News and Events

The government's energy price cap is a load of hot air

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Concerns have begun to mount as to the government’s true dedication to such a policy. 

 

Soaring energy bills are hammering millions of hard up households and businesses.

With the current cost of living crisis and wages falling in real terms, too many people are paying too much just to cover the cost of their basic energy usage.

Analysis by the Big Deal collective shows that customers on standard deals with the big six energy companies can end up paying £225 more than their cheapest deal. These are loyal customers, who are quite simply being ripped off by the Big Six, who for too long have had a stranglehold on our energy market.

Even more worryingly, recently a leaked transcript demonstrated just how much the government is influenced by the Big Six players. The transcript referred to discussions between government and energy investors and illustrated a clear willingness of the government to drop the proposed price cap if energy companies made efforts to reduce consumer bills.

This is simply not good enough. It’s time for this ailing government to take clear and robust action to get a better deal for the British public.

I have seen firsthand the destructive impact unsustainable energy prices has on our families, our neighbours and our friends. I have heard from countless people, detailing how they have to make tortuous decisions between food and fuel, but no one living in modern Britain should have to make that choice.

During the general election however, it appeared the Conservatives had listened to Labour’s calls and promised to introduce a cap on energy bills. The Prime Minister unequivocally promised to knock off at least £100 from the bills of over 17 million households.

Since then however we have experienced somewhat of a rollback on this promise. After press reports that the Big Six and indeed senior cabinet Ministers were lobbying the Prime Minster to drop the cap, it failed to make an appearance in the government's forthcoming legislative programme.

Following this the Prime Minister came under intense pressure to introduce the cap from not only Labour but even many of her own back bench MPs. This resulted in the publication of a draft bill, yet to make its way formally through Parliament, but so ambiguous it simply asked Ofgem to introduce a cap with no indication from government as to the parameters of such a cap, nor did it refer to a clear time scale for implementation.

We should be thankful that we saw any progress at all, but concerns have begun to mount as to the government’s true dedication to such a cap. Only last week the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy secretary Greg Clark repeatedly refused to promise that the price cap would be in place by next winter. He claimed that the government could not guarantee that the necessary legislation would be passed in time.

What’s even worse is that the price cap legislation proposed by the government, once finally passed, may only be in force for two winters, leaving households at the mercy of big energy companies who will be free to push up prices again.

It is clear therefore that the government has no visible plans to radically reform the energy market before 2020, rendering the proposed cap nothing but a sticking plaster -a short-term solution to a long term problem.

This barely functioning government seems more intent on clinging to power than to help struggling households with their spiralling energy costs. Their inability to act is forcing more and more vulnerable people into fuel poverty, who have been forced to pay, again and again, for their continued economic mismanagement. Currently, 1.14 million older people and just under a million households with at least one disabled person are forced to live in fuel poverty.

A future Labour government will introduce an emergency price cap to ensure that the average dual-fuel household energy bill remains below £1,000 per year, whilst radically reforming the energy market to transition to a fairer system for bill payers.

Only Labour will provide much needed relief to overburdened households and only Labour will transform the energy system, harness sustainability and cut bills for your business and your household.

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Valley Community Garden Visit

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I recently visited the Amazing Valley Community Garden in Swinton as part of the community Impact week, where I met with some fantastic volunteers, including Anne, who has lived and volunteered in The Valley neighbourhood for the last 35 years.

Over the past five years, the garden has been a focal point for the Valley neighbourhood, to create a place where local people can meet and work together to grow veg, flowers and do great activities like the summer breakfast clubs.

I look forward to seeing the garden again when in full bloom in the summer.

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Big Class Challenge

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It was such a pleasure visiting Oasis Academy on Friday where I taught my first ever (and probably last as it’s not easy!) lesson to year 8 pupils as part of the Big Class Challenge.

The lesson was arranged by Teach First, who work at improving the education for young people. It was highly inspiring meeting the pupils (who were so clever, well behaved and wise beyond their years), talking about my path towards becoming an MP, and importantly I told them they have the desire and passion to succeed and not to ever let anyone stand in their way or tell them they can’t achieve what they want.

