WHY I HAVE NO CONFIDENCE IN THE GOVERNMENT
Last night the Prime Minister brought her Brexit deal back to the House of Commons where it was defeated by 230 votes – an embarrassing defeat for a Prime Minister who has wasted the past two years. After David Cameron ran away, Theresa May had the opportunity to bring our country together, to unite those who voted Leave and Remain and those who chose not to vote. She chose not to do this and pursued a narrow interpretation and pitched people against each other.
Brexit is the single biggest political issue of our generation and it is clear to me that the Prime Minister has got it wrong. But it is not just on Brexit that I don’t have confidence in her to run our country. Poverty is on the rise, our NHS is in crisis, housing is unaffordable for far too many, teachers are leaving the profession and we don’t get our fair share of funding for our public services in the far south west.
That is why Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has triggered a vote of no confidence – to force a general election and ask the people to elect a new Government. This is the duty of the Opposition and in normal times the PM would have stood down or called an election herself. We don’t live in normal times though and that is why Labour is seeking to force a General Election. Whether one is available will soon become clear, but I wanted to set out why I have no confidence in this Government and why I want a General Election to elect a new Government.
FAILING ON BREXIT
The agreement that the Prime Minister has reached with the EU fails to deliver a Brexit that our country needs, or that Parliament can support. It breaches the Government’s own red lines and does not match the promises of the Leave campaign. The Government was found in contempt of Parliament for the first time in 200 years for refusing to publish legal advice that confirms we will not agree a free trade deal for years to come at the same time as losing the trade deals that comes with our EU membership. Both Leavers and Remainers in Plymouth have asked me to vote against this deal and that is what I did.
Plymouth is being harmed by the Government’s handling of Brexit. Last month, Barden announced their site was closing after 50 years in Plymouth and Brexit was one of the reasons why. The Prime Minister’s botched deal and this climate of uncertainty risks driving high skilled jobs out of our city. The deal will create more uncertainty as we hand powers and money over to the EU and we lose the say we currently have. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, this not what anyone in Plymouth voted for. It is a bad deal and we should not accept a deal poorer than we have now as full members of the EU.
FAILING ON UNIVERSAL CREDIT
Every day, I receive letters and emails from people in Plymouth worried about the Government’s disastrous Universal Credit policy, especially after the Government finally admitted it will leave “some people worse off” than before. In the case of low-income working families, the Resolution Foundation says a huge 3.2 million households will be an average £1,800 a year worse off. Locally, Citizens Advice analysis suggests that more than 32,000 families in Plymouth will be receiving UC by 2022. That’s one in five households. While some people are doing well on this new benefit, far too many are falling into poverty directly because of Universal Credit. The Government has failed put forward a credible plan to fix our benefits system and is callously pushing forward a policy causing genuine pain and misery. Soundbites and endorsements in favour of UC will not change the reality for far too many people in Plymouth who are fearful of UC and living with the consequences of the five-week wait.
FAILING ON THE NHS
Our NHS is in crisis. Waiting lists are going up and social care is in crisis. This is not because NHS staff and those in social care are not working hard enough – they are working themselves into the ground. Tory privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS is causing real distress to patients. Scrapping NHS nursing bursaries has caused a crisis in recruitment and there are vacancies across the country in the NHS. Despite the promises and the soundbites, the Conservatives are failing our NHS and putting patients at risk. It’s time to fund the NHS properly and end privatisation and the fragmentation of our health service introduced by this Government.
FAILING OUR ARMED FORCES
Since 2010, defence cuts and the threat of further cuts have created massive uncertainty for our proud armed forces community. While we are pleased the new Type 26 Frigates will be based in Devonport, we had to wage a yearlong hard-fought campaign to save Devonport-based HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark from the axe and have had no certainty since on the future basing of the Royal Marines after they leave Stonehouse Barracks. Sadly, the Tories did not listen to Plymouth and they sold the Royal Navy flagship, HMS Ocean, to Brazil.
The long-delayed Modernising Defence Program was 28 pages of waffle. We have a Defence Secretary who talks about using tractors as tanks and firing paintball guns at Spanish warships and the latest annual armed forces continuous attitude survey suggests a significant drop in morale. This Government is trying to keep our country safe on the cheap and it is not working.
