The speech made by Gerald Jones, the Labour MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, in the House of Commons on 21 July 2022.
I, too, pay tribute to Sir David Amess for the work that he did in Parliament. I hope that our Parliament continues to do justice to his memory.
I wish to continue in the vein of the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) as we approach the summer recess. I am sure that during the recess many Members will reflect on the Government’s performance. Time will not permit me to go into great detail, but I would like to cover one or two key points that are causing much frustration not only to me and my staff but, I am sure, to many other Members in the House.
A key priority for all Members of this House is dealing with constituency casework on behalf of the people we serve. Over the past few years, our country has faced the most difficult of times and my office, like those of many others, has seen a considerable increase in the numbers of people seeking assistance. Delays in responses really hamper our work and cause frustration for our staff. From delays at the Passport Office to long waits for driving tests, backlog Britain reaches far and wide. Indeed, the delays have now spread to Ministers’ private offices, with considerable delays across multiple Government Departments.
In one urgent case, I waited 59 working days for a reply from the Department for Work and Pensions; in another, I waited 58 working days for a response from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. One constituent has suffered as a result of an error at the DWP whereby his details were mistaken with those of a family member. His benefits have been stopped and attempts to resolve matters have been unsuccessful. I wrote to the Secretary of State on 23 May and am still awaiting a response. I have even resorted to using parliamentary questions to try to break the logjam.
Such delays are on top of the eye-watering delays at Her Majesty’s Passport Office, UK Visas and Immigration and the DVLA. The excessive waiting times across multiple Departments not only add to the backlog and the frustration of the British people but could be seen to impede the work of Members of Parliament. Many Members have consistently raised the delays, and have done so more frequently in recent months. I have raised the issue, too, and hope that the Deputy Leader of the House agrees that they are unacceptable. If so, when he responds, will he outline what action the Government could take to address such disrespectful behaviour? If he would take a suggestion from the Opposition Benches, I would say that the wrong-headed decision to sack 91,000 hard-working civil servants will only exacerbate the incredible delays.
In the time I have left to speak, I wish to raise one more issue, which is HS2. The Government have designated the scheme as an England and Wales project, even though it has no positive impact for Wales. In fact, the evidence suggests it has a negative impact. Designating it as an England and Wales scheme means that Wales is not entitled to consequential funding, which in this case could be as much as £4.2 billion. The cross-party Welsh Affairs Committee and the leader of the Welsh Conservatives have also raised this issue. I have to ask how anyone in Government can continue to justify this position, which is surely untenable. I hope the Deputy Leader of the House can offer some positive comments this afternoon.