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Toby on the Gritstone Edge Walk near Baslow in the Peak District National Park

Blog: Celebrate ‘National Parks Week’ by visiting the Peak District

One of the delights of living in Chesterfield is the fact that the Peak District National Park is right on our

doorstep. The Park has so many beautiful places, from the scenic majesty at Monsall Head or the Ladybower Dam, to the hidden wonder of the Blue John Cavern or the old cobbled streets of Bakewell. And the many different activities available make it an accessible and attractive park for visitors of all ages. You can do anything from hiking to rock climbing, birdwatching to canoeing, camping to trail biking. It is a place I love to visit with my family and yo

u will often see me walking up the hills on a weekend or stopping for a drink in one of the brilliant country pubs.

As today is the start of ‘National Parks Week 2015’ (27th July to 2nd August), I would urge everyone to explore the Peak District and take advantage of what it has to offer.

Labour created the first National Parks in the UK by passing the National Parks and Countryside Access Act

Toby on the Gritstone Edge Walk near Baslow in the Peak District National Park

Toby on the Gritstone Edge Walk near Baslow in the Peak District National Park

1949, with the Peak District being named a National Park in 1951. We did this because Labour believes everyone has the right to access and enjoy the countryside, not just a privileged few. Since then, our National Parks have flourished and become landscapes that are not only vital to our wildlife and environment, but vital to our economy with the tourism they attract and jobs they support.

Regrettably, the National Park Authorities (NPAs) that operate our National Parks have suffered a 36% real terms cut in their government grant since 2010. And further planned reductions to the National Park Grant over the next 5 years will have a massive effect on NPAs ability to operate, which will place events, projects, jobs and wildlife at risk.

Over 90 million people visit National Parks every year, and the rural businesses operating within the Parks employ 68,000 people and have an annual turnover of more than £10bn. Our National Parks are vibrant, productive landscapes, containing some of the best hotels and shops and home to companies producing high quality food and drink.

National Parks are a proud Labour legacy, created with the aim of protecting our wildlife and landscape for future generations to appreciate. It is vital that we support our parks and make use of these amazing resources that are right on our doorstep.

I encourage my constituents to reconnect with nature this summer by visiting the Peak District National Park, and support local businesses by sampling some of the local food and drink. Please have a look at some of the events being held in the Peak District during ‘National Parks Week’ and try to go along. A list of events can be found at http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week-2015/peakdistrict

 

 

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Statement on the Welfare Bill

Many local people have contacted Toby in recent days regarding the vote on the Welfare Bill on Monday night.  Below he blogs about the vote and how he voted.

Understandably there has been considerable interest in the bill and what the response to it by Labour says about us as an opposition.

Apprentice Video Screen ShotLet me start by saying that I am in politics as a Labour MP to help us get into power so that we may take steps to build a fairer and more equal society and reduce poverty and inequality. I am very proud of the last Labour government’s achievements in lifting over 1 million children out of poverty.

It was no coincidence that the Conservatives should choose the final week of parliament before Labour’s leadership election to bring forward a bill of this nature. They knew that it would pose political problems for the Labour Party, sadly the inadequacy of our response as an opposition has turned a tricky situation into a shambles.

The first misconception that has been allowed to be propagated by the confusion of our response is that we didn’t vote against the bill – we did, I did. By proposing what is known as a reasoned amendment we voted to scrap the Welfare Bill.  The reasoned amendment listed the parts of the bill that we supported (see details below) but also said that on balance we were declining to support the bill because of the things that we opposed.

Of course we lost that vote, just as we knew we would, just as we would have lost a vote on 2nd reading. There is a perfectly logical reason for us to attempt to vote down the sections of the bill that we don’t support rather than vote down the whole bill and lose the things we support. There was also a logical argument (which many of my colleagues made) for opposing the entire bill (including things we supported) in order to make a point. In practical terms neither of these would have made a difference, the government has a majority and not a single Tory MP has expressed dissatisfaction with it, so it will pass either way, it is a question of how we as an opposition best make our point.

