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Tom pushes PM to do more to protect UK steel from Chinese dumping

Tom yesterday asked whether Theresa May had raised issues relating to the steel industry with Chinese representatives at the G20.

160907 TB in chamber

The dumping of cheap Chinese-made steel in the UK has been blamed for undercutting British-made steel and causing the crisis which led to the closure of the Redcar steelworks, as well as difficulties at the Tata steel plant in Port Talbot. There remains considerable uncertainty about the government’s proposed trading relationship with China.

Mr Blenkinsop asked Theresa May to confirm whether she had raised the dumping issue in bilateral meetings with the Chinese at the G20 summit. He urged the PM to defend the UK steel industry with real action to stop the flood of cheap Chinese steel.

Mrs May denied that the government had taken no action in respect of the steel industry, highlighting steps to tackle energy costs and emission regulations. The Prime Minister did not respond specifically to Tom Blenkinsop’s question on whether she raised the dumping of cheap steel with the Chinese representatives, nor did she offer any new action to defend UK steel businesses.

Tom said:

Our steel industry is still in crisis. The government cannot sit back and think, ‘well, we’ve done enough’ – they haven’t. The dumping of Chinese steel still poses a real threat to thousands of jobs from Port Talbot to Hartlepool. The PM should not try to downplay the issue.

I welcome the government’s emphasis on developing an industrial strategy to think through the long term future for the steel industry in the UK. But there are further short term actions that need to be taken now, including on the dumping issue, for there to be a long term future for the industry.

You can see Tom’s question and the Prime Minister’s answer here.

Tom backs backbench amendments to government Finance Bill

Tom has added his name to two backbench amendments to today’s Finance Bill.

The first amendment aims to improve transparency around international corporations’ tax affairs. If it passes, the amendment will give the government the power to make large global companies publish ‘headline’ details of where they make their profits and pay their taxes.

The second amendment proposes the reintroduction of ‘distributional analysis’ to government budgets, which will show the impact of budget measures on different income groups. This analysis was scrapped last year alongside George Osborne’s controversial plan to cut tax credits, which it is believed would disproportionately affect lower income groups.

Tom said:

I am proud to support these two amendments which could help to tackle two great problems of time: tax avoidance and inequality.

I owe it to my constituents to get accurate information on how government changes will affect them, and to make sure global companies pay their fair share of tax, just like businesses and families in Teesside have to. These amendments will help do both those things and that’s why I am supporting them.

Regrettably, Labour’s leadership and organisation on these important issues has come from the backbenches. I hope the outcome of our leadership election will provide us with a new leadership that doesn’t have to rely on others to take on the Tories.

So far Theresa May has talked the talk about corporate responsibility and helping the poor – we’ll see on Monday whether she’ll walk the walk by backing these amendments.

The Finance Bill, and these amendments will be debated and voted on in the House of Commons on today (5 September) and tomorrow (6 September).

Read Tom’s letter to the PM asking her to help provide ‘certainty’ over Teesside’s future

Tom has written to the Prime Minister to ask her to provide ‘more certainty’ on Teesside’s future and to commit funds to the region.

160826 Letter to PM

The letter follows several media reports that Mrs May may be planning to block the introduction of city-region mayors, including the Mayor for the Tees Valley.

The elected mayor was intended to lead on various aspects of a regional strategy for Teesside economy, including those recommended by Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley Opportunity Unlimited report. In particular, the letter references the regeneration of the former SSI steelworks site at Redcar. The mayor was expected to lead a ‘Mayoral Development Corporation’ tasked with the regeneration of the site.

Tom said:

The Prime Minister has up until this point added to uncertainties over Teesside’s future. The reports that she is considering scrapping plans to introduce a Mayor for the Tees Valley means that the future of the development strategy for our region and regeneration of the former SSI site are in doubt.

As well as that, Theresa May’s mantra that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ hasn’t actually clarified what our future relationship with the EU will look like. Whether the UK will remain a part of the single market and comply with EU industry standards will have a massive knock-on effect for businesses in Teesside. We need certainty to attract investment and protect jobs in our region.

I worry that prolonged uncertainty about the mayor and Brexit will damage our economy here in the Tees Valley.

I have asked for the PM to commit to supplying the funding our region previously got from the EU, and to immediately clarify her position on the introduction of city-region mayors.

Change to Momentum rules ‘sinister’

Momentum, the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaigning organisation, has changed its code of conduct to remove its commitment to ‘non-violence’.

