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We also have the chilling lesson of Fukushima, which is where we come into really serious money. The compensation that is thought to have been paid for Fukushima is £250 billion. In addition, as the Germans

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and many other European countries have realised, the anxiety that is created by being a neighbour to a nuclear power station is simply not worth it.

I strongly support what my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) said about proceeding with the tide as a power source—an immense cliff of water that goes up and down the Severn estuary twice a day—

Mr Speaker: Order.

6.23 pm

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): The reality of what we have been discussing has been distorted slightly by the Secretary of State. I am disappointed in him, and I am glad that he is here to hear me say so, because in many other respects regarding energy security I hold him in high regard. I have to say, however, that his trivialisation of the problem that so many families face is shameful coming from a Liberal. I would have expected such a thing from a high Tory who has so much money that he never meets real people and who has his staff deal with his problems, but from the Secretary of State it is too much to bear.

Given that a year ago the DECC Committee produced a report on energy prices, profits and poverty, those are the issues that he should have addressed. He should have indicated in some way how the Government had taken stock of what was said in that report. The changes that have happened since mean that the situation has got worse, not better, for ordinary families.

The wholesale price of gas has come down. All the analysis from the economists shows that 50% of energy bills comes from wholesale prices. Gas prices have fallen by 38% and electricity prices by 23%, yet energy prices have gone up by 10% on average. In the past year, energy companies’ profit margins are up by 21% for single tariffs and more for dual tariffs. This cannot be denied. These are the things that the Labour party wants to address by saying to the companies, “No, you are not too big to control.” Just as the banks are considered to be too big to fail, the energy companies are considered to be too big to control. Government Members have said that to do so threatens the future because they will not be able to afford to invest. I am an economist, and my understanding of investment is that it means calculating the net present value as at today to work out what will have to be raised in income to cover future investments, building in some profit margin. It does not mean taking the profits now—trousering them and giving them to shareholders in such a way that shareholder value is boosted but no income is put away for future investments. That is what is supposed to happen but it is not happening in the energy market because profits are seen as a cash cow for short-term use.

Families in my constituency and in Falkirk district and West Lothian may not face some of the big, dire problems that my hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle) described. Yesterday I saw a chart showing that in those areas of Scotland there is over 25% unemployment among young people. The unemployment level in my area is lower, but there are still a lot of families facing real poverty. Bills have risen by an average of £300 per year, but what is more important is the affordability gap. Analysis shows that

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the real income for families across these constituencies and in most of the UK has fallen by £1,600, while the energy affordability gap has gone up. It is not £300 but £480 for the average family in my constituency and across the UK. The people in part-time, short-term, low-guaranteed-hours work who are called the new employed are in fact the new benefit-dependent working poor. People are sanctioned as they struggle to find work and to cope with the devices used to get people off benefits on the basis that they are no longer seeking employment. They are no longer in employment; they are sanctioned and out of employment. That is what people are facing and what the Government should have addressed.

The root cause of the problem is partly the structure of the industry and partly the behaviour of the energy companies, which Ofgem has tried to police. I have been looking at some of the facts. SSE got a £750,000 fine for not providing connections properly. Scottish Power got a £700,000 fine for not giving the right price difference and payment type. Npower got a £125,000 fine. There was a £12 million fine for E.ON, which persisted in mis-selling between 2010 and 2013. The companies are reacting by trying to bully this Government and frighten a future incoming Government. For example, SSE announced that it would freeze energy prices at least until 2016 and legally separate its retail and wholesale businesses. Those ideas were put forward as options to be looked at seriously when we have the price freeze. On the same day, it announced that it would withdraw from five out of six wind farms and reduce its investment in renewables from £7.2 billion to £2 billion-£3 billion. This happens because these companies think they are so powerful that we cannot control them, and the Government have been so supine in their attitude to them that they are getting away with it.

The real problem is the structure of the industry. Calor Gas in my constituency, which distributes to the whole of Scotland from Grangemouth, says that trading alone trebles the price it has to pay for its own gas to supply to the people who need it, particularly in rural areas where people do not have the option of anything else. The vertical integration of the industry means that it can hide its profits and put costs in one section and not another. These companies have to be broken up, they have to be taken on, and, if need be, they have to be controlled. I have no fear of that from the perspective of the consumer.

6.29 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): I am grateful to be able to contribute to this debate. I commend the tenacity of my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint). She is absolutely right to push this issue time and again. Only last week, it was revealed that gas prices for next-day delivery had reached their lowest level since September 2010. Likewise, electricity prices are at their lowest level since April 2010. Of course, none of that benefit has been passed on to consumers, which is precisely the issue under discussion.

The Secretary of State admits that rocket and feather is happening and chuntered in passing that it should have been looked at a long time ago. If he was in the Chamber, I would politely remind him that the Government have been in office for more than four years. I am not

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interested in what happened in the past—they have had four years not only to look at this issue, but, more importantly, to act on it. The fact is that they have failed, which is why my right hon. Friend is right to keep coming back to the House to highlight the issue of the broken market, which is not working in the interest of consumers. Profit margins have been increasing, yet fuel poverty is on the rise, so much so that many of my constituents and those of hon. and right hon. Members throughout the Chamber are living in fear of putting on their heating as energy costs rise.

