See my contribution to the Parliamentary debate on living standards which was held on 5 March.
Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): I have been a Member of Parliament for just over a year now, during which time I have seen the significant impact of this Government’s devastating and detrimental economic policies in my constituency. The flatlining economy has led to a 15-year high in unemployment in Oldham with over 8,000 people out of work across the borough and 12 people chasing every job. The number of women out of work is the highest since 1995, and youth unemployment is well above the regional and national averages.
Young people at Oldham sixth form college, which I visited on Friday, are devastated about their future. The cut in education maintenance allowance is preventing many of them from taking college courses, and because of the trebling of tuition fees, they do not know whether they can go on to university. Given the lack of available jobs, things are looking dire for them.
Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): I congratulate the hon. Lady on her first year in Parliament. In my view, the unemployment figure is the key statistic. Today the British Chambers of Commerce announced that it was likely to reach 3 million by the end of the year. Will that not have a hugely detrimental effect on living standards?
Debbie Abrahams: It will indeed. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. It is not just our young people who are suffering as a result of the Government’s economic mismanagement. Last month, Oldham’s first borough-wide food bank was set up to help struggling residents who are finding themselves in desperate economic conditions—not just homeless people, but people in work.
My constituents are being squeezed every which way, experiencing increases in outgoings as a result of higher energy costs and food prices while the incomes of most people—unless they are bankers—remain the same. As we have heard, the Halifax and Royal Bank of Scotland are raising their standard variable mortgage rates, which will mean increasing problems with repossessions. We have already discussed the working tax credit changes that will affect 650 families and 1,500 children in my constituency.
These are ideologically driven cuts that reflect the Government’s desire for a United States-style welfare system. Health care is not the only welfare pillar under threat. The Government’s skilful media machine hoped that using the language of the blitz—a time when people were literally “all in it together”, accepting rationing of food and fuel regardless of where they were on the social spectrum—would whip up nostalgia and reassure people that the protective safety net in which we all invest through our taxes and national insurance, and to which we all have access if we need it, would keep them safe. Well, it is not doing so.
You can read the entire debate on the parliamentary website here.