It is an honour and a privilege to represent the people of Newcastle upon Tyne Central. It is the city I grew up in and, quite simply, the best place in the world. My question in this King’s Speech debate is: why are the Government letting Newcastle down?
Replacing the woman actually elected to lead his party, the Prime Minister promised to get the economy growing, but the IMF now forecasts that our country will have the lowest growth in the G7 next year, yet taxes are at their highest rate since 1949. What are my constituents paying for? It is not a better health service, better schools or safer streets; we are paying for Tory failure. This King’s Speech does nothing to change that.
I suppose it should not be surprising that an old Harrovian failed Prime Minister thinks the answer is an old Etonian failed Prime Minister, but it is not.
That Tory failure will continue in my constituency. I see it on the doorstep, at my surgeries and on our streets, with young people trying to get on the housing ladder, but held back by Tory Britain’s systemic failure to build. We have businesses contending with inflation, as well as the scourge of late payments. We have pensioners choosing between heating and eating. Less than half of children in England saw a dentist in the past year. We have supermarket security tags on half a pound of butter. Some 42% of children in my constituency are growing up in poverty, 17% of households are in fuel poverty and almost one fifth of adults in Newcastle are estimated to be in problematic debt.
It is little wonder that this year, the citizens advice bureau in Newcastle is on course to help more people with crisis support, food bank referrals and charitable support than in any other year on record. Behind each statistic, there is a living family. One example from Newcastle City Council’s cost of living helpline is of an adult with two children. The parent has not eaten anything for three days, saving food so that the kids can eat. There is no gas and no electricity. They are going to warm places in the city to spend the day and wrapping up in multiple layers at night. That is impacting on the mental health of everyone in the family. This is Newcastle in 2023 under the Tories. This is the human cost of Tory economic chaos.
I am immensely proud of our local food banks such as West End food bank, Newcastle United supporters trust food bank and Kenton food bank. I am proud of the work of our council, and I am proud of the work of all the charities helping Geordies to survive, but it should not have to be this way. Newcastle’s wonderful industrial heritage inspired me to go into engineering. Whether it is renewable energy, life sciences, start-ups or innovative manufacturing, Newcastle has exciting prospects for the industries of the future and a green industrial manufacturing future. In our long-standing areas of strength, such as our world-renowned hospitality sector, which adds more than £300 million of GVA each year in my constituency, I can see enormous potential for growth, helped by Labour’s plans on business rates, energy markets and the planning system.
Labour has a plan to make people across the whole country better off by growing the economy, boosting wages and bringing down bills. Our industrial strategy would bring together our excellent universities, skilled workforce and deep capital markets to turbocharge growth in constituencies such as mine. Our planning reforms would make it possible to build the infrastructure we need, and switching on Great British Energy would bring down bills, create hundreds of thousands of high-paid jobs and put the UK on course towards energy independence.
The record speaks for itself. People in Newcastle upon Tyne Central would be better off with Labour. Under the Tories, disposable income is forecast to grow by just £42 between 2010 and 2025. Under Labour, it grew by £11,000 per person. The Tories low-growth, high-tax economy has meant hardship and setbacks for my constituents. We need a Labour Government and a Labour King’s Speech to restore pride and purpose to our country and to give Newcastle upon Tyne Central and the whole country our future back.