[Un-allotted Half Day] — Energy Price Freeze

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:23 pm on 2nd April 2014.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour, Huddersfield 3:23 pm, 2nd April 2014

With only four minutes left, I will not give way, as the right hon. Gentleman knows is the case.

So often, politicians from all sides have been very reluctant to take on the big, hard issues. We only have to look at nuclear power. I have always thought that it was an option that we should have taken seriously and for which we should have been building long ago. Even with the six large energy companies, we have ended up without the ability to come forward with either the finance or the technology to build a nuclear power station, and instead have to look to Chinese money and French technology. What a dreadful situation in an energy sector that has been driven down to such a weak status and such low capacity by its botched privatisation.

Of course we need to make big changes. To be really old-fashioned, I would say that we should have a royal commission on such a matter. I am in favour of the motion, and of the Government’s good decision to refer the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority. Will it, however, be only a sticking plaster on a real and deeply structural problem in our deeply dysfunctional energy sector? I am afraid that it will be. I want there to be a royal commission, which could encompass the whole of the problem, rather than one bit of it.

We all want efficient regulation. From looking at the present regulator—its strength and teeth, and its capacity to act and to be bold—I have to say that it has been woefully lacking in protecting my constituents and people up and down this country. To be truly political, that is part of my deep unease about how this Government in all their decisions—this is one of them—are moving us to a country in which there is a disparity between the really rich and ordinary people. I do not mean poor people, but those mentioned in that wonderful book,

The Spirit Level”, which argues that healthy societies and healthy democracies do not have an enormous gap between the rich or super-rich and ordinary people.

Such a gap is developing in this country, and when we look back at this Liberal Democrat/Tory Administration, it is one reason why we will say that that was the time when our country became deeply divided, with the rich people being favoured by this privatisation and the Royal Mail privatisation. “Rest in peace” will be the epitaph of the Administration that has made this country more divided and more unhappy.