However, my discussions with 2,500 constituents on the doorstep in the past month have shown me that people have not given up. Civil society is helping to fill

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the yawning gaps that this Government are leaving—for example, with the explosion in the use of food banks. They need and deserve a Government who are listening, have a plan for change and are in touch with their lives.

Just as it was Labour in opposition in 1945, 1964, 1974 and 1997 that offered hope that Britain could be better, so it falls to Labour Members now to speak up for the millions of ordinary people who yearn for change and yearn for them to be their voice. In this debate, let us be the voice for the 1.4 million people in this country, including the 120,000 in Scotland, who work part time but need full-time work because of declining wages. Let us be the voice for the tens of thousands of young people suffering for years on end from mass unemployment whom I have encountered in my constituency in the past few months. Let us be the voice for the low-paid and low-skilled workers who need a workplace skills revolution to boost their wages now and to secure greater prospects for the future. Let us be the voice for the 5 million people in this country who go to work and do the right thing, but take home less than the living wage—working longer and longer hours, but finding less and less to show for it.

Mr Steve Reed: My hon. Friend makes a very important point about the living wage. Will he join me in congratulating the six boroughs in London—all of them Labour—that are already living wage employers, and in welcoming Croydon’s intention to join them, now that Croydon also has a Labour council?

Mr Bain: I am most happy to congratulate Labour borough councils up and down the country on those efforts. That shows what Labour can do when it has power. It also shows the difference between the values of Labour and the Scottish National party at Holyrood, which had the opportunity to extend the living wage several weeks ago, but failed resoundingly in that task.

With three in 10 of my constituents who are in work taking home less than the living wage, a Queen’s Speech for the many would have changed the remit of the Low Pay Commission to raise the minimum wage in line with trends in average wages for the next five years.

A Queen’s Speech for the many would have begun the task of reorganising the banks to ensure that they serve ordinary people and businesses, not the other way around. There should be new challenger banks to introduce more competition in the retail banking sector; new regional banks to support SME lending, as the Sparkassen have done for decades in Germany; a national investment bank, modelled on the successes in Germany, France, the United States and South Korea; and an unshackled green investment bank that is able to drive investment in the renewables sector, with the potential to create tens of thousands of skilled jobs in our economy.

To secure fairness for the disadvantaged, there should have been a Bill to raise the taxes on bank bonuses to help pay for a jobs guarantee for long-term unemployed young people and other jobless people, who are crying out for the opportunity to work and who have been let down so badly by this Government and their Work programme. Perhaps when the Prime Minister was trying to rock the boat with Chancellor Merkel and the Swedish and Dutch Prime Ministers over the EU the other day,

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he should have taken a steer from them about how jobs guarantee policies in Sweden have benefited employers, given opportunities to young people and helped the public finances.

With 1.4 million people in insecure jobs with no guaranteed hours, a Queen’s Speech for the many would have offered the right to defined working hours after a short period in a job. People in Glasgow have told me about the uncertainty that a lack of guaranteed hours is causing them—uncertainty in their family finances, uncertainty over whether they can pay the bills and uncertainty in planning for a decent future.

Given the increasingly skewed jobs market and the lack of skilled service, construction and manufacturing jobs, a Queen’s Speech for the many would have contained measures to boost exports, which remain desperately weak, and to boost investment by businesses, particularly in research and development.

For a stronger recovery that reaches every part of these islands, we need a Queen’s Speech that expands opportunity, boosts incomes and cuts inequality. We need a fresh start and a new Government to replace this tired and clapped-out coalition—a Labour Government for the many, by the many and of the many.

4.7 pm

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): I welcome the Government’s fourth Queen’s Speech and the strategy that has been used to navigate Britain out of the choppy economic waters that we inherited, courtesy of the last Labour Government. As we have heard, the UK economy is the fastest growing economy in Europe and, indeed, in the G7. Figures published today show that employment is at record levels, though of course there is still more to be done.

I am afraid that the clock is working now and the time restrictions will prevent me from going into further detail on certain issues. I will therefore move on to my substantive point, which is about Britain’s place in the world. The Prime Minister rightly began his response to the Gracious Speech with a tribute to our armed forces and the sacrifices that have been made in Afghanistan. That subject will come up at the forthcoming NATO summit. NATO can be proud of the role that it played in removing al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and building a credible Afghan security force.

Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): Britain has always been an outward-looking nation when it comes to trade and foreign affairs. Does my hon. Friend agree that we should continue with that and build on it?

Mr Ellwood rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again; it is the second time that I have done so. However, this is a named debate with a subject and an amendment. The subject is jobs and work, so he needs to make sure that he focuses on that.

Mr Ellwood: I seek your clarification, Madam Deputy Speaker. My understanding was that Members of Parliament could contribute to any day of the Queen’s Speech debate and give a consideration of all aspects of

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the Queen’s Speech. If I had been aware that that rule was in place, I certainly would not have chosen today to speak.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Mr Ellwood, what has happened is that today we are considering an amendment. In the Queen’s Speech debates every day before today, Members could raise anything. Today’s debate is more focused, and to be in order speeches need to be about jobs and work. I hope that all other Members will focus on that, but, given the misunderstanding, on this occasion I will allow you to make your points, Mr Ellwood. I should make it absolutely clear that that is out of order, but given that you have been so helpful to me about the clock, it is only fair to let you make your points—perhaps briefly.

Mr Ellwood: I am grateful for your latitude, Madam Deputy Speaker. As I said, I understood that I could take a broad-brush approach to matters in the Queen’s Speech.

I return to our role in Afghanistan, which was mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. NATO did well, but I am afraid that the other international agencies did not do so well. We were not good at creating the governance and economic development that were needed in that country. That responsibility was given to other international agencies and they were found wanting. Indeed, our experience in Afghanistan and Iraq now haunts this Chamber, as was shown in the Syria vote last year. It is also making us review Britain’s place and role in the world.

The nation’s attention has rightly focused on the UK economy, business and jobs as well as on strengthening the fundamental pillars of our society, including health, education and the benefits system. However, as we emerge from the biggest recession ever experienced, events such as 9/11, the Arab spring and, most recently, what has happened in Ukraine and the Sahel show that we have entered a prolonged period of instability with which I am not sure that Britain—and, indeed, NATO—has come to terms.

Conflict itself has also changed. There is no longer unconditional surrender, but agencies such as the EU, the Department for International Development, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are involved in stabilisation and nation-building activities that they were never designed to perform. We are essentially winning the wars, but losing the peace.

In an increasingly interdependent world, as the Government’s national maritime strategy states:

“Almost every aspect of British national life… depends on our connections with the wider world.”

We are now more reliant on a stable market for raw materials, energy and manufactured goods from overseas, but recent trends such as globalisation, resource competition, population growth and climate change will challenge that stability, and developments and crises in distant regions will have an immediate and direct impact on our prosperity and security in this country.

As a nation, we have always led from the front in helping shape and influence the wider world. As I have implied, the pace of change has not only increased but become more complicated. In a week when we have been debating the importance of British values, we must also agree the extent to which those values should

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be defended here and abroad when challenged. There are ever fewer countries in the world that are willing and able to promote, support and, when required, defend our shared values.

However, there is an increasing number of regimes, organisations, groups and movements that wish us harm. It is therefore not the time to turn our back on the world and ignore events around us. This week alone, ISIS has taken control of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, while Boko Haram continues its reign of terror in Nigeria and the Taliban have retaken Karachi airport. Of course, there is also the continuing drama that is unfolding for the fourth year in Syria, not to mention Russia’s hiding its long-term economic weakness in aggression and deniable intervention. Those events do not happen in isolation.

The solutions to those challenges are diplomatic, economic and political as well as military. As we mark the 70th anniversary of D-day, many of the Bretton Woods organisations that were created to secure peace after the second world war, such as the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank, are out of date and in severe need of reform. I believe that Britain is well placed in the international community to lead the call for the modernisation of those agencies so that they are fit for purpose in meeting 21st century challenges. However, we should also be prepared for instability to increase. I greatly welcome the manner in which the Government are moving Britain back to prosperity, but it is also time to think of the wider world and the role that Britain should play as we face a challenging chapter of instability.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Several Members have now approached the Chair, and I therefore think it is necessary for me to make it clear before I call the next speaker that today’s debate is focused on jobs and work. It is not the full, general debate that we have had on the previous days of considering the Queen’s Speech. It may be necessary for some Members to refocus their points so that they stay in order. Mr Ellwood did not have time to do that so he got more latitude than anyone else will get this afternoon. I hope that that is absolutely clear and that Members understand that we are debating the amendment on jobs and work. That is why the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions himself is here to listen to the debate.

Now that that is clear, I call Nick Smith.

4.15 pm

Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): In Blaenau Gwent, our local economy needs a big shot in the arm if we are to prosper. Adult unemployment is twice the national average, and we have a youth unemployment rate of 10%. Although unemployment has fallen, the pace of job creation is too slow. People in Blaenau Gwent want to work. We have talent, great potential, an illustrious industrial heritage, and many outdoor attractions.

Much work has been done in the past few years to bring a new motorsports circuit to Blaenau Gwent. It would have attendant engineering, leisure and research facilities, and would be a significant boost for employment in south-east Wales. I am aware that the Silverstone circuit has raised objections to the Circuit of Wales, including questioning the potential use of public funds. The previous Labour Government provided £8 million to speed up construction of the A43 bypass to help

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ease congestion near the Silverstone circuit, and Northamptonshire county council has also recently provided financial assistance, so I hope that the Government will be even-handed and fair when considering the Circuit of Wales and public support for it.

The key to securing good, sustainable jobs in Blaenau Gwent is infrastructure investment. There has, of course, been major investment in Blaenau Gwent, including improvements to the A465, the new Learning Zone and the Nye Bevan hospital, and we hope in the future rail electrification. In its report published last week, the Transport Committee stated:

“The under-funding of transport projects outside Greater London in recent years cannot be allowed to continue. No area across our nation should be second class in relation to the allocation of transport infrastructure funds.”

The same must be true for Wales. Electrification of the west coast main line to Swansea and all the valley lines is imperative. Last December I asked the Chief Secretary to the Treasury whether the Government would consider bringing forward the electrification of the south Wales valley lines as that would boost employment and regeneration in our deprived area. He said he would look at the case for accelerating electrification if possible, but I have heard nothing further.

Infrastructure investment in a home energy efficiency programme is a jobs-boosting measure that is missing from the Government’s plans in the Queen’s Speech. As an example of delivery in infrastructure investment, our social landlord in Blaenau Gwent, Tai Calon, will spend around £23 million by 2015 on tackling fuel poverty. It is installing external wall insulation and new heating systems across the county to help keep homes warmer and make them cheaper to heat. It also has a team of fuel advisers recruited from the local young unemployed who can visit tenants and show them how they can cut bills and use their systems more efficiently. The Treasury should take note.

As growth finally comes to the economy after four wasted years, we find ourselves with the persistent British problem: a skills shortage. We know that in Wales and elsewhere, in too many cases skilled jobs cannot be filled because the work force lack the relevant skills. We need to improve educational attainment. Our local training and education system in Blaenau Gwent has seen major investment in recent years, but it must up its game.

The Government must get their act together. Blaenau Gwent is a brilliant place, but although good progress has been made, much more investment in skills, infrastructure and jobs is needed for the future. I am concerned that the Gracious Speech will unfortunately be a damp squib for Blaenau Gwent.

4.19 pm

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): I was just rewriting my speech in line with your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker, so you will forgive me—or perhaps you will be pleased—if it is shorter than I intended.

It is a pleasure to take part in the debate. I congratulate the Government on an excellent programme for the final year of this Parliament. It is, despite complaints from the Opposition, a continuation of the comprehensive programme for recovery that we have put in place over the past four years. The idea that it is a thin programme

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of legislation comes from the Labour party’s belief that all problems in our society can be cured by yet more regulation and legislation. My constituents hope that they can get on with their lives, care for their families and run their businesses without undue interference. Of course, they want good quality public services and we must ensure that they are adequately resourced, but that can be achieved only if we allow business to grow. From that growth, money flows into the Treasury and we get better public services.