We need certainty for our Royal Marines about where they will be based instead of more uncertainty. We need our armed forces paid a decent wage and not the real terms cut in wages they have had since 2010. We need better defence housing giving forces families and our armed forces a decent place to live. We need to end privatisation of armed forces recruitment. We need a different approach that values and supports our veterans and address, in particular, mental health concerns.
FAILING OUR SCHOOLS
This Government values Plymouth’s children less than those in the rest of the country. We have one of the lowest per head education spend in the country, with our children worth £415 less per child than children in London, and £300 less per child than the national average. The Plymouth education system is underfunded by approximately £11m and the city continues to fall below national average for academic performance. In London, 9/10 children go to a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school, while for children in Plymouth it is only 5/10. Class sizes have increased, teaching assistants have been sacked, and cuts have equipped for children with special educational needs and mental health concerns. This Government has denied children in Plymouth an equal opportunity to succeed. This Government is failing on education.
FAILING ON TRANSPORT
Year after year, the far south west receives a bad deal for transport funding and this Government has done nothing to change the levels of historic underinvestment. The Great Western Mainline is our one and only train line in the region but time and time again storms at Dawlish have cut off our region from the rest of the UK – hitting investment, jobs and our reputation. Despite renewed claims to be the Transport Secretary’s “number one priority” no new funding has been announced. We need better road, rail and air links into Plymouth. This Government has dragged its feet for too long. Labour has pledged £2.5bn to upgrade our railway but this Government has found nothing close for our region while they pour billions into HS2 and new Undergound lines in London. Awarding ferry contracts to a company without ships, presiding over rail timetable chaos and the East Coast mainline fiasco. This Government is failing us on transport.
FAILING ON TOWER BLOCKS
After the Grenfell Tower tragedy the Government had the chance to ensure a fire like that would never happen again by funding the replacement of combustible cladding on every tower block in the country. For nearly a year after the blaze in London I argued for funding for Devonport’s three tower blocks. Ministers refused and refused and refused again. We eventually won our campaign to get this funding but it should not have taken so long. Ministers should have acted earlier to ensure that everyone in a tower block can sleep safely at night. Ministers have not listened properly to the concerns of the survivors of Grenfell Tower and they are not listening to people in the Mount Wise Tower Blocks.
FAILING ON POLICE
Brexit has taken this Government’s eye off the ball when it comes to keeping people safe. Hate is on the rise and crime is going up in our region because the Government has failed to properly fund our police. Since 2010, the Devon and Cornwall police have lost 626 officers and PCSOs despite a promise to protect the frontline. They are failing communities by raising council tax to put a plaster on the massive wounds inflicted by their spending cuts. People in Plymouth are paying more for less.
FAILING THE ENVIRONMENT
Coastal communities like Plymouth are on the frontline of climate change. We face rising sea levels and more changeable weather. This Government has not taken any meaningful steps to adjust the way we run our economy and invest in low-carbon technology. There have failed to act on air pollution and mass exports of plastics but given fracking and the badger cull a green light. We are still waiting on Government backing to turn Plymouth Sound in the UK’s first National Marine Park which would transform the way the public interact with our oceans. By cutting subsidy for renewable energy, by refusing to back tidal lagoons and by dithering as they are on course to miss future carbon budgets, this Government has shown that it is not delivering on climate change.
I have lost confidence in this Government and its ability to rule. People in Plymouth know that we don’t get our fair share of funding and that is because Ministers have decided not to fund us properly. Other regions get a better deal than us and it is time to call that out.
Brexit has highlighted how weak this Government. Brexit has highlighted how broken our politics is. But Brexit is not the only crisis in our country. I have set out here the very real and genuine concerns I hear from the people I represent about this Government’s handling of our public services. I have no confidence in the Prime Minister and no confidence in this Government and as such I will be voting for a General Election. If no election is available then I will be keeping pressure on the Government to do the right thing on public services and on Brexit will ensure that all options are on the table including a public vote with remain as an option.
I would like to hear from the people I represent about your views about this Government. Please get in touch.
Luke Pollard MP
Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport