I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business, albeit with last-minute changes. I note the sudden appearance next Thursday of unidentified Government business. Will he tell us what it is, or is he playing partisan games? In the light of the publication of the Smith commission report this morning and the assurance that there will be a draft Bill by the end of January, will he set out in more detail what arrangements the Government will make to enable proper consideration and debate on that report, both inside and outside the House?
Yesterday the Home Secretary published the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, and we will debate its Second Reading next Tuesday. The Bill contains welcome measures to restore relocation powers and give more support to the Prevent programme. Will the Leader of the House ensure that he gives the Bill appropriate time to be properly scrutinised, especially because yesterday the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation said that one of the measures was:
“An announcement waiting for a policy.”
Do the Government need time to explain why they got it so wrong on control orders and put public safety at risk?
Next week we have the autumn statement, which is yet again in December—I am beginning to wonder whether the Chancellor knows something about climate change that he is not letting on. In 2010 he promised two things: that he would balance the books by 2015, and that he would not do that on the backs of the poor. Four years later he has clearly broken both promises. His five-year plan to eliminate the deficit is now running four years late; wages have fallen year on year while food bank use soars. On this Government’s watch the majority of people in poverty in this country are in work, but all the Government can deliver is a £3 billion tax cut every year for the top 1% of earners. While the Chancellor makes complacent boasts about the slowest recovery for more than 100 years, is the truth that only Labour can end this low-wage economy and deliver a recovery for the many not the few?
One thing this Government do well is miss their own targets. We have had the Chancellor’s abject failure on the deficit. The Home Secretary has finally admitted that the Government have no hope of meeting their target to reduce net migration—we all remember “no ifs, no buts”—and today’s net migration figures show the scale of her failure. The Government’s flagship universal credit programme is being delayed again. It was meant to be in place by 2017, but yesterday’s report from the National Audit Office states that it will not be ready until 2020. One million people were meant to be on universal credit by this April, but there were fewer than 10,000. It was supposed to save money, but the Government wasted millions of pounds on a failed IT system and staff costs are set to soar by a massive £2.8 billion. The Secretary of State talks fondly of “landing” the universal credit programme safely, but is it clear from that damning report that it has not yet even taken off?
This Government have managed to be cruel and inefficient at the same time. They have overspent by £25 billion on social security because they have not tackled low-paid and insecure work. They have spent £5 billion more than they planned on tax credits and £6 billion more on housing benefit. People are suffering because of the bedroom tax, and nearly a million of the most vulnerable people in our country have been left waiting for their disability assessment. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in Government time so that we can start to sort out the rhetoric from the reality on social security?
This week yet again we have watched as the Conservative party’s civil war on Europe widens. After the Chancellor’s humiliating climb down on EU bankers bonuses, and while the Prime Minister keeps us all waiting for yet another speech to end all speeches on Europe, it is no wonder that Conservative MPs are taking matters into their own hands. Philip Davies said:
The former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made a bid to put himself at the head of the “out” campaign, and six senior Ministers look set to join him. No wonder the Home Secretary has let it be known that she no longer rates the Prime Minister and has “given up” on him.
Appearing on “Desert Island Discs” this week, the Home Secretary revealed that her favourite song is Abba’s “Dancing Queen”, but what she really meant was “Take a chance on me”. She revealed her favourite book to be “Pride and Prejudice.” Well, Mr Speaker, “It is a truth universally acknowledged” that the Conservative party just cannot stop banging on about Europe. I can only imagine what it would be like to be stuck on a desert island cut off, alone, isolated from friends, with no one to talk to and no hope of rescue. It must be a bit like being a Liberal Democrat.