‘Politically speaking’ by Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield

There are many injustices in the world caused by vested interests, big business and government policy.

Multi-national corporations such as Amazon, Starbucks, Google and Vodafone are getting away with paying minimal tax in this country whilst making huge profits.

This week the Labour Party have brought the issue of tax avoidance back on the agenda.

I welcome the Shadow Chancellor’s announcement in his conference speech that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn will claw back £25billion in unpaid taxes from these huge corporations.

It’s simply not right that whilst millions will be seeing cuts in their tax credits and cuts in their public services that these companies are let off the hook.

Of course taking on large corporations to claw back tax is only something a government can do only when in office.

However the last few weeks have shown that through campaigning, we can make a difference and change the unethical behaviours of some large companies.

In August this year I publically spoke out against stores, including WH Smith, who were charging significantly more for products in hospitals.

For example, it was reported that a bottle of water costing £1 at WH Smiths on the high street is marked at £1.79 at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield.

Following this there was widespread criticism that they were taking advantage of a vulnerable captive audience.

The company claimed the higher costs were as a result of increased operational costs and complex delivery arrangements, but as I pointed out other chains who operate within hospital premises, such as Costa Coffee, charge the same for their products there as they do on the high street.

Following the revelations I requested a meeting with the CEO of WH Smith, Stephen Clarke, which was followed by an announcement that the store had agreed to drop prices for a range of goods in the chain’s hospital stores, matching the deals available in high street stores for the first time.

This is a welcome first step for NHS patients, visitors and staff, who were frankly being exploited to boost the bottom line of some of Britain’s biggest businesses while the government looks the other way.

I will be meeting Marks & Spencer soon and I hope they will follow this lead. Whether it’s higher prices in the shops or charging for car parks, those who use or work in our hospitals are paying an unfair price and it’s time to change it.

Small achievements like this demonstrate how we can change things for the better through campaigning and not being afraid to speak out.


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