How many independent inquiries has Labour called for?

Why Miliband's call for an inquiry into the Jimmy Savile affair felt so familiar.

Just as he argued that Rebekah Brooks could not lead an inquiry into herself, so Ed Miliband has declared that the BBC cannot investigate itself over the Jimmy Savile affair. He told ITV News last night:

To do right by the victims, I don't think the BBC can lead their own inquiry... I think we need a broader look at these public institutions - the BBC, I'm afraid some parts of the NHS, potentially, Broadmoor.

I'm open-minded about how it's done but it's got to be independent ... I'm a great supporter of the BBC but I don't think you can have the BBC board sort of leading its own inquiry.

Labour's default response to scandal is, increasingly, to demand an independent inquiry, so I've compiled a list of some of its most recent calls. Whether or not the below reflects an unusual preponderance of scandals or a lack of imagination on Labour's part, I'll let you decide.

West Coast Mainline

It is vital that we get to the bottom of the role of Ministers and who knew what when. It is scandalous that the review of what has been a huge failure of government is to be conducted by a senior figure from within the Department for Transport. We need a truly independent inquiry led by a figure unconnected to the DfT examining the role of officials from top to bottom, including ministers. There must be no scapegoating.

Maria Eagle, 5 October 2012

GCSE English papers

Whilst the Education Secretary Michael Gove says he is ‘saddened’ by the injustice that has been served to thousands of pupils, he is showing how out-of-touch he is with pupil opinion by refusing to take action. Labour supports calls for an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of this mess.

Stephen Twigg, 7 September 2012

The banks

We've got to have an open, independent inquiry with hearings to find out what is going on in the dark corners of the banks.

Ed Miliband, 30 June 2012

PIP breast implants

These women have had their lives turned upside down by this scandal but have rallied together to, in my view, articulate a convincing case for a public inquiry to take place in Scotland.

Jackie Baillie, 14 June 2012

Cash-for-access

With new allegations of cash for access emerging on a daily basis it is vital that David Cameron comes clean about the full scale and nature of his many meetings with wealthy donors. He needs to establish an independent inquiry immediately so people can have confidence that this matter will be resolved.

Jon Trickett, 1 April 2012

The riots

That is why I do say again to the Prime Minister: You must now agree to this commission of inquiry, you must agree to the national conversation that we need. Only by doing that can we properly serve the victims of what happened.

Ed Miliband, 13 August 2011

Care home abuse

There must be an independent investigation into what happened and what lessons need to be learned and the government should announce it straight away.

Ed Miliband, 7 June 2011

The press (successful)

It is not about government imposing this on the press, but I think the review needs to have some independence, both from government and from those involved in the day-to-day running of newspapers.

Ed Miliband, 19 April 2011

Labour leader Ed Miliband with deputy leader Harriet Harman at the party's conference in Manchester. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.