Guy Opperman’s Voting Record: Pt 4

Guy Opperman’s voting record speaks for itself, as Nick Morphet finds out in the final part in this series. If you believe in a fairer, more compassionate, more sustainable society then vote for what you believe in: vote Green.

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ENVIRONMENT

Mr Opperman has a terrible voting record when it comes to environmental issues. In 2011 he voted in favour of cuts to Feed-In Tariffs (subsidies for renewable energy generation), and in 2012 he voted against a requirement for the Green Investment Bank to act in support of the current carbon emissions target. In January 2015 he voted against a ban on fracking, against compulsory environmental permits for fracking, and against a review of the impacts of fracking on health, climate and the environment. He has voted twice against targets for CO2 and greenhouse gas production, voted against the energy industry requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage (CCS) and voted not to reduce the permitted CO2 emissions of new homes. He has also voted twice to apply the Climate Change Levy (a tax on non-domestic electricity supplies) to renewable energy.

The Guardian newspaper has recently scored Mr Opperman a miserable 15% for his environmental voting record. The score was generated by identifying the sixteen most important votes on carbon emissions since passage of the Climate Change Act 2008. Of the thirteen votes that Mr Opperman attended, he voted in favour of the climate in only two (the Energy Bill of 04/06/13 and on nuclear energy subsidies on 03/06/13). The Guardian considered a vote for nuclear energy to be a vote for carbon emissions reduction. Many would argue that a vote for nuclear energy is not a vote for the environment, and would give Mr Opperman a score of 8% (1 out of 13) instead. This is a record to be highly ashamed of.

The Green Party would permanently ban fracking, plant (and protect) forests and eliminate waste. It would introduce a Clean Air Act and expand Clean Air Zones. It would phase petrol and diesel cars out by 2030 (instead of 2040) and increase spending on active travel (walking and cycling).

ELECTORAL AND CONSITUTIONAL REFORM

Here again Mr Opperman is typically both conservative and Conservative. He has repeatedly voted against 16 and 17-year-olds being allowed to vote in either the EU referendum or local elections. He has voted against proportional representation and against reducing the size of the House of Lords.

The Green Party would replace the First Past The Post voting system with the Single Transferable Vote, a voting system used successfuly in many Australian, Scottish, Irish and Northern Irish elections. It would reform the House of Lords and give 16-year-olds the right both to vote and to stand for election.

ANIMAL WELFARE

In June 2013 Mr Opperman voted in favour of the badger cull, despite evidence that it fails to significantly reduce tuberculosis in cattle and causes untold suffering.

The Green Party would put a stop to the badger cull and replace it with a badger vaccination programme. It would also enforce the Hunting Act, put a stop to all commercial shooting, ban cages for farm animals and bring about an end to animal testing.

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Read the previous articles in this series: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Guy Opperman’s Voting Record: Pt 3

Hexham’s MP is on the wrong-side of all the issues that matter. In part 3 of this nightmarish tour through Guy Opperman’s voting record, Tynedale Green Party’s Nick Morphet takes a look at some more key issues.
Follow the links to read part 1 and part 2.

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FUNDING FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Mr Opperman’s voting record on local government funding speaks loudly for itself. In 2010 he voted against “basing future decisions on local government funding on fairness and the protection of frontline services”. He also voted against expressing any regret! He voted to decrease local government funding by 4% in 2011, by 25% in 2015, by 44% in 2017, by 28% in 2018 and by 56% in 2019.

The Green party would empower local authorities and restore their budgets. It would give people the power to force a referendum on local government issues and it would create a People’s Bank for every city and every region.

EDUCATION

Consistent with his apparent desire to wrest all power from local authorities, and with his desire to privatise (see Transport, below), Mr Opperman is a big supporter of academies. In 2010 he voted against them being built only where a proven need existed. Academies aren’t obliged to follow the national curriculum, and Mr Opperman appears happy to exploit this for his own mysterious ends: on the same day in 2010 he also voted against academies having to follow a curriculum which includes personal, social and health education.