In that respect, we are making progress. Last week I attended the Hull and Humber chamber of commerce Expo event, where businesses spoke of their optimism and confidence. The chamber’s chief executive, Ian Kelly, said in its most recent quarterly survey that

“the Chamber feels that the steady climb out of recession is continuing”.

As if to confirm that, when I returned to my constituency office the latest “Barclays Local Insights” was in my pile of post. Among the statistics relating to my Cleethorpes constituency was the fact that overall turnover for small businesses had risen by 15% in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the previous year, and that this is 6% above the national average. Small businesses in the retail sector saw their quarterly turnover increase by 20% compared with the first three months of 2013. Access to finance for small businesses is still a major concern in the local business community. I welcome moves to ensure further improvements. We must recognise, however, that although these figures are encouraging my constituents are still feeling the effects of the recession. The Barclays report states:

“The severe squeeze on household budgets is beginning to unwind as inflation abates and pay awards start to recover.”

I am pleased that the Government continue to recognise that. The continuing increases in personal allowances, the freezing of fuel duty and the help with energy bills, to name but three measures, all contribute to helping hard-pressed families.

Thanks to the efforts of the Government, working in partnership with our local enterprise partnerships and local authorities, much has been achieved to attract inward investment to northern Lincolnshire and the Humber region. The Siemens investment on the north bank is now secure. I am hopeful that the Able UK development, which is now subject to a special parliamentary procedure to determine the final outcome, will be resolved very soon. It is vital that this long-running saga is brought to a conclusion. It highlights yet again that, despite the efforts of the Government, we need to speed up the process for major planning applications. We risk being left behind by overseas competitors if we do not. For those objecting to developments, whose homes and property can be blighted by prolonged procedures, it is equally important.

I must pay tribute to the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), who has responsibility for cities. His hard work in the north Lincolnshire and Humber region has won the respect of politicians across the political spectrum. He has put together a city deal that is vital for the area.

A consultation document published yesterday by the Department for Transport includes suggestions that would reduce dramatically the level of rail service or through-rail connections to major cities, most notably

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Manchester and Sheffield. If this is allowed to proceed, it would be a severe blow to the investment that is currently coming into the area.

4.24 pm

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): Last week my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition highlighted some of the most noticeable omissions from the coalition’s programme for this, the final year of its lifetime. He quite rightly mentioned what a missed opportunity the small business, enterprise and employment Bill represents to truly tackle low pay and insecurity. These are issues that result in so many hard-working people feeling left out, let down and left behind, and which resulted in what we saw, not for the first time, in May’s election: the disaffected’s vote for UKIP.

You will be glad to hear that I want to address my remarks to that Bill, Madam Deputy Speaker, but when it comes to the responsibilities of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend might have mentioned another huge omission: the lack of a higher education fair reform Bill. We have a tuition fees system that, by the admission of one of the coalition’s own advisers, is simply not working—not for universities, not for students and not for the country.

On the employment Bill, it is clearly welcome that exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts will henceforth be banned. There will be cross-party support for that. Clauses that prevent employees on contracts from working for another employer, keeping them constantly on call with no guaranteed hours, are in many cases simply legalised servitude. However, the Bill should and could have gone further. The Government did not have far to look: last October we had a thoughtful debate in the House on zero-hours contracts which highlighted some of the most iniquitous examples of the practice. At the time of that debate, the Business Secretary launched a consultation, but the outcome in the Bill is frankly just timid.

The Business Secretary should go much further. He should, at a minimum, give workers a right to ask for normal employment contracts if they regularly work the same hours and a right to have a contract that specifies a minimum number of hours, to give vulnerable people at least a modicum of certainty and security. He should also ensure that workers on zero-hours contracts cannot simply be summoned outside their contracted hours and that they are entitled to be paid if shifts are unexpectedly cancelled at short notice. Likewise, the Business Secretary should give such workers the security of employment rights that many of us take for granted: the right to be given notice, rights against unfair dismissal and the right to redundancy pay. A flexible work force should never equate to an exploited work force.

There are other, related issues that the Bill should also tackle. The rights of part-time workers who regularly work longer hours need to be addressed, along with the continued insecurity faced by many agency workers. It is now seven long years since I was lucky enough to be successful in the ballot and to present the Temporary and Agency Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Bill, to try to level the playing field. I did not do so simply because it was supported by the big unions, such as Unite, of which I am a member, or my local ceramics union, Unity; I did it because time after time, decent, ordinary working people, and not a few

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students, had complained to me about being exploited by agencies, along with employees complaining about facing substitution by agency workers if they complained, asked for a pay rise or insisted on their rights. There were complaints, too, about how many workers who would work for less were being proactively recruited from eastern Europe. That was the insecurity that many people faced then and that they still face now, which manifested itself in a vote for a right-wing party, UKIP, that will benefit ordinary working people not one iota.

The agency workers directive eventually went through, but it was an imperfect compromise, with a 12-week qualification period in the UK, which affords workers here less protection than on the continent. It is a compromise that needs unstitching. Big loopholes such as the Swedish derogation need a really good darning. If the employment Bill does not go there, I hope the next Labour Government will do the necessary needlework.

One of the great strengths of my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) is that he has had the guts to admit where the Labour leadership got it wrong. We cannot have growth on the cheap without social and political consequences. We cannot have a recovery that leaves decent, ordinary people behind, insecure and struggling to make ends meet, while working all hours. This he has said many times since becoming leader. He said it to the voters in Thurrock last week; he also said it in the House last week in response to the Queen’s Speech. At the last election I was able to tell people what I was trying to do not only to level the playing field, but to raise the bar, and I support what my right hon. Friend has said about our aspirations for the minimum wage. The employment Bill should go much further to help ordinary working people to be treated more decently. I hope that during its passage we can improve it.

4.29 pm

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow a fellow Staffordshire Member to speak in the Queen’s Speech debate on jobs, particularly on what is, of course, a great day for jobs and for the job prospects of millions. It may not be such a good day for the job prospects of the Opposition Front-Bench team, which may be why they have spent rather less time than they might have done talking about today’s good news.

Today is good news for my town, and this Queen’s Speech is good news for Tamworth. The situation in which we now find ourselves compared with the situation in 2010 when we had our first Queen’s Speech could not be starker. In 2010, at the end of the last Labour Government, the unemployment rate in Tamworth was running into double digits; today, we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. In 2010, at the end of the last Labour Government, one could walk down the Glascote road and see repossession notices on window after window as mortgage companies foreclosed on properties. Under the last Labour Government, people were losing not just their jobs, but their family homes. Those notices are now gone; growth is returning; hope is being restored. In my town, Jaguar Land Rover is recruiting; BMW is recruiting; John Lewis is recruiting. They are recruiting skilled workers because our educational outcomes are improving, with GCSE results going up, and the Torc centre has been named the automotive hub for Staffordshire.

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I want to speak about this Queen’s Speech in relation to jobs, and I shall make three particular points. I am glad that Her Majesty made it clear that her Government will continue to cut taxes in order to increase people’s financial security. I hope that those tax cuts will also include business tax cuts—cuts in corporation tax and cuts in national insurance contributions. Small businesses are the engines of growth in this country—not Governments, not multinationals, but small businesses up and down the country. We need to reduce the burden of taxation on them so that they can expand, invest and create more jobs.

I was also pleased to hear the Secretary of State talk about deregulation and cutting red tape. We have to get on and go even further. I rather hope that the Government will look at regulation as if it were a tax. A small business man may have to juggle the responsibilities of being IT director, finance director and HR director with the all-important task of being sales director. Any Government activity that detracts from the ability to focus on selling or any Government activity that is a tax on time is a tax on business—and it is in those terms that we should think of regulation. I am astonished that we still have so many regulations. There is even a regulation on how to build a staircase. It seems to me that if we were to get rid of that regulation, carpenters up and down the country would not be left helpless. We do not need many of the regulations under which businesses still appear to labour, so I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will continue his work on that.

I was pleased to see further help being given to the exploitation of our shale gas opportunities. It is unfortunate that the Labour Opposition seem to blow hot and cold on shale gas. In the Finance Bill Committee, the Front-Bench team did not seem to know quite what they wanted with respect to shale gas. I believe that shale gas opportunities in our country could create between 60,000 and 70,000 new jobs. It could create billions of pounds of extra revenue to the Exchequer, which could be invested in infrastructure, creating even more jobs. If the Opposition are serious about the cost of living challenges facing our country, they should surely embrace a resource that will help to even out the cost of our energy. The fact that they seem to refuse to do so seems to make their position illogical.

Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) (LD): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Christopher Pincher: I will not. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, many Members want to speak: they have things to say—or think they have things to say—and they should be allowed to say them.

In conclusion, this Queen’s Speech helps my town. It drives growth, it drives opportunity and it drives forward our long-term economic plan—and we are the only Government, the only party, who seem to have one.

4.34 pm

Fiona O’Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. I was particularly pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) set out his stall in his opening speech,

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describing what is happening to the British economy and referring to the constant refrain from Government Members about a “long-term economic plan”. The definition of “long-term” seems to have changed: we used to be told that it would take five years to get rid of the deficit, but we are not sure whether that is still the case. We have not had plan A from this Government; what we have had at best, or at worst, is plan A minus. If they had gone the whole hog and given us plan B, rather than choking off recovery in 2010 by making cuts in the public sector that were too deep and making them too quickly, some of the pain that my constituents have endured over the last four years might have been avoided.

Since we returned from the recess, I have heard the Prime Minister declare on two occasions that work is the best route out of poverty, but that is not an absolute truth. The hon. Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith) spoke of the role of the state and her preference for the small state, and claimed that the state did not have as much impact on people’s lives as other sectors. I can tell her that in my constituency, East Lothian council, which has a coalition with the Conservatives, has introduced a living wage for all workers. I confess that only a small number of workers are benefiting from that, but surely it is an example of the role of the state. Although it is absolutely right for us in the Chamber to welcome better economic news and the fact that the number of people in jobs is increasing, we must also ensure that no one is left behind in that recovery, which is not what is happening on this Government’s watch.

Back in 1997, we too inherited difficult and testing economic circumstances, but what that Labour Government did during their three terms was look out for those who needed the protection of the state and needed the state to intervene by, for instance, introducing tax credits or the minimum wage. That progress has simply not continued under the present Government.

I am glad that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is present, because in the short time allowed to me I want to say a little about some of those people who are in danger of being left behind. People with disabilities and, in particular, those with moderate learning disabilities fear that they will miss out on the new personal independence payment. At present they receive the lowest rate of the care component of disability living allowance, but those who receive it as an in-work benefit cannot sustain employment without it. It is what pays for the taxi if they do not feel able to take the bus to work. There is a real danger that those people will now find it harder to maintain employment, or to find new employment. I am not saying that we should not celebrate the good news that there is in the economy, but I am saying that we must not leave people behind in the recovery.

The same applies to exploitative zero-hours contracts. The other day I was approached in the supermarket by someone who works in the tourism and leisure sector. I think that it is indicative of something when people do not want to name themselves, or even their employers, because they are so scared of losing their jobs. This employee has been on a zero-hours contract job for two years, working the same shift patterns. He is tied into accommodation, and even his meals are provided by his employer. It almost seems like some sort of modern form of slavery when people in this country are not free

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because they rely on their employers not just for their incomes, but for the roof over their heads and the food that they put in their mouths.

The Government need to do more to protect those workers. If you—or someone like you, Madam Deputy Speaker—had been doing a zero-hours contract job for two years with the same shift patterns, surely you would have expected, long before you reached that stage, to be given a proper contract of employment giving you protection under the law, and all the other benefits of employment. We have waited so many decades to secure those benefits for workers in this country; surely they should be available to them now.

