It is an honour to follow Tom Tugendhat. Bristol South has a proud industrial and economic heritage. It is part of the west of England economy, which contributes more than £10 million to the Treasury every year, but it is also home to some of the greatest health inequalities in England. The last Labour Government recognised the contribution made by the people of Bristol South to our prosperity. The last Labour Government invested in our future, in our young people and in the fabric of our city, but they also recognised the severe economic need that people faced. This Government continue to short-change the people of Bristol South, and today is no exception.
Let us consider the contrast between the 13 years of the last Labour Government and what has happened since 2010. In health, investment in doctors and nurses meant the shortest waiting times that NHS has ever experienced, with demonstrable improvements in health outcomes. The money allocated by the Labour Government meant that after more than 50 years of campaigning, the people in my community finally got the hospital that they had been waiting for—the excellent and well-appreciated South Bristol community hospital.
In education, teachers, support staff and teaching assistants improved educational outcomes for children. Every secondary school was rebuilt under Labour, with new classrooms, laboratories and other facilities in Bedminster Down and Ashton Park schools, as well as in schools in Whitchurch, Hengrove, Hartcliffe and Withywood. Families from across Bristol South benefited hugely from Sure Start, and a brand new £30 million state-of-the-art post-16 campus was an investment in our further education. Further education was thriving, with a wealth of adult skills opportunities.
But what has life been like since 2010? On health and social care, the Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, has asked for an end to the bickering about funding. The money is not enough for the programme of work that is expected, and the Government need to start being honest with the public about that. Today does not alter that position.
In education, our children face school funding cuts—every school in my constituency will lose out—and children’s services are under threat. Headteachers have told me their concerns about losing £1.9 million in cuts across the city, with a £1.8 million cut in the education services grant and a reduction in special needs funding as well. This Government have cut 40% from the adult skills budget, and there is now a gaping hole in adult training provision. We expected some social care money and that money is welcome, but over three years it is not enough. I look forward to the Green Paper, but it bodes ill that the Government have already said they do not want to talk about a death tax. Such talk will not help the future of older people in our society.
Under Labour, child benefit went up and child tax credits were introduced. We cut long-term unemployment and introduced the national minimum wage. Pensioners were lifted out of poverty, and children were lifted out of relative poverty. Now, under this Government, the one in five households in Bristol South that rely on tax credits has lost out. The Library has shown that the bedroom tax has cost Bristol South people some £3.6 million. Some 9% of people in my constituency are hard-working, entrepreneurial self-employed people, and today is a devastating blow for them.
With some hubris, the Chancellor said today that
“they don’t call it the ‘last’
Labour Government for nothing.”
I assure him and the people of Bristol South that the next Labour Government will once again reward their hard work, recognise their endeavour and deliver for them all.