What’s in the Bill

When I first looked through the Bill it was abundantly clear what the government was up to. They had lumped together measures that Labour – and most people in Chesterfield – would support with other policies that we would obviously oppose. Their goal was to cause political damage to Labour, particularly during our leadership contest.  The Tories know that they benefit when the Left is divided, and so that’s what they use the tools of government to try and achieve.

On the issues that I support in this Bill, the three most significant are the creation of three million new apprentices (many are the higher and advanced ones included in the last Labour manifesto); lowering of rents for tenants in social housing; and more investment into the ‘troubled families programme’ which has its origins in the early intervention policies of the last Labour government.

In my judgement each of these three measures would directly benefit the constituents I was sent to Parliament to represent. Voting against the 2nd reading of the bill would have meant voting against these measures (and you would hear the Tories on the TV saying “Labour voted against increasing apprenticeships and cutting rents for social tenants” for the next five years), which was a key reason why the party leadership decided not to oppose the 2nd reading of the bill.

But then there are the other measures like the abolition of child poverty targets and cuts to support for the sick and disabled who are not fit for work – this includes people who have cancer or Parkinson’s disease.

Only a Tory government could propose removing the legal duty for the government to tackle child poverty (introduced by the last Labour government.  Only a Tory government could propose reducing the welfare budget that goes to terminally ill cancer patients. We should always remember that it is Cameron’s Conservatives who came up with these ideas and brought them before Parliament.

It should go without saying that these are terrible policies which I wholeheartedly oppose, and our reasoned amendment (see more below) did oppose them.

What’s not in the Bill

Lots of people have raised with me the issue of cuts to tax credits, particularly for those families with more than two children.  Tax credits were a great achievement of the last Labour Government which helped to lift 1 million children out of poverty.  But let me be absolutely clear – cuts to Tax Credits were not a part of the Bill presented to the House of Commons this week.

The government have made it clear that they intend to cut Tax Credits, but this will be introduced later in the year by another parliamentary procedure called a ‘statutory instrument’ and Labour will oppose them then.

Reasoned amendment

I’ve met many local Council tenants struggling with arears at my weekly surgeries.  I stood on a manifesto in May to create more apprenticeships.  I have seen the success of early intervention programmes in addressing long term youth unemployment.  Whilst our amendment would have had the effect of killing the bill, our amendment at least put on record our support for these measures.

This does mean that by supporting Labour’s amendment I voted against cuts to support for disabled people and abolition of the child poverty targets.

What happens next

There are three more stages that this Bill must pass through in the House of Commons before it moves to the House of Lords.

The next is Committee Stage where a smaller committee of MPs can scrutinise the Bill line by line and table amendments to each section of it. Labour have already published some of the amendments we will seek to introduce at this stage and I’ve included them at the bottom of this blog so you can see the approach we will take at this stage.

Then the Bill returns for its Report Stage, and finally it’s Third Reading. At these points it is still possible for me to vote against the entire Bill if I believe that is the only course of action left. After that, the Bill passes to the Lords where the government lacks a majority and the Labour team there can try to bring further influence.

Defeating the government

Some people have contacted me, and posted on social media, that Labour could have won the vote on Monday because not every single Tory voted.  What actually happened was that, because the Conservatives knew we were going to abstain, they allowed some of the MPs to go home, or for ministers to attend meetings rather than vote.  If we were going to vote against it they would have got all of their MPs out to vote to defeat us – exactly as they were able to do with the reasoned amendment.

It’s difficult to deal with, but the truth is that now the Conservatives have won an outright majority we cannot ever defeat the government unless some Tory MPs vote with us, and on Monday not a single Tory MP broke ranks to abstain or vote against the Bill.