Ministers laughed during an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), but he raised a serious issue. The annual fuel poverty statistics report, which was published last week, projects that the number of those living in fuel poverty is likely to increase to 2.33 million. That is greater than the population of Northern Ireland and about the same as that of west Yorkshire. It leaves a stain on our country, whichever part we live in, that so many people are affected.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): May I just point out, for the record, that under this coalition fuel poverty has fallen in real terms in each of the past three years? That did not happen during the last Parliament, when it went up year on year. The figure the hon. Gentleman refers to is a projection. There was a projected rise last year, but we actually delivered a cut. There is much more to do on fuel poverty, but using misleading figures will not help his case.

Andrew Gwynne: The Minister can change definitions, but he cannot change the fact that more people are living in fuel poverty on his watch.

I commend the work of Labour in local government. We have heard about some of the issues involved in switching and I commend the work of Greater Manchester’s energy switching scheme, led by a consortium of the 10 councils across the city region. A couple of other local authorities that are not in Greater Manchester have also joined in. Not only is the consortium using its buying power for the benefit of the public purse of the local authorities, it is also allowing the citizens to register. The registration take-up in Manchester has been about 10% and the average savings to my constituents have been about £108, or £124 for dual fuel. That is positive action for the people involved in the scheme, but it is not an answer in itself. We need something far more fundamental.

The case for change has been put so well by my right hon. Friends the Member for Don Valley and the Leader of the Opposition. We are right to keep pushing the Government to move on these issues. My constituents are not in a position to wait for action. That is why the price freeze, attractive though it is, is not an end in itself. Government Members do not seem to understand that. This is absolutely the time to reset the market. The energy market does not work—you don’t need to be Einstein to work that out. It lacks competition and transparency.

We have already spoken about the big six. I am not bothered about how we got to the big six, but the fact is that 97% of the supply to homes and 70% of the supply from UK power stations comes from the big six. We

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cannot shop around. That is why companies generating and selling energy to themselves rigs the market and puts up prices even when generation costs fall. That is why it is right to separate generation and supply—as my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) mentioned, SSE is already in the process of doing that —because only then can transparency prevail. We need to sell energy into a pool because that changes the dynamic of the market and allows access to new suppliers at their costs.

We also need a simpler tariff structure. I was taken by an issue raised by Mr Walker who lives in Denton. He came to my surgery in Dane Bank concerned about his bill from ScottishPower—it certainly bamboozled me—and accused the company of overcharging. He worked in the energy industry and could work out the price per kilowatt, and he was being massively overcharged. He knew how to read his bill because he had worked all his life in that industry and knew it was wrong, but how many of my constituents would be able to make head or tail of such a bill?

We need a stronger watchdog, and I support the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley. In the short term we need to freeze bills, certainly to January 2017, which provides my right hon. Friend and her Front-Bench colleagues with time to legislate and introduce the changes we need. That will be a welcome respite for my constituents, who on average will save £120, and businesses in my constituency, which will save £1,800 on average. I urge her to keep on with that because the industry is shifting. That is not because of action by this Government—there has not really been any—but because of pressure from her and the Leader of the Opposition.

These changes cannot come quickly enough. We need to tackle the endemic and growing scourge of fuel poverty, and we need an energy policy that works for consumers and businesses. We need the changes that were set out so eloquently by my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley, but sadly I fear we will have to wait another 11 months before we get them.

6.37 pm

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Many people in Northern Ireland, who face the second highest fuel bills in Europe—behind only Italy—and where 42% of the population experience fuel poverty and there is very little competition in the market, will be disappointed by the Secretary of State’s response to this debate.

My natural instinct is not to intervene in markets, but Government Members’ touching faith in markets is not founded in fact. We do not have an unhampered energy market in the United Kingdom. As has been said time and again, 96% of the market is dominated by six companies—that is far higher in Northern Ireland where there are really only two companies. We have an integrated structure that does not allow competition between those who supply wholesale energy and retailers, and a complicated pricing structure that is not understood by the vast majority of consumers. Indeed, as hon. Members have pointed out, the very consumers whom we want to understand that pricing structure are those who cannot understand it or do not have the ability to switch supplier. In Northern Ireland only 2.6% of people switch companies on a year-on-year basis, and there is a need for regulation.

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Of course, there is opposition to regulation, and we have had numerous references to Ofgem. Regulation already exists so let us not have a kind of purist view that we cannot have regulation. The other, rather niggling point that was made by the Minister is that if we are going to regulate, what price will it be? Will it be the spot price, the monthly price or the long-term price? We know what the problem is: over time, the price of wholesale energy falls, but that is not passed on to the consumer. A mechanism to regulate that is at least right in principle, so let us not dispense with it by niggling about which price we use.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): My hon. Friend talks about the lack of competition in Northern Ireland. When wholesale prices come down, they are very seldom—or very slowly—passed on to the consumer.

Sammy Wilson: That is the whole point of this debate: should we have regulation to ensure that that is not allowed to happen? We cannot rely on competition, because despite the increased competition that Ministers have boasted about, the practice still goes on. In fact, it does not just go on: it seems to have been reinforced at a time when competition has emerged in the market. Reluctantly, therefore, we have to say that in the absence of a market that is unhampered or is properly functioning, we need some way to control how energy companies use their market power in the face of the fuel poverty that some domestic consumers experience. The impact is also felt by industry in the UK and affects its competitiveness.

One issue that has not been touched on much in the debate, although the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) mentioned it, is the aspect of energy policy and prices over which the House has some control—the increasing reliance on renewable energy. I notice that the Secretary of State boasted that we are the best place in the world for onshore and offshore wind power, but his boast is paid for by our consumers. According to his Department, in 2013 electricity prices were 17% higher as a result of feed-in tariffs, carbon taxes, smart meters, additional infrastructure costs and so on. By 2020, those factors will add 33% to electricity prices. Some Members, such as the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith), suggested that we should have more renewables, but more of that sort of policy will add to the cost of household bills.

