HMRC Office Closures

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): On 12 November, HMRC made its “Building our Future: location strategy” announcement. As far as I am concerned, that is the precursor to the end of 50 years of my constituency’s links with the civil service as a major public employer. More than 2,500 hard-working, committed, loyal and productive staff at four sites will be affected by the announcement, of whom almost 700 are my constituents. Many of them are my friends, and many of them work in specialist and complex areas of investigation and administration. Regrettably, I found out about the detail—I use the word “detail” very loosely—in a very short letter from the chief executive. It was sent at 2.14 pm on 12 November, which was when Parliament was in recess. It said:

“I am writing to let you know that HMRC has today announced the next step in our ten-year modernisation programme to create a tax authority fit for the future, committing to high quality jobs and the creation of 13 new regional centres serving every region and nation in the UK.”

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Off-patent Drugs Bill

Peter Dowd: I have been sent here by my constituents, and the Minister said on his website, in response to a constituent regarding the Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill:

“I believe that human life is intrinsically valuable and sacrosanct.”

I respect that view, but does he not agree that having rejected that Bill just a few weeks ago, this House has a responsibility, through this Bill, to facilitate, without reticence, access to medicines that would give practical and humane effect to the will of this House for those who have a terminal illness or for the prevention of that terminal illness?

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NHS (Charitable Trusts Etc.) Bill

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he is damaging his reputation talking this nonsense?

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Policing

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a 23% reduction in the force establishment in Merseyside since 2010? By 2019, that will have gone up to 41% of the workforce. Does he think that those on the Government Benches have any idea about the impact that that will have on the community, safe policing and the safety of police officers?

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Housing and Planning Bill

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): May I say from the outset that I am grateful to Shelter for providing the information that enables me to take part in this debate? Few housing sector organisations have as much experience as Shelter in the matters addressed by the Bill, so it is well worth paying a good deal of attention to what it has to say. I act vicariously without speaking with its authorisation. It is fair to say that Shelter is concerned that, as currently drafted, the Housing and Planning Bill will unintentionally reduce the supply of affordable housing, although I think it is being very generous in its assessment by using the word “unintentional”.

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Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend recall that in the summer the Department for Work and Pensions was forced to admit to having invented quotes from fake benefit claimants, which meant that its sanctions leaflets had to be withdrawn pretty quickly?

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Cities and Local Government Devolution [Lords] Bill

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): As a former leader of a council and a member of a combined authority and local enterprise partnership, I welcome the thrust of the Bill. There is no question about that. I said in a previous debate that the train is going out of the station—the cat is out of the bag, to mix metaphors. Whichever description we use, this is the reality.

I do not deny that the governance structure in local regions is important, but whatever that structure is we must move the debate on. Local government has changed

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Tax Credits

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised to improve the lives of the millions

“who work hard, raise their families, care for those who need help, who do the right thing”.

The tax credit changes will do exactly the opposite and instead penalise them heavily. There is no hiding from that. This is not the right thing. Why do the Government not accuse all people on tax credits of being feckless? That is what they really think. They do not bother even to make an artificial distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. They do not care. If people are poor, deserving or otherwise, they do not care.

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European Council

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): On the Prime Minister’s elliptical statement on renegotiation, what particular regulations and red tape does he envisage need be cut to ensure enhanced competitiveness, as he is in danger of sounding a bit vague and of outlining more of a wish list than a to-do list?

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Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill [Lords]

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): I want to contribute later, but I wish to say something about the principle of devolvement. The Trade Union Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to determine whether or not a trade union convenor has more or less time off in Carlisle, 200 miles away. That is not decentralisation. May we have a commitment that that sort of measure in that Bill may be devolved back to local authorities?

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