News In Brief

Written By: James Douglas
Published: November 30, 2017 Last modified: December 4, 2017

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams revealed he plans to stand down as leader of the party next year, and will not stand for election to the Irish parliament (Dail) at the next election. Speaking at the Sinn Féin ard fhéis (party conference) in Dublin, the 69-year-old, who has been party president since 1983, said: “Leadership means knowing when it’s time for change and that time is now.”

Scottish Labour’s new leader Richard Leonard said the party’s MSPs will consider suspension for his predecessor Kezia Dugdale who was revealed as a surprise contestant in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! programme. Ms Dugdale is understood to be donating her parliamentary salary to charity while she is on the show. Leonard, regarded as the Left candidate, beat Anas Sarwar in a bruising contest. In a vote which saw a 62.3% turnout, Leonard won a 56.7% share, with Sarwar on 43.3%.

Thousands of people on universal credit may not be paid over the festive season or may get a reduced payment. Those hit will be some of the 67,000 people who claim the benefit while working and who are paid weekly because there are five paydays in December, so their monthly income will be too high to get any or some of the benefit. Some will have to reapply. The government defended the system, saying the majority were unaffected..

Ninety MPs signed a letter calling on the prime minister to set up a cross-party convention on the future of the NHS and social care in England, saying a non-partisan debate is needed to deliver a “sustainable settlement”. The letter to Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond said patients were being “failed” by the system. One-third of the MPs who have signed the letter are Conservative and include Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health select committee, former education secretary Nicky Morgan and Andrew Mitchell, a minister under the last government. Labour signatories include Liz Kendall, Chuka Umunna, Hilary Benn, Frank Field and Caroline Flint.

Workers saw living standards hit as earnings growth once again lagged behind inflation. In September, average weekly earnings growth, including bonuses, was provisionally estimated to be 2.6% against the revised rise for August of 2.4%. With retail price inflation rising by 3.9% in both September and August there was a decrease in earnings of 1.3% in September and a 1.5% fall in August. The sectoral figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show manufacturing earnings growth was down to 1.6% in September from 1.8% the previous month. Services posted an increase of 2.7% against 2.5% in August. In the private sector as a whole, growth was up to 2.8% from 2.6%; in the public sector, excluding financial services, growth was 1.6% in September down from a 1.7% rise in August. Headline earnings growth (the rolling three-month average) for the whole economy was down to 2.2% in September from the revised rise of 2.3% for August.

The number of unemployed fell by 59,000 to 1.44 million in the three-months ending September 2017 compared with the three-month period ending June, according to Labour Force Survey data. The total unemployment rate was down to 4.3% in the period ending September from 4.4% in the three-months ending June. The number of unemployed men fell by 48,000 to 770,000 and their unemployment rate was cut to 4.3% from 4.6%. The number of unemployed women decreased by 12,000 to 654,000, but the rate was unchanged at 4.2%..

A draft Bill to stop companies using bogus “self-employment” as a route to cheap labour and tax avoidance in the gig economy has been published by the Work & Pensions and Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committees, which said the law must not allow willingness to exploit workers to be a competitive advantage. If it becomes law, it would assume a “worker by default” status, so employers would have to offer rights such as sick pay and holiday pay. Frank Field, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “It is time to close loopholes that allow irresponsible companies to under­pay workers, avoid taxes and free ride on our welfare system.”