Mike Gapes spoke in the Parliamentary debate on the Budget on Friday 23 March
He began with an intervention at 9.34 am early in the opening speech of Transport Secretary Justine Greening
He got no explanation.
He then intervened on Labour Shadow Transport Minister John Woodcock to oppose a new Thames Estuary airport.
Mike Gapes: Does my hon. Friend agree that the reason the Government have not yet come out explicitly on these issues is that they do not want to damage Boris’s chances in the mayoral election and undermine his fantasy island proposal? The reality is that this proposal is completely opposed by whole sectors not just in Kent but north of the River Thames, including in my constituency.
Here is the link to watch my speech.
Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton). She said that the Government are “single-minded”, but it is difficult to judge whether that is the case. I have been looking around and listening for contributions from the Liberal Democrats, but clearly they would rather not be here to explain to the ghosts of Beveridge and Keynes the reactionary, failing austerity policies that they are signed up to.
In my constituency, we have had a very significant increase in unemployment in the past year. The number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants went up to 4,119 in February; that is 297 more than a year ago and a 7.8% increase in one year. According to the House of Commons Library, 7.6% of my constituents are unemployed, and the number of those claiming JSA for more than 12 months is up by 395 from 480 to 875—a huge increase. That is not unique in this country, but it is important that people understand the situation. I represent a London—an outer-London—constituency where 11.6 people are chasing every single job. Many of my constituents commute into central London to work, as they always have done, but the number of jobs available to them there is going down, whether they are public sector jobs or jobs in the financial services industry in sectors such as banking and insurance, which have not been taking people on.
We have particular problems that affect constituencies in London, and those problems should not be ignored by those who are suffering in a similar way in other parts of the country. Yes, there are a lot of millionaires in London. There are lots of people with £2 million, £3 million or £5 million houses, but there are also many poor people living in bed and breakfast accommodation or short-term rented accommodation. One of the real tragedies in London is that tens of thousands of people are in housing need. There was nothing in this Budget about helping to get people into work so as to get the economy moving again and deal with the chronic homelessness and housing problems that we experience in London and in other cities.
Only 56.3% of my constituents are in employment. That reflects demographic and other issues; for example, a large number of people are in education. Nevertheless, the figure is very low compared with other areas that have 70% or 75% employment. We need targeted measures to deal with those whose first language is not English, or women who have not previously been in the work force, in order to try to change the situation. Nothing in this Budget will deal with those problems; all we have instead is a policy of imposed austerity.
I came to the House today, as I always do, by public transport. I travelled from Ilford to Stratford on a very overcrowded train, on which it was impossible to get a seat. That is the normal routine for tens of thousands of my constituents every morning. When we get Crossrail in five, six or seven years’ time, it will make a huge difference. I welcome this Government’s commitment to carry on with the Crossrail project, which was started by the previous Government. As the chairman of the all-party Crossrail group, I have been involved in the campaign for many years. I believe that Crossrail is vital for the future not just of London, but of the whole country. I hope that the Government will take action to ensure that the Crossrail trains are built in this country, unlike the recent disaster over the Thameslink trains. I also support High Speed 2, which is vital for the prosperity of the whole country.
It is time for the Government to get off the fence— I made an intervention about this—on extra airport capacity for our capital city, otherwise we will lose out to other countries in Europe on the transit opportunities of people flying across the Atlantic or flying in from Asia or the southern hemisphere. We need that capacity soon, and not through some fantasy island that will lead to the destruction of habitats and the killing of bird life. In my opinion, the additional capacity needs to be at Heathrow and possibly at other existing airports, rather than at the Mayor of London’s fantasy island.