Ongoing 10-year life expectancy gap between rich and poor highlighted by Meriden MP - The Solihull Observer

Ongoing 10-year life expectancy gap between rich and poor highlighted by Meriden MP

Solihull Editorial 27th Feb, 2020   0

THE ONGOING scourge of people in the poorest parts of the region living around ten years less on average than in the wealthiest areas has been criticised by Meriden MP Saqib Bhatti.

He used his first ‘Maiden’ speech in Parliament since replacing Dame Caroline Spelman in December’s general election to highlight the life expectancy gap between areas such as Chelmsley Wood and Solihull’s leafy suburbs and villages.

The picture continues to be the same in Coventry, a problem highlighted in a new report by Professor Sir Michael Marmot.

It comes 10 years after he published his first report on the on the gap between rich and poor. His conclusion is that “England has lost a decade” in addressing the life expectancy gap.

Mr Bhatti, Meriden’s first Muslim MP, told the Commons: “If one travels north in my constituency, however, there are communities in greater need of opportunity, such as Chelmsley Wood, Castle Bromwich, Smith’s Wood, Kingshurst, and Fordbridge, where I see hard-working and socially conscious people who have not experienced the benefits of economic progress. Recent decades have seen more investment in those areas, and new facilities bring new opportunities, but as far as I am concerned, until all members of our society feel the effects of economic success, our job as parliamentarians is not finished.

“As a former businessman and president of one of the largest chambers of commerce in the country, I have always advocated for social progress through economic progress, and for the role that business plays as a force for good in society. I believe we must do all we can to support business to thrive, and we must allow entrepreneurs to take risks, create jobs, and drive society forward, as that is the only way we will address the injustice of inequality.

“The difference between life expectancy in Knowle in the south of my constituency, and Chelmsley Wood in the north, is 10 years. With higher crime levels and lower levels of employment, there is something inherently unfair about the disparity in the life prospects of two children born in the same constituency, a mere eight miles apart.

“The primary reason why any of us enters politics is because we want to make the lives of the people we serve better. I am thinking of that young boy or girl who, right now, is working hard to get the grades to be the first in their family to get an apprenticeship or go to university.

“Perhaps they are on an athletics track, running an extra lap so that one day they can represent their country on the international stage and return triumphantly. I am thinking of that recruit to the emergency services or armed forces, who is willing to risk life and limb for this beautiful nation of ours, or of the immigrant who came to this country, leaving everything behind, in order to build a better life for themselves and their family.

“People may ask what unites us in our love for our country, but that is simple: we dare to believe. We dare to believe in a country where our children will have the best opportunities in life, and where our pensioners can grow old and live with dignity. We dare to believe in a country that is open, inclusive and optimistic.

“There are those—a small few—who may try to create disunity among us, but we must remember that hope and opportunity will always defeat the ideologies of division and hate.”

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