Worcester’s MP, Robin Walker, has spoken out to welcome a One Nation Conservative speech at the start of the new session of Parliament getting his speech in on the very first day of the five day debate. The Worcester MP spoke for 23 minutes including taking three interventions from members and following an extraordinary speech from the Leader of the Opposition in which he spoke for more than 40 minutes without accepting a single intervention, even from his own side.

He spoke last Wednesday just after Her Majesty the Queen attended Parliament for the 63rd time in her reign and welcomed the extraordinary example of service that she has set, saying:

“I want to join the tributes paid by Members on both sides of the House to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her 63rd Gracious Speech. Hers is a remarkable example of service to our nation”

He went on to praise his colleague Philip Lee who had spoken about the power of the post-war consensus, saying:

“His deeply serious point about the post-war consensus and the values that underpinned it was one of the most eloquent descriptions of that era in our politics that I have heard in this House. We should be looking to build consensus. I support the Gracious Speech because it is deeply ingrained with the values of one nation conservatism, which are among the reasons why I went into politics. Members on both sides of the House should be able to come together and support its opening lines, which mention using

“the opportunity of a strengthening economy to deliver security for working people, to increase life chances for the most disadvantaged and to strengthen national defences.”

After commenting on the improving employment situation in Worcester and the rise in wages he went on to welcome the inclusion of a drive to 3 million apprenticeships in the Queens’ speech saying

“I have seen in my own constituency how apprenticeships can not only give people the chance to earn and learn, and to start their careers, but transform small businesses and help them to realise that, by harnessing the youth, vigour and ideas of young people, they can themselves grow and learn new things.”

“I want to compliment three businesses that have contacted me in the past few days. Rock Power Connections and Instant Scenery told me in the past couple of days that they are taking on their first apprentices, while Green Lighting Ltd is a Worcester firm that recently won a Queen’s award for innovation and received the apprentice of the year award from the Herefordshire and Worcestershire chamber of commerce. Those small businesses are taking people on, giving them a chance and enabling them to earn and learn. We want to see more of that.””””

He commented on the focus on new technologies in the Speech saying:

“The Gracious Speech mentions giving business the infrastructure it needs to grow, which is crucial. It also mentions access to high-speed broadband. Like Members on both sides of the House, I welcome that ambition and hope to see it better achieved in the years to come… The Gracious Speech mentions making Britain a world leader in the digital economy, which is hugely important in the fast-changing and fast-developing world in which we now live, including in Worcester, which has a growing and ambitious cyber-security cluster. Businesses such as Open GI and PCA Predict are exporting UK technology to the world. The UK has a crucial opportunity to provide leadership in the digital economy, which is one of the reasons why, when we come to the European referendum, I will argue that we should stay in and fight our corner to get the best deal possible so that such businesses can thrive and export all over the world.”

And put in a plea for a sensors catapult to be based in Worcestershire:

“Worcestershire has a very strong claim to host the sensors catapult, which would be based not in my own constituency—I am being altruistic—but in that of my hon. Friend Harriett Baldwin, in Malvern, where radar was invented and firms such as QinetiQ are leading the world in the science of sensors. Such a development in that excellent location would certainly contribute to jobs and growth in my constituency.”

He kept up the pressure for investments to improve local transport links such as the Carrington Bridge and the #FasterWorcester campaign, saying:

“Beyond that, we need physical infrastructure for transport, and I am pleased that the Queen’s Speech mentions that. In Worcester, that comes down to roads and rail. I will keep pushing in this Parliament, as I did in the last Parliament, for investment in our crucial southern link road and the dualling of the Carrington bridge. I will badger the Transport Secretary about that until it happens.

“We also want a faster train service. The Prime Minister spoke eloquently about the benefits of investing in infrastructure. His constituency and mine are served by the same lovely, scenic and devastatingly slow train service currently run by Great Western Railway on the north Cotswolds line. He has previously responded positively to questions asked by my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston about getting upgrades for that line. We must keep driving for that. My constituents live less than 120 miles from London and it is absurd that it takes them two and a half hours to get there by train. The journey really ought to take under two hours.”

