I spoke on Thursday in the Commons Chamber about the Government’s failure to tackle growing social and economic inequalities, during a debate on jobs and the economy. The Queen’s Speech stated that the Government would ‘continue to build a stronger economy and a fairer society’.
This statement assumes that we already have a stronger economy and a fairer society, and we patently do not. We have had the worst economic recovery in 100 years. After three years where the economy flatlined, the recovery is still very fragile.
The Queen’s Speech in my view did nothing concrete to promote a growth in exports and has made only a piecemeal attempt to tackle late payments to SMEs, an issue I have been campaigning on for three years. The jobs that have been created since 2010 tend to be insecure, part time, low paid and on zero-hours contracts and the number of people on short-term contracts has increased by 20 times since 2010 to over one and a half million. In Oldham over a third of jobs pay below the living wage.
The Government’s decision to cut tax for the wealthiest, at a time when households in Oldham and Saddleworth are £1,600 a year worse off, shows just what their priorities are. In 2013-14 over 20 million meals were provided to people in poverty and there is a growing gap between rich and poor, with five of the richest families in the UK wealthier than the bottom 20%. I have seen for myself the increased demand at Oldham Foodbank, including from people who are in work.
Society as a whole benefits from being fairer and more equal as well as the economy. There is overwhelming evidence from a range of sources that inequality causes financial instability, undermines productivity and retards growth – evidence that the Oldham Fairness Commission is looking at from a local perspective.
Labour’s alternative Queen’s Speech would tackle the cost of living crisis in Oldham and Saddleworth by introducing bills to make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain.