Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Five bills in 500 words

Five bills in 500 words the man from Progress says. No polling or strategy nonsense this time, and obviously, as you’re always complaining that Labour folk need to remember the deficit, you won’t be suggesting any additional spending.

Here goes …

If you’ve been in work for two years and lose your job, you get £67.50 a week for up to six months as ‘contributory’ jobseeker’s allowance. Bill one would use the existing student loans system to allow people to cash in that entitlement in return for a business start-up, retraining or relocation loan, charged at an interest rate that keeps the whole thing cost-free to government over the medium term but with repayments contingent on income.

Bill two: require all businesses big enough to file full company accounts to put the salary of their lowest paid worker in those accounts – it wouldn’t mean higher wages everywhere but would allow journalists and campaigners to expose anyone selling fair trade coffee but paying their staff a pittance.

Next: the UK risks becoming two economies: a south-east that has a strong private sector and faces manageable cuts relative to the size of its economy and a north, Scotland and Wales where the proportion of demand being lost from the public sector is much larger, making it even harder for new private sector business to start there. Over 10 years of low or no real public spending growth, these areas could be kept in recession long after the south has re-emerged.

So bill three would try to mitigate this by requiring all national public spending decisions to have regard to the impact on local economic demand. Among other things, it would mean that when pay review bodies look at the case for more localised public sector pay deals, the final deals would need to keep the same level of demand in low growth areas. If salaries in some areas were lower, the money would need to be available to employ more people locally or, even better, invest in local capital projects. Overall, it would bias cuts towards those areas most able to cope with them economically while the private sector in the north started to develop. On the same theme, another bill should deal with the politically unsustainable bias in the Scottish ‘Barnett’ spending formula: phase out the Scottish premium over a parliament (or two) but use the savings to help the Scottish private sector grow, including investing in a southbound high speed rail line from Glasgow and Edinburgh.

After four worthy but dull bills, one bit of legislation-cum-political-strategy: a bill mandating the Office for Budget Responsibility to work with the opposition in costing its policies and producing a growth forecast based on them. No more tax bombshells, no more rows about how much something will cost or save, no more scare stories that we will wreck the economy – unless a set of independent economists think we genuinely will, in which case the OBR report will be the least of our worries.


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

The UK needs a radical tax overhaul. Fabian general secretary Andrew Harrop sets out what this would involve

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

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

We must overhaul our taxation system and introduce regional transport authorities argues Gus Baker

Anthony Parker presents his poetic contribution to the series


Steve Van Riel was the Labour party’s director of policy and research at the 2010 general election


Photo: UK Parliament

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Steve Van Riel

was the Labour party's director of policy and research at the 2010 general election

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