Let me begin my speech in the same way as Andrew Gwynne, and underline the House’s complete condemnation of the appalling terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka and also in Northern Ireland.
The timing of the attack in Sri Lanka at Easter, when people were murdered at prayer, was utterly shocking, and has—rightly—been utterly condemned throughout the House. Our thoughts are firmly with the Sri Lankan community in the United Kingdom, and we send our prayers and condolences in the knowledge that so many people will have lost loved ones. Let me also say, as a former Northern Ireland Secretary, that the brutal murder of Lyra McKee was utterly shocking and disgusting, and that our thoughts and prayers are very firmly with her loved ones, her family and all who cared for her. What an incredible individual she was. At this time, as her funeral is under way, I know that the House will wish to send its thoughts, prayers and condolences to all who love her and all who care for her.
Let me now turn to the subject of today’s debate. Our local authorities and the people who serve them are delivering essential services and changing lives, and it is right that we help them to succeed. I pay tribute to all who work in our local councils up and down the country for the work that they do and the difference that they make to the lives of so many. As Secretary of State, I have made clear my support for local government, and my wish to enable councils to deliver benefits to the people whom they serve. I commend and support those councils, and I look forward to finding new ways in which services can be delivered most effectively, in the spirit of devolution, closer to the point at which they are received.