The diversity of MPs elected in 2015: pale, male and stale?

In 2008 The House of Commons agreed to establish a new committee, to be chaired by the Speaker and known as the Speaker’s Conference. The Conference was asked to: “consider, and make recommendations for rectifying, the disparity between the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large”.

One of the Conference’s recommendations in January 2010, was that following the 2010 and subsequent General Elections the political parties should publish a statement on the diversity of their Members of Parliament. Three General Elections on, this has not happened. So what did the 2015 General Election mean for the diversity profile of MPs?

A new Briefing Paper from the Commons Library has some of the data to answer this question.

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The beginning of the end for contracted employment programmes?

One of the lesser discussed announcements made in the Autumn Statement was the introduction of a new Work and Health Programme to replace the programmes which currently help the long-term unemployed and people with health problems into work.  Currently, these schemes are administered by contracted providers who are paid according to the results they receive; in this case getting people into work.

The new Work and Health Programme will provide specialist support for claimants with health conditions or disabilities and those unemployed for over 2 years.  Currently, people might have to join the Work Programme if they’ve been receiving Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) for more than 3 months or if they get Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and are in the Work-Related Activity Group.

It was also announced that Jobcentre Plus (JCP) would be taking on a larger role in the provision of employment support at the start of a person’s JSA claim.  On the face of it, this did not appear to be a big change: with the number of JSA claimants falling it was expected that the Government would make some changes to its contracted employment programmes. Yet last week, in response to a report by the Work and Pensions committee, the Government stated that contracted programmes will have “a reduced” albeit “significant” role to play in the future.

This apparent change in policy is a reversal from the last 10 years, when successive Governments have developed and implemented contracted employment programmes.

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The Return of the Prisoner Voting Saga?

A recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), in the case of Delvigne, led to media headlines claiming it was lawful for Britain to ‘impose a voting ban on prisoners convicted of serious crimes’. However, the law regarding prisoner voting in France is substantially different to that in the UK. The French law allowed the removal of voting rights only from those convicted of a custodial sentence of between five years and life imprisonment. By contrast, the UK’s restriction on voting rights applies to all prisoners, irrespective of the length of their sentence. This latest development in the prisoner voting saga also demonstrates that the debate on a British Bill of Rights will have to consider the potential relationship with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

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Equalisation inches back into the local government finance system

Building on the introduction of the Business Rates Retention Scheme in 2013, a raft of major changes to local government funding have been announced in 2015. By the end of the 2015-20 Parliament, local government will retain 100% of business rate revenue instead of 50%. Revenue Support Grant will be phased out. Additional funding for social care will be made available. These changes will interact with a continued reduction in overall levels of central funding for local government, which have been trailed in the draft local government finance settlement for 2016-17.

The combined effect of these changes could be considerable. The local government expert Tony Travers has dubbed the Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, “revolutionary radicals”.[1] Similarly, Kevin Muldoon-Smith and Paul Greenhalgh, of the University of Northumbria, claim that “local authorities will be expected to fend for themselves through a new model of civic financialisation and entrepreneurialism”.[2]

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The Paris Climate Conference: Taking stock of greenhouse gas emissions

In December this year, representatives of 196 countries will attempt to reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with the aim of limiting global temperatures increase to less than 2 degrees. If this Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris is successful it will be the first time, from 2020, that both developed and developing countries will commit to tackling GHG emissions.

Just a week before the Paris Climate Conference, this post takes stock of historic trends in emissions for both developed and less developed countries, details the current rates of emissions (increases and reductions) and examines when the ‘carbon budget’ to stay within 2⁰C of global average warming will likely be exhausted.

With GHG emissions rising, can world leaders take the necessary steps in Paris to reduce emissions to ‘safe’ levels?

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Tax Credit & Universal Credit changes: impact of a 75% taper (Part 2)

On 26 October 2015 the Government was defeated in the House of Lords following a debate on its proposed changes to tax credits.  The Chancellor responded that the Government would “continue to reform tax credits and save the money needed so that Britain lives within its means, while at the same time lessening the impact on families during the transition.”  Plans are to be set out in the Autumn Statement on 25 November.

In response to concerns about the impact of tax credit changes as originally announced in the Summer Budget, Ministers cited examples of families who would be better off as a result of the overall package of changes announced in the Summer Budget. In several cases these figures were derived from Table 1.8 of the Summer Budget Red Book. Our previous blog piece, Tax Credit & Universal Credit changes: impact on example families, examined how these calculations can be replicated and expanded upon.

On 5 November 2015 the Chancellor was reported to be considering increasing the net income taper in Universal Credit from 65% to 75%.

Setting aside the issue of whether the family scenarios in the Red Book table are representative of families as a whole, how would the families presented in the Red Book fare should the Universal Credit taper be increased from 65% to 75%?

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