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BLOG: Delivering on Brexit- my approach

The issue of Brexit is undeniably the most divisive that I have been involved in during my political career. Sadly, this highly nuanced set of questions is being boiled down into simplistic slogans that the two sides chant at each other with increasing intransigence on both sides.

Throughout the process, I have had 3 simple rules which have helped me to attempt to navigate the many choices that we as MPs have faced. My very first consideration is always what is in the interests of Chesterfield and my country.

Secondly, which decision will be consistent with the approach that I laid out in advance of the 2017 General Election and the manifesto that I stood on.

And thirdly, in practical terms which options will help Parliament to move things forward and allow the UK to deliver on the Brexit referendum in a way that is compatible with minimising any negative economic consequences of leaving the EU.

On the first question of the ‘national interest’, I do think that whatever the economic and social benefits of Remaining, which I unsuccessfully argued for during the Referendum, the cost to confidence in our democratic institutions of not seriously attempting to implement the verdict of the British people could be very serious indeed.

I agree with those who say that having offered the Referendum, it is Parliament’s job to deliver on the promises made, so whilst some have sought to overturn the result from the outset, I voted to trigger Article 50 and stood on a manifesto which said that Labour would respect the result, and that Britain would leave the EU whilst maintaining a customs union, but ending freedom of movement. My commitment to the democratic process means I will support this in spite of ultimately believing that the benefits of Brexit will prove to have been over-promised and will weaken our economy.

Acepting that we are leaving the EU, does not answer the question of what will our future relationship look like- the position the Labour party articulated at the election largely mirrored a speech that I had made in parliament and was featured on my election leaflets in the 2017 General Election.

But it wasn’t just me who recognised that choosing to leave was only the start of complicated considerations about how the decision would be invoked- the Vote Leave campaign said during the Referendum campaign that : ”Taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden step. We will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave.”

So if Vote Leave understood that leaving without confirming our future relationship was imperative before the vote, why is this entirely reasonable and sensible approach now being decried as treacherous and undemocratic by those very same voices who once called for it? And as there is widespread evidence that leaving without a deal would have immediate and serious economic consequences, I reject the idea that because it would also be damaging for the EU, it would be likely to bully them into giving us a better deal. I think it is far more likely that it would be the British negotiating position that would be weakened by what is clearly an act of self harm.

But it is true that the EU need a relationship with us, just as we need one with them. There are no winners from a No Deal Brexit, which is why they have been willing to negotiate a unique deal with us, it is Britain that has rejected continued membership of the customs union, not the EU.

So, I make no apology for being steadfast in my view that Britain must remain in a customs arrangement with the EU and the negotiations have left us to either remain in the customs union or leave and lose the freedom to trade tariff free. Theresa May’s deal attempts to retain many of the benefits on a short term basis but ultimately accepts leaving it in 2 years. This is useless as it leaves many of the key questions unanswered and will simply act as a two year window for manufacturing companies to make plans to make goods elsewhere.

Critics of the customs union point out that we will still have the EU negotiating trade policy that we will have no say in. They are right, but leaving the customs union would mean a hard border in Ireland, which breaks the Good Friday Agreement and threatens the future of the union and would make Britain a very unattractive place to manufacture goods for export.

My strong sense is that control of immigration whilst still being able to trade was key to Leave voters in Chesterfield. And when faced with this balance between sovereignty and economy, I am firmly on the side of staying in the Customs union.

On immigration, though I believe that Britain has predominantly benefited from immigration economically and culturally, it is very hard to see how an outcome that left UK immigration policy unchanged could be seen as delivering on the Referendum, and so democratically, I felt unable to support the amendment that would have seen us remain in the single market, known as Common Market 2.0.

I also rejected the amendment that would have seen Article 50 revoked in the event of No Deal being agreed. At this stage, it would be seen as very bad faith to be supporting an amendment to call Brexit off before we have even exhausted the ways in which it can be delivered. The fact that it was presented by people who had made it clear that they wanted the UK to overturn the verdict of the referendum in the first place, made it all the less attractive.