When asked what they would do if they were an MP, these students came back with increased housing, more money for the NHS, protecting the environment and higher wages.

These students are well aware of their environment and what they want for society.

More reason than ever to bring the voting age down to 16, and give our young people a say on how they are governed.

I’m sure we will see these year 8’s in Parliament one day, the future is bright!

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Living Wage Foundation Event

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Today I spoke at the living wage foundation parliamentary event which brought together MPs from across the political spectrum and employers to support a real living wage.

A real living wage is now more important than ever. Living costs are spiralling, wages are stagnant and too many people are stuck in insecure work with low pay.

A society that sees many in work being forced to use food banks is a national scandal!

A future Labour government will ensure that all workers are paid a real living wage of £10 per hour by 2020 and we will support employers to do this.

It's time to give Britain the pay rise that it deserves.

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Speaking at the TUC event on a place based Industrial Strategy

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Speaking at the TUCs event which launched the final industrial strategy report in their series. Joined by General Secretary of the TUC Francis O’Grady and Greg Clark Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the report brings together findings from the three different studies, and outlines policy recommendations on how to deliver great jobs across the regions. I spoke about regional imbalance across the country, the delivery of great jobs, and Labour’s plan to meet the challenge of the 4th industrial revolution.

 

Industrial strategy is experiencing something of a renaissance. However, Our economy is grossly imbalanced, both regionally and in terms of wealth distribution. It’s clear that the free market experiment has failed and it is time to define a new relationship between government and the economy.

 

To understand why industrial strategy has made a comeback, we must look back at what has happened to British industry and the UK economy over the past few decades; In Salford, we were once known as the workshop of the world, local universities specialised in manufacturing, engineering, chemical engineering and more, in order to compliment the industries that were booming around them. But the decline of these industries and indeed other key manufacturing hubs across the country has been largely due to the economic choices made by successive governments. 

 

Their exit from places up and down Britain quite simply ripped the heart out of communities, leaving many areas struggling to bounce back. Those communities felt left behind, their pride, hopes and dreams shattered. Since then, Britain has relied on an economic model which is rigged in favour of narrow but powerful interests … in the financial sector in one corner of England … while vast swathes of Britain waste away. As a result, we now have the most regionally imbalanced economy in Europe. 40% of our economic output comes from London and the South East alone. This has created deep, structural problems. For every hour of work done, we now produce less than we did in 2007. Pay is lower now than it was a decade ago.

 

Due to the economic choices made by successive governments, industries which provided employment to so many across the UK were put into ‘managed decline’. We were led to believe that, released from the shackles of regulation, the growth of the City of London could sustain the whole economy. But the financial crash and its aftermath has demonstrated clearly that this theory was wrong, and that reliance on an unfettered and highly volatile financial sector is unsustainable. Headline growth may have recovered since the crisis, but the structural weaknesses of Britain’s economy remain.

 

Despite the progress we have made in recent years, in even getting industrial strategy on the agenda, the Government needs to do much more, especially in relation to a ‘place based’ approach to industrial strategy. Sheffield Hallam University research warned that the Government’s flag ship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund could actually widen regional divides.

 

Labour’s industrial strategy plan, backed up by our National Transformation Fund and £250bn of lending by our new National Investment Bank and network of Regional Development Banks, will transform our economy and deliver 1 million good jobs over the course of the Parliament. 

 

Our first mission is to ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy will come from low carbon or renewable sources by 2030. This ambitious target will spur the kind of bold and decisive action needed to face the biggest challenge facing the world and put us at the forefront of the emerging global renewable technology market. Transforming our energy system and investing in renewable technologies will create good jobs, boost our exports, and lower the price of energy for everyone. 

 

Our second mission is to put Britain at the forefront of world innovation with the greatest proportion of high-skilled jobs in the OECD and 3% of our GDP spent on Research and Development by 2030. The next Labour government will invest £1.3 billion in R&D in the first two years of Government and we will broaden our understanding of innovation beyond commercialisation of elite science, to include innovation as it applies in the service sector.

