Finance (No. 2) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 5:32 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Shadow Minister (Defence) 5:32 pm, 1st April 2014

I disagree. Were we to build a new motorway or railway line, such as HS2—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is a great advocate of that vanity project—the increased speed with which people would be able to move around and do business would have an impact, so it cannot be said that that will not have an effect. We come back to the idea that somehow Governments cannot have an impact on what is happening.

Last week my hon. Friend Andy McDonald raised with the Prime Minister the disproportionate amount of money spent on transport in London, compared with the north-east. Interestingly, the Prime Minister rattled off four transport projects that he claimed this Government had delivered for the north-east. He was very confident about his facts, which did not surprise me, because his public school background means that he can be very confident even when talking complete nonsense—it does not really bother him, because that is the way he has been brought up. He mentioned the Tyne and Wear Metro and the Tyne tunnel—I cannot remember what the third and fourth projects were. They were all agreed by the previous Labour Government. In fact, the Tyne tunnel was finished before this Government came into office. The idea that this Government are somehow leading on those big infrastructure projects, which are desperately needed in the north-east, is ridiculous, because clearly they are not.

Housing is an issue that could be completely missed in the Budget. The way forward is clearly to encourage people to buy their own homes, and I have no problem with that, but if someone is in low-paid work on a zero-hours contract, and possibly having to work two part-time jobs, as many people do, the idea that they will ever get the credit worthiness to own their own home is complete nonsense. What we need, certainly in the north-east and in my constituency, is affordable housing for rent. The easy thing that the Government could do—it would not cost them any money—is give housing associations the borrowing requirements they need against their assets to build houses. The Government could do that, but they are not. Instead, they are creating an artificial bubble in the housing market. Look at the difference between the north-east and the south. Prices in the north-east are still £5,000 lower than in 2008; in London and the south-east, they are 77% higher. Ridiculously, housing is completely unaffordable for most people in London and parts of the south-east, with average house prices of £400,000. Even people with reasonable standards of living find it hard to buy a house.

I turn to youth unemployment, one of the great tragedies of the Government. I fear that there will be a repeat of what we saw in the 1980s—a completely lost generation of young people. They have no opportunity for a job, not only in the short term but in the longer term. Why is that important? If someone meets us for the first time, they usually ask us two things: our name and what we do for a living. Some people cannot answer the second question about a fundamental part of who they are. Some say that there are lazy people, but I am sorry—there are hard-working people struggling to make ends meet.

I will give two examples from my constituency. I met someone on a zero-hours contract working in a store, which I will not name, in the Metrocentre—that great cathedral to Thatcherite free market enterprise.