He welcomed plans to devolve more powers over business rates saying:

“I am delighted to welcome the retention of business rates by local authorities. I campaigned throughout the last Parliament for business rate reform, and I was pleased with some of the Budget’s measures on that front, but I want to go even further, because the task has not been completed. I want to see more incentives in the business rate system for growing businesses that take people on… I support the strong bid from Worcestershire, combined with all the district councils, for greater devolution of business rates. I think that it could deliver well for my constituents if that bid was listened to.”

And he welcomed support for housing in the speech, comparing the Conservative record in Worcester to Labour’s and calling for more focus on preventing homelessness:

“I am delighted to welcome the focus in the Queen’s Speech on supporting aspiration and promoting home ownership, and I support the ambitious commitment to build 1 million homes. Unlike my hon. Friend Sir David Amess, who said that he could not see any scope for more homes in his constituency, I welcome more affordable homes in Worcester. There have been some great developments in recent years on brownfield sites and record numbers of affordable homes have been delivered in the past year in Worcester under a Conservative council.”

“…when Labour took the leadership of the council [in 2012/13], 100 affordable homes were being delivered every year, yet it managed to reduce the number of affordable homes built in Worcester during its one year in office by a third. That was terribly disappointing and it went against the party’s manifesto commitments that it was elected to carry out. I hope that it does better this time around, because, as I said, with the Conservatives in control of the council over the past year, there has been record delivery of affordable homes. This issue matters….this is something that comes up regularly at our constituency surgeries. It is essential for any Government to deliver new homes. I am very happy to compare the record of this Government on delivering new homes with that of the last Labour Government.”

“On houses and homes, I hope that we will take further measures in this Parliament to prevent homelessness. I welcome the launch of the all-party group on ending homelessness …and the widespread cross-party support it has received.”

He welcomed measures to help protect people from debt and help them to build up savings such as the new Help to Save initiative and called for more involvement for the credit unions in his role as chair of the all party group:

“The Gracious Speech talks about tackling “poverty and the causes of deprivation, including family instability, addiction and debt”.

“In the last Parliament, I joined colleagues from both sides of the House, including many Labour Members, in campaigning for more action against high-cost debt providers—the likes of a certain firm beginning with the Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People, who is on the Front Bench, was very involved in those campaigns. I was pleased that after much campaigning, we moved the needle and more action was taken to support greater financial education, to support financial advice services such as Citizens Advice through a levy on high-cost lenders, and to regulate some of the bad practice that was going on. I hope that that work continues.”

“I am pleased to welcome measures to help the lowest income families to save through help to save and the creation of the lifetime ISA. I have asked before—I take the opportunity of the Queen’s Speech to ask again, on behalf of Members on both sides of the House—that we look at how we can involve credit unions in that process. Credit unions have immense support across the House and do incredibly valuable work in all our constituencies. As chairman of the all-party group on credit unions, I am keen for them to play a central role in the delivery of help to save.”

He also spoke up for fairer funding in public services in health and education, saying:

“As a Parliamentary Private Secretary, I cannot say much about the parts of the Queen’s Speech on education, but I look forward to working on their implementation. All I would say is that, having spoken about the need for a national funding formula in every year of the last Parliament, I would be delighted to meet Ministers from other Departments to educate them about how that could be applied, particularly in health and social care.”

“It is, of course, good news that the Gracious Speech refers to a seven-day NHS. It is very good news from my perspective, having spoken to concerned constituents and junior doctors, that an agreement has been reached. I hope that the agreement holds and that, as happens so often in this place, through talking we can take relations to a better place.”

I was interested to note the focus in the Gracious Speech on

“mental health provision for individuals in the criminal justice system.”

“We have discussed in this House over the past few years how there needs to be a greater focus on mental health across the whole NHS and beyond. I hope we can continue that progress in the years to come.”

