Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Coalition priorities

I was recently asked a question on my priorities in coalition government ...

In the event of a coalition agreement involving your party which one policy would you personally fight hardest to include and which one policy would you refuse to accept?

The one policy that I would fight hardest to include is a bill to reverse privatization of the NHS and support reinvestment in a publicly funded and publicly accountable NHS. Ten years ago Oliver Letwin told what he thought was a private audience that within five years of a Tory government, the NHS would be privatized. In a televised interview in 2013, Michael Portillo revealed that if the Tories before the last election had told the British people what they intended to do with the NHS, people would not have voted for them. Forced privatization has made the NHS less efficient, taken resources away from frontline care and lead to worse health outcomes. It must be reversed.

The one policy that I would refuse to accept is continued austerity – further cuts to public services, punishing the sick, the old, the young, the disabled, the most vulnerable in our society for the mistakes of the bankers. While those on benefits are stigmatized and shamed, those who caused the economic crisis the casino capitalists who gambled with our money, and when it all went wrong, were bailed out with our money, continue to cash in. Under this government their wealth has doubled. It is time they started to pay their way, and to close the gap between rich and poor, so we can move forward as one nation, with secure jobs, affordable homes, a publicly funded NHS and a transport system run for passengers not profit.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Affordable housing

In response to a question on housing that I received recently, I gave the following response:

How would you cater for the housing needs of all people, regardless of age, income, mental or physical health, citizenship or background?

By abandoning housebuilding to the private sector successive governments have let us down. Local authorities no longer build and so fewer homes are being delivered than at any previous peacetime period since world war one, 109k completed in 2013 compared to around 300k a year in the 50s to 70s. Just 5% of government housing expenditure is spent on building new homes. Developers respond to the market – building houses for those who can afford to pay top prices for them – and are not interested in meeting the urgent need for affordable homes. 

With a shortage of homes, the waiting lists for social housing have never been longer – more than 1.8 million are on the waiting list for a home? The government’s response? To sell off our remaining housing stock in a cynical pre-election bribe.

Some families living in desperate conditions are being forced to wait years for a suitable home. They may have to live for months in temporary accommodation, uncertain where they'll be moved to next, or how much longer they'll have to wait for stability.

The private rented sector offers short-term leases, sometimes poor conditions and high costs –a form of housing is unsuitable for many households, especially the vulnerable and those in need of a stable, secure home.

The Green Party has committed to building 500k socially rented homes by 2020, increasing the social housing budget from £1.5 to £6 billion by 2017. We’ll raise £5 billion by scrapping mortgage interest tax relief on buy to let property. This will also greatly reduce housing benefit costs, too large a proportion of which goes straight to private landlords.

An end to Tax-Dodging

I was asked a question on tax-dodging at the Christ Church Malvern hustings yesterday. In pledging if elected to support a bill to end tax-dodging, this was my response:

"Given that tax dodging hurts the poorest hardest in both the UK and overseas, would you, if elected, support and promote a new Tax Dodging Bill that would make it harder for big companies to avoid paying taxes in the UK and in developing countries?

Paying tax is the contribution each of us makes to living in a civilized society. It pays for our health service, education, transport infrastructure and much more besides. As we live longer, each of us will spend the majority of our lives dependent on others and on such services: taxation is the contribution we make to those services. None of us lives in isolation. We are all dependent on others.

Without those services industry would not be able to make a profit. When companies and individuals dodge taxes, the rest of us have to pay more or else go without these essential services. Quite simply, tax-dodging is immoral.

If all the tax that was due was collected, this country would be £120bn per year better off – that is twice the deficit, and 30x the amount lost to benefit fraud.

How can this government claim to be serious about collecting tax, when it cuts the staff at HMRC in half, and allows HMRC to make deals with big corporations to pay only a fraction of what is due. Instead government savages the welfare state and penalizes the least well off.

How can we take seriously an MP whose campaign fund has been financed by someone like Lord Fink who has said ‘everyone avoids tax’. I don’t avoid paying tax. I don’t suppose most of the people in this room do.

It is time that those who can step up to the plate and started to pay their way."