 

We will invest in people and ensure that businesses can access the highly skilled workforce they want by setting up our National Education Service, allowing everyone to upskill and retrain at any point in life. We will harness the £200 billion the Government spends in the private sector each year, to promote responsible businesses, and we will make sure that local government, local business and local educational institutions are supported to really deliver a place based industrial strategy that draws on the existing strengths each region has and also allows them to identify new strengths and industries.

 

We will take action to reverse the offshoring seen in recent decades by bringing supply chains, and good jobs, back to the UK. Labour will also take action on excessive energy prices, which put our industries at a disadvantage. We will reverse years of under-investment in our infrastructure, investing £250 billion over the next ten years through our National Transformation Fund to upgrade physical and digital infrastructure, future proofing our economy.

 

We will transform our transport system across all our regions and nations for example we will deliver Crossrail for the North.

 

Finally, our industrial strategy will have a strong sectoral element. The strongest industrial economies in the world got to where they are today because their governments nurtured and supported key sectors as they grew. A Labour Government will do the same, breaking with the failed ideologies of the past and learning from the world’s best, by supporting sectors in which Britain is already a world leader and cultivating new strengths.

 

We will set up sector councils for each strategic sector - modelled on the highly successful Automotive Council – to bring together government, employers and workers and their trade unions as part of a new era of economic cooperation. Through collaborative effort between Government and industry, Labour will create the winners of the future, and we will deliver economic growth to every region and every nation.

 

Quite simply, Labour will build an economy that works for the many and not the few where our regions receive the prosperity they deserve.

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Care Workers deserve to be paid what they are due

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Rebecca Long-Bailey MP for Salford and Eccles, commenting on the local impact of the Government’s decision to extend the suspension of enforcement action against adult social care providers for back pay of sleep-in shifts, said: 

 

 “Adult care services in Salford is on its knees. The Government’s latest announcement that it will simply extend HMRC enforcement action in relation to the back pay due to staff for sleep in shifts will only add greater uncertainty to the future of care in Salford.

In the North West alone there are over 210,000 care staff in the sector. They deserve to be paid what they are due but with many of the public and private care providers in question stating that they simply do not have the estimated £400m required to fund back pay, and that Government care funding is increasingly insufficient to deliver the quality care people deserve, it is clear that the crisis has reached breaking point.

Care workers and providers in Salford now face an agonising wait as this issue is yet again kicked in to the long grass.

The Government must urgently outline its plan to ensure care workers receive the back pay to which they are entitled, while also ensuring that providers can continue to provide essential care services”

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Reclaiming Communities like Salford

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Salford Docks and Trafford Park were once described as “the workshop of the world”, but the engineering and manufacturing heritage is now long gone.

 

The resilience of ordinary Salford people living and working at the heart of the industrial world have inspired many. The songwriter Ewan MacColl wrote the song ‘Dirty Old Town’ about industrial Salford, and Walter Greenwoods novel “Love on the Dole” was inspired by his experiences living in the back to back terraced houses of Hankey Park.

 

Not only did the conditions of Salford people inspire writers, songwriters and artists, it inspired a generation of people to make the most of what they had, and to strive for better conditions for the city.

 

The Docks here in Salford were built in the nineteenth century by the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. They were the third largest port in the country and over 5,000 people worked there in its heyday.

 

Salford and Trafford Park was a global centre of industry. Trafford Park was the world’s first industrial estate –employing 75,000 at its peak in 1945.

 

Such was its importance, that the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson came to address thousands of workers during their lunch break.

 

So what happened? Governments since the 80s have obeyed the doctrine that the economy can be sustained by growth in the financial sector in the south-east alone, relying on the welfare state to redistribute to the rest of country. Labour markets were deregulated, trade union rights eroded, mass privatisation occurred and the financial sector was unfettered.

 

As a result, vast swathes of our country have been neglected and industrial communities put into ‘managed decline.’

 

In 1982 the Docks finally closed and became an industrial wasteland.

 

However, Even back then the people of Salford were not about to let our proud heritage and brimming talent in leading world industry be consigned to the history books. Salford City Council envisioned a regeneration of business and industry, and under the last Labour Government the green shoots of regeneration began to appear. The docks were redeveloped, followed by the Lowry, MediaCity, and a vibrant cluster of new and emerging IT and tech companies.

