The Economy and Work

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 1:01 pm on 26th May 2016.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 1:01 pm, 26th May 2016

I beg to move amendment (e), at the end of the Question to add:

“but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech fails to deliver for working people, to protect public services and to address the black hole in the public finances;
further regret that the Government’s economic policy has unfairness at its core and includes tax cuts for the wealthy while failing to deal with inequality;
regret the refusal of the Scottish Government to use its new tax powers to put an end to austerity in Scotland;
regret that the Government is presiding over the worst decade for pay growth in nearly a century;
call on the Government to adopt Labour’s Fiscal Credibility Rule to invest in a sustainable economy for the future and to adopt Labour’s Tax Transparency Enforcement Programme to tackle tax avoidance;
regret that the Government has failed to defend the UK steel industry, believe the Government should reform the lesser duty rule and call on the Government to give Parliament a vote on giving China market economy status and to adopt Labour’s 4 Point Plan to save the steel industry as a part of a long-term industrial strategy;
further call on the Government to reverse the cuts to Universal Credit work allowances;
and call on the Government to abandon its misguided proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998.”.

I rise to speak to the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, myself and several colleagues.

Last week was the first time I had actually visited the other place to listen to Her Majesty read the Queen’s Speech. Usually, I avoid the crush and stay here to have a chat with my hon. Friend Mr Skinner. I have to say that my admiration for the Queen was immensely increased by her ability to keep a straight face while reading the fictional drivel that is called the Queen’s Speech.

The Queen’s Speech before us demonstrates conclusively the massive distance between the Chancellor and the real world. It opened with an extraordinary piece of doublespeak. The Government apparently think we live in a “strengthening economy”. They are seemingly not paying attention to their own statistics and their own forecasts. After precipitating the slowest recovery in modern British history, the Chancellor is now presiding over a recovery built on sand. Business investment has slumped again—by 0.5% in the first quarter, according to this morning’s figures—and the Office for Budget Responsibility’s most recent forecasts are for downward revisions in business investment across the life of this Parliament. Consumer debt is rising at record rates, and is forecast to remain at unprecedented levels. The current account deficit has reached record highs. We are borrowing more than ever before from the rest of the world as a result. We are not, as the Queen’s Speech claimed “living within our means”—far from it, on the Government’s own figures.

Productivity has slumped under this Government. The gap between what the average hour worked in Britain produces and what the average hour worked in the US, France or Germany produces is bigger than it has been for a generation. Every hour worked in Germany produces one third more, on average, than it does here. Low productivity is the sign of a weakened, damaged economy. It means lower wages and more insecurity. The slump that has occurred in productivity has been far worse in this country under this Chancellor than in any comparable G7 economy. It is what has caused the Office for Budget Responsibility to revise its future forecasts downwards.