The Green Party is the only party to completely oppose TTIP, the ‘partnership’ which puts corporate profit over people and will lead to more NHS services being privatised.
TTIP is not a 'partnership'—it is a corporate power grab that threatens our public services, environment and democracy. TTIP would grant corporations the power to sue governments, locking in the privatisation of public services including the NHS.
However, there is worse. It could also see the unpicking of regulations that protect workers and the environment. The imposition of 'harmonisation' on food safety and standards could mean that food not meeting EU standards could be forced on us here anyway. Such products include chemically washed poultry, livestock treated with growth hormones, and genetically modified crops.
At a more fundamental level, it is 'light-touch' regulated global corporate power (and debt-fuelled global finance) that drives the growth agenda, which in turn is a primary driver for climate change. The only hope for putting the brakes on runaway, resource-hungry, climate change-inducing growth is robust and visionary political leadership that brings global corporate power under control. TTIP represents the exact opposite—political capitulation.
The grey parties and UKIP are all wedded to the resource-hungry growth agenda. They seem to think that salvation lies in the boardrooms of global corporations, and do not sense the underlying danger. This is the key divide between the Green Party and the rest.
As an illustration of this, Oxford City's Green group of six councillors recently put forward a motion opposing TTIP, but the Labour group pushed through an amendment that watered it down by singling out only the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism element of it for criticism. The whole deal needs to be stopped, in the interests of human survival on the planet, and Green activists worldwide are working to do just this.
Stop TTIP dead.
Tax dodging is what happens when governments capitulate to the forces of global finance and business and don't force businesses to pay their taxes. This is usually presented to the public as strong government promoting economic growth, private enterprise and international competitiveness, as it was by New Labour's ideologue Peter Mandelson with his comment about being "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich" (although he did add, "as long as they pay their taxes").
However, in truth it is the result of compromised governments turning a blind eye, in a desperate bid to attract the most powerful global companies and finance houses to the UK. Their motivation—at best—must be the belief that this is good for our economy, and at worst, that it is good for their own careers and ability to make money. That would explain the revolving door between company boardrooms and senior politicians and officials, e.g. former Inland Revenue boss Dave Hartnett's move to international tax advisers Deloitte.
It was at a New College dinner here in Oxford that Mr Hartnett was presented by activists from UK Uncut with a spoof "Golden Handshake award" from Vodafone and Goldman Sachs for his help in saving those companies billions of pounds in taxes during the Labour Party's tenure in office. It was Mr Hartnett who, whilst HMRC boss, negotiated a tax deal that granted HSBC’s bankers virtually guaranteed immunity from prosecution for any crimes they might have committed relating to tax fraud in Switzerland. It was no surprise when, in January 2013, he moved on to work at HSBC. Recent revelations concerning HSBC's 'private bank' in Switzerland demonstrate the lengths to which some individuals will go to avoid making a fair contribution towards the common good.
Global corporations, some of which have greater assets than many entire countries, use their clout to play governments off against one another; and with many among the élite believing that the UK economy is strongly dependent on the financial services industry in London, UK governments have turned a blind eye to their tax-avoiding schemes—which are, anyway, very difficult to tackle without international political cooperation.
The tax unpaid on their operations represents a massive subsidy—we estimate around £13bn—to transnational business at the expense of the UK taxpayer and our own home-based businesses and enterprises. Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative governments alike have considered these massive subsidies good value for the British economy. The Green Party doesn't. We do not consider it wise economic policy to allow government to be held hostage by predatory outside forces, and would prefer to encourage genuine economic growth from within.
Large companies are welcome here if they bring genuine economic benefit, but if they use their weight to undercut local enterprise, export their profits and avoid tax on profits made from our citizens then they should expect government to act. The culture needs to change, but to be effective the UK government needs to be collaborating with other governments world-wide until global corporations can no longer hold whole countries to ransom.
The present government has shown little recognition of the problem, to say nothing of any determination to address it; this may be partly because so many of its own members inhabit that same world, and their own parties draw their funding from the same corporations.
Our Green MP Caroline Lucas presented the UK Corporate and Individual Tax and Financial Transparency Bill to the House of Commons in June 2013. It made its second reading in September 2013 but was 'talked out' by government ministers and failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session. This means the Bill will make no further progress. In February last year Caroline sponsored an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons calling for the introduction of a Fair Tax Mark. This would be awarded to companies that pay the tax they owe, at the right time and in the right place—allowing consumers to make an ethical choice about where to spend their money. Andrew Smith didn't sign it. It is clear that the present political establishment, for all its (occasional) bluster, has no serious intention of acting.
