Wrong priorities from wrong-headed Ministers

Jan Royall

Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon is Labour's Leader in the House of Lords

Labour is tabling an amendment to the Queen’s Speech today because we believe that the Coalition government’s is putting the wrong priorities first.

Rather than concentrating as they are on Lords reform, Ministers should be concentrating on jobs, on growth, on living standards and on youth unemployment. 

The economy is in a double-dip recession with no end in sight. The UK, as a direct result of Coalition policies, is set to endure a longer Depression than the country suffered in the 1930s. Yet there is nothing in the Queen’s Speech that will do anything to kick-start the economy back into growth.

There will be Bills on competition policy and on banking, and on a green investment bank which I hope will be worthwhile, but they will make no discernible impact over the next few, crucial, years.
This is a government in recession denial who offer no hope to a country desperate for a vision as to how Britain might return to prosperity.

The human consequences of the Government’s economic policies are all too evident – rising unemployment, so that people lose their dignity and purpose, and may have to claim benefits rather than working, helping in turn to contribute to economic growth and deficit reduction.

But the effect of the double-dip recession is that there are fewer jobs.  Not that this government cares.  A ‘Downing Street source’ was quoted yesterday asking why people should only work part-time. And they briefed newspapers ahead of the Queen’s Speech about proposed  family-friendly policies, yet don’t understand that people may need to work part-time because they have childcare or other caring responsibilities; let alone that sometimes part-time jobs are the only jobs available.

More than one in five young people are unemployed, over a million in all. Just when they should be starting out on their careers, perhaps starting to think of settling down and building a family, they are left idle, untrained, and demotivated.

And the assault on the poor continues.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that Government’s measures introduced this April will have a disproportionate impact on the lower half of the income distribution, with the biggest hits being suffered by households with children.

Meanwhile, we are told that on the advice of his strategy adviser, the Prime Minister is considering, with the Work and Pensions Secretary, a further £25bn in welfare cuts.

And the much vaunted Budget increase in the personal allowance, that the Coalition partners pretend help the worse off, is also systematically biased against the poor. 70% of the benefit will go to those in the top half of the income distribution.

There is worse to come. In its Report to accompany the Budget Statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility tells us that the double-dip recession is not just resulting in lost income, lost jobs and blighted lives today, but blighting Britain’s future too.

Why was there nothing in the Queen’s Speech about infrastructure ? Why no HS2 Bill? Why no debate over creating a National Infrastructure Bank?

Following the global economic crisis the Coalition inherited an economy on the path to recovery, growing at 2% a year, with a plan in place that would have halved the deficit in four years – the target agreed by the G20.

Now, their policies have forced the economy back into recession. Two years on they have no excuses.  Their austerity policies have failed, are failing, and must be abandoned.

Even elected Conservatives are coming to the conclusion that the Government is out of touch.
The Conservative chairman of Stroud District Council, Councillor John Hudson, has resigned from the Party saying: “I’m a family man with three very young children, just trying to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table.  To be brutally honest, and it sounds a bit socialist and I’m no socialist, the people who run the Government have no idea how the ordinary working man is coping”.

That’s why we put an amendment to the Queen’s Speech, to focus attention on what Ministers are doing, pursuing policies which aren’t working and cuts which are going too far, and too fast. And to focus attention on what Ministers should be doing, pursuing policies to promote jobs and growth, to improve living standards, and to cut youth unemployment.

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