The new government has suffered two major losses within days of winning the general election over economies made to workplace pensions in the public sector.
First on Monday judges won a victory which will benefit up to 1000 part time judges who lost out on their pensions when they moved from part time to full time work.
They claimed they while they were working part time they were being discriminated against by the government because they were denied pensions. The case had originally been thrown out by a tribunal because it was ruled ” out of time”.
However the Supreme Court, in one of the last judgments presided over by Lady Hale overturned this, and said: ” in the context of judicial pensions, a part-time judge may properly complain: during their period of service that their terms of office do not include proper provision for a future pension; and, at the point of retirement, that there has been a failure to make a proper pension available. “
The ruling could cost the government £1 billion.
Then a few days later after a long campaign by the Fire Brigades Union an Employment Tribunal ruled that following the government’s defeat at the Court of Appeal when current cuts in firefighters pensions were ruled as discriminatory the only remedy was that the pension scheme introduced in 2015 to impose such cuts should be scrapped.
The ruling will not only affect 6000 firefighters who would have had to save an extra £19,000 to offset such cuts but also applies to schemes for the NHS, civil service, local government, teachers, police, armed forces and the judiciary. This will leave the new government with a £4 billion bill.
A triumphant Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:
“Last Christmas, we gave firefighters the gift of a victory in the courts. This year, firefighters can celebrate knowing that their union has secured their rightful retirement – a gift borne of solidarity that proves what unions can achieve.
“The law has now changed and our FBU claimants will be entitled to return to their previous pension schemes. Legislation will need to be amended, but there can be no delay in implementing this remedy. Firefighters were robbed, and they must now be repaid.
“To the new Tory government, let me be clear. We fought tooth and nail against your attacks on our pensions and won. If you dare to try to pay for these changes by raiding the pensions of current or future firefighters, we will come for you again – and we will win.”
Ministers had spent nearly £500,000 fighting the case which basically left firefighters on a two tier system – with substantially worse conditions for the latest recruits.
In 2015, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition imposed a series of detrimental changes to firefighter pensions, which included a built-in “transitional protection” which kept older firefighters on better pension schemes while younger members were moved onto a new, worse pension scheme, which included a requirement to work until aged 60.
The victory shows once again that the courts can overturn decisions made by governments. Since this applies to workplace pensions rather than the state pension. sadly it is not a parallel case which would bring justice for the 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who have had to wait up to six years for their pensions. But it is another reason for them not to give up hope that they can convince the courts of the justice of their cause.
One would expect the Department for Work and Pensions to fight not to pay 3.8 million women born in the 1950s any money for lost pensions. One would expect Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, and Therese Coffey, the secretary of state for work and pensions, who have good pensions themselves, not to be bothered.
But one would not expect the two MPs who head the All Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality to be in the vanguard of depriving millions of 1950s born women getting any money at all.
Yet that is precisely what Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, and Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East are doing if you compare their proposals with official figures supplied by the Department for Work and Pensions of the demographic breakdown of the women affected. The figures were released to one my readers after a Freedom of Information request.
Their proposals, as I understand it, is to only offer compensation to women aged 63 and over, probably next year. If you take this point it means that all women born between April 1950 and December 1956 are excluded from getting a penny.
This means that in Great Britain (the DWP haven’t supplied the figures for Northern Ireland) if implemented next year it would only help 1.14 million women. And if you include Northern Ireland that means well over 2.5 million people will get nothing.
If the deal is delayed to 2021 just 770,000 in Great Britain will get any benefit and some 3 million people will get nothing.
Now for even those women how much will they will get. The official statement from them is vague about this.
However in an interview with the Daily Express Tim Loughton fleshed this out a bit more. It reports:
“The APPG thinks a more realistic solution would be to allow those affected to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance of £73.10 a week in addition to pension credit, while still being able to qualify for free bus passes and prescriptions. This plan would cost around £2bn. It has written to Chancellor Sajid Javid asking for money to be made available in autumn budget. “
In return Mr Loughton says BackTo60 should withdraw its request for permission to appeal at the High Court.
He is quoted as saying:”It would help if 1950s women would fall in behind a single practical doable solution which would make their case so much easier. I don’t think the legal route is going to get anywhere so the Government’s hand is not going to be forced by the courts. That was always a tall order and I think the judicial review result showed that. The most likely solution is a compromise.”
