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Public Services

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay 4:41 pm, 16th October 2019

My hon. Friend makes the point well that the Opposition had every opportunity to ensure that the Queen’s Speech was presented by whichever party won the election and formed the Government. It suggests Opposition Members did not support an election because they were not confident that it would be them presenting the Queen’s Speech.

I support the Queen’s Speech, and I welcome the many Bills that have been announced. Its overall theme sets out the Government’s agenda that, once we leave the European Union, they are determined to level up across the country and address some of the regional inequalities that have long existed in our country. I represent the great constituency of St Austell and Newquay, and there will be few places in the country where that message is more warmly welcomed than in Cornwall because, for decades, the people of Cornwall have often felt a very long way from Westminster, not just geographically and physically but even in the thoughts of our leaders and our Governments.

Cornwall, as well as being an incredible place that contributes to our nation through food production and in so many other ways, faces a number of unique challenges that genuinely no other part of the country faces. A peninsula on the edge of the country, with a very rural and sparse population, a growing elderly population and 600 miles of coast to look after, the challenges we face in Cornwall are unique.

Successive Governments have rarely given Cornwall what it really needs to address those specific challenges, but in this Prime Minister and the agenda he has laid out for this Government we see an opportunity to address the underfunding issues we have had and to level up the investment in Cornwall for which we have been waiting for so long. We need funding for our police: Devon and Cornwall police currently receive 15% below the national average per head of population funding despite facing many unique challenges. We need funding for our schools: historically, and for a very long time, Cornish schools have been underfunded. Although he is not now in his place, I very much welcomed the Secretary of State for Education coming to Cornwall just last week and announcing extra funding for Cornish schools. That will begin to level up and address underfunding. We need funding for our NHS and very much welcome the Government’s commitment of £450 million towards a new hospital in Cornwall.

The Government are starting to address the underfunding issues, but it is not just in our public services that we want to level up; we want to level up in our economy as well. Just this August, the Prime Minister came to Cornwall, and we were all so encouraged by his words. He said:

“Cornwall has incredible potential.”

He said:

“My ambition for Cornwall and for the whole country is levelling up.”

He continued:

“We will ensure that Cornwall does in no circumstances have less money coming in from all resources, so, whether it’s UK funding or wherever, there will be the cash to support infrastructure, technology and education.”

And he also said:

“We want to see a very dynamic Cornish economy. We want people to have the confidence not just to improve their lives here but to invest in business here and have babies here as well.”

Those words were hugely welcome, because we want Cornwall no longer to be considered the poor part of the UK, and actually to play its part in contributing to the national economy. We are ambitious: one of the announcements in the Queen’s Speech that we very much welcomed was that of a national space strategy. I am sure many Members will not be surprised to hear that we are right ready to start to launch satellites into space from Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay airport, and we really welcome the Government’s ongoing support.

We welcome the announcements on the environment and the Government’s commitment to continuing to improve our environmental credentials and to introducing a new regulator. Cornwall is already playing a significant part, but it is keen to continue to play a part. Just this week, we announced funding for a second geothermal drill in Cornwall. In the near future, that will start to produce geothermal energy—another source of renewable energy. We continue to pursue lithium extraction, which will secure a UK domestic supply of one of the most important metals for renewable energies, enabling the production of batteries for storage and electric vehicles. Cornwall is ready to fulfil its potential. We need the Government to continue to invest and support the Cornish economy.

Finally, on the shared prosperity fund, we were encouraged when the Prime Minister recently made clear on the BBC his commitment to the inclusion in the shared prosperity fund of a dedicated fund for Cornwall that will be comparable to the money that we would have received through the European Union—I say through the European Union and not from the European Union, because it is the UK taxpayers’ money that is given back to us. We really need to see measures on the shared prosperity fund come forward quickly so that we have that in place in the very near future. That way, we can continue to support the Cornish economy so that we can fulfil our ambitions and play our part in the national economic growth.