Thursday 24 October 2019 / 12:35 PM Economy / John McDonnell

John McDonnell accuses Sajid Javid of being “dereliction of his duties as Chancellor”

Speaking during his intervention in the Queen’s Speech, John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has accused Sajid Javid of “a dereliction of his duties as Chancellor” and stated that “that this Chancellor, unlike his predecessors, has refused to publish a detailed economic impact assessment of the government’s Brexit proposals”.

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

I beg to move the Amendment which stands on the Order Paper in the names of my Right Honourable Friend the Leader of the Opposition, myself and other colleagues on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition.

I listened to the Prime Minister introducing the Queen’s Speech.

What I find the most startling thing about the Prime Minister is his ability to create his own truth and when confronted with any reality that contradicts his truth to bluster his way through.

I think he believes that with a combination of bluster and the occasional pretentious use of Latin he can always avoid confronting reality or answering for it. So if we can achieve anything in today’s debate let us at least try and confront the reality of what our people face and assess the announcements in the Queen’s speech against that.

On the economy, the Prime Minister referred in his speech to “investment highs” “economic success free market success”. He also said that “in important respects this country is the greatest place to live and to be – the greatest place on earth”. I just wish it was for everyone, because for so many of our people – tragically – it is not.

There is a multitude of statistics evidencing just how far the PM is out of touch and how he appears to have no understanding of what our people have gone through over the last nearly 10 years.

Let me start with three stark examples of what the austerity the Conservative Party has inflicted on our people has meant and continues to mean, and which the Queen’s Speech just ignores.

Earlier this month the British Medical Journal published a research report into infant mortality. Declines in infant mortality have been reversed for the first time in over 100 years. The research found that between 2014 and 2017 there were 570 excess infant deaths, and the research concluded that 172 infant deaths were associated with the increase in child poverty.

Out there, there are nearly 200 grieving families as a result of government austerity policies. There is nothing in this Queen’s Speech which will tackle the poverty 14 million of our people are living in, or the poverty 4.5 million of our children are being brought up in, or the 125,000 children forced to live in temporary accommodation.

There is nothing to address the £3 billion funding gap local councils face in trying to provide the services needed to support families. And never let it be forgotten that this is a government that has closed over 500 Sure Start centres. These were the very institutions established to support families and prevent infant mortality and morbidity.

Let me take the House to the second example of what the Tories have done to our people. Earlier this month the Office for National Statistics reported a record number of deaths of homeless people in England and Wales in 2018.

726 homeless people died last year – the highest year-to-year increase since data was first collected. The Government has cut around £1 billion from support to the homeless since 2010. So it’s hardly surprising that rough sleeping has risen by almost 165%. In London, rough sleeping has more than tripled, since 2010. Again, there’s nothing in the Queen’s Speech to tackle the scourge of homelessness.

My third example is the distance between what the government claims and what employment and wages are like in this country. The Prime Minister claimed that “We have unemployment at its lowest level since 1974.”

The reality is this: more than 3 million people are missing from the unemployment rate because they report themselves as ‘economically inactive’. We have over 2.5 million people counted as employed even though they work less than 15 hours a week. 3.7 million in insecure work. There are about 900,000 people on zero-hours contracts, up by 100,000 on a year ago. And real wages are still below pre-crisis levels.

The government likes to talk about wages rising at their fastest in a decade. A bizarre claim, when it was this government that has been in charge of the economy for most of that decade, suppressing wages. According to the Financial Times the UK was the only major economy where growth returned but wages fell. The government has some nerve to boast about wages when they know that, as the TUC has shown, since 2010, average pay has also fallen for 7.7 million low to middle income earners and 11.5 million middle to high earners.

It was extraordinary that there was not even an acknowledgement in the Queen’s Speech of the low-pay, insecure-jobs economy this government has created.

 

The scale of human suffering and hardship inflicted on our people over the last 9 years is never mentioned by the government. The reason is because they would have to explain why our people have endured so much. They would have had to admit that austerity was never an economic necessity but always a political choice.

The choice the Tories took that the bankers, their friends – many now populating the government benches. They would never have to pay for the crisis they caused. Instead they determined it would be the rest of us who would pay.

 

The Tories also took the view – never let a crisis go to waste. So they used it as the excuse to cut the taxes of the corporations and the rich. They have made £47 billion in cuts to our public services.

And on their plans they will have given away £110 billion in tax cuts to the corporations by 2022. To ramp up the profits of these corporations, they have sold out our public services to them. £9 billion worth of contracts in health and social care were handed over to private companies in the last year.

Outsourcing under this government has been exposed this week for the racket it is.

A report by the think tank Reform showed outsourcing contracts wasted £14.3 billion of tax payers money in the past three years.

Nothing in this Queen’s Speech even acknowledges these rip offs, let alone promising action to reverse them.

And I found nothing in the Queen’s Speech that addresses the scandal of the industrial scale of tax avoidance and money laundering that is staining the reputation of our country.

