- News we brought you in 1998/9...
JOBS AT RISK AS BLAIR DUCKS PROMISE
Despite Tony Blair's assurance that he loves small businesses, the Inland Revenue is pushing ahead with its IR35 proposals. These measures go against all industry trends and are of doubtful benefit to anyone in Britain. Over 300,000 working people are due to be affected from April, with over 66,000 business closures predicted short term.
Ironically Chancellor Brown told the CBI Conference on 1 November that the Government wanted to "encourage a new enterprise culture" (BBC Online News). He singled out small companies in high-tech areas who were prepared to undergo lower salaries in return for higher rewards [later]. Amazingly, the IR35 proposals which are due to become law shortly, achieve the opposite!
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CIVIL SERVICE IMPARTIALITY TO GO?
For years, the British Civil Service has been regarded as independent of the Government of the day. But on 18 October, the Cabinet Office website announced that as part of "modernising", units would integrate the EU dimension into policy making. EU policy is largely agreed by the Council of Ministers, where Britain has just one voice among fifteen, and can often be outvoted. The Civil Service risks being the agent of continental governments that are not accountable to the British electorate.
HAGUE CONFUSED OVER EUROPE
On BBC1 Question Time, 1 July 1999, William Hague faced questions from a Midlands audience.
* When asked if he would repudiate the Maastricht Treaty, he said that he would not reject any of it. "The Maastricht Treaty is one of John Major's achievements". he added. "It contains some real achievements. Without it, we wouldn't be able to have the discussion on joining the Single Currency"
* In spite of bullishly populist soundbites like "I'm all for keeping the Pound", Hague got visibly uncomfortable when David Dimbleby asked him if he was against the Euro for all time (i.e. on principle) or just out of the national interest. (i.e. tactically). "You don't need to rule it out forever", replied Hague.
This came across as rather strange as in his own words, the Euro was "meant to bring around the political centralisation of Europe" and his position of opposition was "based on our ability to run our own affairs".
For the record, the Maastricht Treaty allows the EU control of Britain's ability to run its own affairs in over 25 areas: * Foreign Policy * Transport * Environment * Agriculture * Fisheries * Commerce & Competition * Consumer affairs * Sterling exchange rate * Education * Border controls (asylum & visas) * Police investigations
* Economic policy must be run for the benefit of 'Europe' - not Britain
UKIP CELEBRATES ELECTION SUCCESS
The pro-withdrawal UK Independence Party (UKIP) polled well in the European Parliament elections on June 10th. Apart from getting three candidates elected, the party came second in six Parliamentary constituencies, and won nearly 700,000 votes - or 7% of the total. This was six times higher than the 1997 vote, on one-third of the turnout.
This represents a major achievement, given that
* A Home Office pamphlet distributed to homes in England did not show UKIP as standing - just the three main parties (and in Scotland the SNP).
* The Post Office/Royal Mail failed to deliver its election leaflets to several homes. Most national newspapers seemed to concentrate on the 'main' parties, thus unlevelling the playing field.
* The BBC gave UKIP preferentially worse treatment in breach of its charter requirements. For instance, Around Westminster highlighted almost every other party or individual standing in London.
*On BBC Online, BBC Political Editor Robin Oakley reported the election as a breakthrough for the Green Party, even though they scored only 2 MEPs and less votes in total than UKIP. Needless to say, UKIP's breakthrough was not mentioned.
BRITISH BUSINESS OPPOSES THE EURO
An ICM poll of 1,000 heads of business, published in the Daily Mail (31.3.99) showed:
* 63% want to keep the Pound, and only 32% want the Euro
* 89% felt that the Euro would mean more red tape
* 73% felt that the Government's £7.5 million "information campaign" was more about propaganda than helping British business
* The majority think the Euro will be a weak currency
* Only a third believed that adopting the Euro would lead to easy comparison of prices
* 64% of CBI members polled were against scrapping the Pound, giving lie to federalist claims that "British business is in favour of monetrary union"
EU & NEW LABOUR LINE UP TO TAX BRITAIN'S MOTORISTS
George Orwell might have been proud of them, as two EU papers "Sustainable Mobility" and "Fair and Efficient Pricing in Transport" stand to produce precisely the opposite effects. New Labour has produced a consultation paper, Breaking The Logjam, which has come under fire for proposing new powers to tax motorists without any guaranteed benefit.