However, we are clear that legislation is needed, preferably at the international or EU level, but if necessary just in the UK. We believe that a crack-down on tax havens and other methods of tax evasion and avoidance could raise as much as £13bn annually. In particular we want to press for a transparent international accounting standard that requires companies operating in more than one country to report on a country-by-country basis so that their profits can be located and taxed.
I support Caroline Lucas' UK Corporate and Individual Tax and Financial Transparency Bill, and the Fair Tax Mark.
We believe that the National Health Service must be a public service funded by, run by, and accountable to local and national government. The Green Party is completely opposed to any form of privatisation within the NHS. The recent spectacular collapse of Circle's management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire serves as a warning of the dangers.
This is why Green MP Caroline Lucas has presented the cross-party NHS Reinstatement Bill to Parliament, and why it has my full support. The bill will end the privatisation of the NHS and restore the founding principles of the NHS: providing care that is truly public, free at the point of delivery, and fully protected. The NHS should not be subject to market forces, whether internal or external. As it is, large chunks of it are constrained by the mortgages from hell which are the Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) introduced initially by a Conservative government but enthusiastically promoted by the last Labour Government's Treasury Secretary, Andrew Smith. Even George Osborne (in opposition) called PFI totally discredited, but has continued the policy.
The proposed NHS Reinstatement Bill would restore the obligation on Government to provide a comprehensive health service, abolish competition and market-based commissioning, and re-establish public accountability of our NHS. Caroline’s presentation of this bill is emblematic of the Green Party’s commitment to taking back our health service for the public good. We have championed the fight for a publicly funded, publicly provided NHS, and will continue to do so until a complete restoration is achieved.Pledge your vote
The right-wing media has made much of the cost of welfare benefits but not much of the huge subsidy to poverty-pay employers who are the recipients of huge taxpayer subsidies through tax credits, which top up low pay. It has not yet fully reached public consciousness that the majority of people in poverty in this country are actually employed.
Green councillors support the living wage - in Lewisham, Norwich, Lancashire, Camden, Worcester, Stroud, Brighton & Hove, and here in Oxford, minority Green councillors successfully campaigned for a living wage to help tackle poverty.
- Increase the minimum wage so that it is a living wage. We propose a minimum wage target for everyone who is working in the UK of £10 per hour by 2020. In 2015 this would mean a minimum wage of £8.10 an hour generally (and £9.40 in London), saving £2.4 billion a year in tax credits and generating an additional £1.5 billion a year in income tax and National Insurance. This would be offset by £0.7 billion a year additional costs in the public sector.
- Revive the role of democratic trade unions, including the right to belong to a union and have the employer recognise it, and the right to take industrial action, including strikes and peaceful picketing.
- Phase in a 35-hour week. Apart from improving the quality of our lives, this would combat unemployment by sharing available work out more equitably.
- Provide a comprehensive nationwide system of good-quality pre-school early education and childcare, free at the point of delivery.
- End exploitative zero-hours contracts.
- End the exploitation of interns, and ensure no unpaid full-time internship lasts more than four weeks.
- Make equal pay for men and women a reality.
- Introduce a maximum pay ratio of 10:1 between the best paid and the worst paid in every organisation.
- End blacklisting. We will set up a full investigation into blacklisting in the construction industry and consider the creation of a new criminal offence.
- Give workers a greater say in the running of their companies, including employee-elected directors in medium and larger companies.
- Reduce Employment Tribunal fees so that tribunals are accessible to workers.
Raise the minumum wage to £10/hour by 2020.
The Green Party deplores the concentration of media ownership—whether print or broadcast—in a few private hands.
Such a concentration of power restricts and reduces the public's access to a wide variety of information and opinion, distorts debate, and gives undue power to a small number of unaccountable proprietors.
We support the Media Reform Coalition's pledge on promoting a more pluralistic media environment. We will tighten the rules on cross-media ownership so that no individual or company owns more than 20% of a media market. We also support the development of sustainable funding mechanisms for small-scale independent media.
We support the Media Reform Coalition's pledge on promoting a more pluralistic media environment.
The Green Party, believing that consumer capitalism is a big part of the problem, not the solution, builds its policies on the core rights we would want everyone on the planet to share - a roof over their head, warmth, good food on the table, health care and supportive relationships, dignity in work. Climate change threatens the right to life itself - for the whole of humanity - and so getting humanity's relationship with the planet back on track is an essential task of work for human rights.