When you examine this ” compromise” it is asking 50s born women to buy a pig in a poke.
For a start the present full pension is £168 a week – so £73.10 on Jobseekers’ Allowance is less than half of that. Also it is not clear if the women had to sign on whether they would be forced to attend interviews, search for work etc.
Then pension credit will be only available to people over 66 in 2020 and not even then – if their partner is younger. So is the government’s going to change the rules or what? That can’t be done immediately in a Budget.
Finally and here is the rub when women get their pension – instead of the maximum £168 .10 they will only get £159 a week. For some it might be more than their contributions but for others it will be less. That is why I said earlier this amounts to the £73.10 a week being a loan for some which they are having to pay back with a reduced pension for life.
I would love to have had the opportunity to ask Tim Loughton and Carolyn Harris to explain this – but they have ignored my emails. My view is that they don’t want to spell it out because they want to con 50s born women into accepting this pathetic offer without realising what it is.
And there is the role of Waspi Ltd and its lobbyist Connect PA. WASPI Ltd seems to be an organisation pretending to have its supporters at heart but prepared to sell many of them down the river into permanent poverty. It has been receptive to the idea of the APPG compromise whereas BackTo60, We Paid In, You Pay Out, Waspi Campaign 2018 and Waspi Scotland want nothing to do with it.
Women do have one strong card – the December 12 General Election. They can decided to vote out both of the MPs if they want to.
Tim Loughton has 6100 women in his constituency who have lost out and a majority of only 5106 over Labour. Much will depend on the views of the Labour candidate Lavinia O’Connor and whether she would support full restitution.
Carolyn Harris has 4800 women affected in her constituency but a much larger majority of 13,168 over the Tory candidate.
Whatever happens the general election campaign this does give women the power to demand something is done for them and plenty of opportunity to campaign against those who have let them down.
Today I have decided to highlight one of my angry blog supporters who lives in Spain and is a victim of the pension scandal that has seen 3.8 million 50s women waiting up to six years to get their pension.
So outraged at the Prime Minister refusing to consider any compensation for the women that she has written to complain to Boris Johnson and highlight how much money he and his ministers have wasted after researching the bills.
As she puts it: ” Had we run our household budgets as you have run yours, we would have lost or homes and been made bankrupt yet you are able to get away with it. You will get extremely good Pensions unlike the true workers of the country who get the smallest Pension in Europe. I actually don’t know how you can sleep at night!
Carole Irwin lives in the mountains behind Malaga. She tells me :
” I am 60 years old and during my working life paid NI payments whilst working as a nurse for several years, and as a civilian in the Police Service. I then brought up my children, so received child benefit credits for those years.
I moved to Spain to retire with my family 14 years ago. 6 years ago l was diagnosed with an incurable and life changing illness. This costs me between 80€ and 90€ in medications per month alone.
This is why I became a member of #WePaidInYouPayOut which has been supporting Back to 60.
….I am one of the many who has received no letter informing me of this change. When I started working it was on the understanding although only an assumed agreement that I would receive my pension at 60.This change of retirement age along with my illness has affected our plans for our future life in Spain. “
This is her full letter to Mr Johnson:
” I am writing to you as l have many concerns about the enormous amounts of money being wasted by Government’s various departments. In order to be concise l am writing it in bullet points so as not to waste your time.
Firstly Chris Grayling ( who possibly has wasted the most money) who has served in several roles during his time in government and unbelievably still is employed as Secretary of State for Transport of the United Kingdom (2016 to 2019). Had he been employed in the private sector would have been dismissed as his record shows how incapable he actually is! *Chris Grayling alone has so far wasted almost 3 billion pounds of public money…
*At least £500 million to sort out the mess he made when attempting to privatise the probation service (source: National Audit Office)
*£33 million when sued by Eurotunnel over Seaborne Freight fiasco (source: The Guardian)
*£38 million – cost to the economy in the north of England due to the rail chaos in July 2018 (source The London Economic)
*£50,000 on the failed ‘lorry jam’ Brexit exercise in Kent (source: The Guardian)
*£70,000 on failed attempt to ban books from prisons (source: The Independent)
*£2 billion cost to taxpayers on the collapse of Virgin Trains east coast franchise (source The London Economic)
*£15 million a year in additional costs to the Carillion contract to run facilities management in prisons (source The London Economic)
*£5 million on ‘wasted rail fares’ for HS2 staff (source: Huffington Post)
*£50 million on cancelled No Deal ferry contracts (source: The Guardian)
*£32 million of charges that were unlawfully collected – which the government were ordered to pay back (source The London Economic)
*£23 million contract to develop a new generation of GPS tracking tags for dangerous offenders written off because the project proved “too challenging” (source The London Economic)
*£60 million over the £130 million original budget on the electronic tagging programme – described by the PAC as a “catastrophic waste of public money” (source The London Economic)
More government waste is shown by the Tax payers alliance.
