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There are many dimensions to economic marginalisation and deprivation in Northern Ireland and many of them are common to other parts of these islands.  It is particularly evident here in the high rates of youth unemployment and the widespread incidence of low pay, often associated with part-time working and zero-hours contracts.  A result is that many young people have become demoralised and detached from both the education system and the workforce.  It is vitally necessary that we re-engage them.

As requested, this submission addresses what we see as the root causes of the problem and what a Westminster Labour Government can do, in conjunction with the local Stormont Executive, to alleviate it.  Many of the policies announced by the party for the economy as a whole are relevant here.

Labour at Westminster may have limited direct responsibility because of Stormont devolution.  But it can set a political example to the Stormont Executive.  Moral suasion can be very powerful.

Northern Ireland is one of the most unequal parts of the UK, with average earnings some twenty per cent below the UK average and widespread low pay, unemployment and educational underachievement.  Labour’s overarching commitment to equality and social justice must inform their approach.

People here suffer discrimination as a result of the party’s ban on standing Labour Party candidates in Northern Ireland.  The suppression of progressive Labour Party politics, by forcing our politics ever more firmly into a sectarian mould, contributes greatly to the ingrained structural inequalities.

The marginalised and deprived, as well as those workers organised in trade unions, have no political voice to focus on their needs.  To develop the cross-community anti-sectarian politics necessary to tackle these inequalities, we must have the democratic right to vote for Labour Party candidates in all elections.

A key thrust of policy must be to improve the motivation towards work by improving the ability of the workforce and the quality of jobs available, as part of a move to an overall more productive workforce.  A Labour Government can contribute in a number of ways.

 

Make work pay

First, a priority is to make work pay, so that it is more attractive than a life on benefits and that it takes people out of in-work poverty.  The cost of living crisis is felt even more acutely in Northern Ireland because of our relatively low wages and high energy costs.   Earnings levels can by increased by raising the National Minimum Wage in real terms so that it is closer to average earnings.  Also, strong action needs to be taken to improve its enforcement. This is currently the responsibility of HMRC.

Currently, over one quarter of Northern Ireland workers are paid less than the Living Wage.  Young people in the 18-21 age group are most affected.  So, encouraging the widespread adoption of the Living Wage must be a priority.  Labour at Westminster can set an example by ensuring the Living Wage is the minimum pay throughout the UK-wide public sector and in public contracts awarded by these UK-wide bodies.

An important contributor to making work pay is to ensure parents are supported in the workplace.  Labour’s policy of extending free child care for three and four year-olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents is key here.  As this is to be funded nationally by an increase in the bank levy, the Stormont Executive should be encouraged to replicate it.

 

Create decent jobs

A second priority must be to help generate more well paid decent jobs.  Given the immediate task of tackling youth unemployment, we welcome Labour’s proposal for a repeat of the bank bonus tax, using the funds raised to provide a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee for young people out of work.  Northern Ireland must receive its fair share of this tax.

The Stormont House Agreement envisages the devolution of Corporation Tax to Northern Ireland.  The main proponents of this move (eg the First Minister and the DETI Minister) wish to cut the rate of Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland to ten per cent, below that prevailing in the Republic of Ireland.  They argue that this might eventually result in the creation of up to 55,000 new jobs over an extended time period, though this is pure speculation.  The immediate cost of such a tax cut will be a reduction of the block grant from Westminster of around £400 million per annum, starting from year one.

Given the current and likely future constraints on public expenditure here, we believe this will have an unacceptably detrimental additional impact on the Northern Ireland public sector.  It will result in many thousands of additional redundancies (probably compulsory) and in cuts in services such as education and training which are vital if we are to build a skilled workforce. 

We believe that given the current internationally competitive UK corporation tax rate, it is preferable to invest that £400 million per year in developing the skills of the workforce so that they are equipped to take on higher paid and more productive employment.

