Look Left: Universal Credit, the Bangladesh garment worker tragedy and another blow for the ‘greenest government ever’

James Bloodworth looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.

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The coalition’s Universal Credit scheme officially went live on Monday with a ‘Pathfinder’ version in the north of England – Ashton-under-Lyne – and the scheme is expected to be rolled out nationwide from October 2013.

The professed aim of the Universal Credit is to boost the personal responsibility of claimants, make work pay more than benefits and prepare out-of-work claimants for their next job.

There are a number of problems with Universal Credit, however – problems which haven’t been given anywhere near the amount of coverage by the press they warrant.

This week James Bloodworth looked at five things the coalition won’t tell you about Universal Credit, including the difficulties many claimants expect to have managing their money under the new scheme, as well as the loss of incentives for second earners.

• The death toll from the collapse of a building in Bangladesh which housed garment workers has now reached 400.

At least 149 people are still believed to be missing underneath the remains of the eight-storey Rana Plaza in Savar, a town on the outskirts of Dhaka.

This week Caroline Robinson of Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) argued that fundamental labour rights and protections must be a central part of our labour markets to prevent further tragedies, while Tony Burke argued that the tragedy made it imperative that trade unions in Bangladesh were given our support.

• The UK will need to improve its plans for tackling air pollution after the Supreme Court ruled this week that the government has breached laws which protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution.

The ruling paves the way for the European Commission to take legal action against the UK.

The case, brought by ClientEarth, concerns 16 cities and regions (including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow) which government plans show will suffer from illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas, until as late as 2020 or 2025.

As well as reporting on the ruling, this week Jenny Jones of the Green Party looked at how air pollution is linked to the deaths of some 4,000 Londonders a year.

Progressive of the Week:

The Irish cabinet has begun to move towards legalising abortions in certain strict circumstances following the death last year of Savita Halappanavar.

The draft legislation seeks formally to address the 1992 X Case, a legal ruling which established the right of Irish women to an abortion if a pregnant woman’s life was at risk because of the pregnancy, including the risk of suicide.

Under the proposals agreed by Irish ministers, RTE reports that terminations will be allowed when there is a “real and substantial threat to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide”.

It’s a start.

Regressive of the week:

Welsh Tories want to subject those who suffer accidents through sporting activity to an ‘activity tax’.

Conservative AM Darren Millar said on a radio phone-in show that individuals putting themselves at high risk through their own choice could be charged by the NHS.

“I think if people put themselves in areas of high risk through their own choice then there ought to be a discussion about whether it’s appropriate for the NHS to pick up the bill for the risks that they take,” he said.

Evidence of the Week:

Since the coalition took office in 2010, long term youth unemployment has risen to over 70,000, according to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

There are currently 73,585 young people across Britain stuck in long-term unemployment, a problem exacerbated by the decision by the coalition to scrap Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, which created over 105,000 jobs before it was scrapped in 2011.

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