Although excellent work has been undertaken by the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group in terms of finding savings, taxpayers’ cash has still been wasted in a number of ways, with significant sums ripe for being saved in many areas, including:
*£53 billion – Additional cost of funding pay and pensions for public sector workers over and above the private sector average, based on analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics and the Pension Policy Institute *£25 billion – Amount wasted through inefficient public sector procurement and poor use of outsourcing, based on an authoritative report from the Institute of Directors *£20.3 billion – Cost to the economy of public sector fraud, according to the National Fraud Authority *£5 billion – Amount paid in benefits to those with an income in excess of £100,000 *£4 billion – Losses to the taxpayer from RBS and the sale of Northern Rock£2.9 billion – Amount spent needlessly by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Department for Culture, Media & Sport, which should both be scrapped *£1.2 billion – Annual subsidy to foreign farmers through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy The planning of the London garden bridge cost £58 million without so much as a pot plant being placed! These figures are also almost certainly an underestimate. A rigorous assessment of the public sector efficiency commissioned by the European Central Bank found that if the UK’s bloated public sector were as efficient as that in the economies of countries like the US, Australia, and Japan, no less than £137 billion could have been saved in the last year! Those is a Huge amount of money!
In addition to the big ticket items, we have identified hundreds of examples of smaller sums being wasted. It is, however, all still taxpayers’ money and there is no excuse for waste, regardless of the amount involved. Among the culprits identified are:
Arts Council: Gave a £95,000 grant to artists in Brighton for “Skip”, a rubbish dumpster outlined with yellow lights!
Crawley Council: Spent £5,070 on 12,200 hot drinks from vending machines for council employees, when the equivalent number of tea bags would have cost just £200!
Department for International Development: Spent £21.2 million on a road maintenance project in Bangladesh, later pulled due to “fiduciary irregularities” after it emerged that less than 10% had actually been spent on roads!
Durham Council: Funded a £12,000 clothing allowance to allow councillors to wear “Geordie Armani”!
Hull Council: Spent £40,000 on a concert in honour of the councillor who is Lord Mayor this year!
Ministry of Defence: Paid £22 for light bulbs that are normally 65p!
Prison Service: Paid £720,000 to professional actors for role playing that is aimed at helping inmates become employed.
Scottish Government: Signed a £1.4 million 4-year contract for taxis for civil servants in Edinburgh – despite staff being told to use buses.
Stoke-on-Trent Council: Spent £330,000 to pay for redundancy packages and subsequently rehiring 25 members of staff.
All this money wasted by your government was paid for by the hard working tax payers and I’m sure if l did more research l could find many more examples. One being to your own embarrassment the purchasing of water cannons. I wonder what they were worth at the local scrap dealer?
There are a great many extremely angry women not yet receiving their hard earned Pensions which was paid for by themselves throughout their lives by paying national insurance. I’m sure they would not have chosen to waste so much money in the way you did, as had that money still been available you could have decided we earned and deserved our pensions. Had we run our household budgets as you have run yours, we would have lost or homes and been made bankrupt yet to are able to get away with it. You will get extremely good Pensions unlike the true workers of the country who get the smallest Pension in Europe. I actually don’t know how you can sleep at night! Due to the appalling waste as listed above, please do it get too comfortable in your role as Prime Minister as l have a strong feeling come the next general election you will have many people choosing not to vote for your incompetent and cruel party.”
On Byline next month I am planning to try and see how much money the PM has also wasted on the No Deal Brexit which increasingly looks unlikely to happen on October 31. This can be added to the figures she has researched.
