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The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:46 pm on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock 3:46 pm, 24th October 2019

I am pleased to be able to make a short contribution in response to the Gracious Speech. There is much to be welcomed in this Queen’s Speech, and it is a testament to the Government’s stewardship of the economy that we are able to put some of these actions forward.

I had wanted to remind the House a little bit about the toxic economic inheritance that we received back in 2010 and then how, over the past decade, we have transformed the UK economy, which has allowed us to invest in our important public services, but I fear that I do not have the time. We have come a long way, but there is always more to do. This Queen’s Speech, I believe, starts that process and builds on the progress.

We are putting more money into hospitals. We have heard about the £14 billion that is going into schools, and we are funding 20,000 extra police officers, 135 of whom I will see in my Essex constituency. There is therefore much to welcome, but I cannot make a contribution to this debate without talking about the first and foremost Bill in the Queen’s Speech—the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

I was very pleased when, earlier this week, the Second Reading of the Bill received approval, but I was disappointed when the programme motion failed. Had it passed, there would have been a huge sigh of national relief, and it is a shame that we have a Bill that has passed but can go no further. Some 73% of my constituents voted to leave the EU and, three and a half years on, they cannot understand why we have not left. Just pushing the can further down the road will not solve this problem. Everything that can be said about Brexit has been said twice already. No vote will change because of words spoken in this Chamber. We just need to get on with it. If we cannot get on with it, we will need to have a general election.

There are other things to which I want to refer. I particularly welcomed the announcement of the proposal to introduce the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill. I am sure that Conor McGinn also welcomes that Bill. It is of particular importance not only to me, but to my constituent, Linda Jones. Her daughter, Danielle, was murdered by her uncle, who has continually refused to disclose the location of her body. The Bill is also important to numerous other families affected by this tragic and cruel crime, including Marie McCourt, whose daughter, Helen—after whom Helen’s law is named—was murdered. Although the announcement is welcome, the Government need to ensure that all relevant parole hearings that are in process are paused until the Bill is enacted so that no one is disadvantaged by the timing.

While there are all the other Bills that I welcome, I want to focus on the science aspect of the Queen’s Speech for the last 45 seconds of my contribution. As a former Chair of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on artificial intelligence and the Government’s envoy for engineering, I recognise that this Government have done a huge amount for science over the last 10 years and have promised to do more, including by investing £7 billion in our research and development base over the next five years. We are a global science power. We punch well above our weight; pound for pound, we create more citations internationally than any other country. This Government are doing all they can to protect and nurture that base. I ask Ministers to please continue to make scientists from around the world welcome in the UK so that the best and brightest always base themselves here.