Conservatives in Government have had to take tough decisions to rebalance our economy after inheriting the biggest budget deficit in Britain's peacetime history. The Government has taken steps to turn our economy around.

The deficit has been cut by a third since 2010; mortgage rates are at record lows and Businesses have created 1.4 million new jobs, 3 jobs for every 1 lost in the public sector over the past three years.

In Tamworth unemployment is at its lowest level since before the General Election.

With GDP up, high street sales accelerating and the number of workless households at a record low, manufacturing orders increased in September to their highest level since 2007, car sales have risen 10.44 per cent this year having risen for 18 consecutive months and the Bank of England has reported strengthened demand and output growth.

The economy is moving now from rescue to recovery thanks to the policies of this government.

The Coalition is determined to boost growth and I agree with the Chancellor's robust stance: a National Loan Guarantee Scheme; competitive tax system; cutting red tape; rebalancing the economy and increasing the number of apprenticeships.

I try to participate as often as I can in debates in the House of Commons that concern the economy. Recently I have written articles on National Pay Bargaining and how the abolition of it could drive growth in deprived regions.

For the Conservative Party's stance on the economy please click here and for HM Treasury's website please click here. The Business, Innovation and Skills website is here.

Christopher Pincher's statement on the Trade Union Bill:

'I recognise that trade unions are valuable institutions in British society and dedicated trade unionists have a strong history of working hard to represent their members, campaigning for improved safety at work and giving support to their members when it is needed. I believe it is only fair, however, that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hardworking taxpayers who rely on key public services.

The aim of the Bill is to rebalance the interest of employers, employees and the public with the freedom of trade unions to strike. At present a small minority of union members can disrupt the lives of millions of commuters, parents, workers and employers at short notice and without clear support from the unions' members. Because of the high impact on the normal life on a large group of people, it is completely sensible that such strikes only take place on the basis of a reasonable turnout and substantial vote in favour by those able to vote.

Voting to take part in strike action and voting in a General Election are two completely different votes. Everyone can vote for their Member of Parliament. Strikes affect everyone but members of the public affected by strikes have no opportunity to vote on whether the strike should take place. It is only fair that strikes should happen on a decent turnout.

With regard to the use of agency workers during strike; allowing agency workers to cover striking workers will ensure that businesses can continue to operate to some extent, particularly in sectors in which industrial action has a wider impact on members of the public that can be disproportionate and unfair. As you may be aware, the Government has consulted on this issue and is currently analysing the views of a wide range of stakeholders. I am assured all responses will be considered in the context of wider industrial relations legislation and interests.

Referring to the effect on picketing, the Bill will make the key provisions of the Picketing Code legally binding and make trade unions more accountable for the conduct on picket lines to tackle the problem of intimidation of non-striking workers. The Government is not proposing to introduce new measures that are not already in the Picketing Code and most unions have followed this Code without difficulty for many years.

I recognise that online ballots could be a useful tool to bring about change in the voting process. The Government's only objection to this, however, is for practical reasons. The Open Rights Group, for instance, has highlighted these difficulties in the past, stating: "voting is a uniquely difficult question for computer science: the system must verify your eligibility to vote; know whether you have already voted; and allow for audits and recounts. Yet it must always preserve your anonymity and privacy. Currently, there are no practical solutions to this highly complex problem and existing systems are unacceptably flawed." I do not believe, therefore, that the Government could authorise its use in something as important as a strike ballot.

I can confirm that the practice of state-run trade union subscriptions, or the "check off" process, is to be ended, removing the taxpayer-funded administrative burden on employers. I believe there is no reason, however, why a trade union with a good relationship with their members would lose out by asking them to pay by direct debit.'

Partly as a result of representations from constituents, I attended as much of the debate on the state pension age equalisation as I could in early January. I listened carefully to the concerns raised, and answers given, and I have looked still further into the matter.

Equalising the State Pension age was necessary to meet the United Kingdom's obligations under European Union law to eliminate gender inequalities in social security provision, but in my view more importantly to reflect the drastic changes in gender roles in our society and economy that we have seen since the ages were first set in 1940. It is entirely wrong that women should be treated inequitably which has helped make it more difficult for women to reach the top jobs based on merit. The Pensions Act 1995 legislated for this to be done gradually after 2010 and this was widely publicised at the time. So although the exact dates for implementation were not known then, the point from which the changes might be implemented certainly was known. Following sharp increases in life expectancy projections, the Government had to accelerate this process slightly in the Pensions Act 2011 to secure the sustainability of the system. This was done within the window originally set in 1995.

Under the 1995 Act, women's State Pension age was scheduled to increase from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020. As a result of the 2011 reforms, it will now reach 65 in November 2018. The Government did listen to concerns raised at the time, and as a result the maximum increase in the State Pension age was capped at 18 months relative to the 1995 timetable.

The new State Pension will be fairer to women than the old system, with National Insurance credits for years taken out of work for caring or bringing up a family gaining them the same pension entitlement as National Insurance contributions through earnings. Around 650,000 women will receive an average of £8 more per week in the first ten years as a result.

With regard to communication of the changes; a Government leaflet on the changes was issued in July 1995, entitled Equality in State Pension Age: A Summary of Changes. Since 1995 State Pension estimates have been available on request from the DWP which make the 1995 changes clear. Since April 2000 more than 11.5 million personalised statements have been issued, and the Department continues to encourage people to request statements. I accept that, in a postal service, some letters may have failed to arrive or that generation of some letters might fail. But generally speaking I believe the DWP has done a reasonable job in communicating to the broad mass of people affected.

In 2004, a DWP report found the three quarters of people aged 45 to 54 were already aware of the 1995 reforms, and since then a round of letters has gone out as well as other communication initiatives. A further report in 2012 showed that only 6% of women who were within 10 years of pension age thought their State Pension age was still 60. The DWP also ran an information campaign in 2004 further informing people of the upcoming equalisation in State Pension age, and this campaign included advertising in the press and women's magazines, and developing an interactive online State Pension age calculator via the Pension Service website.

All those affected by the 1995 changes were also written to between April 2009 and March 2011. Further mailing to those due to reach State Pension age between 2016 and 2026 was completed between January 2012 and November 2013.

I do believe that with respect to women who are ill and may have a challenge working or making contributions the Government could be more helpful in amplifying the options available to them. And I will ask ministers to do this.

However, although I understand that some constituents are concerned by these changes, I do not feel that the original notice given of the changes, or the more detailed and personalised notices sent since 2011, have been unreasonable. Nor do I feel that the transitional arrangements put in place by the government following representations is deficient.


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