Wednesday, 5 September 2012

PoliticsUK interviews Graham Jones MP

As part of "PoliticsUK interviews", PUK asks Graham Jones MP (Lab) a few questions form our users.

Would you support a mansion tax?

This is an interesting idea in principle, but there are probably a few problems in practice. I would put more emphasis on reversing the income tax cut that the Government has given to the very wealthy, but I certainly think that a land tax or mansion tax has merit in principle. My support would depend on the workability of the proposals.

In recent years, and in the near future, a disproportionate amount of infrastructure investment has gone to London and the South East - Crossrail, HS2, Olympics development.
Do you believe that some of this money should go to better connecting other regions of the country?

I do believe that this is the case. The investment in infrastructure is in danger of isolating the North East and North West. I support HS2 in principle though more work needs to be done, but it must cover the length of the country so we can all benefit from it. Construction should have begun in the north as well as the south, and meet in the middle. We need a cast-iron guarantee that it will not just serve the south and be absolutely sure it will not be an expensive white elephant.

What would you look to do to ease capacity constraints for aviation to and from London?

There is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed here, and I don’t think the Government’s current dithering is helping anything.

Airport strategy in the south is spiraling towards chaos and there needs to be better connectivity between Gatwick and Stansted – though a multi-airport strategy presents huge problems. One hub airport with sufficient capacity is the ideal solution – although all things considered this is an incredibly difficult challenge. Every flight I can recall taking from Heathrow has been significantly delayed awaiting a take-off slot.

There should also be a proper debate about our regional airports and their connection to the capital. I think there needs to be a debate about whether a second UK hub airport in the North is viable, maybe before resolving the southern airport issue.

If we don’t rebalance the economy and airports are the key infrastructure project, then the south will continue to take the weight of UK economic growth.

A northern super hub airport that undercut Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt and London would be very beneficial for the whole of the UK, specifically the south. It cannot be cost efficient or economically beneficial to run innumerate competing regional airports which will remain feeder airports to London.

Do you support a tax on banker's bonuses?

Yes, absolutely. There is an economic and moral imperative for this. There is an issue about bank migration. Financial services provide 11% of tax revenues.

London at the moment is the financial capital of the world. If that sounds like we are somewhat bound to bankers it is because the last 30 years neo-liberal consensus devalued manufacturing and left the UK economy unbalanced. It may take 30 years to undo the mistakes of previous governments.

In Hyndburn the closure of engineering businesses led to the closure of the hugely popular and successful engineering department (under a Conservative government) at the college. Without the supply chain of talent, without the jobs, how can either succeed?

Recently farmers have been in a dispute over the price of milk. Do you think that low prices are an advantage of a competitive market catering to consumers or do you think that the market has failed in this instance?

Low prices are an advantage of a competitive market, but I think something has gone awry here. Markets sometimes fail and it’s a lesson that we shouldn't pray at the altar of free markets, they don’t always best serve consumers and in this case producers.

The role played by the supermarkets has become unsustainable for milk producing farmers who are not getting a fair price for their labours – more of the profits need to go to the farmers themselves. There have been some promising developments with milk buyers agreeing better prices on a voluntary basis but in the end it is about market manipulation or correction to correct a dysfunctional market.

Where do you stand on the balance between the desire of religions to withhold services from same sex couples and the expectations of those couples to be treated equally? Do you think there is a solution?

I think all religious organisations deserve freedom of conscience and belief, I would not seek to force them into performing ceremonies that they cannot reconcile with their beliefs. I also do not think many same-sex couples would want to be married by an individual who did not believe in the spiritual validity of their marriage.

I understand that some religious groups are concerned about an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights which could force them to perform such ceremonies, but I am not convinced by this argument, as the Court itself has stated that this is not part of its legal remit.

Are there any coalition policies that you support? Did you support the rise in the tax free allowance?

Foreign policy is an area with which there is the greatest overlap. In Libya and on Afghanistan and now on Syria. The Conservatives have carried on progress made by Labour on IB/ESA and immigration, though differences do exist.

On the tax free allowance, I don’t think I could say to the poorest in my constituency that I think they should pay more in tax. But I won’t leap to the defence of a Government which has simply shifted this burden onto pensioners, whilst cutting tax for the wealthiest in the country.

Do you feel that the Labour Party would be a natural home for disaffected Liberals and how can the party take advantage of this?

I would slightly dispute the premise of the question. I think a decent proportion of the ‘disaffected Liberals’ are in fact disaffected Labour voters who shifted to the Liberals towards the end of the last Labour era.
There is a so-called ‘progressive majority’ which is in part spread between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in this country, and I think Ed Miliband is very good at uniting it. He has been at the forefront of the debate on responsible capitalism and the great debates of the modern era. I think more and more people will see that over time.

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