However, if Parliament cannot resolve a Brexit deal, it may be that there will be no choice but to put the Prime Minister’s vote to the British people. I know that opinions are sharply divided about this, but it may be the only way to end the logjam, and would at least allow a debate about the specific terms on which we leave which was impossible last time, because the vote took place before those terms were known.

If we were to leave with control of immigration restored and a future trading arrangement secured, I don’t see that there would be a need for a 2nd referendum- that is the Brexit my constituents voted for, I believe.

But, I am clear that to leave without any future arrangements organised would not only fly in the face of what Vote Leave promised but leave us very vulnerable and with the Government facing the choice of imposing huge tariffs on EU imports to be paid by consumers of food and goods (ie all of us) or no tariffs, which would mean UK farmers and manufacturers at a huge disadvantage on the global stage. Either way, it is clear that UK firms would be paying exactly the same tariffs as every other non EU nation without a trade deal.

This would be hugely damaging for us and them, but put simply, as we would have this impediment to our relationship with 27 nations and they would have it for one, the impact on us would be much greater.

So, the approach I take will continue to be consistent with that which I have always espoused and on which I was re-elected in 2017. Backing Britain to make a success of Brexit whilst ensuring that we take a careful approach to the biggest economic change we have attempted since the 2nd world war.

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BLOG: Time for the Prime Minister to reach out to all MPs to stop a disastrous No Deal Brexit

Brexit is by far the biggest and most divisive single issue to have arisen in British Politics in my political lifetime. 

I am often reminded by voters that ‘the people voted out’ and indeed, in Chesterfield around 60% of voters backed Leave, I accept that the Referendum vote can’t be ignored. 

When I stood for re-election in the 2017 ’snap’ election, I was clear about what a vote for me meant. I would respect the Referendum result but I would hold the Government to deliver on the promises Leave voters were made during that referendum.  

In simple terms that means continued trade with European nations, control of immigration and the ability to attract world class talent.  

It was always going to be the case that the final EU deal would leave many dissatisfied, but these are the key tests that I think would be a fair delivery of the Brexit vote. Labour’s proposed deal would do just that, with permanent membership of the Customs Union, but control of immigration restored.  

And whilst a no-deal Brexit might open opportunities to sign Free Trade deals with other countries these would leave us with a huge immediate deficit if it came at the cost of our current EU free trade deal, and each of those new trade deals would likely come with their own pitfalls. No US trade deal would be completed until US Healthcare giants could get their claws on to our NHS for sure. 

Since the General Election, the issue of Northern Ireland and achieving a Brexit deal that is compliant with the UK’s commitments in the Good Friday Agreement has also moved to centre stage. Membership of the Customs Union would at least alleviate the trade concerns. 

I have had huge numbers of letters on Brexit from all shades of opinion. But I worry that we are moving further away from consensus.  

I think if Labour’s Brexit deal is supported there will be no need for a second referendum. Labour’s deal is not so far removed from what most Leave voters expected nor would it push us towards the catastrophe of WTO Terms 

However, Jeremy Corbyn this week suggested that if we fail to convince Parliament of the need to support a deal in line with the one I have outlined, that he would support the Prime Minister’s deal being put to the British people for ratification. 

also declined to vote to extend Article 50 as sometimes deadlines are helpful in focusing minds, and reaching an agreement. I hope that the Prime Minister will allow Parliament to vote on Labour’s deal but if that and all other options fall we may be forced to delay leaving the EU, which I know would be a huge frustration to many.  

However, I also reject the second most regular suggestion- that a Leave vote meant moving to WTO terms on trade with EuropeMany Leave campaigners promised during the Referendum campaign that trade would be unaffected and the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal would include huge tariffs on all imported food averaging at 22%. Even worse, tariffs on dairy products for example are 35%. We import over 30% of all the beef, pork and lamb we consume and 39% of all fruit.  

