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In pictures: Tony Benn's funeral

Mourners gathered at Westminster, where the outspoken Labour politician was remembered.

Tony Benn, former Labour cabinet minister, died 14 March aged 88. His funeral was held today in Westminster, during which family, friends and political allies paid their final respects to one of postwar Britain’s greatest advocates of socialism.

Mourners leave the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in Parliament, where Benn’s body rested overnight. Benn was only the second politician after Margaret Thatcher to be accorded the honour.

Benn’s sons and grandsons bear his coffin towards St Margaret's Church in the precincts of Westminster Abbey. Supporters line the procession route.

Benn’s coffin passes the doors of Westminster Abbey. The Labour veteran began political life a Christian socialist, though his religion lapsed in his twenties.

The procession route towards St Margaret’s was crowded.

Benn was a stalwart of the left for over sixty years, and his presence will be missed by supporters.

 

 

A mourner holds a banner in support of Benn.

 

 

Alastair Campbell, journalist and director of communications for former prime minister Tony Blair, joined the mourners.

 

 

Ed Miliband and wife Justine Thornton were in attendance. Benn felt at home in Miliband’s Labour Party after years of friction with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

 

 

Arthur Scargill, former president of the National Union of Mineworkers, was a fellow totem of the left during Thatcher’s 1980s.

 

 

Former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine was one of the Conservatives present.

 

 

A mourner holds a caricature of Benn puffing on his trademark pipe.

 

The funeral ends. It was followed by a private family cremation. A public memorial will be held later in the year.

Photographs: Getty Images.

 
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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.