 

But over the last seven years, starved of the support, infrastructure and investment we need to prosper, progress has stalled.

 

The sad truth is that we are no more productive now than we were 10 years ago. Largely a result of deliberate underinvestment in skills, infrastructure and research and development, sitting alongside a lacklustre support system for business and a decimated local authority budget.

 

UK productivity is 13% lower than the G7 average and we are the most regionally imbalanced economy in Europe. We have an economy that is so imbalanced that people in London earn £134 more a week than in parts of the North. Here in Salford, 30 percent of children live in poverty, and unemployment is a full percentage point higher than the national average.

 

The economy simply isn’t working for most people, with real wages lower than they were a decade ago.

 

Labour will rebalance our economy to every region and towards industry, give our people the skills they need and create new, high-skill jobs in the industries of the future.

This industrial strategy will be powered by a £250 billion National Transformation Fund, which will give Britain’s creaking infrastructure the upgrade it desperately needs, and we will create a National Investment Bank and network of regional investment banks, which will provide businesses the finance they need to succeed.

 

With this active support from a Labour government, communities like Salford can reclaim their place as the workshop of the world.

 

Our plan will give our economy the biggest upgrade Britain has seen in over a generation - and ensure that it works for the many not the few. 

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Our Friend Paul Longshaw

 

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Statement from Rebecca Long Bailey MP and Salford and Eccles CLP Chair John Ferguson:

 

It is with great sadness that we must tell you that Councillor Paul Longshaw passed away suddenly yesterday.

We are shocked and devastated to lose such a good friend and comrade with a heart of gold.

Paul was committed to the Labour Party, a true socialist through and through. He loved people and he loved Salford. His passion was in housing, first as an officer and latterly as a Councillor.

He had a fire in his belly that drove him to work tirelessly improving housing across the city. He believed that a decent, secure and quality home was a human right. He also passionately believed in social housing being delivered in the way Beveridge dreamed - communities should be mixed and diverse, with decent quality social homes being of the same standard as private homes.  Solid vibrant communities providing the bedrock of aspiration and quality of life.

Paul spent over two decades working within Salford City Council’s Housing Team, and helped deliver their first fit for purpose Housing Strategy. Not content with the status quo, he could see that homes and regeneration solidified communities and changed people’s life chances.

We know when he began to see the Pendleton regeneration take place he was proud that no one could tell the difference between social homes and private homes sitting side by side. "That's the way it should be" he said.

In 2016, Paul wanted to do more, he wanted to fight against the constraints this Government was putting on this city and its aspirations to deliver for its people. A regular volunteer at homeless projects and night shelters in the city, he was angry at the senseless homelessness on our streets and so he became a councillor for the city he loved in the ward of Langworthy where he had worked so hard to regenerate.

Since being elected to the council in 2016, and serving as Lead Member for Housing he worked tirelessly to demand the funding from Government that Salford and Greater Manchester deserves to provide housing for its people.

Paul was also a committed councillor in representing the people of Langworthy, taking up their issues and concerns.

Politics was not Paul's only passion though. Many of you know him as one of Salford's number one cultural champions. He was proud of our rich musical and cultural heritage, often seen sporting Smith's t-shirts or his favourite Salford Crescent train station t-shirt, he was always encouraging us to go to gigs and plays across the city.

We will miss him and we know that you will too, but the legend of Paul Longshaw will most certainly live on.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

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To Increase Britain’s Productivity We Need An Active Government And A Pay Rise For Workers

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The British economy is less productive today than it was a decade ago. That means for every hour of work done, we make less than we did in 2007. Our pay too is lower than it was a decade ago, with weekly wages buying less today than it did in 2007.

These two damning statistics are linked. We must look at improving pay to increase productivity. Britain’s productivity gap - it takes us five days to produce what France can in four - has many causes: underinvestment in skills, infrastructure and R&D (research and development), limited government support for business and industry, and low wages.

