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According to the Conservatives, we should have wrapped the banks in red tape and nailed them to the floor. Would they have done that? Of course not. They would have done exactly what we did.
I want to get to the meat of the problem, so I will start with pensions. I am not a believer in a nanny state and never have been. If Members look at my record, they will see that I have voted against many such proposals. I looked at the pensions proposal carefully. I know a lot of pensioners who are not getting what they should be getting out of their pensions after they have bought an annuity.
The proposal reminds me of when I was a coal miner. When all the coal mines were closing, the Government decided that the miners could pull their pension out of the National Union of Mineworkers pension fund and put it into something else if they got a better deal. Of course, all the Scrooges came around, knocking at the doors of the miners. They said, “Will you organise a meeting?” Would I hell! They were there to grab the miners’ money. I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Transport is here, because he knows what I am talking about.
A lot of the men were bought. They pulled their money out of the miners’ pension scheme and put it into all sorts of finance companies that offered them a better deal. That did not last two years. Before long, they were all trying to get back into the scheme. The other schemes were a disaster. There was mis-selling on a big scale. The miners’ pension scheme had to be opened again so that the men could put their pensions back into it. They were given two years to do it. If they did not do it in that time, they were left with the company that they had gone with.
We have to be careful that that sort of mis-selling does not happen. I understand the problem. It is good that people can have control of their own money. I have no problem with that, but we might be stirring up a hornets’ nest. I do not trust the institutions one little bit.
On wages, we all know—it is a fact that is on record—that people who are working have lost out by £1,600 a year. People in two or three industries—especially those who work in local government, which we are talking about tonight—have not had a rise for three or four years. According to the latest figures that I have, £39 billion has been taken out of the economy since the austerity programme started because people have not got wage rises. It is no wonder that the economy is sluggish. If money is taken out of the economy, it will be sluggish. All that some workers have to look forward to is zero-hours contracts and food banks.
People do not realise what the welfare cap means or what it includes. Child benefit is capped. Incapacity benefit is capped. Winter fuel allowance is capped. Income support is capped. People do not realise what the cap means. There is a big figure, but people do not realise what is under it and what it means for them.