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Clause 2 - Personal allowance for 2013-14 for those born after 5 April 1948

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 23rd April 2013.

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Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead 3:15 pm, 23rd April 2013

That is true, and it applies in my constituency and the area around it. If one goes east on the Jubilee line, with which many of us are familiar, life expectancy reduces at each stop travelling out to the east end, which has always been an area with fairly high levels of poverty. I represent four of the wards that are among the most deprived in London, and therefore in Britain. Additionally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North pointed out earlier, the financial position is not the only thing, because while pensioners’ living standards and pensions are being squeezed, the squeeze on local authorities is leading to cuts to the very services that are perhaps needed now more than ever over the past 20 or 30 years. Day centres are going, for example, and money spent on care is disappearing.

With reference to the National Pensioners Convention, for a number of years I worked with someone called Jack Jones—I see, for one or two Members on the Government Benches, that that was like an electric shock. It was almost as if I had said that I worked with the devil.

Jack Jones was leader of the National Pensioners Convention for probably 30 years. I imagine that if I had told him before he died—he died five or six years ago—that pensioners would face this position, he would have found that extremely difficult to believe. He had been a campaigner for all those years not just for former  members of the Transport and General Workers Union, but pensioners nationally. Remember: there are more than 13 million pensioners in Britain today. That is an awfully powerful lobby and I suspect that the Government will feel some backlash from those individuals.

We also have to remember that living standards are being squeezed generally, and a lot has been made about inequality and insecurity. At the moment, for people in work, insecurity is mounting and mounting. I will give a few examples: the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill makes it easier to sack people. Protected conversations are being introduced, and they have never been on the statute book before. The Growth and Infrastructure Bill introduces this scheme of rights for shares— there are some things that the Government do with which I disagree but I can see their rationale, but rights for shares is just barking mad; it is a loony scheme—and the consultation time on redundancies is being reduced from 90 days to 45.

Do Government Members think for one minute that any of those measures will increase people’s sense of security and confidence when it comes to spending money, which is what we need? They will not; they will make them feel more insecure, so they will feel far less certain about spending money on the durable consumer goods that we need them to buy. That is to say nothing about the increase in agency working, zero-hours contracts, temporary jobs, part-time jobs and the sorts of tax dodges that the payroll companies are allowed to get up to that lead to more and more people living under a bogus self-employed status. They are not self-employed; they are employed, but they are put under bogus self-employment by payroll companies so that they can be sacked at a drop of a hat. That increases the sense of insecurity.

I would like to finish by going back to the quotation from the Prime Minister that I used earlier. In 2009, he said that

“more unequal countries do worse according to every quality of life indicator.”

I notice that that was from the Hugo Young memorial lecture in 2009. What the Prime Minister was doing delivering that lecture I have absolutely no idea—perhaps somebody could enlighten me? I could not stand Hugo Young. I used to hate virtually everything that he wrote; he wanted to sign up to everything that flew out of Brussels, so I cannot imagine that the Prime Minister was a great fan either.

Anyway, when the Prime Minister gave the Hugo Young memorial lecture, he made it clear how dangerous inequality is. As he said, every quality of life indicator is worse in unequal societies. What we see now is a much more unequal and insecure society and that will get worse over the next three years.