To solve this problem, government must be willing and able to intervene in the economy. Our economy needs infrastructure investment to meet the OECD recommendation of 3.5% of GDP. Our manufacturing sector, which offers workers higher average pay than services, with productivity growth three times faster than the economy as a whole and delivers 68% of business R&D, needs the supportive policies it currently lacks.

The government is failing to create a broad, fertile and supportive business environment that incentivises upgrading of technology and skills, which would improve productivity.

There is wide agreement that we need to solve our productivity crisis to enable employers to pay higher wages. Far less widely acknowledged is that higher wages must be part of the solution to that productivity crisis, as wage growth also provides the spur for firms to develop and use new technologies which boost productivity.

Lifting wages alone will not solve low productivity growth. But if higher wages sit alongside a comprehensive industrial strategy to develop the infrastructure, technology, skills and industries fit for the 21st Century, it will.

Historically, this has been the case. Indeed, Professor Robert Allen argues that Britain’s high wages relative to other countries in the 18th and 19th Centuries fuelled the industrial revolution. 
He argues that in the eighteenth century many countries shared characteristics which would have improved the supply of new technologies, such as scientific and technical culture. But only one country, Britain, had firms with the demand, due to having the highest wages in the world, to develop and use new technologies, which led to an upward virtuous spiral of higher wages and higher productivity.

Statistical research looking at more contemporary economies supports this argument. Alfred Kleinknecht, looking at OECD countries over the last 50 years, demonstrates that higher wage growth is linked to productivity growth.

With a comprehensive industrial strategy, this argument could hold for Britain today for at least three reasons.

Firstly, if wages rise alongside a robust support and incentive system for business, then firms will be encouraged to boost investment in new technology and training to ensure workers produce more to sustain their higher wages and also increase the firm’s profitability.

Secondly, firms will substitute capital - machines, buildings etc. - for labour, if wages are high relative to the price of capital. Increasing capital per worker will improve productivity and drive technological progress. Combined with government investment in education and action to incentivise businesses to upskill workers - as Labour are committed to doing through their National Education Service - this process is crucial to creating a high-skill, high-productivity, high-wage economy.

Thirdly, high wages may have a direct effect on workers by motivating them to work harder or stay loyal to the firm. There are three broad areas a Labour government would intervene in to increase wages.

Firstly, we would improve workers’ collective bargaining power, so they can negotiate better pay and conditions. This would be achieved by strengthening employment law and its enforcement, giving unions the right to access workplaces, repealing the Trade Union Act, which unfairly ties the hands of unions, and rolling out setting wages through negotiations between workers and employers across a whole sector.

Secondly, we will boost the wages of over 11 million workers - almost half - through legislation and the public sector. Labour’s £10 per hour Real Living Wage would give almost one in four workers a pay rise. We would also lift the public sector pay cap, improving the wages of an estimated 5.4 million workers.

Thirdly, Labour would create the conditions for businesses to improve wages themselves through greater productivity. This requires government action to increase private and public investment in capital, infrastructure, skills and R&D, giving firms greater access to finance, and providing a fair taxation system that incentives growth such as reforming business rates system.

Britain is lagging behind other advanced economies. Our people are dynamic but that dynamism is stifled, with us all losing out. We must breathe new life into our economy. We can’t do that without supporting the workers, who will drive that process and make our economy fit for the 21st Century.

Labour has that approach, which understands that to increase productivity, we need an active government and a pay rise for workers. Without this comprehensive two pronged approach, we’ll never have an economy that works for the many not the few.

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Long-Bailey And Onwurah: Only Labour Will Deliver Economic Equality For Women

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Business – it’s a man’s world, right? That’s what we were historically told by children’s toys and television ads showing girls aspiring to be ballerinas and princesses while boys grow up to be the construction worker or the engineer.

Now we have certainly come on a long way since the gender stereotypes of decades gone by but it is clear that the mismanagement of our economy by this government has affected women disproportionately.

Women have suffered more than men from the government’s austerity agenda and the “gender pay gap” between female and male employees remains stubbornly wide at 18.1 per cent according to the ONS, with more women than men on the national minimum wage.

