But Will (Straw, in the Times), if we’ll talk about fracking gas, will climate sceptics talk about climate science? UKIP is dragging climate denial along the coattails of its get-out-of-Europe campaign. In a rational world, you can readily negotiate between equivalents: different forms of energy needed in our energy mix, for instance: the benefits of wind power vs fracking shale gas, as Will Straw rightly argues. But would climate sceptics really trade ideology for science? They’re not equivalents. Last Thursday, global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, as measured at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, reached 400 parts per million. Is that debatable with UKIP that says, “climate change is so last century”?
Figures from the ONS today show that between 2005 and 2011, UK disposable income per head dropped from being the 5th highest in the developed world to 12th.
Such figures are part of a larger picture emerging about the recent performance of the UK. In broad strokes the big picture of the UK since 2008 has been of a large fall in output, followed by a long period of stagnation that may finally be giving way to an incredibly weak recovery. We are, by most measures, underperforming both out own historical experience and the experience of other large developed economies.
Labour’s Shadow International Development Secretary, Ivan Lewis MP, is giving a keynote speech later today setting out what he’d want to do if he replaced Justine Greening as Secretary of State after the next election. I’ll be tweeting as he gives it (@TUCGlobal – why not follow?) but I thought it might be a useful exercise to set out in advance what the TUC would like to hear him commit to:
- global leadership;
- structural change, not just sticking-plaster aid and peacekeeping;
- putting people first, rather than concentrating on countries or political elites; and
- decent work - simply, a world where the Rana Plaza factory disaster won’t happen again.
That every crisis brings an opportunity applies in spades to the dire situation of UK Coal, our biggest coal producer. UK Coal has been in acute financial difficulty following the disastrous fire at Daw Mill. Collapse of UK Coal would wipe a reported £360m off the value of retirement savings for 6,800 pension scheme members. The government’s Pension Protection Fund would have to meet the estimated £540m bill. Renationalisation of Daw Mill may be a way forward – technically, this means returning Daw Mill to the Coal Authority, a DECC quango. The authority owns and licences, on behalf of the nation, the vast majority of the coal in Great Britain, as well as former coal mines. It’s a NDPB (non-departmental public body) sponsored by DECC.
Have workers been getting their fair share of increases in productivity? On average, UK manufacturing increases at a rate of 3 to 3.5 per cent a year (a bit more recently). Has that been feeding through to wage increases?
There’s some interesting international figures just released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the gap between productivity and compensation (wages). Unfortunately, the figures only cover manufacturing, but they’re still very informative. The figures cover the USA and 12 other advanced countries, including the UK, and they show labour productivity and compensation figures back to 1970, so we can look at how the two have grown over a period of more than forty years.
The gap between the two is a politically significant issue in the United States – not surprising, given the fact that, by 2011 (the most recent figures) the US productivity-compensation gap is easily the largest among the countries the BLS compares. But the figures also show that Norway is the only country where wages have grown faster than productivity.
Charting what has happened in the UK is fascinating:
In a formal response to a letter the TUC recently sent to the UK Statistics Authority, Andrew Dilnot CBE (the Authority’s Chair) today replied confirming that:
We have concluded that the statement attributed to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that ‘Already we’ve seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact’ is unsupported by the official statistics published by the Department on 15 April.
The incident also prompted a response from the UK Statistics Authority directly to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in which Andrew Dilnot remarks that:
In the manner and form published, the statistics do not comply fully with the principles of the Code of Practice, particularly in respect of accessibility to the sources of the data, information about the methodology and quality of the statistics, and the suggestion that the statistics were shared with the media in advance of their publication.
That’s the short answer, but, given the recent leaking of a letter by Business Europe (the ETUC’s employer equivalent, to which the CBI belongs) and the protests from German blue-chip businesses reported in the Financial Times (£), it may be worth explaining why.
In fact, a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions would be good for the real economy, encouraging long term investments rather than short term gambling. Because the tax would fall mostly on the high ferquency trading that sees trillions of pounds simply whizzing around the exchanges never actually making anything (except more money, which is then leeched off in fat finance sector bonuses), longer term investment in real businesses would become relatively more profitable. So the money would go into productive economic activity, rather than betting on the markets.
Ever since the disaster at the Rana Plaza textile factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, some commentators have been trying to guilt-trip cash-strapped western consumers for the terrible conditions of workers in Bangladesh’s Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector, where wages are as low as £27 a month. We’ve been told that our insatiable desire for cheap clothing is what keeps wages down, and working conditions so poor that factory fires are endemic and corners cut so badly that buildings collapse, as Rana Plaza did. But we think cash-strapped consumers aren’t the problem, and we’ve researched and published a quick graphic to explain:
The Queen’s Speech today announced details of the Government’s new Immigration Bill. The precise details of the bill remain sketchy, but details the Government has released so far include proposals to regulate migrants’ access to the NHS, increase fines against businesses using illegal labour, require private landlords to check tenants’ status, and prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining driving licenses.
The economics behind this is utterly flawed. Migrants already contribute more in tax than they take in services as the Business for New Europe report released today notes, and EU migrants are proportionately less likely to claim benefits than the resident population.
But we know that the Government is not pursuing this line on migration due to economic demand. Instead they are making a cynical move to fend off accusations by the right of the Conservative Party that they had no credible response to UKIP. who captured so many votes last week with a stridently anti-migrant message.
The Queen’s Speech failed to contain one particular law that has been promised ever since the Coalition was formed – a firm commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid. That’s the level at which UK overseas aid should be spent this year (a promise that does seem to be being met, although lots of people are worried about what the aid total is spent on and whether there will be persistent underspends, like last year), but what about the future? Without the legislative commitment, any future Chancellor will be able to chop the aid budget at will.