The married couple’s tax allowance is the one bit of help for workers that the Government have come up with recently. However, it is another of their divisive policies, implying that certain members of society are more deserving of their help than others. The Government should recognise that a large number of people—regardless of their marital status—are missing out on the early recovery, and I urge them to do more to ensure that no one is left behind.

4.39 pm

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): I support the Queen’s Speech and, in particular, the work of the Department for Work and Pensions, which is engaged in nothing less than a moral crusade, a war on unemployment, a war for work and a war to defeat poverty. We all know that the best way to cure deprivation is a job and the best way to reduce poverty is work. Today, I have heard so much from the Labour party about how the Government do not care enough about the least well-off. As Labour Members talk about the ills of everything, they remind me of Jack Frost denying the coming of spring, yet each day the sun rises that bit higher and shadows are thrown back that bit further as the economy and employment continue to improve and as unemployment continues to fall.

The numbers on poverty are encouraging, too. Let us be honest. In the previous Parliament, under the last Labour Government, poverty rose. It is falling under the Conservatives. Under Labour, child poverty rose. It is falling under the Conservatives. Under Labour, inequality rose and it has been falling under the Conservatives. Before the crash, under Labour, 9.8% of people were reporting that they did not have enough money to buy food, according to OECD figures. Today, the figure is 8.1%. That is still too high but it is moving in the right direction. I hope that food poverty will continue to fall under this Government, who are engaged in a crusade against poverty, want and need because they believe in the power, importance and value of work, and the poverty-fighting aspects and dignity that work can bring.

Under Labour, youth unemployment rose and it has been falling under the Conservatives. Under Labour, economic inactivity—people doing nothing—rose and it has been falling under the Conservatives. Under Labour, long-term unemployment rose and it has been falling under the Conservatives. However, it is not enough. I have a vision of the future that we can build under a Conservative Government after 2015: a Britain moving further towards economic success and a work revolution, particularly through the promotion and fostering of small businesses, and through making it easier to have a

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light-touch regulatory system where one can set up an enterprise at no cost. I hope that the small business Bill will deal with that.

It is important that we give young people a better future. Under Labour, nearly 2 million more people went into renting. Young people’s futures were stolen by Labour’s buy-to-let policy and its promotion of buy-to-let landlords. That was a disgrace. It was wrong that, in 2000, 2 million households were in rent and that, by the time Labour left office, about 3.4 million were in rent. That took away the futures of our young people. We should give them their futures back, so I want more action to disincentivise buy-to-letting—it is too incentivised today through the tax system—and to incentivise owner-occupation. We should give back to our young people the chance, hope and aspiration that owning one’s home brings, which the previous Government took away. It was wrong. It was a shame for Labour to do that. We need to promote work for our young people. We need to promote home ownership and owner-occupation for our young people to give them those things. We need to build a society that is fairer and more just.

I have powerfully made the case for tackling tax avoidance. We must tackle want through welfare reform. We must tackle welfare tourism, too. It is important that we make our borders secure to give our young people a greater chance. For the Labour party, borders and immigration are just issues to be discussed at a coffee morning. Those issues involve the hopes, security and futures of our young people, a generation who were sold the pass by the previous Government. This Government are looking after them.

We need to reform zero-hours contracts, which the previous Government did nothing about.

Christopher Pincher: Does my hon. Friend agree that, although we do need to reform zero-hours contracts, only very few people on them say they do not get enough hours of work?

Charlie Elphicke: I agree. For me, this is about fairness and justice and ensuring there is flexibility while also protecting people. Labour did not do that, but this Government are doing it. That is very important, and social justice lies at the heart of so much of what we are doing.

We need to look after savers. There are too many zombie accounts—too many zombie ISAs, too many savers being taken advantage of. That was allowed under the previous Government. I say we should give consumers and savers a fair and just deal.

There should be more competition in the power markets, and our water bills should be fairer. I have made that case before, and I am glad to see that Ofwat has been listening and has made a stronger settlement for consumers in the 2015-20 period.

There must also be fairness and justice to our way of life. We need to make our Supreme Court supreme. We need to reform human rights legislation, which has too often gone wrong and too often promotes unfairness and injustice. That is the kind of vision a Conservative Government could build after 2015, and it is one I look forward to.

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4.46 pm

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I have tabled a reasoned amendment to the Gracious Speech because I do not believe that the legislative programme set out for this Session of Parliament puts us on track to either a stable economy or a fairer society, or for that matter a world of better quality jobs. That amendment calls for fair pay for work through a national living wage and maximum pay ratios. It calls for an end to the privatisation of public services and much else besides, but the focus of my comments today will be on the Infrastructure Bill, because one of the main benefits of that Bill is supposed to be job creation.

Of course we need more jobs, but high-carbon investment in new roads and shale gas is not the way to deliver that. There are far more job opportunities in a zero-carbon economy than in the fossil-fuelled economy that it replaces. Indeed, there are already more jobs in the green economy than in the motor and telecom sectors combined. The renewable energy industry in the UK today is a case in point, and supports over 100,000 jobs. That is not a fantasy, eyebrow-raising assumption. It is what we have today: actual jobs all across the UK—and that is without even taking into account future potential.

In 2013 approximately 14,000 full-time jobs were associated with the nation’s solar PV sector alone. That is pretty impressive, especially given that there were an estimated 10,000 job losses in the solar industry as a direct result of the coalition’s cack-handed cuts to feed-in tariffs. These losses have been partially offset by continued job creation in the wind industry: again, many of these will be despite anti-jobs, anti-investment policies from the coalition.

Solar is the most popular energy technology in the UK. Solar PV is also a way for individuals and communities to generate their own clean power, reducing dependence on the big six energy companies, and cutting energy bills. In April this year, two schools in Brighton switched on their solar panels.

Mr Thomas: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Caroline Lucas: I am sorry, but there is not time.

As I was saying, in April this year two schools in Brighton switched on their solar panels, while Brighton Energy Cooperative is in the process of raising funds from local people for its fifth large PV system. Yet the Government are now cutting support for large-scale solar, harming jobs and denying communities the opportunity to generate their own power from solar farms in the future.

Commenting on the UK slipping down the ranks of the renewable energy country attractiveness index for the second time in a row, to sixth place, Ernst and Young’s head of environmental finance says:

“Policy tinkering and conflicting signals once again become too much for investors and developers to handle.”

In other words, this Government’s policies are anti-jobs and anti-business, as well as anti-safe as far as the climate for our children and grandchildren is concerned.

The “global race” we hear so much about is getting more competitive. By early 2013, 138 countries had renewable energy targets. This Government are blocking such targets. Some 20 countries had renewable heating and cooling targets, too; we do not. Compared with

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other countries’ industrial strategies and coherent policy and incentive frameworks for home-grown renewables, the UK is looking pretty poor.

So what sort of policies would we be seeing if we had a pro-jobs Government who were serious about these opportunities and willing to stand up to the vested interests of the fossil-fuel industry, whose business plans are incompatible with a safe climate? We would see the confirming and strengthening of the fourth carbon budget. We would see the ditching of the irrational crusade against a binding 2030 renewable energy target. We would be giving the green investment bank powers to borrow now in order to leverage in the large proportion of private sector investment that is needed for the UK’s low-carbon economy to flourish. And we would be redirecting at least some of the billons of fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy. We need a just transition—I particularly welcome the work that many unions have been doing on exactly how we will re-skill workers currently employed in high-carbon sectors—but it needs to happen fast. The point I want to illustrate is that the supposed conflict between tackling climate change and creating jobs is simply a political construct that suits incumbent fossil-fuel interests and very few others.

With thousands of people dying every winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes, energy-efficiency should be the No. 1 infrastructure priority for the UK. Hundreds of Brighton residents have written to me in support of the Energy Bill Revolution campaign, which calls for the Treasury to recycle carbon taxes into a national programme of energy-efficiency to ensure that homes need much less energy to heat, so that we have lower bills, carbon savings and, significantly, huge job-creation potential. We could add to that list NHS savings and, fundamentally, an end to people dying prematurely of the cold in winter. A report by Cambridge Econometrics last year found that a nationwide programme to super-insulate 600,000 UK homes a year would create more jobs than any alternative investment or tax break the UK could possibly put in place. So, this Gracious Speech is going in the wrong direction in terms of the economy, the environment and, crucially, jobs.

4.51 pm

Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con): It is great to follow the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), and I have several comments to make about renewables. Like other hon. Members, particularly those on the Government Benches, may I say how much I welcome the fall in unemployment, yet again? In my constituency, it is now down to 2.7%. Listening to Opposition Members perhaps reinforces the Education Secretary’s determination to get a new course in British modern history in our schools, so that we can have a true evaluation of Government performance in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

There is now a feeling in Lancaster that it is a good time to do business and to set up a business. Just last week, I was opening the bright new offices of the Lancaster chamber of commerce, as it sees business developing and expanding, with a huge contribution from Lancaster university. The one thing that will kill this off for a small business that might be considering taking on one extra person or for an individual thinking about setting up their own business is the threat of an increase in national insurance and a jobs tax—or even the mention of it. I hope that Opposition Members will

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clarify what they are proposing, so that people thinking about starting a business or taking on new employees can plan what would be life-changing decisions.

I welcome the aims of the small business, enterprise and employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech. It aims to foster and back the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives in the UK, particularly in the north-west; to build on the UK’s reputation as a fair and trusted place to do business; and, in particular, to give further help to small businesses in accessing finance and to improve payment practices between small businesses and their customers. Hon. Members have also mentioned other measures such as getting rid of regulations and assisting businesses to get into the export market.

Fleetwood, at one end of my constituency, still has thriving fish processing businesses, which export all over the world; tons of shellfish go from Fleetwood, even to places such as South Korea. But these businesses are small, and they are in poor buildings and in poor conditions. There is the potential to bring them together in a new Billingsgate of the north, with proposals from Wyre council that would be a game-changer in terms of adding to new employment and new skills in the Fleetwood area. I am asking today for support from Ministers in guiding the council to where it can access those funds, but I am grateful to Ministers for already agreeing that parts of Fleetwood would have assisted area status. We have massive potential to build on thriving family businesses, if they could just have modern buildings and cheaper energy sources to exploit the available markets.

While on potential, which my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) also mentioned, we must consider the business potential of 1,300 trillion cubic feet of potential shale gas reserves in the Bowland shale in Lancashire. May I say that the constant trumpeting of possibly thousands of new jobs does not totally wash in Lancashire, as there are yet no guarantees of how many jobs would be based locally? I am pleased that the national energy college might be sited at Blackpool and the Fylde college, which includes the Fleetwood nautical campus. If that does happen, local people might feel reassured that they could access the potential new jobs. In trying to sell this national potential, it would be good to get some clear idea of the impact on existing businesses that use water from the water table. As yet, I can find no answers about how much water will be used in this process, and what will happen to the contaminated water afterwards. This is no way to sell this potential game-changing energy business in Lancashire.

The Queen’s Speech contains measures on trespass rights, which affect landowners. I personally think that that is a draconian move, and no way to sell this business. To rub salt in the wounds, the consultation paper proposes a voluntary compensation scheme decided by the companies. If we want to sell this game-changing business and its potential, we should consider what a cross-party group of MPs and councils in Lancashire have requested, which is to make a bigger contribution to Lancashire. We should increase the offer of 1% of revenues to provide investment in that potential, rather than propose those draconian measures. I personally have some difficulty with that part of the speech.

4.56 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): In a report published last week, the think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, predicted that, by

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2022, there will be an additional 3.5 million jobs in medium-skilled occupations in industries where jobs require high-level vocational qualifications. The report identifies several emerging sectors with a serious deficiency of skills, including both health care and the building industry. In construction, a net increase of almost half a million jobs requiring medium levels of skill is predicted over the next eight years. That is a 40% increase from 2012. We need to prepare our present generation of young people for these jobs of the future, which is why quality, technical, practical and vocational education is so critical in this debate today.

