Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Having sat here for the past four hours, I will try my best to do as you say. In passing, may I wish you all the best for your future as well as your partner, who is a very good friend of mine from way back?
Nothing epitomises this callous Government more than what we saw on Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Question Time, when the Prime Minister, as usual, tried to make a joke out of it and said that the leader of my party:
“does not know where his next meal is coming from”.—[Hansard, 18 March 2015; Vol. 594, c. 755.]
The sad reality in this country is that far too many of our citizens do not know where their next meal is coming from, but 2 million do—it is coming from the food banks. What an absolute disgrace. What a record of failure. It is those people who will again face the brunt of Tory policy—whether in trying to find out the £12 billion of secret welfare cuts or the £13 billion of secret public sector cuts, neither of which have been spelled out in the past three days of the Budget debate. So can we trust the Chancellor going forward? He has failed miserably up to now.
Let us have a look at this Chancellor’s record. This week we had a report from the King’s Fund. The NHS has supposedly had its budget protected, if we are to believe what the Government said, and yet the number of cancelled operations is up by a third. Ambulance response times are going backwards; all three national targets have been missed this year. Sixty out of 83 foundation trusts are in deficit.
In A and E, in December 2014, 414,000 people waited longer than four hours—a 47% increase on the previous quarter. In December, 42,000 people waited on trolleys—a 124% increase since 2013. Sixty-six foundation trusts missed the target for A and E waiting times—double the number in 2013. The percentage of people waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment was up from 2.5 million in 2010 to 3.2 million in 2014. In the last year alone, there has been a 30% increase in people waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment. In this country, 12.5% of patients are waiting longer than 18 weeks—the worst ever recorded level.
For cancer, there is a 62-day target for people to be treated. Although the target was met in 86.7% of cases in April 2010, it was met in only 83.5% of cases in October 2014. In December 2014, 31 trusts missed the target—double the number in the middle of last year. In adult social care, because of 12% cuts across council care budgets we have seen a 25% reduction in the numbers receiving community care services. That obviously has a huge knock-on effect on the capacity of the NHS.
Another public service hit by this Government—another public service struggling—is the police service. The Metropolitan police have 1,748 fewer police officers than in 2010. Over half a million rest days were owed in one year. That means that every week in this city, 1,000 policemen are working shifts for which they are not getting paid. In addition, 43% of officers say they are suffering from stress-related illnesses. Case loads are described as unmanageable. More people than ever are living in this city—nearly 9 million more people—and £1.5 billion less is being spent on them. That is the legacy of this Government.
The Prison Service is in disarray. This week, the Prison Officers Association responded to the news that its members would not be getting a pay rise by saying that in the past year there have been 4,000 assaults on prison staff; a 40% increase in serious assaults; an overcrowded prison system, with a prison population at record levels; 3,500 fewer officers to the year ending 2014; a service that is finding it difficult to recruit and retain; staff forced away from their homes and families because they are being put on detached duty to make up for lost staff; and motivation and morale at an all-time low. It is no wonder, because the service is failing to meet every recognised health and safety requirement.
I received a letter from a constituent, Craig Robson, who is a prison officer. This is what he said to me:
As you can see, one of your constituents who was” once
“a proud Crown servant is” yet again
“being treated as a second class citizen” with
“a pay rise of 0%. I will give you some history. The last 5 years have been” for me
“0%, 0%, £100, 1%, 0%.”
These are supposed to be pay rises.
“Am I happy? No, but to add insult to injury I was looking at a pay note from”
September 2011 and comparing that pay note with the one I received this month.
“I am now £109.41 worse off”—
£27 a week worse off. When the Tories deny the claims that we make regularly that people are £1,600 a year worse off, they might be right, because that gentleman is a lot more than £1,600 worse off, and that takes no account of inflation. He goes on to say:
“The prime minister stated not two weeks ago that he thought everyone should have a pay rise. What happened to loyal servants who were in hand to hand combat” in jails every day up and down this country?
What we have seen is a record of failure: every target missed; a record of pain for those who are least able to handle it; and a record of spin and deceit from the Tory party. Gull manure was talked about earlier. It is not gull manure that we are getting from this Budget; it is bull manure—left, right and centre—and there is a promise of more to come. The Tories promise more pain for those who are on welfare, more cuts for our essential services and more bungs for their friends, whether MPs in marginal seats or their friends in the
City. They are failure personified, and this country will have a chance in seven weeks’ time to hold them to account for their failure and for the way in which they have led this country astray.