The Tories chose to put all these conflicting policies into one Bill deliberately to divide us and create powerful dilemmas for Labour MPs.  It is imperative that once we have a new leader in place we start to offer credible united opposition of a sort that I am afraid was sadly missing on this occasion.

***

I personally think the approach the leadership attempted to carry out was the best response to a difficult situation.

I appreciate that other people will take a different view and respect this.  Some will argue that we should oppose everything if we disagree with anything, others that our course of action on this occasion was right, there are strong arguments for both approaches.

Either way, a disorganised and disunited opposition only makes the government’s job easier and I apologise that as a group we failed to provide the sort of unified and coherent opposition the country deserved.

If you would like to meet to discuss this further I would be very happy to do so.  Simply call 386286 to make an appointment.

***

Here are some of the amendments Labour will try to have included in the Bill:

  • An amendment to prevent the Government abolishing the targets for reducing child poverty;
  • The Government are also trying to delete child poverty from the remit of the ‘Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’ so that it becomes just the ‘Social Mobility Commission’. An amendment will prevent that taking place;
  • An amendment which will mean that the household benefit cap would not apply to persons who are responsible for a child under 2 years old, are a carer, or are in temporary accommodation because of domestic violence;
  • A new clause which will require the Secretary of State to report each year on the impact of the household benefit cap, particularly on child poverty;
  • An amendment which will require the level of the household benefit cap to be reviewed every year, rather than only once in a Parliament. The review would be based on the new clause above requiring the impact of the benefit cap on child poverty to be assessed each year;
  • An amendment which will require the Social Security Advisory Committee to review the Discretionary Housing Payments fund each year to ensure that sufficient resources are available. Discretionary Housing Payments are used to support those who are unfairly affected by the benefit cap;
  • An amendment which will set the target of full employment as 80 per cent of the working age population – in line with the Labour Government’s definition and recent research which shows that this would be an ambitious target. The Bill includes a process for reviewing progress towards ‘full employment’, but does not define what is meant by that;
  • An amendment to require the UK Commission on Employment and Skills to assess whether the Government’s target for apprenticeships is being met, so that the Government can be held to account. There is significant concern among businesses and others that the quality of apprenticeships is being watered down in order to increase the numbers;
  • An amendment which will require the resources which are being dedicated to helping troubled families to be clearly set out;
  • An amendment which will ensure that interventions to support troubled families are focused on helping people into work;
  • An amendment to prevent the Bill restricting Universal Credit for three or subsequent children even when the third child is born before 5 April 2017;
  • A new clause preventing the restrictions to tax credits applying to three or more children where a third child is born as a result of a multiple birth, where a third of subsequent child is fostered or adopted, where a third child or subsequent child is disabled, or where a family with three or more children moves onto tax credits or universal credit in exceptional circumstances – including but not restricted to the death of one member of the family, the departure of one parent or loss of income through unemployment – which would be set out by the Social Security Advisory Committee. It also sets up an appeals process for all cases covered by this clause;
  • An amendment preventing cuts in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for the WRAG group of around £30 a week. People who are in the WRAG group have been through a rigorous test which has deemed them not fit for work, for example because they have Parkinson’s or are being treated for cancer;
  • An amendment requiring the Government to produce a plan to offset the impact of lower social rents on housing associations. Labour supports the reduction in social housing rents, which will help low-income families and bring down the housing benefits bill. However, we must protect against impacts on the ability of housing associations to build new affordable homes and maintain their existing properties;
  • An amendment which subjects the four-year benefit freeze to an annual review subject to changes in inflation.

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BLOG: Chesterfield needs a better plan and a Labour Budget

This week’s Budget changed nothing for working people here in Chesterfield.

George Osborne spent an hour telling people they’ve never had it so good. But after five years of the Tory government, working people are still an average £1,600 a year worse off.

226-ed-25-02-2015The Tories came into office promising to protect our National Health Service, make people better off and balance the books. But their plan hasn’t worked and the Budget said nothing about the NHS. I’m worried that the NHS as we know it won’t survive five more years of the Tories.

