Updates from Westminster - 20/05/16

THE QUEEN'S SPEACH

Whatever claims David Cameron is trying to make about the Queen’s Speech he can’t hide from the truth. The record of his Tory Government is one of undermining social justice and standing up for the wrong people and this Queen’s Speech showed no sign of a different approach. 

Under Jeremy Hunt the NHS is falling into crisis. Tory cuts to social care are piling even more pressure onto our NHS. Patients are suffering longer waits with over three million people on the English waiting list. It is harder to see your GP, and hospitals are understaffed and facing financial crisis. 

Under George Osbourne the economy is fragile. He has failed to address the fundamental weaknesses in our economy: productivity, lack of investment in skills and infrastructure. He has failed to support key industries like construction and manufacturing, and failed to tackle regional inequalities.

Under David Cameron the housing crisis is showing no signs of improvement. In fact it is getting worse. Rents are soaring, home ownership is falling every year, and house-building is at its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s.

Labour’s fresh approach would be to deliver a Queen’s Speech which builds an economy that works for all and protects the public services we rely on. An economy that delivers prosperity and security not just for those at the top. We would get the deficit down fairly and invest to create a modern economy that delivers long term growth. Our Queen’s Speech would have at its heart the NHS, plans to invest and join up services from home to hospital with a properly integrated health and social care service. It would address the housing crisis and show how we would support working people by investing in new affordable homes to rent and buy. 

TORY PRICE TAG ON EDUCATION 

This Queen’s Speech has confirmed what young people feared. After trebling tuition fees to £9,000 a year, the Tories are set to increase them again. Measures announced in the Speech would allow Universities in England to increase tuition fees above £9,000 from autumn 2017, if they have high-quality teaching.

Students today are in more debt than ever, and with this new announcement alongside plans to scrap maintenance grants, the Tories are putting an unfair price tag on education.

If fees climb even higher, young people wanting to go to university would be saddled with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt. While the Tories would see young people in a lifetime of debt, Labour would take a different approach.  

When this issue is debated in Parliament the Labour Party will oppose the Government’s plans. But we are not waiting until then to take action. We have just launched The Tory Price Tag campaign calling on the Government to scrap their plans. With tax credits, Sunday trading hours, disability benefits and trade unions rights the Labour Party have already forced the Tories into major U-turns. With your help we can do it again. Sign our petition at thetorypricetag.com and share and use hashtag #ToryPriceTag to put as much pressure on the Government as possible.  

We also heard that the Tories want to make it easier for new providers to award degrees and open new universities. However there are some real issues with this plan that need be addressed. Allowing the rapid expansion of universities without strong safeguards could be potentially very dangerous and undermine the reputation for excellence of UK universities.

The Government’s plans for higher education will fail young people. This is a tax on learning and the Tories will get no support from our benches as they push ahead with these plans.  

TORY PRISON REFORM FALLS WOEFULLY SHORT 

The Prison Reform Bill, which was the centrepiece of the Queen’s Speech, is already unravelling, with major questions about how effective these proposals will be. 

Labour wants a justice system which puts public safety first, bears down on crime and protects victims. So proposals to give prison governors more autonomy and an increased focus on rehabilitation and prisoner education are welcome.

But as they stand the Government’s plan is just a distraction that will not solve key problems of overcrowding and underfunding. In order to cut re-offending and truly reform the prison estate, the Government must deal with the chronic problems of understaffing and overcrowding that has developed on their watch. Nothing in these proposals addresses these priorities.

To date, the Tories have failed to deliver the prison system we need. Prisons are out of control with overcrowding, assaults on officers and drug abuse all increasing on a year by year basis, while use of the prison riot squad has surged to more than once a day. This package of proposals is just tinkering at the edges. More needs to be done to deliver the prison system we need. 

 

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