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Year 2001 No. 44, March 8, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

March 8, International Women's Day 2001:

Support the Struggle of Women World-Wide in Defence of the Rights of All!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

March 8, International Women's Day 2001:
Support the Struggle of Women World-Wide in Defence of the Rights of All!

Transport Workers around the World Hold Day of Action

Chancellor Delivers A Pre-Election Budget

Budget Details

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March 8, International Women's Day 2001:

Support the Struggle of Women World-Wide in Defence of the Rights of All!

On the occasion of International Women's Day, March 8, 2001, WDIE salutes all the women of Britain as well as on a world scale who are taking a stand in defence of their rights as well as the rights of all members of society. These struggles are contributing to open the door to a new society which is fit for human beings to live in.

Women are very clear that the poverty, misery and marginalisation that they face are exacerbated by neo-liberal globalisation, the big power blocs such as the EU, and the anti-social offensive. Women oppose this agenda not only because it is against their own interests, but because it is against the interests of society as a whole and against the interests of the working class and oppressed sections of society and of the peoples of the world.

International Women's Day this year marks the first anniversary of the World March of Women 2000 when women around the world put forward their demands for an end to poverty and violence against women and for a society that puts the claims of the people first. Through their participation in the World March, millions of women from 159 countries and territories set their demands and worked out proposals for new arrangements which would guarantee their demands be met.

Defending the values of the "government and nation" and promoting the "Third Way", as New Labour has been doing, has become the moral high ground which is used to justify what cannot be justified. Through such rhetoric, the interference by "Western nations", especially US imperialism and the British government, in the internal affairs of sovereign nations which refuse to abide by these principles is being promoted and provided with pretexts. All those who do not agree with a "free market economy, multiparty democracy and human rights" as defined by the big powers are being labelled a threat to the world’s people and so-called "universal values". Those who oppose and take a stand against these values are to be branded as subversives, terrorists and anti-social elements as a justification for taking legislative and violent measures against them.

On International Women's Day 2001, women reaffirm their commitment to fight for their rights, since their affirmation will bring into being a society which guarantees the rights of all. WDIE joins with women everywhere in the pledge to step up the work to mobilise the working class and all collectives in society to defeat the attempts to give globalisation a "human face". We will continue to work for new arrangements which make the women, the workers and the youth the decision makers, to advance along the line of march to a new society. We will stand firm with all those who are fighting for their rights and will oppose all attempts to criminalise the right to conscience.

Article Index



Transport Workers around the World Hold Day of Action

Women transport workers from 40 countries are marking International Women's Day 2001 by participating in a day of action to demand their rights. The global day of action was called by the International Transport Workers' Federation, which has nearly 420,000 women members in 570 affiliated unions world-wide. The day of action is part of its ongoing campaign "Women Transporting the World" which is tackling issues such as: equal access to employment and training; equal pay for work of equal value, and paid maternity leave.

A representative of the federation said, "Women in different countries face different challenges. For some health and safety issues come first. Others will be fighting for maternity rights or freedom from sexual harassment. Whichever it may be, a victory in one country is a building block for change in every other country."

A wide variety of programmes and events have been announced in the different participating countries, including a programme of meetings and actions. In Tanzania, a march and rally is being held by the Communications and Transportation Workers Union and by the Tanzania Railway Workers' Union on the theme of ending violence and harassment of women. In Kenya and several other African countries rallies on similar themes are taking place. In Brazil, a national meeting of women transport workers is being organised in Rio de Janeiro. In Ecuador, the road transport union is holding a conference on the rights of working women. Many other events are also taking place around the world.

Article Index



Chancellor Delivers A Pre-Election Budget

A Budget might be thought of as having the aim of providing estimates of revenue and expenditure for the fiscal and monetary affairs of the country, a matter of good housekeeping to ensure that investments are made to ensure a healthy economy and benefit the people’s well-being.

Instead, this Budget of March 7 became a move in the government’s confidence trick to ensure that Tony Blair, the bourgeoisie’s champion, takes forward the neo-liberal agenda into a second term.

The Budget is being painted as one where Gordon Brown has delved into his £16.4 billion "war-chest" to deliver nearly £4 billion in pre-election sweeteners.