I am aware that many people have simply switched off from the whole issue and just want it over. They want politicians to work together, but firstly there needs to be agreement on what the ultimate objective should be. I believe there is a majority in the House of Commons for delivering on the Brexit vote without the damage of leaving without a deal, I hope the Prime Minister reaches out to those members across the house who will approve a deal of this sort.  

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Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

BLOG: Why we need to reclassify synthetic cannabinoids as Class A drugs

Just over four years ago, I led a Westminster Hall debate on government policy on legal highs following a number of problems in our town centre. I worked with a number of organisations and with MPs across the House and legal highs were eventually banned completely in Early 2016.  I led a campaign with local shopkeepers against the Reefer shop on Knifesmithgate, which was accused of selling legal highs and was seen as a focal point for much of the trouble in town which contributed towards that closing. There was an immediate improvement and this part of the town became a less intimidating space for visitors.

Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

Unfortunately, over the couple of years, we have seen a growing problem with the drugs ‘Spice’ and ‘Mamba’. Spice and Mamba are known as ‘synthetic cannabinoid’ substances that are supposed to mimic the effects of cannabis. Spice has been dubbed the “zombie drug” due to the debilitating effect it has on people. If you have been unfortunate enough to witness someone on Spice, it can be very alarming as they do look like they have just stepped out of an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’. Users will often be seen in a slumped, semi-conscious state often with their bodies posed in alarming and contorted shapes and their behaviour can be very unpredictable.

The short term effects of Spice are known and can include paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, kidney problems and breathing difficulties. The long term effects simply aren’t known yet but could lead to significant mental and physical health problems. This is not just an issue of crime and antisocial behaviour, but a public health issue that has serious implications for the individual users, and a knock-on effect for families, communities and emergency services. We have seen a six-fold increase in the past year in the number of ambulance call-outs to people who are on synthetic cannabinoids. The East Midlands Ambulance Service is already under a great deal of pressure and I have been contacted by several people who have had to wait several hours for an ambulance following serious accidents. This added pressure due to Spice users is the last thing needed by our ambulance service and over-stretched A&E department.

Toby speaking at the Westminster Hall debate the on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Toby speaking at the Westminster Hall debate on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids

And this is the crux of why people feel so passionately about this issue – Spice, and similar substances, are having a massive impact on users and people right across Chesterfield. Users quickly become psychologically (not chemically) dependent on Spice and seeking out the drug becomes the sole purpose in their life. These people are victims and vulnerable people, with many of them being rough sleepers or having mental health issues, but their actions impact on a huge number of other people. Many people are frightened to go into the centre of our towns because of the impact of Spice users and the alarming state that people get themselves into on these drugs.

Over the last few years we have seen a growing homeless community in Chesterfield, with Spice becoming the main drug of choice amongst this group. Spice is very cheap compared to other drugs and, partly due to the low cost and its Class B status, very easy to get hold of. I recently met with Sian Jones, manager of homelessness prevention charity Pathways, who told me that many users do not realise just how dangerous and potent the drug is when they first start using, and they become dependent on the drug before they realise the damage it is doing.

Spice users are having a big impact on our town centre businesses and retailers. Retailers trying to run their businesses in tough times have contacted me, saying they have people under the influence of these drugs in contorted positions in their shop doorways, forcing customers away and impacting on sales.

Hardyal Dhindsa, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire, together with our hard working local police, have put a huge amount of effort into trying to clamp down on these drugs.

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station with the Derbyshire PCC and local councillors to discuss the homeless situation in Chesterfield

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station with the Derbyshire PCC and local councillors to discuss the homeless situation in Chesterfield

Hardyal introduced Operation Chesnee, which led to 70 arrests and a spate of convictions. At least 40 people have now been charged, and convictions are ongoing. Derbyshire police have put significant resource into cracking down on Spice and Mamba, but while they are class B drugs, there is a limit to the resources they can put in and the returns they can get. Hardyal also chairs regular town centre summits, which are attended by police, probation, Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council, substance misuse services and local businesses, to discuss how we can work together to address the issues affecting our town centre. Public Space Protection Orders are already in place and being used to combat Spice users in town and the police and drug support services are working closely together to ensure people are being offered the help they need.

