know the great weight of responsibility we carry on our shoulders.

And that is why our party is so united and determined and fired up to get Ed into Downing Street.

Over the last four years, Ed has led us from the front.

Reforming our party and leading a Shadow Cabinet with more women than ever before and more BME candidates than ever before.

Modernising our relationship with the trade unions.

Standing up for the victims of phone-hacking.

Speaking up for the British people on the cost of living crisis.

Demanding the reforms we need to change our economy.

At every turn, he has led this party with courage, strength, principle and vision, and he will do the same for our country.

Our leader, Britain’s next Prime Minister, Ed Miliband.

And as for David Cameron and George Osborne, going round the country saying they’ve fixed the economy, telling people they’ve never had it so good.

How out of touch can you get?

Prices still rising faster than wages.

And the Tories say they’ve fixed the economy.

The slowest recovery for 100 years.

Business investment still lagging behind .

The lowest level of house building since the ‘20s.

One in six young people out of work.

The gender pay gap widening again.

Over a million zero hours contracts.

Working people £1,600 a year worse off.

And the Tories say they’ve fixed the economy?

What planet are they on?

Conference, working people can’t afford five more years of the Tories.

We know what the Tories really mean when they say they’ve fixed the economy.

The millionaires who got a massive tax cut.

That’s who the Tories have fixed it for.

The hedge funds funding the Tory party.

That’s who the Tories have fixed it for.

The big investors buying the Royal Mail on the cheap.

Russian oligarchs buying tennis matches with Boris and Dave.

That’s who the Tories have fixed it for.

Conference, it’s the same old Tories.

And it’s the same old Tory economics.

Cutting taxes at the top and hoping wealth will somehow trickle down.

Standing up for a privileged few, while everyone else is left behind

For the few not the many.

David Cameron, George Osborne, and Nick Clegg.

And now David Cameron thinks a grateful and devoted nation will give him another five years in Downing Street.

You know what – even his own party don’t believe him anymore

Remember Cameron’s A list?

Nine Tories elected in 2010 already standing down.

From the A List to the Exit Door in just four years.

Nine Tories leaving.

Another scurrying off to UKIP.

And Boris scrambling back to Westminster, preparing to elbow David Cameron out of the way.

That’s today’s Tories.

Giving up on Cameron.

Giving up on the General Election.

Starting to fight the next Tory leadership election instead.

Conference, we know working people can’t afford five more years of the Tories.

But this is no time for complacency.

Because this is the hard truth that we learn – not just from events in Scotland – but also from the local and European elections, the rise of UKIP and from the conversations we all have on the doorstep and in our workplaces week after week.

Yes, the Tories are deeply unpopular.

And yes, the country is crying out for change.

But, even after the progress and successes of our last four years, we have more work to do to show Labour can deliver the change that people want to see.

To show that we have learned from our time in government, that we will make the tough decisions we need to get the deficit down, and that we can change our economy and make it work for working people.

So Conference it’s more important than ever that we – the Labour Party – are honest with the country about what the last Labour government got right and what we got wrong.

Like you, I’m proud of many of the things we did.

Conference, we – Labour – introduced the first ever national minimum wage – and we will raise it if we win the election next year.

We – Labour – introduced free nursery places for the first time – and we will expand free childcare for working parents if we win the election.

We – Labour – introduced civil partnerships and paved the way this year for our country’s first ever same-sex marriages.

We opened 3,500 Sure Start children’s centres.

We made the right call on not joining the Euro.

And most important of all, starting in 1997, after 18 years of neglect, we reformed the NHS, we invested in the NHS, we reduced waiting times from 18 months to 18 weeks in the NHS.

Conference, we saved our National Health Service from the Tories.

And next year, after just five years of David Cameron – with waiting times rising, fewer nurses and a crisis in A&E – we will have to save the NHS from the Tories once again. And we will do what it takes.

Because Conference, it’s the oldest truth in British politics: you can never ever trust the Tories with our NHS.

So we can be proud of many things we did.

But where we made mistakes – like all governments do – we should be grown up about it.

We should put our hands up, learn from the past and explain how we will do things differently in the future.

So Conference, we should have had tougher rules on immigration from Eastern Europe – it was a mistake not to have transitional controls in 2004.