Although Mr Opperman’s voting history with regard to schools is highly questionable, he has come down far harder on university students. In 2010 he voted to approve the raising of undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000 per year, and in 2011 he voted to allow student loan interest to be charged at market rates.

The Green Party would abolish SATs and league tables, encourage outdoor learning and teach children more about different global cultures. It would introduce mandatory sex, relationship, equality and diversity education in all schools, and it would ensure that all such education is age-appropriate, LGBTIQA+ inclusive and immune from faith school opt-out. It would scrap tuition fees for undergraduates and write off all existing student debt.

TRANSPORT

There are few surprises here – again Mr Opperman sides with big business at the expense of both his constituents and the climate/biodiversity crisis mitigation that we so desperately need. In 2012 he voted against reducing public transport fares, and in 2014 he voted against local government having powers to develop more integrated, frequent, cheaper and greener bus services (and this despite having previously voted against lower fuel tax rates in remote areas). He has voted consistently against slowing the rise in rail fares and in 2016 he voted against a publicly owned rail system (while we’re on the subject, he has also voted twice to privatise the Royal Mail).

Mr Opperman is not totally opposed to public transport though – he has voted consistently in favour of HS2. HS2 will directly affect 63 ancient woodlands and indirectly affect another 45 – Mr Opperman clearly supports public transport when by doing so he can favour big business over the environment. Despite his enthusiasm for HS2 the trains on the Tyne Valley line have got shabbier and shabbier under Mr Opperman’s watch.

The Green Party would scrap HS2 and use the billions of pounds saved to upgrade regional public transport infrastructure. It would bring railways and bus companies back into public ownership and increase spending on active travel (walking and cycling) infrastructure.

HOUSING

Here again Mr Opperman sides with big business rather than ordinary people, having voted several times against restrictions on letting agents’ fees. He has also voted against secure tenancies and against action on excessive rent hikes.

The Green Party would introduce a living rent and compulsory licences for landlords. It would build 500,000 socially rented homes in five years, prioritising building on brownfield sites. New homes would be built to the highest energy efficiency standards and existing homes would benefit from a nationwide retrofit insulation programme.

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In the final part of the series Nick looks at Guy Opperman’s record on the environment, animal welfare and electoral and constitutional reform.

Guy Opperman’s Voting Record: Pt 2

In the second of his series of articles examining Guy Opperman’s voting record, Nick Morphet looks at how the Hexham MP has voted on Brexit, home affairs and welfare. You can read part 1 here.

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BREXIT

It is clear from Mr Opperman’s voting record that he is partially to blame for the mess that we currently find ourselves in. He voted four times in favour of an overly simplistic in/out Brexit referendum, and since the referendum he has voted twice in favour of Brexit itself. Furthermore, he has consistently voted against a Right to Remain for EU nationals already living in the UK.

The Green Party would hold a People’s Vote (a second referendum on Brexit, enabling voters to choose between a specific Brexit deal and remaining within the EU). It would also campaign for EU reform. The Green Party believes that it is better to make changes from within than to simply run away from the problem.

HOME AFFAIRS

Mr Opperman has consistently voted for stronger enforcement of immigration rules and a stricter asylum system. He voted against contributing to the resolution of the European refugee crisis in both 2015 and 2016. He has also voted against banning the detention of pregnant immigrants, against guidance on the detention of vulnerable people and against giving asylum seekers permission to work if their application decision takes over 6 months.

The Green Party values migrants. It would provide migrants with access to Legal Aid, legal advice and childcare. It would put an end to the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers. It would also abolish the requirement for a UK citizen to earn at least £18,600 in order to bring their non-EU partner to the UK.

WELFARE

Mr Opperman’s voting record on welfare makes for quite unpleasant reading. He has voted repeatedly for a reduction in spending on benefits, and repeatedly against higher benefits for those unable to work due to illness or disability. He has also voted against raising benefits in line with inflation. He has voted repeatedly for the “bedroom tax” (for the reduction of housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have too many bedrooms) and repeatedly against spending public money to create jobs for the young and long-term unemployed. He has voted four times to restrict the scope of Legal Aid. In 2012 he voted against “the provision of legal services that effectively meet the needs of the individual”, against making Legal Aid available in social welfare cases and against making Legal Aid more widely available to children.

