Greece & Austerity

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I endorse the Prime Minister’s welcome to our excellent new chief Clerk. I also welcome the fact, Mr Speaker, that you are proceeding speedily to the appointment of the post that will carry out the chief executive duties, the director general. That is very important.

On Greece, may I suggest to the Prime Minister that simply repeating the same dose of austerity on the Greek people and their Government will not achieve the objective any more than the last dose did? National debt went up in Greece as a result of the austerity programme. Of course, the Greek Government have to reform to collect their taxes and to get rid of corruption, and the Government have volunteered to do that, but going down the same austerity road is not going to revive the Greek economy or enable it to repay its debts. Those must be rescheduled and the reforms around that must ensure that Greece is capable of repaying its debts, not being strangled with austerity.

The Prime Minister: I do not entirely disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. The problem is, though, that the people who have lent the money to Greece want their money back, and they believe that Greece should carry out a series of reforms before they give it any more money. He or I can take a different view and argue as I would, although he would not, that Greece should never have joined the eurozone in the first place. That is not the right hon. Gentleman’s view because he is a fanatic about the eurozone. None the less, as we have not lent money to Greece, we are not in that position. If he had been at the European Council he would have heard, whether from the Germans, the Dutch and the Scandinavian countries, or from the Spanish, the Portuguese and the Irish, who have all been through these painful processes, that there is very little appetite to cut Greece a lot of slack.

Motability & Personal Independence Payments

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): The Motability car that my severely disabled constituent, Mark Francis, has had for 11 years is being taken from him in two weeks. Born with hereditary spastic paraplegia and unable to walk without crutches or sticks, he is sadly deteriorating by the week. I have been told that his case will be reconsidered, yet the Department for Work and Pensions is punitively and callously snatching his car from him on 25 February. Will the Prime Minister immediately rectify that heartless and disgraceful injustice?

The Prime Minister: As ever, I am very happy to look at the individual case raised by the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, with the replacement of disability living allowance with the personal independence payment, the most disabled people will be getting more money and more assistance, rather than less, but as I say, I will happily look at the case.

Former Pensions Secretary Blasts Prime Minister over Motability Failures

Peter Hain called on David Cameron to stop his government “acting callously and punitively” against a disabled constituent badly let down by glaring failures in the Motability regulations.

Standing in a heated session of Prime Ministers Questions, the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions stated: “The Motability car which my severely disabled constituent Mark Francis has had for 11 years is being taken from him in two weeks.”

“Born with Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, he cannot walk without leg braces and crutches and although he has worked all his life his physical health is now deteriorating by the week.”

The Neath MP went on to ask: “His case is being reconsidered – but that won’t happen for 3 months and meanwhile his car will be callously and punitively snatched by the DWP on 25th February.  Will the PM immediately rectify this disgraceful injustice?”

His constituent, Mr Mark Francis, suffers from a rare disorder known as Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia – this badly affects the muscles in his legs, making it difficult and painful for Mr Francis to walk, he must use crutches as a consequence.

Mr Francis began using a Motability car in 2004, however after recently being transferred from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments, he was shocked to discover that he was no longer considered eligible for the higher rate of Motability payment.

He received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions notifying him of its intention to take away his Motability car by the 25th of February.

Mr Hain said; “this is systematic of the DWP under this government, unable to fully think through its regulations. Mr Francis was badly let down during his PIP assessment, now he’s being unfairly penalised. Despite having launched an appeal against the decisions made against him, he’s still having his car taken away – badly hampering his quality of life.”

Peter on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme

Interviewed by Justin Webb, 

LK:                  Well here is the question I suppose, do you think anything needs to change, you claim you don’t think he should be deposed but do you think he, his team need to do things differently, is that at least true?

 

PH:                 You and I Justin, you in the media and I as a politicians occupy the Westminster bubble, it is a world completely remote from what is happening out there in places like Neath where I’m speaking to you from, we just heard a tragic, terrible story on your programme we have got a world in which zero hour contracts, a rough world of work, people getting mortgages to pay off their kid’s student debts, London flats being bought up by the block and kept empty by oligarchs, that is the world out there, stuttering growth, austerity, a hard time in which the British economy is sinking and is failing to compete abroad and then there is this Westminster bubble nonsense about plots from unnamed people and those that are named flatly deny it. The media led by the Daily Mail, what a surprise ‘A bonfire plot against Ed’ screaming on the headlines of the Daily Mail, the Daily Mail has always been virulently anti-Labour

 

JW:                 DO you think it is made up?

