Time for tax reform
If Ed Miliband is serious in his claim that this will be a ‘one-term Tory government’ as he asserted in the Guardian this weekend, then an alternative Queen’s speech is not only desirable but necessary. As we approach the halfway point of this parliament, Labour must credible but ambitious on how they will build a fairer and more responsible society.
Tax reform bill
The UK needs a radical tax overhaul, to shift the burden of tax from ‘good’ things like earnings, jobs and profits to ‘bads’ such as congestion, environmental degradation and asset bubbles. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has laid the groundwork for legislation with the Mirrlees Review of Tax Reform which set out proposals that would be both fairer and boost growth. A bill is needed to create an independently-audited fiscally-neutral ‘bubble’ that would last for five years to reassure the public that a huge shake up would not be ‘cover’ for a stealthy increase in the overall tax take. This would create the space to implement big bold reforms including road pricing, proper taxation of land and capital gains, reform to tax reliefs and a graduate tax to replace tuition fees.
Jobs and earnings bill
This bill would smash the ‘British model’ of unfair labour markets and failing welfare. First it would replace over the life of a parliament the national minimum wage with a mandatory living wage. By improving incentives to work and reducing spending on tax credits this would create the space to raise our shamefully low out-of-work benefits, which would henceforth be indexed to average earnings. Our current jobs crisis (and the possible short-term heightened unemployment from raising low pay) would be dealt with by a new job guarantee giving everyone unemployed for more than a year a permanent job. Lastly every workforce would be entitled to transparent information on its executive pay and an automatic right to collective bargaining whenever senior pay rises by more than the organisation’s median wage.
Local democracy and total place (pilot) bill
By the time this government’s health and schools reforms are in place local public provision will be totally fragmented and incoherent, with precious little control in the hands of democratically elected councils. This bill would give well-run local authorities the power to bid to take-over the direction of all public money in their area (with the exception of welfare, at least for now). This would include the NHS, jobcentres, probation and schools. Councils would then be able to integrate public services, such as health and social care, and enable upstream investment to prevent problems before they emerge. It’s a bold step that will make many government departments and public service professions very nervous – and it might not work – so the bill would strictly limit the scheme to ten pilot areas and establish independent evaluation.
Early years, childcare and school hours bill
Any parent will tell you that the way we organise the institutions of childhood is a massive deterrent to full-time work and quality family life. Prime examples are the crippling cost of childcare and the stupidity of designing schools to shut down in the middle of the working day and for over a month in the summer. This bill would extend the school day and year to fit around normal working life, provide every family with a free weekly entitlement to early years or out-of-school provision, and integrate childcare subsidies into a single system with particular support for parents with two or more children who so often give up work on financial grounds.
Party funding and elected second chamber bill
This double dose of political reform would cap donations for political parties (union levy-payers would become true ‘opt-in’ party supporters) and finally dispense with the unelected and often mediocre House of Lords, which the left has been trying to abolish for over one hundred years. This is my only ‘fantasy’ bill which I can remotely imagine the coalition toying with (and even then I think the prospects are limited). What I find more disheartening is that so many within Labour ranks are hostile to both reforms. The left needs to stand up for our values and back a better democracy. Radical political reform can be part of how we persuade people we want to move on from politics-as-usual.
Alternative Queen’s Speeches on Progress
Progress editorial: The first Queen’s speech in two years is imminent. Labour should seize on the event to set out its own stall
We asked Labour people to devise what would be in Labour’s Alternative Queen’s Speech to show how Britain would be better under Labour
It should be fiscal responsibility first in Labour’s Alternative Queen’s Speech argues Jacqui Smith
Strengthening sure start comes first writes David Talbot
Richard Darlington, Tony Dolphin and Graeme Cooke from IPPR present their Alternative Queen’s Speech for jobs and growth
We need an Alternative Queen’s Speech for community empowerment argues Florence Nosegbe
Patrick Diamond wants Labour to create an efficient, muscular state through a ‘too big to fail’ bill and a ‘mutual home-ownership bill’
Jeremy Miles would introduce a ‘transparency in equal pay bill’ and introduce compulsory so that all politicians have to listen to all sections of society
In Steve Van Riel‘s Alternative Queen’s Speech business should be required to publish the salary of its lowest-paid worker, and the OBR should be mandated to work with the opposition on costings
LabourList editor Mark Ferguson would put an end to Crown dependency tax havens, and finally introduce a National Care Service
Former Labour party general secretary Peter Watt would introduce a safety in care bill for all adults in care, and a rule to remove a set number of pieces of legislation from the statute book every year
Andrew Harrop is general secretary of the Fabian Society
Andrew Harrop will be speaking at Progress annual conference on May 12. Book your place here.
Photo: Images of Money
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