Finance (No. 2) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 5:32 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Shadow Minister (Defence) 5:32 pm, 1st April 2014

In Gateshead. This 17-year-old on a zero-hours contract, who lives in Stanley, told me that he turned up at the Metrocentre one morning only to be told that there was no work and he should go away. He had paid his bus fare to get there, went back home and was then rung up to be asked back for two hours that afternoon. If he said that he could not do that, he would be sanctioned as one who was not trying hard enough. As was said eloquently earlier, for the Government the issue is a job at any cost. That man was getting out of bed every morning to try to work.

I met another young lad in Stanley last week. He had applied for well over 150 jobs and been on umpteen courses. The scandal about the Work programme is that the Government are lining the pockets of private sector suppliers. This lad was desperate. He said he wanted to set up his own business. I am sure that Government Members would think, “Brilliant! This great entrepreneur needs to go forward.” He went to the jobcentre to ask for assistance in getting his driving licence. They told him no, although they could send him on a course to do everything else. That is the trap for some of these young people. There is no hope for them and they feel neglected.

The issue goes further than that. The older generation look at their grandsons and granddaughters and see no hope. We needed hope in the Budget for those young people, but there was none. We need to give them hope. Labour has a commitment to get people into work. The hon. Member for Dover was disparaging about the previous Government’s attempts to do that, but it is important to get people into the ethos of work, because not having that place in the world is difficult. People can get into a cycle and give up hope.

The young people I meet in my constituency are working hard and trying. As I said, some are treated like hired help—paying out of their own pockets to get to work and being told to come back later when there might be hours. That may be the type of society that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives want, but I do not. The next election must be about a very clear message not only about standards of living but what type of society we want to live in. Do we want to live in a society where people are on zero-hours contracts with uncertainty about whether they are going to get work, and youngsters are not going to improve their life chances as others did? The hon. Member for Macclesfield talked about a global race—well, it is. This Government have a clear policy: a global race to the bottom. This is not the high-skilled and forward-looking country that I want to live in.

As my hon. Friend Julie Hilling said, if we are the sixth richest country in the world, it is a scandal that people who are not sat idle but going out to work are reliant on charity to live and put food on the table for their children. That makes me very angry. This is not the society I want to live in. The Budget does nothing for those people. In areas such as the north-east—Jim Shannon mentioned Northern Ireland—there needs to be a clear plan for getting those regions working again: a new deal that has real investment behind it as regards infrastructure and making sure that young people have the opportunities they need.

Next May, I will make sure that I always remind people of one thing: that not a single one of this coalition Government’s horrendous, horrible policies, with the torture they have inflicted on many thousands of our citizens, as we expect from Tories, could have been introduced without individuals such as the hon. Member for Redcar and other Liberal Democrats who have voted for them all.