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Public Services

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:12 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak 2:12 pm, 16th October 2019

Like other Opposition Members, I see this Queen’s Speech as a bit of a fraud. It is being used in the most cynical way by those who see Parliament as no more than window dressing for their latest plot. The Prime Minister claims that his proposals reflect the people’s priorities. Some of them certainly reflect the anxiety and damage resulting from Tory austerity and the Brexit chaos that he has created. Of course, I am pleased that our police will be given the power to arrest foreign criminals, although, in large part, we already possess that power through the European arrest warrant. Of course it is good that we are being offered some new police officers to compensate for the 21,000 that the Tories have cut since they have been in office, but these promises are designed to deflect attention from the fact that the people who caused these problems are sitting on the Government Benches.

I welcome promises of longer jail terms for serious sex offenders and stopping the early release of sex offenders we already have behind bars, but we do not need new legislation to achieve that. The Prime Minister does not need a Queen’s Speech, nor does he even need a parliamentary majority. He could encourage his Ministers to do that today. We could stop letting out the people we have behind bars.

Then there are the proposals to tackle electoral fraud, based on almost as many allegations of fraud as the number levelled at the Prime Minister in his dealings with his American muse. It is just as well that we cannot change the law based on those allegations or he would be in real trouble. We know that 3.5 million people do not have any photo ID and that the idea has the potential to deprive thousands of the opportunity to vote. It could be an electoral Windrush, although it would be no accident this time; it would be the deprivation of a fundamental right by deliberate design.

If this programme was really intended to reflect people’s priorities, there would be a children’s mental health Bill, measures to address the IVF postcode lottery for those suffering from infertility, and action to address the shocking delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment that are costing lives needlessly. There would also be a recognition that if a five-year-old with cystic fibrosis in Scotland can get access to the drug Orkambi, so should young Jemima in my constituency and every other child like her, the length and breadth of this country.

If this was not fantasy and fraudulent politics, we would have legislation to address the shambles that is social care, but we all know what happened the last time the Tories dared voice their true intentions on this, so this time they are going to avoid it altogether—just like they are avoiding a Bill to provide carers with an entitlement to statutory leave, a promise also outstanding from their last manifesto. If the Prime Minister really cared what the public thought, there would be legislation to protect private tenants, powers to tackle rogue landlords, and measures to redress the balance between local communities and the rights of developers, especially when it comes to conversions of family homes to houses in multiple occupation and the constant building of inappropriate accommodation against local wishes. Of course, there would also be real help for homeless families, those in the Travelodges, the run-down hotels and the bed and breakfast joints, and an end to the waste of millions of pounds on pointless lottery schemes designed to sell off housing association properties. We could divert precious resources from that silly scheme tomorrow and use it for an emergency programme to get the homeless off the streets before winter bites.

If the Conservative party was listening to my constituents, it would want to do something about the women born in the ’50s and diddled out of their pensions. It would own up to and put right the mess they have made of universal credit, and it would offer a targeted apprenticeship scheme to tackle stubborn unemployment that means that in constituencies such as Selly Oak, unemployment is twice the national average. It would acknowledge the awful violence suffered by shopworkers, and in its approach to serious violence, it would bring in legislation that recognises just how seriously we regard an attack on any person, any worker, simply doing their job.

There is no shortage of things that need doing and no limit to the number of issues where this Parliament could make a difference, but that needs a Prime Minister and a Government who take Parliament seriously, who treat people seriously, and who are determined to tackle injustice and put things right. Sadly, we have a Prime Minister and a Government who seem to revel in creating injustice and care only about the rights that benefit their own. That is why the Queen’s Speech is wrong. That is why it is a phoney and that is why it is a fraud.