We need to regulate the current big suppliers of electricity, but we also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the kinds of energy policies that are regularly promoted because it is politically correct to do so. In some areas, it is the popular thing to do, but the cost has not always been fully transparent. If we are talking about getting transparency from the energy companies, let us be sure that we are transparent about the policies that we espouse. The hard-pressed consumer deserves that at least.

6.43 pm

Tom Greatrex (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Lab/Co-op): We have had another interesting debate on the energy market—an issue that is high on the agenda of Members on both sides of the House and of people throughout the country. By now, that should not be a surprise to the Secretary of State and his ministerial colleagues.

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The crisis of public confidence and deficit of trust that exists among consumers and bill-payers has now reached a level that cannot simply be dismissed, as the Secretary of State attempted to do in earlier debates on this and related issues. That has been well illustrated by two developments in the last eight days. First, wholesale energy costs are at a four-year low, and secondly—it was announced just today—complaints about energy suppliers are at record levels, with more than 1 million complaints in the first quarter of 2014. That is only those individuals who have made a complaint, and we all know from our surveys and casework that many of our constituents are very concerned about the energy companies and view the sector with a level of disdain and distrust that should concern all of us.

These debates seem to follow a familiar pattern. The Secretary of State is nothing if not predictable: another lengthy contribution that was staggeringly irrelevant to the motion and the subject of the debate. He repeatedly referred to his predecessor, but seemed to forget that his predecessor was in his party and in his Government. I understand why they perhaps do not wish to dwell on his predecessor’s lot, but the House should be reminded of the fact that his predecessor said that the energy market had all the characteristics of a cartel and refused, in 2011, to make a reference to the competition authorities when pressed to do so.

The Secretary of State referred to price increases. We should be aware that under the previous Labour Government prices increased by £19. In the three and a bit years for which we have records under this Government, prices went up by £69. That is the reality of the difference of scale and scope of energy price increases over that time.

We have had a number of contributions this afternoon. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West (John Robertson) is a member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee. He reminded the House of the lack of transparency in the market and what he has encountered as a member of the Select Committee when seeking to get to the bottom of the issues.

The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), a less frequent contributor to our energy debates than some who have spoken this afternoon, said that he thought it snowed almost as often in the part of east Lancashire that he represents as it does in Glasgow. My constituency is close to Glasgow. We did not have snow this year, but I have many constituents, as do many others, who are struggling to pay their bills. They see wholesale prices coming down, but their bills do not follow. He referred, as did the hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir), to off-grid consumers. I am sure he will welcome our proposals to ensure the off-grid market is properly brought within the remit of the regulator.

The hon. Member for Angus has been persistent in pursuing the case for winter fuel payments to be paid at the start of the winter for off-grid customers, so they can purchase their fuel when it is cheaper. I endorse that wholeheartedly. He also made a point about hedging strategies and how they seem to have very little, if any, benefit to consumers. They seem to be an excuse, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) set out at the start of the debate.

The hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) made an interesting contribution with a view on market economics that, frankly, I expect from him. I am not sure

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how many of his constituents would necessarily agree with him that these issues are best left to the market and that regulation is not important to their energy supplies.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle), in her six minutes, reminded the House of the impact on her constituents of high bills, on the back of lower wholesale costs. The hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) contributes frequently to these debates. I neglected to mention him last time, so I am mentioning him today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) highlighted the Secretary of State’s boast of having reduced policy cost by moving some of it to general taxation. As she rightly said, however, 3.7 million consumers on fixed deals with all of the big six companies have not had that saving passed on to them. It is exactly that type of behaviour, attitude and agenda that contributes to the level of mistrust that exists with energy companies, and why the Government need to get to grips with it.

The hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) exposed some of the cant on some of the issues around numbers. He is absolutely right to make the point that the rules of the game and of the market are much more significant than the number of operators. We need to ensure transparency in the market. The hon. Gentleman rightly said that if tacit collusion is currently happening, the Government should tackle it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) got a lot into his six minutes. He reiterated the points on the lack of a transparent relationship between the retail and generation parts of the energy sector. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) reminded me why I attend mass less frequently than I perhaps used to. I am afraid his first few words distracted me from the rest of his speech, so I am unable to comment on it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) rightly said that the debate is sometimes trivialised and added that this serious issue affects his constituents and constituents across the whole country. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) made the important point that the issue is not just about a freeze and a cap on prices, but reforming the market so it works in the interests of consumers and users.

We have had another debate that has highlighted the level of mistrust, a crisis of confidence and issues that need to be addressed. We know that there is huge dissatisfaction with the energy sector and the energy companies among consumers and constituents. That is not good for consumers or the energy sector and needs to be addressed. The Government have an opportunity to do so today by supporting the motion. The Secretary of State is probably within 11 months of the end of his time in office. If he wants to leave office with a reputation for more than complacency and denial, he will join Opposition Members in the Lobby to address the deficit of trust, tackle the crisis of consumer confidence and begin the process of giving customers a fair deal for their energy prices. That is entirely and exactly what the House should do this evening.