And we must change the rules in the future.

Longer transitional controls for new countries.

A longer time people have to work before they can get unemployment benefit.

Stopping people claiming child benefit and tax credits for families abroad.

Cracking down on employers who exploit migrant workers and undercut wages by avoiding the minimum wage and proper rights at work.

Tough controls, fair rules.

That is what we mean by fair movement not free movement.

And Conference, while it was the banks which caused the global recession, and it was the global recession which caused deficits to rise here in Britain and around the world, the truth is we should have regulated those banks in a tougher way.

It was a mistake. We should apologise for it. And I do.

And so as we get the deficit down, we must reform our banks for the future so that can never happen again.

And Conference, and we didn’t do enough to tackle the underlying causes of rising spending on housing benefit and in-work poverty.

So the next Labour government will raise the minimum wage, build more homes to get the housing benefit bill down and cap overall spending on social security.

And Conference, we should not have scrapped the 10p starting rate of income tax.

But we don’t just need to learn from our mistakes.

We also need to put right the mistakes this Government has made.

So we won’t pay for new free schools in areas where there are excess school places.

We will repeal the NHS Bill and stop the creeping privatisation of the National Health Service.

And yes, Conference, in our first Budget, the next Labour government will scrap the Bedroom Tax too.

Building on our record.

Learning from the mistakes of the last Labour government.

And putting right the mistakes of this Tory Government.

A changed Labour Party to change Britain.

But we will face great challenges.

Working people are already paying more taxes.

Our public services are under great pressure.

We know there would have been tough decisions on tax, spending and pay restraint in this parliament whoever was in government.

But three years of lost growth at the start of this parliament means we will have to deal with a deficit of £75 billion – not the balanced budget George Osborne promised by 2015.

And that will make the task of governing hugely difficult.

And this goes to the heart of the political challenge we face.

People know we are the party of jobs, living standards and fairness for working people.

But they also need to know that we will balance the books and make the sums add up and that we won’t duck the difficult decisions we will face if they return us to government.

Working people have had to balance their own books.

And they are clear that the government needs to balance its books too.

So Labour will balance the books in the next parliament.

These will be our tough fiscal rules. We will get the current budget into surplus and the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next parliament.

Tough fiscal rules that our National Policy Forum endorsed in July, demonstrating that, however difficult, our party can unite in tough times to agree a radical, credible and fully costed programme for government.

And we will legislate for these tough fiscal rules in the first year after the election and they will be independently monitored by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

So in our manifesto there will be no proposals for any new spending paid for by additional borrowing.

No spending commitments without saying where the money is coming from.

Because we will not make promises we cannot keep and cannot afford.

And because we will need an iron commitment to fiscal discipline, we want the Office for Budget Responsibility to be allowed to independently audit the costing of every spending and tax measure in Labour’s manifesto – and those of the other main parties too.

A bold reform which the Tories are desperate to block. Because they are running scared from having their own manifesto subject to independent scrutiny.

And because David Cameron and George Osborne want to carry on peddling untruths and smears about Labour’s plans.

Conference, the next Labour government will get the deficit down.

And Ed Miliband and all my Shadow Cabinet colleagues are clear it will mean cuts and tough decisions and we will take the lead.

So I can announce today that if we win the election, on day one of the next Labour government, the pay of every government Minister will immediately be cut by five per cent.

Ministerial pay will then be frozen each year until we have achieved our promise to balance the nation’s books

Because we are all clear that everybody in the next Labour government will be fully focused on that vital task of getting the deficit down.

And Conference, our Zero-Based Review of public spending is examining every pound spent by government to cut out waste and make different choices.

Andy Burnham is setting out how we can save money, and improve care by pooling health and social care with a single budget and joint management.

Yvette Cooper has set out how police forces will work more closely together to make savings. And we will scrap Police and Crime Commissioners so that we can do more to protect frontline policing.

Hilary Benn is working with the toughest and best generation of local government leaders we have ever had to make savings and free up resources for the front-line.

We will look to prioritise early intervention now which can save billions of pounds in the future.

And we will insist that all the proceeds from the sale of our stakes in Lloyds and RBS are used not for a frivolous pre-election giveaway – but instead that every penny of profit will be used to repay the national debt.

