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Having sat through much of the debate over the past five days, I am reminded of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”. This debate seems to have been entirely fatuous, other than to highlight the failings of this Government, and the previous coalition Government, of which I am afraid there are many. Even Her Majesty looked understandably disinterested as she delivered her Gracious Address—a lot of pomp and much circumspect. It all seemed farcical, and so it proved—the debate was pulled after three days to make way for a Brexit debate. A suspension after a suspension. Anyone would think the Government were playing for time and actively seeking to undermine our parliamentary democracy.
The Gracious Address was full of warm words, but they bear little correlation to the reality on our streets, especially in Warwick and Leamington. When I talk to people on the streets or in my surgeries, or visit businesses and schools, those people—the teachers, the business leaders, the nurses—tell me that they are frustrated and angered by this Government. They see a Government who do not truly care about homelessness and rough sleeping, and who have no vision for the future. The Government’s ambition is to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027—that is eight years away—and the good people of Warwick and Leamington find that unacceptable. We want that issue to be addressed urgently.
People see an economy stacked against them. They are working longer hours, and driven to zero-hours or flexible contracts. People such as those working at Asda, down the road from where I live, have to accept what they view as a Martini contract: they have to work anytime, anyplace, anywhere. It is totally unacceptable. Many women work in retail, so they are the ones who are affected. They are the ones who are so hard hit.
I therefore take issue with people I hear talk about a great jobs miracle. It is not a miracle; it is an utter jobs mirage and we have to understand what is really behind it. A few decades ago, people had 40-hour-a-week contracts. Now, perhaps two people may fill that role, but they are on zero hours and are deemed to be employed. The reality, of course, is quite different. It is the uncertainty of those contracts, the underemployment in our society and the penalising process of universal credit that hurts so much and has led to a rise in homelessness and child poverty.
In Warwick and Leamington, 16% of all children live in poverty, while 10% of all households live in energy poverty. In 2018, 2,500 people had three-day emergency food supplies handed to them. Our homelessness is a scandal. The big six housebuilders are making billions, despite the supposed viability issues of delivering housing. They are building the wrong homes in the wrong places. We need social rent homes, and I will campaign hard to deliver the ones that we need. They should also be zero carbon. What a great opportunity. That is the great vision that Labour has: to deliver real, good quality housing under its green new deal. That is what we will be pushing for when in government.
Businesses are not impressed by what the Government are doing. They are frustrated and angered. They want greater ambition on the transition to a cleaner future. They want investment in infrastructure. They want to see the vision. They want to know that they should be investing now. But they are not prepared to, because they see what France does. France has invested so much more in electric vehicle charging points—four times as much as the UK—so, of course, more investment and more development goes into France from our automotive sector. Education has been frustrated, and likewise healthcare, by a lack of investment. These are the things that the economy should be delivering. That is what I will be pushing for.