‘Stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting – close the loophole’

Last week Tom presented a bill to parliament aimed at preventing employers from undercutting British construction workers by exploiting migrant labour and employing people using ‘bogus’ self-employment contracts.
170130 TB in chamber

The bill aims to ensure that trade union negotiated pay levels and conditions are included in contracts for building power stations. This is already the case for power stations which generate more than 50 megawatts of power but is not guaranteed for power stations that generate less than 50MW, which come under different regulations.

This loophole has led to some employers ‘importing’ foreign workforces on a temporary basis to build these smaller power stations for almost half of the agreed national pay level. Tom Blenkinsop along with trade unions, such as GMB, argue that these standards should apply for construction work on all power stations – no matter the size.

Tom said:

Unscrupulous employers have been using this loophole, affecting power stations that generate less than 50MW, to undermine agreed national standards on pay and working conditions. These standards have been hard fought for by working people through trade unions and cannot be ignored.

Employers using tactics from classing workers as self-employed when they’re not, to bringing in migrant workers to work on these sites for less money, are forcing down the wages of the construction workers and engineers who work on these plants. GMB and Unite have campaigned hard to minimise these practices but to put a stop to it altogether parliament must act.

I introduced this bill to raise the issue but the reality is without Government support it is not likely to pass – my message to the Government is simple: help working people, stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting and close the loophole.

MPs reveal ‘2020’ vision for steel

Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, chaired by Tom , published its vision for revitalising the steel industry.

The report, ‘Steel 2020’, draws on interviews with businesses, unions, Government ministers and employees of the industry to develop a strategy for securing the industry’s future in the UK.

It concludes, that the UK steel industry is currently ‘hamstrung by a toxic combination of policies that hobble the industry by comparison to global competitors’, and calls on the Government to act to provide a level playing field that will allow the industry to ‘thrive nationally and globally’.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

This report confirms that with the right Government action the UK’s steel industry can have long term future and provide the good manufacturing jobs that Teesside and communities all around the country so desperately need.

’Steel 2020’ highlights the incredible innovative work that is already taking place in the metals sector and the challenges it needs to overcome.

This report not only identifies the failures of current Government policy but also offers some solutions too. I know my colleagues and I will continue to push the Government to act on this reports’ recommendations and support this industry which has supported communities all over the country for generations.

Particular credit for compiling this report should go to my Labour colleagues Anna Turley and Stephen Kinnock, whose hard work and belief in this industry made ‘Steel 2020’ possible.

The report recommends further action in several areas including energy costs, Chinese steel dumping and procurement rules for Government projects.

‘Steel 2020’ is supported by members from four political parties and was authored by Dr Ian Greenwood of Leeds University Business School.

Toms response to new school funding formula

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today ridiculed claims by local Conservatives that schools in East Cleveland “would gain” as a result of the introduction of a new schools funding formula by central Government.

Tom said:

“Their claims are spurious. Indeed the claim was put out before the critical meeting of a local Redcar and Cleveland Schools Forum which agreed the allocations under this new formula.

“The claims are also geographically illiterate. The local Tory spokesman thinks that one school named by them – Hillsview Academy on Normanby Road in South Bank – is in “East Cleveland”. A refresher lesson in map reading is needed here!

“In broad terms Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has had a cut of £636,266 in its education service grant for 2017 to 2018 whilst the new formula going down to individual school level shows that a minority of schools will see increases – but even these increases will be swallowed by new charges imposed by the Government.

“The reality is that in Redcar and Cleveland only 21 primary schools and 2 secondary schools will have an increase of budget – but that only up to 1.55%. 11 primary schools and 7 secondary schools will see decreased budgets see a reduction of up to 1% and 12 primaries and 1 secondary will see a reduction of up to 1.5% in their support. A total of 31 schools who will lose out on government funding.

“Of course, the increases are so low that they will be eroded in this year alone by things like increases in National Insurance costs to schools, any pay awards, payment of the apprentice levy for maintained schools and the rising costs of goods and services

“Nationally the Government’s so-called ‘fair funding’ proposals will actually transfer funding away from local schools to other parts of the country. On top of this, the Government’s policy of freezing overall funding per pupil and requiring schools to pay increased costs for employees’ pensions and National Insurance will impose further cuts in schools.

“Reallocating inadequate levels of overall funding will not address the funding crisis in local education. Cutting funding to local schools will make matters locally even worse. In areas like East Cleveland where pupil poverty exists and too many people are still unemployed or on zero hour contracts, we need real and substantial increases in funding to allow local children to get a fair start in life.

