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Public Services

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Labour, High Peak 5:45 pm, 16th October 2019

It is a pleasure to follow the passionate speech of my hon. Friend Jim McMahon, and he is right: this is not a Queen’s Speech that has been written for the good of the country; this is a Queen’s Speech that has been written by pollsters for a Government who are governed by pollsters, not by the people.

When the Prime Minister talks of the people’s priorities, how has he divined them? Not by going out and assessing the state of the country—the needs of our communities and the needs of people who need Government most. It has been done by polling; it is Cambridge Analytica brought to Government. The priorities that he claims are the priorities that people have identified off lists from commercial organisations who are polling them. It is not about what is going to fix our country; this Queen’s Speech is about what makes headlines.

But there are two very serious problems with that. The first is that even where the priorities are identified, there is no substance to the promises behind them, and the other is that if something does not come up on the list—if it is not popular enough to make headlines—it is forgotten. These include things like poverty; that was not mentioned once in the Queen’s Speech. When we brought it up with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at the Select Committee this morning she denied that Government policy has an impact on poverty; this is a Government in denial. There is a whole list of important issues that Members from across the House have raised this afternoon that this Government should be acting on—homelessness and housing and the leasehold scandal that is facing my constituents. This Government have all the information they need to act, but they have not done so. Why not? Because it is difficult; it is a difficult problem to tackle.

That is why I am so proud that Labour has put together a manifesto that is built on costed policies. It is built on raising income tax and corporation tax where we need it—not on £9 billion of tax cuts for the richest 10% of the country and then pretending we can fiddle some money into public services on the side. It just does not work; we know it and the people know it.

So even where policing is highlighted, with extra police coming in—we all agree with that: Derbyshire has seen 300 police officers cut from our streets and over 400 PCSOs and support staff that we desperately needed—what have we got? This year we have 85 police being recruited. That is great, but it takes a long time to recruit police these days. At the end of three years we are not even going to see the same numbers of police that we had in 2010, let alone all those PCSOs and support staff. This is happening at a time when the lack of police has helped to let county lines gangs run wild around all our streets. Even in my rural area of High Peak that is happening to our young people. We are seeing crime rising—burglaries, crime from across the counties. Criminals are coming in and our police do not have the manpower and resources to tackle it.

The Prime Minister has said that schools will get more funding, but the £2.2 million of cuts that the 50 schools in my constituency have seen over the last four years are not going to go away; at the end of another four years they are still going to be in the same position. Yes, the tables will have been slightly jiggled around. Yes, some of the smallest five schools in my constituency, the smallest 10%, will have seen a small increase, but 99% of their children will be at a school that will see its funding cut yet again.

On the health service, we have been told for over a year that the Government are going to be putting £20 billion into our NHS and into supporting local health services. In Derbyshire, we are seeing £320 million cut from our clinical commissioning group. Every single health service will be affected, from mental health to GPs, primary care, walk-in centres and hospitals—everything is being affected by those cuts.

This is just about headlines; there is no substance to it. All the important things that keep the fabric of our society together—early years provision, youth workers, libraries and buses—are being cut as if they do not matter, because they do not matter to the Government. This Government do not rely on buses. They do not seem to need to take their children to a nursery or a Sure Start centre to support them through poverty. Health visitors have been cut to the bone, as have school nurses, who are supporting our young people when they cannot get access to child and adolescent mental health services because the waiting list is a year long, and that is only for those who have tried to commit suicide. That is the level of cuts to our public services.

The Government must invest in those areas as a priority, rather than making headlines based on polling or sitting there pontificating and calling for a general election based on rhetoric around Brexit. We want an election that is based on policy and on what we are going to do for this country. That is why the Government will not have a people’s vote on Brexit or an election on what really matters.