Conference, fiscal responsibility in the national interest.

And we will have to make other decisions which I know will not be popular with everyone.

At a time when the public services that pensioners rely on are under such pressure, we will stop paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest five per cent of pensioners.

Over the long-term, as life expectancy rises, we will need to continue to raise the retirement age to keep our pensions system affordable.

We will cap structural social security spending and keep the benefits cap, but we will make sure it properly reflects local housing costs.

I want to see child benefit rising again in line with inflation in the next parliament, but we will not spend money we cannot afford. So for the first two years of the next parliament, we will cap the rise in child benefit at one per cent. It will save £400 million in the next Parliament. And all the savings will go towards reducing the deficit.

But unlike the Tories we will always ask those who have the most to make the biggest contribution.

That is why, with the deficit still high and working people already paying more, we opposed David Cameron cutting the 50p top rate of tax. Now cannot be the right time to give the richest 1 per cent of people in the country a £3 billion tax cut.

So as we get the deficit down in the next parliament, the next Labour government will reverse this Tory tax cut for millionaires.

Because Labour will balance the books in a fairer way.

In the next parliament, when we will continue to face tough spending constraints, I want to see pay settlements that are both affordable and fair.

Public and private sector workers should all share fairly in rising prosperity.

So Labour will not undermine fairness and the independent Pay Review Bodies by rejecting their advice out of hand.

Instead, we will work with the Pay Review Bodies, employers and employees, to ensure that pay settlements are affordable and fair, doing more for those on lower pay with tougher settlements at the top.

Conference, we will also scrap the shares for rights scheme, reverse the tax cut for hedge funds, crack down hard on tax avoidance and close tax loopholes.

And we will levy a tax on the highest value properties – a mansion tax on houses worth over £2 million.

But we will do it in a fair, sensible and proportionate way. Raising the limit each year in line with average rises in house prices. Putting in place protections for those who are asset rich but cash poor. And ensuring those with properties worth tens of millions of pounds make a significantly bigger contribution than those in houses just above the limit.

Because how can it be right that the billionaire overseas buyer this year of a £140 million penthouse in Westminster will pay just £26 a week in property tax — the same as the average-value property in that area?

Different choices for fairer deficit reduction and to safeguard our vital public services.

Labour’s plan to balance the books in a fairer way.

Labour’s economic plan will balance the books.

But an economic plan must do much more than that.

We also need to change the way our economy works.

Restoring the broken link between the wealth of the nation and family finances and delivering rising prosperity for all.

Across the developed world, rapid technological change is replacing traditional skilled jobs too – in banking and offices as well as on production lines.

The result is a ‘hollowing out’ of our labour market: medium-wage, skilled jobs on the slide. Low-wage, insecure employment on the rise.

Conference in this new world, we know we cannot succeed the Tory way through a race to the bottom – with British companies simply trying to compete on cost as people see their job security eroded and living standards decline.

We can only succeed and create the number of good jobs we need

through a race to the top.

So Labour’s economic plan will transform vocational education.

We will work with employers to introduce a gold standard technical qualification and radically expand apprenticeships.

And we will get young people back to work.

Rachel Reeves will introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, a paid job for young people and the long-term unemployed, which people will have to take up or lose benefits.

Paid for by repeating the tax on bank bonuses.

Ending the scourge of long-term unemployment once and for all.

Making work pay

And because a modern economy depends not just on traditional infrastructure, but on the most important modern infrastructure of all childcare.

So we will increase the bank levy to expand free childcare for working parents to 25 hours a week to help Mums and Dads balance work and family life.

We will give tax breaks to firms that pay the living wage and end the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts.

And by the end of the next parliament, Labour will increase the national minimum wage to £8 an hour.

But what’s the Tory plan for the next Parliament? They want to spend £3 billion on a tax break for a minority of married couples.

People who are separated, widowed or divorced won’t get it.

Women who’ve fled and divorced an abusive partner won’t get it.

Read the small print and you see that two thirds of married couples won’t get it.

And 5 out of 6 families with children won’t get it either.

And the Tories call it their flagship policy for families.