Gordon Brown told the House of Commons: "Since we came into government our target has been to create economic stability. It is a new won and hard won stability which Britain must not take for granted." He stressed his prudent handling of the economy was allowing him to put money once spent on debt into "frontline public services".

Downing Street said the budget announcement represented a "balanced approach which would ensure continuing investment in our public services, bring targeted tax cuts to our priority areas and continue to keep inflation and interest rates low".

The centrepiece of the 52 minute-long budget announcement was the extension of the 10 pence starting rate of tax from its current level of £1,520 to £1,880. The move will take only those earning below £6,000 a year out of the income tax system. It is an indictment of the system that those who try to exist on such a pittance have been made to pay tax, and the threshold does nothing to lift low-paid and unemployed workers out of poverty.

"This is measure that will benefit 25 million taxpayers," Gordon Brown said of this measure. "Cutting income tax by extending the 10 pence shows our intention for the next parliament to ensure those who all those work hard and save for their retirement will find that more of their income that is taxed at the 22 pence level should be taxed at the lower 10 pence rate," he said.

Another fraud where tinkering with tax allowances is supposed to benefit working people is that the Chancellor announced that working families on low incomes stand to benefit from an increase in the new child tax credit as well as an extension of maternity leave and an increase in maternity benefit also announced. The tax credit will be introduced from April at a rate of £10 a week – up by £1.50 on the Chancellor's initial pledge. The working families tax credit is also to be increased – as is the disabled person's tax credit.

Maternity leave is to be extended from 18 to 26 weeks in two years time, with the weekly flat rate of maternity pay, which is payable after six weeks, to be increased from £60 to £100 per week over two years. Gordon Brown also announced the creation of a new "baby tax credit" worth £20 per week to parents of infants aged under one.

The Opposition in the Commons said that the Chancellor had raised taxes relentlessly since taking office and would renege on today's uncharacteristic largesse once the election had passed. William Hague said the Chancellor had introduced a raft of stealth taxes. "He is like a thief who steals your car who comes back to return the hub-cap," he said.

The Centre for Policy Studies published a report which claimed Gordon Brown had introduced over 40 new stealth taxes amounting to 10 pence on the basic rate in income tax since coming to office.

The Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said that "Labour have spent less of the nation's wealth on public services than the Major government. Labour should not be cutting taxes when they have so clearly failed to sort out our hospitals, schools and pensions".

The government has been forced to be seen to act on behalf of the pensioners following the widespread anger at Gordon Brown’s 75 pence increase. Pensioners have been calling for pensions to be re-linked with average earnings. In the Budget, the Chancellor could do no more than announce a £5 rise for single pensioners and an £8 rise for couples.

The charity Age Concern welcomed Gordon Brown's move but said it remained uncomfortable with the means-tested elements of Labour's policy - which, it is claimed, are resulting in over 600,000 pensioners not getting the cash they are entitled to. "Research shows that old people need at least £90 per week. Although this is covered by the minimum income guarantee there is strong evidence to suggest that people want it through the state pension and not through means testing," a spokeswoman said.

Following last year's fuel crisis, which ignited a wave of anger against the government, the Chancellor has announced further sweeteners for motorists. Brown confirmed that ultra-low sulphur and unleaded petrol will be cut by two pence in the pound – with the reduction in unleaded petrol expiring in June. He also extended the reduced rate of road tax to all cars with engines under 1500cc.

The hypocrisy of successive governments towards smoking continues. On the one hand they speak of banning tobacco advertising, on the other hand set high excise rates, but never create the conditions where the people can freely decide. This year, a packet of 20 cigarettes is set to increase by six pence. However, tobacco manufacturers say the increase will still lead to an expansion of the black market rather than a reduction in the number of people smoking.

In the same vein, the Chancellor froze the duty on all alcoholic drinks. He also announced that betting tax is to be scrapped. The move is a direct response to the betting industry's decision to move abroad to locations such as Gibraltar in order to avoid having to tax punters' bets. In future, bookmakers will pay 15 per cent tax on net profits.

The Chancellor also announced a series of land and property measures, including the abolition of stamp duty in specified areas.

Gordon Brown said that he expected this year's budget surplus to be a £16.4 billion – £6 billion more than the Treasury forecast last November. But where is this surplus made out of the unpaid labour of the workers to go? The government would be repaying a record £34 billion of national debt, Gordon Brown said. Again the financiers benefit.

