Fabian Hamilton's Views
Monday 13th April 2015 4:08 PM
The organisation, Leeds for Change has issued 10 questions that its member organisations and supporters have identified as key issues for the forthcoming General Election. As he has done on a previous occasion, Fabian is pleased to offer his response to the subjects concerned.
1. Keep The NHS Public
The draft NHS Reinstatement Bill would reinstate the government’s legal duty to provide the NHS in England, abolish competition, abolish the purchaser-provider split, re-establish public bodies and public accountability and restrict the role of commercial companies. If you are elected as an MP would you, like David Owen, support Allyson Pollock and Peter Broderick’s draft NHS Reinstatement Bill and help to get it included in the first Queen’s Speech after the election?
The most important issue for UK NHS provision is that quality service is readily available to all British citizens at no cost to them when they need to use medical services. Fabian opposes in principle the strategic, long-term use of private sector organisations to supply basic hospital and health care provision. Such services, such as hospitals, should be expertly managed and efficiently organised through state agencies in order to ensure that no revenue is diverted away from service provision towards profits. Fabian is not opposed to the NHS purchasing interim service provision (for example from private sector hospitals) to cope with bottlenecks and unacceptable waiting times within the NHS but this should only be a stop-gap while state provision is improved.
2. Vote Against TTIP
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its sister treaties the Canada Europe Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) are a direct threat to democratic accountability, workers’ rights, public services and our much needed food safety and environmental standards. Will you vote against these treaties, regardless of whether ISDS protections are removed and public services explicitly exempt from the deals?
TTIP is a complex issue. While recognising the desirability in expanding trade across the world, Fabian is adamant that such treaties must NOT take away the sovereignty of national governments. There can be no legal threat from any multinational companies or countries against a government decision to exclude a sector from competition. For example, the UK must be free to offer health provision as a state organised service as long as it wishes to do so. Similarly the UK must retain all rights to regulate enterprise, imposing for example employment, environmental and safety standards that may be higher than elsewhere and thus seen by some as a barrier to profitability or competition. Specifically, if a government wishes to have a state involvement or monopoly of provision in any sector, (e.g. health, transport, welfare & housing), no trade agreement must ever be allowed to threaten this.
3. Fair Asylum Decisions
Twenty five percent of negative decisions on asylum claims are overturned at appeal, suggesting a flawed process of initial decision making. Recent changes to the asylum rules also mean that access to legal aid after an initial refusal becomes severely limited, and people can be left destitute, detained, or even forcibly removed if they are not able to submit their right to appeal within a strict time frame. Would you be prepared to contact the Home Secretary to push for improved decision making within the asylum system, so that fair decisions are made the first time?
Fabian has long and direct experience through his casework of the unacceptable wait for asylum decisions from the Home Office and the injustice of many of them. He fully supports this initiative but recognises that government cuts to Home Office personnel and the general pressure of work linked to the issue of passports and visas have contributed to the present situation.
4. Trident Replacement
The largest public spending decision of the next Parliament will be whether to replace Trident, a nuclear weapons system with the power to kill millions of civilians and whose use has been declared internationally illegal. The £100 billion of public money could instead quadruple UK investment in renewable energy, resolve the current funding crisis in our NHS or abolish student tuition fees for the next 30 years. The vote will be held next year. If elected as MP, will you be voting against Trident replacement?
Fabian has over many years consistently opposed the retention of the British nuclear 'deterrent' by successive UK governments and has always voted against his own party whips on this issue. He will continue to oppose the renewal of Trident.
5. Climate Change
Climate Change is the biggest threat facing our society. It will generate flooding and loss of land, food and water shortages, disease, massive displacement of people and war. It is caused primarily by human activity. Will you commit to creating a carbon neutral Britain by 2050 and commit to legislation with a mandatory pro rata shift each year towards the achievement of this goal?
Fabian is fully committed to measures that restrict and subsequently reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. This is an issue where the UK can only make a relatively small contribution to the challenge facing the whole world. In seeking to ensure that the UK plays its part in securing carbon neutrality and reduction, Fabian calls for increased investment and research into the application of technologies which can enable carbon consumption to be reduced without threatening the economic prosperity or way of life of our citizens.