Last year, around one in three students in this country in upper secondary education took vocational courses, and our youth unemployment is still almost one in five. I welcome the recent fall in youth unemployment, but the figure is still far too high. If we look at Germany, around half of young people under the age of 22 have successfully completed an apprenticeship, and apprenticeships are offered by around one in three companies. The youth unemployment rate is around 7.5%. The expert Tim Oates said that in 1945, the UK developed a world-class system of vocational education and then exported it to Germany where it thrives today.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition coined the phrase “the forgotten 50%” to describe the young people who do not go to university and whose talents are all too often wasted. That is why Labour has promised a proper, high-quality, technical baccalaureate, to recognise a structured route for young people pursuing vocational qualifications. Chris Husbands’s review for the Labour party set out the overhaul that is needed.

In the Queen’s Speech, there is a reference to the further expansion of apprenticeships. As my hon. Friend the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey), the Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee said earlier, the headline numbers on apprenticeships simply do not stand up to scrutiny. As the Husbands review found, two-thirds of apprentices are not new job entrants but existing employees over the age of 25. Although it is right that those over the age of 25 should be able to retrain and gain new qualifications, the lack of quality apprenticeships for young people is startling.

In most other northern European countries, apprenticeships are typically level 3 qualifications that last from two to five years and include significant on and off-the-job training. In this country, the majority of new apprenticeships in recent years have not met those standards. It is crucial that we get this right. It is also crucial that we get right the quality of advice and guidance. Earlier this year, the Association of Colleges conducted a survey of careers advisers in secondary schools across the country. It found dramatic reductions in the amount of professional careers guidance on offer. A survey of pupils found that half of them felt that they were simply not well informed about the jobs available.

Let us learn from the best examples, which I know exist in communities up and down the country. Cardinal Heenan Catholic high school in my constituency is making great progress. Careers advice and guidance is built in from day one, as pupils arrive in year 7. They receive a careers passport as year 7 students, with a pack of information and advice about different employment options, and that follows them right the way through their time in the school. Every November, the whole school focuses on careers, and at the end of the month,

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year 7 pupils pick three careers of potential interest and make a list of who they would like to meet. That information informs the organisation of career and industry days right the way through the school. Year 8 pupils are given the opportunity to reflect on the choices they made, and in years 9 and 10 that develops further. The programme follows through right the way into sixth form. It is a fantastic way to get young people prepared in choosing a vocation, and the model could be replicated in schools across the country.

I also mention the excellent work of Future First, which seeks to build links between state schools and their alumni to offer guidance on different career paths and the world of work. It is a brilliant organisation, and it is great to see it go from strength to strength. Finally, in our focus on the forgotten 50%, we must also ensure that we continue to challenge our universities to be genuinely open to young people from all backgrounds. Our top universities still have a great deal more to do.

5.1 pm

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): As the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) did, I apologise at the outset; following the stipulations from the Chair, my intended speech has been ditched and replaced by a more ad hoc one, although I hope to touch on one of my original points a little later.

In Ceredigion, if we took away the three largest employers—the universities, the national health service and the county council—from the employment base for my rural constituency in west Wales, we would be left exclusively with a small and medium-sized enterprise work force. It is the work force of the 600 family farms and the one and two-man bands running small businesses right across the piece that will benefit very strongly from the provisions in the Queen’s Speech, not least the small business Bill and in particular the remedial proposals for prompt payment and late payment.

Some Members might have visited the Montgomeryshire day event in the Jubilee Room today, sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies). I asked a producer of local cider where he sells his products. He used to send them to a wholesaler, but the wholesaler could not pay his bills. His late payment problems had a direct impact on the cider producer’s selling of his product. The small business Bill will assist in many other ways, such as on the minimum wage.

I commend what the Government have done on the employment allowance. I can think of no more significant step to ratchet up the employment base in the small business sector than by offering that opportunity to many of my constituents. Unemployment in Ceredigion now stands at 601 people, which is a welcome figure, but no Government Member will rest on their laurels. The Government are to be commended for what they have done on rural fuel. My regret is that the rural fuel derogation does not extend widely enough to places such as Ceredigion and many rural areas in England, too, but action has been taken.

We will not rest on our laurels in responding to reports, such as “A Fair Start for Every Child” by Save the Children, which identified 200,000 children in Wales still living in poverty. To their credit, our Assembly Government in Cardiff have proposed some initiatives,

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such as Flying Start, Communities First and Families First, to assist and support families in their everyday lives and to encourage some of those parents into training activities that will help them later on seek work.

I have a particular gripe with the Assembly Government in Cardiff, because they slashed the funding to two rural Communities First projects in Ceredigion; they were excellent projects in two areas of need, the Tregaron Uplands and Penparcau. However, this Government are taking clear initiatives that will support and assist in the creation of jobs.

Madam Deputy Speaker, given that I have spent the bulk of my time speaking within the terms of the debate and the amendment, may I cite what I wanted to talk about initially, namely the proposals in the Queen’s Speech dealing with child neglect? The fact is that we will now have measures—in clause 62 of the Serious Crime Bill—that will take decisive action in tackling the lack of harmony between action that can be taken in the family courts and civil law against the psychological abuse of children, and action that can be taken in criminal law. It closes an important loophole. Action for Children has been campaigning for that with great vigour over the years. I had the opportunity in the previous Session to have a private Member’s Bill, the Child Maltreatment Bill, which did not get beyond its First Reading. However, I am glad that the Government have listened on this issue. They have listened to the late Paul Goggins, who was among those who campaigned for years on this issue, to close a loophole so that the police can intervene—if necessary—when all other interventions have failed and take action against this most dangerous and heinous form of child abuse, namely psychological abuse.

With seven seconds to go, Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank you and the House for showing tolerance of a rather unintended speech.

5.6 pm

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): I start by welcoming the fact that for the 17th month in a row Northern Ireland unemployment figures have fallen. In my constituency, this time last year there were 513 more people out of work than there are today. That has to be acknowledged, although I must say that it is partly due to the hard work and pro-business policies pursued by my colleagues in the Northern Ireland Assembly, with the Finance Minister and the Industry Minister from the Democratic Unionist party. During the last year, the Industry Minister has announced 10,800 new jobs in Northern Ireland, 40% of which have wages above the average for Northern Ireland.

I have no doubt that the context in which that has happened has been partly due to the increase and the improvement in the UK economy as a whole, and I acknowledge that that is the case. However, it is important to point out that many Government policies have acted as a counter to the work done by the Northern Ireland Executive. Whether those policies are the reductions in public expenditure—reductions of £4 billion in Northern Ireland, a region that is heavily dependent on public expenditure—or the inability to get to grips with the destructive attitudes and work of banks, especially Royal Bank of Scotland and its local bank, Ulster Bank, or indeed the removal of jobs from Northern Ireland in

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the centralisation programme affecting the Driver and Vehicle Agency and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, all have acted as a counter.

Nevertheless, there are important things that the Government can do. I am disappointed that although the Queen’s Speech refers to further fiscal and financial devolution for Scotland, there is an absence of any commitment to the devolution of corporation tax to Northern Ireland. Of course, such a commitment would have given the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister an additional lever when it comes to trying to attract jobs to Northern Ireland.

I have only a short time to speak, but one area where I support the Government is the new direction—at least, I hope it is a new direction—on energy policy. There is no doubt that the current policy of increasing reliance on renewables has pushed up energy costs; it has cost jobs, especially in energy-intensive industries; and it has caused fuel poverty among many of our constituents. Indeed, today the National Grid Company has indicated that it is now paying firms to switch off power at times when wind speeds are low, because the renewables industry cannot cope with the capacity issues in the system. I therefore believe that the switch to exploiting the fossil fuels that we have in the United Kingdom is an important one.

It has already been estimated that the exploitation of shale gas will create between 64,000 and 70,000 jobs, many of them high-paying. Queen’s University Belfast has done a lot of research which has indicated that getting shale gas out of the ground in Northern Ireland would not only have an impact on Northern Ireland’s fuel security, but provide an important impetus in driving new feedstock for downstream industries, which themselves would create further jobs. I therefore welcome that Government initiative.

The second measure I want to welcome is the introduction of harsher penalties for employers that breach minimum wage legislation. We need not only harsher penalties but greater enforcement, because there is nothing more destructive of local firms than those who break the rules being able to exploit that and push legitimate companies out of business. On a related point, I believe that the Modern Slavery Bill will also play an important part. I hope that the Government will include supply chains outside the United Kingdom so that firms within the United Kingdom are not undercut by the use of slave labour in atrocious conditions in other parts of the world. We should not leave it to individual firms to check their supply chains; there needs to be legislation forcing them to do that.

All those measures will, I believe, help to create additional jobs. I hope that in a year’s time in Northern Ireland we will see even fewer people on the dole and more people in productive work, and in work that pays.

5.11 pm

Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): I am delighted to speak in this debate on jobs and work. Despite all the doom and gloom from some Opposition Members, the long-term economic plan is working. I see that in my constituency, where since the general election overall unemployment is down by 47%—it is now 2.4% of the work force—youth unemployment is down by 65% and long-term unemployment is down by 24%.

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What do local business owners and managers—the wealth creators in our country—think about the economic recovery and about jobs? The latest Thames valley business barometer, which will be formally published later this month—it is put together by accountants BDO and consultants C8 Consulting—could not be clearer: it has recorded a staggering swing in confidence levels in Thames valley businesses, from 31% last year to 90% now. Furthermore, 82% of businesses said turnover had increased, 86% expect it to increase further in the next six months, and 71% expect to increase their headcount over the next six months. Even on the availability of finance, 37% of businesses surveyed by the barometer said that they felt that access to finance had improved. Access to debt finance is of course important, but so is access to equity finance, especially for start-up ventures.

The Thames Valley local enterprise partnership has received funds from the Government, some of which it has allocated to a growth fund. The fund is administered by a third party, with match equity funding of between £50,000 and £150,000 available. Of course that is a good initiative, but we need to ensure that we can provide more equity funding. I would like to see the Government replicate the success of their StartUp loans scheme with a StartUp equity finance scheme, with match equity funding of up to £5,000 or £10,000, mentoring support and a fast turnaround of application decisions. The StartUp loans scheme has been allocated £150 million and has helped more than 18,000 entrepreneurs. Perhaps a StartUp equity finance scheme would have similar success.

I turn now to the small business, enterprise and employment Bill outlined in the Queen’s Speech. I welcome the Bill. There is a lot in it that will help smaller businesses. In particular, I welcome the fact that it will establish a deregulation target for each Parliament and introduce a new “appeals champion” to protect business against overreaching regulators. Small and medium-sized businesses do not want to be shackled by unnecessary red tape or to spend precious time and resources on it; they want to spend their time and resources building their business and creating employment.

As well as an appeals champion, I suggest that in future Parliaments we ought to have a Minister whose sole job is to look at deregulation across the piece. Ministers are helping to create new legislation every day, and it would be rather nice if at least one Minister spent all his or her time thinking about reducing the burden of regulation, particularly on businesses.

My final point is about naming and shaming employers who are not paying the minimum wage, and raising fines on such errant employers. I welcome what the Government are doing to expose the underpayers, but we need to be careful that reputable employers who make a genuine one-off error are not having their reputations tarnished unnecessarily. On Monday, I was contacted by HSS Hire Group, which employs almost 3,000 people across the UK and Ireland and has a successful training academy in my constituency. Only 20 of its employees are on the minimum wage; the rest are above it. In October last year, an error in the HSS computer system meant that the pay of 15 employees was not updated with the changes to the minimum wage made in that month, costing employees between 47p and £25 each and amounting to a total underpayment of £150.

