March 18, 2014 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson



There is a cost-of-living crisis under this Chancellor. Working people are on average £1,600 a year worse off since George Osborne and David Cameron came to office.  Most working people are not feeling any recovery at all.

But George Osborne is totally out of touch with ordinary people across the country. He and David Cameron always stand up for the privileged few – for example by giving the top one per cent of earners a £3 billion tax cut.

We need a recovery for the many not just a few at the top. Labour will act to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and earn our way to higher living standards for all.

We will balance the books in the next Parliament, but we will get the deficit down in a fairer way – including by reversing this government’s £3billion tax cut for people earning over £150,000.

According to the government’s figures, the economy is now growing again after four years of stagnation. But for ordinary people, this growth is hard to see as in their daily lives nothing has changed. Prices are going up but pay is not. The question is who is the recovery for?

The government is pushing the Care Bill through parliament. 

Now the Care Bill has a number of very good measures including much needed support for carers. In parliament we debated the fact that thousands of people care for relatives and friends with no financial help and often at risk to their own health. 

The government has cut social service budgets especially in places like Sefton so the additional responsibilities included in the Care Bill will be hard to deliver unless cuts are reversed, something that is not going to happen under this government.

But the Care Bill also included the infamous hospital closure clause which creates the prospect of any hospital being under threat at a moment’s notice due to problems somewhere else in the NHS. 

It really does create huge uncertainty about the future of hospitals. 

A big national campaign was launched and a former government minister, Lib Dem Paul Burstow tabled an amendment to the Care Bill designed to stop the worst effect of the hospital closure clause. Burstow told the House of Commons that he had received a petition signed by 140,000 people in support of his amendment and MPs received thousands of emails from people across the country urging them to support his amendment to stop the hospital closure clause.

As the vote was approaching, Burstown suddenly announced that he was satisfied his amendment was no longer needed. He had been offered a deal and had been appointed to a new job as chairman of some committee. 

So when we came to vote on the Burstow amendment, Labour MPs voted for the amendment as we had agreed to do so. 

We had the absurd situation where Lib Dem MPs refused to support their own amendment. 

More to the point, the hospital closure clause went through and hospitals like Southport, Ormskirk and Aintree are now all under potential threat of closure thanks again to the Lib Dem support for the Tories, this time in exchange for the offer of a new job. 

Sadly, an all too familiar story.