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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Paul Masterton Paul Masterton Conservative, East Renfrewshire 5:28 pm, 15th October 2019

It is always a pleasure to follow Tom Brake, who by the end of this process must surely deserve some kind of award for finding so many different ways to say exactly the same thing in every speech that he gives. I am sure that he will be saying it again on Saturday when we are back here.

Yesterday the Government set out a well overdue Queen’s Speech putting forward a positive agenda to move our country forward, and it is absolutely right that we move on from the last Session of Parliament, one of the longest in our history and one that was dominated by Brexit, to start looking at governing on the issues that matter to our constituents in their day-to-day lives—health, policing, education, strengthening the Union, improving our environment and increasing opportunities for everyone in our country. I hope that this week we will at last be able to move on even slightly, look beyond Brexit and start putting this much-needed and positive agenda into action.

My constituents are tired of the divisive and endless going around in circles on Brexit, and that is even in a seat that voted 75% to remain in the European Union back in 2016. They are tired, they are fed up and they want Brexit to be sorted. But I do not want to focus on Brexit today. My hon. Friend Steve Brine spoke eloquently earlier on that subject. I want instead to focus on some of the specific measures in the Queen’s Speech that speak to some of the priorities that I have been pursuing down here in Westminster.

I want to start by thanking the Government for including my ten-minute rule Bill on collective defined-contribution schemes in the pension schemes Bill. The consultation had already closed, but to have that commitment in proposed legislation is very welcome. It is a good measure, backed by industry and trade unions, that will make a positive difference to help workplace pensions evolve in a way that will be sustainable for business and provide better outcomes for employees. Crucially, the pension schemes Bill will also include the pensions dashboard. One of the biggest enemies for pension savers is the lack of data. Being able to pull together all an individual’s pension savings in one place will make a huge difference, as will greater teeth for the regulator, with more powers to tackle irresponsible management by companies of private pension schemes.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but the first question I asked in Prime Minister’s questions was about a horrible event that happened in Barrhead, where a Romanian national attacked and raped a schoolgirl. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister both committed to that individual being removed from the United Kingdom as soon as possible, either after serving all his sentence or to finish serving his sentence in Romania. One thing that struck the community was that the guy who committed the attack was fairly young and there was concern that he might be able to come back in future. I was therefore really pleased to see the foreign national offenders Bill in the Queen’s Speech. Among other things, it will make it far harder for people who are deported from the United Kingdom as a result of a criminal offence to come back. Those who do breach deportation orders will face much harsher penalties for doing so.

Another issue I raised in Prime Minister’s question time related to another tragic case in which a 13-year-old boy in my constituency took his own life after being severely cyber-bullied. Since then, I have done a huge amount of work with charities and stakeholders across the sector, as have other Members from across the House, on cyber-bullying, suicide and self-harm prevention, particularly among young people. The online harms White Paper was a really important piece of cross-Government work. It included something that I and others have campaigned for: a statutory duty of care on social media providers to help to protect users online. The commitment in the Queen’s Speech to introduce legislation on that as soon as possible is very welcome. Talking about Britain’s place in the world, I know it meant a great deal that the Prime Minister used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly to champion the UK’s work on online safety. If we can get on with that work, it will make a huge amount of difference.

I want to briefly mention the medical devices Bill in relation to the work I have been doing on the victims of transvaginal mesh, one of the greatest medical scandals of recent times. The whole process has shown that the licensing regime for medical devices and the work of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is completely not fit for purpose. The Bill will come too late to help women whose lives have been destroyed by mesh, but hopefully ensuring that we update legislation relating to medical devices in response to patient safety concerns will at least stop similar scandals coming forward in future.

I appreciate that probably very little of the Queen’s Speech will actually come into force. We will need an election for that to happen, but so be it. I am certainly ready for that. I know there are a number of measures outlined in the Queen’s Speech that do not apply in Scotland, but my constituents would like them to. The First Minister of Scotland gave her party conference speech today in Aberdeen without mentioning healthcare or education once. My constituents will want to know why their ambition for public services is not being met north of the border. There will be a £1.2 billion cash bonus as a result of the latest spending round, and my constituents expect the Scottish Government to spend every single penny exactly where it is needed.

I am really looking forward to taking forward this modern Conservative and Unionist agenda to the people of East Renfrewshire in the upcoming general election. They do not want a second independence referendum; they want Brexit sorted and they want this Government to get on with delivering their priorities. I look forward to supporting the Queen’s Speech next week.