Following the Queens Speech on Tuesday, marking the start of the new Parliamentary Session, we have had a busy few days debating the contents of the speech and I was pleased to support the Government’s plan to deliver a “Bright Future for the Next Generation”.
One of the main areas I am keen to push on is the progression of Government plans to reform social care. This does not require new laws, but we do need to look again at how services are funded and delivered along with the relationship between the NHS and local authorities. From areas which have already been reformed, we know local authorities have been very good at delivering an efficient service. Going forward we need to see a council lead approach, because they are able to use their knowledge of the community to deliver for those local needs.
Another issue which is terribly important for residents in our area is the provision of new homes. The proposals for the redevelopment of the Master Brewer site show precisely why these decisions must be made locally. By having local authority decisions as final, we will not only avoid continual appeals, lobbying and delays but local communities will see the developments which are needed in their area.
Turning to education we need to continue to focus on the options for lifelong education and training. I was pleased to highlight some of the suggested measures in the Skills and Post-16 education Bill, moving away from the situation where development stops at school leaving age to one where individuals can continue to find the support needed to train and develop throughout their lives.
Also, on the subject of education I will be continuing to work with colleagues to see the necessary reforms to the early years package. The early years health development review provides a fantastic opportunity to transform the life chances of young children and ensure that they get the start in life that sets them up for a bright future.
The final element of the speech I was keen to celebrate was the renewed effort on animal welfare. I know this important to many of my constituents and I am pleased the Government seem to be looking more closely at how we can support international conservation efforts. We must be very careful about taking steps which may inadvertently harm the population levels of endangered species.
You can read my full contribution below:
It is a privilege to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore). I share many of his sentiments about the Gracious Speech. There is much to welcome in the measures outlined, from those relating to our armed forces to those on refugees and our youngest children, but time requires us all to focus on a few key points. Today’s theme is very much thinking about future generations, so my points will be specifically in that area.
First, there is a need to provide certainty for the future about a plan for social care. Although I have heard a good deal of criticism of the Government in recent days, all of us who are familiar with the social care system will recognise that the solutions are not necessarily ones that require new laws. For example, the way in which we approach the funding and structure of the sector and the work between the NHS and local authorities do not require new laws.
However, what we do know—I am very pleased that the Government recognise this—is that our local authorities have consistently, in the work that we have already done on reforming the social care sector, been the most efficient at using the resources available, because they know their communities best. As we think about the future of social care in our country, it is absolutely vital—given that only a small part of the sector’s work relates directly to what happens in the NHS—that we make that resource go as far as possible, so we need a council-led system that places people and communities at its heart, and I look forward to hearing the proposal that the Government are working on in that area.
The second area in which I am thinking very much about future generations is securing homes—home ownership and access to social housing and rented homes—for the generations that are to come. I very much welcome the fact that the Government have recognised that one size does not fit all across our country in this respect. It is important that we reduce the burden of national guidance, which leads to developers seeing sites as investments to sell on, rather than serving the interests of the community by building new homes. It remains my view that making the local authority decision final and ending the cycle of appeals and lobbying would see those homes delivered much more swiftly. However, it is really important that the freedoms and provisions that have been outlined in respect of forward planning and zoning are used by our local authorities, and that we focus not just on absolute numbers of units, but on the types of units, so that in communities such as Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, we see the development of more downsizer units so that communities can remain intact while we improve the supply of family-sized homes in a local area.
Moving on to the skills and post-16 education Bill, as someone who has spent much of my life in and around the education sector, I enormously welcome the provisions that have been outlined, and in particular, the flexibility to move away from a situation where it could feel like all or nothing at school-leaving age to one where, throughout their lives, people can continue to access the support they require to retrain and develop. The early years health development review, which I have been involved in, is again a fantastic opportunity to build on the work done by local authorities and local NHS providers to transform the life chances of young children and ensure that they get the start in life that sets them up for a bright future.
Finally, preserving nature and wildlife is close to my heart and to the hearts of many of my constituents in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, which is a key part of the green lungs of our capital city and an important destination for leisure. I particularly welcome the proposals in the Bill on animal welfare. My constituents have expressed significant concerns that some of the elements would reduce the ability of conservation projects abroad to raise funds through charging people for hunting as part of their herd welfare and management activities. I am pleased to see that the proposal seems to strike a better balance between ensuring that hunting continues to make an economic contribution to conservation—transforming the resources available to support animals that would otherwise be risk—and enhancing the protection afforded to endangered species, which my constituents and I very much want to see.
There is a huge amount to commend in this Queen’s Speech, and I associate myself with the support expressed for it across the Conservative Benches. I look forward to seeing the proposals implemented and making a difference to the lives of the people I am here to serve.