Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North 4:19 pm, 8th March 2017

As it is International Women’s Day, I want to start my remarks by paying tribute to Mary Denness, one of the “headscarf revolutionaries” of Hessle Road in Hull, who sadly died a few days ago. She fought to improve safety in the trawling industry after many husbands, sons and brothers died while at work. She won that battle.

I want to quote another formidable woman, the late Barbara Castle, who said:

“In politics, guts is all.”

I pay tribute to the women of the WASPI lobby, who are here today, for their guts in standing up and saying that an injustice has been done to them, and in continuing to campaign. I am very disappointed that there is nothing in the Budget to deal with that injustice.

I want to make two points at the outset. First, I was very surprised indeed that the Chancellor made no mention of Brexit in his statement, given that it is the major issue facing the country. Secondly, the Government have clearly broken their party’s 2015 manifesto pledge by introducing the rise in national insurance contributions for the self-employed. They stated four times in their manifesto—I checked—that they would not raise those contributions. Many of the 9,200 self-employed people in my constituency—the hairdressers, plumbers and electricians—are already just about managing. They are part of the group of people the Prime Minister said she wanted to be on the side of. I think this is a real kick to that group.

I want to focus on three issues today. The first is social care. I welcome what the Chancellor said about the need for a review. Of course we need a review and a long-term strategy for dealing with social care. In my view, the time has come to set up a national care service akin to the national health service created in 1948. However, the announcement made by the Chancellor—to spend £1.2 billion in 2017-18, £800 million in 2018-19 and £400 million in 2019-20—will overall close only half the gap that we already know exists in social care, and there are no specifics on how the money will be distributed.

Disadvantaged areas such as Hull face a crisis in social care. We are the third most disadvantaged area in the country, we have more people in need of social care than other areas, and we have fewer people who are able to self-fund. The Government have so far introduced an increase in the council tax precept of up to 3% to deal with the demands on social care. In Kingston upon Hull, because of our low council tax base, that will raise only £8.01 per head. Contrast that with Kingston upon Thames, where it could raise £15.27 per head. Clearly that policy will not meet the needs of areas that have such a low council tax base. I want the Minister to set out some clear guarantees about the most disadvantaged areas getting funding from the pot of money that has been made available.

We know that in politics it is all about making choices. One policy area that I thought the Government could have looked at for filling the gap in social care has been put forward by the Women’s Budget Group. It has said how successive cuts in corporation tax by 2021 will amount to about £13 billion per annum, and it has compared and contrasted that with the cost of free social care for those with critical care needs, which would cost £14 billion. The Government could have taken different decisions about how they raise money and spend it than the ones set out in the Budget.

On investment in the north, the Red Book contains just one reference to the northern powerhouse and the north-south regional divide. It states:

“As set out in the Industrial Strategy green paper, the government’s ambition is to support growth in all areas of the UK. The government will shortly be announcing the Midlands Engine Strategy, and is continuing to build the Northern Powerhouse.”

The latest Treasury figures show that transport investment in London is £1,943 per head of population, but in Yorkshire and the Humber it is £190. There is a real gap in the investment going into the north. The Chancellor said that £90 million is being made available to “the north”. The north is such a large area. It just goes to show that the Government really do not have a handle on the needs—