The Tory government started Budget day with plans for extreme spending cuts and they ended Budget day with plans for extreme spending cuts which go beyond simply balancing the books.

They would mean deep cuts to police, defence and social care which are almost impossible to achieve. That’s why I believe the Tory plans can only be achieved by putting the NHS at risk and raising VAT again.

That’s what you get from a Tory Chancellor who gives with one hand and takes away much more with the other. The Tories can’t build a better future for working people because they only stand up for a privileged few.

Labour has set out a better plan for Britain’s future; a plan that works for ordinary families, rewarding the hard work they do and saving the NHS they rely on.

So a Labour Budget will raise living standards by increasing the minimum wage and with 25 hours of free childcare for working parents.

We will save our NHS from the Tories with 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 GPs and cancer tests guaranteed in one week, paid for by closing tax loopholes and a mansion tax on properties over £2million.

We will cut business rates for small firms, reduce tuition fees to £6,000 a year and guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the grades. We will cut taxes for millions of working people through a lower 10p starting rate.

And we will balance the books in a fairer way by reversing the Tory tax cut for millionaires and scrapping the Bedroom Tax.

That’s the Labour Budget we need; a better plan that puts working families first and saves our NHS. Not a Budget flop from a Chancellor whose plan is failing working families here in Chesterfield.

By Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield

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Hospital picture with Toby

Update from Westminster: 19 March 2015

The Tory plan is failing working families

Less than a day after George Osborne delivered his Budget, it’s already unravelling – with the Tories’ plans for extreme cuts, and the risk they pose to the NHS, increasingly clear.

sausagesGeorge Osborne spent an hour telling people they’ve never had it so good. But after five years of the Tories working people are still an average £1,600 a year worse off. That’s why he has failed to balance the books as he promised.

Our National Health Service is in crisis. But George Osborne had nothing to say about the NHS.

The Tories started yesterday with plans for extreme spending cuts. And they ended yesterday with plans for extreme spending cuts.

As the independent Office for Budget Responsibility said, these Budget plans will mean “a sharp acceleration” in cuts to public spending – even bigger after the election than over the last five years. These are deeper cuts which go beyond simply balancing the books. They could only be delivered by raising VAT again and putting our NHS at risk.

That’s what you get from a Tory Chancellor who gives with one hand and takes much more with the other.

The Lib Dems have backed the Tories all the way 

Lib Dem attempts to differentiate themselves from the Tories aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Even Danny Alexander admits the Tories’ record is their own.

Clegg and CameronThe Lib Dems backed the Tories all the way and working families have paid the price. Thanks to the Lib Dems, working people’s wages are down £1,600 a year since 2010 and tax and benefit changes have left families £1,127 worse off.

The Lib Dems and Nick Clegg broke their central election promises and cannot be trusted. Rather than delivering fair taxes they hiked VAT, and rather than abolishing tuition fees they trebled them. The Lib Dems have been part of a government which imposed the bedroom tax while cutting taxes for millionaires.

You can’t trust the Lib Dems. No matter what they say, they share the Tories’ record of failing working people.

So the election remains a choice between a Tory plan which is failing working families and Labour’s better plan which will put working families first and save our NHS.

Labour’s better plan

Labour’s better plan will put working families first and save our NHS:

  • Hospital picture with TobyRaising living standards by increasing the minimum wage to £8 an hour and 25 hours of free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Saving and transforming our NHS with a £2.5 billion a year Time to Care Fund which will pay for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and a guarantee of cancer tests in one week.
  • Cutting business rates for 1.5 million small business properties and getting 200,000 new homes built a year.
  • Balancing the books in a fair way by reversing the Tory tax cut for millionaires.
  • A tax cut for 24 million working people through a lower 10p starting rate of tax.
  • And guaranteeing an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades and cutting tuition fees to £6,000.

