Jess Phillips: 'The idea that my constituents are not skilled because they do not earn over £30,000 is frankly insulting', Commons Debate - 2019

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29 January 2019,. House of Commons, Westminster, London, United Kingdom

The idea that my constituents are not skilled because they do not earn over £30,000 is frankly insulting.

It is insulting on every level to our care workers, our nurses, our teachers.

There are so many people who do not earn over £30,000.

I really think that that needs to be revisited.

Since I was elected I have met many people who earn way more than £30,000 and have literally no discernible skills, not even one.

I met none before - I thought I had met posh people before I came here, but I had actually just met people who eat olives.

I had no idea of how posh a person could be.

Waitrose is apparently not the marker for being really, really posh.

There is a lovely Waitrose in Birmingham Hall Green; it is the one I like to frequent.

I have not necessarily met such people in this place, although there is a smattering.

I would not let some of those very rich people who earn huge amounts of money hold my pint if I had to go and vote while in the bar.

Because they would almost certainly do it wrong.


Ken Clarke: 'There are very serious issues that were not addressed in the referendum',Article 50 Debate against Brexit - 2018

I am very fortunate to be called this early. I apologise to my right hon. Friend—my old friend—but 93 other Members are still waiting to be called, so if he will forgive me, I will not give way.

The Conservative Governments in which I served made very positive contributions to the development of the European Union. There were two areas in which we were the leading contender and made a big difference. The first was when the Thatcher Government led the way in the creation of the single market. The customs union—the so-called common market—had served its purpose, but regulatory barriers matter more than tariffs in the modern world. But for the Thatcher Government, the others would not have been induced to remove those barriers, and I think that the British benefited more from the single market than any other member state. It has contributed to our comparative economic success today.

We were always the leading Government after the fall of the Soviet Union in the process of enlargement to eastern Europe, taking in the former Soviet states. That was an extremely important political contribution. After the surprising collapse of the Soviet Union, eastern and central Europe could have collapsed into its traditional anarchy, nationalist rivalry and military regimes that preceded the second world war. We pressed the urgency of bringing in these new independent nations, giving them the goal of the European Union, which meant liberal democracy, free market trade and so forth. We made Europe a much more stable place.

That has been our role in the European Union, and I believe that it is a very bad move, particularly for our children and grandchildren, that we are all sitting here now saying that we are embarking on a new unknown future. I shall touch on that in a moment, because I think the position is simply baffling to every friend of the British and of the United Kingdom throughout the world. That is why I shall vote against the Bill.

Let me deal with the arguments that I should not vote in that way, that I am being undemocratic, that I am quite wrong, and that, as an elected Member of Parliament, I am under a duty to vote contrary to the views I have just given. I am told that this is because we held a referendum. First, I am in the happy situation that my opposition to referendums as an instrument of government is quite well known and has been frequently repeated throughout my political career. I have made no commitment to accept a referendum, and particularly this referendum, when such an enormous question, with hundreds of complex issues wrapped up within it, was to be decided by a simple yes/no answer on one day. That was particularly unsuitable for a plebiscite of that kind, and that point was reinforced by the nature of the debate.

Constitutionally, when the Government tried to stop the House from having a vote, they did not go to the Supreme Court arguing that a referendum bound the House and that that was why we should not have a vote. The referendum had always been described as advisory in everything that the Government put out. There is no constitutional standing for referendums in this country. No sensible country has referendums—the United States and Germany do not have them in their political systems. The Government went to the Supreme Court arguing for the archaic constitutional principle of the royal prerogative—that the Executive somehow had absolute power when it came to dealing with treaties. Not surprisingly, they lost.

What about the position of Members of Parliament? There is no doubt that by an adequate but narrow majority, leave won the referendum campaign. I will not comment on the nature of the campaign. Those arguments that got publicity in the national media on both sides were, on the whole, fairly pathetic. I have agreed in conversation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that he and I can both tell ourselves that neither of us used the dafter arguments that were put forward by the people we were allied with. It was not a very serious debate on the subject. I do not recall the view that £350 million a week would be available for the health service coming from the Brexit Secretary, and I did not say that we going to have a Budget to put up income tax and all that kind of thing. It was all quite pathetic.

