The speech made by Ian Lavery, the Labour MP for Wansbeck, in the House of Commons on 17 May 2022.
The debate today has been really interesting. We have to realise that this is one of the richest countries on the planet and that we have got finances; it is about how we decide to distribute the wealth of this nation. If we cannot help the poorest and the people who are suffering greatly in this cost of living crisis, we are doing something sadly wrong.
As MPs, we are here to represent individuals in our constituencies. We should not need detailed reports, professors, experts or anyone else to tell us that poverty is rife in the communities and constituencies that we represent. As MPs, we should understand that—unless I am alone. I see it in my constituency. I see that people are malnourished. There are people, including kids, in this wonderful country of ours who are suffering from malnutrition. We have record levels of kids now with rickets. Howay—this is the UK, one of the richest countries on the planet. As has been said, we have people missing meals to feed their kids and 2.5 million people are now using food banks. For heaven’s sake!
I will tell you what is new in my constituency, Madam Deputy Speaker: there has been a rise in crime and shoplifting. People who are desperate to keep their kids clean are stealing sanitary products and soap powder. It is an absolute outrage—and it is not good enough to say that the support is there, mind. It is not good enough for the Government to abdicate their responsibility, say, “We’ve done this and that”, and talk about a £150 pay-as-you-go loan for electricity. They are abdicating their responsibility for the people who are most in need.
This fella Bernard Looney, the chief executive of one of the richest companies on the planet, has basically done everything but take barrowloads of money to the Treasury and tip it into the hall. He is saying he is happy to have a windfall tax. Can Members imagine what a difference that could make to the people we are talking about today?
By the way, it is no good telling me, “It’s okay—you can make a meal for 30p so you should be all right.” It is no good telling me that the way for people to get over the cost of living crisis is to find a new job somewhere, like the people who have been fired and rehired. It is no good telling me that people should be working two or three jobs so that things will be okay.
We have to start addressing the situation. The Tories—the Conservative Government—cannot continue to turn a blind eye. They cannot continue to walk by on the other side while people are suffering greatly. We need to level up and we need to be truthful. We need to level up with the truth and to be compassionate, honest and decent as politicians. We should be acting to support the millions out there who need absolutely every single ha’penny this Government can provide.