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Public Services

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 5:07 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle 5:07 pm, 16th October 2019

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Justin Madders.

I am deeply concerned that the relentless increase in hardship, struggle and poverty means that we have become dangerously acclimatised to it. Just imagine for one moment that we had woken up after the 2010 election and could see with fresh eyes the world that we have created around us. How shocked would we be to see that the number of people waiting over 18 weeks in the NHS has gone up to 4.4 million and that a recent report on adult social care said that people are being pushed into inappropriate care settings that do not meet their need?

The scandals keep coming over and again. We hear that 81% of our mental health trust leaders say that they are unable to meet the needs of their children with mental health problems. There is an unprecedented—I quote, “unprecedented”—rise in infant mortality. Since 2010, rough sleeping has increased by 165%; education spending has been slashed by over £7 billion; knife crime offences are at the highest ever level; there has been a 27% increase in the number of people being home educated, indicating the lack of faith that many parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities feel in the current schools system—and so much more.

We have a creeping normalisation of poverty and struggle. We retreat and speak only to those who act and speak like us. Our social media reinforces the views of those we already agree with through the algorithms that they use. We have become conveniently blind to the reality that so many people face. Channel 5 puts out its poverty porn programmes every single week. We are building this narrative that there is somehow a difference between the deserving and the undeserving poor. We look down on the undeserving poor as people lacking aspiration and having a poor work ethic, until the moment it happens to somebody we love, and they hit the rocks—until life happens.

I think of the family in Hessle who told me that they had all along believed that if people play by the rules, work hard and pay their taxes, they will be rewarded later on, until their mother had a stroke. They lacked the stroke rehabilitation services that she needed. There was no care package waiting for her when she left hospital, and because she was left on her own without adequate care, she fell, broke her hip and ended up back in hospital, where she deteriorated further. I think of the parents of children with special educational needs who, at a meeting with me just last week, broke down in tears while telling me about having to remortgage their property to go to a tribunal, because they cannot get the services that their child needs—because the resources are rationed and simply not available.

It appears in society right now that it is only possible to cope under this Conservative Government if people can guarantee that they and the people they love will never be in need. The Conservatives have ripped the heart out of our public sector, and this Prime Minister is fooling no one with his grab-bag of populist pronouncements masquerading as a Queen’s Speech. Like the leader of the Liberal Democrats, he was an enthusiastic member of a Government who chose cuts over investment. They have destroyed the social contract—the promise that if we work hard, the state will be there to help us when we need it—because hard work no longer guarantees a decent standard of living when one third of children in my constituency are living in poverty, many of them in working families.

It is time for Hull West and Hessle to have its fair share. It is time to enable our children to reach their potential and to have their needs met and their talents realised, and that will only happen when we have a Labour Government introducing our fantastic national education service. People need skilled, secure work. Labour’s pledge to a green new deal will give 11,000 jobs to people in my area in the offshore wind industry. Families need help with the cost of living. We need to look at reducing utility bills, with companies that act in the public interest, not the shareholders’ interests, and we need to increase the minimum wage. Most importantly, we want to say to everybody in our country: when life happens—when you fall down—the state will be there to pick you back up, with free NHS prescriptions, free hospital car parking and free adult social care, to treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve.

It is time for us all to break out from our bubbles and truly see the unequal UK that the Government have created. Unlike Sir David Evennett, I am not just aspirational as an individual or for individuals in my constituency; I am aspirational for my city and my country. I believe that the UK has a brighter future, but that brighter future does not exist under this Government. Our Labour values of equality, justice, fairness and compassion mean that only Labour will put the heart back into our public services and ensure that we can all rise together.