Summer Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Wes Streeting Wes Streeting Labour, Ilford North 3:52 pm, 25th July 2019

Our new Prime Minister urges us to embrace a spirit of optimism, so I am going to meet him in that challenge as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on taxis. I have good news for the Government, who lack a majority and find it difficult to legislate: this is one area where they would find cross-party support if only they would bring forward the Bill we have been waiting for. When I was first elected as the Member for Ilford North in 2015, we set up the all-party parliamentary group on taxis because it was clear to those of us who represent significant numbers of London taxi drivers and licensed private hire drivers that there is a wild west in the regulation of the taxi and private hire industry. It allows unfair and anti-competitive practices, and also puts passenger safety at risk.

We embarked on a programme of consultation and engagement with stakeholders right across the industry in order to come up with our report on the future of the taxi and private hire industry, which made a compelling case for reform. It was so compelling that, although the Department for Transport itself did not quite embrace the report, it was at least persuaded to commission its own report. An independent committee led by Mohammed Abdel-Haq, a great guy, produced a thorough and comprehensive report that said pretty much exactly what our report had said. So a cross-party report has made the case for reform and the Department for Transport is also making the case for reform—a case that was accepted by the now former Secretary of State for Transport and two successive Ministers, Sir John Hayes and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Ms Ghani—yet we still have no legislation.

So, in the spirit of this debate and in the spirit of optimism our Prime Minister tells us to embrace, I am optimistic that my speech will be heard by those on the Treasury Bench and that we will see legislation in the autumn. More than 1,000 of my constituents and their families are looking to the Government to act and I will be relentlessly on their case after the summer. I am afraid, though, that that is where my optimism about our new Prime Minister ends.

Let no one imagine that the heat has gone to my head and I am now persuaded that our new Prime Minister is ready to take our country forward in the way that he suggests. He urges us to judge him on his record. Well, that is what my right hon. Friend John Spellar might describe as a target-rich environment.

I am afraid that the record of the Prime Minister as Mayor of London is not one to be proud of: millions of pounds wasted on a garden bridge that was never built; millions of pounds wasted on a cable car with no passengers; huge amounts of taxpayer money wasted on a vanity project, Boris island airport, which never even made it past the artistic licensing phase; the water cannon that he purchased but was never able to use; the fact that crime, including violent crime, rose before he left office; the ticket office closures; the bluff, bluster and bombast, which we saw so heartily represented at the Dispatch Box today; and a carelessness and lack of attention to detail, which have left a British citizen languishing in an Iranian prison, not because—let us not make excuses for the Iranians—the actions of the previous Prime Minister’s Foreign Secretary led to her detention, but because this Prime Minister, through his careless disregard for briefing and his careless use of language, aided and abetted the Iranian Government in making her suffering and the injustice she is experiencing last that much longer. It is totally appalling.

I am afraid that optimism is no substitute for a plan. In the unlikely event that the Prime Minister were minded to keep his pledge to lay in front of the bulldozer at Heathrow airport, I would be the first to volunteer to drive it. I am afraid that in the Prime Minister and in what we heard from the Dispatch Box today there is no plan for our country. In fact, the spending commitments he made on schools, health and so many other areas of public policy were not about a vision for the future; they were an admission of nine years of failure—school cuts, NHS cuts, police cuts, and every single one imposed by the party he leads and most of which he voted for once he was elected to this place.

We will judge this Prime Minister on his record. It is not a record to be proud of. It does not inspire confidence in his ability to lead our country. It is not a change of Prime Minister that we need; it is a change of Government.