Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Diane Abbott sounds public sector alarm

Sunday shows round-up: Diane Abbott sounds public sector alarm
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Diane Abbott - Public sector at risk if migration collapses

The Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has told Andrew Marr that British businesses and essential services such as the NHS require a certain level of migration from Europe after Brexit and that a 'collapse' in numbers could pose a serious risk to the UK economy. Abbott claimed that a Labour government would clamp down on bureaucracy with regard to EU migration and that she would implement 'fair rules' and 'reasonable management':

AM: Do you think that the number of people coming here from the EU will go down after Brexit if you're in power?

DA: You should talk to British business and the health service because they're very worried about a collapse in the number of EU migrants coming here. Social care would be in a terrible position, the health service, finance, education - so we will be listening, as the Government should be listening, to what business and the public sector says about its needs for labour.

AM: And in all those areas that you've listed, do you think we actually need roughly the kind of numbers of people coming here now to carry on to keep the health service running as it should and to keep those businesses running as they have been?

DA: At this point both business and public services like health and education are saying we do indeed need the eastern European migrants that are coming here.

AM: So we could see about the same number of people coming here after Brexit as now..?

DA: It's not my view... the reality is that business, the CBI, the Institute of Directors, but also health, education and social care - they say that they need these European migrants and we have to listen to them.

When asked if European migrants would need visas to live and work in the UK after Brexit, Abbott replied that 'we will have to see how these negotiations go'. Despite her previous comments on a potential second referendum, Abbott insisted that 'the Labour party doesn’t support a second referendum. We’ve never supported it - we don’t now.'

David Gauke - Benefit sanctions are sometimes appropriate

The Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke has defended the government's approach to benefit sanctions, arguing that such measures are sometimes justified to ensure the effectiveness of the system. Gauke told Marr that 'If you don't have sanctions, you don't have conditionality and you don't change behaviour':

AM: Do you accept that... part of the reason for increasing homelessness [and] rough sleeping is connected to the sanctions regime that you are in charge of as Universal Credit rolls out?

DG: When it comes to the sanctions regime, we've seen fewer sanctions over 2017 than we did in 2015 and 2016, so the numbers of sanctions are coming down...

AM: The Public Accounts Committee [said] in February 'Sanctions have increased in severity in recent years and can have serious consequences such as debt, rent arrears and homelessness'. Are they wrong?

It is the case that in the last couple of years, the number of sanctions have fallen... We have welfare system that is based on conditionality and rightly so. We pay money to people but there are certain conditions that are in place. We do expect people to comply with those conditions. In some cases where those conditions are not met, it is appropriate to have a sanction. If you don't have sanctions, you don't have conditionality and you don't change behaviour... We have got 3 million more people in work than was the case in 2010. Part of that is because we have a benefits regime...

AM: It's more aggressive and it's more pointed and it affects people's mental health and homelessness as well.

DG: It does place more conditions on people, and one of the reasons why I think we have higher levels of employment [is] because we place conditions on people - that changes behaviour and that helps people get into work. Not that's not to say there aren't hard cases, cases where we get it wrong... but I would defend the principle of saying... 'What can we do and what can you do to get you into work?'

Marr also took issue with Gauke over the 134 per cent increase in rough sleeping that had occurred under the Conservatives. Gauke replied 'As a government we are committed to bringing that down. We want to halve it by 2022, we want to eliminate it by 2027.'

Barry Gardiner - Momentum 'is a good thing'

Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner has spoken out in favour of the Momentum group active within the Labour party, which has come under intense scrutiny after triggering several deselections in the London borough of Haringey. As a consequence, Haringey could potentially become the first council controlled by the group when elections are held next year. The group has also come under fire for requesting that Labour parliamentary candidates sign up to a so-called 'loyalty test'. Gardiner detailed his thinking to Niall Paterson:

Momentum movement a "good thing" says Shadow International Trade Sec @BarryGardiner #Paterson

— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) December 17, 2017

BG: They're a group of people who have joined the Labour party because they're enthused by the manifesto. And that's a very very good thing. We are now the largest political party in the whole of western Europe - over half a million members. That's about democracy in action, and that has to be a good thing.

NP: But do you recognise the characterisation of them as Jeremy Corbyn's Praetorian Guard? This accord that people are being asked to sign in order to gain Momentum approval - what purpose does that serve apart from their own?

BG: I think it's a very strange day if politicians become afraid of the electorate, afraid of the people. We have very clear processes within the Labour party, it's called a manifesto. That's what we all sign up to when it comes to a general election. So I don't see a problem with people within the party - whether they're from the right or the left, whether it's Prospect or Progress or Momentum - actually campaigning on the issues... within that broad spectrum that we are, they campaign just as everybody else does for the things that they believe in. That's what a political party should be about.

On the prospect of 'regulatory alignment' with the EU, Gardiner asserted 'It makes sense to say that you have to align your rules with the party that you wish to have as your major trading partner. That is the EU. 44 per cent [of trade is] with the EU. That’s why a close alignment with them is necessary'.

Nadine Dorries - Loyal Tory MPs are 'the real heroes'

Conservative backbencher Nadine Dorries has declared Remain voting Conservative MPs who didn't rebel against the government when it was defeated last Wednesday to be 'unsung heroes'. Her remarks come after the government saw 15 Conservative MPs join the opposition in order to ensure Parliament would receive a 'meaningful vote' on the final Brexit deal in 2019. Dorries told Sarah Smith in no uncertain terms what she thought about the actions of her colleagues:

ND: I know the rebels are being lauded as some kind of heroes from Wednesday night. Can I tell you who the real heroes are in all of this? They are the Conservative MPs - not the Labour MPs who I think have betrayed their Northern constituencies - but it's the Conservative MPs who believed in Remain, who campaigned for Remain during the EU referendum, but who stood on a manifesto to deliver Brexit. And they are the people who are the unsung heroes, who are backing the government and backing Theresa May and doing so because they know that is their duty to do so. And some of the rebels could perhaps learn a lesson from some of their Remain colleagues who know the right thing to do is to deliver Brexit because that was voted for on a democratic mandate.

Ken Clarke - 'Totally absurd' to say rebels weakened Theresa May

Father of the House and veteran pro-European Ken Clarke also spoke to Sarah Smith about Wednesday's vote and dismissed any accusations that he had weakened Theresa May by choosing to rebel:

SS: It's been reported this morning that Heidi Allen, one of the Conservative MPs who rebelled against the government in that vote last week, is facing threats of deselection. Are you perfectly safe in your constituency and what do you think about any of the other rebels being deselected?

KC: I don't think any of my constituents have any doubts about my views. Not all my association agree with me, but I've never fallen out personally with anybody about political differences... I do think this is all nonsense, and I think it's caused by all the rubbish that keeps appearing in the right wing newspapers which have completely lost their heads over the whole thing. It is totally absurd to say this is helping Jeremy Corbyn, it's weakening Theresa May and all the rest of it. Here we are three days after the vote took place - Theresa May is no weaker than she was after that, Jeremy Corbyn is not marching towards Downing Street. What we voted for is parliamentary accountability of the government - nothing to do with blocking Brexit, and it is utterly idiotic if a few of our association members in various parts of the country start interpreting this as the start of some sort of purge of backbench members of conscious.  Eurosceptics have been voting against the government for the last 30 years and no one on my side of the argument has ever [said] that they should be expelled from the party and sent to outer darkness. The Conservative party is a broad church, it's a free market party with a strong social conscious, and it's been a pro-European party for the first 50 years of my membership.