Speeches & Articles

"Why are they still using plastic like this when it isn't recycled?"  My wife Sally was standing in the kitchen waving a black plastic tray at me that moments earlier had been home to some prawns.  It wasn't the first time I had been on the receiving end of this particular complaint. Indeed, it took me back over a decade ago to my first meeting with the civil servants responsible for recycling and waste policy shortly after I had been appointed as the Environment Secretary.

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - June 2018

"Why are they still using plastic like this when it isn't recycled?"  My wife Sally was standing in the kitchen waving a black plastic tray at me that moments earlier... Read more

They are becoming a familiar sight in parts of our big cities. Cyclists and cars delivering hot food for firms like Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Hungry House and others. All of them make use of the latest technology to link customers to restaurants and takeaways, and riders and drivers to orders. We sit at home, use an app to choose and the food arrives. It is the same technology that is changing the taxi industry, showing us where our vehicle is, when it will arrive and who's driving it as well as allowing friends and family to track our journey - a wonderful thing for worried parents late at night!

But what about those who are doing the delivering and the driving? I talked recently to a taxi driver who said that he had averaged just £5.50 an hour over the past year, which is less than the minimum wage. If you are only doing 5 hours a week while studying or to top up other earnings that's one thing - though still tough - but it's something else again when it's your entire income. And being regarded as self-employed - even though this can be a full-time job - there's no pension, sick pay, holiday pay or maternity/paternity leave and there's little chance of getting a mortgage if earnings are so uncertain. The same is true of people on zero hours contracts.

At the moment the law recognises three different categories of people who work - employees, workers and the self-employed - but the law is pretty complex in deciding who falls into which category. The biggest differences are to do with the type of work that is done and the rights that people have to things like sick pay, holiday pay and pensions. There are now a lot more self-employed people in our economy than was the case 20 years ago.

Technology will continue to develop. It will make possible things we can only dream of today. We cannot stop its advance - as the Luddites learned over 200 years ago when they tried to smash the new textile machinery - but we need to make sure it works in society's interests. And that means adapting our laws and our approach to new circumstances.

When it comes to earning a living, the question for us is this. How do we balance flexibility that works for businesses and - sometimes - for the person doing the work, while at the same time ensuring that people are fairly treated, get looked after if they are sick, can get a paid holiday and are able to save for a pension and take out a mortgage? These are not new questions. Just look back in history at the struggle to win rights for people at work, including a statutory minimum wage which only became law in 1999. Trade unions played a big part in that campaign and in many others over the years for sick pay, holiday pay, pensions, maternity and paternity leave, and equal rights for part-time workers. And yet today almost none of the riders and the drivers we see on our streets, and very few of those in low-paid, casual and insecure work, are members of a trade union.

This is a challenge for trade unions too. All the evidence shows that we get better terms and conditions in a unionised workplace and a helping hand when things go wrong. But how can unions organise in these new workplaces?

The law has a vital part to play in ensuring fairness at work, but so has self-organisation. And that's why joining a trade union is a very good place to start. 

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - May 2018

They are becoming a familiar sight in parts of our big cities. Cyclists and cars delivering hot food for firms like Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Hungry House and others. All of... Read more

A relative in the US recently emailed to tell me that ‘for reasons of security, privacy and ethics, I’ve dumped my Facebook account’. The revelations about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have probably got us all thinking about who knows what about our lives. The internet is a wonderful thing, Facebook is a great means of keeping in touch and loyalty cards give us points or special deals, but as we are learning they also reveal a great deal of information about us and the lives we lead. We can share with the cyber-world our purchases, the telephone numbers of all our friends, our photos and our views on life and politics. All of this is harvested in order to target advertising at us. It's how companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon make their money.

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - April 2018

A relative in the US recently emailed to tell me that ‘for reasons of security, privacy and ethics, I’ve dumped my Facebook account’. The revelations about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica... Read more

It's time to talk about the air we breathe.

