Queens Speech 2014

Due to Parliamentary time restraints, I was unable to give the full speech I prepared for the debate of the Queens Speech. Please see below for the full copy of what I would have said if there had been more time. Steve McCabe MP

 

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This Queen’s Speech ought to be remembered as the last Queens Speech of our first coalition government since 1945. I confess I thought it might never happen and it’s to their credit that they’ve set aside their differences and come up with such grand coalition proposals as a Bill to levy a 5p charge on poly bags. That should certainly earn a place in history but this Queen’s Speech is more likely to be remembered by the row that overshadowed in involving the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary. Since the theme of today’s debate is health, let me say to the Education Secretary that trying to humiliate this lady could be very bad for his health. Ask the Police Federation. Maybe he should hire a retired counter terrorism officer to mind his back.

 

Of course this has always been a government built on hype. It’s been there from the beginning when they claimed that trebling tuition fees, imposing the bedroom tax and slashing public spending was all for our benefit and would result in eliminating the deficit within 5 years. Now that much heralded and rebranded long term economic plan aims to cut the deficit by the same amount as the Rt Hon Gentleman for Edinburgh South West would have achieved. What’s become long term is the prospect of continuing cuts and a deficit stretching years into the future.

We’d been led to believe that we might expect a Bill to regulate Health and Social Care Professionals but that’s absent despite, Winterbourne, the Francis Report and the latest Anglia Retirement Homes scandal.

I regret that because there’s little doubt that we do need to regulate these professions and provide greater assurance and security to patients, residents and relatives. I want to be able to tell my constituent whose elderly relative was induced to give a loan of several thousand pounds to her carer to buy a car that something will be done and that crooks like this won’t get away with it. I want to be able to tell the family of Mrs Jones that if they see the call button by the bedside disabled or find their elderly relative naked from the waist down and covered in excrement that something will be done. I want to know that the people who are doing the caring have been properly vetted and have suitable qualifications and training; are supervised and will be given the time to provide the care their patients need.

And of course I’d have liked a Queen’s Speech which admits that Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act’s been a disaster. Far from putting GPs at the heart of decision making its reduced Clinical Commissioning staff to second rate auctioneers. At a time when Simon Stevens is calling for more local and community services especially to provide care for the elderly, Section 75 requires doctors to act like used car salesmen. The way forward is to construct models that bring together statutory and voluntary services; we need the local state working alongside, churches. community groups and neighbours. Clinical Commissioning Groups should be creative and imaginative, instead they’re bound by the market dogma of this government.

On a more positive note I welcome measures to tackle modern slavery and child sexual exploitation and a modern law of neglect but since much of that may fall within my Shadow brief it probably wouldn’t be appropriate for me to say more at this stage.

And since this is Carers Week let me say I’d have welcomed a law that recognises the rights and needs of some of the users of health and +-care services. That empowers them so that Joint Commissioning bodies aren’t allowed to close down respite care facilities because accountants advise them it’s an easy saving. I’m battling to protect the Kingswood Bungalows in my constituency, a purpose built facility less than 15 years old, but targeted by those whose priority is to manage the books not the interests of patients.

Or the gentleman with severe autism who has lived in a specialist autism community for over 17 years. It’s his home but just as we’ve seen the crass contempt for people’s needs with the bedroom tax, so we’re seeing people threatened with eviction because the accountants and the joint commissioning administrators think they’ve found a way to save a few quid. They never find any savings in their own jobs but have no problem treating people like commodities. I’d have liked some legislation to regulate and enforce action against those who look after their own interests while wrecking the lives of others

I welcome promises to raise the number of apprenticeships because if we want to identify one issue which threatens the health and wellbeing of a generation it is the spectre of unemployment and the denial of a future for our young people. But how many will be real apprenticeships targeted on those age 16-19. As with every other bit of hype and sleight of hand, too many of the current apprenticeships actually go to those over 25 and are often just an existing job that’s been redesignated. This is after all the government that thinks it can send a young graduate, already engaged in productive voluntary work, to Poundland to learn how to stack shelves.

A Bill promising proper training, relevant qualifications, a chance to build up a portfolio of skills, real employment opportunities and the full engagement of employers, that’s what young people need. If we’re living in the age of micro business, self and portfolio employment, then let’s give them the training that allows them to make a go of these things rather than leaving them to be ripped off and exploited.

 

Higher penalties for those who deliberately evade paying the minimum wage are welcome. They’re cheating us all. We all pay with the additional costs of benefits, charity and health care when those they are exploiting collapse under the strain. And they’re using immigration by targeting those from Eastern Europe and elsewhere to work in their latter day sweat shops. But higher penalties will only work if they are accompanied by a new enthusiasm for enforcement and the government’s record in this area is lamentable.

I will look at the Zero Hours proposals with interests. I can’t believe there are 1.4 million people on these contracts because it’s convenient and fits their lifestyle. Their growth in the last few years speaks loud and clear about the priorities of this govt. This kind of exploitation causes illness and mental health breakdowns. . It can’t be an accident that the third largest category of Foodbank users in Selly Oak are people who are actually working but in low paid jobs and on zero hours contracts.

 

We need to know what else they’ve cobbled together in this final package. What is the Social Action, Heroism and Responsibility Bill designed to achieve. People won’t be fooled if these brave words turn out to a govt con designed to water down legitimate Health and Safety legislation.

And on fracking, I’m not able to satisfy those implacably opposed to shale gas exploration. At a time when energy security and energy costs are so important it may have a role to play but I fear that as with all that’s gone before, once again we’re being driven by government hype rather than facts. Only recently a number of leading geologists suggested that it might be more difficult to get it out of the ground than we think and the idea that it’s got to be shale gas versus renewables or biogas strikes me as absurd. It highlights the kind of ideological obsession which regularly side-tracks this government. If it isn’t terrorists in the classroom, it’s subversive environmentalists on their own land. And exactly when did Tory MPs convert to the idea that it’s OK to commander someone else’s land? The Infrastructure and Planning Bill should be about protections. Why is it only the applicants who can appeal against planning decisions? Why aren’t my constituents; surrounded as they are by dodgy landlords, building extensions day and night, irrespective of planning approvals why aren’t they offered some protection and some guarantees of enforcement action? We need a balanced set of planning arrangements not just a Bill for the mining companies. And what happens if there are health consequences as a result of fracking? Who will be held responsible, the land owner or the mining group? Or are we heading for one of those big black holes where nobody has to take responsibility no matter what the damage? We need to treat the health concerns associated with fracking seriously and we need to look at the Infrastructure and Planning Bill with great care.

So this is another missed opportunity from the Zombie government. A last chance to show a bit of fairness and consideration for those less fortunate. A chance to champion the needs of the elderly, young people and the disabled. Sadly none of it’s to be found in this Queen’s Speech.

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