But I thought it was worth publishing this gigantic list because it highlights the anger people feel about this issue and the waste of taxpayers money by politicians. No doubt the reply will be stuck in a queue in the PM’s correspondence unit. But wider publication will not allow him so easily to get away with it. Nor should he.
The BackTo60 organisation which represents 3.8 million women who face up to six years delay to get their pension has lodged its application for permission to appeal at the High Court.
The decision to go ahead comes on the back of a successful crowd funding appeal which has raised over £70,000 of the £72,000 in a week. The fund raising is to remain open as it will have to cover both the legal action and further campaigning.
The mass media coverage in the Daily Mail and the Express following the judgement by Lord Justice Irvine and Mrs Justice Whipple to turn down the judicial review on all grounds to compensate the women has boosted interest in the case. Perversely the damning judgement created a wave of sympathy for the women and spread the word to a much wider audience.
Lawyers advising the group including Michael Mansfield have decided there are good grounds for appeal but will have to develop their case in seeking permission to appeal.
No date has been fixed yet for a hearing.
Meanwhile BackTo60 is receiving support from people who used to support the original Waspi campaign but now feel they are no longer interested in helping the bulk of the women who are affected by the big rise in the pension age.
One is Lizzie Spring, a former co-ordinator for Waspi in London.
She told me: ” I’m gobsmacked by the JR. I expected some restitution of our lost income, if not back to 60 at least back to the State Pension Age changes added in 2011. The tone and content of the ruling seems so adamantly ignorant of most women’s lives for the past fifty years. Some of it is risible. Menare discriminated against because women were expected to retire early from paid work, to do the housework, cook and provide them with company? Women’s financial and domestic inequality and lack of opportunities are cultural norms?
” It is shocking that two very materially wealthy people that nobody has elected into power, have the right to inflict such beliefs on so many women. I am not coping with the situation well. It is bewildering to me and almost impossible to believe highly educated people really view women’s historical poverty and imposed inequality in this way. I’m also of course personally still facing being poor my whole old age so I’m frightened and furious about the outcome too.”
She is also scathing about the offer being negotiated with Therese Coffey , the works and pensions secretary, by the two joint chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on behalf of Waspi Ltd.
” It means accepting a lower pension and only some compensation after the age of 63 I think it’s a disappointment. It risks compounding the poverty of women with the least money who might take such an offer out of desperation. It contains nothing to support the many women who’ve cashed in small private pensions and/or sold homes to survive for five plus years. The compensation after 63 would take ages to implement even if accepted and if not even backdated, would not be compensation but just a sop for a few. Those of us who’ve finally got state pensions but have spent all our lifetime savings while waiting, will presumably just continue to live in poverty, which is pretty bleak.”
Nor is she impressed by Boris Johnson seeking her vote “Johnson’s entire shtick is being untrustworthy and it’s an embarrassment having him as PM. I’d not vote Tory anyway so his predictable betrayal of 1950s women doesn’t affect my vote.”
And she is interested in the idea of using a Special Temporary Measure in Parliament to compensate the women : “It’s quite exciting on first viewing. But If it’s used as a route it will need to be done with huge amounts of hard evidence.
“Whoever presented the case would need a great deal of sensitive intelligence in relation to how much women are apparently still resented if we ask for equality. If decisions are made by people with no understanding of inter-sectional discrimination it’ll likely have the same outcome. “
The signs are despite a campaign to try and suggest that the settlement being negotiated with the government by the two MPs Carolyn Harris and Tim Loughton is the only game in town, people are starting to vote with their feet and backing groups that want full restitution.
In July well before the publication of the decision of the judicial review Boris Johnson during the Tory leadership campaign was quoted by Dan Bloom in the Mirror of promising some sort of support for 50swomen who had to wait up to six years for their pension. The quote reproduced by the BackTo60 campaign in the picture below raised hopes that the present government might soften its attitude and offer something.
Now just after the publication of the judicial review decision he has changed his mind. Writing to a constituent in Uxbridge and South Ruislip who wishes to remain anonymous he has completely backtracked and also got some of the facts wrong into the bargain.
In a letter to her he now is promising nothing.
