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Westlake Legal Group > Public Sector

Nick de Bois: Conservatives must not fall into Labour’s trap on the four-day week

Nick de Bois is the former MP for Enfield North. He was a member of the Government’s Serious Crime Task Force until his appointment as Chief of Staff to Dominic Raab at DExEU. He is the author of Confessions of a Recovering MP.

A traditional conservative response to Labours promise to introduce a 4-day week would be to rubbish it as unworkable, and fraught with difficulties, particularly for small business.

In short, essentially a classic left wing intervention to implement unrealistic costs on the enterprise economy in a clumsy attempt to win worker votes. After all, four days’ work for five days’ pay – what’s not to like?

However, before Conservatives rush to dismiss this latest policy announcement as economic madness, it’s worth noting Labour’s pitch is not just an economic one. It is also an appeal to a fast-changing work ethic in employees that employers up and down the country will recognise.

But first, the economic case for the four-day week deserves examining. On one point that both left and right will agree is that UK productivity is woeful, and John McDonnell argues a reduced working week will solve that problem.

Productivity has indeed basically flatlined since 2007, and the UK remains way behind our fellow group of the worlds seven leading economies – the G7. This in part explains why wage growth is poor, despite welcome recent improvements.

It means profitability of ‘UK plc’ is less than it should be, and that our workforce is broadly under-achieving – although this should not be confused with being lazy, as so many political and media commentators imply.

The upside to this grim summary is that by improving productivity we are presented with a win-win for government, business and employees.

For example, according to the 2017 Stoddart Review a one per cent productivity gain would represent, across the economy, an additional £20 billion national output. Translated further, that would represent a reduction in annual deficit of £8 billion (it currently at £17 billion) and add another £250 a year to an average pay packet, whilst companies’ profits could increase by £3.5 billion.

The key question for McDonnell’s approach is: would a widespread, top-down imposition of a four-day working week deliver that increase in productivity? In short, the answer is almost certainly no.

This is because it cannot and will not work on a uniform basis across all businesses and workforces, and the strain on the public sector would be huge. The evidence clearly supports that contention.

Advocates of the reduced week often point to the success of Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand. They manage over £200bn of assets, and the CEO argues that the policy has improved staff wellbeing and dramatically improved productivity.

But at the other end of the scale earlier this year the Wellcome Trust rowed back on its plans to implement a four-day working week, announced to much fanfare in April. They gave the not-unreasonable explanation that it became evident to them that work could have become harder for employees in back-office and support functions, such as IT, finance, and human resources. Two large organisations, two very different responses.

Even less ambitious programs for reducing the number of working hour have met huge difficulties. An example is Gothenburg’s municipal local government, which trialled a six-hour working day (reduced from eight). They did see significant wellbeing advantages in healthcare workers, but recognised employers would struggle to meet the costs of reducing working hours yet maintaining a 24/7 healthcare provision.

“Could we do this for the entire municipality? The answer is no, it will be too expensive,” said Daniel Bernmar, the Left Party councillor responsible for running Gothenburg’s elderly care in 2017. Imagine the financial challenge of introducing a four-day working week into our biggest employer: the NHS.

Labour’s proposal mandating a four-day working week through a complex series of measures simply won’t be right for every business or organisation, as the Wellcome Trust and others have found. It is a recipe either for chaos or for a massive climbdown should the Opposition ever come to power.

What should the Conservative response be? Both business leaders and employees are not stupid and will recognise the sop to employees Labour are making for what it is, an election bribe. But equally, when Labour talk about building a society where we don’t “live to work, but work to live” it will strike a chord with millions of people.

Therein lies the answer as to how Conservatives should respond to today’s Labour announcement: advocate a progressive and light-touch regulatory approach to flexible working that goes way beyond the current focus on maternity and paternity rights.

It may be politically attractive to focus on rights for parents, and we have done some great work from which to build on. Yet it is plainly inadequate to stop championing flexible working there and Conservatives, not Labour, should be filling the policy vacuum on the issue.

Such a move makes both economic and political sense. It is striking, for example, that flexible working is presently pretty much the preserve of white-collar workers.

