Afzal delivering a speech in the House of Commons
Afzal delivering a speech in the House of Commons

Yesterday I was able to finally deliver my speech in response to the Chancellor’s Budget statement last week.

You can read what I said below, or watch the full clip over on my Facebook page.

The Office of Budget Responsibility was unequivocal in its analysis of our financial situation: it was the Government’s failure to control the spread of the virus that has dragged us into the worst economic recession of any major economy.

Across the country businesses are closing, unemployment is rising, jobs are scarce, foodbank usage has soared, and millions have fallen into poverty.

A recent survey of my constituents in Manchester Gorton revealed a shocking three-fold increase in people’s feeling of financial insecurity during the pandemic. At the most acute end of this insecurity was more than a quarter of constituents who said they were struggling to meet basic living costs.

It is clear from speaking to my constituents that the stress and anxiety generated by this new financial insecurity is having a profound impact on their wellbeing and mental health. It is vital we recognise the emotional toll of the last year and look to rebuild the country’s mental health alongside our economic recovery.

With this in mind, it is unfathomable for the Chancellor to push ahead with a £30 billion cut in day-to-day health spending.

If the last decade of austerity taught us anything, it is that public sector spending cuts disproportionately hurt those on low incomes.

Given today marks International Women’s Day, it would be remiss of me not to touch on the particularly acute economic impact of the last year on women.

Last month, the Women and Equalities Committee concluded the Government’s “passive approach” to gender equality was no longer good enough. The Committee explicitly called on the Government to undertake regular Equalities Impact Assessments – so the fact that not one of the many supporting documents to last week’s Budget statement was an Equality Impact Assessment is utterly inexcusable.

Continuing to ignore the fact that the economic impact of this crisis has not been felt equally risks turning the clock back on gender equality.

Also missing in last week’s Budget was the ambition needed to tackle the depth of the crisis we are in.

We needed strong foundations to support businesses, to give security to families and households, to build economic resilience, and to ensure that no one, and no community, was left behind.

Sadly, this was far from what we were offered.


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