Let me provide an analogy—a loose one but, I think, not totally loose—explaining the position of Members of Parliament after this referendum. I have fought Lord knows how many elections over the past 50 years, and I have always advocated voting Conservative. The British public, in their wisdom, have occasionally failed to take my advice and have by a majority voted Labour. I have thus found myself here facing a Labour Government, but I do not recall an occasion when I was told that it was my democratic duty to support Labour policies and the Labour Government on the other side of the House. That proposition, if put to Mr Skinner in opposition or myself, would have been treated with ridicule and scorn. Apparently, I am now being told that despite voting as I did in the referendum, I am somehow an enemy of the people for ignoring my instructions and for sticking to the opinions that I expressed rather strongly, at least in my meetings, when I urged people to vote the other way.

I have no intention of changing my opinion on the ground. Indeed, I am personally convinced that the hard-core Eurosceptics in my party, with whom I have enjoyed debating this issue for decades, would not have felt bound in the slightest by the outcome of the referendum to abandon their arguments—[Interruption.] I do not say that as criticism; I am actually on good terms with the hard-line Eurosceptics because I respect their sincerity and the passionate nature of their beliefs. If I ever live to see my hon. Friend Sir William Cash turn up here and vote in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union, I will retract what I say, but hot tongs would not make him vote for membership of the EU.

I must move on, but I am told that I should vote for my party as we are on a three-line Whip. I am a Conservative; I have been a decently loyal Conservative over the years. The last time I kicked over the traces was on the Lisbon treaty, when for some peculiar reason my party got itself on the wrong side of the argument, but we will pass over that. I would point out to those who say that I am somehow being disloyal to my party by not voting in favour of this Bill that I am merely propounding the official policy of the Conservative party for 50 years until 23 June 2016. I admire my colleagues who can suddenly become enthusiastic Brexiteers, having seen a light on the road to Damascus on the day that the vote was cast, but I am afraid that that light has been denied me.

I feel the spirit of my former colleague, Enoch Powell—I rather respected him, aside from one or two of his extreme views—who was probably the best speaker for the Eurosceptic cause I ever heard in this House of Commons. If he were here, he would probably find it amazing that his party had become Eurosceptic and rather mildly anti-immigrant, in a very strange way, in 2016. Well, I am afraid that, on that issue, I have not followed it, and I do not intend to do so.

There are very serious issues that were not addressed in the referendum: the single market and the customs union. They must be properly debated. It is absurd to say that every elector knew the difference between the customs union and the single market, and that they took a careful and studied view of the basis for our future trading relations with Europe.

The fact is that I admire the Prime Minister and her colleagues for their constant propounding of the principles of free trade. My party has not changed on that. We are believers in free trade and see it as a win-win situation. We were the leading advocate of liberal economic policies among the European powers for many years, so we are free traders. It seems to me unarguable that if we put between us and the biggest free market in the world new tariffs, new regulatory barriers, new customs procedures, certificates of origin and so on, we are bound to be weakening the economic position from what it would otherwise have been, other things being equal, in future. That is why it is important that this issue is addressed in particular.

I am told that that view is pessimistic, and that we are combining withdrawal from the single market and the customs union with a great new globalised future that offers tremendous opportunities for us. Apparently, when we follow the rabbit down the hole, we will emerge in a wonderland where, suddenly, countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that we were never able to achieve as part of the European Union. Nice men like President Trump and President Erdogan are impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access. Let me not be too cynical; I hope that that is right. I do want the best outcome for the United Kingdom from this process. No doubt somewhere a hatter is holding a tea party with a dormouse in the teapot.

We need success in these trade negotiations to recoup at least some of the losses that we will incur as a result of leaving the single market. If all is lost on the main principle, that is the big principle that the House must get control of and address seriously, in proper debates and votes, from now on.

I hope that I have adequately explained that my views on this issue have not been shaken very much over the decades—they have actually strengthened somewhat. Most Members, I trust, are familiar with Burke’s address to the electors of Bristol. I have always firmly believed that every MP should vote on an issue of this importance according to their view of the best national interest. I never quote Burke, but I shall paraphrase him. He said to his constituents, “If I no longer give you the benefit of my judgment and simply follow your orders, I am not serving you; I am betraying you.” I personally shall be voting with my conscience content, and when we see what unfolds hereafter as we leave the European Union, I hope that the consciences of other Members of Parliament will remain equally content.


Jordon Steele-John - 'Tonight I seek to speak their names', Demand for extension of royal commission into aged care to include people with disabilities - 2018

16 September 2018, Senate chamber, Canberra, Australia

In seeking to extend terms of royal commission into people abused and neglected in aged care, to include people with disabilities, Jordon Steele-John used parliamentary privilege to name Australians with disabilities who have died in institutional care. Speakola does not enjoy same privilege so will only provide initials.