Conservatives would do well to recognise that the relatively untapped benefits, both for employees and national productivity, of the blue-collar worker being able to enjoy flexible working are substantial and politically attractive. As workforce management consultants Quinx identified in their report “Powering the Power House“:

“If a greater proportion of UK employers took steps to address barriers to the recruitment, retention and productivity of workers in manual and elementary service roles in the as yet relatively conservative Blue Collar workplace, estimates show up to 7.6bn of productivity growth”.

That’s quite a contribution to the productivity gap Britain faces.

Both attitudes and the compotion of the workforce have changed dramatically in the last decade, and whilst some employers have been slow to recognise this political parties have been even slower. It is time for Conservatives to take action.

As Karen Mattison from leading employment specialists Timewise noted after the publication of their 2018 employee survey:

“The fact that flexible working has been seen as a women’s issue has not done women or businesses any favours. Today’s new research shows once and for all, that flexible working is a preferred way of working for both men and women at all stages of their working lives.”

Most strikingly the Timewise employee survey also noted, and many employers will recognise:

“Today’s workforce not only want flexible working they expect it. It’s time for businesses to get smarter and use flexibility as a tool to attract and keep the best people. Those who lag behind in adapting how they hire, will risk losing out on millions of skilled workers.”

Government, take note.

Labour’s crude, authoritarian approach to flexible working, with its focus on a four-day week, may be politically attractive to some. But it runs the risk of introducing a simple left-right divide on that single issue, and we fall into Labour’s trap if our response is to dismiss it out of hand.

A Conservative response can be more nuanced and more practical if we become advocates for progressive, flexible employment practices. There is an audience ready and waiting to respond positively to this message, should we chose to offer it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Neil O’Brien: Corbynomics – and why it means that your house, business and savings don’t really belong to you,

Neil O’Brien is MP for Market Harborough.

What is Corbynomics? It goes without saying that it’s a much more extreme economic programme than Labour have ever had before. And that government will spend, tax and borrow more. But Labour have a lot more damaging, half-baked and dangerous ideas.

No-one is thinking about them at the moment, but the scary thing is that within weeks these ideas could be affecting your house, your pension and your job.

For me, the most frustrating thing is that Labour have identified various important issues, but their proposed “solutions” would make matters worse. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Seizing 10 per cent of all large companies’ shares

Lots of people, including me, worry that current corporate structures create pressures that make managers behave in a short-termist way, squeezing investment to hit short term profit targets and dragging down productivity growth. I’m concerned that publicly quoted firms are beholden to increasingly transient shareholders, interested in immediate returns. They certainly invest far less than privately owned firms who can take a longer-term view.

But my answer to this would be to change the tax treatment of investment, and increase capital allowances so that there’s no disincentive to invest.

Labour’s answer, in contrast, is to forcibly transfer 10 per cent of all companies shares to create a sort of employee-ownership-at-gunpoint.

This is a terrible idea, which would make investment into the UK dry up overnight. After all, if government can steal ten per cent of your shares, what’s to stop them coming back for the rest? Labour protest that the shares are not being stolen – just given to the workers. But that’s a lie, as they also propose that a Labour-run Treasury would take the great majority of the dividends that those shares attract. At the moment, these are owned by savings and pension funds – so the money is ultimately coming out of your pocket.

The total value of the shares stolen by government would be around £300 billion, according to the Financial Times. For comparison, raising the basic rate of tax by one per cent raises £4.5 billion a year, so you can see what a vast tax grab this would be.

Forcing people to sell their properties at a price set by government, and control rents

There are major issues about the balance of rented and owner-occupied property in Britain. We had a long period when the number of properties being moved into the rent-to-buy sector was outstripping the number built, meaning owner occupation fell dramatically. Between 1996 and 2016, the home ownership rate among middle income people aged 25-34 fell from 65 per cent to 27 per cent.

However, in 2015 the Conservative Government reformed the tax treatment of rent to buy and second homes, and in the years since we have seen homeownership rebounding upwards, with both ownership and the rented sector growing in a more balanced way. There are lots more things we could do to grow home ownership.

Corbynista Labour doesn’t really believe in home ownership. They are nostalgic for the world of the 1970s, where around two thirds of households in places like Islington lived in social housing. But they know ownership is popular.
So they have announced the “private sector right to buy”. This will give private tenants the right to make their landlords sell their properties to them at a discount.