” Making further transitional arrangements would not only complicate the system but could also cost the taxpayers many billions of pounds and the potential cost of reversing the 2011 changes has been estimated at £39 billion.”
He then goes on to state that people affected by the 2011 change had all been told between January 2011 and November 2013. And further claims that those affected by the 1995 Pensions Act which raised the pension age were all told between April 2009 and March 2011.
The latter is a major gaffe since even I, as a severe critic of successive governments handling of the issue, would concede that some people were told before 2009. It also is an admission that the whole purpose of introducing the change in 1995 so people had notice was a failure – as April 2009 is just one year before the changes started to take effect. What a monumental own goal.
He also seems to confuse the role of the £1.1 billion concession in 2011 to delay the effect of further changes to the additional rise of the pension age to 66.
He seems to think this was a godsend for women claiming that he was pleased that it mitigated their position. In fact it only delayed the rise and also helped men who started to be affected after 2018.
Finally he talks of the ” sharp increases ” in longevity making the system, unsustainable. Well these cease in 2011 and have flat lined – even falling in the poorer areas such as Blackpool, north of Glasgow and in North Wales.
I can only hope that the PM has a proper understanding of the current negotiations going on over Brexit – because if this is an example of his grasp of facts – they are going to get in a real mess this week.
It also means – if this is now the PM’s view – that Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East and Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for Worthing East and Shoreham, are wasting their time seeing Therese Coffey, the new works and pensions secretary to discuss any concessions for the 50s women on behalf of the all party group against pension inequality.
For the women themselves the one power they have left is their vote at a soon to be called general election. Unless they are happy to remain living in poverty voting for a new Conservative government is a waste of space.
Tonight I have written a story for Byline Times disclosing that lawyers have decided to seek permission to appeal the Judicial review which rejected all the discrimination claims for the 1950s born women who face a six year delay in getting their pension. The story ishere.
BackTo60 have also launched a £72,000 crowdfunding site to raise money for this action. The crowdfunder site is here. Already at time of writing it has raised over £10,000.
The decision by Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple to dismiss ALL claims of discrimination and failure to inform 3.8 million women born in the 1950s about the rise in their state pension age from 60 to 66 is in total contrast to the decision of Mrs Justice Lang who granted ALL the claims to be heard four months ago.
Obviously there is a big difference between permission for a judicial review to be granted so the case can be argued than a judicial hearing where the arguments are tested.
Nevertheless this startling contrast to me suggests that there are grounds for an appeal because the two judgments are so far apart. That is presumably why the two judges did not ban an appeal.
To remind people Mrs Justice Lang decided that even though the 1995 Pensions Act was passed 24 years ago the effect of the implementation of the Act was happening now and therefore this issue was subject to judicial review. She also agreed that both age and sex discrimination could be part of the hearing, and the issue on whether government action was contrary to EU directives on social security and whether people had been adequately informed about the changes.
The two judges have rejected all of this and upheld the case put by the Department of Work and Pensions in its entirety. No wonder the DWP is cock a hoop today.
They describe any challenge to primary legislation passed over 20 years ago as ” fatal” and they have published in detail all the attempts by the DWP to inform people. They have included discussions from 1993 onwards about changing the law as part of informing people.
But they abrogate any responsibility on whether the DWP did a good job or not. ” We are not in a position to conclude that the steps taken to inform those people affected by the changes to the state pension age for women were inadequate or unreasonable”.
They have also accepted the DWP’s argument that it was under no obligation to tell people at all and certainly not to individually informing anybody about the change because it was not written into the law.
This ruling should be a red line for MPs to insist in the future that any Parliamentary legislation that affects millions of people must include a clause requiring a ministry to individually inform the people affected in language they can understand and in good time.
Goodwill or good sense is obviously not enough to be left in the hands of individual ministers. It must be made mandatory that people are told.
The arguments over whether government action in handling the rise in the pension age contradicted EU directives amounted to age and sex discrimination or indirect legislation are complex.
But broadly the judges have accepted the DWP’s interpretation of the wording so as to exclude the changes to the pension age from any such directives.
They have also ruled out the role of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women from having any bearing on the case.
” We have not been assisted by reference to CEDAW, it adds nothing to the claimaint’s case”, they say.
