Steve's Living Standards Speech

(May 17, 2012)

Steve in Chamber

(Please check against delivery - time limit may be imposed)

Thank you Mr Speaker,

I was supposed to be attending a dinner hosted by Her Majesty this afternoon on her visit to Liverpool to celebrate her Diamond jubilee – but instead - I had egg on toast whilst waiting my turn to be called in this Chamber! I’m sure Her Majesty will be gutted at my absence though.

In fact, I would suggest that she will be as gutted at my absence from dinner as I was at the absence of any plan for jobs and growth from her speech last week.

Not that I blame Her Majesty, of course!

Now I would never presume to second guess what goes on in Her Majesty’s mind, Mr Speaker, - but I suspect that she was less than impressed at having to deliver a Speech that was more to do with renewing ‘coalition vows’, than it was about restoring the economic future of her country - to which she so dutiful serves.

Mr Speaker, there are nearly 3 million people who should be in jobs, currently filing into line at the dole office.

I have seen a 165% rise in youth unemployment in my own constituency in the last 12 months.

I have seen unemployment amongst the economically active rise to 5,359 - making the unemployment count in my constituency the 5th highest in the country.

But Mr Speaker, whilst the Government may have been willing to draft a Queen Speech that put politics before people, I am not.

I know the conversations that thousands of people in Walton and millions of people in Britain, are having about their own lives. They are thinking:

  • Do we have enough money for the weekly shop?
  • Do we have enough money to put petrol in the tank?
  • Who is going to tell the kids that they can’t do extra curricular activities anymore because we can’t afford the subs each week?

And – Mr Speaker - Some are even having to explain why the Gas and Electricity has been cut off?

I know personally the feeling of being made redundant, it’s a very desperate feeling - it happened to me twice – and my sister and one hundred and 19 of her fellow workers were told last week that the electrical installation company that they worked for which has been going for decades - had called-in the receivers - and the whole workforce were being made redundant.

This is the reality of Government policies that cut too far - too fast.

It is simply wrong that the Government persists in its misguided belief of cutting the deficit by a set date - when they know that

  1. it is tearing families apart
  2. its creating higher unemployment
  3. they are having to borrow an additional £150 Billion
  4. and their policies are hitting the poorest hardest.

That is the human cost of Tory-Lib Dem politics.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats know this.

They certainly know this in Liverpool, where they were once in control of the council that won’t be happening again…ever! Liverpool was once the Lib Dems flagship Council where they had seventy odd members of the Council. That is now down to 10 - and they will be lucky to have half that after the next local elections.

Former Lib Dem Councillors in Liverpool know just how disproportionately these cuts are affecting our great city.

Yet in Parliament Lib Dems still blindly walk through the voting lobbies with their Tory masters.

And Mr Speaker, they cling to the ideal that they are somehow ‘making a difference’.

I would like to dispel a particular Tory-Lib Dem myth.

It is the myth that suggest that the only factor that relates to the economic improvement in the living standards of lower paid workers is raising the income tax threshold.

It’s not a bad ideal in itself – but let’s look for a moment at the figures, - because I’m sure the people in my constituency actually want to know what the difference will be in cash terms, each month.

Here are the facts:

And I’ll paint an upbeat scenario based on £30k avaeage earnings (wne very few in my constituency actually earn as much).

In 2011/2012 – under the Coalition – the personal allowance was £7,475 meaning anyone earning up to £30,000 was £140 a year better off. That means, people had a grand total of £11.60 a month, extra in their pockets.

For the year 2012/2013 the personal allowance is £8,105 meaning anyone earning up to £30,000 will be £186 better off this year. This means people have a grand total of £15.50 per month - extra in their pockets.

In the next financial year 2013/2014 the personal allowance will rise to £9,205 meaning people are £346 a year better off. That works out at a whopping £28.83 a month in people’s pockets.

Sounds great Mr Speaker – and nobody is arguing that putting more money in lower paid peoples pocket isn’t a good thing.

But, and it’s a big but - here is the snag.

The Liberal Democrats allowed the Tories to raise VAT to 20% - despite their manifesto VAT Tax Bombshell posters .

This 2.5% rise is estimated to cost each household with children an average of £450 a year. – even after the rise in the personal allowance.

In Walton, there are 270 households that have lost their tax credits whilst 12,620 have either lost all or some of their child benefit.

In my constituency there are 1,100 households that have totally lost their working tax credits in the last month.

Across the North West of England, just under 1 million families claim child benefit.

Every single one of these families are either losing this benefit or having it frozen.

A total loss of ‘Child Tax Credit’ would amount to a household loss of another £545 per year.

In the North West, we also have 26,845 couples who have lost their working tax credit under the government and are now being told by desperate ConDems, that all will be fine because this year, they have £15.50 a month extra to live on.

By 2015, even if the tax income threshold has been lifted to £10,000, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that the Government’s tax and benefit reforms will see families with children see their incomes reduce by an average of 4.2% over the course of this parliament.

It means that a couple with children will actually be £1,250 a year worse off by 2015.

This is unacceptable.

And it isn’t the full story.

The Tories refusal to tackle the big 6 energy companies means they are now set to raise their energy bills by as much as 19%, meaning thousands of people will simply not be able to afford Gas and Electricity – something which is potentially deadly for the elderly.

In fact, research carried out by Consumer Focus revealed that on this Government’s watch 5.7million households are now in fuel poverty.

When you look at it like that, £28 extra a week, as of next year, whilst welcome, clearly is not a substitute for such a disproportionate hit on families and their living standards.

As the Shadow Chancellor said earlier in the year, this Government is giving a little with one hand, and taking a lot with the other hand.

And to pretend that it isn’t, Mr Speaker, is the worst kind of politics.

It is high time that the Deputy Prime Minister and the party he leads, accept responsibility for condemning the poorest families in our society to days, weeks, months and years of slog and pain just so a few Liberal Democrats can enjoy the chauffeur driven cars and the titles that come with power.

Mr Speaker, I opened my remarks by reflecting on the Queen’s historic role. It is often suggested by some deluded enough to believe it, that this Government’s decision to form a Coalition Government, will be judged by history as a decision to put the national interest above party politics.

The reality is, the sober eye of history will view this Queen’s Speech more for what was not in it, than for what was in it.

Nothing for the young unemployed.

Nothing for the families struggling to get by.

Nothing for the women, in record numbers, waiting to work.

Not even, Mr Speaker, a single mention of the word “jobs”.

The country has seen a Prime Minister and his Deputy put politics before people at a time when national leadership was needed the most.

I know, Mr Speaker, that the people of Liverpool Walton will never, ever, let them forget it.

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