In the first debate, I began
It is a thorough and utter disgrace that anyone should be homeless in the 21st century in our country. It makes me wonder whether the welfare state safety net has any meaning whatever when people are out there, dying on our streets—and I do mean dying on our streets, because on Christmas day in 2006, Josie Razzell died in the stairwell of Easton Street car park in High Wycombe. She died of exposure. As a result, the Churches in High Wycombe came together in a story similar to that told by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders). They were determined to ensure that never again would anyone die of exposure on our streets.
Read the short speech in full here. Later, I spoke in the debate on food banks:
The quality and quantity of welfare produced by the state has not been good enough for a very long time. It is astonishing and shaming that the welfare state can tax and spend so much, and yet leave people hungry. Some 12,000 children in Buckinghamshire live in income poverty, and one in five children in Wycombe go to bed hungry—that increases to one in three in some parts of my constituency. It is a scandalous indictment of the safety net that is the welfare state that this happens. But I am proud of the One Can Trust, run by Sarah Mordaunt, Kate Vale and more than 100 volunteers in Wycombe, which steps in with emergency food when the state fails.
The rest of that contribution is here.
For a long time, I believed it was enough to vote Conservative and get on with making a living and a life. I saw the scale of taxation, state spending and politicians’ promises and believed the welfare state was working. Too often it fails those most in need. It did when I was a child, it does now and it always will.
Even as the welfare state falls short, we cannot afford it. Already welfare states across the developed world have resorted to direct money creation – quantitative easing – to suppress interest rates so they can keep borrowing. It is wrong, it is counterproductive and it cannot go on forever.
The state may be populated like every other human endeavour by both virtuous and flawed, compassionate and indifferent individuals but it is in the end an instrument of power constrained by rule following. As I indicated in the first speech, there is another way. It is the unwanted solution, the one which is seized when all else fails. It is founded on love for neighbour and, often, love for God.
This Christmas, I hope many more people will hear the message which goes beyond the story of the birth of Christ and sets out the narrow road to real life. Both debates showed how much it is needed.