Now I have responded to the call from Hardyal and other Police chiefs to get these substances re-classified as class A drugs and spoke in a recent Parliamentary debate to that effect.

I am not seeking to criminalise the users of these drugs, many of whom need help and support for a variety of issues, but the reclassification will help the police to target the dealers higher up the supply chain who are making a lot of money and who are  responsible for the devastating impact these drugs are having on users and communities. Reclassification will mean tougher sentences for dealing, which will hopefully disincentivise people from selling the drug.

Reclassification will not be a silver bullet in resolving this new threat to our communities and we will need the Government to provide more resources for policing, increase the provision of drug treatment services and tackle the growing homelessness crisis which is leaving so many people in a vulnerable state where the use of drugs is the only way of coping with life on the street, but it can play a part.

You can watch my speech on this issue from last week’s Westminster Hall debate the on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids at

Regular 'Town Centre Summits' are held to discuss the issues affecting Chesterfield Town Centre

Regular ‘Town Centre Summits’ are held to discuss the issues affecting Chesterfield’s town centre 

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The handmade poppies cascade at Chesterfield Town Hall

BLOG: Toby Perkins MP shares his thoughts as Chesterfield commemorates the Centenary of the end of the Great War

This year sees the centenary of the end of the Great War and has renewed our focus on the sacrifice that was made by so many millions of men then, and which are still made today by those that serve in our Armed Forces. Remembrance Sunday in Chesterfield has grown over the last few years, with an increase in events and a real feeling of the town coming together to honour those who have given their life for their country.

The handmade poppies cascade at Chesterfield Town Hall

The handmade poppies cascade at Chesterfield Town Hall

There are numerous important documentaries and articles regarding the Great War and it is important that, as the events pass from living memory, we never forget the catastrophic conflict the world went through and hopefully ensure it never happens again. The War cost the lives of 10 million soldiers worldwide, including 886,000 British military personnel, and almost 7 million civilians. And whilst we remember those who served, on this centenary the Royal British Legion is asking us to thank the entire First World War generation, commemorating not just those who fought and died on the battlefield but all of those who played their part on the home front and those that returned to build a better future for generations to come.

It is also important that whilst we recognise the contribution that has been made in the past, we also support today’s generation of Servicemen and women. The Armed Forces are not in the news as much lately as there are no major conflicts that we are currently engaged in, but our personnel are still in service across the world, spending months away from their families and maintaining a level of preparedness and professionalism to ensure they are always ready to step into action in our defence.

As an MP, and as Chair of Labour Friends of the Forces, it is my duty to ensure that the interests of the defence community are at the very top of Parliament’s priorities and to ensure that our Armed Forces’ personnel and veterans are getting the recognition that they deserve.

Toby in Kenya with the British Army Training Unit Kenya

Toby in Kenya with the British Army Training Unit

This is the main reason that I signed up to Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which I proudly ‘graduated’ from last month. I and several colleagues volunteered to spend a minimum of 15 days in a year witnessing our Armed Forces in action. The scheme is designed to increase the knowledge base of MPs about Service life and give serving soldiers, sailors and Airmen the opportunity to question MPs too. Over the last couple of years I have spent time in Kenya with the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) taking part in battle ready exercises and seeing what it is like setting up camp out in the field. I also spent time with the Navy, sailing to Amsterdam on a Type 23 frigate, HMS Sutherland and on our new destroyers, as well as witnessing the new Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Though these trips could never replicate a long term life in the Forces, it did give me a good idea of the conditions our Armed Forces have to live in, how they feel about their roles and learning about why people join and leave our Armed Forces.

In Chesterfield, I am always proud of the effort, pride and community spirit on Remembrance Sunday. You may have already seen the cascade of poppies adorning the town hall and other public buildings, presenting a powerful public reminder of this important occasion and put together through the hard work of many volunteers and contributors from across the borough.