We must aim to make the knowledge-based economy a reality.  This means increased investment in further and higher education and in apprenticeship training.  Northern Ireland has a shortage of university places so that a large proportion of our high achieving school leavers have to move to Britain to go to university.  Many of them never return.  We need a big expansion of locally provided university places.  There should be an emphasis on STEM and related subjects and also in the creative arts, so that there is a supply of well-trained graduates available for both inward investors and local SMEs.  A further expansion of apprenticeship training (and tailored schemes such as that for Harland and Wolff welders rolled out at Belfast Met) is key.

Labour’s proposal not to introduce the Government’s additional corporation tax cut for large businesses in 2015-16, but instead to cut and then freeze business rates for small and medium sized businesses should, if passed on, benefit the Northern Ireland economy with its large community of SMEs.

A Labour Government’s national procurement policies must ensure Northern Ireland firms get fair treatment in the tendering process for public sector contracts.  These must be opened up to smaller firms.  Substantial public contracts should have social clauses requiring both the payment of the Living Wage and the employment of apprentices. 

Labour in power should ensure additional sources of finance for new projects.  The structures of Labour’s proposed new British Investment Bank must provide fair access to finance for Northern Ireland firms.  Working together with the Green Investment Bank, it can supplement local sources of business finance and provide innovative financial solutions to help generate job creation.

Under a Labour Government, Westminster should also be more pro-active in tapping a range of EU sources of finance (eg the European Investment Bank), especially for infrastructure projects.

 

Unlocking the Talents

A third and major priority must be to tackle child poverty as part of a drive to reduce educational inequality.  Northern Ireland has a particular problem of a very high proportion of young people leaving school without any qualifications.

Achieving this will be helped by success in raising pay and creating jobs, as suggested above.  Higher living standards and are directly associated with better educational performance.

The best route out of child poverty is for both parents to be in work.  Labour’s manifesto offer of 25 hours free child care, if adopted by the Stormont Executive, should help raise the standard of parenting.

Good parenting is an essential influence on childhood development and should be championed by Government.  But to do a good job, in work parents on low incomes and carers will need additional support through the welfare system.  It is now established that early years (up to 5) are critical to child development. Children who have fallen behind when they arrive at primary school often fall further behind.  Labour should champion the further development of early intervention such as Sure Start centres. 

Labour should promote free school breakfasts to reduce hunger in the classroom which inhibits learning.

Labour should also campaign to raise standards in the teaching profession and in the leadership of schools, with the aim of reducing innumeracy and illiteracy among primary school leavers.

To help them cope, our young people need changes in their school curriculum to incorporate:  parenting education, financial education, and education on drugs.

 

Labour Representation

Without elected Labour Party representatives on the ground, promoting the Party’s values and policies in Councils and in the Stormont Assembly, Labour’s ability to make a difference will be constrained. 

 

The Labour Party in                           

Northern Ireland

www://labourpartyni.org 

@LabourPartyNI

19 Church Road

Belfast BT8 7AL      

Tel:  07715045985

labourpartyni@gmail.com

Submission to the Heenan-Anderson Commission, 26 January 2015

There are many dimensions to economic marginalisation and deprivation in Northern Ireland and many of them are common to other parts of these islands.  It is particularly evident here in...

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland (4 members of the Executive Committee of Northern Ireland CLP) met with the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband MP during his recent visit.  This was the first time any Leader of the Labour Party has met with the local party.  For us, it was a small, but significant step forward in our long campaign to win the right to vote for Labour Party candidates in Northern Ireland.

 

Shadow Secretary of State, Ivan Lewis MP, Bikash Chudal (Ethnic Minority Officer LPNI), Boyd Black (CLP Secretary LPNI), Labour Leader Ed Miliband MP, Brigitte Anton (Vice Chair Membership LPNI) and Kathryn Johnston (Executive Committtee, LPNI)

 

It is an affront to democracy that, nearly fifty years after the foundation of NICRA, we are still denied the basic civil and political right to vote for the Labour Party that wants to form our Government.