6.50 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): This has been a welcome opportunity to debate yet again one of the biggest

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questions in British politics today, and there have been lively contributions from both sides of the Chamber. Energy bills are at the forefront of everybody’s minds, and the coalition is acutely aware of the impact that a combined heating and electricity bill can have on a family budget. That is why, unlike the 13 long years of Labour drift, dither and dawdling, and ducking a referral to the competition authorities, the four years of the coalition have been characterised by reform, grip and clear direction, with energy consumers at the heart of our agenda. We have passed two Acts in four years and carried out the biggest market reform since privatisation, and a determination from the very top to get a better deal for consumers has translated into action to drive down bills, promote choice, spur innovation and increase competition.

Unfortunately, the Labour Opposition seem to believe that they can make up for the Labour Government’s pitiful lack of action to help customers and total failure to reform the energy market successfully during their period of office by advocating a series of ill-thought-through soundbites and poorly conceived policies that would take the British energy sector crashing straight back to the 1970s. That goes to the heart of the debate on the future of the energy market and the debate that has been rehearsed in the Chamber today.

Do we go forward to a world of empowered consumers, of customers exercising greater choice, of driving healthy competition and of reaping the rewards of market innovation and new technology, or do we retreat three decades, and go back with Labour to a world where the energy sector is entirely run from Whitehall, where prices are set by bureaucrats, where innovation is choked off by regulation and where investors are driven away by reams of anti-business legislation?

At a stroke, Labour’s arbitrary proposals to impose 1970s-style price controls would torch the investment we so desperately need. It would hobble consumer choice and put the clock back decades. Labour’s energy policy is pure British Leyland economics, from the most left-wing Opposition since Michael Foot—[Laughter.] Labour Members can laugh, but Labour’s ham-fisted price controls would create the single-biggest barrier to new entrants and innovation since the industry was denationalised.

The fact is that many Labour Members know that Labour’s policies could not work and are based on nothing more than a shallow soundbite. Like the British public, Labour Members know that the price freeze is a cruel gimmick and a price con. In private, many on the Labour Benches will say exactly that. Rather than help consumers get a better deal, Labour’s price controls would drive up barriers to entry and lock in the big six, created when Labour was last in government. In fact, if Labour Members get their way, I would not be surprised if the big six decided not to stick it out. If Labour wins, Labour’s big six could become the big five or even the big four. Far from being a fix for a broken market, Labour’s prescription is the very antidote to competition.

Caroline Flint: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the statement made by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in September 2009? Commenting about the fact that reductions in wholesale prices are not passed on to consumers, he said, “The first thing you’ve got to do is give the regulator the teeth to order that

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those reductions are made and that is what we would do.” Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with what his Prime Minister said in 2009?

Gregory Barker: I make it a policy always to agree with my Prime Minister. I can tell the right hon. Lady what we said in 2009: we called for a competition inquiry. I can also tell her what the current Leader of the Opposition did: he declined it. He ducked it—he was frit. When he was in power, standing at this Dispatch Box, he sang the tune of the big six and ducked a competition inquiry. The British people have had to wait for the coalition for a comprehensive assessment by the competition authorities.

In contrast to Labour’s lurch back to the 1970s, the coalition wants to unleash disruptive new entrants and the exciting new breed of energy entrepreneurs. We do not want to lock in Labour’s big six; we want to replace them with the big 60,000, unleashing British entrepreneurial spirit. In addition, huge steps forward in consumer-friendly technology, coupled with our smart meter roll-out programme, mean that we could be on the threshold of an exciting age of far more empowered consumers and a decentralised energy sector, with a proliferation of new, young companies vying for consumers.

However, the Government do not pretend either that there is not much more to do or that we cannot improve the market further. There is indeed more to be done. Our job is by no means finished. As the Secretary of State clearly pointed out in reply to the opening of the debate, the Leader of the Opposition may have been in denial about the behaviour of the energy companies, failing to pass on falls in the wholesale gas price while he was in office, but we are not. A sensible, objective, dispassionate and thorough investigation by the independent Competition and Markets Authority is the way to get to the bottom of whether customers are being short-changed by energy companies.

Objectively policed and well regulated markets serve the best interests of consumers and deliver substantially and sustainably lower prices, not a return to the failed economic models of the 1970s. That is the nub of the choice before the electorate: break the grip of the big six by unleashing unprecedented competition and innovation, ripping down barriers to entry and unleashing a robust and thorough market investigation; or go the Labour way, suffocating the industry with red tape, driving away competition, snuffing out the challenge from the new entrants, torching investment and wasting valuable years creating yet another Labour quango. It is a pretty simple choice: the future or the past?

My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) was clear: we choose the future. He was right to point out that fuel poverty doubled in the last Parliament, when Labour was in office, between 2005 and 2010. He put himself firmly on the side of disruptive new entrants such as Ovo and ambitious 24-hour switching. My hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) was right to point out that the big six were Labour’s creation. Every time the Leader of the Opposition opines on energy, he drives up the cost of capital, and it is consumers who pay the price.

My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) made a thoughtful and well informed contribution, like his previous contributions. Sadly, we

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have to conclude, like him, that Labour has nothing serious to say. My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) comprehensively demolished the Opposition policy. He is absolutely right to point out that price controls stifle investment and kill competition.

As for Opposition Members, the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) made a rather ideological speech about nuclear power, which contrasts with the pragmatic and considered investment in our nuclear programme announced today by China. The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) made a rather sanctimonious speech, but the policies he supports would actually hit the people he professes to help and result in fuel poverty soaring, just as it did during the last Parliament. He is also in denial about the progress we are making. The hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) might be sincere in her beliefs, but she is in cloud cuckoo land when it comes to investment. Under the coalition, investment in renewables has gone up sharply. In this Parliament, average annual investment in renewables is up to nearly £7 billion per annum, compared with £3 billion per annum in the last Parliament.