Toby at the Graduation ceremony for the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme

Toby at the Graduation ceremony for the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme

There will be numerous events in Chesterfield over the next few days to mark the Centenary and I hope that you will be able to join me at one. I will be speaking at the Festival of Remembrance at the Winding Wheel on 8th November at 7pm, I will be joining the Staveley Annual Remembrance Day Parade and Service on Sunday 11th November at 10am, before joining the Borough Council’s ‘Service of Remembrance’ at 2.30pm when I will lay a wreath at the War Memorial on Rose Hill.

I hope that whilst we stop and take time to remember the fallen from the Great War, that we also think about our servicemen and women who are serving today and I resolve to always fight their corner in Parliament.

Toby has taken part in battle ready exercises as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme

Toby has taken part in battle ready exercises as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme



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Toby at Chesterfield Pride 2018

BLOG: Chesterfield Pride 2018 suggests we are making good progress here, and our society is all the better for it

This year’s Chesterfield Pride was the biggest and best yet, with over 4,000 people estimated to have attended the event at Stand Road this year, making it one of the fastest growing Pride events in the country. If you were lucky enough to be there you would have enjoyed music, games, stalls and a real sense of fun, community and, of course, pride. These Pride events were borne out of a demonstration against the discrimination and violence that gay people faced, and whilst they are now and enjoyable and flamboyant social event they still carry an important message. Homosexuality has been illegal for most of our history and even now, in many countries, gay people can face grave consequences. Whilst the riot of colour, music and fairground rides was celebratory, the Derbyshire LGBT+ stand had a historic reminder of the legal discrimination this community has faced.

The Pride movement, and the huge numbers of people now attending, including families with children and grandparents, shows the huge steps that have been made and how attitudes have changed. The Rainbow flag has become a familiar sight and something that people and organisations proudly display. I saw children with the rainbow symbols painted on their faces, men and women carrying rainbow flags or wearing technicolour clothes, and people from all walks of life coming together in solidarity under the rainbow banner.

The LGBT rights movement has won numerous legislative victories in this country in a relatively short space of time, such as Equal Marriage, equal rights to adopt and foster children, the right for transgender people to have their birth certificate changed, specific protections from hate crimes. Only 16 years ago, transsexualism was still classified as a mental illness and it is only 13 years since Tony Blair’s Labour Government introduced civil partnerships. The steps that have been made in the last 15-20 years are immense and the Pride movement has been central to these achievements.

But LGBT people still face discrimination both at home, in society and at work. A new Chesterfield LGBT office is being set up to support LGBT people and their families with a view to increasing respect and tolerance. Historically, gay people were forced to live their lives in total secrecy. But they wish to be able to be open about their lives, and celebrate their relationships, just like everyone else. The success of Chesterfield Pride 2018 suggests we are making good progress here, and our society is all the better for it.

Toby at Chesterfield Pride 2018

Toby at Chesterfield Pride 2018

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Toby Perkins MP with Stan Tomkinson, student at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, who has been on work experience in Toby's constituency office

GUEST BLOG: Stan Tomkinson, student at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, asks the question ‘Grammar schools, do we need them?’

Earlier this year, the Conservative party announced their plans to spend an added £50million on grammar schools. This raised the very important question of whether we should still have grammar schools.

The concept of grammar schools has been around since the 16th century, with the more recent concept of having grammar schools and secondary moderns, for those who did not meet the grammar school’s entry requirements, first being put in place in 1944. However it wasn’t long before this was changed with the Labour government in 1965 pushing local authorities to phase out these and replace them with the standard comprehensive schools, as they claimed that the system reinforced class division. This was met with resistance in some conservative counties such as Kent, where there are still a number of comprehensive schools. In 1998, Blair’s Labour government passed legislation prohibiting the creation of any more grammar schools. After this the debate had seemingly ceased and many people were willing to turn a blind eye to the remaining number of grammar schools. However, recent revelations under the Conservatives have seen the debate be reignited.

