Below is the text of the speech made by Helen Jones, the Labour MP for Warrington North, in the House of Commons on 16 January 2019.
I rise to support the motion not simply because the Government have made a mess of Brexit, although they have, but because of the damage that they have inflicted on people in constituencies such as mine and to the fabric of our society. Both those things are linked in the character of the Prime Minister, who is so narrow in outlook that she could not reach out across this House to get a Brexit deal that we could all support. Instead, she chose to draw red lines to appease the extremists on her own Back Benches. She talks of the national interest but, in fact, she acts in her own interest of retaining power. Just as she cannot see further than that, she is unable to appreciate the circumstances in which many of our fellow citizens live.
There are people in constituencies such as mine who go out to work every day of their life and are still having to go to food banks to feed their children, because they earn so little or because they are on zero-hours contracts. We see others, too, every week in our surgeries. Elderly people who have worked all their life cannot get the social care they deserve in their old age. A lady came to see me recently who cares for a sick husband, who has now taken on the care of her two grandchildren, both incredibly damaged in their early lives, and who is now denied the adaptations she needs for her home as there is no money left because local government funding has been cut so much. Another lady I have seen is a victim of domestic violence, and she has been asked to take on her two children because it was feared that her former partner was now abusing them. She did, but she is now trapped in a one-bedroom flat because of the scarcity of affordable social housing.
These are not the shirkers and the shysters of Tory imagination; these are people who are doing the right thing and going out to work every day to earn their poverty. That has come about not by incompetence—I could probably forgive the Government for being incompetent—but as a result of the deliberate policy of cutting back the services on which so many people in our society depend. The Government boast of spending record amounts on schools, but that is because there are more pupils. In fact, they have cut spending on pupils by 8%, and by 25% in sixth forms. And who suffers? Those who depend on state education.
Who suffers from the lack of affordable housing? Children who are trapped in unsuitable accommodation and who can neither study to improve their prospects nor even grow up healthy. The Government accuse the Labour party of putting a burden on people’s future, but the burden is due to what the Government are causing now—the lack of opportunities. There is a lack of opportunity to get a decent education, to grow up properly and to make the best of life. That is due to the Government’s constant attack on public services.
The Government loaded nurses with the burden of debt when they abolished bursaries. They chose to wage war on junior doctors. They sacked thousands of police officers, prison officers and police community support officers. This was a deliberate policy, and it is not just individuals whom the Government target but whole regions of this country.
Only a Government who do not care about the north could wash their hands of the chaos that is Northern rail. Only a Government who do not care about the north could maintain a system of local government finance that imposes the biggest cuts on the poorest local authorities, mostly in the north. Then they tell them to raise the precepts without knowing that in the north-west 42% of properties are in band A and in Surrey 75% of properties are in band D or above. Local authorities in the north cannot raise the same amount of money on the same rise in council tax. Spending has been totally divorced from need.
I have no confidence in this Government not just because they are incompetent but because they have no confidence and no faith in the people of this country.