Thank you Madam Acting Deputy President. Tonight our nation is caught within a moment of decision. Before us now is a question. Will justice be done for disabled people? Although we once again miss the opportunity to ensure that those in our nation who are so often made voiceless remain so. Tonight, I'd like to read from a passage from a speech given by my fellow disability activist and advocate Craig Wallace, who in 2015 as part of the White Flower Memorial to commemorate all those who have died institutional and residential care, spoke to the sorrow and pain of our community.

In concluding he said, "I call for those who have left us to be remembered. For their names and stories to be said out loud in the sunlight and amongst the people who love them." Well tonight, I seek to speak their names and through the sun does not shine in this place, I hope that their stories will move the hearts of those who have it within their power to see justice done. The following names are those who have died in the lead up or subsequent to the Royal Commission Inquiry.

The [ascending 00:01:54] inquiry which called for a Royal Commission. S.W. , age 7. Found locked in a room without sunlight surrounded by faeces. S.W. died from starvation and thirst and weighed only nine kilograms, a third of her expected body weight. She had severe autism and was considered to be profoundly disabled.

L.B., seven years old. Found beaten tortured and finally killed by the people meant to care for him. H.D.B., eight, when she was found in 2013 she was starved suffering from pneumonia and her hair was infested with lice and matted with dirt. I.L., nine, died from a combination of internal injuries which paediatricians were said were caused by blunt force to the stomach, such as a fist. J, 11, who was left to freeze to death in a shed and that he had first been hosed in a water after having faeces rubbed in his face.

L.S. and his younger brother, C.S., 17, who was arrested for a minor driving offence and later bashed by another inmate at the [redacted], died in isolation from a massive brain haemorrhage. B.L., suffered severe learning difficulties and was killed by a family member. J.S., 18, died in state funded ACT care from drowning. L.M, , La.M., 20, returned to her parents' care at 19 despite stating that they could not look after her. Nine months before her death authorities were warned that she would die if the situation was not addressed. Two weeks before her death both of her legs were amputated to attempt to stem infection. She died covered in her own faeces and urine in a room infested with cockroaches.

S.H., 22, a disabled young woman who was unable to speak and reported half dragged and half carried herself from a taxi after a shocking incident, allegedly witnessed by community workers. Later died in hospital in 2016 of septesemia.

C.O., 22. N.S., R.L, found with multiple stab wounds in her chest and abdomen in a group care home. J.V.J. age undisclosed, his care plan stated that he should not be left alone with water because he would drink it without stopping. He died after being left alone in the shower.

C.S. died in a group home. She had a seizure at 2:23 AM that was documented by staff and was found dead seven hours later. S.H., 29 died as a result of medical neglect in an institutionalised setting. S.I., 29, a quadriplegic man who made complaint of sexual assault and misconduct by his carers. He was left face down and suffocated to death.

SL., M.C who died in the same hospital under similar circumstances as S.H. B.P., 33, died after being left unsupervised in a bathtub for an extended period of time. His carers were blamed for negligence.

D.K., died in his respite facility as a result of an unexplained incident in which he broke his neck. He was left of the floor for over an hour after his support workers gave up trying to pull him up. Saying that he was being noncompliant.

D.V.,, M.M. 22 and mother of two who was left naked and covered an faeces at [redacted[ Psychiatric Hospital. A.G., 47, who had a required brain injury as a result of attempted suicide and was placed in the [redacted] Psychiatric Care Centre in my home state of WA. She was raped and assaulted 111 times and died as a result of complications used in the medications used to sedate her. The WA coroner believes this to be an underestimation of the number of times that she was raped.

E.F. died when a pressure sore she had received in their care home became septic. The inquest heard about serious issues in the facility that she lived. J.J., a 51-year-old amputee who died a preventable, avoidable death after a private disability support provider withdrew essential supports. S.D., 55, J & R.F, 68 and 50. A family friend of the three people died in a shooting near [redacted] and says it was a mercy killing. C.T, J.M., J.B.C , 81-year-old, from [redacted] charged over his elderly partner’s apparent mercy killing. Described it as a ‘beautiful act of mercy for his wife’.

These are the names that don't get spoken. These are the reasons. These are the human beings. These are the loved ones, the mother, the father, the sons, the partners, who need justice, who demand justice, whose lives are worth living in whose memory I, tonight wear a white flower and whose passing fills me with an iron clad determination. I will not rest until they find the justice that is so desperately owed them.