The Economy

Part of Council Tax Rebate – in the House of Commons at 9:25 pm on 31st March 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South 9:25 pm, 31st March 2009

I am grateful to my hon. Friend Dr. Blackman-Woods; it is a pleasure to follow her. In the few minutes available to me, I have a couple of quick points to make. As for the contributions from Opposition Members, it is interesting that fantastic hindsight seems to have flooded the Chamber. [Interruption.] The shadow Chancellor has, with extremely good timing, just come back into the Chamber.

On Saturday morning I met representatives from Michelin. I thank Rob Taylor, one of the officers from Unite T & G, for organising the meeting. I met his colleagues from Pirelli, Goodyear and various other companies to talk about their main concern, which is the short-time working subsidy, or lack thereof. I heard extremely worrying accounts from places around the country. At best, some workers are being paid £21.50 by their employer. If that is in place of a 12-hour shift, their replacement income works out at something like £1.79 an hour. More worryingly still, a number of workers are not entitled to that because the terms have been changed, or because the terms have been exceeded. That means that many workers are having their pay packets halved. That has a huge impact on family life. Indeed, I heard of tragic, appalling cases in which workers have committed suicide because they could not deal with the situation in which they found themselves. To echo the point made by my hon. Friend Mr. Hoyle, that is a matter that we really must address.

One word has not been mentioned in the debate—or if it has, I missed it. It is a word that many constituents use when referring to the behaviour of the banks: greed. We have not really pointed out that we are in this mess primarily because some of our banks spotted that in the United States some people were making very large amounts of money, although they did not understand how, and they wanted some of it. In they piled, and the ordinary worker, the ordinary man and woman—my constituents—are now having to pay the price for the greed of a few, who were already earning huge amounts of money but wanted that little bit more. That is a moral disgrace, and we should take whatever powers, and whatever action, we can to address that, and to get some redress for our constituents.

I want to mention briefly the impact of the recession and the credit crunch on community cohesion, an issue that has already been mentioned a couple of times. As Mr. Cash—my neighbour—has mentioned, the far right is capitalising on the situation. It is a poison or virus that is spreading across the country, and we must deal with it. We must deal with the root cause. Sorting out issues such as the short-time working subsidy is one way to do so. It needs to be addressed because some of our European neighbours have to pay a form of short-time working subsidy. Employers may say, "What shall I do? I have to pay the money anyway to this particular set of employees in another country, so I may as well have them manufacturing; I may as well give the work to them, and not to people in this country, to whom I do not have to pay any subsidy." So the issue really needs to be addressed.

As has been mentioned time and again, we must get the banks lending; that is absolutely imperative. I want to mention briefly businesses in Stoke-on-Trent. In my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent, South, there are engineering and design firms doing fantastic work. They really need support and help at this time, and a whole raft of measures need to be introduced to provide that support and help. We still have jobs in ceramics, despite what has happened to Wedgwood in my constituency. I wanted to pay a brief tribute to Kevin Farrell, who was the chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation and sadly died on Saturday morning. My condolences go to Jackie, his widow, and to his family and friends.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website