 

PH:                 I don’t know whether it is made up or not all I know is reputable journalists including on the BBC don’t mention names because there are no names and if there are people feeding this stuff they should stop because what the country is desperate for is change. They want to get rid of this incompetent government that may not even be able to keep the lights on over Christmas, they know that Ed Miliband, despite all the attacks on him in the media has a plan for the country. He was the one who showed the courage to take on Rupert Murdoch, who identified the way the electricity industry was ripping consumers off and remember when he called for an electricity price freeze the industry screamed, the Tories said it was a Marxist plot and then one after the other the industries said they would start to do it. He has been consistently leading this country in pointing out that we need to change the direction of the country, bringing out policies for new housing, for tackling the problem of zero hour contracts and so on

 

JW:                 Isn’t that the point though, you make the case there that the country is in trouble, the individuals are in trouble, that there is anger, that there is disillusion, isn’t the point that those inside the party who might be muttering about him, isn’t the point that they would make, that he should be in a position where he captures that disillusion and uses it politically, offers solutions that people genuinely think might work for them and that doesn’t seem to be happening?

 

PH:                 I think that is happening but we are living in a very different political climate. I’m just looking at the facts in the latest opinion poll which show the Conservatives on 27%, just 3 points ahead of Ukip on 24% and Labour with a clear-ish lead, now we need to do better in the polls, of course,  but we are in a new political climate in which there is no trust at all in the political class of which I’m a member and all the party leaders inhabit, no party leader has got good ratings at present time and what we need to do as a Labour Party is unite and pull ourselves together and get behind Ed as I believe the party in the country is and campaign and I think he will be the Prime Minister next year and I’m not saying this out of bravado, or tribal loyalty I think we will be the biggest party and I think Ed Miliband is on course to win but he needs the support of every Labour MP and I don’t think the mutterers if they exist and no doubt journalists are not inventing this though they can’t name the people, I find that very significant. If the mutterers continue to mutter then all they will do is stop places like Neath from being liberated from this destructive, uncaring, unfair government that is destroying people’s lives.

 

JW:                 You sound pretty angry this morning?

 

PH:                 I am angry because in the real world out here it is a world in which – I had last week an individual come to me, a constituent come to me with liver cancer, he is going to die unless he gets a liver transplant, he has been stripped of all his benefits he told me, he has not got any support from the welfare net that is supposed to support people in his dire situation. I can repeat other examples of what is actually happening on the ground and I don’t think those people or Labour Party members will forgive some self-indulgent Member of Parliament muttering to a journalist and producing a headline in the Daily Mail when actually those newspapers have always been Labour’s enemies and we have a plan, Ed Miliband actually has been the first to identify that this country needs to be changed and changed radically if it is to serve the interests of everyone and not just the tiny elite at the top which is what Cameron and his old Etonian cronies are doing.

 

 

-ends-

PM Accused over Northern Ireland

David Cameron is not engaging “closely or energetically enough” with the political parties in Ulster, a former Northern Ireland secretary claimed today.

Labour’s Peter Hain, who held the post from 2005 to 2007, said the situation needed “constant care and attention” from Downing Street.

He asked current Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers during questions in the Commons: ” Do you agree the current political paralysis in Northern Ireland is undermining already shaky local faith in their elected politicians?

“I do not believe that the Prime Minister has been engaging closely or energetically enough with the parties to ensure that the 2007 settlement remains in good faith.

“I make no party point on this. From experience, I know that Northern Ireland needs constant care and attention from No 10 and I hope it will now get that.”

Ms Villiers said she could assure him that Northern Ireland did get constant care and attention from Mr Cameron.

She said: “Not just with his decision to bring the G8 to Northern Ireland, but every day in focusing on the security situation and on repairing the Northern Ireland economy and, of course, closely following these talks.

“I agree it is vital we don’t let disputes about parades, painful though they are, get in the way of the need to reach resolution on important issues like the budget, like flags and like a reform of parading decisions in the future.”

Published in the Belfast Telegraph on October 29th 2014,

You can read it here