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According to HSS, this administrative error, which was noticed by the company itself, was rectified within a month. HSS received an acknowledgement from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs confirming that it was satisfied with the company’s response, and was issued with a notice of underpayment some three months after the error was first noticed. HSS has since been named and shamed. The company feels that, having proactively put right a genuine admin error, this is unfair. It has made representations to the Business Department and to HMRC. I raise this case because while it is absolutely right to expose rogue employers, we need to make sure that the internal checks and balances are working before companies with a reputation to protect are named and shamed.

In conclusion, I welcome the provisions to promote jobs and work creation in the Queen’s Speech, and I commend it to the House.

5.16 pm

Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and my proud 45-year membership of a union.

Let me start by referring to the exchange that took place between my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister earlier today about the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. I have to say that I was disappointed by the Prime Minister’s response—not by its substance but by the fact that he did not really seem to be engaged with the issue. He offered, generously, to write to the Leader of the Opposition outlining the Government’s response to concerns about the TTIP’s impact on the national health service.

There are several campaigns under way regarding people’s beliefs about the impact of the TTIP. Personally, I think that many are misplaced. For example, on concerns about privatisation in the national health service, the biggest threat in that regard would not be the TTIP but the re-election of a Conservative Government at the next election. I accept, however, that those concerns are out there. Equally I accept that some of them are whipped up by those who are opposed to trade, and, even more so, viscerally opposed to the United States. None the less, these arguments have to be taken on. Frankly, there is a lack of that by Ministers or officials, and I have raised that with them directly.

This is important because it involves about half the world’s GDP and a strategic transatlantic linkage of the liberal democracies and liberal economies. It has great potential for our manufacturing industry, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises involved in niche manufacturing, many of which have great difficulty in dealing with all the paperwork of international trade—much more so than the multinationals—and would be better able to expand their business. This is an important trade deal for the future that should not be allowed to go by default. Trade deals are never easy, as many of those who have been involved in several over the years will agree. However, they are very important, particularly because if we do not have trade deals between the liberal economies, international standards will be set by economies that do not take such a view.

The essence of the success of trade depends on our capacity to produce, and Government have a very significant role in this. I will be a little more generous to the

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Business Secretary than he was to his predecessor, because I think that he has not only pioneered several issues but very much followed on from many of the initiatives taken by his predecessor, Lord Mandelson.

I also pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary, who has brought about a significant cultural change in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, directing it more towards battling and selling for Britain. I was recently in Auckland —the England rugby team are there—taking the opportunity to sell British goods. The GREAT Britain campaign is an extremely successful brand that our incoming Government should and will continue. I accept there is a need for more communication to ensure that many small and medium-sized enterprises are made more aware of the assistance they can get.

Although the FCO and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are doing well, other Government Departments are letting them down. Too often, we focus on Government as legislator or policy maker and miss out on their role as a client. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) has drawn attention to what can be done in construction. However, on the purchase of police vehicles, the Home Office’s framework prevents Jaguar Land Rover from competing. No other country in the world would behave like that, and such behaviour runs through a number of Departments. I could give other examples if I had time. I ask the Minister to get his colleagues in other Departments to see reality and to start behaving like officials in other countries and put the interests of British manufacturing first.

5.21 pm

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Anyone who has listened to a number of speeches by Labour Members during this debate could be forgiven for believing that the good news about unemployment that we continue to see month on month—the 2 million jobs created by the economy, the record pace of the fall in unemployment, and more people, including more women, working than ever before—had never actually happened.

A number of Members have referenced the picture in their own constituency and I will briefly do the same for mine. More than 800 fewer people are on the unemployment register now than 12 months ago. Unemployment has fallen by a third. In east Kent, wages are rising faster than the national average and unemployment is falling faster. We are seeing the regeneration of the local economy.

Some Members have said that nothing is being done about apprenticeships, but nothing could be further from the truth. The number of young people starting an apprenticeship in my constituency this year is more than three times the number under the previous Government. Significant strides forward are being taken and young people are benefiting from that.

I also want to take this opportunity, in front of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to thank a group of people who do not get thanked enough, namely the staff at Jobcentre Plus in Folkestone. They are dedicated to what they do and work very hard with employers and people who are looking for work, particularly young people seeking apprenticeships and work placements. There will always be cases that we as Members of Parliament will take up with jobcentre teams, but they are a dedicated and hard-working group who are doing their best for people and we are seeing the result, which is fast-falling unemployment.

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If Members were to stand in the middle of my constituency—this is certainly true of Folkestone—they would be considerably nearer to the coast of France than to the House of Commons. It is interesting, therefore, to reflect on the difference between the employment picture in Folkestone and that in Boulogne, with which we have been twinned for many years. Many Labour Members have suggested that if the Government had taken a different course—such as borrowing more money or taxing more heavily—perhaps things would have worked out even better, but the French economy gives us a live example of what might have happened. The unemployment rate in Folkestone is 3.4%, but in Boulogne it is more than 15%. The average hourly wage in Folkestone and Hythe is £12, whereas in Boulogne it is £9.

If we look at the performance of the British and French economies, we will see not only that unemployment here is lower, but that the rate of business start-ups here is significantly higher. Earlier this year, I was interested to read in The New York Times, which is not exactly famed for being a tribune of the hard right—it is a fairly liberal, moderate newspaper—an article called, “Au Revoir, Entrepreneurs”. It looked at the growing trend of people moving from France to the UK to set up their own business, and quoted Guillaume Santacruz, who explained his thinking:

“A lot of people are like, ‘Why would you ever leave France?’…I’ll tell you. France has a lot of problems. There’s a feeling of gloom that seems to be growing deeper. The economy is not going well, and if you want to get ahead or run your own business, the environment is not good.”

When asked why he had chosen to come to the UK, he said:

“I asked myself, ‘Where will I have the bigger opportunity in Europe?’…London was the obvious choice. It’s more dynamic and international, business funding is easier to get, and it’s a better base if you want to expand.”

I am pleased to hear anyone tell such a story about their reasons for coming here.

Mr David Ward (Bradford East) (LD): In the short time available to the hon. Gentleman, will he, as the chair of an all-party group that covers the textile industry, say what a great news story the renaissance in UK textiles is?

Damian Collins: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Textiles is becoming one of the great renaissance industries, with British textile businesses and manufacturing centres winning contracts back from the far east, creating high-quality jobs here and supporting the fantastic British fashion industry. That is one of the great success stories.

The shadow Secretary of State spoke about picking winners and having a positive industrial strategy. We see that nowhere more clearly than in the creative sector in this country. The recovery in textiles is such an example, but the Government’s programme of tax credits for film, animation and television production—now extended to theatre production as well—is bringing more work not just to England, Scotland and Wales, but to Northern Ireland, where it is a very important part of the renaissance of the Northern Ireland economy.

The Opposition amendment requires a bit more attention, which the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills gave it in his speech, because the Labour

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party is once again presenting itself as the champion of a great cause, without having any real answers for the problems it identifies. In its amendment, Labour does not propose the adoption of the living wage as the minimum wage—it is largely proposing exactly what the Government are doing, which is to encourage the Low Pay Commission to consider increasing the minimum wage faster than average earnings—and does not propose to mandate any changes, while it includes the caveat that the Low Pay Commission is still free to disregard Labour’s advice and do what it wants.

On the basis of the amendment, Labour is somehow seeking to present itself as a party with a very different policy. It does have different policies on tax and spending, which are those that got the economy into the mess it was in. Our policies are leading to a renaissance in work, employment and business start-ups, and they are also delivering a fairer deal for the low-paid, both in increasing the minimum wage ahead of the rise in average earnings and in cutting taxes for low-paid people in work. That is a much better model to follow.

The future is incredibly bright for business and job creation in this country. The very large number of people who, as we come out of the recession, have decided to set up their own business, start up on their own and invest in themselves and their community is a sign of the great underlying heath of the economy today.

5.27 pm

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): During the past year, I have been pleased to work with colleagues from both sides of the House in seeking, with some success, to regulate payday lenders. Going beyond such regulation, however, we need to ask why people turn to high-cost credit and what we can do about it.

Christians Against Poverty has recently reported that 80% of its advice service users have taken out loans for food, 52% for fuel bills and 36% for rent and mortgage payments: food, heating and housing—the cost of living. There are two sides to the problems in that not only are costs rising, but incomes are depressed. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was right to say last week:

“It is a basic belief of the British people that if you work all the hours God sends, you should at least be able to make ends meet.”—[Official Report, 4 June 2014; Vol. 582, c. 16.]

That is not happening today in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world.

Some 47% of those who visited Citizens Advice with a payday loan issue in the past quarter are in work. There has been a staggering 60% increase in the number of working people claiming housing benefit since the Government were elected. According to a recent Church Action on Poverty report, much of the increased use of food banks has been by working people on low wages. Our economy is simply not rewarding hard work.

Over the last generation, there has been a shift of between 5% and 7% of GDP from wages to profits and from profits to shareholders—quite deliberately—by weakening the bargaining power of working people. We are now seeing the consequences: for too many people, part-time employment has replaced full-time work; the minimum wage has become the norm, not a safety net; and the security of income that people look for has been replaced by the uncertainty of zero-hours contracts.

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Employers are looking for every opportunity to drive down labour costs. A care worker who came to see me was paid the minimum wage for the time she spent with the elderly, but was paid nothing as she spent hours driving from one appointment to another. People have come to see me about zero-hours contracts that make it impossible for them to plan their family budget from week to week.

Growing impoverishment is not the only consequence. Public funds are increasingly being used to prop up a low-wage economy. Social security spend on in-work benefits has risen by almost 20% in 10 years. Taxpayers’ money is being diverted from funding public services to paying dividends and feeding the growing income inequality.

People deserve better. They need a Queen’s Speech that stimulates the growth that will create better-paid jobs through an active industrial strategy, backed by a British investment bank and regional banks, and by building the homes that we need. We need to make work pay by strengthening the enforcement of the national minimum wage and giving local councils the responsibility of taking on that task. We need action to end abuses such as the non-payment of travel time, which affects about 10% of care workers, according to the Low Pay Commission. We need to end bogus self-employment in sectors such as construction. We need to reset the remit of the Low Pay Commission to increase the national minimum wage significantly and bring it closer to average earnings. We need to stop wage rates being undercut by employers who recruit exclusively from eastern Europe. We need to end the abuse of zero-hours contracts by giving workers the right to proper contracts that reflect their actual working hours. We need to work towards a living wage by building on the initiatives of the Labour councils that have implemented it for their workers, using the levers of public procurement to encourage more employers to pay it, and putting in place tax breaks to encourage more employers to adopt it.

I started my comments by welcoming the action that the House has taken on payday lending, but let us not just deal with the symptoms; let us tackle the sickness at its source. We need bold action to make our economy work for the many, not for the few. The Gracious Speech falls short of that mark.

5.32 pm

Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) (Con): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), but I support the Gracious Speech and, in particular, the measures that will support the continued creation of jobs.

Warwick and Leamington is home to a thriving local economy. The Government’s pro-business policies have provided significant help in achieving that and I pay tribute to local businesses for their part in it. More supportive policies were announced in the Queen’s Speech, such as the small business, enterprise and employment Bill, which will undoubtedly add to the climate of business confidence and expansion. Small business rate relief and the reduction in and, in some cases, removal of employer’s national insurance contributions are but two examples of the many Government policies that have supported business growth over the past five years.

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There is clear evidence of that growth in my constituency, where the number of out-of-work claimants has reduced by a staggering 59.5% since April 2010. Further proof of business confidence came to light just this week in a report from the business consultancy, Duport, which showed that a record number of companies were formed in Leamington Spa in the first quarter of 2014. From January to March, 205 new companies were registered in the town, which represents a massive 31% increase on the previous year.

My region has a proud industrial heritage. It has been home to iconic brands such as Aga Rangemaster and Dennis Eagle for many years. It is now the destination of choice for companies such as Vitsoe and First Utility.

