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JEFF SMITH


A. PEACE

1. Are you in favour of Britain renewing its Trident nuclear weapons system ?

I'm not in favour of replacing Trident, and I'll argue within the Labour Party against it. I think it's a system that's outdated and wastefully expensive, and not the answer to our defence needs.

2. Do you think our country is right to be involved militarily in the Ukraine, even if in a training and support role?

We need to encourage a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. I would not oppose military involvement in a training and support role if it's in the context of action by the wider international community.

 

 

B. ENVIRONMENT

 

3. Do you give full weight to the urgency of minimising global warming? In the light of this, do you accept that much of the known fossil fuel reserves should be left underground, especially the most environmentally damaging such as tar sands and Arctic oil?

Yes - it's the most important long term issue facing us. I believe we need to be investing in renewable energy not fossil fuels, and agree that the most environmentally damaging fossil fuel reserves should be left underground. Labour will put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy and foreign policy. Minimising global warming will be a major priority for myself, and the next Labour government.

 

4. What is your attitude to fracking?

I don't support fracking, and I'll argue against it within the Labour Party.

5. Many people can’t afford to heat their homes over the winter. We can’t afford to ignore climate change either. How would you tackle fuel poverty in a long-term, sustainable manner?

We need to invest in making older homes energy efficient, and have high energy standards for new homes.Labour has a plan to upgrade at least five million over ten years and establish energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority. We will offer free energy efficiency improvements to at least 200,000 households in or at risk of fuel poverty a year, and interest free loans for energy efficiency improvements. We'll also introduce minimum standards in the private rented sector.

Labour will cap gas and electricity bills until 2017, while we reform the energy market so it works for everyone, and not just the big 6 energy companies.

We need to invest in renewables instead of fossil fuels.

C. ECONOMICS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

 

6. Do you think our economy can or should go on growing indefinitely?

I think we should continue to encourage economic growth as a way of lifting people and local and international communities out of poverty. The challenge is how we do this without depleting the worlds resources. The growth industries of the future will be in technology, and especially renewable technology. We can grow our economy without harming the planet if we invest in these industries.

 

7. Are you opposed to the  Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? If so why; if not, why not?

 

This isn't a question that can be answered briefly. Here's the answer I've given to people who've emailed me about TTIP:

The Labour Party supports trade agreements which can bring significant benefits through boosting trade and growth, securing and creating jobs, and bringing down costs and extending choice for consumers.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as a trade agreement between the US, the world’s largest economy, and the largest single market, the EU, has the potential to bring significant benefits. Europe and the United States are the UKs’ most important markets today. Indeed, the US is the UK’s biggest export market and likewise the UK economy attracts a significant level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from across the Atlantic. That’s why we support the principles behind these negotiations and recognise that more and better trade is good for the UK. Reducing barriers could, for example, help our car industry export more vehicles to the US where there are regulations inhibiting this and negotiations could remove.

However, we do have four main areas of concern:

* Public services: we share the concerns about the impact that TTIP could have on public services encouraging commercialisation, particularly in the NHS. Labour believes that the NHS and all public services need to be more, not less, integrated.  That is why we believe that the NHS should be exempt from the agreement. Other countries have sought to exempt areas from the agreement but this Government has not done this. Labour will continue to press for exemption.

* Investor State Dispute Resolution (ISDS): this is a dispute mechanism, commonly used in trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties. It allows investors to take proceedings against a government that is party to that trade agreement. If the government is found to be in breach of the obligations, the investor can receive redress. There is a major concern that the ISDS provisions could hinder our plans to reverse the privatisation of the NHS as it could result in those companies seeking compensation for loss of potential earnings. We believe that it is a right of governments to be able to legislate in the public interest and this should be protected effectively in any dispute resolution mechanisms. The European Commission has instigated several changes which have improved the transparency of the agreement which Labour welcomes.  However, it is right that the European Commission has decided to temporarily suspend negotiations on ISDS until the final stages of the negotiations.   Labour will be urging the Government to use this opportunity to call for far greater transparency around an exclusion for legislation in the public interest, like the NHS.

* Standards: the benefits of any treaty must filter down to employees and consumers. Treaties can cement and even increase labour, consumer, environmental and safety standards. Concerns have been raised that TTIP could reduce standards, although the principle behind the treaty is to keep or raise standards rather than reduce them. Labour will only support an agreement that avoids a race to the bottom, promotes decent jobs and growth and would safeguard standards.

* Non-inclusion of the US States: A significant stumbling block has been raised that the US states are not covered by the agreement and therefore procurement will not opened up. This mean we could be at a disadvantage as our markets are opened up but not to the same extent in the US. This is important because significant procurement spend in the US is at the State level.

A number of worries similar to our own have been raised by member states. These would need to be reflected to secure agreement, and will need to be taken on board by the European Commission.

 

8. Do you intend to help shrink the yawning gap between rich and poor and check the extraordinary concentration of wealth in very few hands? If so, how?

I believe those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden. We need a fairer distribution of wealth in this country,and Labour will make a start by reintroducing the 50p tax rate for the highest earners. We'll also raise income from an increase in the bank levy and taxes on bankers bonuses to fund public services.

 

9. Do you recognise that low wages and benefits, plus harsh and arbitrary stoppage of benefits, is causing serious and unjust hardship? Do you want to restore the safety net which ought to protect British people from serious want?

I think the huge growth of use in food banks demonstrates that the policies of the current government are causing serious hardship for too many.

The growth of zero hours contracts has meant increasing job insecurity, and low pay has meant more people forced to rely on benefits. The Tories are promising £12 billion further cuts in social security over the next parliament, but won't say where from. Clearly the poorest will be hit hardest by another tory led government.

When I was Councillor with responsibility for Finance on Manchester City Council, I introduced the living wage for council staff, and it's something I believe we should promote more widely. Labour will raise the minimum wage and incentivise a living wage.

The sanction regime is being run in the wrong way. Labour will get rid of unjustifiable sanctions targets, which hit the most vulnerable, and leave too many people in desperate need.

The social security system is an essential part of a humane and caring society, and we should protect it.