In an interview last week, John McDonnell made it clear that government would set the price: “You’d want to establish what is a reasonable price, you can establish that and then that becomes the right to buy,” he said. “You (the government) set the criteria. I don’t think it’s complicated.”

It’s not complicated. But it is deeply unfair. It would be a retrospective raid on people’s assets. People, including some who are not so rich, have invested in property under certain rules, and would have their savings ripped off them, while other people who invested their money in other things would not. This is arbitrary and unreasonable and would I’m sure be challenged in the courts.

Labour would also set rental prices, promising in a recent document that “There should be a cap on annual permissible rent increases, at no more than the rate of wage inflation or consumer price inflation (whichever is lower).”

This is unworkable or will lead to under investment in rented properties. Why spend lots doing up a flat if you can’t charge more for an improved property? We would quickly be heading back to the 1970s, when there wasn’t enough rented accommodation to go round, and conditions were squalid because of rent controls.

Sectoral wage bargaining

With the National Living Wage, the Conservatives have introduced one of the highest minimum wages in the world. For the lowest paid, the National Living Wage plus the cuts in taxes for lower paid people mean that they take home £4,500 more than they did under the last Labour Government – while employment has soared to a record high. We should be really proud of our record.

However, the National Living Wage is still set by an independent body, and as percentage of average pay in the market, so there is a sensible link to what businesses can afford without sacking people.

In contrast, under Labour politicians would just set rates directly. Labour have also pledged to “roll out sectoral collective bargaining”. Labour said it would “fix the going rate” in each industry and “set fair conditions” for the sector. This would represent an end to the system whereby unions negotiate company by company and, instead, give them power effectively to set national standards on pay and conditions. A new government unit would work with unions to bring firms into line.

This means that if politicians or trade unions decide your business is part of a particular “sector” (a pretty subjective question) then you would be in line for a change in wages which your business might simply be unable to afford. The scope for union bullying and endless court cases and demarcation disputes is obvious. In the car industry, wages are high, so a sectoral wage would be high. If I make plastic bits for the car industry but also other industries, is my business in or out of the automotive sector?

Rebecca Long Bailey has also said that “Labour will also legislate to reduce pay inequality by introducing an Excessive Pay Levy on companies with staff on very high pay.” There is no detail on what the rules will be, but the idea of having wages directly controlled by Jeremy Corbyn is likely to deter inward investment.

What do these ideas have in common?

When New Labour left office, a million people had been thrown on the dole, we’d had the deepest recession since the second world war and government was borrowing more than at any time in our whole peacetime history. In the final year alone, they borrowed £7,900 for every family in Britain.

And that was New Labour. Imaging what the country would look like after Corbyn and McDonnell.

Where Corbyn’s ideas really differ from previous Labour leaders is that he doesn’t really believe in the rule of law. Your house, your business, your savings: all these things don’t really belong to you, in Corbyn’s eyes: you have them only as long as the government suffers you to have them, and they can be retrospectively taken away if he sees fit. In the week Robert Mugabe died, we’ve seen underlined just how important the rule of law is. But under Corbynomics, it would be the first casualty.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Chloe Westley: Public sector pay – and why centralised bargaining must end

Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

During Theresa May’s final weeks in office, in an attempt to build a legacy which is separate to Brexit, several new policies have been announced. Zero net emissions by 2050, a new quango to tackle injustices, a consultation on paternity leave. And, in what could be one of her final decisions as Prime Minister, the Treasury will announce today that public sector staff will be receiving a pay rise.

Perhaps these are policies that May has always wanted to implement, but never got around to. A sense of urgency and a deadline can often galvanize us into action. Or perhaps – more cynically – she sat down and wrote a list of policies designed to sound virtuous and noble at future panel events, so that she could discuss something other than Brexit. I’m an optimist, and like to think that the Prime Minister really does believe in something, even if I don’t agree with each and every announcement.

But is it reasonable to expect the next leader of the Conservative Party to simply shrug their shoulders and accept all of these new policies? For in addition to building on her legacy, the Prime Minister is backing the next leader into a corner on several issues – including public sector pay.

The £2 billion for this public sector pay increase is expected to be paid out of existing budgets, so it wouldn’t be inconceivable for a new leader to suggest that this money be spent in other areas. However, it would certainly be difficult politically to reverse the decision, and that is perhaps why the Prime Minister has rushed to announce it.