Indeed a recent report by the Runnymede Trust and the Women’s Budget Group have confirmed that women are hit harder than men across all incomes groups, with BAME women particularly hard hit. Asian women in the poorest third of households will be £2,247 worse off by 2020, almost twice the loss faced by white men in the poorest third of households (£1,159).

We are clear however that there is no way out of this failed economic model without a government that is prepared to intervene in the economy and to put power in the hands of people and their local communities.

During the general election we announced our industrial strategy designed to do just that – and to create a million good jobs over the course of the next parliament.

We stated that we would rebuild and transform the British economy with an industrial strategy centred around three pillars: national missions to tackle the biggest challenges facing the modern world; cross-cutting policies to create a fertile ground for business activity; and co-operation between employers, workers and government at a sector level to strengthen existing industrial strengths and cultivate new ones.

Unlike the Tories, whose industrial strategy green paper amounted to little more than a cobbling together of existing policies, our industrial strategy has real teeth. It will be powered by our national investment bank and national transformation fund, which together will provide the investment our economy so desperately needs.

Our plans for a national education service would mean that everyone could retrain and re-skill at any time, particularly benefitting women who may have been culturally steered away from certain career choices or had caring or other responsibilities which prevented them studying.

We also advocated taking a more active and collaborative role in the economy, working with employers and trade unions and using all available policy levers to create the industries and high paid high skilled jobs of the future.

This is an industrial strategy for a richer, fairer Britain. One that recognises that redistribution isn’t enough; job quality and work satisfaction also matter. That it matters where growth comes from and who that growth benefits. One that creates greater wealth in our country and makes sure that everyone has a fairer share in that wealth.

Jess Phillips, chair of Labours women’s parliamentary Labour party was recently quoted as saying that industrial strategy had nothing for women, being all about “men with shovels”.  She was clear that she was not talking about Labour’s industrial strategy however and quite right too, because we are proud that the team leading Labour’s industrial strategy consisted largely of women, spearheaded by a female shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy – a lawyer – and a female shadow minister, an engineer.

The government’s industrial strategy could however be guilty of the aforementioned accusations, focussing on just a few handpicked sectors – targeting only 10 per cent of our manufacturing base and only 1 per cent of the whole economy, according to research from Sheffield Hallam University.

The government’s strategy doesn’t even mention major sectors such as retail and hospitality, despite their importance to British economy. The retail sector employs more people than any other in the UK, and has a far higher rate of female employment than traditional manufacturing. We’ve pledged to found a new Catapult Centre for retail, which will help to drive productivity and wages across the sector.

In terms of infrastructure and construction – the construction and engineering sector is a major part of our economy, and investment in infrastructure benefits people of all genders across Britain. Labour’s manifesto pledged massive investment to transform the infrastructure we all rely on, from better transport links and faster broadband connections to cheaper energy. In stark contrast all we seem to get from government are re-announcements of the same investment pledges and indeed the shelving of major infrastructure projects such as the electrification of rail lines.

It is true however that more men would be employed in “shovel-ready” construction projects than women: in the housebuilding sector, for instance, only 12 per cent of employees are women. It is clear that we should see this as an invitation to break down sectoral gender segregation by supporting more women to become engineers and construction workers.  

More broadly, Labour is putting forward policies to enhance the autonomy and economic freedom of women in the workplace. Our plans to expand childcare and extend maternity pay will allow mothers to re-enter the workplace earlier, if they want to, and we have also pledged to enhance worker’s rights and strengthen protections against unfair redundancy.

Crucially, our plans for a real living wage of £10 an hour and a maximum pay ratio in the public sector will disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely to be in low paid work. According to the ONS, 61 per cent of people earning below the living wage are women.

Many of our female colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party are doing great work making women’s voices heard in every sphere of political and economic life. From fierce advocacy for survivors of domestic violence, to the treatment of women in the workplace, to the access women have to NHS services and much more, women’s issues are an increasingly prominent part of the political agenda.

We are clear that women’s issues are not separate or detached from the broader questions of how our economy works.

To achieve real economic equality for women, we need to redistribute wealth and power – the historic mission of our party.

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