The Economy and Work

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:22 pm on 26th May 2016.

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Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Labour/Co-operative, Stalybridge and Hyde 3:22 pm, 26th May 2016

I must confess I thought the Queen’s Speech was fairly awful. It was not awful in its individual proposals on things such as prison reform or bus regulation, all of which have some merit. It was certainly not awful because of the delivery of it by Her Majesty the Queen, who even sounded reasonably excited by the news of a forthcoming state visit from the Colombians—something we can all get behind. It was awful because it lacked any sense of big thinking and any grand design for the state of our nation. As a constituency MP I see so many challenges and so many things I want to change that listening to the modest list of measures we heard last week only left me frustrated.

What makes me so impatient about those shortcomings is that I believe that with better leadership and a better Government, we could do so much better. We are a country where the divide between the very affluent and everyone else is too great, and where owning a home, having a decent job and being able to have a good family life are increasingly unattainable for too many people. Eight years after the financial crisis, our economy is still too dependent on the financial services sector, house prices and consumer spending, and is still too reliant on London and the south-east. There are obscene levels of extreme poverty and destitution, and homelessness is almost back to 1980s levels.

We have an ageing population, but core public services such the NHS and social care simply do not have enough money. Our welfare system is not fit for purpose; it gives too little support to many people while creating welfare dependency in a small group of others. We have chronic skills shortages in several major industries; that in turn fuels record immigration levels. Our lack of any kind of industrial policy has left several key sectors such as steel facing the abyss.

Some parts of our economy are overtaxed, particularly through the outdated business rates system, and other parts do not pay the tax they should. I could go on, because nothing in this Queen’s Speech made me feel as if our Government are considering these problems; in fact, nothing in it made me feel that the Government have a desire to do anything more than try to hold the Conservative party together over the next 12 months.