6. Housing And Rents
The chronic shortage of social housing combined with soaring private sector rents and swingeing cuts and sanctions to benefits are resulting in soaring rates of homelessness. Will you fight to establish rent controls and guarantee benefit levels adequate to cover housing costs; force absentee landlords to either let or sell their empty homes to councils; prevent the sell-off of social housing to the private sector; and invest in a massive publicly-funded programme to increase the stock of affordable and well-constructed social housing?
Over a period of many years Fabian has called for a true revolution in the construction of new housing, and particularly social housing, that can be used by councils to alleviate the tide of homelessness that they confront. Fabian will shortly be publishing his own research study calling for: greatly increased social housing construction, a National Housing Investment Bank, regional Public Housing Authorities and an end to the ‘Right to Buy’ for newly constructed social housing. Fabian calls for housing construction to take place on brown field sites wherever possible. Within new council developments, a very small proportion of homes could be available for sale to the relatives of tenants seeking to support family members and thus to reinforce the social fabric within those communities. Restrictions on their resale would apply.
7. Robin Hood Tax
A ‘Robin Hood Tax’ of 0.05% on speculative banking transactions would raise hundreds of billions of pounds around the world. This could be used to tackle the damaging effects of climate change and help to alleviate poverty in the UK and abroad. Will you pro-actively support the introduction of the Robin Hood Tax, including in any future votes in Parliament and by signing any relevant Early Day Motions that are tabled?
Fabian has always supported and continues to support this proposal.
8. Benefit Sanctions
The inhumane regime of sanctions against claimants of JSA and in the Work-Related Activities Group of ESA is causing misery and hardship to huge numbers of the country’s poorest. Sanctioning is also contributing to the burgeoning problem of in-work poverty, by forcing jobseekers to accept low pay and poor conditions of employment. Will you fight to outlaw the removal of benefits from the unemployed, sick and disabled, and to reverse the encroachment of sanctions-backed conditionality into in-work benefits through Universal Credit?
In his work with constituents, Fabian has come across many examples of benefits sanctions causing great cruelty and hardship. He thinks that it has been a target driven culture within relevant agencies that has led to cuts without compassion and has lead to distress and hardship among people unable to restructure their personal lives without guidance and support. Fabian recognises that people must take responsibility for their personal well-being and that the state needs to be protected from individuals who seek to abuse the system. However, those officials responsible for ensuring there is no abuse must use benefits 'sanctions' only as a last resort when guidance and support has been refused or ignored.
9. Fracking Ban
Fracking (and other forms of extreme energy extraction such as Coal Bed Methane and Underground Coal Gasification) threatens to pollute our water supplies, poison our soil and wreck our countryside. We should not be seeking to extract and burn more fossil fuels but replace them with renewable energy, otherwise climate change will destroy us. Will you fight vigorously against fracking and vote to ban it?
Given the current world availability of crude oil that can be extracted by conventional methods, (including the recently announced discovery of large scale deposits in the Weald of Kent), Fabian sees no need for the introduction of fracking for oil and gas extraction in the UK. He also strongly believes that we need to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and increase provision of renewable energy sources.
10. Arms Embargo Against Israel
During the 2014 onslaught against Gaza, 2,192 Palestinians were killed including 519 children. Many of these deaths were made possible by arms and components produced in the UK. In the 6 months preceding the offensive the UK issued £7 million of arms export licenses to Israel. In addition, arms imports from Israel support the continual development of the Israeli arms industry. Will you take action to implement a two-way arms embargo against Israel until it ends human rights violations and complies with international law?
Fabian perceives this question to be an expression of extreme bias against the State of Israel, wrapped up in issues surrounding the general morality of supplying arms to governments and organisations world-wide. There are many governments and organisations across world that have been supplied with weapons from the UK. Many of these governments have used them to repress opposition and minorities yet these are not included in the question. The Fair Ten challenge makes no reference to the armed provocation of Hamas in Gaza that has blatantly launched hundreds of largely uncontrollable rockets at random against Jewish settlements and centres of population in Israel and undertaken armed incursion through tunnels. Many of the rockets were fabricated from materials (such as sewer pipes) supplied to Gaza for reconstruction and which were stored under sites such as schools and hospitals.
Fabian condemns unequivocally violence and terrorism used to prosecute political ambition. The dream of a two state solution for Israel and Palestine will come no closer to reality in the context of blinkered one-side criticism of Israel and unilaterally applied sanctions. Furthermore, those who call for sanctions against Israel never mention the repression of minorities in, for example, China and Saudi Arabia or call for sanctions and arms embargoes against those countries.