Vitsoe offers a particularly apt example, which sums up this renaissance. The old Ford foundry, which manufactured on the same site for many years in Leamington, closed in 2007, with the tragic loss of many hundreds of jobs. In 2013, furniture manufacturer Vitsoe was looking to relocate its factory and, earlier this year, it was confirmed that it would take over the old Ford foundry site, again confirming that we are a destination for manufacturing.

The area also attracts new industries. Leamington is home to a thriving creative industry, with many digital media and video games manufacturers now calling the town home—to the extent that the area is now commonly referred to as “Silicon Spa”. It acts as one of the global hubs for the games industry and the jobs that creates.

Despite those positive and encouraging developments, I would be the first to admit that there is more still to do. There are two key areas to focus on to achieve this. First, we need to continue to rebalance the economy by supporting our manufacturing sector and the jobs it creates. There is great positivity in the manufacturing sector, with UK manufacturing activity increasing for the 15th successive month. However, we can do more as a Government to support the sector and ensure that it continues to thrive.

The Government have already demonstrated their commitment to supporting UK manufacturing and to encouraging a re-shoring of industry, as evidenced by the measures in this year’s Budget, including reducing operating costs and providing affordable finance options, which will encourage investment and export.

Secondly, we should do more to encourage the developing social enterprise sector. We need to support these businesses, which contribute to society as much as they contribute to the economy and jobs. As a Government, we need to have a greater understanding of the culture behind those businesses and increase the recognition that this part of the economy receives.

Support for business, through well designed policies, will create an environment that supports growth and jobs.

5.37 pm

Simon Danczuk (Rochdale) (Lab): Let me start by saying that I found the comments of the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White), particularly about manufacturing, of real interest.

As the economy recovers, we have a genuine opportunity to think about how we are shaping it and about how Britain succeeds in the modern world. My view has

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always been that Britain succeeds when its small businesses succeed. It is the Government’s job to get behind small business and create the conditions for British SMEs to thrive. I therefore welcome the inclusion of a small business, enterprise and employment Bill in the Gracious Speech. I hope that it will offer an opportunity to have a serious discussion about some of the very real challenges that face small business in Britain.

Having recently set up a small business in Rochdale—Danczuk’s Deli, for which I declare an interest—I can testify to how real some of these challenges are. Whether it is access to finance, late payments or being shut out from the tendering process for local procurement contracts, too many small businesses feel that Government do not always give them the proper level of support.

I have two important concerns. The first surrounds aspects of the small business, enterprise and employment Bill where I do not feel the Government are showing the necessary ambition to tackle the big challenges. For example, the Government talk about increasing access to finance, but they are unclear about what they actually intend to do about it. This country needs an ambitious programme based around regional investment banks aimed at getting banks lending to businesses again. In Germany, where thriving SMEs form the backbone of economic success, nearly 2,000 institutions lend to small businesses. In the UK, fewer than 400 do that. Any Government that are serious about tackling this issue would start by reforming the banks. My first concern is therefore about a potential lack of ambition in the Bill.

My second concern is that the Government still have their head in the sand on business rates. I guarantee that at any event with people from the small business world, the subject of business rates will be raised pretty quickly. Business people think the system is broken, and they rate that as their No. 1 concern. They are right to be angry about it.

The business rates system is based on a view that the profitability of a business is linked to the physical size of the premises. That is complete madness in the modern world where many businesses trade online with no physical shops or factories. When we add to that the ridiculous and arbitrary valuation system, we have one of the most unfair and ineffective systems of taxation that can be thought of. The Gracious Speech is a final indication that reform of business rates has been kicked into the long grass for the foreseeable future. If the Government are not prepared to act, will they please give up the empty rhetoric about business rates?

Finally, we need a serious discussion about some of the other proposals in the Bill and how they will work in practice. For example, Jill Nagy from Rochdale Training in my constituency has raised concerns about how the new apprenticeship arrangements will work. She feels that those arrangements will push more bureaucracy on to employers and take it away from training providers, which could cause problems for SMEs hiring apprentices. That is a real issue that could create more bureaucracy and red tape for small businesses, and we need to look at it again.

I hope that many of these issues can be ironed out during the year, and that the small business, enterprise and employment Bill will give us the chance to push for more action on access to finance and business rates reform. Small businesses in this country are all different,

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but they are united by a sense of ambition and optimism about the future. It is time for the Government to match that ambition.

5.41 pm

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk). As always, he speaks with conviction and commitment, and I know he works hard on behalf of his constituents and for the north-west. It is good to speak in this debate and recognise the progress being made on the economy nationally, and indeed in Macclesfield. Many Conservative Members have recently also seen how well things are going in Newark, and it was great to recognise and honour our new colleague in the Chamber today.

In my work I am constantly inspired—as, I am sure, are many other hon. Members—by the great work that goes on in my constituency with volunteers, dedicated town and parish councillors, Cheshire East councillors, and public servants. Today, however, I wish to recognise the inspiring work of many small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed people who are making a huge difference to our local economy.

Debbie Quinn is one of the inspiring people who set up our community treacle market. She then went on to set up a small restaurant, the Salt Bar, which was featured on “The Restaurant Man” on the BBC. She has now helped revitalise the castle quarter in Macclesfield. Yes, that is for profit, but my goodness is she making a contribution to our economy as well. She came to a recent jobs fair with me and we spoke to lots of small businesses. She is already taking on more apprentices—that is the dedication that individuals can have.

I recently visited a local business, Silkmoth, which was set up by a few people and now totals 13 employees. It services 700 independent tyre fitters across the country and provides a platform for them to do e-commerce and online business. That is the sort of contribution that such businesses make, along with other fantastic businesses such as musicMagpie, which has recreated a whole segment of activity by recycling DVDs, CDs and computer games in a massive market. It now employs more than 800 people, with sales in 2012 at £63 million—an incredible achievement. That is the sort of difference such businesses can make, and increasingly they come to me and thank me for the contribution and work of this Government in setting a framework in which they can thrive and succeed.

Earlier in the week it was encouraging to go to a reception by the Federation of Small Businesses here in the House and—other Members may have noticed this—hear its national chairman speak about having had a bumper year, and the way it has been able to influence Government policy and engage with other political parties. It says that it regards the small business Bill as a landmark Bill, and it is a landmark Bill because it will build on the Government’s work in the Finance Bill and the national insurance contributions Bill, which featured in the Queen’s Speech. Together, they will make a difference to the lives of the people who will help to transform our economy even further. The entrepreneurs, employers and exporters are the people who will help to create sustainable economic growth.

It is worth touching on the contribution that is being made by the self-employed. We are helping the growing band of first-time entrepreneurs by cutting back red

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tape. The small business Bill will ensure that red tape is reviewed frequently and that that requirement is put into law. The national insurance contributions Bill will simplify the collection of national insurance for the self-employed, removing one of the barriers to taking on the opportunity to become self-employed. I feel absolutely passionately that we need to do more to encourage first-time employers. We have done that already with the employment allowance, reducing national insurance contributions and taking under-21s out of national insurance entirely. We need to build on those opportunities by removing more barriers. It is critical that the small business Bill strengthens existing prompt payment codes, helping small businesses to have a better deal in their interactions with bigger businesses and greater access to public procurement. It will also ensure, as other Members have mentioned, that sources of finance and advice on finance will be more available to them, too. I agree with the Federation of Small Businesses that this is a landmark Bill.

This is an important Queen’s Speech that will help many more businesses to succeed in their activities. It is further progress in our aim to have successful and sustainable economic growth under the long-term economic plan. For those reasons, I support wholeheartedly the Queen’s Speech.

5.46 pm

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): I have been contacted by many constituents who are disappointed by the Queen’s Speech, not just by its broad failure to tackle the real economic and social problems they face, but, in particular, its failure on recall and the inexplicable omission of a Bill to ban wild animals in circuses.

Today’s debate is about jobs and I want to start by talking about the prevalence of low pay—and, indeed, no pay—in one of the fastest-growing and most successful sectors of our economy: the arts and creative industries. I speak here as chair of the all-party group for the Performers Alliance, which works with the Musicians Union, Equity and the Writers Guild to provide a voice in Parliament for musicians, actors, writers and performers.

The headline figures on the success of our creative industries are impressive, but they mask a situation in which those with talent and creativity often go unrewarded. Equity’s most recent survey of members found that virtually half earned under £5,000, and 86% earned less than £20,000 a year. Similar research by the MU demonstrated that 60% had worked for free in the past year. We must get a grip on this situation to ensure that work in this sector does not become the preserve of only those from privileged backgrounds, as is increasingly the case.

The all-party group’s report, “Work Not Play” sets out what action is needed, such as clear, industry-specific guidance on the national minimum wage on the website. That is something Equity and I discussed with the then Minister with responsibility for employment relations, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), back in October. We will keep pressing the Government on this matter.

As the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is in his place, I will take the opportunity to highlight Equity’s concerns that the roll-out of universal credit

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will prove extremely detrimental to the ability of many of its members to sustain careers in the creative industries. Many will be assumed to have an income they simply do not have, as a result of the application of the minimum income floor, or subject to increased conditionality. This is why Equity is calling for a reduction in the minimum income floor and a relaxation in conditionality for creative industry workers. The creative industries are characterised by unpredictable and short-term patterns of work, and the system must acknowledge that.

I want to talk about the need for action against unscrupulous—or perhaps, to be generous, unwitting employers—who profit from the exploitation of workers both here and abroad. We have heard how the failure to pay the minimum wage and the use of zero-hours contracts have undercut the wages of workers in the UK, and I fully support my party’s efforts to push the Government further on tackling such abuses. There is much more to be done, particularly in relation to company supply chains.

We have heard horrific stories in this Chamber before about the use of trafficked, child and forced labour. According to International Labour Organisation estimates, there are 21 million victims of forced labour around the world, working in unimaginably harsh conditions for little pay or enslaved for no pay at all. People will have seen today’s coverage of the Environmental Justice Foundation’s report, “Sold to the Sea”, which documents the severe conditions in the Thai fishing industry, where, it is said, men are

“bought and sold like animals,”

held against their will, abused and even murdered. An investigation by Finnwatch into Thai factories also revealed forced and child labour, illegally low wages, excessive working hours, abuse by managers and unsafe working hours.

Such factories form part of the supply chains for European companies. As Anti-Slavery International has said:

“If you buy prawns or shrimp from Thailand, you will be buying the produce of slave labour”.

I know that the Modern Slavery Bill is being introduced by the Home Office, and I welcome it, but the Business Secretary clearly has a strong interest too in ensuring that British companies and British consumers do not support the exploitation of workers in that way. I urge him to talk to his colleague the Home Secretary about whether the Bill can be strengthened to legislate against slavery in the supply chain. The EU imported over $1 billion-worth of seafood from Thailand in 2012, so I would also ask the Business Secretary to raise these issues in the EU’s free trade agreement negotiations with Thailand, which is in his remit too.

Given more time, I could talk at length about other examples of the exploitation of workers by unscrupulous employers, whether it be one individual taking advantage of another’s vulnerability or the systematic exploitation of hundreds of workers by huge companies. We need a fundamental shift in power and a Government who stand up for such workers—in whatever industry or, indeed, whatever country, because in today’s global economy the exploitation of workers abroad has an undoubted impact here—using whatever international mechanisms we have at our disposal, such as the ILO, to

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ensure that everyone gets a fair deal. The Government have singularly failed to step up to the plate so far. I hope they will do so now.

5.51 pm

Graham Evans (Weaver Vale) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy). She made some important points, which I agree with, about modern day slavery.

It is a pleasure to have my chance to speak about my constituency of Weaver Vale, and jobs and work. I am aware that I have spoken a number of times about my jobs and apprenticeship fairs. This is the third time that I have mentioned my third annual jobs fair, of which colleagues have been very supportive. However, if I keep this pattern up, I suspect that my colleagues will be slightly less tolerant when I hold my fourth jobs fair, next year.

