Last week I was lucky enough to ‘win’ a spot at the Queen’s Speech; I stood in Central Lobby, socially distanced from colleagues, as we witnessed, on a large screen, the Queen sitting on the throne in the Lords Chamber at her first official engagement since the funeral of HRH The Prince Philip. It was a poignant sight, but I felt incredibly proud of her and of our country. I also felt grateful to our Government in the way it has handled a health pandemic which has knocked not only our country for six, but the world.
The impact of the pandemic on people’s lives has been unique in our history, and the Government remains focused on beating this virus, saving lives and livelihoods, and rolling out vaccines. But we must also look forward and get on with fulfilling the promises made to the British people – backing the NHS, making streets safer, supporting jobs and businesses, and working towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The Queen’s Speech outlines the Government’s priorities for the year ahead, which include a wide range of measures in respect of planning, health and care reform, jobs, climate change and the environment and building safety. It addresses the legacies of the pandemic, but also goes further - to unite and level up the country and spread opportunity across the country as we ‘build back better’. In my contribution to the debate last week I made sure that I stood up for parts of the South East, like Hastings and Rye, which must not be overlooked when it comes to the Government’s levelling up agenda. I am clear that this levelling up agenda should not just focus on the ‘North’ but also include investment in our people and places here in the South East.
Many people in Hastings and Rye will need to – or want to – retrain for new jobs and the agenda on levelling up the education and skills offer available to our constituents is possibly one of the most important aspects of this Government’s programme. This is coupled with the focus on the Environment Bill, which has been brought back to Parliament, and a plan for jobs for the future that this legislation can provide. Our focus on protecting the environment for future generations, as well as providing these generations with the skills and training for the jobs of the future, are crucial pillars in this Government’s levelling up agenda. We have to make sure that the residents of Hastings and Rye are equipped with the right skills at the right time to maximise their career opportunities in this new sector.
We certainly have challenges ahead, but with challenge comes opportunity. And I know the people of Hastings and Rye; they rise to a big challenge.