Motion to Adjourn

Part of Queen’s Speech - Debate (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:29 pm on 14th October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 4:29 pm, 14th October 2019

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and to support the Motion. I am honoured to stand here once again, as Leader of this House, ready for a new Session of Parliament. For centuries, this House has played a vital role in making and shaping the laws of the United Kingdom, checking and challenging the Government of the day. Now, as we grapple with the most significant peacetime event in our nation’s history, the thorough and detailed scrutiny for which this House is known will be more important than ever. At a time when our politics and constitution are under an intense focus, your Lordships’ experience and expertise will be vital in fulfilling that crucial role.

I am delighted to be joined once again by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, with whom I have worked throughout the last Session. There may have been a number of late nights and challenging debates over the last three years, but I would like to put on record my thanks for the constructive and respectful way in which we have worked. It has been crucial to the effective running of this House and I am confident it will continue. I hope that we can continue our tradition of sampling a selection of the noble Baroness’s legendary gin collection at various particularly hot points during this Session.

It is a pleasure to add my congratulations to those already expressed to my noble friends Lady Anelay and Lord Dobbs for their moving and seconding of the humble Address. My noble friend Lady Anelay served on the Conservative Front Bench for over 20 years, first in opposition and later in government. I have it on good authority that, when she served as Chief Whip, Whips’ meetings enjoyed unprecedented popularity with fans of a good Bloody Mary. On the hunt for more exotic cocktail recipes, Lady Anelay later went on to serve as Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, DfID and DExEU. She has also served as a trustee for UNICEF UK and as the Prime Minister’s special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict. She currently chairs our influential International Relations Committee. Her thoughtfulness, determination, fortitude and commitment to public service are legendary. We are fortunate to have her with us in this House, as well as her beautiful handbags, which I understand Mr Anelay is despatched to purchase on a regular basis—well done him.

My noble friend Lord Dobbs is, of course, best known as a novelist, Emmy-nominated screenwriter and television producer and, above all, as creator of the most infamous Chief Whip of all, Francis Urquhart. I am pleased that my noble friend does not seem to have taken him as a role model—yet. We may wonder what he would have made of our current politics, but I suspect he would have been completely baffled. Like many of my noble friends, Lord Dobbs’ career benefited greatly from Lady Thatcher. Although he was never made a Minister, he was, he thinks, much more fortunate than that. He had, in his own words,

“a ferocious row with Margaret Thatcher. It was one of the most painful moments of my life but it led me to write House of Cards … Funny to think I owe it all to being beaten up by Maggie”.

I am not sure other victims of Lady Thatcher’s handbags have felt quite as charitable.

On important occasions such as this, it is only right that we recognise the hard work of the House authorities, and all the staff, in making today’s ceremony such a success. Despite sometimes being asked a lot of, they work with great professionalism to make sure that your Lordships’ House runs as smoothly as it does. I know that all noble Lords will join me in thanking them for everything that they do. I also thank the police service for working tirelessly in advance of our State Opening today. Parliament may be a focal point of peaceful protest, but it is also a place of work and there is much for us to do. We are all grateful for their efforts. Finally, I pay tribute to those who serve, and have served, in our gallant Armed Forces, at home and abroad, to keep us safe. I am sure that the whole House will want to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those men and women, and by their families.

There have been a number of changes on the Government Benches over the last few years—I know it has been a long one; I am sorry. I am very grateful to my current Front Bench team for their hard work and support and put on record my thanks to those who have stepped down—please remember, this was a long Session; it is not me—the noble Lords, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Lord Young of Cookham, Lord Henley, Lord O’Shaughnessy, Lord Prior of Brampton, Lord Price, Lord Bates, Lord Nash and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Fairhead, Lady Mobarik, Lady Manzoor, Lady Buscombe and Lady Anelay. Fortunately, we continue to benefit from their involvement in the work of the House in other ways.

The legislative programme laid out today represents an ambitious new domestic agenda under the leadership of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. With a set of liberal, one-nation policies that combine the power of free markets with strong public services, we aim to unleash everyone’s potential no matter who they are or where they live: measures to support and strengthen our National Health Service, its people and buildings; new money for our schools, so that every child gets a world-class education no matter where they grow up; investment in transport and technology, so that prosperity reaches all corners of the country; and measures to tackle violent crime, protect our police and restore trust in our criminal justice system. All of these are measures to protect and promote the people of all four corners of our nation and to rejuvenate our country by renewing the ties that bind us.

However, to focus on this new, exciting agenda for our country, we must get Brexit done. From our very first day in office, this Government have been committed to securing a deal with the EU that works for the whole of the United Kingdom. Legislation to enable the implementation of a deal will be brought forward following any agreement reached at this week’s European Council meeting. When we leave the EU on 31 October, we will be free to take advantage of the opportunities that await us, with a new agricultural regime that works for British farmers, a new fisheries regime that takes back control of British waters and new trade deals forged with our partners and allies over the world.

We will continue to champion our values, robustly making the case for democracy, the rule of law and free trade. With these principles in mind, we will transform our immigration system into one that attracts the brightest and best. The new immigration Bill will end free movement and introduce a new and fair modern system that celebrates immigration to the UK from every corner of the globe. We will honour and protect the European citizens who have chosen to make the UK their home with an indefinite right to remain. They have built their lives in this country and contributed so much to our communities. We will forge a new relationship with our partners in the EU that will cement our reputation as a strong and reliable neighbour.

Returning to our ambitious domestic agenda, I will briefly highlight four priority areas for this Government. First, to support our world-class National Health Service, we will provide the resources needed for the successful rollout of our NHS long-term plan in England. This includes reforms to how we provide social care for adults, ensure dignity in old age and improve care for those receiving mental health treatment.

Secondly, this Government will work tirelessly to make our streets safer and ensure that victims receive the justice they deserve as well as the help they need. We need robust measures to tackle violent crime, and we will make improvements to the parole system, improve safety in prisons and champion the rehabilitation of offenders. Through a package of new measures we will better protect domestic abuse victims and their children and, above all, we will deliver 20,000 new police officers to uphold the law.

Thirdly, this Government will invest in improving infrastructure across the country to spread opportunity and boost living standards. From new rail networks to superfast broadband, we will champion our businesses and provide the services they need to thrive. With investment in our world-beating scientific and research sectors, reliable digital services and new energy infrastructure, we will boost productivity and unleash potential in all parts of the United Kingdom.

Finally, this Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s ambitious plan to redouble our commitment to enhance our environment and promote and protect the welfare of animals. We will become a global leader on environmental protection with a new environment Bill to take us towards our ambitious and legally binding 2050 net zero target.

This is a bold and exciting new agenda for the UK that will improve lives at home and enhance our place in the world. We will, in the words of the Prime Minister,

“dedicate ourselves again to that simple proposition that we are here to serve the democratic will of the British people”.

This Government will get Brexit done and bring our country together. I support the Motion.

Debate adjourned until tomorrow.