The reason I raise employment in the House so frequently is that I understand that it is not about just boosting economies, ticking boxes or quoting statistics. I left school at 16 with few qualifications and I spent some time unemployed, so I understand that employment means so much more than being a statistic on a piece of paper. This is about confidence, getting up in the morning and people knowing that they are in control of their own future. When we think of employment statistics, we should think not just of the big picture—although of course that is important—but of how lives have been changed because of new-found vocations.

So what is the outlook for Weaver Vale? I am exceptionally proud that my constituency is a real success story. Since 2010, unemployment has dropped by 30%, to a claimant rate of 3.1% for jobseeker’s allowance. There are 749 fewer jobseekers than a year ago, and youth unemployment has dropped by 41% in the past year alone. What has caused such a dramatic improvement in the outlook for my constituents? Of course, a number of factors have contributed to this success story. First and foremost, as I have mentioned occasionally in the past, the long-term economic plan is working. This country’s recovery from the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history and the deepest recession since world war two is fast and getting faster. Britain has set out to the world that it is a great place to do business. International and national confidence in our economy is high. Confidence translates into investment. Businesses are therefore expanding to create more jobs. Britain is open for business and everyone knows it.

The second factor is local investment projects, such as the Mersey gateway bridge—representatives of which were in attendance at my jobs fair—and the regeneration of Northwich town centre, which are creating hundreds of construction roles and thousands of permanent jobs. Such projects identify the local need and are being maximised to create bright new prospects across a huge range of vocations. I look forward to continuing to work with jobseekers and employers alike as those projects develop.

Finally, I should like to mention employment skills. At my jobs and apprenticeships fair, I welcomed employment support organisations and apprenticeship schemes to help people to develop the skills they need. Waitrose recently opened a store in Northwich, creating 151 roles as a part of the regeneration of the town centre. I am very pleased that Northwich shoppers now

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have more choice in their weekly shop and that numerous charities and community projects, such as the ArtWork gallery, are receiving support from the store. However, what is even more important about the opening of this store is the fact that 45% of the staff were unemployed before being offered their role. A further one in five roles were offered to people working fewer than 16 hours a week.

Last month, I was delighted to welcome the Chancellor to Northwich to see the regeneration, to meet staff and to learn about their stories. Waitrose collaborated with a number of local organisations, including Cheshire West and Chester council, the Northwich jobcentre and Mid Cheshire college, which works with local jobseekers, tailoring its training to make them perfect candidates for the roles. This is a great example of local bodies recognising the need for candidates and the need for jobs, and identifying the skills required to match up to those needs. In truth, this is the most important aspect of the upturn in employment statistics. It is about showing individuals the skills that they have already, helping them to discover new skills and finding the right role for them. That is also why I believe apprenticeships are so important; they nurture vocational skills.

I am very pleased that the number of apprenticeships in my constituency has risen by 27% over the past three years—a statistic that I expect to rise even further next year, thanks to the excellent work of Mid Cheshire college and the ambitious 100-day apprenticeship challenge of the Northwich Guardian. I am proud that the outlook for jobseekers in Weaver Vale has improved so markedly since I became a Member, and I will continue to run my jobs fairs to bring together training, talent and opportunity, because I believe that every job filled is a success story to be proud of.

5.56 pm

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in the debate. I hope to demonstrate that many of the measures in the Gracious Speech fail to address the real issues facing my constituency.

The north-east demonstrates many aspects of a successful knowledge-based economy, with a highly skilled and motivated work force. Our manufacturing industry alone is worth £7.5 billion to the economy, and we have a strong and successful advanced engineering sector, as well as leading the way in low-carbon technology and sustainable energy solutions.

The north-east has some key competitive advantages to enable further rebalancing and job creation to happen, if only opportunities can be unlocked. Labour recognised that when in government, and our regional development agency, One North East, was working very successfully to build on this unique skills base. Regrettably, this approach was lost when the Government abolished the regional development agencies without giving thought to the consequences of losing their skills in job creation and attracting jobs to the area.

Lord Adonis’s “North East Independent Economic Review” report recently made proposals to boost exports and supply chains and co-ordinate inward investment activities. In many ways, it sought to put back together some of the functions once carried out by the regional development agency, but with a fresh purpose and momentum. Unfortunately, there is no sign whatever

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that the Government will act on this report. Indeed, they have no proposals at all to intervene in an economy that needs to deliver more jobs—something that Labour did very successfully. It worked very hard to attract Hitachi to the region, and it looks as though we will gain more than 5,000 jobs in the next few years. Labour also supported Nissan through the recession, so that more jobs and skills could be developed, and we also developed the supply chain. My point to the Government is that that simply could not have happened without intervention—something that we do not have from them at the moment.

There is a real contrast between all that under Labour and having a local enterprise partnership in the area that is barely functional—it does not have a chief executive or even a deputy chief executive at the moment—and a regional growth fund that operates a scattergun approach. Most of the money allocated to the region is not drawn down in any case. According to a recent report by the National Audit Office, most of the funds remain unspent, while the cost of creating jobs has increased considerably, but Ministers are taking no action to tackle this set of concerns.

This is not only about the number of jobs created; it is about the quality of jobs on offer, too. Work must pay. The northern TUC has raised the important issue of the nature of the jobs being created in the region: many are precarious and based on zero-hours contracts, and we risk losing valuable, high-quality public sector jobs in the region, with poor private sector replacements. A good example is the Government’s proposals to privatise the Land Registry. Those jobs are currently good-quality public sector jobs, but we risk their being downgraded through privatisation. Under the present Government, about eight out of 10 new private sector jobs have been created in the south of England. It is also worrying that the number of business start-ups in Durham has fallen by 14%, compared with a national fall of 1% in the first quarter of the year.

This is not only about finding work; it is about what happens to those who are receiving low pay. My constituency is among the 10 areas that are suffering the most from the bedroom tax, which is causing households to lose about £482 a year, resulting in a reduction in local spending power. Wages in the north-east are about £50 a week lower than the UK average and about £200 a week less than wages in London. Therefore, in the retail sector, people in the north-east are spending 10% less than people elsewhere in the country. The Government must do more to rebalance the economy, and take account of issues relating specifically to regions such as the north-east.

6 pm

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): One of the critical drags on the creation of decent, well-paid jobs is the continuing difficulty experienced by both small businesses and ordinary households in gaining access to affordable credit. I wait with interest for details of the measures in the small business Bill, but I fear that they will not go far enough.

A number of United Kingdom-based experts with knowledge of small business lending have suggested that part of the problem is the wide disparity within and

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between different parts of the UK in obtaining access to business finance. For years, as a result of a package of legislative measures known colloquially as the Community Reinvestment Act, banks in the United States have had to disclose where they are lending by postcode and the type of lending that they offer and to demonstrate, to secure banking licences, that they are offering a service in all the areas from which they take deposits. There is also organised scrutiny of the data that they disclose, so that policy makers can locate the gaps in access to credit. In parts of America where lending is low, banks work closely with alternative lenders of finance such as community banks to address the shortage. In the absence of a similar regular disclosure of lending data, the Government, local enterprise partnerships, local authorities and community banks in this country are working with one hand tied behind their backs in trying to understand where further support is needed to provide proper access to credit.

It is true that in January, following sustained pressure from Members in all parts of the House, banks published data showing lending to businesses and personal lending by postcode, as a one-off, but I understand that no organisation has yet received funds that would enable it to carry out a comprehensive examination of those data, and it is not clear how regular further lending data disclosures will be. There is no legal requirement for UK banks to release such data—it is still voluntary—but I hope that we may yet see such a requirement in the small business Bill.

Concern about lending to businesses is mirrored by concern about the existence of lending deserts in personal finance. The number of bank branch closures has increased over the past four years, and, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), a growing number of communities with no bank or alternative banking facilities are being forced to turn to high-cost sources of credit such as payday lenders.

I asked the Financial Inclusion Centre to take an initial look at the lending data for London. It concluded that there did appear to be a postcode lottery, with significant variations between levels of lending. There are, for example, areas of London in which lending to small and medium-sized enterprises drops to between a quarter and a third of the London average. A better understanding of the differences in personal lending between communities might help to ensure that efforts to expand credit union coverage and membership were directed more effectively. I should have liked the Queen’s Speech to contain further measures to accelerate awareness of credit unions as a cheaper source of personal credit. The inclusion of a clear cross-Government target of increasing the number of members and enabling local authorities, housing associations and employers to encourage credit union membership might have been useful. Similarly, a legal right to allow employees to have deducted at source a small part of their income for saving with a credit union would have been helpful.

I am disappointed that there are no measures in the Queen’s Speech to tackle the growing crisis in the NHS. In my constituency, there are problems at Northwick Park hospital. Our A and E department is under significant pressure; it is one of the worst in terms of meeting the target to see 95% of A and E patients within four hours. My constituents are inevitably worried about the Government’s decision to close the nearby Ealing hospital A and E department and about the disclosure that the

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hospital board thinks that an additional 123 beds are needed on the Northwick Park site to deal with the pressures. I have not yet seen any evidence that the Government will meet the demand for finance to deal with that issue. I hope that that will be corrected soon.

6.6 pm

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution in the debate. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas), who made a powerful case. My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna), the shadow Secretary of State, outlined a range of issues on which the Government could have acted to deal with the cost of living crisis and to support the small business sector. A couple of points have been raised with me by small businesses in my community, and I make a plea for joined-up government to deal with them. However, one thing struck me during the debate on zero-hours contracts and the variability of the hours that people work. I recently met a woman on the doorstep who said, “I am working part-time. I am trying to do my best. I have two children, and if I get extra hours it costs me £15 an hour for child care. I earn £7 an hour.” That is the reality that many people face.

We regularly hear pleas about red tape from the small business sector. Some Members have mentioned that, but I have not yet heard anything from the Government about which particular bits of red tape they may want to slash in the coming Bill. In an attempt to be helpful, as always, I will mention some that my constituents have suggested. Unlike some Members, I would not suggest cutting red tape in a way that would impede our ability to ensure safe working environments. My constituents’ suggestions are about the collection of statistics. One constituent told me in an e-mail:

“We currently ‘have’ to take part in the Monthly Business Survey, the Annual PRODCOM (UK Manufacturers Sales by Product) survey, the Business Register and Employment Survey, and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, fifteen surveys per annum.”

That is from a very small business that employs local people and contributes to the local economy. However, for some reason it seems to be locked in: once the ONS gets hold of a small business for surveys, it never gets out of that cycle. It is unclear how small businesses are selected for those surveys.

I understand that 26 businesses in my constituency have to complete these surveys during the year. Another two businesses have contacted me. One is a small business that manufactures ice cream. It cannot understand why it was asked to complete a very lengthy survey and threatened with legal action and penalties if it did not do so. After pursuing the issue, it turned out that the business was being asked to complete the wrong survey. When we looked at this further, it seemed that, despite all the threats that are made to small businesses, very few people actually end up being pursued. I wonder how much it is costing the Government to pursue this, rather than slashing the so-called red tape facing businesses.

On the same issue, a businesswoman who runs a local garage explained to me that she had queried the form she was being asked to fill in because it did not make any sense in relation to her business, and she received an acknowledgement that perhaps it was not the right form. The Cabinet Office, which has responded to me,

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and the BIS and DWP teams may want to try to ensure that we do something practical and sensible and bring forward specific proposals that will help such small businesses in my constituency.

I want to make a final plea on business lending. Notwithstanding everything the Government say, businesses in my constituency are still telling me that it is impossible to get the funding they need to get people into jobs and make the contribution to the local community that they want to make.

