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 am grateful to the hon. Lady for the extra time, and I will come on to those wider criticisms.

In some respects the Queen’s Speech was frankly dishonest. Whatever one’s view of the necessity of austerity, or the success of the Government’s deficit reduction programme, it is simply not true to say that public services are being reformed to help the hardest to reach—they are being reformed to remove them from the hardest to reach. It is also not true to say some of the deepest social problems in society are being tackled when some—homelessness, for example—are clearly getting worse. In Greater Manchester, one of the most dynamic parts of England, as my hon. Friend Andrew Gwynne has said, an entire community of people are now living in tents in Manchester city centre. That is not what success looks like. I am all for measuring life chances better, but we do not need a new set of indicators to understand that taking money from people who have serious disabilities—as the Government have repeatedly tried to do—will make their lives harder, not better.

If I were writing the Queen’s Speech I would ask for it to include three things. First—this was echoed by Chris White—we need a formal industrial strategy in the UK that is focused on making British industry as globally competitive as it can be. Secondly, we need a royal commission on the welfare state, to consider what will be required in an age of rapid technological change and digital self-employment. Thirdly, we need serious democratic reform, so that future Queen’s Speeches are much better than this one.

The tail-end of the Queen’s Speech contained a miserly reference to the supremacy of the Commons. If the Government do not want to lose so much legislation in the Lords, they should try to make better legislation. I do not believe the Lords to be the hotbed of democratic socialism that Ministers seek to portray. This Queen’s Speech was not a programme to transform our nation or tackle our biggest problems. It was all filler and no killer—a pick ‘n’ mix of pet projects; a holding card until the next Conservative leadership contest reveals that party’s true direction. Britain deserves a legislative programme that engages our public, ignites our economy, and inspires our future. Britain deserves a lot better than this.