Sunday News Review

Osborne to remove maternity and paternity rights

Firms employing 10 staff or fewer could win exemptions from strict maternity and paternity leave regulations under plans being drawn up by ministers. Leaked details of a “growth strategy” to form the centrepiece of next week’s Budget show that George Osborne, the Chancellor, is proposing a major deregulation drive which would benefit hundreds of thousands of small companies. The strategy is expected to include proposals aimed to address the staffing problems caused to such firms by strict maternity leave laws. In the future, companies with 10 or fewer employees could be given the right to negotiate maternity and paternity leave “deals” directly with their workers. Mark Prisk, the deregulation minister, will meet business leaders in the next few days to discuss the plans, this newspaper understands. The Budget will be announced by Mr Osborne on 23 March. – the Telegraph

If this is George Osborne’s growth strategy then he’s in greater denial about the state of the economy than I feared. It’s nonsense to suggest that the balanced measures Labour took in government to help parents juggle work and family life are what’s stopping our economy growing. It isn’t working parents who are holding our economy back. What’s holding back the recovery is the Tory VAT rise and cuts which go too deep and too fast, are damaging business and consumer confidence and costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the public and private sector. Governments always have to be vigilant and everyone should want to bear down on unnecessary or badly-designed regulation where they can. But the government’s plans will cost jobs if firms with 11 or 12 people decide to downsize to take advantage and it will make it harder for mums and dads to go out to work. Ministers should not be using the cover of a flimsy growth strategy to strip away the rights of millions of workers. They need to think this one through again and come up with a credible plan to get the economy growing strongly and unemployment falling again. – Ed Balls

Shirley Williams leads Lib Dem charge against NHS reform

It was, she realised, a plan to dismantle what she calls “one of the most efficient public services of any in Europe”. She sums up Lansley’s agenda as “stealth privatisation“. There were other aspects that would transform the NHS beyond recognition, tucked away, such as allowing “any willing provider” to supply services. “The NHS was always seen as the preferred provider. That is swept away,” she says. Then there was the obligation to encourage competition at all levels. Williams is careful not to accuse ministers of deliberately hiding their intentions from the public – but she comes close. “I would certainly say there was no strong desire to make it as clear as possible to people what was being proposed.” Yesterday, with Williams urging them on from the conference platform, a Lib Dem motion supporting Lansley’s plans was torpedoed by a rebel amendment objecting to the “damaging and unjustified market-based approach”. “Conference regrets that some of the proposed reforms have never been Liberal Democrat policy, did not feature in our manifesto or in the agreed coalition programme, which instead called for an end to large-scale top-down reorganisations,” the text stated. Williams’s influence was all over the amendment. – the Guardian

The Deputy Prime Minister was forced to accept a motion put down by Liberal Democrat MPs at his party’s spring conference condemning the reforms of Andrew Lansley, the Conservative Health Secretary. The move is a severe embarrassment for Mr Clegg who has been battling to maintain a show of unity with Mr Cameron over spending cuts and other Coalition policies, such as raising university tuition fees, which are unpopular with his party. But despite pleas for unity, Mr Clegg faced an overwhelming Lib Dem rebellion against the health plans led by party veterans including Baroness Williams of Crosby, the former Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords… Mr Clegg backed down after he received a rough ride at the Sheffield conference. There were demonstrations by activists outside and a turbulent session on the conference floor, where the Liberal Democrat leader was faced with a groundswell of voices opposing the NHS plans. – the Telegraph

Osborne to splash out surplus in attempt to improve polls

The coalition will face its biggest test on 5 May when elections are held to councils across England, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. But Mr Osborne will have his work cut out to persuade a sceptical electorate. Just 23 per cent believe the Chancellor is “on my side” in dealing with the economy, according to a ComRes/IoS poll published today. Almost two-thirds of voters, including half of those who usually vote Lib Dems, say the cuts are unfair as they will hit the poor more than the wealthy. And four out of 10 people say cancelling the planned 1p rise in fuel duty would not be enough to help motorists. Public net borrowing figures for January showed a surprise surplus of £3.7bn. The latest unemployment figures will be released on Wednesday, and are expected to confirm lower than forecast Jobseeker’s Allowance claims. This has created some flexibility in Mr Osborne’s plans. While some of the surplus is expected to be used to pay down the deficit, the Chancellor has a reputation for producing eye-catching policies when the pressure is on. In 2007, he shocked the Tory party conference with a pledge to increase the inheritance tax allowance to £1m, wrong-footing Labour and sparking a series of opinion polls that forced Gordon Brown to abandon plans for a snap autumn election. – Independent on Sunday

Porter to run for Leicester South

Aaron Porter, the outgoing president of the National Union of Students, who spearheaded protests against tuition fees rising to £9,000, is preparing to launch a bid to become Labour MP for Leicester South. He is expected to put his name forward to become the party’s candidate in the forthcoming by-election, triggered by Sir Peter Soulsby, who has a 8,800 majority, standing down. Mr Porter studied in Leicester for three years and would make “youth opportunity” central to his campaign. His main rival for selection is Jonathan Ashworth, head of party relations for Labour leader Ed Miliband. Mr Porter announced last month he would not be standing for re-election as NUS leader in April. The deadline for nominations is tomorrow. – the Independent on Sunday

3 Responses to “Sunday News Review”

  1. Richard says:

    “Leaked details ” of deregulation in the Torygraph? More like product placement.

  2. AmberStar says:

    Porter to run for Leicester South, his main rival for selection is Jonathan Ashworth, head of party relations for Labour leader Ed Miliband.

    And does the local CLP have a preferred candidate; or shouldn’t I ask?

  3. AmberStar says:

    Osborne to splash out surplus in attempt to improve polls

    Deja Vu. The old Tory strategy of ‘buying’ votes via tax cuts. Will this undermine the TINA on deficit reduction & spending cuts? I think it might; & Labour could do better because of it, if we get that message across to voters in May. 😎

Leave a Reply