Gordon Brown crowed that inflation is at its "lowest since 1973" and interest rates at their "longest consistently low period since the 1960s". But is this to benefit the economy, workers' jobs and living standards? It appears that the City is able to live with Gordon Brown's so-called "easing of fiscal policy".

"The cuts seem well supported and the additional spending is affordable but not excessive," said Andrew Roberts of Merrill Lynch. "He has the scope to do this without affecting the Monetary Policy Committee's decisions on interest rates."

The European Union, however, remains concerned that the Chancellor's spending plans, pitiful as they are, go against the line of the international financial oligarchy in Europe. The European Commission last month said that a planned £12 billion deficit for 2003-2004, confirmed by the Chancellor in his Budget, would break the rules on euro-entry.

The "knowledge-based economy" is part of the neo-liberal agenda of globalisation, whereby businesses are made successful in the global marketplace. The Chancellor said in the Budget that he wanted to turn Britain into "the best business environment in the world". To do so he announced changes to corporation tax to encourage the "knowledge economy" and said he will consult on how to extend the research and development tax credit to larger companies. This is the real kernel of the Budget.

As in previous Budgets, important measures are hidden away and the focus is made on the so-called "feel-good factor". The headlines in the monopoly-controlled media will boost Labour in the run-up to the election. The fraudulently styled "giveaways" will do nothing to change the neo-liberal agenda, and the situation where the gap between rich and poor is inexorably widening. No more is being put into the economy and the real message is that the Labour government is on course in its programme of making the monopolies successful in the global market.

Article Index



Budget Details

The Economy

Inflation: The inflation target was confirmed as remaining at 2.5%. Having averaged 2.4% since 1997, inflation is forecast to be 2.25% in one year's time and on target at 2.5% at the end of 2002.

Economic Growth: Growth has averaged 2.7% since 1997. For the year 2000 the economy grew by 3%. For 2001 growth is forecast to be between 2.25 and 2.75%.

Manufacturing Growth: Manufacturing growth was 1.6% in 2000. Manufacturing exports were up by 11.8% and investment up by 2%.

Business investment: In 2000 it was14% as a share of national income, growing by 2%. For 2001 it is forecast to grow by between 2.5 and 3%, remaining at a 14% share.

Unemployment: hailed as the lowest since 1975. January's unemployment rate was 1,004,800.

The Public Purse

Current budget surplus: forecast to reach £23 billion in 2000/01, revised up from earlier forecasts of £14 billion.

Projected budget surplus: 2001/02: £17 billion; 2002/03: £15 billion; 2003/04: £8 billion; 2004/05: £9 billion; 2005/06: £9 billion.

Debt to GDP: 2000/01: 31.8%; 2001/02: 30.3%; 2002/03: 29.6%; 2003/04: 29.7%; 2004/05: 29.9%; 2005/06: 30%.

Net borrowing: 2000/01: +£16.4 billion; 2001/02: +£6 billion; 2002/03: -£1 billion; 2003/04: -£10 billion; 2004/05: -£11 billion; 2005/06: -£12 billion.

Net Cash Debt Repayment: for 2000/01 this will reach £34 billion.

Public spending growth: revised up from 3.4% to 3.7% by 2003/04.

The Tax Regime

Income Tax: first £1880 of taxable income will be taxed at the lower 10 pence rate. More than 25 million people set to benefit.

Small Businesses: 500,000 small businesses to benefit from abolition of VAT on turnover up to £54,000.

Withholding Tax: withholding tax and the tax on royalties between companies has been abolished.

Residential Properties: VAT has been cut to 5% where residential properties are being brought back into use.

Capital Relief: 100% first year capital relief for bringing flats above shops back into use.

Disease: tax credit will be created for companies that wish to contribute to disease relief around the world.

Capital Gains Tax: the long term capital gains tax to be reduced from 40% to 10%.

Tax and Small Business: small business corporation tax will be based on annual company accounts.

Share Options: the chancellor doubled the number of company share options which will benefit from tax relief.

Death Duty: inheritance tax abolished on estates up to £250,000.

Van Man: vignette to be introduced for non-UK trucks to ensure they pay for use of Britain's roads.