So in our first Budget, we will scrap this unfair policy and instead use the money to introduce a lower 10p starting rate of income tax.

A tax cut for 24 million people on middle and low incomes. More working people benefiting. More women benefitting. More married couples. More families with children.

A fairer way to help hard working people in tough times.

And Conference, Labour’s economic plan means a modern industrial policy to back growth sectors like advanced manufacturing, clean technology and the creative industries.

Proper competition in banking and energy markets.

New takeover rules to support long-term investment, not short-term asset-stripping.

A proper British Investment Bank so businesses can get the finance they need.

Giving the Green Investment Bank the borrowing powers it needs to do its job.

And Chuka Umunna and I have asked Graham Cole, Chair of AgustaWestland UK to review what more we can do more to back British exports.

We will keep Britain’s corporation tax rates at the lowest in the G7, but instead of another corporation tax cut next year, our economic plan will use the money to cut business rates for small firms – because it’s time we had a fairer deal for small businesses across Britain.

And Conference, why should decisions on what skills Manchester needs be made in Whitehall?

Why should a Transport Minister in Westminster make decisions about all the transport needs of Birmingham, Newcastle or Leeds?

So our economic plan will devolve power and resources not only to Scotland and Wales but to city and county regions in every part of England.

Our new, independent National Infrastructure Commission will end dither and delay on big infrastructure decisions we need for the future.

And whatever the outcome of the Howard Davies review into airport capacity, we must resolve to finally make a decision on airport capacity in London and the South East – expanding capacity while taking into account the environmental impact. No more kicking into the long-grass, but taking the right decisions for Britain’s long-term future.

And Conference, our country badly needs more homes.

Demand is outstripping supply, risking a premature rise in interest rates. The housing benefit bill is rising.

So, following the Lyons report, and by making housing a priority within the existing capital settlement for the next parliament, Labour’s economic plan will get at least 200,000 new homes a year built by 2020.

Creating jobs, helping first-time buyers and building the homes Britain needs for the future.

And Conference, Labour’s economic plan is based on the clear conviction that Britain has always succeeded, and can only succeed in the future, as an open and internationalist and outward-facing trading nation.

We need reform in Europe.

Cutting wasteful subsidies.

Getting the Euro area growing again.

Reforming immigration rules.

Ending the waste of two European Parliaments.

So let us build the alliances to secure reforms and change Europe so it works better for Britain.

Conference, as we heard so powerfully from the Chief Executive of Airbus this morning, we’re not going to earn our way to higher living standards by walking away from our biggest single market.

Let us say loud and clear, walking away from Europe would be a disaster for British jobs and investment.

Conference, on Europe this party will always put the national interest first.

Conference, that is Labour’s economic plan.

That is the kind of government we should be – ambitious, reforming, doing what it takes to deliver an economy that works for working people, in every part of Britain.

And that’s the kind of Chancellor I want to be too.

People rightly want to know who we are, what drives us on, what makes us tick.

So let me say this.

I’d always rather taxes were lower, but my first tax cuts would be for millions of hard working people – not millionaires.

I hate wasteful spending, but I also hate the waste of talent of one in six young people out of work.

I’m pro-business, but not business as usual.

I’m pro-Europe, but I’d never join the Euro.

I love the NHS – and I will do whatever it takes to save it.

And above all else, I want to build a better and fairer country for my children and all of our children

Because as someone who has grown up with a stammer, I have worked all my political life to break down barriers so that all children can succeed, and to get extra help and support to those children who need it. Because I don’t want to live in a society where children are held back by their special need or disability, by their parents’ income or by the colour of their skin.

That’s why I’m Labour.

Conference, I am a realist and an optimist.

I don’t believe in ducking difficult choices, unpopular decisions, hard truths.

But I do believe in the power of politics and public service to make a difference.

That’s who I am.

That’s who we are.

That’s what our Labour Party is for.

And that is why I am proud to be a member of this party and to serve in Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet.

So Conference.

We have learned from our past and our mistakes.

We are tough enough to make the difficult decisions.

And – with Ed Miliband’s leadership – by the strength of our common endeavour – we can make the change Britain needs.

Conference, this is what our first Labour Budget will do:

A British Investment Bank set up.

