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Cost of Living: Energy and Housing

Part of Bills Presented — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:13 am on 5th June 2014.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough 11:13 am, 5th June 2014

Thank you for calling me so early in this debate, Mr Speaker. I commend both the Secretary of State and the shadow Secretary of State for starting off our proceedings, but I am afraid that I will diverge from energy and housing issues to concentrate on other matters.

Although much has been said about the shortness of the Queen’s Speech—that it does not contain many measures—to my mind that is a quality. This House passes far too much legislation, and we ought to spend more time repealing legislation before we consider passing more. Although some say that its shortness is a fault of this Queen’s Speech, I say that it is a particular benefit.

There is one Bill in particular of which I am very fond: the pensions tax Bill. As a private Member, I introduced—I think in 2004—the Retirement Income Reform Bill, which intended to do away with the need for those at the age of 75 to buy an annuity. It passed Second Reading on a Friday afternoon, I think by a majority of 101. Unfortunately, the Labour Government crushed it. I hope that the Labour party has changed its mind and will support the Bill when it comes before the House again in the guise of the pensions tax Bill.

Another measure that I am particularly pleased to see in the Queen’s Speech which is not politically controversial is the modern slavery Bill. As a former law officer who has appeared in the criminal division of the Court of Appeal dealing with cases that concerned the trafficking of very vulnerable men and women from overseas to this country, some to be sexually abused and some to be abused in the world of employment, I am particularly pleased that the Government and, I hope, the House will pass that Bill in due course. It will add strength to the law that seeks to protect the victims of this most appalling form of criminal behaviour. We all know of examples of appalling gangmasters and people who traffic young girls and women into this country for sexual purposes. Anything that this House can do to protect the victims and to ensure that they are brought to a place of safety and allowed to lead fulfilling lives is much to be approved.

I want to see the modern slavery Bill advance for two other reasons. This morning, I received a letter from my constituent, Laura Palmer, who tells me that there is, in France, something called the Picard law. She writes that the law

“states it is illegal to take money off someone who has been mentally manipulated.”

That put me in mind of the case that was brought by the Moonies—the rather eccentric religious sect—some years ago against the Daily Mail, for which, I hasten to add, I was acting at the time. [Laughter.] It was a long time ago.