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Public Services

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:20 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus 3:20 pm, 16th October 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Dhesi, although I am not sure that many Members on the Government Benches will agree with his assessment of the Queen’s Speech.

The Queen’s Speech presented to Parliament this week was an opportunity for the Government to get on with their domestic agenda, focusing on public services and aiming to deliver what the people want us to do. For too long, hour upon hour of Government time—in fact, almost 500 hours—has been eaten up by furthering of the Brexit debate. That time could, no doubt, have been spent on other things, but we continued on around the Brexit merry-go-round while so few recognised that the country wanted to move on. Although the previous Session was dominated by Brexit, we must not forget that more than 70 Bills received Royal Assent in that Parliament—in stark contrast to the 26 passed in the Scottish Parliament. My constituency of Angus had the fourth highest leave vote of any constituency in Scotland, but when I am out on the doorsteps, as I have been almost every weekend since I was elected, people say they want us to get on and get Brexit sorted. They also want to leave the constitutional debate in Scotland to one side—perhaps even for a generation.

Monday’s Queen’s Speech focused absolutely on public services—the issues that matter to everyone’s everyday lives. Although some measures will not affect Scotland, as the chair of the all-party group on eating disorders I was pleased to see a renewed focus on mental health. I recognise that efforts will predominantly focus on those in detention in hospitals and police custody, but we must always increase our ambitions in this policy area. We must never forget that there will be people in this Chamber, across the estate and in every workplace, school and university who are suffering from mental health issues. I want ours to be a more open society so that people can recognise that the support is there if they are willing to come forward and get it.

The Queen’s Speech also mentioned the pension schemes Bill, which I warmly welcome because several hard-working plumbers in Angus were in a defined pension scheme and faced potential financial ruin. They entered into a multi-employer scheme without ever imagining that they would face demands for six or seven-figure sums. I have worked hard to represent their views in this place. That Bill will give those in such difficult situations further support by requiring a statement from trustees on their funding strategy. Although that may not help those in my constituency, it will ensure that similar situations do not take place again.

Two important Bills mentioned in the Queen’s Speech that do affect Scotland are the fisheries Bill and the immigration Bill. The fisheries Bill will enable us to depart from the European Union and allow the fishing industry in Scotland to prosper in a sea of opportunity. No Scottish Member of Parliament can deny that leaving the common fisheries policy will deliver for our fishing industry. It is incumbent on both the UK Government and the Scottish Government to improve infrastructure and support the industry as it enters a new and exciting era.

Of course, the fishing industry will also require labour, which leads me to the immigration Bill. Along with Alison Thewliss, I welcome the two-year graduate work visa announcement, and also the review of the £30,000 annual salary cap—both issues on which Scottish Conservatives spoke up at the time. I want the immigration Bill to ensure that we can bring in the skills and labour that we require as we depart from the European Union. Migrants contribute so positively in Angus and throughout the country. Whether it is in fish processing in Arbroath, manufacturing in Montrose or the agricultural industry throughout my constituency, including the soft fruit industry, they contribute to our local area and to our society. They and their families are welcome, and they are welcome to lay down roots in this great country.