It would of course be preferable to give both public and private sector staff a pay-rise by lowering income tax and allowing everyone to keep more of their money. However, this may be considered too radical by many in the Conservative Party. The modern Party – at least at the parliamentary level – has well and truly shifted away from the free market individualism championed by Margaret Thatcher.

So in lieu of giving every hard-pressed employee a pay rise through tax cuts – both public and private sector alike – it might be nice to think we could target the £2 billion pay rise at frontline staff, not well-remunerated bureaucrats. All too often, those already in well paid positions in the public sector are rewarded with bonuses and pay increases, whilst front-line staff seem to be less of a priority.

For example, the Mayor of London has given pay-rises for top earners in City Hall, with those earning £100,000 salaries up 25 per cent since Khan took office in May 2016. And, in 2017, the TaxPayers’ Alliance revealed that senior managers in the NHS had seen their pay increase three times more than nurses over 7 years.

On the other hand, it must be the case that a handful of teachers are not performing well. At the same time, others will have driven drastic improvements in their classes. Increasing the pay of public sector staff on the lowest incomes might sound desirable, but it also might not be especially fair in terms of performance.

The real culprit here is centralised pay bargaining. It means that pay rises must largely be across the board. Past TPA research showed that ending centralised bargaining can save billions over time.

If the Conservative Party seeks to be the party of law and order, then you might think that it’s essential that some of May’s £2 billion goes towards the retention of police officers with targeted pay rises. In London, we’ve seen that the Mayor can’t be trusted to allocate funds where they are most needed, which has resulted in a failure to tackle crime as effectively as his predecessor. Nationally, you could argue that the government can’t afford to make the same mistake by wasting taxpayers’ money on such unnecessary projects as HS2, on hundreds of quangos and pay-rises for senior bureaucrats – whilst failing to get the basics right.

It’s unlikely that the next Prime Minister will be able to row back on this promise to give public sector staff a pay rise. He may not want to do so, in any case. But,i n the long term, if politicians would like to demand that pay rises go towards those on the frontline, and use them as recruitment and retention for those services or ensure they are based on performance, then centralised pay bargaining will have to be tackled.

More broadly, it’s encouraging that both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are committed to keeping taxes low, and I hope that in the months ahead Britain will not only be freed from the European Union, but from the 50 year high tax burden as well. Lowering income tax would give every employee in the country a well deserved pay-rise, and be a fantastic way to boost economic growth post-Brexit.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The next Prime Minister should scrap the Office for Tackling Injustices

Now that it has happened, it feels as if there was something inevitable about Theresa May’s scramble for a legacy leading her to try to create at least one new quango.

They’re the ultimate ‘legacy’ vehicle: a publicly-funded body which will continue to pursue your agenda – proudly independent of political oversight from your usurpers or political opponents – long after you have left office.

Even as an example of the genre, however, the Prime Minister’s mooted ‘Office for Tackling Injustices’ is an eye-poppingly bad idea. As Guido Fawkes points out, as currently planned it would simply duplicate a range of data-gathering functions already performed, at public expense, by bodies such as the Office for National Statistics.

But its worse than that. Like so much of May’s “burning injustices” agenda, ‘OfTI’ implicitly prejudges its own data. Its very name conflates disparate outcomes – which can arise from a huge range of factors, not all of them linked to discrimination – with ‘injustice’. Moreover, since these trends will take decades to solve (to the extent that they are soluble or need solving) its reports will inevitably and indefinitely be a stick with which to beat future Conservative governments and apply leverage to Labour’s levelling-down agenda.

Yet the problems with OfTI go beyond the specific flaws in the design of one particular quangos. This last gasp of Mayisme reflects a broader, deeply problematic trend of politicians outsourcing responsibility to the quasi-independent sector.

Another recent example of this is Jeremy Hunt’s idea of an independent infrastructure commission to make decisions on matters such as airport expansion. Whilst it is easy to understand where this comes from – successive governments have proven utterly woeful at making big calls in this area – it is nonetheless deeply flawed. Not only would it be wrong in principle for voters to have nobody to hold to account for such decisions, but experience suggests that politics would get in the way in any event. Just look at how MPs reacted when the independent body they created to set their pay recommended an increase.

