Queen's Speech 'falls badly short' - Labour

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The Queen's Speech does nothing to help households and businesses with the everyday cost of living, Labour has argued during a debate on the loyal address.

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said it "falls badly short" in addressing the challenges the country faces and setting a foundation for a more prosperous future.

Ministers were too busy "crowing" about the economic recovery, Ms Flint claimed, as she warned that it was not yet being felt by many.

She set out how Labour would do things differently, including an energy price freeze and reform of the private rented market - including for longer-term tenancies and a cap on rent rises.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said it was "always inevitable" that people living in parts of the UK would take longer to feel the benefits of an economic upturn.

But he predicted "many, many more people" will be feeling the benefits of "the post-recession squeeze" by the time of the general election in 2015 and Labour's "latest economic argument on the cost of living will look even hollower".

'Quite pleased'

The debate centred on the coalition government's legislative agenda with regards to the cost of living, energy and housing.

It was announced in the Queen's Speech that fracking firms will be allowed to run shale gas pipelines on private land without needing prior permission.

Kate Green, the Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, sought assurances that in no circumstance could firms legally drill under a property without the owner's consent.

The Lib Dem energy secretary told her there would be "local community engagement", including in the planning process.

Mr Davey said landowners should be "quite pleased" to receive compensation for fracking because it "will not affect their land or properties" as most drilling operations will go "at least one mile" below the surface.

Ministers say that exploiting shale gas reserves in rocks beneath the UK could bring down energy bills and create thousands of jobs, but critics are concerned about the environmental impacts.

Scottish National Party MP Mike Weir said he believed the Queen's Speech was a "missed opportunity" to address issues affecting the energy industry in Scotland.

He lamented delays in plans to reduce "unfair" transmission charges for renewable schemes in parts of Scotland, and argued: "Dealing with issues like this could do a lot to help ameliorate the cost that consumers are having to pay towards their energy."

The Angus MP said the government needed to "get a grip" of this issue and ensure there is a regime in place that encourages the growth of renewable energy.

Part two of the debate can be found here.

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