Business rates cut.

Tax avoidance tackled.

The deficit down fairly.

Infrastructure decisions made, not delayed.

The minimum wage raised.

Energy bills frozen.

A jobs guarantee for young people.

Tax cuts for millions – not millionaires.

Bank bonuses taxed.

The bedroom tax scrapped.

Our NHS saved.

That’s what Labour’s first Budget will do.

Fixing the economy for everyone.

A plan for the many not the few.

People relying on us to deliver.

We will not let them down

Thank you.

Posted September 22nd, 2014 by Ed
September 11th, 2014

My Digital Campaign – tell me what you think

I recently negotiated free WiFi internet access for Morley town centre thanks to a partnership with the Morley Chamber of Commerce and O2. Over the next year or so people will be able to use their phones and other devices to get online in the town centre. But when this goes live in a few weeks time, I’m really interested to know how people might use this great opportunity to benefit Morley.

But while for many of us, the digital world is something we take for granted, I know for others it’s a total mystery. Last year Labour commissioned an independent report into digital skills that showed 13% of adults in the UK had never used the internet, 30% of people with disabilities had never used the internet and 52% of those who lack basic online skills are 65 or older. I also know from my own surgeries and meetings across the constituency that lots of people want to know more about the digital world but feel cut off from it.

Increasingly, not being ‘online’ is a real disadvantage in the modern world. If you have difficulty getting around, being able to order your shopping online and have it delivered could be a real lifesaver. If you’re living on a pension or a low income, searching out the best deals for insurance or energy bills can save a lot of money. If you live alone, being able to use Skype and Facetime can keep you in touch with family and friends.

The internet can mean freedom, independence and knowledge.

It also means jobs. Around 745,000 digital jobs will be created in the next few years. With 975,000 young people still long term unemployed digital skills can make a huge difference to their opportunities. But only if our education system provides the skills necessary.

There are also more and more services that are only available online. For example, Universal Credit which the Government says people will only be able to apply for online. So it is vital that not only does everyone in society have the skills they need to navigate the internet, but the hardware and connections necessary to log on.

But along with all the added freedoms and opportunities from the internet there are risks as well. It is really important adults, and especially children and vulnerable groups stay safe online and that people know dangers of being connected and how to protect themselves and their personal information.
I’d be grateful if you could take a few moments to fill in my survey, please click here.

Posted September 11th, 2014 by Ed's team
September 10th, 2014

My column in the Morley Observer

Last week I joined local Morley veteran, Simon Brown in the House of Commons for a special event. Simon is an ex-Army veteran who was shot and severely injured whilst serving in Iraq in 2006 – he lost one eye. Simon has been supported by Blind Veterans UK for over six years, and has received vital rehabilitation, training, equipment and emotional support to help him overcome the challenges of sight loss.

I’m proud to represent the most patriotic town in Britain – and here in Morley we’re especially proud of our armed forces, our veterans and those currently serving. Those leaving the armed forces all deserve our support and admiration for their service to Britain. But those who are injured serving in the armed forces deserve particular support and recognition.

Blind Veterans UK does vital work supporting veterans in Morley and Outwood, and all over the UK. Nationally it is estimated that there are over 68,000 vision impaired veterans – many of those living locally here in Morley and Outwood. The charity provides free, lifelong support to veterans experiencing severe sight loss. It doesn’t matter how or when a veteran lost their sight, or when they served, Blind Veterans UK provides specialist services and support to ensure that they can rediscover a life after sight loss.

It was an honour to have the chance to raise awareness of the vital services they provide. No local veteran now experiencing sight loss should have to battle blindness alone. Any local veterans who don’t feel they are getting the advice and support they need should get in touch – 0133 253 9466 / ed@edballs.com.

*****
On Friday I was in the House of Commons for a crucial vote on the Government’s controversial Bedroom Tax. Locally, since its introduction in April last year, many local people who have been affected have been in touch with me. The cases range from a disabled lady who was asked to pay more for an extra bedroom even though her home had been adapted to her mobility needs to a parent who was being asked to pay more, even though the extra bedroom was for her son serving in the armed forces.

