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Cost of Living: Energy and Housing

Part of Bills Presented — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:18 pm on 5th June 2014.

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Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip 12:18 pm, 5th June 2014

It is always a pleasure to follow Margaret Hodge. Tempted as I am to agree with her about HS2 and the island airport, I think I should move on swiftly.

Both my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have mentioned the D-day anniversaries—it was also mentioned in the Gracious Speech—and it is right that we should all pay tribute to those who were involved. However, I should also like to mention other events. I have not done my research, but I think that it was in this very House in 1944 that a Member referred to those people fighting in Italy as the D-day dodgers. Seventy years ago, on his 21st birthday, my father was at the battle of Monte Cassino. Recently, there was a royal visit to Monte Cassino to mark the anniversary of the battle. While we concentrate on D-day, it is also important that we do not forget all those who fought elsewhere.

The right hon. Member for Barking was right to say that we need to look at housing, and I believe that we are making efforts in that regard. The other area of concern is that of immigration. There are genuine concerns about that issue, but I want to sound a cautionary note. A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to have been asked to attend the 105th birthday celebrations of Sir Nick Winton. I am sure that many people in the House have heard of him, but if they have not, he founded the Abbeyfield homes system. In 1988, his wife came across a scrapbook in the attic of his house in Maidenhead and discovered that Nick Winton, as a young man in Prague at the outbreak of the second world war, had helped to get Jewish children out of Czechoslovakia into Britain. In fact, one of the people he rescued was a Member of this House and is now in the other place, Lord Alfred Dubs. I have discovered that, at that time, it was only Britain that was really prepared to help such children. Those who wanted to help had to have £50 and be able to find an address for the children to go to. What struck me was that the parents must have gone through hell being parted from their children, but they gave them up so that they could go off to find a life—literally, to find a life. Unaccompanied children arrive as asylum seekers at Heathrow, which is in my borough, next to my constituency. This is an issue that stirs us up. We have to remember that people are coming here not because they love the climate; they are coming because they are escaping from tyranny elsewhere, and we should always remember that.

There are some measures in the Queen’s Speech about which I have concerns. First, I am a director of the family retail business—furnishing, which is why I am keen on housing being improved, as long as everyone does not shop online—and I want to see some detail on the carrier bag measure. Although it is generally welcome, it is easy to talk about something happening, but the practicalities of it and how individual customers and retailers will be affected will have to be looked at carefully. It is good to have noble ideas but sometimes the practicalities have to be worked out.