New Alliance is pleased to provide an analysis of proposals, plus an expose of EU support for an anti-car organisation. Comprehensive references to official documents are given. See New Features.
BLAIR INSULTS PUBLIC WITH EURO CHANGEOVER PLAN
February 1999 saw the Government launch an as yet undated plan for abolishing the Pound in favour of the Euro. Although not untypically for New Labour, the costs are practically left uncovered, the Outline National Changeover Plan suggests spending (large) sums of money on adapting Government computer systems so that the British people can be given "a genuine choice".
"It's a bit like giving a patient a general anaesthetic and then asking him if he wants to have an operation" responded New Alliance Campaign Manager Margaret Evans.
Given that there is very little public demand for the Euro, and we face a rise in the national tax burden (Telegraph, 4.3.99) wouldn't it be better for the Government to have a referendum on whether these millions of our money should go on Euro preparations, or improving schools, hospitals and public transport? Come on, Phoney Tony - that would be giving the public "a genuine choice" !!!
GERMAN MINISTER SEES UK SUCCEED OUTSIDE EURO?
News service Ceefax (31.12.98) quoted German Economics Minister Werner Mueller that "Countries which go it alone to the detriment of others jeopardise the whole project" - well, maybe the Single Currency can't be such a good thing, then.... ...whatever happened to all the predictions of doom & gloom if Britain stayed out?
BLAIR SIDESTEPS NEILL REPORT FOR A BIASED REFERENDUM?
The Daily Express (15.10.98) reported that Tony Blair will not give up the right for the Government (including civil service depts?) to campaign for Britain to abolish the Pound for the Euro.
This comes hot on the heels of the Neill Report into funding political initiatives which suggests ceilings on state funding and that the Government should remain impartial in a referendum. The Report's recommendations unfortunately are full of loopholes:
One of the its main findings is that funding for the Parliamentary parties should go up from £1.6m to £5m, so that they can "scrutinise" Government policy, with £200,000 alone for William Hague's office. Shamefully, there is no "opt out" here as the Conservatives wanted 20 years ago for closed shop and Trades Union political levies.
This is basically the Political Establishment dipping in the till; there will be little real opposition to the Government on EU matters unless it comes from the Ulster Unionists? Remembering Christopher Booker's 24/5 write up about Tory peers in the Lords being TOLD to go home to avoid embarrassing the Govt with a defeat on Amsterdam, of course the scrutiny will be very effective!!!
(Why not fund groups that have genuine differences with the government such as the UK Independence Party, the Green Party, the Institute of Directors and Federation of Small Businesses to "scrutinise" Government policy?)
The Report recommends no block on big donors receiving Honours; just a PC Committee chaired by the wonderful Lord Pym. They will ensure that "the donation has made no contribution to the honour". (But of course!).....
A law is proposed curbing foreign donations and donations via UK subsidiaries. No problem - special rules apply to Northern Ireland (so Gerry Adams and other Republicans can be bankrolled) - so you have another potential leaky sieve and the rules on foreign subsidiaries being set up look rather lax.
If the European Commission has been given powers to promote the EU/Euro by virtue of treaties, then there is no way that domestic law takes precedence over EU commitments in letting it "promote the work of the EU" in its "education" brief. (Read the 1972 Accession documents).
According to the Times (14.10.98), there will be about no limit to how much non-Government groups in the UK (like European Movement) can spend in a referendum. They just need to "register". Getting big donors' names published 3 months after the event is little consolation if you lose!
A key recommendation is that the Government must remain neutral. Sounds reasonable - until you think about it. Even if accepted, all the cabinet, plus tame MPs will of course campaign as a party or individuals and not "the Government", whose overwhelming decision to recommend joining a Single Currency in the House under the Whip will have been purely co-incidental!!!!
The "recommendation" on spending can of course be sidestepped by HM Govt spending millions well before a referendum is called, as it is already doing on the "Pathetic Performance" TV ads.
Donations of up to £500 a year to political parties should attract tax relief "to help restore public confidence in the political system". Not the biggest waste of taxpayers' money but this shows how much trust in Establishment pro-EU parties has faded and how much they need propping up by the taxpayer
Can anyone REALLY imagine this control freak government doing anything that will materially ease its grasp of the levers of power? (main source: Times, 14.10.98)
"Only 36% of Britons support EU membership".
Findings of Blairite think tank 'Demos'. Euro-enthusiast Mark Leonard conceded:
"The EU is less popular than it has been for a generation" (reported: Sun, 8.6.98)