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It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend James Frith; his passion and resolve to highlight the injustice of what happened to his town’s football club must be commended by us all in this House.
Our country is more divided than ever, but beyond the current inflamed debates in this place, the root of the division is fundamentally about inequality in this country—inequality between the north and south, inequality between towns and cities, inequality that this Tory Government have shamefully widened under their rule. Their shambolic, reckless and cruel handling of the economy over the last decade, in partnership with the Lib Dems, has ripped the soul from towns such as Leigh, the one I represent. Decades of under-investment left us reeling and in desperate need of a Government on our side to help us to thrive.
In 2010, we were promised by the Government that we were all in this together. How wrong they were. Instead, we have seen 3,500 bankers earning incomes of almost £10 billion between them, with grotesque bonuses on top. These are the same people who crashed our economy, leading to the vicious austerity that has been inflicted on the hard-working grafters in Leigh. The Conservative party even had the audacity to lower the tax rate for millionaires and billionaires while introducing a bedroom tax, cutting welfare benefits and starving our NHS. Meanwhile, in our towns such as Leigh we have seen a rise of almost 20% in food bank usage last year. Disgustingly, last year we issued over 5,000 emergency food parcels, 2,000 of which went to children. After housing costs, one in four children live in poverty.
Locally, we have seen a rise in drug and alcohol issues and more homeless on our streets, so when the Conservatives parade statistics about GDP and sound economic records, they do not realise how out of touch they are. Their trickle-down system of economics fails working people. The rich have got richer and the rest of us—the hard-working many, the working classes—are left struggling to make ends meet. Their priorities will always be about their entitled chums who bankroll their party, while Labour stands up and fights for the hard-working many and our proud trade union movement.
If the Conservative party were really on the side of constituencies like mine, maybe they could answer these questions. Where is the Bill to abolish universal credit and personal independence payment assessments? Where is the Bill to abolish food poverty? Where is the Bill to abolish child poverty? Where is the Bill to give proud former mining constituencies such as Leigh our fair share of investment to rebuild our towns? Where is the Bill to put power back into the hands of our community and out of those of the establishment, which has run this country for decades?
This Queen’s Speech is nothing other than a pre-election broadcast—read out by Her Majesty—that fails our communities and our economy, and it should thoroughly shame the Government. Towns like Leigh will never be fooled by their bluff and bluster. Their actions speak louder than their words in our communities, and I will have no hesitation in voting down this Queen’s Speech later today.