In a meeting that was friendly, open and positive, we argued our case that the Labour Party should be running candidates here and not suppressing Labour Party politics, as it does.

In particular, we took issue with Ed’s ‘honest broker’ stance.  We argued that, in reality, his was a far from ‘neutral’ position.  The very fact that the Labour Party is boycotting us sent out a less than neutral signal.  It positively contributes to political instability.

Then, having propped up the local sectarian parties, if he fails to get the Labour majority we all want, Ed is possibly going to form an alliance in government with one of the local parties from one of the sectarian traditions.  This would probably be the sister party, the SDLP but now the DUP are apparently also in the frame. 

This hawking around of sectarian political deals is not edifying and is far from even handed ‘honest brokering’.  The term has lost all credibility.

We challenged Ed’s justification for his stance:  that the peace process is fragile and that having Labour Party councillors or MLA’s might destabilise it.  We thought this is over fastidious and very unconvincing.

We argued the main threat to the peace process is undoubtedly the fact that the Labour Party refuses to take responsibility for leading us beyond the sectarian structures of the Good Friday Agreement and developing Labour Party politics here.  We stressed the incalculable damage the Labour Party boycott is doing to our society and politics.

We insisted that it was the sectarian political structures Labour was preserving that posed the main threat to peace.  They generate flags and parades today.   What will it be tomorrow?

 

 

During the meeting we had a sense that Ed was listening, and that some things he heard from us were new and surprising to him, exactly because he had never talked to us before. Our conversation could be described as a ‘rapprochement’, but that seems too formal.  Meeting of minds, perhaps?  We certainly met on the issue of equality, since tackling inequality was the core reason Ed had entered politics.

We stressed the importance of not letting Northern Ireland fall further down the equality agenda, pointing out that in Northern Ireland, we do not have access to the same rights and services as those living in other parts of the United Kingdom. 

In particular:

The 1967 Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland 

We are still governed by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which carries a potential life sentence for anyone assisting in an abortion. 

Every week around 40 women travel across to England from Northern Ireland to have a private abortion at a cost of around £2000 each.

Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK without equal marriage rights.

Successive NI Health Ministers have introduced a lifetime ban on gay blood donation.

Gay couples do not have the same adoption rights as in the rest of the UK.

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland believes in a shared society and culture. Our approach is based on the Labour values of social justice, equality of opportunity, and rights matched with responsibilities.  While we recognise the importance of the role of the Labour government in  setting  the international standard for equality legislation and for introducing measures to establish LGBT equality here under direct rule, it is also important to note that Northern Ireland remains the least equal region of the UK, which has deep political implications and requires urgent attention.

There is a big legacy for Ed if he reverses his stance.

 

Press Coverage of Ed's visit:

http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/01/22/ed-miliband-in-belfast-no-gaffs-no-charisma-but-a-definite-listening-ear-at-the-heenan-anderson-commission/

 

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/debateni/blogs/liam-clarke/ed-miliband-how-can-northern-ireland-treat-you-seriously-if-you-wont-take-a-stand-30927210.html

 

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ed-miliband-well-review-stance-on-contesting-elections-in-northern-ireland-30930199.html

 

http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/regional/analysis-labour-s-ni-candidate-ban-fundamentally-undermined-miliband-s-ulster-visit-1-6539101

 

http://linkis.com/www.newsletter.co.uk/GbyH2

 

http://scopeni.nicva.org/article/no-taxation-without-representation-labour-should-stand

 

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/debateni/blogs/noel-mcadam/qa-ed-miliband-on-corporation-tax-the-sdlp-and-fielding-labour-candidates-in-northern-ireland-30942415.html

 

Boyd on Radio Ulster, 22 January 2015, 1hr, 05mins into the programme:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04y4hhq

 

 

Ed's Legacy

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland (4 members of the Executive Committee of Northern Ireland CLP) met with the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband MP during his recent...