Today, Transparency International published it report “At Your Service”. That report shows how “UK service providers have been involved in some of the most egregious cases of corruption in our time”.

And from the looks of this Queen’s Speech the government will continue to do nothing about it. The Registration of Overseas Entities Bill which will create a register of controlling owners of overseas legal entities that own UK land is nowhere to be seen in the Queen’s Speech. 3 and a half years after the government first committed to it.

 

We are at the tail end of what has been nearly a lost decade for our country. A near decade of the grotesque mismanagement of our economy by successive Conservative Chancellors. I’m on my third.

The New Economics Foundation has shown that austerity has suppressed growth by almost £100 billion. That’s more than £3,600 per household. After nine years of stuttering growth GDP even went backwards in the last quarter, falling by 0.2%.

Public debt was meant to peak at 70% of GDP in 2013-14, only for it to rise to 86% of GDP in 2018-19. For all its stale claims of reducing the deficit though, the reality is that the Conservatives have simply shifted that burden onto the shoulders of head teachers, councillors, NHS managers and police chiefs. These are the people who have had to take the tough decisions forced upon them by the government.

Part of the testimony to the government’s failed fiscal strategy has been the litany of fiscal rules, invented, published, broadcast widely and then quietly and embarrassingly dropped.

Within weeks we hear that a new fiscal rule, most probably largely stolen from the Labour Party, will be announced in the budget. We can’t be sure – as only yesterday – despite the Chancellor announcing the Budget and its date, other government sources were briefing that the budget was off.

So we have a Chancellor whose staff are sacked and escorted by armed guard out of their office without him being told and now Cummings is possibly cancelling his budget.

A word of advice to the Chancellor and his colleagues: get a grip on Cummings before he does any more damage to our economy.

 

 

Apart from budget making, one of the vitally important responsibilities of the Chancellor is to ensure the government, and also this House, have the fullest information before them when considering legislation on issues impacting upon our economy.

It is extraordinary, and a dereliction of his duties as Chancellor, that this Chancellor, unlike his predecessors, has refused to publish a detailed economic impact assessment of the government’s Brexit proposals.

Studies of similar proposals have indicated a hit to the growth of our economy from 3.4% to 8.1%. Even the lower range of hit will have a severe impact on our people’s jobs, their living standards and the economy overall.

Surely it is only reasonable that Members of this House have a level of information and analysis from his department before them as they make this momentous decision.

Both the main parties committed in their last manifestos to respecting the outcome of the referendum. And we do. And we will.

However, as it made clear on Tuesday, this House will not be bounced into an unrealistic and unfeasible timetable for considering, scrutinising, such a large a critically important piece of legislation.

That is why the Leader of the Opposition and Labour’s Chief Whip met with the Prime Minister yesterday to offer a genuine compromise. To agree a proper timetable for the Bill which will allow in the normal manner proper scrutiny of the Bill, the opportunity to promote, debate and determine amendments.

The Opposition has set out its views on the areas of the Bill it would wish to see amended but of course we accept it will be the House that will decide and as always we must accept the will of the House even if we may at times disagree with it.

There is an opportunity here to demonstrate to our people that Parliament can and does work. If we can demonstrate civility in this House and a rational process in here we might be able to assist in overcoming some of the division and indeed bitterness that has set in within our wider community.

But I say to the Chancellor, he has a role to play and that is shouldering properly his responsibility for providing us all with the fullest information upon which we can take our decisions.That means publishing a full economic impact assessment – and fast.

 

 

Mr Speaker, as the government has a working majority of minus 45. It’s obvious that this Queen’s Speech is little more than a pretty crude election stunt.

Throughout the Prime Minister’s and Chancellor’s various interventions in the House or in the media they have depicted their programme as The People’s Priorities.

As a political artisan I can admire a good turn of phrase and I congratulate the creatives in whatever PR Agency the Conservative Party now uses for coming up with it. It must have tested well. But that’s all it is. A slogan, a turn of phrase.

The reality, as demonstrated in this Queen’s Speech, is that after coming up to a decade of harsh and brutal austerity, a few cynical publicity stunt commitments to paper over the massive cuts to our NHS, schools and police service will go nowhere near what is needed.

And people know that if the economy hits the buffers again, whether though Brexit or economic mismanagement by the Tories, or both. And when a choice has to be made by the Tories about who will pay, they will always protect their own, the corporations and the rich. And it will always be the people who will be burdened with cuts in services and pay – and benefit freezes.

 

What people need now, Mr Speaker, is real change.

Real change in our economy to face up to the existential threat of climate change – Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution. Real change to provide the real scale of resources our NHS, our schools and our police services need. Real change to bring forward the scale of investment our infrastructure needs to compete in the global economy and meet the challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Real change to ensure that our people share in the prosperity we will create, through decent wages, ownership and ending the rip off of privatisation.

Only a Labour government can bring about that real change our country needs after a near lost decade under the Tories. It’s time for a Labour government.