I began the first Business of the House Questions since Christmas by paying tribute to Paul Goggins whose untimely death this week has shocked and saddened all who knew him. He was a kind, caring man who campaigned tirelessly for social justice, including his recent work securing the passage of the mesothelioma bill. My thoughts are with his wife, children, family and many friends.
I moved onto the government’s self-proclaimed flagship immigration bill which is still mysteriously absent from the House of Commons, despite its committee stage concluding on 19 November. A planned second reading in the Lords has also vanished. I asked Andrew Lansley whether we can expect the report stage soon, or is the prime minister still running scared of the 69 Tory backbenchers who have signed the rebel amendment?
George Osborne this week wished everyone an unhappy new tear with a speech underlining his ideological obsession with rolling back social progress and shrinking the size of the state to prewar levels. He announced his ambition for a further £25bn extra spending cuts in the first two years of the next parliament, with £12bn coming from the social security budget. Treasury ministers were unable to say which benefits would be targeted but refused to rule out those for the sick and disabled.
The chancellor is doing his best to hide his failure to balance the government’s books by 2015. But people across the country are £1,600 worse off under his watch and we will not let him rewrite history to cover up his failed economic plan. I asked the leader of the House to ensure that Osborne comes to the House of Commons to explain where his £12bn of extra social security cuts are going to come from.
We may only be one week into the new year but the government are already descending into chaos. We’ve had Iain Duncan Smith rowing with the Treasury and the Cabinet Office about the gargantuan mess that is universal credit. We’ve had Michael Gove being slapped down by his colleagues for trying to politicise the commemoration of the first world war. And we’ve had the spectacle of Liberal Democrats frantically trying to distance themselves from a government they are in while simultaneously accusing the Tories of stealing their policies.
Finally I’d like to disagree with Boris Johnson who this week called Nick Clegg a ‘prophylactic protection device’. Now, I know I’m not the world’s greatest expert but I thought you were supposed to be able to trust contraception.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
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