The fact is that the coalition has a plan. We have a long-term economic plan and, what is more, we are delivering for British consumers. The Labour party, by contrast, has not got a clue, and it is British consumers who are paying the price.

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put.

The House divided:

Ayes 228, Noes 283.

Division No. 11]

[

7 pm

AYES

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme

(Livingston)

Morris, Grahame M.

(Easington)

Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Tom Blenkinsop

and

Julie Hilling

NOES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, rh Alistair

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Sir William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Claire Perry

and

Mr Sam Gyimah

Question accordingly negatived.

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1226

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1227

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1228

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1229


18 Jun 2014 : Column 1230

Rushden Lakes and Skew Bridge (Planning)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

7.12 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): First, I would like to thank Mr Speaker for granting me tonight’s Adjournment debate on the Rushden Lakes and Skew bridge planning application. This is the most important issue that has affected my constituency in the nine years that I have had the great privilege and honour of representing the people of Wellingborough and Rushden.

I am also delighted that we have on the Treasury Bench the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), who is of course the Minister for planning. My hon. Friend is rightly regarded as one of the most radical and innovative thinkers on the Government Benches, and while I do not always agree with him, more times than not I do. He is certainly prepared to make people think and to challenge the status quo. What is more remarkable is that he has been able to continue to do this while he has been a Government Minister. I also want to thank Eliza Richardson and Harriet Pentland for their help with the preparation of this speech.

Tonight’s Adjournment debate is unusual: it is not one of those debates that slams the Government for not doing something, claims that they are not listening, or demands that they spend more taxpayers’ money. It is a joyous occasion: a celebration of localism working. It is a celebration of a Conservative-led campaign that has succeeded; and it is a celebration of part of my constituency being transformed.

Rushden Lakes and Skew bridge was a major planning application in the east Northamptonshire part of my constituency. The site lies to the west of Rushden, within the River Nene valley, with the river and gravel pit lakes as its northern boundary and the A45 as its southern boundary. The size and nature of the application meant that it was called in by the Department for Communities and Local Government. That resulted in a public inquiry, which was held on 25 to 28 June, 2 to 5 July and 9 to 12 July 2013. The planning inspector reported on 14 November 2013.

The hybrid planning application comprised a full application for the erection of a home and garden centre, retail units, drive-through restaurant, gatehouse, lakeside visitors centre, restaurants, boathouse, together with proposals for access and an entire outline application for the erection of a hotel, crèche and leisure club with some matters reserved; plus the removal of a ski slope and associated levelling, landscaping, habitat management and servicing proposals together with the provision of car and cycle parking and a bus stop.

I am pleased to say that at 9.30 on Thursday 12 June, the Secretary of State approved the application. That is tremendous news for my constituents. Rushden Lakes will benefit not only Wellingborough and Rushden but the whole of Northamptonshire.

The delivery of Rushden Lakes is clear evidence that our long-term economic plan is working not only for the country, but for Wellingborough and Rushden. It

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shows that a Conservative Government, a Conservative MP, a first-class Conservative candidate in Corby and east Northamptonshire and local councillors and Conservative activists all working together have delivered a massive investment in east Northamptonshire.

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Bone: I do not intend to give way in this debate because of the amount of issues that I want to cover tonight.

Contrast that with 13 years of Labour when we did not see any investment in east Northamptonshire; we just saw public services shut down. This development will bring 2,000 permanent new jobs to the area alongside fantastic new retail, tourist and leisure facilities, including a leisure club and a hotel as well as many retail units.

There are also plans for: a wildlife and recreational area with facilities for bird watching, cycling and boating; waterfront restaurants; a hotel and crèche; a lakeside visitors centre; and a home and garden centre.

It is fantastic to see the potential of a previously unused, brownfield site that has sadly fallen into disrepair finally being unlocked and developed for locals and tourists to enjoy. Not only will they have a fantastic range of shops on their doorsteps, but they will be able to make the most of the River Nene and the wildlife that the area has to offer.

Too often, Rushden has been overlooked for investment. That was particularly true during the 13 years of the previous Labour Government. This development marks a new beginning for Rushden and the surrounding area. Rushden Lakes will serve to bolster further the local economy’s already growing employment rate. Official figures show that unemployment has fallen dramatically in north Northamptonshire over the past 12 months. In Kettering, unemployment fell last month from 2,269 to 1,590—a drop of 679 or 30%.

In Corby, unemployment is 1,868 compared with 2,754 a year ago—a fall of approximately a third—which means that 886 families now have a breadwinner.

Andy Sawford: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr Bone: I am not giving way tonight.

In Wellingborough, the figures are even better. There are 1,904 people unemployed compared with 3,003 a year ago, which means that 1,099 people have gained work, with a drop in unemployment of well over a third. The three constituencies of Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough will benefit even more from the 2,000 jobs that will be created by Rushden Lakes. The Prime Minister’s long-term economic plan is clearly working in our community.

Rushden Lakes is a development that has overwhelming local support, and it is one of the biggest issues on the doorstep in my constituency. It is a key part of the joint listening campaign that I run in Wellingborough and Rushden, along with Tom Pursglove, the Conservative party’s superb parliamentary candidate for Corby and east Northants. The philosophy behind that campaign is quite simple. Instead of politicians telling local people what they should care about and what they should

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think, the reverse is the case. I in Wellingborough and Rushden and Tom in Corby and east Northants, spend a great deal—

Andy Sawford: Will the hon. Gentleman give way? He continually refers to my constituency.

