We have had national welfare in this country for about 450 years. For 400 of those years, the whole country thought the purpose of welfare was for people of working age, when they could not find jobs, to provide jobs for them. It is only in the last 50 years or so that the idea that you should give people without work doles has gripped the public imagination, with all the consequences which we now see.
The campaign for welfare reform is about giving people the opportunities to easily of moving back into work - offering jobs is the only test of whether people are genuinely seeking work, and further, when we have finished our working lives one needs a pension scheme that guarantees a minimum income of means-tested assistance. Here you will get details of the campaigns both making welfare pro-active in moving people back into work and also of ensuring we take command of a portion of our national income to guarantee every one of us a decent pension in retirement.
10P TAX BAND
All Parties have myths about themselves and myths are really important for mobilising the activists during general elections. One of the central myths of the Labour Party is that it cares about the poor.
Of course, while I use the word myth, myths have some real identity; and with the Government abolishing the 10p tax rate, and not compensating the millions upon millions of lower paid workers who lost out under this move, really showed the Labour Party here in Parliament in a new light. With almost no organisation at all, enough Labour Members of Parliament convinced the Government that this was a Rubicon they were unwilling to cross. As a result, the Government made major concessions.
The sad fact is, that although they came up with £2.7 billion of taxpayers’ money to finance a compensation scheme, the scheme left at least half of those affected inadequately compensated. So that campaign will return when we get our next chance; and that next chance is in the budget this year.
On 7th July 2009, Frank tabled a motion to the Budget saying that it cannot be passed until the 10p losers have been compensated. This amendment was defeated by the Government and brings Frank's two-year campaign on the issue to a close. Labour has made a clear gesture away from what many believe to be the issue at its heart, protecting and advancing the interests of those who have the least in life.
PRESERVING CATHEDRAL PRECINCTS
You will have gathered from my campaigns about English identity that I am pretty locally rooted, and maybe I am wrong in assuming that there is something unique about the precincts, those areas which surround cathedrals. These are now threatened, by developments. By people being able to buy the buildings, the areas are being broken up. The aim of the campaign to preserve cathedral precincts is that maybe over a hundred years through different policies we can restore the English cathedral precinct to what it was a hundred years ago. And that part of England in thriving cathedral towns is safely handed on to future generations.
NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE - CO-PAYMENTS
Governments, even if they are radical, often take time to catch up with a fast changing agenda, and while Labour was aiming to double the NHS budget, large numbers of people were not getting the treatments they wanted.
I proposed, for example, that people should be able to take their money and go abroad, and have the treatment there.
I also proposed that the NHS should employ teams of people coming into this country to perform their operations here.
The third stage of this campaign is to break down the barrier between “this is the NHS, and that bit over there is private”. Given that in any state of play Governments will only have a limited budget, particularly for a vastly expanding and costly drug sector, in these circumstances, when people are coming to the end of their lives, when the Government have not approved officially the use of a drug that makes a difference to the last few weeks and months, people should be able to pay for those drugs themselves and retain the treatment of the NHS. Now as a result of that campaign, the Government is saying people can in fact get those drugs on the NHS and keep their NHS treatment. There is bound to be, as time goes on, a hazy line here but I think the principle has been established, that if you have some resources you wish to spend, spending those resources will not disqualify you from a lifetime’s contribution to the NHS.
Remembrance Day also brings us back to identity; it is the day on which we think about our past, our debts to the past and how we can take those debts and make them of real value to the future.
My concern is that as the last few soldiers that had any contact with Great War die out, the memories, rehearsed on Remembrance Day, as it is now practiced, on the 11th day of the 11th month as was struck after 1918, will fade and people will not take on the debts of the past and not take them on into the future.
I believe the Government should get a grip in this area, and say that it is such an important day, that we ought to have a public holiday, when most of our business stops. This will renegotiate the celebration of those past victories, and of the huge sacrifices made.
This will involve a total change on the traditional Remembrance Day service. It will be a day’s activity, built up through schools, clubs and voluntary associations. There is bound to be resistance in the first instance, but I believe, in time, as we become aware just what a dangerous world we live in, this will be one of those campaigns that will result in reform.
TACKLING ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
Frank has taken a number of steps to combat anti-social behaviour and its causes both in Birkenhead and nationally.
Anti-social Behaviour Bill
In 2005 Frank tabled a Private Member's Bill proposing new powers be given to police to combat ASB.A Bill designed to make provision in connection with anti-social behaviour. Details of the Bill can be found below.
The Government scores full marks in the emphasis it puts in trying to counter anti-social behaviour. There is however a big question mark over its strategy and the assumptions which underpin its strategy to counter anti-social behaviour. This Bill sees a growing failure of families to teach their offspring the basis of civilised behaviour. A successful anti-social behaviour strategy must therefore hold the line as effectively as possible while also looking at the root cause of the rise and rise of today's yobbish behaviour.
It is not only a matter of holding the line but of effectively enforcing sanctions quickly. The Bill assumes that if anti-social behaviour is not countered immediately the chances are that those indulging in such activities will not only actively recruit accomplices but that the longer such actions are left unchecked the greater the likelihood is of them being escalated - speed is the essence.
Where parents fail or are unable to control the behaviour of their offspring, or worst still, participate themselves in anti-social behaviour, Police need the power to act as surrogate parents. The Bill gives the Home Secretary powers to pilot proposals to give Police the power to be surrogate parents. Modelled on the powers of a football referee, the Police would be given powers to caution, warn and then impose anti-social behaviour orders. It would then be up to those on whom the orders have been placed to go into court to appeal the decision if they through it was unfair.
Wirral Borough Council's Antisocial Behaviour Group
Frank works closely with Wirral Borough Council on tacking ASB in Birkenhead and Wirral, advising the Council's committee on ASB.
Power to the community in the face of antisocial behaviour
In 2009 Frank suggested that Communities should be supported in tackling ASB.
A 1361 statute allows aggrieved parties to ask for warrants to be issued and for offenders to be brought before the court that day. Even if a whole road turns up to complain, the magistrate has to rule that it is a private action and the bench cannot instruct the police to enforce the warrant.
Frank suggested, Alan Johnson could make a fundamental change in the way we tackle antisocial behaviour, at no additional cost to taxpayers, that also increases the power of local mothers and grandmothers. It is these people who fight on the front line against yobbishness.
He could allow magistrates to use their judgment as to whether a local complaint by local people constitutes a public rather than a private action.