EU Debate – The day before Brexit – 22 June 2016

Oct 14, 2016 | Assembly Business | 0 comments

We had workers’ rights legislation in the UK before we joined the EU, and we will still have it once we have left.

Plenary 22 June 2016 4:16:00 to 4:21:57

We had workers’ rights legislation in the UK before we joined the EU, and we will still have it once we have left.

Spoken Contribution – 17:45:57

Watch this contribution on Senedd TV | View this contribution in the Record of Proceeding document

It’s been a long campaign, and perhaps in many ways we’ll all be glad to see the back of it, whatever the outcome.

Spoken Contribution – 17:46:12

Okay. Apologies for that.

Spoken Contribution – 17:46:14

Sorry, I wasn’t aware—

Spoken Contribution – 17:46:21

Thank you, Llywydd. There was no disrespect intended.

I’m tempted to ask: where do you start on the EU? We’ve been bombarded with so many facts and figures from both sides, most of them of course conflicting with each other. There are so many aspects of this question to consider. Some of them we have already covered. It’s impossible to cover all of it in one speech, so I will confine myself to the issue that Labour Members frequently raise, of workers’ rights, which they are completely correct to do. But I have to point out that, in my opinion, there is no divinely ordained level of workers’ rights. We had workers’ rights legislation in the UK before we joined the EU, and we will still have it once we have left. The question is: what level of workers’ rights? [Interruption.] That is indeed the question, but the point is this: that it is a matter for an elected UK Government to decide on that, not an unelected bunch of EU bureaucrats.

If the electorate of the UK disagrees with the employment policies of an elected UK Government, they can always vote out the Government at the next election. That is what is known as democracy, and that is what we’ve had in this country for a long time, which is now being impeded by the EU. Of course, Labour Members have every chance to convince the UK electorate of the need for more a left-wing programme now that they have such a capable leader in Jeremy Corbyn. My own view on workers’ rights is that there are actually two versions. There is the version peddled by the Labour Members, which depends on regulations emanating from governments, and there is the version in the real world, which depends on the supply and demand of labour in the employment market. In this real-world scenario, wages and working conditions improve as demand for workers in an industry increases. Without a ready supply of alternative labour, bosses are forced to properly pay their workers, treat them reasonably well and even invest in their training. But, since 1975, when we last voted in a European referendum, more than 200 million workers have entered the EU labour market. [Interruption.] No. The inevitable effect has been to depress wages and worsen working conditions for British workers. More and more foreigners arrive and are used by big business as cheap labour. That is one important factor in why wages at the bottom end lag, and why we have the so-called ‘Amazon culture’. This reality is a nightmare for British workers.

Now, Labour has made great play about the people supporting the ‘leave’ campaign. Well, perhaps it is a motley crew of characters, but then it is inevitable in such a referendum that you do have strange bedfellows occurring. You remainers are in bed with David Cameron and George Osborne, the architects of austerity, as you keep reminding us. You are also in bed with Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, the International Monetary Fund—need I go on? On the leave side are not just Ukippers and Conservatives—[Interruption.]
Spoken Contribution – 17:49:38

Thank you, Llywydd. On the leave side are not just Ukippers and Conservatives. We also have Labour people like Frank Field, Gisela Stuart, John Mann and Dennis Skinner. Not enough has been made of the fact that David Owen, one of the most enthusiastic of Europhiles until recently, is now a convinced Brexiteer. Ultimately, you have to decide if you want to side with the workers or the bosses.

Here, to conclude, are two short interviews from ‘The Sunday Times’ a couple of years ago, which, taken together, I think illustrate the point fairly well. [Interruption.] Yes, well it has to be selective—there is a lot of material to draw on. Do you mind? What an asinine point.
Spoken Contribution – 17:50:26

First, a piece quoting Darren Hunt—

Spoken Contribution – 17:50:32

Thank you. First, the piece quoting Darren Hunt, the boss of a construction company in Scunthorpe. These were his words: ‘It is proving very difficult to get British people in. It seems that people are no longer interested in earning their wages by the sweat of their brow. It is disappointing that we are having to go to Europe to get workers, but we have no option. The good thing about the eastern Europeans is that they have an old-fashioned approach and they’re not afraid of hard work. They don’t mind working long hours at weekends and they’re willing to get stuck in.’

