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January 24, 2012 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson


The Police in Sefton have recently arrested a number of people who were stealing metal from houses, from church roofs, from railway lines and even overhead power cables. Happily the scrap metal dealers were willing to co-operate so that the police could track who was involved. This was a problem that householders in Lydiate raised with me. Householders and organisations across Sefton need to be on their guard against metal theft even though some of the culprits have been caught.

My colleague, Labour MP Graham Jones introduced legislation into parliament to tackle metal theft, but it seems that the Conservatives and their Lib Dem friends are not so keen to take action. We have heard talk about the problem from the Lib Dems but when it was time to act, Sefton Lib Dems fluffed their chance and failed to get their MPs to back Graham’s legislation.
Metal theft has been a real problem and at such a time this Government refuses to act and has opposed legislation to tackle this dangerous crime.  The decision to block Labour MP Graham Jones’ important Bill proves that the Government is unwilling to take the urgent action required to deal with metal theft. I hope that the warm words from the Tories and Lib Dems here in Sefton will lead to action on this issue.
Labour  have called for the Government to change the law to tackle metal theft at a time when we are seeing the desecration of war memorials, when households face repeated power cuts, commuters face increasing delays and churches and public buildings are being damaged. The theft of electric wires is even putting lives at risk. 
Faced with crime on this scale, the Government is being far too slow to act. The decision to oppose this bill proves that the Home Office is all too happy to turn a blind eye to this increasingly serious crime.
There is frankly no good reason for the Government to have objected to this bill, they should be embarrassed and ashamed. The Government’s soft-on-crime approach and out of touch Ministers have led to a missed opportunity. We will now not likely see legislation before next year at the earliest.
Speaking of being all talk and no action. The Lib Dems have said a few times that they are against the privatisation of the NHS. Yet time and again their MPs have voted in favour of the Health and Social Care Bill which is going through parliament. The bill would mean that hospitals would sell up to half their beds to private patients to raise cash. This would clearly see a big hike in waiting lists. Hospials are already showing increases in waiting times inspite of promises from the Tories and the Lib Dems that the NHS is safe with them. Now the Tory-Lib Dem health reforms face a fresh crisis as a powerful committee of MPs says the changes are obstructing efforts to make the NHS more efficient and that they fail to address the most urgent health challenge of modern times – how to care better for an expanding elderly population.
A highly critical report by the cross-party select committee on health comes as the medical establishment prepares to stage its own summit on Thursday to discuss concerns over the health and social care bill.
One of the key messages from the MPs is that the government’s far-reaching attempts to restructure the NHS in England and devolve more power to GPs are making it more difficult to deliver on a separate target of £20bn of efficiency savings by 2014-15. The report echoes the widespread view in the medical profession that it is deeply unwise to be inflicting far reaching structural reform on the NHS at the same time as asking it to make huge savings.
It stands to reason that you can’t make big changes in the NHS at the same time as cutting costs without increasing waiting times and reducing the quality of care. The government should go back to the drawing board before it does long term harm to the NHS and to patients and the Lib Dems should stop supporting the government whether its with the £44 million of cuts they pushed through in this year’s council budget or by voting with the Conservatives in Parliament to cut the privatise the NHS.
The board of RBS is said to be considering a bonus of £1.3m-plus for chief executive Stephen Hester. This comes a week after Tory Prime Minister, David Cameron said he would stop what he called “crony capitalism”.
The Prime Minister could block the bonus for Royal Bank of Scotland's chief executive, because the bank is owned by the government. But so far Mr Cameron has refused to intervene. Once again, we have Tory and Lib Dem politicians saying they will do something but then failing to act.
I believe that people in Maghull, in Crosby and in Formby would not regard it as "fair or right" for the head of a company whose share price had halved in the past year and which had missed its target for lending to small businesses to cash in when so many hard-working people were struggling to make ends meet. David Cameron has said on numerous occasions that he would stop banks paying out big bonuses. He has also called upon shareholders to stop excessive executive pay.
The best thing that could happen is that top management at RBS recognises the need for restraint. But if it doesn't happen, Cameron should act to stop Stephen Hester being paid a bonus of this scale.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will be judged by their deeds, not their words. And they should adopt Labour's plan for another bank bonus tax to fund 100,000 jobs for young people rather than allowing more obscene payments of bonuses to bankers, many of whom are responsible for the global financial crisis because of the reckless way in which they ran the banks. You really have to question whether the bankers have learned their lessons and it should be the bankers who pay the biggest share when it comes to reducing the deficit.
I fear that the failure of the Prime Minister to act on bankers bonuses at the same time as he is taxing families on low and middle incomes shows that he is ignoring a basic principle which is shared by people across Sefton and across Britain, namely that paying off the deficit mush be done as fairly as possible.

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