High levels of air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse, damage our lungs and is linked to an estimated 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. The elderly and people with particular medical conditions like heart and lung disease are most at risk. Leeds is one of the cities with a big problem and the worst spot for nitrogen dioxide pollution is by the Corn Exchange. The truth is we can't go on like this - we're actually breaching the law - and that's why Leeds City Council is drawing up a plan.

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - March 2018

It's time to talk about the air we breathe. High levels of air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse, damage our lungs and is linked to an estimated 40,000 premature... Read more

Problems of deregulation

I've been dealing with two problems recently where local residents have been on the receiving end of sharp business practice with distressing consequences.

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - February 2018

Problems of deregulation I've been dealing with two problems recently where local residents have been on the receiving end of sharp business practice with distressing consequences. Read more

Time to re-nationalise the railways

First published in the January 2018 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/mps-notebook-time-re-nationalise-railways/  

Seeing the New Year in has its own special traditions, but one that is less than popular is the annual rise in rail fares.

This year they are going up by around 3.4% – the largest increase for five years. Comparing the rise in fares on over 80 routes between when the current Government came to power and this January, the average commuter will now be paying £2,888 for their annual season ticket – that’s £694 more than in 2010. At a time when real wages for many people are stagnant, this will hit family budgets hard.

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - January 2018

Time to re-nationalise the railways First published in the January 2018 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/mps-notebook-time-re-nationalise-railways/   Seeing the New Year in has its own special... Read more

First published in the December 2017 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/author/hilary-benn-mp/

It is said that Christmas is the season of goodwill. So it was timely to find myself recently discussing with a senior clergyman and some parliamentary colleagues the way politics is debated and MPs are sometimes treated. What got the discussion started was Brexit and the way it has polarised opinion within political parties and across the country. Those who voted leave can't understand why it's taking so long, and anyone who tries to point out that it is slightly complicated can be attacked for being a mutineer, a traitor or worse. And those who voted remain are really angry at all those who say that Brexit will be wonderful when they think it will be an utter disaster.

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - December 2017

First published in the December 2017 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/author/hilary-benn-mp/ It is said that Christmas is the season of goodwill. So it was timely to find... Read more

First published in the Yorkshire Evening Post 21st November, available online here https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/hilary-benn-we-need-honesty-in-the-brexit-debate-says-leeds-mp-1-8868367

The Brexit negotiations have reached crunch point. The EU says there must be sufficient progress on three key issues – citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland and money – before we can move on to discuss our future relationship on trade, services and lots of other things.

Hilary's Article for the YEP - We need honesty in the Brexit debate

First published in the Yorkshire Evening Post 21st November, available online here https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/hilary-benn-we-need-honesty-in-the-brexit-debate-says-leeds-mp-1-8868367 The Brexit negotiations have reached crunch point. The EU says there must be sufficient progress on three... Read more

Universal Credit

First published in the November 2017 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/author/hilary-benn-mp/ 

There is a very important debate going on at the moment about Universal Credit and the outcome will affect a lot of people in our community.

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - November 2017

Universal Credit First published in the November 2017 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/author/hilary-benn-mp/  There is a very important debate going on at the moment about Universal... Read more

First published in the October edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/mps-notebook-2/

There has been a great deal of debate about the Holbeck managed prostitution area ever since it was introduced three years ago as a pilot scheme. The aim was to try and control the impact of prostitution on the lives of local residents as it’s been a problem for a long time. How’s it gone? Well, it seems that women working on the street are now more likely to report men who are violent or otherwise abusive to the police. But it is hard for the businesses inside the area to cope with the mess that’s left behind from the night before. I have always said that the scheme is only going to sustain its credibility with the public if everyone sticks to the rules, including women not working in residential areas and not doing so outside the night time permitted hours. Judging by the complaints I have had recently, this isn’t happening in far too many cases - some of the experiences I have had reported to me are pretty shocking – and that’s why I have expressed strongly my concern on behalf of my constituents to both the police and Leeds City Council. I do hope they will listen and take action.

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - October 2017

First published in the October edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/mps-notebook-2/ There has been a great deal of debate about the Holbeck managed prostitution area ever since... Read more

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