Mr Bone: I am not giving way. I will tell the hon. Gentleman this: he should be at Kettering hospital getting the splinters taken out of his backside for sitting on the fence for so long over this matter.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Hon. Members must be careful to temper the language that they use about each other. If the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) does not wish to give way, that is his choice. However frustrated the hon. Member for Corby (Andy Sawford) might feel, we must abide by the rules of the House. I hope that we can temper the heat in the Chamber at the moment.

Mr Bone: I apologise entirely, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I am so annoyed by the appalling point of order yesterday for which I expect an apology.

I in Wellingborough and Rushden and Tom in Corby and east Northants spend a great deal of our time knocking on doors, attending meetings and sending out surveys to find out what local people are thinking about and concerned about. Once we have established which issues concern people in our community, we then campaign on them. Rushden Lakes was clearly a project that had overwhelming support, and it became a major part of our joint listening campaign. As long ago as the autumn of 2012, it has featured heavily in the campaign. In the Corby parliamentary by-election, with our excellent candidate Christine Emmett supporting the campaign and Tom Pursglove co-ordinating the day-to-day running of the project, Skew Bridge and Rushden Lakes became a major issue.

It is laughable that, Labour-controlled Corby council having opposed the development, Labour is now trying to take credit for a Conservative project, devised by a Conservative council, supported by a Conservative MP, campaigned for by a Conservative parliamentary candidate, and approved by a Conservative-led Government—to put it bluntly, Labour had absolutely nothing to do with the success of Rushden Lakes—and all that in spite of Labour trying to block investment and growth in the area.

The Labour leader of Corby council, Councillor Tom Beattie, has long been opposed to the development that my area so badly needs. Amazingly, on hearing the announcement, he described the news as “disappointing”, going on to say that he was

“disappointed for the traders and disappointed for the people who live in Corby”.

It is extraordinary for local Labour politicians to want to deprive the people of north Northamptonshire of much needed local investment and facilities. Extraordinary, yes; surprising, no. Sadly, this reaction is typical of Labour’s ingrained anti-business and anti-growth attitude. Thank goodness common sense and localism have prevailed.

I have campaigned locally and in Parliament to give Rushden Lakes the green light. On 29 November 2012, I delivered a petition to Parliament in support of the development, with the best part of 1,000 signatures.

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I have never known such a popular planning proposal in my nine years of representing Wellingborough and Rushden. In fact, the Library of the House of Commons told me that this was the second most popular planning application. In other words, when there is a planning application, most people write in to oppose it; in the case of Rushden Lakes, vast numbers of people wrote in to support it.

I have asked many written and oral parliamentary questions on this issue to the Prime Minister, the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Minister with responsibility for employment, as well as writing to the Planning Inspectorate. In addition, I spoke at the planning inquiry.

The fight to get Rushden Lakes under way would not have been possible without the unwavering support of all the local campaigners. There are some notable individuals who deserve a special mention for all that they have done to get the planning proposals through. There are so many to mention that I will undoubtedly miss out some key players, but they will know who they are and the excellent work that they have done. We had a most remarkable response to the campaign.

I start by thanking Councillors David and Barbara Jenney. David as my association chairman and Barbara through her personal efforts have been a great source of advice and help. I also thank Councillors Gill and Andy Mercer, who are the backbone of all the hard-working Conservative campaigning activity in Rushden, Councillor Steven North, leader of East Northamptonshire council, who had the foresight and drive to push Rushden Lakes through the local planning phase and Councillor Paul Bell, leader of Wellingborough council, for his foresight in realising that this development would be of great benefit to Wellingborough as well as Rushden.

I thank Jon McCarthy, the project lead at LXB, and Gary Wilburn, the architect and branding specialist of Rushden Lakes; the leader of Rushden town council, Councillor Sarah Peacock, for putting the town council’s support firmly behind the project; and Colin Burnett, expert retail planner at LXB. Special thanks are due to the chief executive of East Northamptonshire council, David Oliver, who put so much hard work into the project, much of it behind the scenes, over and above what he had to do. I thank Gavin Stollar, for helping project manage; Councillor Robin Underwood for his tenacity and unswerving support; Councillors David and Wendy Brackenbury for their huge practical and moral support; Peter Atchinson as chairman of Corby and East Northamptonshire Conservative Association, for throwing the association’s weight behind the project; and Helen Howell and Peter Wathan, for all their support in East Northants.

There are so many unsung heroes, but let me pick out a few—John and Sheila Vickers and Bill and Molly Clifton for delivering so many leaflets; Pam and George Whiting for all their efforts in Higham Ferrers; Councillor Jack Spriggs for all his enthusiasm and help; and Helen Harrison for being such an important part of the listening campaign. Particular thanks go to Councillor Richard Lewis for his unswerving determination to achieve Rushden Lakes and for his continuous pressure to see the project delivered, Councillor Rob Gough, Brian Skittral and Ollie Lewis, indispensable members of the listening team,

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1234

and John Campbell, chief executive of Wellingborough council, for their help and support. I thank Christine Emmett, the former Conservative candidate for Corby for all her help.

