Catherine Speaking
Catherine Speaking

“This is a thin Queen’s Speech that fails to grasp the nettle of the challenges we face and is an example of a Government short on ideas and low on energy. While President Biden is demonstrating bold policies in the US, lighting the way for a green-focused recovery with investment in new industries, technology and research and development, this Government are tinkering around the edges, with 11 years of austerity leaving the country unprepared and underfunded to deal with the pandemic. We need transformative action to ensure that our economy works for the whole country. I want to focus on two issues: green jobs and a sustainable social care sector.

We all know that we have less than a decade to make the bold changes demanded by the UN’s climate body to limit temperature rises, but this Queen’s Speech is bereft of any programmes or resource allocation to implement the green jobs plan we need to meet the target. In fact, the Government completely scrapped their only green jobs scheme, the green homes grant, after it was outsourced to a private American firm which botched the roll-out. Ministers will trumpet the newly announced national infrastructure bank, which we have been calling for for a long time now, but the Office for Budget Responsibility has said that the new bank will provide less than half the funding we used to receive from the European Investment Bank and offer a fraction of the funding recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission to tackle the climate emergency.

With an ageing population, the social care sector is vital to our social and economic health. Successive Conservative Governments have starved local authority budgets by £8 billion in real terms since 2010. We now have a welfare state in the 2020s built on the life expectancy of the 1940s. With the unlocking of society, now must be the time to deal with the social care challenge, not the time to kick it into the long grass. When he entered office in 2019, the Prime Minister promised on the steps of Downing Street that the Government would fix social care. Instead, we have the wet proposal in the Queen’s Speech. This failure has a real impact every single day in constituencies such as mine, with undervalued and poorly paid social care workers, no security or protection for residents from questionable care home owners, and families worried sick about the quality of care of elderly and disabled family members.

It does not have to be like this. We need to tackle unemployment with a new jobs promise; we need a 10-year plan for investment and reform to provide security as we emerge from covid; and we need green investment to be brought forward to create 400,000 jobs. A better future is possible—somewhere we can feel proud to grow up in and safe to grow old in—but it will not happen with the Government’s lack of a comprehensive plan for green jobs and a sustainable care sector. After the pandemic we have been through, this is the least we can expect.”

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