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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Conservative, Poole 3:47 pm, 15th October 2019

The simple truth of the matter, though, is that we always knew that a deal produced by the Government would be a compromise. I think it unfortunate that the previous deal, although it had major faults, was not passed. I hope that the Government make some progress with the talks this week and that perhaps a little later in the week we have some good news. Certainly, engaging with the European Union, which the current Prime Minister is doing, is a good thing. I think the EU has proved a little bit more amenable to further discussions than one might have thought earlier in the year, and I hope that we make some progress. However, as I said in my intervention on Keir Starmer, deadlines are what make progress. What gets the attention of the European Union is a deadline creeping up. The EU must be thoroughly fed up with us, with extensions and further negotiations and endless Brexit, but we have to come to an end point.

Where I disagree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman—although I understand his point and where he stands at the moment—is on a confirmatory referendum, which would probably take us up to the spring at the earliest. That is another six months. We have a lot of discussion in this Chamber about money and resources. That would mean our continuing to pay into the EU budget for another six months. It would mean that there would be less money within the UK budget for paying for some very important things. I hope that we get a solution that is an agreement, and I hope it is put to this House. I do not think another referendum is the right way, because there is a fundamental democratic point, which is to carry out the result of a referendum that was given to the British people. Having a second referendum before we implement the first referendum would, I think, cause my constituents great anger. However, everybody takes their position, and I have admired the way in which he has manoeuvred and gone forward and backwards. He made a long speech today and did not take many interventions. That is what happens when one does not have very much to say and does not really have a position, and the position may change. From an Opposition point of view, that is brilliant, but from the point of view of our country, it is not the best position. The Opposition have to come down on a definite position at some point.

I welcome the immigration Bill and the end of freedom of movement. However, that does not mean reducing immigration: it means setting and controlling immigration at what is appropriate for the British economy. I hope that we remain an open and confident country taking our part in the world. Our history, our tradition and our language mean all of that.

The Secretary of State made some very important points. If our aid budget teaches girls to read, they can read a medicine bottle and teach their children to read. It is a major game changer in terms of the world, and Britain is at the forefront of doing it. It is because the focus of Britain is worldwide and the focus of some European countries is rather narrower that we have a larger aid budget and people appreciate it around the world.

I welcome the fisheries Bill, which gives us a great opportunity to revitalise our fishing industry. It is very important to bring that forward. The financial services Bill will have a major impact.

On the medicines and medical devices Bill, it is true that, despite the great success of our NHS, we are sometimes quite slow to innovate in drugs and medical devices. Whenever I have known anybody come up with a new idea, it tends to get trialled, re-trialled and re-trialled again rather than implemented. There is a lot of progress that we can make.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to mental health and social care reforms, which are remarkably good. The further consultation on the victims’ law is very important. I think we are all very concerned about what we are doing for victims.

Of course, many of us have pensions and many people have lots of little different bits of pensions. More information through the pensions dashboard is quite important in enabling people to make long-term choices.

I also support what the Government are doing on voter ID. When I collect a package from Royal Mail or from various bodies, I have to produce ID. In terms of the very important prospect of voting, it is not unreasonable for people to have to produce ID. Whether or not the focus on a passport or driving licence is too narrow and ought to be a little wider—maybe a council tax bill or something—I do not know. However, it is a debate to be had, because there is a lack of confidence in some of the ways in which elections are conducted in our country.

As a nation, we have so much to be proud of. Sometimes we do not stand up for our own interests and blow our own trumpet, but the Government have a good record. We have provided a very good base—a successful economy—and because of that we are able to spend a little more money in key areas. I hope that we can resolve Brexit sooner rather than later and therefore get back to a proper domestic debate on all the important issues such as health, education and transport. I fully support the Government’s Queen’s Speech, and I hope it gets the support that this House ought to give it.