All the bad news the Government has tried to bury this week, from disability cuts to Saudi Arabia arms sales

Parliament now on a break for party conferences 

Will Worley
Friday 16 September 2016 12:02
MPs cannot scrutinise the issues thrown up as they are away
MPs cannot scrutinise the issues thrown up as they are away

The Government and a number of independent bodies released a blizzard of documents this week before the Commons took a break for party conferences.

Publications dealt with a number of potentially controversial topics, including housing for disabled people, arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the financial fate of a generation.

Parliament will not reconvene until 10 October, meaning MPs will be unable to properly scrutinise the documents.

These are some of the less well-publicised announcements:

The government admits millennials will be poorer than previous generations, but doesn’t know what to do to help.

A report from the Government Actuary's Department admitted millennials – those aged from 16 to those in their early thirties – are “asset poor and are likely not to enjoy the same level of pension provision as previous generations.” Providing financial and social care for Millennials once they age will be challenging, the Government admitted.

While older generations will enjoy security in old age from their property assets and pensions, the reports said Generation X - those aged in their thirties to fifties - “are the last generation likely to have such significant housing and pension equity at the point of retirement”.

The department’s recommendation is to provide “incentives to save” through “targeted campaigns”.

As millennials grew up with social media, they should be more “receptive to change”, the report said, but did not outline how this would compensate for the lack of money and care infrastructure.

Funding cuts for disability supported housing and homeless hostels

Housing for disabled people, those with learning difficulties and homeless hostels are to suffer an annual reduction of one per cent in the Government contribution to their rent – amounting to millions.

The cuts will happen from 2017 to 2019, when a delayed final decision regarding accommodation provision for vulnerable people will be made.

The decision was met with dismay from housing charities, including Mungo’s, who claimed the cuts would leave them £3million worse off. A spokesperson for Mencap said it would cause “huge strain”.

Labour called the government “cowardly” and said it “left tens of thousands of the most vulnerable people in limbo”.

MPs called for UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia to be stopped

A cross-party group of MPs called for the end of the sale of British weapons to Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a coalition of forces against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

But the Saudis conduct in the intervention has been strongly criticised by rights groups, who have collected wide-ranging evidence of the targeting of Yemeni civilians and the use of cluster bombs.

“The Saudi government has taken too long to report to the UN Human Rights Council the results of its internal investigations into the alleged [human rights] violations,” the report by the Business, Innovation and Skills and International Development Committees said.

“We therefore recommend that HM Government suspend sales of arms which could be used in Yemen to Saudi Arabia until the independent, UN-led investigation has come to its conclusions.”

The report is a damning indictment of the government's conduct with its controversial Middle East ally.

However, two other committees examining the issue did not press for an end to arms sales, with the Foreign Affairs committee saying a decision on the matter should be “determined by the High Court”. Another committee was unable to come to a decision.

Theresa May claims selling arms to Saudi Arabia helps 'keep people on the streets of Britain safe'

Pension Protection Fund delayed

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF), despite reportedly being ready to go, has been delayed again, this time for a consultation.

The time spent in review means the PPF has not come into effect and workers who have lost pension contributions because their employer became insolvent cannot get the compensation they are entitled to.

Richard Harrington, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions, said it will last for eight weeks, but it could be more.

Two busy London courts to close

As part of government plans to “remove surplus capacity”, a consultation has been opened regarding the proposed closure of Camberwell Green and Hammersmith Magistrates’ Courts and moving their cases elsewhere.

Camberwell Green is described as “not fit for purpose” without investment and repairs. But cases would be moved to Croydon Magistrates' Court, which would also require work to accommodate the extra personnel. Some of Croydon’s courtrooms are also not at the “minimum standard” and would require improvement works, the Croydon Advertiser reported.

The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) strongly criticised the decision.

“To launch a consultation immediately after the deadline for new legal aid contract tenders closed is a travesty for those firms trying to plan and predict areas and volume of work,’ LCCSA president Greg Foxsmith told the Law Society Gazette.

“The proposed closure of Hammersmith, opened just 20 years ago, is even more baffling.

“Defendants, lawyers and witnesses will face longer journey times and greater expense to secure justice. And the strained resources of the court service will be further depleted by job losses for the admin staff. It is that announcement that suggests this ‘consultation’ is merely a masquerade, with the ministry capitulating to the Treasury.”

The consultation closes on 27 October, allowing politicians only 17 days to discuss the changes after Parliament’s conference break.

Eighty-six court closures are planned across the country over the next two years.

Commuters stage protest against Southern Railway at Victoria station

The train company which owns Southern had the worst punctuality in the country in the summer

Figures revealed that 29.6 per cent of trains belonging to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), who own Southern, arrived at least five minutes behind schedule between 26 June and 23 July – the worst of any service in the country.

Virgin East Coast were the second worst service, with 17.8 per cent of trains delayed by at least five minutes, followed by Hull trains, with 16.4 per cent of their trains.

Across England and Wales, the average delay over five minutes was 12.9 per cent of trains.

Meanwhile, Southern has been nominated for a number of industry awards, despite its widely criticised service.

Troops strongly criticised over death of Iraqi child

A report into the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, who died in Basra in 2006 after British soldiers assaulted him and forced him into a canal, has strongly criticised the troop’s actions.

“The soldiers, having detained him for looting, forced him to enter the canal and left him floundering,” report author Sir George Newman wrote. “He should not have been detained and held in armed and confined custody in a Warrior, he should not have been transported in the Warrior to the canal, he should not have been forced to enter the canal, let alone left there to flounder and drown.”

The soldiers were cleared of manslaughter in 2006.

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