The Green Party would increase disability benefits and restore the Independent Living Fund. It would increase the Carer’s Allowance and create carer’s leave rights for those in employment.

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In part 3 Nick examines Guy Opperman’s voting record on funding for local government, education and transport.

Guy Opperman’s Voting Record: Pt 1

The brilliant TheyWorkForYou website allows members of the public to scrutinize the voting record of MPs. In this, the first of a series of articles, Tynedale Green Party’s Nick Morphet takes a look at how Guy Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham has voted on some key issues.

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Guy’s Opperman’s voting record makes for a fascinating but disturbing read. Here I summarize how Mr Opperman has voted on a number of policy areas. Each summary is followed by a brief explanation of Green Party policy in that area, by way of comparison. I hope to make it implicitly clear that the people of Hexham constituency would benefit enormously from having a Green Party MP to represent them in Parliament. The Green Party is proud to speak truth to power and to hold government to account.

 FOREIGN POLICY AND DEFENCE

Mr Opperman’s voting history in this area speaks loudly of his appetite for war. He has voted in support of air strikes in Iraq and Syria and he has voted against an investigation into the Iraq war. He has voted in favour of renewing the UK’s nuclear missile submarines, in favour of renewing the UK’s “Trident” nuclear weapons system and in favour of spending £200 billion on the new weapons. On one day in June 2015 he voted in favour of spending cuts and in favour of spending on new nuclear weapons.

The Green Party would cancel the renewal of Trident (saving £110 billion over 30 years) and initiate international negotiations on a universal nuclear abolition treaty. It would curb the arms trade by ending subsidies and stopping the sale of arms to regimes which violate human rights (such as Saudi Arabia). It would wage peace not war.

THE ECONOMY

Mr Opperman’s economic policies are highly regressive, serving only to increase inequality. He has voted for a rise in the higher rate income tax threshold, and he has repeatedly voted against increasing the “additional” tax rate for incomes in excess of £150,000. He has voted three times against a “mansion tax” on properties worth over £2 million which was designed to fund tax cuts for those on low and middle incomes and/or fund the lowering of the basic rate of income tax to 10%. He has repeatedly voted against a bankers’ bonus tax designed to fund the creation of 100,000 new jobs for the young, long-term unemployed and/or fund the building of 25,000 affordable homes.

Mr Opperman is a close friend of big business, at the expense of ordinary citizens – having repeatedly voted to reduce the rate of corporation tax, while failing to consistently vote for measures to avoid tax avoidance. In 2016, for example, he voted against giving the Financial Conduct Authority duties to combat abusive tax avoidance arrangements (e.g. by ascertaining the beneficial owners of trusts). It’s not just Mr Opperman’s fiscal policies that are regressive – he’s also repeatedly voted for more restrictive regulation of trade unions.

The Green Party would implement a Green New Deal (a just transition to a sustainable economy that would reverse austerity and create jobs) and introduce a Universal Basic Income (a non-means tested monthly payment to all citizens). It would also introduce a four-day working week, put a stop to gender and race pay gaps and limit pay ratios (between the highest and lowest paid within a company) to 10:1.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Mr Opperman’s voting record on human rights is nothing to be proud of. In 2013 he voted to remove the duty on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to “work to promote the development of a society where people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination, and where there is respect for human rights”. In 2016 he voted in favour of replacing the Human Rights Act 1998 with a British Bill of Rights – even though this would have run counter to the UK’s obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. Although the British Bill of Rights was touted as a way of expanding and updating protections, it quickly became apparent that the government’s goal was to limit the application of human rights and prevent courts from properly enforcing them. In 2018 he voted against retaining the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights upon Brexit, despite a warning from the EHRC that this will lead to a weakening of human rights protections within the UK.

The Green Party is committed to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Green Party would strengthen human rights protections, stand up for LGBTIQA+ rights and seek the incorporation into law of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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In part 2 Nick examines Guy Opperman’s record on home affairs, welfare, and funding for local government (and the Green alternatives).