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I want to start by placing on record my respect and appreciation for Her Majesty the Queen. She has conducted herself with professionalism and as always has given the country stability. So imagine somebody with that ethos being abused in such a way by this British Prime Minister. He misled her into proroguing Parliament by sending the Leader of the House up to Scotland to mislead and direct her and then used her for what was essentially a party political broadcast, knowing full well that after turfing out over 20 Tory MPs, he did not have the majority to get the business through anyway.
The Government will say, “It’s not about politics; it’s about policy, so why not get behind these important ideas?” They are so important that their Benches are empty. Where are the Conservative MPs? I can see two on the Back Benches, but I am guessing they are from the Whips Office or Parliamentary Private Secretaries. [Interruption.] They are PPSs. This is so important—it is their radical programme for Government—and not a single Back Bencher is here to support it. There are reasons for that: first, because of the chaos outside, as the Prime Minister ducks and dives his way around the country, and secondly because they know, as we do, that this is pie in the sky. There is no way that it is going to happen.
The Queen does not, of course, give her personal views on Prime Ministers, but I wonder what she would make of her 14th Prime Minister, and how he might compare with the first, Winston Churchill. They are polar opposites, in terms of status and the way the country is being led in very difficult circumstances.
The Queen’s Speech could have been an opportunity to set out the state of the nation and the issues that are affecting it. Let me begin with local government. It is not possible to build decent public services if the very foundations on which they were based are, in many cases, broken beyond repair. We cannot escape the fact that more than 800,000 members of local government staff have been sacked on the watch of this Government and the previous coalition, thrown on to the scrapheap as if they were not important and did not add value. We cannot ignore the fact that 60p in every pound has been taken from council spending, or the fact that adult social care is in crisis, with a million people not receiving the home care that they need and deserve. We have seen neighbourhood services taken to the brink—and the Government wonder why the public are angry. They have a right to be angry when their youth and community centres are closing, knife crime is going through the roof and libraries are shutting.
Let us talk about crime. The Conservatives will say that they are the party of law and order. Well, that is interesting. Let us look at the facts. Twenty thousand police officers have been lost nationally, and in Greater Manchester 2,000 have been taken off the streets, as have 1,000 support staff who helped them to do their job. Police stations have closed in Chadderton, Royton and Limeside. A town of a quarter of a million people now has not a single custody cell. The magistrates court was demolished last month, and the county court has been closed. So what about law and order? We have a crisis in magistrate recruitment in Greater Manchester. Even if we employ those extra police officers, where are the police stations that they will work from? Where are the vehicles that they will drive? Where are the custody cells in which to lock up the bad guys, and where are the judges to make sure that justice is served? They just do not exist. It is all pie in the sky.
Let us look at schools. If we want Britain to thrive after Brexit, which is what we are told by the Government, surely the foundation for this country is critical, and what more foundation could we have than our young people? But when we see how much money has been taken away from early-years, primary and secondary education, from education for those with special educational needs and from sixth-form and other colleges, we see the truth of this Government. They want the country to be run on the cheap, because they do not value the people who live here. Young people who are growing up in Oldham deserve a better lot than is being offered by this Government. Ministers can laugh and they can scoff, but let them look at the unemployment levels in my town, look at the economy of my town, and look at the high street along which the people are walking. Shutters are down and there are boards on the windows, because this Government have no plan for this country. The high street is so important, and it was not even mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. Housing is so important, and it was not even mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. There is no vision for this country; it is all about electioneering.