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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:11 pm on 24th March 2014.

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Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Labour, Wythenshawe and Sale East 9:11 pm, 24th March 2014

It is a pleasure to follow the apolitical speech of Kwasi Kwarteng.

The Chancellor got it completely wrong. Ebbsfleet is not the first new garden city in 100 years: he is welcome to visit Wythenshawe, which was built in the 1930s and ’40s, any time. He should cross his border and see it in all its glory. I also say to Gareth Johnson that there are possible twinning opportunities for us; he knows where my office is.

I give a cautious welcome to the reform in the Budget of air passenger duty. The current rules are crazy and unjust, as the Chancellor rightly said. He said that there would be support for new routes from regional airports, but we need more detail. His statement did not go far enough. The Government could go further and grant exemptions for new long-haul services from regional airports. That would make a huge difference at Manchester airport, in my constituency, attracting flights from cities such as Beijing. Eventually, that would link up with High Speed 2 and with the £800 million Chinese investment in the new airport city we are building in my constituency. It is an important measure, and I will challenge the Chancellor further on it in the weeks and months to come.

We are facing a cost of living crisis, and Labour Members will keep pointing that out. No one could have fought the by-election that I have just fought without speaking to the many people who had stories to tell in that regard. As was pointed out earlier, real wages are down by £1,600 a year compared with 2010, and the OBR has confirmed that all our constituents will be worse off in 2015 than they were in 2010. To compound the problem, people’s energy bills have risen by almost £300, on average, since the election. It is no wonder that many of my constituents are increasingly reliant on food banks such as that run by the Dandelion Community, which I visited on Friday.

I want to focus on three key things that would benefit my constituents, the first of which is freezing energy bills. I am reminded of the story of a former Member of this place, Richard Cobden, a Liberal campaigner from Manchester who was part of the Anti-Corn Law League. He stood up against the Peel Government of the time and brought working people and intellectuals together because the landed aristocracy who were running this place controlled the price of wheat bushels by not allowing external competition and free trade. He eventually won that argument, because millions of poor working people across the country were going hungry. Our energy providers are doing exactly the same thing today. The big conglomerates are controlling the markets. It is not a free market; it is not fair. The prices go up, and the energy providers never lose. The hon. Member for Spelthorne goes on about business, and he is right to do so, but those businesses take no risks. Whenever their costs go up, the prices go up. We would freeze those bills—