Perhaps the most prevalent argument against grammar schools is the two-tier education system they create. This is caused though many different factors, but none more so than their ability to select their students. Meaning that through the selection process they can select the most ‘academic’ students and children who are ‘likely to succeed’. With the students who have been turned away ending up in the comprehensive schools. From this alone it is clear to see the divide that is created in ability but also in mentality, with those turned away thinking they aren’t good enough, which is contrasted by the ‘you can succeed anything’ mentality of grammar schools, which, in contrast, is shown by comprehensive schools often performing worse than the national average in areas with grammar schools. And while in the 1940s those who were not accepted would often find themselves working in trades, this is no longer the case as our country has gone through significant changes since, such as the primary and secondary sectors deceasing dramatically and the huge increase in the tertiary sector’s input into our economy. This would suggest that the two-tier system that is created is no longer fit for purpose as it doesn’t fit our nations demands as many people in grammar and comprehensive schools will find themselves in the same fields of work, especially with the increased number of people taking up further education from low- income households.

Conversely, people may argue that grammar schools should be more prevalent in our education system because they get results and perform well. Which on the whole is a true and fair argument, as grammar schools perform way above the national average. For example in 2016, according to the BBC, grammar schools had 96.7% of their students achieving A* to C in at least 5 subjects, compared to the 58.1% national average. Based off these statistics it is quite clear to see the case for grammar schools. However, these should be taken with a pinch of salt as there are many factors influencing this. None less so than the fact that grammar schools hand pick the ‘brightest’ students who are deemed most likely to succeed, based off their 11 plus entry exams. These students are taught in classes, often smaller than the national average, with students of similar ability to themselves. From this it is clear to see that there is a huge difference to the mixed ability state comprehensive schools. It also remains unclear whether the grammar schools actually contribute to the students’ success, as many argue that the students who succeed in grammar schools would achieve very similar results in comprehensive schools. As their results often similar the results of the ‘brightest’ students in catchments without grammar schools, suggesting that they have little to no impact on those specially selected intake who would seemingly succeed anyway, however we cannot know this for sure.

Grammar schools can be very harming to our education system with the 11-plus exams adding a large amount of pressure on to the children who are still in primary school with this possibly removing what should be a positive learning environment. Not only this but by the time thee children take the test there is a large divide just based on prosperity. As in Kent in 2013 a child on free school meals was 5 times less likely to achieve key stage 2 results by the age of 11, than those who were not, and in turn almost identically less likely to be accepted into a grammar school. It is no secret that prosperity plays a large factor in a child’s likelihood to succeed in terms of exam results, with the most deprived often performing far worse than the most prosperous in society. Furthermore, wealth does play a large factor in the grammar school debate as they under-represent the poorest children. And a possible cause of this is the availability of private tutors to help your child pass the entry tests. Because many of the poorest cannot afford this service it allows the more wealthy children get a helping hand, creating an uneven playing field. As well as children from main-stream primary schools not being specifically taught how to pass the test adding to the inequality and creating a divide between the richest and poorest children, which is why Labour opposes them.

On the whole grammar schools are extremely divisive. They add to inequality by creating a two-tier education system and harming social mobility, as areas with a selective education system reinforce and, sometimes, increase social segregation by endangering the social cohesion between those with and those without. Not only this but dividing the most able and the rest from an early age adds to the long list of problems grammar schools have. By looking at the evidence it is clear to see the issues there are with the selective school system and how it is no longer fit for purpose. The proposal of the additional funding appears to be taking our education system back a step. And I for one would much rather see that money being used to fund the comprehensive schools that are struggling to remain open, or to improve the schools that perform the worst so that everybody has an equal opportunity to succeed.

