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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Ruth Jones.
It is a new Session of Parliament, but we are still hearing the same old ideas from the Government. This was not a Queen’s Speech offering a serious programme for government; it was a pre-election stunt by a Prime Minister who promises everything but can deliver nothing. He has no majority, no mandate, and no policies to tackle the real issues facing this country.
We have a poverty crisis in the UK. There are 14 million people living in poverty, one fifth of our entire population, and 4 million of them are children. It was once said that the best route out of poverty was to secure employment, but the growth of insecure employment—for instance, zero-hours contracts—has led to rising levels of in-work poverty. Sixty per cent. of those living in relative poverty reside in working households. The UK’s poverty crisis is real and the Government continue to ignore it at their peril. Sixty per cent. of the public believe that the Government have caused poverty through their austerity policies. When will we see action from this Government? When will they tackle low pay with a real living wage of £10 per hour for all workers, starting from the age of 16? When will they scrap failed welfare reforms like universal credit, which are directly responsible for the rise in food bank use, and when will they end insecure employment by abolishing the exploitation of zero-hours contracts? The public are demanding action, and if the Government are not prepared to act, I say to them: stand aside because Labour is ready.
There are clear examples of workers’ rights under attack which the Government have chosen to ignore in the Queen’s Speech. The Queen’s Speech contained no proposals to scrap the undemocratic Trade Union Act 2016, which undermines the right to strike. There are no proposals to support the ASDA workers, who face a disgraceful choice between accepting cuts to their terms and conditions or losing their jobs, and there are no proposals to support the postal workers who face threats to both their jobs and their terms and conditions despite agreements.
I congratulate the postal workers and the Communications Workers Union for a fantastic ballot result, which saw an overwhelming 97% vote in favour of strike action. I say today to Royal Mail, “Honour the agreement that was made and we can avoid any industrial action.”
The Government have chosen to impose austerity on our communities for the last 10 years, despite the clear damage that has done. Only Labour are committed to investing in our public services and our communities and ending austerity. The real tragedy of austerity has been the impact upon the lives of ordinary people, people like the 75-year-olds who have seen a broken promise on their TV licences. That is why I tabled amendment (b), and I thank all those Members who supported it. There is a simple answer, and I hope the Government will listen and think again: let’s get the free TV licences back for those 75-year-olds.
We have seen rising levels of poverty, attacks on workers’ rights and austerity imposed upon our communities under this Government. When I stood for election in 2017, I asked the good people of Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill to send a working man to Parliament. I am here to fight for my constituents and to fight for the workers; that is why I will be opposing this Queen’s Speech tonight.