Labour shadow International Development spokesperson Mary Creagh has expressed her concerns over the growing inequality in the UK. Her concerns were voiced against a background context of the Trussell Trust declaring that 1,087,000 people had visited its foodbanks in the last year, whilst the Sunday Times rich list reported that there are now 117 billionaires living in the UK (up 17 on last year.) The rich list also confirmed that the richest 1,000 had doubled their wealth over the past six years, going from £258 billion to £547 billion.
“We know in Britain that over one million people used foodbanks in the last year– people should not have to work for their own poverty,” said Creagh. “There is no reason to have this level of hunger in the seventh richest country in the world.”
Trussell Trust statistics show low pay and the administration of benefits, particularly the application of sanctions, have been major causes of people going to foodbanks.
Creagh believes that implementation of a living wage as championed by the churches and regulating zero hours contracts would be two good ways of combatting the sort of low pay that leads people to go to food banks. “We want more employers to promote the living wage and sign ‘make work pay contracts’,” said Creagh, who also promoted how the Labour government intend to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2019 and push for more prosecutions of those who fail to pay the minimum wage. There have been just two prosecutions in recent years.
“We would also ban exploitative zero hours contracts, so when someone has worked 12 weeks they would get a contract with the hours set out,” said Creagh, who told how zero hours contracts had risen to 1.8 million over recent years.
The Labour Party also plans to get rid of the sanction targets being set at job centres.
The Labour Party has made a big play of its commitment to improve the NHS, pledging to cap private company’s profits and cut waiting times. It has though been coyer about the role played by the Private Finance Initiative deals, which were deployed during the previous Labour administration and continued under the Coalition Government. Critics claim the burden of debt to private sector companies under these contracts are also impacting on health care.
Creagh was keen to push Labour’s commitment to cut waiting times both at Accident and Emergency in hospitals and for appointments at GPs surgeries. The party also intends to employ more doctors and nurses. She defended PFIs though, declaring that they “transferred the risk from the public to the private sector” with the responsibility for maintaining the facility over 30 years being undertaken by the private company. The shadow spokesperson did though admit that her party had got some things wrong in the early days on PFIs.
Creagh is keen for the battle against climate change to be given a much higher profile under a future government. Speaking from an overseas aid viewpoint she echoed CAFOD claims about the amount of poverty being brought on by the failure to truly tackle climate change. “Then at home there we have seen the effects of climate change in the form of things like the terrible floods of recent years,” said Creagh, who stressed that combatting climate change cannot be seen as an add on but a key central part of the government’s agenda.
The shadow development spokesperson stressed that the Catholic Social Teaching concepts of “dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity” lie at the heart of the Labour Party’s approach to government.
She condemned the nationalism of UKIP and the SNP as not providing the type of approach needed to tackle the problems that the country faces today.
- see Universe - 1/5/2015