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The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of Ged Killen Ged Killen Labour/Co-operative, Rutherglen and Hamilton West 4:37 pm, 24th October 2019

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Hugh Gaffney.

It does seem rather bizarre to be talking about a Queen’s Speech that the Government have no intention or any ability to implement, and I would not exactly describe myself as a monarchist but I do think the way the Prime Minister has treated Her Majesty through all of this is shameful.

First, I want to touch on the implications for the UK. The Government say:

“The integrity and prosperity of the union that binds the four nations of the United Kingdom is of the utmost importance to my Government”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 October 2019;
Vol. 800, c. 3.]— and Scotland will see a £1.2 billion cash bonus as a result of the latest spending round, but this Queen’s Speech ends freedom of movement, which will have a disproportionate impact on Scottish sectors, and even by the least damaging Brexit that would mean a reduction in Scottish GDP of 2.7%, and we know that a disastrous no-deal exit could mean a loss of economic output for Scotland of as much as £12.7 billion by 2030.

And it is not just prosperity in Scotland that is under threat from the Government; so too is the very existence of the United Kingdom itself. We have seen over a decade of austerity that Scotland did not vote for, we had David Cameron’s English votes for English laws speech on the steps of Downing Street on 19 September 2014, of course we had the Brexit referendum in 2016, and now we have this Government’s reckless deal, which tears up workers’ rights and simply delays a no-deal Brexit until the end of next year. The Conservative party, in truth, has done almost as much as the Scottish National party to undermine the United Kingdom. It is no longer the Conservative and Unionist party; it is the Conservative and Brexit party.

I was deeply disappointed, once again, to see nothing for 1950s-born women who are being denied a pension. That is a huge missed opportunity. Just as we are seeing with PPI repayments, we could have seen a boost for the economy had those women been paid what is rightfully theirs. As one of the leading members of the local WASPI branch in my area put it,

“these women are not going to be squirrelling this money away in offshore accounts.”

It will be spent in our local towns and on our high streets. However, the campaign will go on and I can assure them of my continued support.

Lastly, I want to touch on the lack of any new measures to protect free access to cash. I have been campaigning on that issue since my election. It has become increasingly clear, from the work of consumer rights groups, from international examples, from what is happening in many of our constituencies and from reports like the Access to Cash review, that this issue will not simply resolve itself. The banks have made a conscious decision to shift responsibility for running ATMs to private companies, and now they have decided that they really do not want to have to pay for that either. So the pressure they have put on LINK means that the fee being paid to the operators has been cut, and we are now seeing free-to-use ATMs closing, or turning fee-charging. That is having a particularly difficult impact in rural communities and in small towns such as those in my constituency, where businesses on the high street are already struggling and do not need any new additional barriers, such as a lack of availability of cash.

The Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group, which the Government have set up to look at this issue, is no more than a talking shop.