So, that is the view of business. Here, to contrast with that, are the words of Eddie Sullivan, a 33-year-old trained chef: ‘I have worked from the day I was 16, but now it’s almost impossible to find a decent job here. My last job was part time in an electrical shop on a retail park. I was paid less than £60 gross for 10 hours a week. What jobs there are seem to go to immigrants. Locals don’t get a look in. Employers know that the foreigners will accept any job and never complain or question the pay, conditions’—[Interruption.]—No, sit down—
Spoken Contribution – 17:51:42

[Continues.]—’and never complain or question the pay, conditions or hours.’

 

So, there you have it. Whose side are you on, you saviours of the working class? Are you on the side of the workers or the bosses? Thank you.
Spoken Contribution – 18:01:02

What about your project fear—world war three?
Spoken Contribution – 18:01:05

That’s not project fear?

Spoken Contribution – 18:01:08

Carry on.

Spoken Contribution – 18:01:13

Sorry, Llywydd.

Opening

3:20:58 to 3:26:30

Spoken Contribution – 16:50:52
Watch this contribution on Senedd TV | View this contribution in the Record of Proceeding document

It’s been an interesting discussion so far, and it’s been good to hear so many people speak and have passionate views on this subject. Here in the UKIP group, we certainly recognise that local government has a major role to play in people’s everyday lives. So, it is important that, if we are going to have yet another major local government shake-up, which, as was pointed out earlier by R.T. Davies, we seem to have every 20 years, pretty punctually, then we need to make sure this time that we do get it right and, also, that we do not systematically take services further and further away from the people they are supposed to serve.

We do support some reorganisation of local government in Wales, but the massive reduction to nine councils proposed by the previous Minister—we believe that that was too big a reduction and would represent a major degradation in council services. In general, we support bottom-up reorganisation, rather than a top-down model, the kind of model that Leighton Andrews wanted to impose on the Welsh councils. We note with dismay that, when Vale of Glamorgan Council did come to a voluntary agreement with their neighbouring authority of Bridgend, the ambitions of those councils were rather casually rejected by the relevant Minister, who has, perhaps thankfully, now departed, although, of course, I’m sure he did good things here as well.

What people in the Vale do not want is to be submerged by Cardiff council and then swamped by huge housing developments on their green fields. This is a problem we already have facing us on the outskirts of Cardiff, as the new Plaid regional Member has repeatedly, and rightly, alluded to. We certainly don’t want that problem extended to the Vale of Glamorgan as well by a forced merger with Cardiff. I can tell you that Cardiff’s Labour-run authority would love to get its hands on those lovely fields in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Similarly, Rhondda Cynon Taf council should not be railroaded into a forced merger with Merthyr. RCT is already one of the biggest councils in Wales in terms of its population, and it’s quite capable, we believe, of standing on its own two feet.

Now, referring to other points that were made during the debate, Janet mentioned the number of uncontested seats, which is an obvious cause for concern. We believe that if you have these forced mergers, leading to super councils, they will be too large. This will lead to increasing lack of interest from the electorate in these elections, and you’ll probably have a lower turnout as a result. The Localism Act is interesting; that’s an interesting point. We tend to agree that we need to think about adopting more articles from that Act here in Wales, and there may be a debate here soon on a portion of that Act.

We also have the issue of the term of the next council, raised by R.T. Davies. I remember, in 1993, we had elections; they took place regardless of a local government reorganisation that was imminent at that time. We had county council elections in 1993; two years later, we had to have the unitary authority elections—really, a considerable waste of expense. In these times of local authority cuts, we need to make sure that we avoid that kind of duplication and that kind of waste of money this time around.

Oscar Asghar raised the issue of the call centres. I heard murmurs from that side that these council numbers cost nothing for the consumer to pay for when he’s ringing up, but I think the problem is, essentially, one of inaccessibility, because it takes a long time for people to get hold of the council. They are put through to a call centre. They’re not on a direct line to any council switchboard—. Well, it is essentially a switchboard. Sometimes also, these call centres serve more than one council; so, you might find that you ring a call centre enquiring about services in Cardiff and you’re speaking to someone in a call centre in Wrexham who knows nothing about what you’re talking about. So, we need to look at that, and we need to look at whether we need to have some statutory provision that we have to have locally-manned call centres, at least, so you don’t have people ringing up these lines and finding that they’re talking to people who have no local knowledge.

On the question of the Plaid Cymru amendment regarding voting reform, this is a very important issue. We believe that to encourage a higher turnout in the elections in Wales we do need to support the introduction of the single transferable vote in Welsh council elections. [Interruption.] Indeed, that may be the case, but we certainly do support that, and we are willing to collaborate with whoever else supports it. So, Sian, if you want to have a chat, then by all means do so, but of course it would mean collaborating with us here in UKIP, which may be an awful prospect for you. Thank you.