ADRIAN SANDERS: Welfare cut is not one I could support
THE government mantra, echoed by the Opposition, is that we must ensure that work always pays, that a life on benefits is not better than being in work and a life on benefits must not be allowed to rob people of achieving their potential.
I agree. This is crucial to delivering a fairer society which enables everyone to get on in life.
There is an absolute moral equivalence between working hard in a job and working hard to find a job.
But, and this is where I depart from the easy certainties of the above statements, this should not result in people on subsistence level welfare having to take a real terms cut in their income.
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The point being that most benefits are set at a subsistence level below which they are not supposed to fall, or are taxpayer top-ups subsidising low wages in the private and public sectors.
To justify such a cut the government put forward the argument that since the economic crash, out-of-work benefits have risen by around 20 per cent, while average earnings have increased by around 10 per cent in the period to 2012-13.
Not only does this ignore in-work benefits such as tax credits but the fact that if you took the previous decade rather than just the last three years, average earnings rose by 33 per cent, benefits by a lower 30 per cent.
What incensed me was the proposal didn't actually address the arguments the government put forward for it. Ministers argued that benefits shouldn't rise faster than earnings. If the government was serious about this, it would have linked benefit rises to earnings, not take an arbitrary sum and fix it for three years.
This is why I supported amendments to make that link. Although not perfect or what my first preference would be, at least it would have made the actions of government consistent with its rhetoric and have ensured the poorest would not have suffered as great a cut in year one and possibly no real terms loss of income at all in years two and three.
My party made a very clear statement at the start of the coalition that we will not balance the books on the backs of the poorest and we have stopped those who have been calling for £10bn to be cut from the welfare budget, as well as proposals to remove housing support from vulnerable young people, restrict benefits for large families, and place a freeze on benefits across the board.
But the welfare cut proposed for the next three years was not one I could support and when the amendments failed I voted against the Bill that proposed it.
AFTER seven years on the culture, media and sport select committee, I put in for a transfer to join the transport select committee that covers some of the most important issues in our region from rail, road and air links to maritime safety, fuel costs and parking charges.
I look forward to getting started although there is still some important unfinished business around the Leveson inquiry that came out of our investigation into press standards.
I believe in a vigorous free press that holds the powerful to account and isn't subject to political interference. But a free press does not and cannot mean a press that is free to bully innocent people, or free to abuse grieving families. People who feel they have been mistreated by powerful newspapers need to know there is somebody prepared to stand up for them.
There are two principles at stake here: on the one hand, the belief that a raucous and vigorous press is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy; on the other, the belief that the vulnerable, the innocent and the weak should be protected from powerful vested interests.
We need a better balance between these two principles and this can be achieved, as Leveson suggested, without subjecting the press to direct statutory regulation, but by self-regulation underpinned by statute.
I'm still an officer of the media reform group so I shall continue to follow developments with interest.
I'M not a vegetarian but wonder if life wouldn't be easier if I were. A carrot is a carrot after all, whereas it appears a beef burger might contain meat other than beef.
Consumers should have confidence that food is exactly what it says on the label and there are strict rules requiring products to be labelled accurately.
The environment, food and agriculture department is working with the Food Standards Agency to urgently investigate how a number of beef products on sale in the UK and Republic of Ireland were found to contain horse and pig meat.
The investigation will trace the meat back to its source to find the cause of the contamination and any appropriate enforcement action will be taken.
It is a serious matter but not without its lighter side — my advice if asked what you want on your burger is not to answer a fiver each way.
NEXT surgeries — no appointment necessary, first come, first served: tomorrow, 3pm to 4.30pm, Connections, Castle Circus, Torquay. Friday, February 8, 3.30pm to 5pm, Paignton Library, Great Western Road, Paignton.
Email Adrian for monthly updates or quarterly mailings on international development, animal welfare or environmental issues.
Advice line on 200036. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.adriansanders.org Also on Facebook and Twitter.