Over the past few years I have written about several dimensions of the quango problem, such as how it erodes political accountability and ministerial responsibility, and suggested possible remedies such as making quango appointments explicitly political.

But I have also written about the fact that Conservatives ought to be much more willing to reverse bad measures when they get the chance, rather than just resigning themselves to any policy which makes it over the line.

To that end, May’s successor should not just kick OfTI “into the long grass”, as the Sun reports. They should scrap it – and get a taste for scrapping quangos whilst they’re at it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Clark Vasey: Only Johnson can deliver Blue Collar Conservatism

Clark Vasey is the founder of Blue Collar Conservatism and was the Conservative Candidate for Workington in 2017

Since we first set up Blue Collar Conservatism in 2012, I have worked with Esther McVey to encourage the Conservatives to focus on the working class voters who have been taken for granted by Labour. They have been consistently let down by that party, and have been turning to the Conservatives in greater numbers than any other group. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of posh metropolitan socialism followed by the Leave victory in the EU referendum, we were well placed to achieve an historic realignment.  But in 2017 with a Brexit message diluted by unpopular policies we lost ground.

With our failure to deliver Brexit, what was once an opportunity now poses an existential threat to the party. Rather than winning over working class voters we now risk losing them hand over fist to the Brexit Party, as both the European elections and the Peterborough by-election demonstrate.

If we are still in the EU come 1 November, we risk irreparably breaching trust with these voters and offering Corbyn a route to power. Yet if we can deliver a proper Brexit at the end of October, thereby depriving Nigel Farage of his narrative of betrayal, then the potential of connecting with these voters remains. Corbyn does not speak for working- class people and, with Tom Watson determined to turn Labour into a party for metropolitan remainers, Labour are dropping any pretence of speaking for its traditional communities.

This is why Esther relaunched Blue Collar Conservatism earlier this year. Once we have delivered Brexit, we must build an agenda for working people by focusing on the issues which matter most to them. Being on the side of the people who need us most is not only the right thing to do, but is the only way in which we can win a majority. And it is only with that majority that we can keep out the most destructive socialist government in our history, and transform our country with the opportunities which will follow leaving the EU.

I was proud to support Esther in a campaign which put Blue Collar Conservatism on the agenda of this leadership contest. When the dust has settled, people will look back and see that she presented the most coherent and costed campaign in this contest.

This was possible because we applied three simple principles of Blue Collar Conservatism – 1) that resources should be focused on things which really matter to people, 2) that we must always ensure people are able to keep more of their own money and 3) that we must use Conservative policies to grow the economy to enable us to do 1 and 2.

You do not win working class voters by dipping into Ed Miliband’s bag of tricks. We need a Conservative agenda which delivers the things which really matter, not watered-down Labour policies.

This is what Esther did with her calls for more spending on police and schools funded by taking the DfID budget back to 2010 levels. This why Esther talked about public sector pay and fantastic initiatives such as a new Police Covenant. This was about genuinely shifting the dial on these issues which cause us huge pain in constituencies across the country. It was also about challenging orthodoxies within the party such as the 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid, which would have an important symbolic effect of showing we are listening, and are not just focused on Westminster priorities.

Over the coming weeks and months Blue Collar Conservatism will continue to make the case that the party must win over the support of working people, particularly in the Midlands and the North. Esther’s Blue Collar Conversations pub tour is making its way around the country talking to people who would not normally engage with Conservatives. This is helping us build up a body of ideas which our voters and potential voters actually want. But the most important challenge for us now is that the new leader recognises the importance of this agenda for our party and our country. This is why it was so welcome that Boris Johnson endorsed Esther’s Blue Collar agenda.

When it comes to shaping a popular agenda incorporating Blue Collar Conservatism there is only one remaining candidate in the contest, and that is Johnson. This is not about an individual’s background, but their ability to connect with people and present radical Conservative policies which will make a positive difference to them.

However, first we must deliver Brexit. If we are not out of the EU by 31 October we will never be given a hearing on what comes after, no matter how positive. Johnson is the only candidate who can restore trust on Brexit and deliver Blue Collar policies which will secure a Conservative majority and keep Corbyn out of Downing Street.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

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