Business

New tax relief for intellectual property and goodwill.

Further consultation on proposed legislation to capital gains tax on sales of significant companies' shareholdings - 20 per cent plus holdings.

VAT threshold raised to £54,000 for small businesses.

Annual company accounts will become basis for calculating tax for some small companies.

Capital gains rate for employees in all types of companies cut to 10 pence from 40 pence.

Inner cities: special incentives for establishing businesses in deprived areas. New community investment tax credit.

VAT reduction on church repairs from 17% to 5%. The government is to investigate tax relief for sports clubs.

Minimum wage: to rise 10.8% to £4.10 from £3.70 an hour in October in line with Monday's announcement by trade secretary Stephen Byers. The wage will rise to £4.20 from October 2002, economic conditions permitting. The average hourly UK wage is £10.28 for people in full-time employment.

Enterprise Management Incentive: double eligible sum to £3 million and extend to all employees.

Chancellor pledged consultation paper on a proposed tax credit for large companies research and development.

Climate change levy: All the revenues will be recycled back to business through a 0.3 percentage point cut in employers' National Insurance contributions and a further fall of 0.1% from April 2002. Chancellor confirmed 100% tax relief for use of listed clean technologies.

Other Measures

Betting duty: abolished.

Cigarettes: rise by 6 pence in line with inflation.

Spirits: left unchanged for the second year in succession.

Beer duty: frozen.

Wine duty: frozen.

Stamp Duty: abolished in specified areas.

Petrol: ultra-low sulphur petrol cut by 2 pence a litre and unleaded until June by the same amount. Same cut for leaded replacement fuel.

Diesel: Low sulphur diesel cut by 3 pence a litre from April.

Road Tax (cars): £55 cut for all cars up to 1500cc engine size.

Road Tax (other vehicles): Excise duty on trucks will be changed with new 7 band rates introduced. All rates will be cut to match the lowest in Europe. Around £300 million will be swept away with savings of between £1500 and £2100.

Tax duty on new tractors will be abolished.

Public Services

Health: cash given to acute hospital trusts increased from £100,000 to between £500 million and £1 million for spending on equipment and modernising "nightingale wards".

Funding to be given directly to GP surgeries to be announce by the Health Secretary, Alan Milburn alongside a £135 million fund for staff recruitment and retention.

Education: money given directly to each school increased from £10,000 to £13,000 for primary schools, £50,000 to £63,000 for larger primary schools, £57,000 increased to £68,000 for secondary schools, £92,000 to £115,000 for larger secondary schools every year to 2004. David Blunkett to have a £200 million staff recruitment and retention fund.

Employment and the New Deal: over £1 billion for modern apprenticeships in IT, construction, retail, and financial services offering a targeted 320,000 available places.

Culture: scrapping of entry charges for museums and galleries, with institutions offering free entry retaining VAT benefits, detail to be announced by culture secretary, Chris Smith.

Film industry tax incentive will be extended to 2005 at a cost of £50 million in 2002.

Crime: £200 million to fight war on drugs to be overseen by the Home Office and the Cabinet Office and directly given to local crime partnerships. New high profile campaign against drugs led by role models.

International Development: relief for pharmaceutical companies developing medicines for TB, Aids and malaria. A purchasing fund for treatments in the above diseases for the third world.

Welfare Benefits

Lone parents under 25 on unemployment benefits will have to undergo regular interviews "about work choices".

Extension of Maternity Provision: following the maternity review to be increased from £60 to £75 next year and to £100 the year after. From 2003 mothers will be entitled to 26 weeks entitlement, compared to the current 18.

Working Families Tax Credit: rises.

New Children's Tax Credit: to be introduced at £10 per week - up £1.50 from initial pledge. A "baby bonus" of £20 per week will be introduced.

Child Care Tax Credit: to rise to £135 for one child and £200 for two or more children.

Child Benefit: Chancellor said he had made "radical improvements" since election.

Disabled Person's Tax Credit: increased.

The State Pension: single pensioners to receive an extra £5 per week (rising to £72.50), with couples entitled to an additional £8 (rising to £115.90).

Pensioner's tax credit: to rise in line with inflation after 2003.

Winter Fuel Allowance: remains unchanged.

Free TV licence: remains unchanged.

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