Early General Election — [David Mundell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 17th October 2022.

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Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:52 pm, 17th October 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Mundell. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in today’s important debate on e-petition 619781. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Catherine McKinnell for speaking so well and giving voice to so many concerns felt by me and an increasing number of my Newport West constituents.

The state of our nation is far from strong, and it is important that we recognise that the challenges and obstacles faced by the people of our United Kingdom have been caused by the Conservative party and our Prime Minister. This is a Tory crisis, made in Downing Street, and being paid for by working people in Newport West and across the country. This 12-year-old Conservative Government have crashed the economy through enormous unfunded tax cuts; they have left people worried as they face higher mortgages and soaring costs, and have done nothing to show they understand how serious the situation is.

On Friday, Kwasi Kwarteng was fired by the Prime Minister, who is his ideological bedfellow. They were in lockstep over every key element of Government policy announced since 6 September 2022. We do not simply need a change of Chancellor; we need a change of Government and a general election.

Of course, Government Members, if they were here, would say that His Majesty’s Opposition have to call for an election—it is what we do; that is our job—but we are beyond simply saying it for the sake of it. Indeed, The Sunday Times editorial yesterday called for a change of Prime Minister and a general election, and I quite agree. I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer, stands ready to lead.

Our nation is in peril. Our people, from Scotland to Wales and from England to Northern Ireland, are having to decide between heating and eating. Now, with rising mortgages, people across the nation face losing their homes. We are in a disgraceful situation, and not one word from any Minister in this Government reassures me that they understand the challenge before them. They also do not understand the scale of the change required, or the fact that if we do not stabilise the markets through sensible policy decisions we will push our people not just to the edge, but over the cliff.

I was not elected to this place by the people of Newport West to stand by and let this reckless, out of touch and inward looking Tory Government get away with destroying the lives of tens of millions of people. That is the situation we are in, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North made clear, that is why we need a general election. The petition we are considering today has more than half a million signatures; indeed, as my hon. Friend said, there are 630,000 signatures and the number is still increasing. As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to give voice to people’s fears, worries, concerns and demands.

I asked one of my constituents, Amanda Bayliss, who lives in Caerleon, for a quote for this debate and she said:

“Dear Ruth, I am appalled and devastated by the actions of this current government. I’m genuinely worried and afraid for my future and that of my children and grandchildren.”

She went on to say that this

“government must be stopped at all costs before there is nothing left of this country, and we reach a point of no return.”

It is not just Amanda in Caerleon; across Newport West, I am accosted by people in the supermarket or on the street, and yesterday even in church, who say, “For goodness’ sake, Ruth, get rid of this Government”. I have to tell them that I do not have the power to do so.

This petition shows the strength of feeling across the United Kingdom. Our United Kingdom is living through a moment of profound change. It needs a Government who can deliver an economy that works for everyone, delivering the jobs and growth of the future. In recent days, we have been reminded of how working people have been left counting the cost of 12 years of Tory Government. The Conservative party’s failure to grow the economy has resulted in stagnant wages and broken public services.

The Labour party has a serious plan for growth and wants to see all our nations and regions benefit from and contribute to the growth and jobs of the future as we deliver net zero. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, is now the de facto Prime Minister, without a single vote being cast by a single person.

We know now that the Prime Minister believes in the failed trickle-down ideology of the past, which has locked Britain out of growth and which will never deliver for working people. My party will deliver for working people, as it is already doing in Wales; Labour, under First Minister Mark Drakeford, is delivering for the people of Newport West and for people across Wales.

Here and in Wales, the Tories are the party of vested interest and their time to go has come. That is why we need a general election, and when it comes Labour will deliver the fairer, greener future that this country deserves.