The Economy and Work

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 26th May 2016.

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Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Labour, Birmingham, Ladywood 4:04 pm, 26th May 2016

It is a pleasure to speak in the Queen’s Speech debate today if only for three minutes. As many people, both inside and outside this House, have remarked, this speech has felt a bit like a damp squib, or, as my hon. Friend Jonathan Reynolds said, all filler and no killer. Perhaps that is because all eyes are on the referendum. It is astonishing that the Tories have been waiting for a majority Government since the 1990s and have already run out of ideas by their second Queen’s Speech. That takes some doing.

As far as the economy is concerned, the sum total of Bills in this Queen’s Speech does not add up to the comprehensive plan that would put the recovery on a more sustainable footing, or allow our citizens to meet the challenges of the labour market as it is today and also, more importantly, as it will be in the future. We are not producing enough secure, well-paid jobs, and the Government have presided over record low pay growth, so we badly needed a clear, bold and comprehensive productivity plan, which is totally missing from this Queen’s Speech.

The Chancellor has been the steward of the UK economy for the past six years, but unfortunately for all of us he appears to be a one-trick pony struggling with his only trick. His only real plan for the economy is deficit reduction, and he continually misses his own targets. We know that he failed to eliminate the deficit in the last Parliament as promised and figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday showed that the Chancellor had missed his borrowing target from last year by £3.8 billion, with the deficit still standing at £76 billion. Manufacturing remains 6.9% below 2008 levels, and our export performance is really worrying. Although services continue to outperform, we are still lagging behind on goods exports, with the widest shortfall since records began. It is worth remembering that, in 2011, the Chancellor said that our exports were critical to our economic growth, and that he was going to double the value of exports to £1 trillion and increase the number of exporters by 100,000. His record shows that exports were not even mentioned in last year’s Budget because there has been only a tiny increase in the value of exports since 2011. In fact, the number of exporters has fallen between 2013 and 2014. The Chancellor will try to blame the global cocktail of risk, but many of the problems are of the Government’s own making, because of their failure to do any serious heavy lifting in rebalancing the UK economy.

What we really needed from the Queen’s Speech was a proper productivity plan, not just a vague ragbag of old failed policies that the Government have tried to put together under a new label. We needed a fresh start for exports, so that our performance in exports can start the rebalancing that our economy so urgently needs.