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Queen’s Speech - Debate (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:06 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 12:06 pm, 17th October 2019

The noble Lord is completely right and, as he will know, I am a Transport Minister and was involved in the repatriation and obviously in its planning. Within the Department for Transport we are enormously grateful to the CAA and the DfT team who worked so hard on it, but the sad thing is that sometimes the media does not really like good-news stories. Once it was not a disaster, it fell out of the news very quickly, which rather limited our ability to say thank you to the CAA. Certainly, the Secretary of State, other Ministers and I have all thanked the CAA and said that it did a tremendously good job, and all credit to it.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of rail privatisation. Over that quarter of a century, passenger numbers have doubled; we are running more trains than at any time on record and we enjoy a safety record that is world class. Yet these accomplishments have come at a price and we have become victims of our own success. The UK’s railway network is now twice as heavily used as the networks in France and Germany, and delays and disruption are all too frequent. Therefore, while we are pumping an unprecedented £48 billion into rail improvements over the next five years, the railway needs to evolve to deliver for its customers.

In the aftermath of the May 2018 timetable disruption, the Government commissioned Keith Williams to carry out the most comprehensive review of the sector in a generation. His reforms will focus on five key areas: getting the trains to run on time; simplifying fares and ticketing; developing a new industry structure; creating a new commercial model; and unveiling proposals on leadership, skills and diversity. We will publish a White Paper on the review’s recommendations this autumn and, as stated in the gracious Speech, the Government have committed to bring forward proposals on railway reform. It is absolutely imperative that railway customers feel the benefits of these changes as soon as possible.

I turn now to matters relating to business, energy and industrial strategy. This is a Government who want everyone to enjoy the full fruits of their hard work. However, when the Government consulted on the issue of worker tips, we found that two-thirds of employers in the hospitality sector were making deductions, some of which were around 10%. This practice has to stop. The allocation of tips Bill, announced in the gracious Speech, will promote fairness for workers by creating a legal obligation to pass on all tips and service charges to workers in full and to distribute tips on a fair and transparent basis.

In this Queen’s Speech we have pledged to take steps to make work fairer for all. This Government have committed to deliver on the steps set out in our Good Work Plan—published late last year—which sets out our vision for the future of the labour market. These measures will ensure that employment practices keep pace with modern ways of working and that employees have access to the rights and protections they deserve. These reforms will also protect businesses that do the right thing for their workers from being undercut by a small minority that seek to circumvent the law. In addition, we are bringing forward national security and investment legislation to strengthen the Government’s existing powers to scrutinise and intervene in business transactions that are a threat to national security. These measures will give businesses and investors the certainty and transparency they need to do business in the UK.

This Government are committed to ensuring that the UK not only remains a champion of free trade and investment but becomes a global leader in scientific capability and space technology. In the gracious Speech we set out our commitment to significantly boost R&D funding, which will give long-term certainty to the scientific community. We have also laid out plans to introduce a more accessible visa scheme to attract the best and brightest global scientific and research talent. We will establish a new national space council and launch a comprehensive UK space strategy—measures that will transform this country into a global science superpower.

Finally, we are equally ambitious in the scale of our commitment to the environment. We are the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets; after nearly half a century under EU rules that dictate how we manage our nation’s environment, now is the time to go further and faster, to lead the world in safeguarding the environment for our children and future generations.

The Environment Bill will embed environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government through legislative measures to improve air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency and water resource management, in a changing climate. These changes will be supported by new legally binding environmental improvement targets, while a new independent regulator will be established to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action.

This Queen’s Speech demonstrates our clear ambition to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it, delivering a cleaner and healthier environment for future generations while securing the nation’s food production and revitalising our rural and coastal communities. Through the agriculture Bill, we will reward farmers for tackling the causes and effects of climate change and enhancing the environment; and through the fisheries Bill, this Government will manage fishing stocks more sustainably and protect our waters.

We will ensure that the UK sets a global gold standard for animal welfare, enhancing our reputation as a world leader and allowing us to lead from the front as we leave the EU, recognising animals as sentient beings in domestic law and increasing the maximum custodial sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years.

These are measures that demonstrate this Government’s clear ambition to leave a positive environmental legacy for those who follow us. This theme of ensuring that our nation is the very best it can be in the decades to come runs right through the Government’s plans. The Queen’s Speech sets out a clear legislative programme that will prepare this country for the future and help us to build a stronger, greener, more prosperous Britain.

Our nation’s exit from the European Union dominates events in Westminster, but today there is an opportunity to debate and scrutinise our wider plans for the months and years ahead.