Toby Perkins MP with Stan Tomkinson, student at  Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, who has been on work experience in Toby's constituency office

Toby Perkins MP with Stan Tomkinson, student at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, who has been on work experience in Toby’s constituency office

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Former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, with Toby and Lucy at the Chesterfield Labour Party gala dinner

GUEST BLOG: Outwood Academy Newbold student, Lucy Parker, asks the question ‘Should people automatically get paid more just because they’re older?’

Earlier this year, the national living wage was raised to £7.83 an hour while the rate for people aged 21 to 24 trailed behind at just £7.38 per hour. My question is; should the national living wage be applicable to everybody and not just people in the over 25 age bracket?

From a survey conducted by The Telegraph, research disclosed that the average person expects to move out of their parents’ house by the tender age of 22. This makes it apparent that people around the age of 22 will need an enhanced income to remain solvent, while paying a mortgage. The national minimum wage is the minimum pay per hour that workers are entitled to by the law. The national living wage is the minimum pay per hour workers aged over 25 are entitled to by law.  I would like to raise the argument as to whether pay should be determined by age, experience or work conducted. One issue that I’ve focussed on is whether the current minimum pay system discriminates against age and doesn’t considerer the capabilities and experience of the employee to determine the pay that they receive.

Former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, with Toby and Lucy at the Chesterfield Labour Party gala dinner

Former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, with Toby and Lucy at the Chesterfield Labour Party gala dinner

Some possible factors that could affect the wage that a person receives include; education, industry, company, location and age. The prevalent theme in these factors is that they are all able to be altered by us. We can enhance what level of education we have and whether we want to pursue higher education. We also get the choice regarding which industry we would like to enter, along with the instilled hard work to get work experience. The only factor that we cannot change is age. We can’t morph ourselves to be two years older just so that we receive a better wage, so why should this restrict the earnings a person receives? In addition, the pay system also doesn’t delegate pay in proportion to the need of the employee.  An employee aged 22 may have a mortgage as well as two young children, yet still earn less that a 25 year old who lives in their parents’ house. As a society we encourage young people to begin building their own lives from a young age yet where is the support in the minimum wage system to do this?

It is also apparent that when an individual becomes an adult on their 18th birthday they are given adult responsibilities. They can now vote in political matters, get married on their own accord, join the army and stand for parliament. Surely their entitlement to these adult responsibilities ought to entitle them to an adult wage? The low pay commission justifies the low wage by claiming “young workers are most at risk of being priced out of jobs”, meaning that working for less helps us get into employment.  But shouldn’t we employ people based on their experience and hard work rather than how much they cost the company? Young people can work for poverty inducing wages yet still give the exact same to the company. For example, two waitresses can both work the same number of hours, at the same workplace, doing exactly the same job with the identical responsibilities, yet receive enormous differences in pay. In addition, people with no experience automatically get paid more than their experienced colleagues. Why? Because they’re 18 and you’re not. Personally, I have worked in pubs and restaurants since I was 15 and therefore have two years of catering experience, however an 18 year old who is just starting their first job automatically gets paid more. Younger people earning lower wages also makes university seem more financially strenuous and adds to the concerns of the impending student debt. That’s why I believe that two people who conduct identical jobs should be paid the same amount of money. Under the equality act of 2010, a woman can challenge her boss if she is getting less than her colleague who conducts the same job role, yet with the factor of age, a pay gap is encouraged.

Good wages can encourage students not to pursue higher education as they may think that the short term buzz in each pay packet will be enough for them to get a mortgage and fund a household in the future. Additionally, younger people generally have less experience than their older peers. This would give the employer a reason to pay younger workers a lesser wage that their older colleagues as the workplace may have higher training costs and therefore will need compensating. In partial agreeance with the low pay commission, a lower wage does give the employer a bigger incentive to take on younger staff.  Young workers also do generally work in lower paying sectors such as retail and catering. But nevertheless, they still ought to be entitled to an equal wage that their colleagues are earning. Businesses also argue that they can’t afford to pay their staff a fair and equal wage, but then should a business be allowed to morally operate if it can’t afford to pay their staff fairly? Arguably, people aged under 25 and under 18 typically have less financial needs than their older colleagues. For instance, an under 18 year old probably won’t have learnt how to drive and therefore won’t have to fund a car, along with the dreaded first-year car insurance. Similarly, an over 25 year old is more probable to have moved out, and therefore will be more likely to need a bigger wage to fund their lifestyle. I understand that the pay brackets have got to be general to suit the majority of the population, but employers could easily notice the hard work that young people contribute and pay them an equal wage. Understandably, younger people can’t always expand their job roles while acting legally. For example, an older colleague may be able to work both on the bar and in the kitchen in a pub, meaning they can give more to the company and therefore are entitled to a better wage.

