By Bob Duncan
The Labour party has betrayed public sector workers, say the SNP, after MPs failed to turn up for a vote in Westminster, allowing the Tory pensions bill to sail through parliament.
SNP Work & Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford has slammed the Labour Party for allowing the Tory led UK government's Public Sector Pension plans to pass unchallenged through the House of Commons during the bill's final reading.
With the UK government threatening to reduce the Scottish budget, the SNP has demanded that Labour explain to Scotland's public sector workers why they have not opposed these plans. One of the MPs who failed to turn up for the vote was Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran (pictured).
Only last week in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour claimed to have deep concerns over changes to public sector pensions but their Westminster colleagues would appear to have none, say the SNP who have now demanded that Labour MPs Willie Bain, Cathy Jamieson and Tom Harris - together with dozens of their colleagues - now explain to their constituents why they neglected to stand up for them at Westminster, in spite of their meaningless claims to the contrary.
During an earlier debate on the proposals, Labour MP Cathy Jamieson said:
"Scottish pensioners who have worked hard all their lives for modest second pensions to top up their state pension will be outraged that an additional 60,000 people in Scotland will be hammered by George Osborne's Granny Tax by 2016.
“This Tory-led Government is completely out of touch, choosing to give as many as 18,000 top rate taxpayers a tax cut worth £10,000 a year while pensioners will pay on average £83 more each year.
Her colleague Willie Bain said:
"Handing out huge tax cuts to the super-rich while hammering 423,000 pensioners in Scotland for on average £83 extra in tax, on top of the £480 in higher VAT bills, and the ending of pension credit, shows this Government is out of touch, out of excuses on the economy, and out of ideas on jobs and growth.
"The age-related personal allowance shields 471,000 Scottish pensioners from extra tax this year. It is unbelievable that the Tory-led Government thinks it is right that pensioners should be made worse off in order to make the wealthy even richer.”
During his bid for the Scottish Labour leadership, Tom Harris said he would support a strike on this issue by public sector workers and said it was wrong for the public sector to be punished for a crisis started by the private sector.
However Jamieson, Bain and Harris then failed to turn up for the vote, along with 32 of their Scottish Labour colleagues.
Scottish Labour MPs have missed crucial votes before, having failed to turn up for a vote in March on the reduction of the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45%. On that occasion, Willie Bain MP said that the Labour group had refused to back the call because the vote had been secured by SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs, a position which has become known as the 'Bain Principle'.
Dr Whiteford said:
“Not bothering to vote, and therefore allowing Tory policy the freedom to sail through parliament, is a shameful act of hypocrisy by no less than 35 Scottish Labour MPs.
“It is classic all talk and no action form Labour; Cathy Jamieson MP slammed the UK Government as being 'out of touch' but was posted missing, meanwhile Willie Bain MP highlighted the Tory shame of making the rich richer and making pensioners worse off and Tom Harris MP said he'd support a strike, but both of these men were too afraid to stand up in Parliament for pensioners.
“Labour should be ashamed of themselves for sitting idle and letting the Tories off the hook whilst betraying public sector workers.
“These punitive reforms are all about the UK government's deficit reduction plans, and have nothing to do with securing sustainable pensions. The need for affordable, sustainable and fair public sector pensions is of critical importance to everyone, which is why the short term cash grab by the UK Government is so concerning.
“Labour know this and shout loudly to the press but failed to make a stand - it is pathetic - the pensioners of Scotland deserve so much better.
"This whole episode is a powerful illustration of the need for pensions policy to be decided in Scotland, in an independent Scottish Parliament."
The following is a list of Labour MPs who failed to vote in the third reading of the pensions bill: