A fortnight ago, the Minister for Work was rolled around the television studios to give us his progress report on how well the government was doing in getting our country back to work
15 months after the end of the recession, the house could be forgiven for expecting that unemployment would be coming down
Yet at the very point at which unemployment should be falling, he was forced to report that unemployment was actually going up
The minister decided to choose his words carefully
The jobs market he confessed was ‘stabilising’
Well last week it was left to the chancellor to tell us that it was nothing of the sort
He did not dare spell it out, but in the fine print of the budget we learned the truth
This is not even the beginning of the end
The Chancellor’s first year of office has gone so well, that unemployment, which should be going down is now set to continue rising until the summer
It is not expected to fall below 2.5million until half way through next year
And now we face the prospect that unemployment will not fall below two million for the rest of the parliament.
What a confession of shame
Yet for those with long memories, it is a record that is all too familiar.
The last time the Tory party was in office, it took but a couple of years for unemployment to reach two million.
It then did not fall below that point for the next 18 years –
Not until the labour party was elected to office in 1997
Now the government has decided that record is worth a re-run, a repeat
Because of course there is one thing that has not changed…
Just like the 1980s, the party opposite believes that unemployment is a price worth paying
In the circumstances, I think the house was expecting to hear rather more about what this budget was going to do to get people back to work
The OBR was fully aware of the DWP’s much trumpeted work programme
It was fully aware of the tax breaks that the chancellors had on offer for business
Yet, the conclusion it drew was the cold truth: unemployment rising:
Every time this chancellor now stands up at the dispatch box to deliver a budget he revises down his forecasts for growth and revises up his estimate of the number of people to be unemployed
He is costing this country a fortune
Under labour’s plan the treasury was forecasting
- 250k fewer people on the claimant count
- And 200k fewer people on the dole by the end of the parliament
What then did the budget offer for jobs?
Incredibly, it said that unemployment by the first quarter of 2013, would be 200,000 higher than forecast just last October
What a triumph
Under the circumstances, we might have expected a major new push to get people back to work
After all, this the told the Select Committee on 14th march
Chris Grayling: if there was a very substantial change in the labour market, one way or the other, frankly, that is the kind of circumstance in which we might need to revisit some of [our] the assumptions.
Well, 200 000 more unemployed sounds like a very substantial change to me
So what was the government’s response?
£20m this year for work experience
I had a look at his department’s accounts for January this morning
Mr Speaker, his new work placement programme this year costs less than his department spends on stationery
At the very least we would have expected more resources for the work programme;
The prime minister is fond of telling us that the work programme ‘is the biggest back to work programme this country has seen since the 1930s’ [16 feb 2011]
In fact as the BBC have shown it has 250,000 less places available than the welfare to work programmes Labour had in place last year when unemployment was lower than it is today
The association of bidders for the programme has so much confidence in the govt’s plan that it says
“the design of the work programme is fraught with risks which may impact significantly on the number of unemployed people who can benefit from it”
Yet when my Honourable Friend the Member for Westminster North, asked the Secretary of State yesterday how much extra he had got from the Treasury to get people back to work, the Secretary of State refused to give the house a straight answer
I think we all know what that means – he asked for nothing – and he got nothing
With unemployment forecast to rise, the least we could expect was the Secretary of State to stand up for his department, to fight his corner and secure extra help to get this country back to work
Instead, we have the blasé meets the reckless – and the dole queues simply get longer
Yet, worst of all is the cost of this neglect for our young people
This morning I met a delegation of young people from my constituency
I asked them what they thought of the government’s plans
They said; ‘it seems the government is just stopping young people from being what they could be’
I couldn’t put it better myself
Youth unemployment is now approaching a million
The Secretary of State likes to pretend that somehow this was a problem that he inherited
He fails to remind us that in labour’s final 9 months of office, youth unemployment was falling – by some 67,000
I know that he is fondest of figures that don’t include young people in education
Let’s see what these figures tell us
Since the election what has happened?