The list goes on and includes the Northamptonshire Telegraph for its campaigning in achieving Rushden Lakes, showing what an excellent local paper can do on behalf of its community, the Northamptonshire Herald and Post, BBC Radio Northampton, BBC Look East and ITV Anglia for their support and coverage of Rushden Lakes.

Special thanks go to Helen Danzig and the Yes to Rushden Lakes campaign team, whose efforts and support were an essential part of this victory. That is a non-party political organisation with the sole aim of delivering this fantastic development to the people of Northamptonshire. Their tireless efforts have paid off and I know they are thrilled with the decision for Rushden Lakes to go ahead.

However, I want to single out one person in particular for his hard work, enthusiasm and dedication in delivering the listening campaign. I refer, of course, to Councillor Tom Pursglove, a Wellingborough councillor who, with me, headed the joint listening campaign. He campaigned tirelessly on this issue, as he has done on so many others. Tom is a prolific campaigner and he is now the Conservative candidate for Corby and East Northants. The people of Corby and East Northants could not wish for a better candidate. He has shown that he listened, campaigned and delivered on Rushden Lakes.

Finally, I would like to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for giving permission for this development. I know that it was a long, hard, well thought out decision, and all the legal ramifications were taken into account. I know that off his own bat he looked at the site personally. The development will transform Rushden and the surrounding areas and I look forward to welcoming my right hon. Friend back to my constituency once this fantastic project is completed.

But I am not complacent. Now is the time to look to the future. The joint core strategy review for north Northamptonshire was held up until the Rushden Lakes decision was made. Now that Rushden Lakes has been approved, this review can go ahead. The importance of this for Rushden is that Rushden and the surrounding towns do not have a local plan. The most recent local plan was drawn up in 1996. However, we could not even start the plan until Rushden Lakes had been decided, because our local plan had to be compatible with the joint core strategy, which was held up.

Now that Rushden Lakes has been decided, we can get on with projects such as Rushden East, which is a plan to build at least 2,000 homes, and employment land for at least as many jobs, on the land east of Rushden. There are yet no formal plans as such, but the work on including it in the local plan has already started, a project board has been set up and Conservative-run East Northamptonshire council has already employed professionals to do some basic land studies.

Now that Rushden Lakes has been given the green light, Rushden East can proceed. It will first have to go into the new local plan, but then it can go ahead. Rushden Lakes is therefore the key to unlocking development that had been stalled until the decision was made. Now that it has been decided, we can get on

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1235

with building more homes, as the Government need us to do in order to grow the economy and solve the housing shortage. It is now more essential than ever that the dualling of the A45 and the improvements to the Chowns Mill roundabout go ahead and that the infrastructure to support the development gets underway as soon as possible.

I have only one question for the Minister: how can we speed up the planning process for such popular developments? Let me explain the issue to him as I see it. The Rushden Lakes scheme was hugely popular. It had the approval of all the local councils and the overwhelming majority of local people. It was on a brownfield site. It meant investment and new jobs. It was delayed for quite a long time because it had to go through the planning process. It seems to me that all that happened over the past year or so is that we made a lot of wealthy barristers and solicitors even more wealthy. When we look at the inspector’s report, we see how firmly it comes down in favour of the development.

I just wonder, in relation to future projects, whether taxpayers’ money could be saved. Would it be possible to change the law so that developments that enjoy such overwhelming support can in future be subject to a local referendum? If 75% or more of local people voted for them, they could then proceed and we would not need to waste any taxpayers’ money. I hope that that idea will feature in some of the Minister’s radical thinking that I referred to at the start of the debate.

The main message that we can take away from tonight’s debate is that we listened, we campaigned and we delivered.

7.33 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Nick Boles): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) not only on securing a debate on this issue, which I know is of overwhelming importance to him, his constituents and residents in the broader region, but on his unrelenting campaign, as a Member of Parliament quite properly representing his constituents, in favour of a development that he felt would benefit them dramatically. I congratulate him, along with the many other campaigners who worked so tirelessly, on securing the result he sought. The Secretary of State and I certainly received a great many letters and other representations from people who were in favour of the scheme.

My hon. Friend will understand why I cannot comment on the particular decision. Although the decision has been issued, it is open to legal challenge for a period, and I do not want to prejudice it in any way. However, I will make some broader comments about similar applications, and respond to the ideas that he raised at the end of his speech.

Andy Sawford: It is good of the Minister to give way, and he knows that this scheme is very important for my constituency. Will he confirm that he has received letters of support from me and, indeed, joint letters signed by me and the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone)? Will he confirm that, on page 150 of the report, the hon. Gentleman is quoted as praising my strong support and as saying that

“members of the Conservative and Labour party are united in support of this proposal”?

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1236

All of us with an interest in east Northamptonshire back this application locally, and I hope that we can get it going as soon as possible. I of course welcome the decision.

Nick Boles: I am happy to acknowledge that I have received a letter from the hon. Gentleman supporting the scheme. Obviously, the scheme was not universally supported, otherwise it would not have been called in, but I am certainly happy to make that acknowledgment.

I will move on to the broader issues. It is a very happy debate for me when, on behalf of the Secretary of State, I am congratulated on the granting of a major application. It is a welcome but unfamiliar position to be in.

The application was given so much support partly because it is on a brownfield site, as my hon. Friend said. It is very important for everybody in this country to make absolutely the maximum use of our already developed land, so that we can minimise the amount of undeveloped land that needs to be developed. As with brownfield sites across the country—unless they are of very high quality environmentally—putting such a site to new use is an absolutely key priority for this Government.