Within that overarching vision, there are many smaller human rights issues which the Green Party has committed itself to address. Our recently-launched manifesto states:
Greens are internationalists and want to live in a world that is just and fair, secure and peaceful, and where human rights are universally respected. We will make the UK a force for international good, respected throughout the global community, with coherent foreign policies based on building effective and cooperative security relations across the world.
We would immediately repeal the unsatisfactory Lobbying Act, so that civil society organisations can campaign properly.
We would retain the principle that human rights are the common property of the whole world by keeping the Human Rights Act and retaining the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe.
We would make equality before the law a fundamental constitutional right. But this is only a reality if all can afford to use the law. We would restore the cuts to Legal Aid, costing around £700 million a year.
We would outlaw the use of torture, the sale of torture equipment and the rendition of people to countries where torture is not prohibited, and enforce the laws against it.
We would take proportionate measures to protect against terrorism, ensuring that civil liberties are not undermined in the process, that communities are not scapegoated and that action reflects a genuine assessment of the threat to our security. We need targeted policing and security service activities, not mass surveillance, prisons that rehabilitate those convicted of terrorism offences and effective programmes to prevent radicalisation and to de-radicalise individuals.
We would uphold the principles of freedom of speech and peaceful protest, including support for vulnerable communities of all religious faiths and none.
We condemn state-sanctioned breaches of human rights by countries such as China, Syria, Sudan and Pakistan, as well as by individuals or organisations, and we advocate the use of sanctions and legal action via the International Criminal Court for those violating international human rights standards.
Any immigration controls must respect the following principles: International obligations to accept refugees, whether seeking sanctuary from wars, political repression or climate change.
We would ensure that no prospective immigrant is held in detention. As a matter of urgency, the administrative detention of children and pregnant women should cease immediately.
We would review the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, particularly with regard to issues of access to legal advice, childcare and levels of subsistence allowance, and reintroduce Legal Aid for reasonable levels of immigration and asylum work.
We would open up ways for existing irregular migrants who have been here for three years to become legal. In particular, a legal status must be provided for people who have not succeeded in their claim for humanitarian protection but who cannot be returned to their country of origin owing to the political situation there.
We would ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Domestic Workers.
We would review asylum procedures to ensure that destitution plays no role in the asylum process by allowing those seeking sanctuary to work.
We would ensure that those who have been trafficked are not subject to summary deportation; we must protect the victims of trafficking. They should receive a temporary right to stay and have the same right to apply to remain as others seeking to migrate.
I support the Green Party policies to protect human rights.
We recognise the importance of the learning environment to a child’s development, and also the big difference that high quality pre-school education can make. Our early years policies are child-focussed and we would build a free but voluntary universal early education and childcare service run by local education authorities for all children from birth until compulsory school age, which we would raise to 7 years.
Early education would be provided by qualified teachers with specific early years training. We would increase early years funding to focus on young children and reduce the need for expensive interventions later in life.
Green Party policies mean that:
- As far as possible, decisions on spending and raising funds would be made at the local level to ensure that decisions are taken in a joined-up way across different services
- We recognise the benefit of consistent and familiar support staff for children, which we would promote by ensuring early years centres are small and operate at the local community level
- We would integrate early education and childcare service into the local education service, run by local education authorities, and building on existing infant schools and children's centres
- We would invest more in services for older children as well and provide a comprehensive and inclusive youth service, including youth clubs, youth councils and non-curricular education and training
- We strongly support empowerment and participatory decision-making
- We would work to improve support for looked-after children by providing more training and a salary for foster carers
- We would set clear targets for ending child poverty and would ensure local authorities are adequately funded to meet them.
Green Party schools spokesperson, Samantha Pancheri, says:
The Green Party hugely values the role of Sure Start centres in the lives of families, and will build on this to create a universal childcare and early education service, including children’s centres. That’s why we’re extremely proud to report that in Brighton, the Green-controlled council have been able to keep all the Sure Start centres open, with no loss of services, despite government cuts to the council’s budget.
increase early years funding to focus on young children.
The Green Party believes a society is rightly judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable members—and that protection of the world's children should be one of the top priorities of the UK's international policy.
All children have the right to grow up in a healthy, safe environment, free from the fear of violence or abuse of any sort.
The Green Party believes that protection of the world's children should be at the heart of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals that will be decided later this year.
Children suffer disproportionately from conflict and violence around the world, and Greens in government would ensure that the concerns of children and young people are central to the UK's international development programme.
Make children and young people are central to the UK's international development programme.
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, has slammed the Tories policy announcements today to extend right to buy to housing association homes and to require councils to sell 5% of their remaining housing stock.Read more