Margaret Greenwood MP has said that the government is offering little in the way of hope for the millions waiting for NHS appointments, for the millions struggling to pay their bills, or for the millions of adults who struggle to read and write.
She also accused ministers of dashing the hopes of everyone who is concerned about the climate emergency.
The Wirral West MP was speaking in the House of Commons as MPs debated the King’s Speech which was recently delivered to parliament by King Charles III and set out the government’s forthcoming programme of legislation.
Margaret Greenwood said in her speech that government spending on health has not kept pace with need as she urged ministers to change tack and use the Autumn Statement to provide the NHS with the resources it needs.
She also highlighted shocking research by the independent think tank, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which estimated that 1.8 million UK households, containing nearly 3.8 million people, including a million children, experienced destitution at some point in 2022.
Earlier this month, Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, described poverty levels in the UK as “simply not acceptable” and said that the government was violating international law.
Margaret Greenwood also used her speech to call on the government to carry out a review of adult literacy levels, and to come forward with a strategy to improve them. It is estimated by the National Literacy Trust that 7.1 million adults in England – one in six, or 16.4% of the adult population – are functionally illiterate, meaning that they can understand short straightforward texts on familiar topics accurately and independently, and obtain information from everyday sources, but reading information from unfamiliar sources, or on unfamiliar topics, could cause problems.
The Wirral West MP was critical of the government’s plans to bring forward a new bill to support the future licensing of new oil and gas fields, saying it is “sheer folly” to prioritise fossil fuels when we face a climate emergency.
She also repeated her calls for outright bans on fracking and underground coal gasification, issues which she has campaigned on for a number of years. While effective moratoriums are in place, Margaret Greenwood believes the government should go further and unequivocally ban these risky technologies once and for all.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “This King’s Speech shows that the government has no intention of addressing the crisis in the NHS, poverty and inequality, illiteracy in adults and the climate emergency.
“Conservative austerity is destroying our NHS and years of insufficient funding is having an impact on patients. I call on the Chancellor to come forward with a significant funding boost for the NHS in the Autumn Statement.
“There needs to be action on poverty and inequality too. More than 14 million people in the UK, including 4.2 million children and 2.1 million pensioners, were living in poverty in 2021-22. That’s about one million more people than in the previous year. This is a source of shame for the government and needs to be addressed urgently.
“Poverty and inequality are not inevitable; they can be addressed through progressive taxation, social security and investment in skills and education.
“Illiteracy among adults is a key driver of poverty and inequality, yet the government has failed to come forward with a strategy to help the 7.1 million adults in England who struggle to read and write. We need to see the government do so as a matter of urgency. Without an ambitious plan to tackle the issue, many people will continue to face difficulties in securing employment, finding decent housing and accessing a whole range of services.
“Instead of legislating to support the future licensing of new oil and gas fields, the government should invest in home-grown clean power and insulate 19 million homes, as Labour would do.
“It should also bring forward outright, lasting bans on both fracking and underground coal gasification as a matter of urgency.
“This King’s Speech showed the government’s failure to get a grip on the very serious challenges we face.”