Their main argument is that the 1995 Pensions Act removed an advantage (my emphasis) that women had over men at the time they retired and anyway the decision was part of primary legislation which could not be challenged.
Jackie Jones, Labour MEP for Wales and an expert on CEDAW, says the judges have misunderstood the purpose of CEDAW which could make a possible grounds for appeal.
In her view the Judges did not consider the cumulative effect of unequal laws in the past on this particular group of women who were denied contributing to their own pensions when they worked part time which is one of the issues covered by CEDAW.
The judges also ruled out the recent victories in civil service and firefighters pensions having any bearing on the case because they involved transitional arrangements for work pensions rather than their right to a state pension.
Despite the harshness of the judgement the immediate effect has been to create widespread sympathy for the plight of the 50swomen in the media, among the general public and brought finally to national attention the whole issue.
It has also galvanised campaigners to fight on and with a general election on the horizon to put politicians in all political parties under pressure. It could cost the government, if it does nothing, 3.8 million votes from people who reliably go down to the polling station.
While the media has been almost entirely focused on Brexit tomorrow’s judicial decision on whether 3.8 million women born in the 1950s are entitled to full restitution for the pension they lost will be ground breaking.
The BackTo60 campaign brought the case using individual examples of hardship caused by successive governments raising the women’s pension age from 60 to 66 and not taking action to give them adequate notice of the change.
Whatever decision is made it will not mean the lowering of the current pension age of 66 and will have no effect on the primary legislation that introduced the change – the 1995 Pension Act. It is entirely about compensation and discrimination towards this group of women as a result of the implementation of this and subsequent Acts of Parliament – again by successive governments- of the change.
Frankly it has not been surprising that two judges have taken nearly four months to reach a decision – even though it has been frustrating for the women themselves – many of whom have suffered severe financial hardship.
If it was a simple decision – just pay out the money – or say there is no case to answer and it can be easily dismissed- we would have had a decision months ago.
Instead the judges will have had to consider both UK and EU law and the UK’s ratification by Margaret Thatcher of the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women ( CEDAW) – which specifies that women who have suffered discrimination must be fully compensated.
The fact that CEDAW is part of this judicial review affecting so many people is in itself ground breaking. The only other contentious issue where CEDAW has been used before, to my knowledge, is the Labour Party’s decision to apply it under the Equality Act – to use it for all women shortlists to change the composition of Parliament.
The other key issue is whether the 1995 Pensions Act itself years after it was passed created discrimination against women who are now suffering hardship. This was a key feature of the granting of the judicial review in the first place by Mrs Justice Lang who rejected the Department of Work and Pensions argument that the challenge to the 1995 Act was too late. She saw instead the courts intervening to relieve the plight of women suffering now – rather than a tardy response to legislation passed over 20 years ago. It will more than interesting to see the judges’ ruling on this point.
What will also be important will be the judges ‘reaction to the case put forward by the government’s top lawyer, Sir James Eadie, known as the Treasury Devil, who did not just accept that the women had not been informed of the change but said the DWP has no duty under the 1995 Act to inform them in the first place.
If this was accepted by the judges it would mean that nobody was entitled to be informed by law about any change in their pension – not just the 1950s women.
The opposite case was put by Michael Mansfield who argued that the Government’s decision was an ” abuse of power” which had targeted a large sub group of people who had endured hardship.
Whatever the decision tomorrow it will be a landmark one – not only for women who had to wait up to six years for their pension but also for age and sex discrimination.
As you can see from the picture above the Government has sneakily already decided that Britain has left the EU as far as 2.35 million disabled blue badge holders are concerned.
My new card for my wife issued this week has been stripped of its EU symbols even before we have left the EU. It appears to reassure people by using nine foreign languages to describe it as a disabled parking card.
But investigating the real position of disabled driving post a ” No Deal ” Brexit this is totally misleading and could easily end up with holiday makers being fined in some European countries for illegal parking.
At present as a member of the EU all UK blue badge holders can get concessionary parking in virtually all European countries. If they hire a car they can take the blue badge with them as it is not tied to a particular vehicle. And the Independent Living advice site thinks nothing has changed. It says:
“It is not likely that Brexit would lead to the UK changing the format of the Blue Badge, so there is no obvious reason why it would not continue to be recognised across Europe, in the same way as those issued in Switzerland and Norway. “
However a more detailed investigation on a disabled motorists site paints a different picture.