6.10 pm

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): Having sat here for the best part of six and a half hours listening to the discussion of various issues to do with the Gracious Speech, I have to say I am not surprised that many people outside the Westminster bubble feel disenchanted with politics. We have seen from the Government Benches that the fine and dandy politics shines through—Government Members have explained to the people who will be listening to this and who perhaps read reports that life in the UK is fine and that everybody is doing marvellously, but that simply is not the case.

People are right to sit back and be offended by politicians who continually ram that down their throats, suggesting that their life is fine and their families are fine and they should not complain and they should know their place. We live in food bank Britain, yet the fine and dandy politics of the coalition suggests that that is a good thing—it shows community spirit; it is not because people need to eat food to live. The fact that there are more working people at food banks than there are people who are not working is apparently the big society, and it is to be celebrated. Try telling that to people who actually attend the food banks.

We discussed zero hours for a lot of hours today. Different people have different views. The fine and dandy politics of the coalition simply says, “Well, we’ll look at zero-hours contracts, but listen: people should be happy that they’ve got zero-hours contracts. It’s a job. They’re not unemployed, and it doesn’t matter that they’re not making a halfpenny in a week. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t got any protection in the workplace. Be happy because you’ve got a job and you’re not unemployed.” That is rubbish. Try telling it to the young man or woman or the family who are on zero-hours contracts and cannot control their lives. Try telling the agency workers who are being exploited. Try having a look at the situation they are in. Instead of telling everybody that life is brilliant, we should be looking at trying to restore some justice to ordinary people in this country.

I am terribly upset by what went off today, because Members have simply been suggesting that we live in utopia, and saying, “This is happening and that is happening and it’s fantastic, and that’s what we’ve delivered, and you’re scared to talk about it”, while at the same time we have got people suffering greatly in our constituencies. We have child poverty, pensioner poverty, fuel poverty and food poverty, and people relying on handouts—not benefits but handouts—to make a living, put bread on the table and clothe their kids. That is what we should have been addressing in the next few months, in the road to the next general election. People are saying that this is a zombie Parliament. Of course it is, but it is not as if we have not got things to talk about and people to deliver for.

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The Bills in the Queen’s Speech, which we will be dealing with for the next six, seven, eight months, contain nothing that will deliver for many of the people in our communities who are desperate and do not live with rose-tinted spectacles on. They are desperate for some help from politicians from all sides. That is what we are here for— we are here to represent the people in our communities—and it is about time that people in this place realised that the Westminster bubble is completely different from other parts of the United Kingdom. My view is simply that we need at all times to remember where we come from, where we want to be and who we represent.

6.16 pm

Mr Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery). The Government claim this Queen’s Speech is unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration, but that statement is an attempt to show a united front between the two coalition partners rather than a reflection of the reality of the content of this Queen’s Speech. Yet again, this Queen’s Speech is notably weak on something that matters crucially to the people of Britain: the quality of jobs and work. Once again, my constituents could be forgiven for seeing little in it for them: very little on jobs, very little for families, nothing to deal with the cost of living crisis, and nothing to instil confidence in the future for our young people.

The Government claim to have turned the economy around, yet they ignore the everyday struggle of ordinary people. Under this Government we have seen a rising tide of insecurity at work, which is adding to the costs of social security as people are forced to rely on benefits to make ends meet. The truth is that most people across the UK are experiencing squeezed living standards. Families are working harder, for longer, for less, yet they are seeing prices go up and up. In addition, the talents of millions of our young people are going to waste, and small businesses feel that this Government are not on their side.

For the Government to declare their economic plan a success, they must continue to deny the cost of living crisis that is engulfing the country. Even people in work see that wages are falling, because of the increase in the cost of living, and there have been unprecedented falls in real wages in the UK since the start of this recession. If we cast our minds back—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Minister of State, I can hear your conversation clearly. Members have sat in this Chamber all day waiting to speak and we should pay them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say, even if we do not necessarily agree with them.

Mr McKenzie: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Let us cast our minds back. We recall that this did not happen in previous economic downturns, when median real wage growth slowed, or at worst stalled, but did not fall. Under this government, the real wages of the typical worker have fallen by about 8% to 10%, meaning that most people, except those at the very top, have experienced falling living standards. There is a cost of

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living crisis across the UK, and young people have been particularly badly hit. Those aged 25 to 29 have seen real wage falls in the order of 12%, with falls of 15% for those aged 18 to 24. In addition, many young people cannot find a job at all. Some three quarters of a million under-25s are unemployed, with 25% of them having been unemployed for more than a year. Our young people need work—and on decent contracts; they do not need the rise of the zero-hours contracts that many now find themselves on. The Queen’s Speech does, however, offer a concession on zero-hours contracts, whereby firms will not be able to prevent workers on zero-hours deals from working elsewhere as well—I expect we should be grateful for this.

Let us consider another obscenity that is still occurring: the incidence of people paying below the national minimum wage. The Government have made re-announcement after re-announcement about cracking down on employers who do not pay the minimum wage. They have announced their name and shame policy on several occasions, but very few employers have been named or shamed. The Government need to match Labour’s plans for more robust enforcement. Labour plans to increase the value of the national minimum wage over the next Parliament to a higher proportion of average earnings and to help businesses pay a living wage through Make Work Pay contracts.

The truth is that under this Government, life has become more insecure for people at work, and it has become harder for employees to seek redress. This Queen’s Speech offers little hope to families in Inverclyde who are faced with spending cuts, pay freezes and rising prices. There is little to help the 178,000 unemployed Scots to get a job. In Inverclyde, we have been fortunate to have a Labour MP, a Labour MSP and a Labour council focused on what matters most, which is jobs and work.

A continuation of the future jobs fund has meant that Inverclyde has one of the lowest rates of youth unemployment in Scotland, but we could have achieved more if we did not have a Government in Westminster fixated on the rich and a Government in Holyrood fixated on independence.

If this had been Labour’s Queen's Speech, we would have introduced Bills to make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again. Labour would have recognised as wealth creators not just those who set up businesses, but those who put in the hours and do the shifts to make a successful business. Labour recognises that a recovery is created by the many and not the few. We want a plan for jobs. We need to identify industries of the future and to get Britain back to work.

6.21 pm

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): This Government have totally failed to grasp the appalling situation faced by struggling individuals and families who remain unemployed or in insecure work. The Queen’s Speech offers little hope to the almost one in four young people in London who are unemployed. Nationally, 850,000 young people remain unemployed, and 975,000 young people are not in employment, education or training. This business-as-usual approach by the Government continues to put at risk the hopes and aspirations of our young people and shatters the hopes of another generation.

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In my constituency, 42% of young people live in poverty. The figures released this week by the Government’s own commission estimates that 3.2 million children will be in poverty by 2020. It is said that two-thirds of those children will live in households in which at least one person is in work. We desperately need a more ambitious approach by this Government to tackle worklessness, unemployment and insecurity and low pay at work.

We should make no mistake that unemployment and insecure and low-paid work remain a massive problem in this country. London’s unemployment rate is still 12% higher than the national average. Although it has seen huge growth in recent months, there has been a failure by both the London government and the national Government to ensure that our young people and the unemployed benefit from the job opportunities. This could be addressed today, but there is great complacency. We need better training, more apprenticeships and more opportunities to get people into work.

In my constituency, the Work programme is still a categorical failure—less than 10% of young people who go on that programme achieve a proper jobs outcome. I raised this matter with the Work and Pensions Secretary a year ago. Although the numbers have improved slightly, they are still not good enough, and there is great complacency in his Department in sorting it out. Why is so much money being wasted, and why are no new job opportunities being provided for young people up and down the country, including in areas such as mine?

Many Members have spoken about the 1.4 million people who are on zero-hours contracts. We need to see action by this Government to tackle the exploitation that goes on in certain sectors with zero-hours contracts and other similar contracts, particularly in the care sector. I met care workers in my constituency who cannot earn enough on these contracts to pay their rent and pay for their food in some weeks. In the 21st century and one of the richest economies in the world, that is a disgrace.

It falls on us all to ensure that we address these kinds of scandal, and that is why it is deeply disappointing that the Government have failed to take action and introduce the appropriate legislation to protect people from such exploitation. The Queen’s Speech should have provided a clear target to improve the minimum wage and should have addressed our point about introducing minimum wage legislation to improve average earnings.

The Government have done nothing in the Queen’s Speech to address the real concerns of my constituents on the value and security of work and nothing for people across the country who face insecurity at work and have little hope or prospect of getting a job. They have shown themselves incapable of ensuring that many of these people get a decent wage and can provide for their families. The Queen’s Speech is meagre in its ambition and offers little hope to the millions of people who remain unemployed or in insecure work, struggling to make ends meet. I hope that the Government will think again, stop being complacent and get their act together to get those who are not in work back to work and to support those who face insecurity and low pay in work.

6.26 pm

Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab): In the limited time available to me, I will look at the Queen’s Speech and jobs and work through the eyes of my

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constituents—the people who come to talk to me in my office and bring me casework—and what I hear as I go around. The Business Secretary, who is now in his place, started off a little grumpy, saying that we were not talking enough about today’s unemployment figures. I will certainly talk about the unemployment figures in Blackpool and praise the modest reduction in the overall number of people out of work and the very modest reduction in the number of people out of work for more than 12 months, but the devil, as always, is in the detail.

The unemployment rate in Blackpool is still twice the UK average and 50% more than the north-west average. We have always had challenges, like many coastal towns, with part-time and seasonal work and low skills, but the way in which the Government have failed to tackle those issues has exacerbated the problem enormously. Great work is being done by our small and medium-sized employers, by Blackpool council, by the “Build It” unit, which gets people back into construction, and by our further education colleges, and I have tried to get things moving, in my own modest way, with the skills fair we held last year: some 450 people turned up and we had 44 exhibitors, and we will repeat that event next year. The reality, though, is that we are not moving in anywhere near a strong or fast enough way.

If we want to know why this “recovery”, so widely talked about by the coalition, is not being felt on the ground, perhaps we should look at the TUC’s “Economic Quarterly Report”, which has just come out. It rightly talks about the continuing under-use of resources and the fact that 1.4 million people in part-time jobs say that their first choice would have been full-time work—a figure 700,000 higher than the typical pre-recession level. We need to look much more carefully at why people are going into self-employment, where there has been a big increase. What I and many Members know anecdotally is that many people, particularly women, are going into self-employment because they have lost their full-time or part-time jobs—often, their job has been outsourced. Their incomes, as the TUC reports, can be modest indeed: the average annual income from self-employment is less than £10,000 for women.

There has been a lot of discussion today about the minimum wage and zero-hours contracts, which are big issues for us in Blackpool. There is also the issue of low-hours contracts, which the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has taken up and which particularly affects women. If we want to address those issues, we have to take real measures, not the perfunctory measures on zero-hours contracts that have been suggested, particularly at a time when the reduction in the cost of living gap is modest. In fact, figures today from the Office for National Statistics and the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest that it is becoming even more modest.

As we know, one key thing is to get young people into skills training and then into decent, meaningful employment. However, as the shadow Secretary of State said, the figures still show that the majority of the significant increase in employment has been among the over-25s. The traineeships programme, which we supported and which the Government quite rightly said was really important, has been a fiasco so far. It has not been promoted properly, and it took the Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills and for Work and Pensions months and months to get an agreement on the 16-hour rule. The programme is still not being promoted properly,

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it is still not clear and we now have a situation in which the Minister for Skills and Enterprise, in a panic about the take-up, proposes to reduce the time involved to as little as three weeks. The disincentives, the problems that people face in getting into work, which I have seen in my Jobcentre Plus in Blackpool, and the sanctioning process are doing nothing to help.

This Government are doing too little for younger people, but they are also doing too little for the 40-somethings and the 50-somethings in my constituency who want to reskill and retrain properly. The Government have got the balance wrong between stuffing people into short-term, low-skilled jobs, which are often temporary, and having a strategy that will produce real growth, real skills and real jobs for those people.