Posted in Blog, Featured, NewsComments Off on Update from Westminster: 19 March 2015

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Q&A with the British Chamber of Commerce

Toby was recently asked to participate in a Q&A with the British Chambers of Commerce about Labour’s plans for small business.  You can read the questions and answers below.

1) Business Bank – What measures should the next government take to improve access to growth finance for small businesses?  How does Labour plan to develop the young British Business Bank?

So far, the government’s ‘Business Bank’ has had too little impact on helping small businesses get access to the finance they need – net lending to small and medium sized firms fell by £1bn in the last quarter.

443We would properly resource the British Investment Bank by using planned fees for the mobile phone spectrum – estimated to be up to £1billion.

Alongside this we will look to emulate the best features of the German local banking model – which oversaw an increase in small business lending during the crash – with a network of regional banks.

German local banks, known as Sparkassen, are commercial banks, which are profit-making but not profit-maximising.  They are confined to lend within a specified region and have a legal responsibility to promote regional growth.

When visiting Germany, I met local Sparkassen managers who were intimately attuned to their local economies and had the authority to lend significant sums to the entrepreneurs they felt would succeed in their community.

The key principles of this model – permanency through state backing; a core duty to support growth and innovation within a defined area; professionalism with banking experts who understand their local customers – can thrive in a British context, as seen by the success of institutions like the Bank of Salford.

2) Business costs – How does Labour plan to tackle the UK’s ‘cost of doing business crisis’?

There is no doubt that businesses, as well as individuals, are being squeezed by the cost-of-living crisis.

At present, Britain has one of the most expensive property tax regimes in Europe as under David Cameron businesses have been hit by business rate rises of £1,500 on average.

So, a future Labour government would cut  – then freeze – business rates for small and medium sized businesses, helping 1.5 million firms.

butchers outsideLikewise, it cannot be right that that 1 in 5 business failures are simply down to bills being paid late rather than a failed business model.  So, to help ensure small businesses get money owed to them on time, a Labour government would introduce a tough new regime where large businesses would be forced to automatically pay interest on bills paid late to their small suppliers.  This would remove large firm’s incentive to use their suppliers as an unofficial credit line and would shift the burden away from disempowered small firms pursuing expensive legal challenges to their customers, once and for all.

Just as crucially, we want to direct more custom to small companies in the first place.  This is why Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, brought Small Business Saturday to Britain for the first time in 2013.  On the most recent Small Business Saturday, held in December 2014, more than £500million extra was spent with small British firms.

3) Bridging gap between business and education – How does labour plan to support closer links between the worlds of education, training and employment? What role do you see for Chambers of Commerce in this?

We understand that small businesses are particularly vulnerable to skills shortages in the Labour market.

This is why a Labour government would put employers in the driving seat alongside rigorous new standards so that all apprenticeships last a minimum of two years and are at level three, and all young people study English and Maths to eighteen.

We would also drive up standards at FE colleges by requiring all new college teachers to have level two qualifications in maths and English and introduce a new Technical Baccalaureate for 16-19 year olds, a gold-standard vocational qualification.

IMG_3495To ensure that young people leave the education system with the skills businesses in their area actually need, Labour’s pioneering Waltham Forest Council are working with local businesses to appoint an “Enterprise Governor” to school governing boards.  These people have a specific remit to promote entrepreneurship as an exciting career option in their school and ensure that schools are focusing on the skills businesses need.

Labour is backing this model and encouraging other authorities to roll it out across the country.  I’m sure local Chambers of Commerce members would be ideal candidates for the role in their area.

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BLOG: Young people are being failed by this government, especially over tuition fees

Young people in Chesterfield have been betrayed by the Tory and Lib Dem government.

From the closing of sure start centres and the trebling of tuition fees through to declining training opportunities and rising housing costs. No generation has been dealt as bad a hand by their government as young people today.

photo 2We should be investing in our young people so that they are equipped to make the most of their potential instead of having it squandered. This is not only so they can be successful for themselves, but also so our young people can build the long-term economic success our country needs.