It shows that once Britain leaves with a No Deal using this card will vary from country to country. In Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Iceland, Norway,Austria, Poland,Luxembourg, Romania and Cyprus there will be no problem.
But in France, Croatia, Finland,Leichenstein and Latvia the card won’t be recognised because we are from a third country.
In Germany you will have to notify the local council or police and get a card to park as a disabled driver.
And it may not be recognised in Holland, Belgium or the Czech Republic because it does not have a disabled wheelchair sign on the card.
In Malta and Portugal you must apply in advance for a special card if you want to use it. At present as a member of the EU you have no problems and can use the Blue Badge Card.
In Italy you have to check with the local council – it will vary from city to city where you can use your card. At present you can use it everywhere. The same applies to Lithuania and Hungary.
In the UK it is being left to the local council’s discretion whether they want to recognise blue badges from other EU or European Economic Area countries.
So far as I can see the government does not seem to have thought about it at all – most advice dates from 2008 and 2013 on Whitehall websites.
There are no deep coal mines in the UK. There are no coal
miners. There are no brass bands attached to a living colliery and there no new
union banners for new pits. And soon, under new environmental rules, the sale
of domestic coal, except for smokeless fuel, may be banned.
So one would think that an event called the Durham Miners
Gala would be consigned to our nostalgic past with a few old men having a pint
down the local working men’s club.
But the facts contradict this. A new film released on Friday The Big Meeting by director and producer Daniel Draper two years after the last pit closed in the UK in 2016, shows the very opposite with a thriving modern festival in the City of Durham attracting over 200,000 people. It is a tribute to the almost eternal traditions of community, solidarity and fraternity that lives on long after the last mine closed.
It is warm almost affectionate appreciation of one of Labour’s
major festivals seen partly through the eyes of a diverse group of individual
participants, including a 19 year old Oxford undergraduate who runs a local
left wing bookshop in her vacations; a Waspi group of middle aged women
campaigning for their pensions and a woman who plays in a brass band.
The film itself interweaves the past and present with split
screen and colour and black and white clips contrasts the old celebrations with
the new. It has clips of Prime Ministers like Clement Atlee and Harold Wilson
addressing the meeting from the balcony of the Durham County Hotel when the
National Union of Mineworkers was a major force in the land to today’s
political participants including a video from presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders
in the States to Jeremy Corbyn, the current Labour leader.
It shows how the country has changed. One black and white
sequence shows young lads and lassies (well before the contraceptive pill)
cavorting in the fields and woods round Durham – as the festival was the place
where young miners could meet people of the opposite sex. This is contrasted
with today’s festival highlighting gay rights.
There is very raw emotional coverage of the music of brass bands – which, if anything, have expanded – with bands from places like Bristol which never had a pit to the US band players– participating with bands that have survived their pit closures. And there is in an interview with a woman who still makes these huge union colliery banners and is both reviving old lost ones and making new ones.
There is also clips of current pop artists who attend the
event including Billy Bragg.
The climax of the festival is a service inside Durham
Cathedral with the brass bands that have marched through the streets converging
on the city’s huge place of worship.
This is the film that both tells the history of a 135 year
old event and captures the spirit of it today.
As the director said: “I don’t think words can do justice to
such an occasion – I feel like the Gala is a living and breathing organism,
something not static, but immovable – a celebration of working-class life, not
just today, but almost as if it takes place in the past and future
simultaneously. I suppose this film is an elaborate explanation of something
wonderful and beyond words.”
The BIG MEETING. On release from September 6 and shown first in South Shields, Newcastle, Glasgow, Durham and Halifax. It is produced by the independent Shut Out The Light company
Contributers: Jeremy Corbyn, Dennis Skinner, Ian Lavery, Richard Burgon, Angela Rayner, DBC Pierre, John Irvin, Paul Mason, Margaret Aspinall, Selina Todd, Robert Colls, Ross Forbes, George Robson, Heather Wood, Heather Ward, Stephen Guy, Charlotte Austin, Laura Daly, Lynn Gibson, Mike Jackson & Brett Haran (LGSM), Ben Sellers, Liam Young, Emma Shankland, Robert McManners, Jake Campbell-Morris.