People who conduct the same job should be entitled to the same wage without regard to their age. If younger people were to earn equal wages, it would encourage them to save for bigger life events such as their first car or their university costs, along with their virtually impossible deposit on a house.  It would also provide them with the transferrable skills of budgeting and managing their money. Pay should be proportional to the quality of the work that is conducted, not an employee’s age. Society wants to give us adult responsibilities yet we are not entitled to an adult wage. The media claims that young people are being priced out of jobs, but the concept of being employed ought to be based on your contribution to the company and not the wage that you get paid. I think that they current minimum wage system is based on the traditional and stereotypical belief that older people work better than younger people whereas, younger people are freshly out of education and can bring new and innovative ideas to a workplace

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Pubs are at the heart of our community – as we have seen during England’s brilliant World Cup run

The power of sport to galvanise a nation and bring communities together has been demonstrated once again this year- as has the role of our pubs in providing a focal point for that collective excitement.

As a Football fan for the last 40 years, I can count the number of major Football tournaments that live long in the nation’s memory on the fingers of one hand.

The aspect of this year’s thrilling run that stands apart from previous exciting events is how little expectation this year’s squad took with them into the tournament. We English are great ones for building up false hopes and then seeing them dashed, so it has been a pleasant surprise that the team that so little was expected of have performed so well.

I write this before England’s semi-final so I have no idea of how the story ends, but what is beyond question is that the run through the tournament has captured the public imagination hugely. The game with Sweden attracted the biggest television audience for an England match for 22 years, and the words ‘it’s coming home’ have assumed a meaning all on their own.

But what is also indisputable is that the focal point of much of this collective merriment has centred around Britain’s pubs. Our pubs have been through tough times in recent years for a myriad of reasons. Changing social habits, tax and cost of alcohol, the numerous alternatives on offer, the smoking ban and the drink drive clampdown have all for different reasons reduced the pull of pubs. Those that have survived have had to develop an attractive offer to thrive when there is such competition for our social spend.

The renaissance in Real ales, a lively pub music scene, sports bars, hugely creative pub menus and more attractive spaces are amongst the benefits that successful pub operators have now brought about in order to attracts us behind their doors.

And whilst it is extremely welcome that there is so much innovation in this traditional sector, the value of having a place to be together and watch events like this summer’s world cup with friends cannot be overstated. Nor can the wider community value of Britain’s pubs.

Pubs are also an economic necessity. Over 1 million people are employed in pubs, which pay over £8Billion in tax revenues every year. In Chesterfield we have around 90 different pubs, and videos on social media have been showing Chesterfield’s pubs leading the way in providing scenes of collective ecstasy during this summer’s Football.

It is because of a desire to salute and celebrate Britain’s pubs that I have created the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year competition in my role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs. The competition, which will give every MP from across Britain’s 650 constituencies the opportunity to nominate a great pub, was launched in Westminster’s famous Red Lion. Appropriately enough, the competition was launched just minutes before England took the field to play Colombia. Already dozens of MPs have signed up and selecting the ten finalists will be devilishly difficult, but as a pub enthusiast, it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to taking up!

If you would like to choose the pub you think I should nominate, email your suggestion with a description of not more than 100 words as to why it is a winner to and let’s tell all of Britain about Chesterfield’s great pubs.


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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF


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