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The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Labour, Newport West 4:29 pm, 24th October 2019

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate on the minority Government’s Queen’s Speech. There are so many different issues that could be covered in a debate on the economy, and that is because without an economy that works for everyone, we are not able to address or solve the problems that affect anyone.

The new Brexit deal that was debated on Saturday is significantly worse than the one proposed by the previous Prime Minister. It is, in short, a sell-out when it comes to our vital workers’ rights, our economy, our manufacturing base—including the Orb steelworks in Newport—and, most important, people’s jobs, in Newport West, across Wales, and in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England too. My community in Newport West want and need a Government in Westminster who are on their side. They deserve a Government who ensure that those who earn the most pay the most, that tax evaders and avoiders are brought in line, and that our vital public services are funded, defended and invested in.

So much was lacking in the Queen’s Speech. There was nothing about reducing poverty for our children and young people or pensioners, and there was nothing about reversing the proposal to take away the television licence for the over-75s. Let us not forget that the TV is a vital lifeline for many of our senior citizens. It is their only link with the outside world for, sometimes, hours or days on end. It is well documented that social isolation leads to loneliness and depression for many. That could be avoided if the Government would only change their decision and return to their manifesto promise of 2017 to keep TV licences free for all those aged 75 and over. The 4,000 people in my constituency who are affected will not let the Prime Minister get away with this. Indeed, I have received many letters from constituents expressing anger or sorrow about the Government’s rash decision.

The Government talk about improving the financial situation for the people of the UK, but we know the reality. We know that wages have still not returned to the levels at which they were before the Tories took office in 2010. In reality, people are worse off now than they were before the Tories took office. This Government talk the talk, but they do not walk the walk.

As we have already heard today, another side-effect of the worsening economic picture is the increase in the use of food banks and the number of people sleeping on our streets. I appreciate the efforts of the thousands of volunteers, and the donations of food from thousands more. When I visited a food bank at the King’s Church in my constituency a few weeks ago, I was struck by the amazing love and warmth of those volunteers for people less fortunate than themselves. However, in 2019 we should not need food banks, and we should not see people rough-sleeping. We are the fifth richest economy in the world, and we have enough resources; they just need to be apportioned fairly.

Last week, along with many other Members from both sides of the House, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of WASPI women. They came to Parliament once again with their campaign for justice and fairness, but once again the Government failed to act, and let the opportunity to sort out this injustice once and for all go by. I know that those strong, articulate women will be back to fight for justice, and I am proud to line up with them and be counted as they continue on their journey towards fair compensation.

The Government could also have delivered a fair tax for motor homes. New motor homes registered after 1 September 2019 are no longer subject to a commercial vehicle tax band in the United Kingdom; for the purposes of vehicle excise duty, they are now taxed as cars, and the tax payable on first registration has been increased by 705%.

Our country finds itself at a hugely important junction. It saddens me that we have a Government with no agenda and no real understanding of the many issues that are being experienced by my constituents in Newport West and throughout the UK. This Queen’s speech was a wasted opportunity, and it confirms that we need a Labour Government now more than ever.