He also challenged the Government to do more to ensure that nobody should have to lose their home in order to pay for care, saying:

“One thing that I would have liked to have seen in the Queen’s Speech—I have asked for this to be included in previous Queen’s Speeches, but I am afraid that we have not seen it yet—is delivery on the Dilnot reforms. I recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Health about a tragic case from my constituency in which somebody lost all their family assets as a result of an elderly relative needing care. That is unfinished business, frankly, and I will push for greater delivery on that front, as well as on the Government’s response to the Choice review on end-of-life care.”

Finally he spoke on matters of foreign affairs, welcoming the focus on peace in Syria, the delivery of an EU Referendum and plans for a British Bill of Rights, which he pointed out built on the legacy of his Worcester predecessor John Somers:

“I am pleased that the Gracious Speech spoke about bringing peace to Syria and a lasting political settlement. I hope that we can also make progress, although much of this it is not within our power in this House, on the other great issues of contention in the middle east. In this anniversary year of the Balfour declaration, I hope that we can meet all its obligations, including those to the Palestinian people.”

“As someone who spoke out to get a European referendum, I am delighted that we are delivering it and that all my constituents will have their say on the issue. We in the House are big enough and grown-up enough to have our disagreements about it and then to come back and work together in the interests of our country.”

“On the British Bill of Rights, Britain gave the world the concept of a Bill of Rights. In fact, the former MP for my constituency, John Somers, drafted the original 1689 British Bill of Rights, and I am proud of that fact. As we walk into Parliament through the Lower Waiting Hall, we pass his statue opposite that of Robert Walpole. I only recently discovered his deep connection with Worcester. It is disappointing to hear the Liberal Democrats, who are the heirs to the Whig tradition, arguing against the concept of a British Bill of Rights. John Somers was one of the founders of the Whig party, and he drafted the first British Bill of Rights, which is still iconic for the whole world and which we can learn from. The SNP and Plaid Cymru will be less happy to hear that he went on to be one of the drafters of the 1707 Act of Union, another great piece of legislation that we should all celebrate.”

He concluded:

“As the Member for the faithful city, it is always a pleasure to be able to respond to the Gracious Speech. We have had an interesting and positive debate today, with a lot of engagement from Members of all parties, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take part.”

Commenting on the full debate Robin said:

“This is a Queen’s Speech that sets out a positive centrist vision for a one nation Britain and that is to be welcomed. The Prime Minister in his opening comments for the debate set out the details of his plans and I was delighted to see amongst them some of the key things I have pushed for over many years – fairer funding for our schools, business rates reforms to help businesses, more apprenticeships and delivery of the EU Referendum. From the opposition front bench we heard little but a political rant and it was striking that not only did he rudely refuse to accept any interventions but most of the backbenchers who spoke in the debate from Labour made a more valuable and positive contribution than their party’s leader.”

“When I first spoke in Parliament to make my maiden speech, I raised many of the same issues as I did today but I wasn’t able to get called on the day I chose to put in and I was cut short by a tough time limit when I did get called. It is good to see that on many of those issues there has been real progress and the Queen’s speech offers scope for more. However it is always a pleasure and a privilege to be able to speak in the mother of Parliaments on behalf of a place that I love and care for. I could not be prouder to have taken the first possible opportunity in this new session of Parliament to speak up for Worcester.”

Notes to editors

For Robin’s full speech in the first day of the Queen’s speech debate see:

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2016-05-18a.6.0&s=Robin+WAlker#g89.0

For information on the Queen’s speech & the State opening of Parliament see:

http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/occasions/stateopening/

For the full text of the Queen’s Speech for 2016 see:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/queens-speech-2016

For the full debate see:

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2016-05-18a.6.0#g6.1

For Robin’s campaign on fairer funding see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/category/campaigns/fairer-funding-to-schools/

For his support for apprenticeships see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/category/campaigns/apprenticeships/

For his support for Business rates reform see

https://www.walker4worcester.com/category/campaigns/help-the-high-street/

For his campaign on the Carrington Bridge see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/category/campaigns/southern-link/

For the #FasttrackWorcester campaign see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/category/campaigns/fasttrackworcester/

For his work on affordable credit & credit unions see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/category/campaigns/affordable-credit/

For his campaigns on housing see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/?s=housing