The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:13 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of Zarah Sultana Zarah Sultana Labour, Coventry South 6:13 pm, 8th July 2020

Shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit, I visited the home of one my constituents. She had issues with her flat. When it rained heavily, water came flooding through her roof. Mould was growing on the walls and it was causing breathing problems. She was desperate for help. Members from across this House will hear similar things every single day because, before this crisis hit, our economy was failing working people: 14 million people in poverty, including 4 million children.

Key workers, from shop assistants to delivery drivers and refuse collectors to hospital porters, are on poverty pay. They kept our country running through this crisis, but this country has not been running for them, because while working people have faced a decade of public service cuts, stagnating wages and rising rents, the super-rich and big businesses have enjoyed a decade of tax cuts and corporate giveaways. Their wealth has soared while the majority have suffered. This was the economy before coronavirus hit—rigged, unfair and unsustainable, and charging us towards climate catastrophe, with the Government on course to miss their carbon neutral target by 49 years. We cannot go back to that: it is broken, it is rotten and it has failed.

But the Government are not trying to take us forward—they are trying to take us back to that, with announcements that are nowhere near enough to match the scale of the challenges we face. Three million people are still excluded from Government employment support, unemployment is predicted to reach levels not seen since the 1980s, and Coventry and the west midlands are hit particularly hard. Now is the time to rise to the challenges we face, with ambition that matches their scale, to bring about lasting change, rewiring the economy so that it works for all, with a focus on advancing the wellbeing of people, not endlessly chasing GDP figures.

It is with a bold, green new deal that we can build that economy: building green industries and not just preventing redundancies but creating 1 million good, new, well-paid, unionised jobs; investing in green public transport and making it free to help working people and to cut emissions; embarking on an ambitious plan to insulate millions of homes across the country, cutting bills and carbon; and exploring a four-day working week, with no loss of income for working people, stopping job losses by sharing out work. Polling shows that even Conservative voters think that that should be considered. While we do that, we need to take on the billionaires, dismantle the fossil fuel industry, tax the super-rich, and crack down on the tax dodgers.

Now is the time for bold ideas and bold actions. It is time to build a new economy where our resources are geared to meet the needs of the people, not to make profits for the rich.