Thelma Walker contributions to the Finance Act 2019


Tue 8th January 2019 Finance (No. 3) Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
3 interactions (3 words)
Mon 19th November 2018 Finance (No. 3) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
3 interactions (658 words)

Finance (No. 3) Bill Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Finance Act 2019

Finance (No. 3) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Thelma Walker Excerpts
Tuesday 8th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Simon Hoare Portrait Simon Hoare - Hansard
8 Jan 2019, 4:17 p.m.

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not, because I want to refer to the speech by the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker). I hope that he will not think it is untoward for me to say this, but the passion with which he delivered his speech was powerful and incredibly compelling. He struck on a point that I was going to make and on which I had jotted down a note or two, and it is a point I have been making in recent speeches around the place. I often admire the Labour party—

Thelma Walker (Colne Valley) (Lab) Hansard
8 Jan 2019, 4:18 p.m.

Stop there. [Laughter.]

Simon Hoare Portrait Simon Hoare - Hansard
8 Jan 2019, 4:18 p.m.

There is always a “but”, though. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury says that my career has definitely gone now. I did not even know that I had a career, so that is going to be interesting.

There is usually no embarrassment on the Labour side at talking with passion about the burning injustices that we see in all our constituencies and having a clear determination to do something about them. There is no inhibition at all on the Labour side. On my side—I say this as somebody who has been a member of our party since 1985—I occasionally find that we get slightly inhibited about talking from the heart. Other Members have referred to this. We can bandy the statistics about—relative or absolute, percentage this versus percentage that, up, down, more in this, fewer than the other—but it does not matter, because if someone is poor, the statistics do not affect them: they are poor. They want to know that their elected representatives, locally, in this place and those in Whitehall are doing their damnedest to make their life just a little better.

I make this plea to my colleagues on the Treasury Bench: we on the Conservative Benches do not talk enough about the whys of politics. We talk a lot about the whats, but we do not say why. We find homelessness gut-wrenchingly upsetting. We find the closing down of hope, aspiration and life expectancy intensely moving, and we burn with the desire to help. It certainly motivates me every morning to get out of bed and to do my best for my constituents in whatever way I can by supporting policies that I fundamentally believe have the power to make our local economy, and therefore my constituents’ lives, better. If anybody in this House is not motivated by that fundamental political passion to stir up the soul to go and do something about it, I say to them with the greatest of respect that they should not be here. That, I think, must be our principal function. Members from both sides of the House want to arrive at a place where aspiration, hope and opportunity are available for as great a number of our citizens as we can possibly facilitate.

We also want to make sure that the economy is buoyant. Why? Because warm words butter no parsnips. The emotional speeches may salve our consciences, but we need the economic policies that deliver the taxes and pay for the safety net below which, I am determined, none of my constituents should, or will, ever fall on my watch. We need to be ever vigilant to make sure that our economic policies are delivering that growth.

Finance (No. 3) Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Finance Act 2019

Finance (No. 3) Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Thelma Walker Excerpts
Monday 19th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:31 p.m.

Absolutely, and we want to see the number of those workers and the opportunities and jobs in those industries continue to grow. That is why it is so shocking to hear views from the Opposition that would damage the jobs miracle that we have seen over the last few years in this country.

Wages are rising, inflation is stable, unemployment has been so low for so long that the Office for Budget Responsibility believes that the equilibrium rate has fallen, income inequality is down and disposable income is up. This is the extraordinary record of making work pay. It is a huge economic success story, after the financial meltdown that the Labour party presided over. I want to see the success continue, and I know that to do so this House must support the Bill. I shall continue to do so, not least because of the concrete measures it contains for putting money in the pockets of Stoke-on-Trent’s very many hard-working people.

Thelma Walker (Colne Valley) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:32 p.m.

I begin by reflecting on the purpose of our society—the purpose of our communities, locally and nationally. The great Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee said:

“No social system will bring us happiness, health and prosperity unless it is inspired by something greater than materialism.”

I agree with Clement Attlee. To me and many others in this House, the aspiration is to create and be part of a community and society that cares for one another and enables everyone to succeed in life, in whatever form success takes—a society that is safe and secure from cradle to grave and that provides accessible healthcare, quality housing, outstanding education and secure employment. A Government’s ultimate goal should be the wellbeing of its citizens, and there is much evidence to suggest that higher levels of wellbeing can lead to higher levels of job performance and productivity and greater job satisfaction. That is the society I want to live in.

Unfortunately, to say that that is not a reality under the current Government is an understatement. This Finance Bill does nothing to deliver the people of this country’s wellbeing. On new clause 2, a UN report just last week told us that the Government have inflicted “great misery” on our people, with

“punitive, mean-spirited and often callous”

austerity policies, driven by a political desire to undertake social re-engineering rather than by economic necessity. This is from the United Nations poverty envoy. We are told that levels of child poverty are

“not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and economic disaster”.

The Budget was an opportunity to make some attempt to right those wrongs. Did it offer full and fair funding for our teachers and education service? No. Did it offer reassurance for those suffering the consequences of the cruel and callous roll-out of universal credit? No. Did it attempt to put an end to the causes of homelessness and destitution? No. Did it commit to funding our police services to help halt the massive increase in violent crime? No. Did it commit to funding our local councils, suffering 50% cuts, which are damaging the very fabric of our society? No. Did it do anything to relieve the hardship felt by so many women across our country? No.

Some 14 million of our citizens—our people; a fifth of the population—are living in poverty. One and a half million are destitute, with no money for even basic essentials. Up to 40% of children will be living in poverty by 2022. This Finance Bill is about lip service and rhetoric—pretending to care about the poor and vulnerable, but doing nothing substantial to address the misery and suffering felt by so many in our society. There is so much poverty and inequality in our country, and our country has never been more miserable or divided—divided geographically, generationally and economically. We have poverty in our cities, towns and villages, but under this Government there is a poverty of compassion, a poverty of empathy and a poverty of insight into what real, ordinary people’s lives are like.

My mum said to me a few years before her death, having lived through the depression in the 1930s and survived the Manchester blitz in the second world war: “I’m glad I’m at the end of my life and not at the start when I look at what this Government are doing to our society. They’re punishing people for being poor”. Enough now. The people of this country have had enough. Labour will keep up the pressure and fight for those who are stuck in poor quality housing, those who are struggling to feed their families and those who are not yet old enough to understand what poverty is and how it may impact their life. They deserve better.

I would like to finish with a quotation from the philosopher Thomas Paine:

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”

It is interesting that the Government are currently facing so many questions and inquiries, both within this House and beyond.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart - Parliament Live - Hansard
19 Nov 2018, 6:37 p.m.

It is an honour to speak in this debate and to follow the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker).

One of the most striking things about the Chancellor’s Budget speech was the moment in history that it reflected. As the Committee will know, in 2010 the Government—the coalition Government, as then was—inherited the largest peacetime deficit in our history, yet the Chancellor was able to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that the deficit had fallen by four fifths, from just under 10% to 1.9%, and that it would be less than 1% by 2023-24. This is an extraordinary achievement, not of this House or even this Government, but of the British people, who, yes, have had to cut their cloth to make it happen. However, it has been an essential task, yet sometimes, listening to some hon. Members, we can be led to believe that it could have been wished away, that it did not matter or that it was something that the Conservative party invented.

But that is not so. The deficit is a real, serious thing. The deficit is the debt that we pass on to our children and to our children’s children. It is the debt that we have not cleared ourselves. We have a responsibility to the future. We have a responsibility to pass on a natural environment that is not polluted and we have a duty to pass an economy that is not polluted.