One of those who argued for the change is Jill Mountford, a member of the openly Trotskyite group ‘Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’ (AWL). Despite her membership of the AWL she remains a leading figure in the Momentum organisation. Ms Mountford argued that the change in rules was necessary to allow for members’ right of self-defence while on protests.

A statement from Momentum cited World War Two and apartheid as examples of situations where violence would be legitimate.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, commented on the change with concern:

This change is both ludicrous and sinister.

It shows that Trotskyites within Momentum have a huge influence over the organisation and are shaping it in the direction they want to see: extra-parliamentary resistance to capitalism and the state.

I am sure new members of the Labour Party and Momentum will be either puzzled or concerned by the change. Most joined to support Jeremy Corbyn not to violently resist police in the streets!

The purpose of this alteration is to give violent protesters leeway in the organisation. It is frankly unbelievable that Momentum has changed its code of conduct because of hypothetical worries about a fascist invasion or the imposition of apartheid, as they have claimed. If either of those were to happen I imagine we’d all have more to worry about than getting kicked out of Momentum.

I have had many strong disagreements with my local Teesside Momentum group but I would hope they would distance themselves from this change and recommit to non-violence.

The original news story can be found here.

GMB joins Community, USDAW and the MU in nominating Owen Smith

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The GMB union is the fourth union to nominate the challenger Owen Smith for Labour leader. It is also the first to take its decision via a general vote of members.

The union, which represents over 600,000 working people, voted for Owen over the current leader Jeremy Corbyn by 60% to 40%.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said:

Unionised working people are having their say on this Labour leadership contest. Steelworkers, binmen, lollypop ladies, defence sector workers, welders, factory workers, bus drivers and thousands of others are saying they need a Labour government – they need Owen Smith for leader.

I hope that the voices of these organised working people will be heard over heckles of disorganised protesters who for too long have been allowed to drown out serious concerns about our present leadership.

It is no coincidence that the first union to nominate a candidate by a ballot of all its members nominated Smith by such an overwhelming margin. Tim Roache he is a real leader and one who listens to the working people of this country.

I hope Unison will follow GMB’s lead in endorsing the only candidate in this election who can save the Labour party and the NHS we created.

For more details visit GMB’s website.

Tom welcomes Community’s nomination of Owen Smith for Labour leadership

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Tom Blenkinsop has praised the steelworkers’ union’s decision to nominate Owen Smith in the current Labour leadership contest.

Tom, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said:

Our steel industry is in crisis. We need a government that will offer us real solutions. This nomination shows that British steel workers from Skinningrove to Port Talbot see Owen Smith’s vision for the country offers real hope.

The Tories’ inaction has contributed to the steel crisis and Jeremy has offered no solutions. While Jeremy may have worn a ‘Save our Steel’ badge in last week’s leadership debate it was Owen who put forward policies that could actually help the industry.

The deeper we get into this steel crisis the more people need Labour budgets not just Labour badges. Only Owen stands any chance of delivering that.

The union, one of the fourteen affiliated to the Labour party, announced their nomination last week in an article for the website LabourList.

In that article Roy Rickhuss, Community’s general secretary, said:

Community’s members desperately need a Labour Party that not only speaks for them, but speaks to the country at large. At the moment, I fear it does neither.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership now presents a significant barrier to a future Labour government. He very plainly cannot lead a party and his continued presence as Labour leader makes our ability to build an election winning, social movement, the likes of which was saw in the late 90s and early 00s, harder not easier.

Owen Smith offers an agenda that is as radical as it is pragmatic. In a short space of time he has laid out detailed plans to make workplaces fairer and more prosperous. He has shown a real understanding of what an active industrial strategy should look like. Owen clearly has incredible ambition in his plan for Britain while recognising the fundamental need for Labour to be trusted with the nation’s finances.

Community represents workers across a variety of sectors, from the steel industry to the prison service. It was the first union to make such a nomination in the current Labour leadership contest.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) have also nominated Owen Smith for leader of the Labour party.

Captain Cook museum to be refurbished, leading to ‘confused’ protest

Tom Blenkinsop MP has queried a proposed ‘march to save’ the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton.

A protest is due to take place against the supposed ‘closure’ of the museum, which is due to receive a refurbishment. The museum will only close temporarily to allow for this work.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton pays tribute to the legendary navigator’s life. Cook is credited, among other things, with being the first western explorer to reach the east coast of Australia and Hawaii.

Tom, who is himself from Marton, said:

The organisers of this march on the museum are obviously confused.

