Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week In Parliament, 6th-9th July

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Although this week was dominated by the Chancellor's Summer Budget on Wednesday, there were other important debates taking place in the House of Commons. See below for my take on the week's events.

MONDAY

Home Office Questions

On Monday, the Home Secretary Theresa May took to the despatch box to field questions from MPs. I was particularly interested in the issue  of violence against women in the UK, brought up by the two Labour MPs Gerald Jones and Keir Starmer. The UN Special Rapporteur on the issue recently published a report in which she described violence against women as a pervasive challenge in our country.


According to the report, over the course of the last year, 7% of women in England and Wales have reported having experienced domestic abuse. Considering that many women remain reluctant about coming forward, this is a troubling statistic. Young and vulnerable women are at particular risk. Almost one in three 16-18 year old girls have experienced 'groping' or unwanted sexual touching. I was horrified to read recently that half of women in prison have suffered domestic violence and one in the three have experienced sexual abuse. In light of these shocking figures, the Home Secretary's response seemed inadequate and complacent.

For the full UN report click here.

English votes for English Laws (EVEL)

In a week in which government business otherwise dominated proceedings in Westminster, Monday evening saw the Commons assert its rights against the executive. The government's ill-conceived proposal to create an English Grand Committee with the power to veto legislation that only effects English MPs was the subject of an application for an emergency debate. The government intended to introduce this profound change to Britain's constitutional arrangements by amending a Commons Standing Order and thereby avoiding a debate in the Commons. Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael argued that EVEL had a broader political and historical, rather than a merely procedural, significance. The speaker agreed to chair a debate the following day. 
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TUESDAY

Tax Credits

On Tuesday, Labour hosted another Opposition Day Debate. In anticipation of the Budget, and in response to the concerns of constituents across the country, the party chose to focus on tax credits. Over the past week I have received a number of letters from people in Bridgend who are deeply anxious about what cuts to tax credits will mean for them and their families. My analysis of the Budget in Wednesday's section will provide more detail.


EVEL

On Tuesday afternoon, the promised debate on EVEL was held. The government's proposal threatens to undermine the Union and to do so without any scrutiny or debate. Living as we do in a collection of interdependent nations, it is not clear what the government means by an exclusively 'English law'. Since its formation the Union has been irregular and imperfect. Following the 1707 Act of Union, Scotland retained distinct educational, ecclesiastical and legal institutions. The principle that all members are equal in Westminster has helped to hold the Union together for over 300 years. The government's petulant English nationalism is putting the future of the Union at risk.

For the full debate, including my intervention in Charles Walker MP's speech, click here.
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WEDNESDAY/ BUDGET DAY

On Wednesday the Chancellor set out his plans for Britain's economy. He said that his is a Budget for working people. It is nothing of the sort; it is a cruel ideological experiment with the British economy.  So far, the Chancellor has only provided a broad overview of his analyses and proposals. I will be updating you with the details as and when I receive them.
Cuts to Tax Credits and Benefits

The Chancellor announced swingeing cuts to tax credits and benefits. He used this reduction in spending to fund an abolition of inheritance tax on properties below £1 million. He also announced a planned reduction in corporation tax to 19% from 2017-18 and to 18% from 2020-21. There is little evidence that either measure will help to boost growth or create jobs in Britain.

I am deeply concerned about the Chancellor’s announcement of a dramatic restriction in the eligibility for child tax credit. He also announced that working age benefits, including tax credits, will be frozen for 4 years. Support through Child Tax Credit will also be restricted to two children for children born from April 2017 onwards. This not only hits poorest families hardest, but may also have serious implications for the UK's long-term economic outlook. With an ageing population, we need a growing working-age population who can pay for the care and pensions of the elderly.

The Chancellor's proposed Living Wage fails to supplement the loss to household income caused by the cut to tax credits. The compulsory Living Wage, starting next April at £7.20 and rising to £9.00 by 2020, is below the level recommended by the Living Wage Foundation. It is also calculated according to median earnings rather than prices and thus fails to tackle the high cost of living.
 
The following calculations illustrate the deception at the heart of the Budget. In 2016/17 a lone parent with two children working a 16 hour week on minimum wage will gain just over £400 from the Chancellor’s so-called Living Wage, but will lose £860 from tax credit changes. A family with one worker on the average wage will lose £2,000 in tax credits from the changes announced yesterday.

The Chancellor also announced that ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) is to be aligned with JSA (Job Seeker's Allowance). The full details and implications of this decision remain uncertain, but it is likely to result in a reduction in ESA of up to 30%. This will have a serious and detrimental impact on the living standards of the sick and disabled- some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Defence

On a more positive note, the Chancellor announced a £50 million investment to increase the number of cadet units in state schools to 500. Cadet forces offer young people unique and valuable life experience and skills that equip them for both military and civilian professions. Although I cautiously welcome this proposal, I am concerned that cadet units outside of schools will be excluded from this investment. 

The Chancellor also committed 2% of UK GDP to defence spending- the target set by NATO for member states. At the moment it remains unclear where this money will be invested. Until we know it is difficult to evaluate the full impact of the Chancellor's commitment.
For the Chancellor's speech and Acting Labour Leader Harriet Harman's response, click here.
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THURSDAY

On Thursday the Common's continued to digest the Budget and consider its implications for Britain's economy. Following Harriet's response to the Chancellor on Wednesday, Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie offered his critique of the Budget. In his speech Chris unearthed the true impact of the Chancellor's decisions beneath the media hype and spin:

When one cuts through the rhetoric and the headlines that the Chancellor spun, one sees that yesterday’s Budget leaves working people worse off. It is the working families of Britain on low incomes, trying their hardest to do the right thing, who will pay the price for the gap between what the Chancellor said and the truth of what his Budget actually means.


Chris accused the Chancellor of  risking economic growth and prosperity to pursue his own personal political ambitions. Rather than sensationally slashing tax credit eligibility, he argued, the Chancellor should crack down on benefit over-payments. This might generate fewer headlines, but it would be the fairer and more effective way to reduce the deficit.

To view Chris's full speech click here.

Towards the end of the proceedings, it was announced that there would be a Welsh Grand Committee hearing into how the Budget relates to Wales. I look forward to the opportunity to represent the concerns of my constituents over how the Budget will impact the lives of working families in Bridgend.
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