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Today we have a very important debate in the House of Commons on the Government’s hated and unfair bedroom tax. As the Labour opposition we have put down a motion which calls on the Government to abolish it with immediate effect.

In my constituency, 1,531 council tenants are affected, and the total amount of rent arrears they have been forced into is £210,000. There are also 434 tenants living in housing association properties who have been hit. To make matters worse, many of these families have also been affected by cuts in council tax support.

It is simply wrong to penalise people who are on the lowest incomes and try and force them out of their family home; in some cases, the place where they have lived for many years and raised a family. Most people are trying to hang on - in any case there aren’t enough smaller properties for them to move into even if they wanted to – but every week they are being hit by this tax.

The chorus of protest against the bedroom tax is growing and I hope that Parliament will join in today and pass our motion so that we can send a very clear message to the Government. And if they don’t listen, then if Labour wins the general election, we will scrap it.

 

Hilary's Blog - Bedroom Tax, 17th December 2014

Today we have a very important debate in the House of Commons on the Government’s hated and unfair bedroom tax. As the Labour opposition we have put down a motion...

All of us have been profoundly shocked by the brutal and cowardly attack on a school in Peshawar by the Taliban, in which at least 132 children and nine staff were murdered.

As a country, Pakistan has tragically lost many lives in the fight against fundamentalist terrorism, but this act of barbarism directed against children at their school desks is simply beyond belief.

All our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have lost their lives or have been injured, and the people of Leeds, from all communities, today stand in solidarity with all those who grieve. 

Massacre of schoolchildren in Pakistan

All of us have been profoundly shocked by the brutal and cowardly attack on a school in Peshawar by the Taliban, in which at least 132 children and nine staff...

A Fair Deal for Firefighters

Yesterday in the House of Commons, there was a large contingent of firefighters from right across England in the public gallery. They had come to listen to a debate that Labour had called about the firefighters’ pension scheme, following industrial action over the last 12 months.

All public sector pension schemes are having to change because we are living longer, but there are particular issues in the case of firefighters because of the dangerous and strenuous work that they do which requires a certain level of physical fitness.

In my speech, I called on the Government to scrap their proposed scheme and think again because it is unfair to firefighters. It is built on an assumption that all firefighters will be able to maintain operational fitness into their late 50s when Ministers can’t even tell us what the fitness standard will be, and when the Government’s own expert report says that some firefighters simply won’t be able to do this. And yet Ministers have planned on the basis of a fitness standard that is dangerously low.

They then claim that firefighters who aren’t able to maintain fitness will be redeployed to other jobs, even though the Minister has had to admit that she has no idea how many of these redeployment opportunities are in fact available. And it would make firefighters who have to retire at the age of 55 through no fault of their own lose a fifth of their pension. How is that fair?

In Scotland and Wales, however, they’ve taken a different approach and come up with a fairer scheme. So the point I made in my speech to the House of Commons was simply this: “if Scotland and Wales can offer firefighters a fairer deal, then why can’t this happen in England?”

At the end of the debate, we voted to scrap the pension regulations to try and force the government to think again, but unfortunately we lost. However, I think all the firefighters in the gallery felt that their case had been given a public hearing.

As one firefighter tweeted “Thanks for speaking up for firefighters”.

Hilary's Blog - Firefighters' Pensions, 16th December 2014

A Fair Deal for Firefighters Yesterday in the House of Commons, there was a large contingent of firefighters from right across England in the public gallery. They had come to...

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