There is a choice at the general election; a choice between the Tories’ failing plan and Labour’s better plan for working families.

I’m proud that the next Labour government will help the next generation succeed. Labour will tackle spiralling debt – averaging £44,000 for each graduate – by cutting the tuition fee cap from £9,000 to £6,000 for undergraduates from September 2016 and providing additional grants for students from lower-income backgrounds.

This will form part of Labour’s Young People’s Guarantee, including apprenticeships and a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee funded by a Bank Bonus Tax.

Cutting tuition fees isn’t just about lowering the debt of university students; it’s also about cutting our national debt. The Tory and Lib Dem government’s decision to raise tuition fees to £9,000, saddling graduates with debts which they can never pay off, has hit taxpayers too. Almost three quarters of students will never pay their loan back in full as the government’s system writes the debt off after 30 years if it’s still unpaid. If left unchecked the system will add £281 billion to the national debt by 2030. We can’t carry on with this system as it’s unfair to students, and unfair to taxpayers.

Labour decision to cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 and increase student grants will benefit both students and our country as a whole as both can go into the future knowing that we have a more sustainable and less debt-laden system.

This change will be funded by restricting pension tax relief for those on the highest incomes. And the increase in student grants will be paid for by asking the highest earning graduates to contribute a little more.

We all want our children and young people to succeed in the future. Under this government, they are being badly let down but this won’t happen under Labour. We will ensure that the next generation isn’t left behind.

Instead, Labour will ensure that all young people are equipped to fulfil their potential and succeed in the future.

By Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield

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animal protection plan - twitter image

Labour’s Plan to Protect Animals

Chesterfield’s MP, Toby Perkins, cares passionately about animal welfare.

Badgers

As Toby explains: “Since I was elected in 2010 I have also personally been involved in campaigns to support animal welfare, I spoke and voted against the badger cull and questioned DEFRA on their disastrous plan to kill buzzards to protect pheasant shoots.”

The last Labour Government made real progress on animal welfare with a record that included:

  • Banning fur farming and working in Europe to ban imports of cat and dog fur into the EU;
  • Refusing to license any testing on great apes (such as chimpanzees, orang-utans and gorillas);
  • Securing better welfare standards at a European level for battery hens and meat chickens and secured an EU-wide ban on the trade in seal fur.
  • Introduced the Hunting Act 2004, outlawing the killing of foxes, hares, mink and deer by dogs, consigning centuries of cruelty to the dustbin.

It is now clear that the next Labour government will be just as ambitious in protecting and improving standards of animal welfare, with clear pledges to:

  • Defend the Hunting Act which the Tories plan to repeal;
  • Bann the cruel practice of wild animals in circuses;
  • End the Government’s ineffective and inhumane badger culls;
  • Improve the welfare of dogs and cats by reviewing ineffective regulation of their breeding and sale;
  • Tackle wildlife crime and reducing animal cruelty on shooting estates;
  • Lead the fight against global animal cruelty.

These pledges were revealed earlier this week when Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, released a new pamphlet – Labour’s Plan to Protect Animals – which you can read in full here:  http://b.3cdn.net/labouruk/1c898776c42677bb69_eum6vj1eg.pdf

By putting these policies at the front and centre of the general election campaign, with strong support from senior figures right up to the Leader of the Party Ed Miliband, Labour have demonstrated the political commitment to this vital topic.

This all stands in stark contrast to the attitude of the Conservative Party.

As widely reported in the media, prizes on auction at the Tories’ annual Black and White Fundraiser Ball earlier this month included a deer-stalking weekend and a trip to shoot 500 pheasants, which sold for over £110,000 – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/shoot-500-pheasants-save-tory-5141500

If you support these plans, why not use one of the following images on your social media?

animal protection plan - facebook image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

animal protection plan - twitter image

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BLOG: A Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity

On Monday Ed Miliband launched Labour’s new industrial strategy, called A Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity.  This document makes it clear that voters in May will have a clear choice between competing visions about how our economy can be successful in the twenty first century.