I’ve always argued that the Bedroom Tax is cruel, unfair and doesn’t work. Across the country it is unfairly affecting hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, such as those with disabilities and their carers. Crucially, it also threatens to cost more money to the taxpayer than it saves. Since its introduction, I’ve campaigned against it locally here in Morley as well as nationally in Westminster and if Labour wins the General Election next year, we will scrap it completely.

The debate on Friday was for a Private Members Bill that seeks to exempt certain categories of household from the Bedroom Tax. Private Members Bills are unusual. They don’t usually have a very high chance to become law, and as a result don’t often attract large numbers of MPs in the Chamber.
However Friday was an exception. This Bill is one of a small number of Private Members Bills that does have a very high chance of becoming law. And although the proposal falls short of the full abolition I want to see, it is a chance to change the law now to protect some of the vulnerable people being affected by the Bedroom Tax.

So on Friday I supported the Bill in the House of Commons to give it the best chance of progressing through the legislative process. Sadly the vote comes too late for the hundreds of local people who’ve been forced into debt as a result of the Bedroom Tax and the others who have been forced to rely on the local South Leeds food bank to survive.

For them, a full repeal of the Bedroom tax can’t come soon enough.

Posted September 10th, 2014 by Ed's team
September 8th, 2014

With a No vote Scotland can have the best of both worlds – my Daily Record article

In ten days people across Scotland will make an irreversible choice.

The choice on the ballot paper is simple – “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

I understand why many Scots are frustrated by the callous unfairness of David Cameron’s Tory-led government. So am I. But voting for independence is not a protest vote. It’s a permanent and deeply risky decision to leave the UK.

And let me be clear – a no vote is not a vote for no change.

It is a vote for more powers for the Scottish Parliament. All the political parties now agree on this.

And I can give people across Scotland my personal guarantee that as Chancellor in the next Labour Government, I’ll oversee a further and big transfer of financial powers from the Treasury to the Scottish Government.

That’s real powers to improve people’s lives, create jobs and make Scotland an even better and more prosperous place to live.

Scotland can and will have the best of both worlds – with a strong Scottish Parliament backed up by the strength and security of being part of the United Kingdom.

And we won’t stop there.

The SNP want to say they are the party of change and social justice. But people can see that’s just not true.

We’re offering change that will redistribute from those at the top to the majority of working people.

A 50p tax on people earning more than £150,000 and a lower 10p starting rate for low and middle earners.

An energy price freeze, scrapping the bedroom tax and a job for all young people out of work for a year or more funded by a tax on bankers’ bonuses.

This stands in contrast to the SNP, whose only redistributive policy is a 3p cut in corporation tax which takes money from the majority and hands it to big companies.

That’s not real change. That’s more of the same from the SNP.

Alex Salmond now needs to be clear with Scots about what his plans for independence mean.

Throughout this campaign there have been no answers from him on the currency, the cost of living, or how he will fund Scotland’s NHS and schools.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies says independence means £6 billion of cuts. That will fall on our public services, schools and the NHS.

Scotland can have real change. With a ‘no’ vote next Thursday and the election of a Labour government next May. I don’t have a vote. But I really want Scotland to stay.

Posted September 8th, 2014 by Ed
September 3rd, 2014

Support for Blind Veterans UK

Our veterans deserve our support and admiration for their service to Britain. But those who are injured serving in the armed forces deserve particular support and recognition.

On Tuesday I joined local Morley veteran, Simon Brown in the House of Commons for a special event. Simon is an ex-Army veteran who was shot and severely injured whilst serving in Iraq in 2006 – he lost one eye. Simon has been supported by Blind Veterans UK for over six years, and has received vital rehabilitation, training, equipment and emotional support to help him overcome the challenges of sight loss.

Blind Veterans UK does is vital in supporting veterans in Morley and Outwood, and all over the UK. Nationally it is estimated that there are over 68,000 vision impaired veterans – many of those living locally here in Morley and Outwood. The charity provides free, lifelong support to veterans experiencing severe sight loss. It doesn’t matter how or when a veteran lost their sight, or when they served, Blind Veterans UK provides specialist services and support to ensure that they can rediscover a life after sight loss.

