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Economy and Jobs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:46 pm on 20th January 2020.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 9:46 pm, 20th January 2020

As right hon. Gentleman knows, the original change in the legislation was done in 1995, and he will also know this is still under legal processes, so I cannot comment further.

However, I was just about to come on to people in later age. We will continue to support people in retirement and help them to prepare for retirement. Automatic enrolment has been a huge success, with 10 million employees joining workplace pension schemes since 2012, but we will go further to offer choice and protection through the Pension Schemes Bill in this Queen’s Speech. It will introduce three main measures: to help people to be better informed through their individual pension dashboard, which will allow them a better understanding of their path to a comfortable retirement and of how they can boost their savings; to create a new type of pension scheme that is sustainable for employers and employees; and to extend jail sentences for reckless bosses who plunder pension pots.

We want to ensure that people’s prosperity grows in a way that increases opportunity right across the country. That is at the heart of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has put on the agenda to level up the whole of the UK economy and unleash our potential as a nation. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out, we have ahead of us a decade of renewal through targeted investment in infrastructure, in skills and education and in our public services. That starts with the Queen’s Speech, with its 25 new Bills.

I really do not understand how anyone could disagree with any of the legislation going through. The employment (allocation of tips) Bill shows that we are the party of the worker, promoting fairness in the workplace and providing flexibility and security in jobs. The environment Bill will do much to ensure that we achieve net zero by 2050 and also support our natural environment and air quality. The NHS long-term plan funding Bill will legislate for the largest cash settlement in NHS history. The sentencing Bill and the serious violence Bill will make our streets safer and punish the most serious violent and sexual offenders. As the House knows, we will also continue to increase the living wage. This bold new agenda will show our constituents that this Government will deliver and stick to its promises.

I am conscious of the other matters that people have raised today. On zero-hours contracts, we are going further with the employment Bill, as I just outlined, but the coalition Government recognised the potential for such contracts to be used to exploit workers, which is why we banned the use of exclusivity clauses in 2015. I am also conscious of people using support networks, such as food banks, and that is why we are committed to helping people find work through a wide range of support targeted to each individual’s circumstances, which is why the help to claim support is there. The Government have lifted 400,000 people out of absolute poverty since 2010, and I reiterate again that income inequality has fallen.

Under this Government, people know that we are working on their priorities. We will rise to the challenge of reuniting and rejuvenating the country. As we enter a new decade and a new political era, the Prime Minister has shown a Britain renewed by our resolve to optimise its strengths at home and abroad. Whether people live in cities or towns, in the countryside or on the coast, this one nation Conservative Government are on their side. After the recovery of the economy and employment, we will continue to renew public services and our infrastructure, so that we can bring about a great renaissance in our country. That is why we do the work we do. The Conservative party is leading the charge, which is why I call upon the House to reject the amendments and commend this Queen’s Speech to everyone.

Question put, That the amendment be made.