“There are no winners under this Government’s current school funding policies, only losers.”

‘Help Teesside lead the world’ – Tom’s appeal to Government

Tom has called on the Government to invest in Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technology in Teesside as a way to boost investment and job creation in the region.

Tom pointed to the recent success of Carbon Clean Solutions in India which has created technology to capture the CO2 created by an industrial plant and use it to make Baking Soda, on a commercial basis, i.e. without Government subsidy.

The UK Government controversially cancelled a project to help get the industry off the ground in the UK in 2015, which was due to fund starter projects in Teesside, despite warnings that the move could cost thousands of jobs. Last year, a Parliamentary Advisory Group on Carbon Capture and Storage called for greater Government support for the industry and claimed early investment in the technology could save consumers billions.

Tom said:

The Government must act to support CCS and CCU technology now. Teesside in particular could benefit as our area’s industry provides the perfect environment in which to build a commercially viable Carbon Capture sector.

I have written to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ask for a meeting to discuss how this could benefit Teesside and what the Government can do to get this industry going.

Carbon Clean in India have shown that with determination and innovation this can be done. The Government cannot afford to pass up this opportunity which would cut pollution, cut bills, create jobs and bring much needed investment to our area.

I believe the Government can and should help Teesside to lead the world in this relatively new technology.

‘Labour won’t short change armed forces’

Tom has welcomed the Labour Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith’s proposals to spend more money on the armed forces.

Currently, as a NATO member the UK has an obligation to spend 2% of its GDP on defence and security. However, the Conservative Government have made major cuts to the defence budget and been accused of an accounting ‘sleight of hand’ by including war pensions and other areas of spending in the 2% target. An independent review of the Government’s figures suggested that without the questionable inclusion of these areas of spending the UK would not meet its NATO target.

Nia Griffith has said she is considering plans to ensure that at least 2% of GDP is spent on security and defence capabilities, by not counting money spent on pensions as contributing toward the target.

Tom welcomed the move:

This proposal shows the Labour won’t short change our armed forces or cut corners on Britain’s security.

The Government has approached meeting the 2% NATO spending target as an accountancy problem, rather than a necessary part of ensuring our country is kept safe.

Nia’s proposal would help servicemen and women get the support they deserve. Labour’s policy would make defence spending about our nation’s security again, rather than financial manoeuvres.

Tom Blenkinsop MP takes final steps to sign up to the Army Reserve

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland is set to join the Army Reserve as part of the Royal Military Police Reserves.

Tom Blenkinsop MP is undergoing the final assessment stage before he signs up for phase one basic training, which he will take alongside his parliamentary duties.

Tom said:

“I’m looking forward to going to Glencorse barracks in Scotland to start my formal Army assessment for the Army Reserve.

“Passing these tests will allow me to start training with the 243 Provost Company, Northern Detachment, 1 Regiment Royal Military Police, I can’t wait to start.

“My family has a strong tradition of military service, my father was a Royal Navy veteran, my grandfather was a British Army veteran and my brother has just joined the Royal Navy Reserve. Military service is a family tradition that I am proud to continue.

“This has been great motivation to keep fit, Frankie and Nick from Redcar Amateur Boxing Club have been putting me through paces for months in anticipation for my Army fitness tests, I’m sure that this hard work will pay off.”

The Army Reserve is the largest of the Reserve Forces, and supports the Regular Army at home and overseas, Army Reserve Soldiers come from all walks of life and work part-time as soldiers for the British Army alongside full-time Regular soldiers.

Tories are putting China ahead of UK steelworkers

The European Council has agreed to impose tougher sanctions on cheap Chinese imports, despite UK Government opposition.

161214 TB question to Greg Clark

Tom questions Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark

The new measure will give the EU greater powers to increase tariffs on Chinese steel, which is being dumped, sometimes at below cost prices, in the European market, threatening domestic steel producers.

While the British steel industry welcomed the development the UK Government has consistently argued against increased tariffs, even supporting granting Market Economy Status to China which would likely reduce current tariffs on cheap Chinese imports.

Tom, Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, yesterday asked the Business Secretary Greg Clark about the threat Chinese dumping posed the industry. In reply Mr Clark claimed the Government ‘have been active in making sure that we have the right trade defences against practices where countries dump steel unfairly in the UK market’.