It was an honour to have the chance to raise awareness of the vital services they provide. I have also pledged my support to ensure that every veteran now experiencing severe sight loss in Morley and Outwood will not have to battle blindness alone. Any veterans who don’t feel they are getting the advice and support they need should contact my office – 0133 253 9466 / ed@edballs.com.

Posted September 3rd, 2014 by Ed
September 1st, 2014

What an amazing back to school for Morley Newlands!

Wow! Welcome back to school everyone.

What an amazing back to school the pupils, staff and parents of Morley Newlands will be having. I caught up with headteacher Mr Stygall at the end of the holidays and had a wonderful preview of this fantastic new school. From the stunning new school hall and brilliant new nursery to the open and airy reception area and wonderful classrooms, it’s a beautiful building and I hope will be a great place for children to achieve great things.

Thanks to the hard work of staff, local campaigners and Leeds City Council who’ve funded it, what a wonderful new building you now have. I can’t wait to come back to see the school again – next time with less builders and more children!

Congratulations Morley Newlands! Here’s my latest you tube video after my tour with Mr Stygall.

Posted September 1st, 2014 by Ed
August 31st, 2014

Ed and Yvette take the ALS ice bucket challenge

Watch Ed and Yvette take the ice bucket challenge:

Posted August 31st, 2014 by Ed's team
August 27th, 2014

My column in the Morley Observer & Advertiser

Congratulations to all the young people across Morley and Outwood who’ve had A Level or GCSE exam results over the last few weeks. As we know in our house, August can be a stressful time for parents, teachers and of course young people themselves who face big decisions about their future.

Earlier this year one young A Level student from Rodillian asked me about what she should do to get into the film industry – after the A level results last week she will now hopefully be putting her plan into action. And in my office, now working with me as part of her year out, former Woodkirk student and aspiring politician, Jess Riley got her brilliant A Level results and is now planning where they will take her.

I get out to all our local secondary schools whenever I can and it’s always great to hear about young people’s plans for the future. Students at Bruntcliffe, Morley Academy, Rodillian and Woodkirk – as well as Outwood Grange over in Wakefield – are deciding on their A Levels subjects or college course or looking at some of the great local options for apprenticeships. And older students, who’ve finished their college course or A Levels, are deciding about university or heading out into the world of work or into an apprenticeship.

For those making these big decisions thankfully help and advice is close at hand thanks to our great local sixth forms and colleges. But much more still needs to be done to ensure there are opportunities for young people to get them into jobs and training so they can get on and do well.

After all, it is our young people upon whom we all rely for the future prosperity of the country. Young people who have worked so hard for their exams deserve the chances to get on and do well. But like many others, I am worried about whether the next generation will have the chances to do better than the last.

New analysis from the House of Commons Library shows that the under 30s have had a particularly hard time over the last few years. Almost everyone has been feeling the pinch in their pay packet, but average weekly earnings have fallen much more markedly for the under 30s than for older age groups – down around 10% for younger workers compared to about 5% for those in their 40s. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, those born in the mid-1980s have lower incomes than those born just five or ten years earlier at the same age.

And with the number of young people out of work for over a year still way too high – and high rents preventing young people from leaving the family home or getting on the housing ladder – we need to make sure there are enough of the right opportunities for our young people to get the education, training, jobs and other opportunities to get on and do well.

I’ll be keeping up the pressure to get young people a better deal. We need strong action now to prevent a whole generation of young people falling behind.

********

My office has been particularly busy over the summer dealing with problems local people have had getting new or renewed passports. In the worst cases, holidays have been missed and family get-togethers postponed because of this Home Office mess-up. It’s been a really difficult time for all of those affected. So when I called into the Crown Post Office in Morley I was keen to hear how the problems had affected staff there.

As local people will know, Morley Post Office has been recently refurbished and as well as its smart new look, it is also now equipped with state of the art equipment to provide retina and finger print scans for our modern day passports. Gill serving at the counter told me how much they stress the importance of the Post Office’s ‘check and send’ service which makes sure there applications are correct before being sent off. But with so much pressure on passport offices, not even the Check and Send service was enough to ensure all local people got their passports back on time.

Thank you to the local team for showing me round the back office. I’ll be popping in on the other side of the counter very soon.

ENDS

Posted August 27th, 2014 by Ed