POLITICS

Commons People Politics Podcast: Pensions, Prostitution and Project Fear

03/03/2016 15:25 GMT | Updated 03/03/2016 15:59 GMT

The Government was accused of trying to smuggle out a review of the UK pension age this week when it announced the plan as Westminster was focused on the so-called Snoopers Charter.

Ministers revealed former CBI boss John Cridland would look at whether the current threshold - 66 by 2020 - is “optimal in the long run” – prompting fears people might have to work into their late 70s or even early 80s.

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Owen Smith, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, told HuffPost UK that it was “shameful that they have tried to smuggle out this important news in a written statement, hoping that it would go unnoticed.”

Work and Pension Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was called to the Commons on Wednesday to explain the review, but IDS came out fighting and accused Labour of “utter idiocy” and “worrying and scaring people”.

He said Labour only called him to the Commons as “a couple of newspapers wrote a few articles”. However, he did not rule out the state pension age accelerating.

The pensions review wasn’t the only government release this week to provoke controversy.

The snappily titled “Alternatives to membership: possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union” set out different ways the UK could engage with the EU in the event of Brexit.

According to the document, British sweet and chocolate makers could face a 30% “sugar tax” if the UK left the European Union, Northern Ireland would be confronted with difficult issues about the relationship with Ireland and tariffs could affect farmers and other exporters.

David Cameron dismissed the Project Fear tag – preferring to brand the dossier as Project Fact.

Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock was wheeled out to defend the dossier, and told Andrew Neill on the Daily Politics that the Swiss were able to export more per capita to the EU than the UK - despite being outside the union - because Switzerland was "physically much closer" to Europe.

The Home Affairs Select Committee this week began an investigation into whether the laws around prostitution need to be changed.

Currently, it is legal in the UK to pay for sex, but it is illegal to solicite in a public place, kerb crawl, or own or manage a brothel, as well as act as a pimp. In Northern Ireland paying for sex became illegal on 1 June 2015

The Committee heard compelling evidence this week from current sex worker Laura Lee, and former prostitute Mia de Faoite – with Ms de Faoite bravely revealing details of a gang rape she suffered while working in the sex trade.

But the two women had different views on how the law should be changed.

On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn attended his first meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party this year – well, sort of. He didn’t take any questions and left half way through to go off and film The Agenda on ITV.

While most of the focus in recent weeks has been on splits in the Tory Party over the EU, the Corbynistas have been tightening their grip on Labour.

The Huff Post UK revealed last night that two of Britain’s leading left-wing trade union bosses have been allowed to rejoin the Labour party.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), and Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) were cleared for membership by the party’s Compliance Unit on Tuesday.

Mr Serwotka, whose union has been at the forefront of strikes against the Tory government’s cuts, was expelled by Labour more than 25 years ago.

There were also complaints of intimidation at the Young Labour conference at the weekend from pro-Unite members, and the hiring of former Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and ex-channel 4 journalist Paul Mason as an advisor have raised some eyebrows.