Commenting on the news of the European Council’s agreement  said:

Today’s news shows regardless of the Government’s talk you can’t trust to Tories to save the UK steel industry.

Despite Greg Clark’s answer to my question yesterday, at the European level our Government has been opposing greater tariffs on the Chinese steel dumping threatening British producers.

It’s not just the steel industry that needs trade defence measures against Chinese dumping – the textile, ceramics and chemical industries also need the government to stand up for them.

Following Brexit the UK will need to develop its own trade defence measures and I don’t trust this Government, who continue bend the knee to China at every opportunity, to do what’s best for British manufacturing jobs.

The Government again seems to putting its relationship with the Chinese ahead of the interests of UK steel workers. We now face the bizarre situation of British workers welcoming an EU measure that their own Government opposed!

The Daily Mirror today reported Theresa May’s spokesman said the Prime Minister was ‘disappointed’ at the imposition on tougher tariffs.

View Tom’s question to Greg Clark

Government’s choice to increase private influence in railway decision-making threatens local services, says Tom

Tom has warned that the government’s decision on National Rail today might mean less busy services in Teesside face ‘neglect’.

Today Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, announced he would be restructuring the national rail infrastructure operator, Network Rail, in order to give more powers over infrastructure to local private train operator companies.

Tom said:

This decision will make taking the long term action needed for our railways more difficult.

Moving infrastructure decisions further from people accountable to the public and increasing the influence of local train operators has all but guaranteed short term thinking and a lack of investment.

This plan will kill off long term capital investment. Most train operators have less than a ten year lifespan, so won’t want to commit to big schemes, like electrification, the benefits of which will only emerge years later. The government is asking operators to take investment decisions which might only benefit a competitor!

Locally, the decisions made today will likely mean less busy lines, like the Northallerton to Teesport link or the Saltburn to Middlesbrough service, will be neglected in favour of money making lines like those connecting Leeds and Manchester. Once again Teesside is being allowed to slip down the agenda and the government letting it happen.

Tom’s comments on the future downgrading of Guisborough hospital

Commenting on the future downgrading of Guisborough hospital to a primary care centre Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop said:

“For the last five years the threat of closure has been hanging over the whole of the Guisborough Hospital complex, its good news that this announcement removes that threat.

“However, the centralisation of hospital services at James Cook and Redcar is a concern. Since 2010 Guisborough has lost its maternity ward, stroke ward and Minor Injuries Unit. I welcome the £4 million investment and the commitment to keep the site open in the long term but the hospital is a shadow of its former self.

“Just yesterday James Cook declared that its A&E was under pressure and directed some patients to their nearest Minor Injuries unit if they could, an option that is much harder for East Cleveland resident than it was two years ago.

“I will be contacting the CCG asking them to confirm which services that will come to the refurbished site and when they will be fully operational.”

Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement ‘not good news for anyone’

In the Autumn Statement today the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, performed an about turn on the government’s economic strategy, loosening fiscal rules to allow the government to borrow more.

In what has been seen as a drastic change from George Osborne’s economic priorities Philip Hammond today confirmed the government will be borrowing more than ever before, increasing the national debt to nearly £2 trillion (£1,945,000,000,000) by 2020.

The Chancellor also altered his fiscal targets and rules. Mr Hammond’s predecessor promised to clear the national debt by 2015 and pushed that back to 2020, Mr Hammond today changed the deadline to the notable vague ‘as soon as possible’ after the year 2020.

While the Autumn Statement was trailed as a budget for those ‘just about managing’ it appears that the increases in the national living wage and changes in tax will be outweighed by freezes in wages and benefits and increases in costs of living due to inflation.

Mr Hammond also confirmed corporation tax would be cut to 17% – the lowest in the Western world, despite the fact business investment in the UK will be ‘permanently lower’ than previously anticipated.

Tom, said:

Many of my constituents who voted Conservative at the last election told me they did so because they believed the Tories had a ‘long term economic plan’. Today’s statement has completed blown the Tories’ ‘long term economic plan’ out of the water. The Chancellor hasn’t even tried to meet Osborne’s targets – he’s just removed them.

As inflation increases after the post-Brexit crash in the pound the cost of living will become higher for my constituents. The government’s feeble measures to support working families will be outweighed by changes in the economy, falling business investment and reduced in-work-support.

The public finances face a new crisis and working people will feel the hurt. Today’s forecast and statement don’t seem to be good news for anyone.