Queen’s Speech - Debate (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:18 pm on 26th June 2017.

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Photo of Lord Mountevans Lord Mountevans Crossbench 6:18 pm, 26th June 2017

My Lords, I am honoured to have the opportunity to make my maiden speech. I would have done so sooner, but some noble Lords may know that I have been occupied east of here for the past year or so.

Standing here, I have the privilege of following into this House my late father-in-law, Lord Moran, who gave distinguished service as a diplomat and later followed his father—Winston Churchill’s personal physician—into this place. I follow, too, my grandfather Edward Evans—or Teddy, as I knew him—who was raised to the peerage in 1945 following a career as a naval officer and Antarctic explorer. When Teddy was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, he was second in command of Captain Scott’s ill-fated second expedition to the Antarctic, and he was one of the last three to see Scott and the final polar party alive, just 160 miles from the pole. Growing up, I grew acquainted with the spirit of exploration, innovation and enterprise that carried him literally to the end of the earth.

While I did not have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps and visit, in his words, the “desolate Antarctic”, during my year as Lord Mayor of London, I nevertheless visited 24 countries in five other continents. These visits, on which I was accompanied by business delegations, were conducted to promote London and the UK as the world centre for financial and business services, a position that I very much hope is maintained in the years to come. On these visits, I recognised in the best of British businesses the same animating spirit of enterprise, innovation and adventure that drove my grandfather and which we will need to harness to drive our own future prosperity.

This spirit is evident not least in a sector which my grandfather knew well and in which I made my own career, the maritime sector. More than 80% of world trade moves by sea. That is more than a ton and a half of cargo for every man, woman and child on the planet, and sea-borne trade is predicted to double by 2030. Given the importance of this sector, I am pleased to say that the UK, an island nation with a rich seafaring tradition, is a world-leading maritime centre and is perfectly positioned to capitalise on future growth.

Our skilled workforce, world-class infrastructure and competitive business environment make the UK a destination of choice. As a result, the sector, which encompasses not only shipping and ports, ship and boat building, manufacturing and engineering but the world-renowned lawyers, insurers and brokers of the City of London, makes a significant contribution to the UK economy—an estimated £22 billion, supporting 500,000 jobs. We have seen growth in recent years. Updated historical data and the latest figures will be presented in full at the Maritime UK reception here in Parliament during the third London International Shipping Week in September.

Innovation is critical and is widely evidenced across the maritime sector. Much attention is being given to the economic benefits of robotic and autonomous operations, and this House only recently received a report recommending a number of actions by government to ensure that the UK can take advantage of this evolving technology. Marine and agriculture were specifically mentioned as sectors from which early benefits could accrue. Singling out marine, the deployment of autonomous devices to increase the scope and speed of ocean surveys will be a capability of the new British Antarctic Survey ship, “Sir David Attenborough”, currently under construction at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. That contract was won against international competition. This vessel will be a world leader in technology. Earlier, the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, wasted no time in bringing to the attention of this House the fact that the new carrier is sailing from Rosyth today. As an honorary captain in the Royal Naval Reserve, I say that the Royal Navy is not just guarding our sea lanes; it also plays a key role in the development of marine and maritime technology.

In 2014, I was honoured to be asked by the Government to chair the maritime growth study, which made a number of recommendations for keeping the UK maritime sector competitive. I am pleased to say that significant progress is being made in addressing those recommendations and that there will be much to report at London International Shipping Week. That has been a huge success and is an outstanding example of co-operation between government and business. I urge the Government and business to continue work on the relevant recommendations of the growth study to ensure that the maritime industries can harness the talent and enterprising spirit of the workforce to deliver for Britain in the coming years.

As a former Lord Mayor of the City of London, it would be remiss of me not to say something of another of the UK’s leading industries and great success stories: financial and related professional services. In my remaining time, I will not rehearse too many statistics. Suffice to say that the sector supports more than 2 million jobs nationally, with two-thirds of those outside of London, contributed £176 billion to the UK economy in 2015 and attracted £10.2 billion of foreign direct investment, which was around one-third of total inward FDI. It is the UK’s largest generator of tax revenues, covering, if you like, two-thirds of the cost of the National Health Service. It is also the source of the country’s largest trade surplus.

I would like to highlight just one initiative demonstrating the sector’s innovative and enterprising spirit: green finance. In my year as Lord Mayor, I was proud to launch the City of London’s Green Finance Initiative, a body committed to promoting and further developing one of the industry’s most vibrant and fastest growing sectors, which advocates the steps that must be taken if we are to facilitate truly 21st-century, high-tech jobs, growth and exports.

Green finance—the funding of investments that provide environmental benefit—will fund and facilitate the growth of a more efficient and productive and less polluting economy and can provide a bridge to markets both old and new, including China, the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Morocco and Argentina. This serves simply to show how, at its best, the sector embodies the same spirit of enterprise and innovation and of going out into the world of which I heard in my grandfather’s stories, and which I also see in the maritime industries today.

To close, it is my fervent belief that the best of British business, and the two sectors I have highlighted, will continue to embody that spirit and will make an important contribution to our nation’s future, helping to build the trading nation that the Government, and all of us, wish to see. For them to do so, however, it is vital that the Government deliver on their pledge to negotiate the best Brexit deal or suggested agreement, which must include mutual market access, early agreement of transitional arrangements and access to talent for the UK’s businesses. If the Government are able to provide the framework where opportunities can be taken, where innovation is encouraged and where businesses are not left out in the cold, I am certain they will deliver.