Margaret Greenwood – 2022 Speech on the Cost of Living Crisis

The speech made by Margaret Greenwood, the Labour MP for Wirral West, in the House of Commons on 17 May 2022.

This morning, it was reported that a poll carried out on behalf of the Royal College of Physicians found that more than half of people surveyed had seen their health deteriorate as a result of the cost of living crisis. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has said that more than a quarter of a million households will slide into destitution next year, taking the total number in extreme poverty to around 1.2 million unless the Government act to help the poorest families.

The Government should never have cut universal credit by £20 a week and taken away support from the people who need it most. They could have used the Queen’s Speech to come forward with greater support for people facing rising bills—support funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies. Why did they not? They say that helping people into work is the best approach in the long term to managing the cost of living, but the long-promised employment Bill is nowhere to be seen, and there is no ban on fire and rehire, which leaves people vulnerable to poverty and exploitation through insecure work.

The Government say that they want to

“Spread opportunities and improve public services”,

but how can such a claim be taken seriously when they have inflicted devastating cuts on local authorities such as Wirral Council since 2010? People in Wirral West know exactly what Conservative Government policies lead to: the closure of vital services. The future of Woodchurch leisure centre and the libraries in Hoylake, Irby, Pensby and Woodchurch hang in the balance; they are dependent on local people taking over their running. If the Government were serious about levelling up, they would fund local councils properly.

If the Government are to spread opportunity, they must take action to address the crisis in adult literacy. The National Literacy Trust estimates that there are more than 7 million adults in England with very poor literacy skills. People who struggle to read and write can face great hardship in life. They can experience difficulty in securing housing, dealing with utility companies and managing financial affairs, and they can struggle to find secure, well-paid work. The Government cannot say they are levelling up the UK without addressing this crisis.

The Government had the opportunity in the Queen’s Speech to commit to banning conversion therapy, but they have fallen short by not providing for forthcoming legislation to apply to trans people. The British Medical Association has described conversion therapy as an

“unethical and damaging practice that preys on victims of homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, and bullying.”

It should be banned.

Finally, I turn to the environment and climate emergency. The Government should be taking decisive action against dirty fossil fuels, and it is extremely disappointing that they have not brought forward measures to ban fracking and underground coal gasification. These risky technologies are detrimental to our fight against climate change. They should be banned.