Caithness.org Election Eye
MEIGHAN Labour parliamentary candidate for Caithness
Sutherland and Easter Ross Labourís Michael Meighan runs a
Training and Development company which is active in the Distilling and
Manufacturing Industries in the Highlands.
51 years old, he is married to Jill and has a daughter and son, both at college. He is the author of several books, a member of the GMB union and has been active in Highland political life for over a decade. Here Michael outlines Labourís record of achievement since 1997:
In 1997 Labour promised to work hard to build a modern, fairer Britain. And that is exactly what we have done. It has not been easy we cannot repair overnight the damage of the Tory years - but we've made a good start. The foundations have been laid where opportunity, prosperity and security are open to the many, not the few.
Labourís policies for economic stability and low inflation help more people into work. In the Far North there is a drop in unemployment of 20% since April 1977. Over 500 young people have benefited from the New Deal. With Labour, all pensioners are pounds better off every week. Labour makes work pay with the minimum wage. Working families with children benefit from the lowest tax burden since 1972. How have we achieved this?
Mortgage rates are half what they averaged under the Tories, the basic rate of tax has been cut to 22p and a lower 10p rate introduced and now extended a tax cut for 25 million people. Labour introduced the first-ever National Minimum wage and the Working Families Tax Credit ensuring take-home pay of at least £214 a week.
The new Children's Tax Credit worth up to £10 a week for 5 million families is part of Labourís pledge to lift all children out of poverty. For pensioners we have brought about the biggest ever real terms rise in the basic state pension, guaranteed minimum incomes, free TV licenses, and the £200 Winter Fuel Payment.
We have been modernising the NHS around the needs of patients with the biggest ever sustained increase in investment in the history of the NHS. Our NHS Plan, drawn up with staff and patients, means more staff, more beds, more operations and better care.
In our schools class sizes are down; we had the best-ever primary school results last year, thanks to the literacy and numeracy hours. There is now a free nursery place for every 4-year- old, whose parents want one. We have increased funding per pupil by £540 in real terms since 1997. Thereís more money going directly to head teachers to spend on their priorities with hundreds of school repair and refurbishment projects being carried out across Scotland.
Strengthening family life means record increases in child benefit now up to £15.50 for the first child and £10.35 for subsequent children. We are helping parents balance work and family life with the first-ever national childcare strategy creating more places in 18 months than in the last 18 years. For the first time ever we are co-ordinating childcare, nursery education, family learning and primary health care initiatives with a UK-wide £540 million Sure Start programme. We have introduced better maternity pay up from £60 to £100 a week and 2 weeks off for new dads from 2003. We also introduced up to three months off for parents to care for their children up to their 5th birthday and the right to time off work for family emergencies. Everyone now has the right to a holiday with 4 weeks annual paid leave.
Getting unemployed people from welfare to work means helping more people in work than ever before with 1,000,000 new jobs since 1997. Nationally, we've met our pledge to help 250,000 young people into work through the New Deal. In fact it's helped 279,000 young people find jobs. Long-term youth unemployment has been cut by 75 per cent since 1997. We are helping you get more out of life - children and pensioners now have free access to national museums and galleries. We have ensured lottery money is spent on your priorities. The £1 billion New Opportunities Fund is funding extra health, education and environmental projects. We have been renewing democracy: we established the Scottish Parliament and we have guaranteed human rights in the UK for the first time.
Labour is now getting Britain moving again: we set up the Strategic Rail Authority to make the trains run as a network again and put passengers' interests first. Thereís a 2p per litre duty cut on cleaner fuel and a road tax cut of £55 for smaller cars. We ended the fuel duty escalator and acted with the competition authorities to bring down the cost of new cars. We now have a 10-year transport plan meaning billions extra to cut congestion and ensure a better journey however you travel. Fishing Trawlers now pay zero duty on their fuel; we have abolished the tax disc for tractors and other farm vehicles. Farmers pay less than 3.2p duty a litre at the pump for red diesel.
A cleaner environment means a target of 60% of new homes to be built on brownfield land. We met our Rio target to stabilise greenhouse gases and set tough new targets to cut emissions. A £100 million fund has been set up to scrap older lorries plus Excise duty has been cut and reformed for lorries.
The list is extensive but there is still a lot more to do, to do this the Far North needs a strong voice at the heart of the next Labour government.
On June 7th make your vote count, vote Labour, vote Michael Meighan.