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Department of Justice – The Criminal Law on Abortion, Lethal Foetal Abnormality And Sexual Crime: A Consultation On Amending The Law By The Department Of Justice.

On 26 July 2013, LPNI submitted our response to the Department of Health’s Consultation on the draft guidelines on the termination of pregnancy.

In that consultation, we said:

“The LPNI have a very clear policy on the issue of reproductive rights.  At a general meeting in September 2012 the NI Constituency Labour Party unanimously passed a motion supporting the extension of the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland.

We believe that the proposed guidelines would fail in their stated intention of clarifying our existing legislation as it has been interpreted by the courts. On the contrary, they would introduce further uncertainty, increase health risks to women and open the way to litigation on several levels. 

We note and support the call by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in July 2008, where they stated that the lack of access to abortion in Northern Ireland had detrimental consequences for women's health, and called for a public consultation on the issue.

CEDAW had already made similar recommendations to the UK Government about abortion in Northern Ireland in 1999. However, both the UK and Northern Ireland Governments have consistently failed to take any action over the last fourteen years, despite being legally obliged to.

We also note that the Equality Commission in their submission to the CEDAW Committee in 2008 recommended ‘the same access to reproductive health care services and rights in Northern Ireland as are available in Great Britain’. As long ago as 1994, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR) highlighted the inconsistencies governing abortion law in Northern Ireland. It is unacceptable that since the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998, there has not been any real effort to address the human rights implications of Northern Irish abortion law.

These draft guidelines do nothing to change the legal status of abortion in Northern Ireland which will remain that abortions here are governed by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.  That is a matter of deep concern.”

 

That remains the position of the LPNI.

 

Specific response to Department of Justice consultation on abortion.

We note and deplore the fact that there are no women currently sitting on the Justice Committee. As the Committee dealing with issues such as abortion law, sexual crime legislation, domestic violence and sex workers, which overwhelmingly affect women, it is difficult to see how women will have any faith in the Justice Committee’s findings. 

Overall, we believe that the consultation paper does not go far enough, only allowing for abortion where the foetus may have a fatal abnormality or where a sexual crime has taken place.  It is clearly not possible to have a fit for purpose consultation on the issue of abortion where the question of reproductive rights is not at the centre. 

In addition, abortion is not and should not be an issue for the Department of Justice.  Abortion is a medical procedure and women’s health is at risk when access to legal abortion is denied.  It is unfortunate that the Department of Health chose not to mount a joint consultation with the Department of Justice.

We agree that there can be “no statutory definition of lethal in terms of foetal abnormality”. However, we are disappointed that the consultation instead recommends the substitution of the term ‘incompatible with life”.  This definition is ambiguous at best and fails to address with sufficient clarity the question of the range of medical reasons which may be taken into account in determining whether or not an abortion may subsequently be legally acceptable in NI.  LPNI believes that the law should also have provision for abortion in cases of foetal abnormality which may not necessarily be lethal to the foetus. 

We also believe that the law should allow for abortion to be a choice in cases of rape and instances of other sexual crime, including incest.  It is important that guaranteed access to abortion for women who have been raped is provided in a manner which allows them to make that choice at the earliest stage possible and with the least amount of trauma.

Where provision for conscientious objection is to be made, we are concerned that the right of a medical practitioner to refuse to become involved in legal abortion procedures should not override duty of care. The right to conscientious objection should not prevent medical staff referring women to other medical providers of abortion, neither would it be acceptable for healthcare professionals to refuse to provide aftercare for those who may have had an abortion.

 

In case of queries or for further information, please contact us.

Response to Department of Justice abortion consultation, 16 January 2015

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Department of Justice – The Criminal Law on Abortion, Lethal Foetal Abnormality And Sexual Crime: A Consultation...

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