I have another general point on my hon. Friend’s suggestions on how such decisions could be made more quickly. I hope that he welcomes this Government’s introduction of neighbourhood planning, which for the first time gives people who are not professional planners or elected local councillors the ability to draw up a plan for their neighbourhood. The key point about a neighbourhood plan is that it becomes an adopted plan with statutory force after it has won approval in a referendum.

We have introduced the concept of referendums into the planning process, but it might prove to be a little too radical even for me to use a referendum as the way to decide a particular planning application. The simple reason is that planning decisions are quasi-judicial, as my hon. Friend will know very well. It is very important that quasi-judicial decisions are determined not just by the balance of popular opinion, although that is very important, but by the need to comply with all laws, regulations and policies and to take into account all material considerations. It might be difficult to show that a decision arrived at in a popular vote had taken into account all material considerations, and I am worried that it might make legal challenges more likely.

I am very keen to see a greater use of neighbourhood planning. I hope that the areas that my hon. Friend talked about, which I understand have held back from planning partly because of this application, will look at the possibility of neighbourhood planning to supplement the work being undertaken on the local plan.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House of the announcements that were made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Mansion House speech about our determination to make it easier and quicker for more brownfield sites to be brought forward for development. The Government’s proposal is to encourage, incentivise and help local authorities to introduce local development orders on as many brownfield sites as they possibly can, so that an applicant or developer who is willing to build

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1237

housing on a brownfield site, according to the terms of the local development order, can simply get on and do so, without going through a complex new planning process. That is a big departure and I believe that it will have the support of the whole House, because we all

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want to see the best possible use made of brownfield sites. I am confident that that is what we will see at Rushden Lakes.

Question put and agreed to.

7.39 pm

House adjourned.

18 Jun 2014 : Column 1239

Deferred Division

European Semester

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 10522/14 and Addendum, draft Council Recommendation on the United Kingdom’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on the United Kingdom’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10679/14, a Commission Communication: 2014 European Semester: Country-specific recommendations: Building growth, No. 10459/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Belgium’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Belgium’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10462/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Bulgaria’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Bulgaria’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10464/14, a draft Council Recommendation on the Czech Republic’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on the Czech Republic’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10466/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Denmark’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Denmark’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10468/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Germany’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Germany’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10471/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Estonia’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Estonia’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10479/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Ireland’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Ireland’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10481/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Spain’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Spain’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10482/14, a draft Council Recommendation on France’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on France’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10483/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Croatia’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Croatia’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10484/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Italy’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Italy’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10487/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Latvia’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Latvia’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10489/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Lithuania’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Lithuania’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10491/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Luxembourg’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Luxembourg’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10493/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Hungary’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Hungary’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10497/14, a draft Council Decision abrogating Decision 2010/407/EU on the existence of an excessive deficit in Denmark, No. 10498/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Malta’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Malta’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10500/14, a draft Council Recommendation on the Netherlands’ 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on the Netherlands’ 2014 stability programme, No. 10502/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Austria’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Austria’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10504/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Poland’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Poland’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10505/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Portugal’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Portugal’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10510/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Romania’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Romania’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10512/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Slovenia’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Slovenia’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10515/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Slovakia’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Slovakia’s 2014 stability programme, No. 10517/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Finland’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Finland’s

2014 stability programme, No. 10519/14, a draft Council Recommendation on Sweden’s 2014 national reform programme and delivering a Council opinion on Sweden’s 2014 convergence programme, No. 10524/14, a draft Council Recommendation on the implementation of the broad guidelines for the economic policies of the Member States whose currency is the euro, No. 7413/14, a Commission Communication: Results of in-depth reviews under Regulation (EU) No. 1176/2011 on the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances, and an unnumbered Commission Occasional Paper: Macroeconomic imbalances: United Kingdom, 2014, No. 16171/13, a Commission Report: A single market for growth and jobs: an analysis of progress made and remaining obstacles in the Member States, No. 15808/13, a Commission Report: Alert Mechanism Report 2014, No. 15803/13, a Commission Communication: Annual Growth Survey 2014, and No. 16348/13, a Draft Joint Employment Report accompanying the Commission Communication on the Annual Growth Survey 2014; further notes that the documents support the priorities of this Government to encourage structural reform, reduce the deficit and invest in UK infrastructure, and that the Government’s long term economic plan is working and the economy is growing, but that the job is not yet done and the Government is seeking to create a more resilient economy which supports sustainable growth; further notes that Help to Buy is having the desired effect of supporting first time buyers across the country to purchase a home; further notes that housing policy is a matter for Member States and not the Commission; and rejects the Commission’s proposal on council tax revaluation in the UK Country Specific Recommendation, which could raise council tax bills for hard pressed families.

The House divided:

Ayes 269, Noes 217.

Division No. 9]

AYES

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Allen, Mr Graham

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barwell, Gavin

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Cameron, rh Mr David

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Clappison, Mr James

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Evans, Graham

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Herbert, rh Nick

Hermon, Lady

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Leslie, Charlotte

Lewis, Brandon

Lloyd, Stephen

Long, Naomi

Lopresti, Jack

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pincher, Christopher

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Syms, Mr Robert

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Walker, Mr Charles

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

NOES

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Burstow, rh Paul

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Cash, Sir William

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Henderson, Gordon

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McCrea, Dr William

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme

(Livingston)

Morris, Grahame M.

(Easington)

Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Paisley, Ian

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reckless, Mark

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Angus

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sawford, Andy

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Question accordingly agreed to.

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