It has risen by 60,000
And that is while the economy is growing
All the good work, completely undone
Every job lost is a tragedy for one family – yet all the jobs lost is a tragedy for our country
Not only does it mean that our performance as a country cannot match our real potential but it creates a bill that all of us have to pay
The Governor of the Bank of England has warned us of what is to come
He says it’s the biggest squeeze on living standards since the 1930s
Because this govt’s economic plan is creating so few jobs, there is little demand for workers
Now there are five people chasing every job, the growth in peoples’ wages, in peoples’ pay-packets is slow
The OBR forecasts 2.0% earnings growth this year, rising to 2.2% next year
But when prices are growing by 5.1% and 3.6% the squeeze on family budgets is all too obvious [wages don’t rise faster than prices for another 2 years]
In the circumstances, you might have thought the sos would step in to help
Not a bit of it
Starting next month, Ten Tory raids on the family budget get into full swing; tax credits cut for families earning more than £40,000; tougher criteria on families wanting to claim family support; reducing the income disregard; freezing basic rates of working tax credit; removing the baby element of child tax credit; reducing payable costs of child care; abolition of grants for pregnant mums; £500 taken away from families with more than one child; child benefit increases ruled out for another three years; and cancelling the child savings accounts.
The government is proud of some of the measures foisted upon it by the Liberal Democrats
But even once you take those into account, £1.1 billion is going to be stripped from family budgets this year
With another £305 million net coming from children
By the end of the parliament it will total £16.4 billion in total by the end of the parliament
Why isn’t the government doing more to help?
Because the cost of economic failure is soaring through the roof
In the detail of the budget book we learned just how big that bill has now become
Last week, the chancellor snuck out in the small print of his budget the fact that the social security bill – it’s there on page 126 – is to rise by £12.6 billion over the course of this parliament.
That is £500 for every household in the country
Almost as shocking is what has happened to the unemployment bill
When the chancellor came to the house last November, somehow he forgot to tell us that his higher unemployment figures would put up the dole bill by £700m
Now we learn it goes up again: up by £1.9 billion this year
In other words this government has put the unemployment bill up by £2.6bn
What an indictment of this government’s record
That £2.6 billion is the same amount he is cutting tax credits for people with children
He is cutting support for our children to pay the cost of his failure to get Britain back to work.
What does that mean for the average British family
Single earner/ one child
Well, if you’re a single earner family, with one child on £23,000/ year, you’ll lose £411/ year
Households with childcare costs get hit even harder
In fact, a family with average childcare costs is going to lose £492/year
And for some it will be even worse
A single earner on the minimum wage with two kids is going to lose over £2,091 a year – that’s 6 and half percent of their income
Even for low earners, any gains they make in income tax and child tax credit are wiped out by the vat rise
He is squeezing Britain’s families harder than ever to pay for his failure to get our country back to work
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Finally, Mr Speaker, we come to the question of what this budget means for some of the most vulnerable people in our country
For the people who need the help of the wider community
For those who need extra support in order to live out a full life in this country which still today is the world’s fifth biggest economy
I know that like me, he believes that in a country as rich as Britain is in the world, we should have high standards, not low standards of civilisation and compassion
Yet the chancellor is pressing ahead with measures that will deny people their independence
The question this house has of him, is what is he going to do to stop him;
Yesterday, the Secretary of State told the house that after his review of DLA was complete;
‘the mobility component that is required for people in care homes will exist’
Yet he cannot explain why the chancellor announced he was taking £400m more out of the mobility component than previously planned
Second, the budget confirmed his plans to press ahead with the abolition of DLA
Let me repeat what i said in the second reading debate
We support the reform – not its abolition
No matter how he tries to dress it up, his goal is to remove £2.9 billion from the budget for DLA
Cut first – reform later
Now by the final year of the parliament he expects his dla cuts to amount to £1.4billion
In an answer to me, on 7th march, his says that he expects the caseload to fall by 170,000
That would mean, 170,000 people losing £8,500/ year
Can he not understand why people are so worried
Worse are his plans to limit esa to just one year
The budget confirmed his ambition to save some £3.5 billion from the cut
Yet he knows as well as i do that if you are recovering from cancer it is quite possible that you will not have recovered within a year
Are we really saying to these people that at one of the most vulnerable points of their life, we are going to cut their family budget by [£96] a week?
Surely he should listen to those 30 cancer charities which written to the secretary of state urging him to think again
His own department’s statistics show 75% of cancer patients still need esa after one year.
The charities message was blunt;
“this proposal” they say ‘rather than creating an incentive to work, will lead to many cancer patients losing their esa simply because they have not recovered quickly enough.
Surely that can’t be right
So here we have Mr Speaker, a budget that
Puts more people out of work
That fails to deliver on the ambitions of our young people
That hits families harder than ever to pay the bills of economic failure
And which begins to endanger the contract of a proud and civilised country with the most people who need the most help
That isn’t a big society; it is a society in which the bonds which tie us are stretched to breaking point
This is a budget that is hurting and not working and this government needs to think again.