The story of Captain Cook is a huge part of the Marton’s history – if the museum was under threat I would be the first to protest.

I have been assured by Middlesbrough councillors the only the reason the museum is closing temporarily is because significant funding has become available for a much needed refurbishment.

I am concerned that this march might worry residents for no reason when really we should be welcoming the funding made available to help recognise one of Marton’s and Yorkshire’s most celebrated sons.

Hinkley Point deal shows Britain has less control after Brexit

The Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power plant in Somerset will be built by a French state-owned energy company and funded in part by a Chinese state-owned group.

EDF, which is 85% owned by the French government, is expected to give the final go-ahead to the project following a board meeting later today. HPC will also receive one third of its funding from the Chinese state owned CGN group.

The plant when finished will supply 7% of the UK’s electricity and provide over 9,000 permanent jobs.

The HPC development was the subject of the EU competition investigation in 2014, and was only approved following representations from the UK government.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said:

The success of this vital project will now rely on Chinese and French government money, over which we will have less influence due to Brexit.

My constituents who voted for Brexit did so because they wanted more control. We are now dependent on governments we hold little sway over for our energy security, that’s not the greater control leave voters wanted.

The fact that the Chinese government has secured a foothold in our energy infrastructure and could massively influence our energy future, should worry those who were concerned about the sway even other democratic countries had over our internal affairs.

In order to secure foreign investment post-Brexit we will have to give more and more. The last government jeopardised the British steel industry to encourage Chinese investment in the UK, I worry what we might have to give up next.

HPC is scheduled to go online in 2025 and is predicted to provide over 30,000 jobs before then.

Tom Blenkinsop to vote for trident renewal for jobs and security

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has announced he will vote for the creation of a new generation of Trident submarines.

The vote, to endorse the renewal of the Trident system via replacing the current ‘Vanguard Class’ of submarines with a new ‘Successor Class’, will take place this evening.

The issue is highly controversial in the Labour Party as, although it is current Labour Party policy to endorse the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is strongly opposed to renewal.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

Today I will vote for Labour Party policy and support the plan to renew the UK’s at sea nuclear deterrent.

I believe Britain maintaining a nuclear capability is key to our security as a nation and therefore provides us with numerous direct and indirect benefits.

It is ridiculous that when there is a clear Labour policy on this issue no one is sure whether our Shadow Defence team and the leader of our party will vote for, against or abstain.

Not only is it policy but this is a policy which was decided by ordinary members at conference. If Jeremy actually believed in party democracy as he claims, and didn’t just support it when it suits him, then he’d be voting with me this evening.

If Jeremy were to join the Shadow Defence Secretary and abstain on one of the most important security votes of the decade it would be just another sorry example of the lack of leadership in the party at the moment.

Thousands of high skilled manufacturing jobs around the UK are reliant on keeping and renewing the system. This factor means that Mr Corbyn, if he were to vote against renewal, would be voting for a measure which would threaten union members’ jobs. This may be food for thought for influential union leaders, such as Unite the Union’s Len McCluskey, who thus far have supported Corbyn’s leadership of the party.

Tom said:

A failure to renew Trident would put thousands of Unite members’ jobs at risk.

Polling suggests union members don’t think Jeremy is the right man to lead Labour and now he is potentially voting for a policy which would make many of them unemployed!

This just shows people like Len McCluskey are so focused on keeping Corbyn they are blind to damage his policies would do to the working people and security of this country.

It is believed that with or without the Labour Leader’s vote the motion to endorse the £31 billion Trident renewal plan will pass and the new generation of nuclear submarines will be in service before 2030.

New official figures show rise in pensioner poverty in the North East  

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed the proportion of pensioners living in poverty in the North East has increased.

The latest official figures show that the increases in pensioners living in low income households are the highest of any region of England.

This confirmation followed a question to the minister from Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

“While the percentage increases we are talking about here are small, they represent thousands of individuals in the North East and many in my constituency.

“The overall national picture shows poverty amongst pensioners hasn’t changed, yet the North East has seen an increase. As with so many issues, it seems as though the Tories are neglecting our region.

“Pensioners are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and this data shows that this government’s policies are failing them in the North East and in my constituency.”

The figures, released at the end of June, measure poverty in terms of those living in low income households.

They show that the proportion of pensioners living in relative poverty has increased by 2 percentage points – the highest increase of any region in England. During the same period in some regions of England, like the East of England, the percentage actually fell. The same figures also show there was a 1 percentage point rise in the number of pensioners living in absolute poverty – the joint highest of any English region.