Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 13th September 2017.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland) 4:07 pm, 13th September 2017

I thank the hon. lady for that important intervention. Austerity, wage cuts and in-work poverty are political choices—this is policy not necessity. The poverty facing public sector workers, including NHS workers, is a choice made by the Government—a choice made by millionaires, making ordinary workers poorer. An “increase” of 1% in someone’s wage while Brexit takes food prices through the roof, heating bills rocket, public transport fares are up by a quarter—more in some cases—the costs of childcare grow faster than the children, and rents soar is simply a pay cut. That makes the effects of the Government’s inhumane austerity policy worse. These workers are suffering the effects of cuts to public services.

In the Tory’s June manifesto, the Prime Minister wrote that she would deliver a

“Britain in which work pays” and a mental health Bill

“to put parity of esteem at the heart of treatment”.

Last year, the Mental Health Foundation found a causal link between poverty and poor mental health, just like dozens of studies have shown before. That means that Tory Government austerity is increasing the incidence of mental health problems while promising to make it better. That increases the pressure on the NHS and betrays the patients who need the help. We cannot solve the problem in England’s NHS with new laws; it needs new cash. A responsible Government would be finding that new cash and funnelling it into the NHS and other public services.

English police forces have been saying that they cannot afford pay rises without additional funding. Some forces have clearly already reached and exceeded capacity, judging by the stories of crimes being ignored because no officers are available. For some unfathomable reason, the Government have let police numbers drop by around 20,000 since 2010. That is not a public service in a serviceable condition; that is a public sector breaking down.

If austerity continues, England’s public sector will cannibalise itself, and when that happens, Scotland’s public services will be damaged as well. Tied to this place, Scotland gets damaged time and again, but public services in England have reached fracture-point and are disintegrating. At this point, England’s NHS is not struggling but dying, and it is being helped on its merry way by Ministers who would rather it was gone. Breaking down the fabric of public services renders them irreparable, and breaking down the workers who deliver them does the same. Decent pay for decent work is not an outrageous demand, and decent funding for society’s infrastructure is a matter of respecting one’s own self-interest as well.