The Tories are committed to continue with their failing plan, where a few at the top become ever more successful whilst the rest of the country are excluded from any recovery.  By contrast, Labour’s modern industrial strategy is a better plan, one which recognises that for Britain to succeed we need to build inclusive prosperity that supports all sectors of our economy.

Large businesses have a key role to play in this and in opposition we have moved to integrate the thinking of successful British corporations into our policy development.   Jaguar Land Rover’s Executive Director Mike Wright led our review on strengthening manufacturing supply chains; and Sir George Cox reported for us on tackling short termism.

So whilst David Cameron and George Osborne are set to badly miss their export targets and are currently pushing Britain towards the exit door of the EU risking vital jobs and investment, a Labour government will offer firms certainty in our continued membership of the EU, our biggest overseas market, and work alongside our European partners to focus on growth.

We will also work to rebalance the economy to ensure that all businesses – large and small – are able to innovate and grow.

ed-milibandUnder Labour, small businesses will always be the first in line for tax cuts.  A Labour government elected in May would cut and then freeze businesses rates for properties with a rateable value of less than £50,000.  This will directly reduce the tax burden on 1.5 million of Britain’s smallest businesses.

We will also move to tackle anti-competitive practices that hold back small businesses and entrepreneurs.

It is a scandal that one in five business failures are simply down to bills being paid late rather than a failed business model.  So, to help ensure small businesses get money owed to them on time, a Labour government would introduce new reporting requirements to ensure large businesses pay interest on bills paid late to their small suppliers.  This would remove large firm’s incentive to use suppliers as an unofficial credit line and would shift the burden away from disempowered small firms pursuing expensive legal challenges to their customers.

Likewise, many people will have seen the recent media furore around some large businesses’ “pay and stay” policies.  Firms always have a right to negotiate for better prices, but it cannot be fair for big businesses to charge their small supplier to go on the list of companies they might choose to buy from.  Labour were seeking action on this issue for some before it became national news.  Last autumn I brought forward new amendments to the Small Business Bill to tackle the practice.  Of course the Tory-led government voted down these plans, and so it will fall to the next Labour government to look at what action is required.

As someone who ran my own small business before standing for Parliament, I know that the smallest companies are those most vulnerable to skills shortages in the labour market.  We need to take action to help businesses recruit the staff they need, and to ensure young people are equipping themselves with the skills employers want to see.  This is why a Labour government would put employers in the driving seat, alongside rigorous new standards, to work towards a system where apprenticeships last a minimum of two years and are at level three, and that all young people study English and Maths to 18.

Perhaps most crucially of all, Labour will deliver radical reform to the banking sector to provide small businesses with a much needed injection of funding.  The failure of this government to get banks lending has been a catastrophe for small businesses, with net lending to these firms falling by a further £1 billion in the last quarter.

To address this, Labour will set up a British Investment Bank and a network of regional banks with a specific purpose to address the lending gap to small businesses. This will look to emulate the best features of the German local banking model, which oversaw an increase in small business lending during the crash. The key principles of this model – permanency through state backing; a core duty to support growth and innovation within a defined area; professionalism with banking experts who understand their local customers – can thrive in a British context, as seen by the success of institutions like the Bank of Salford.

Labour’s new industrial strategy – A Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity – offers a route-map to sustainable growth for Britain’s working families and businesses.  This May voters have the chance to back this positive plans and leave behind the failed Tory strategy.

Toby Perkins is Labour’s Shadow Minister for Small Business and MP for Chesterfield

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Welcome

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.

Contact Toby

Tel: 01246 386286
Email: toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk
Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

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I hold regular surgeries for my constituents.
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