This week’s Queen’s Speech set out a bold agenda to deliver on the vision to level up across our country, with an ambitious programme to unlock the pent up potential and talent lying within all our constituents as we emerge from the Covid19 pandemic.
I wholeheartedly support this Queen’s Speech, and in particular I support the Bills within it that will help to support some of those who have suffered most from the
pandemic – students who have missed out on education and individuals who have lost jobs and need to find work.
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. The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill , which I welcome, will bring in the new Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which will give everyone the chance to acquire new expertise, at any stage of their lives, so that they have the skills employers need. This Bill will transform access to skills across the country to ensure that people can train and retrain at any stage in their lives, supporting them to move into higher quality, higher skilled jobs and equipping the workforce with the skills employers need.
The focus on Education and skills is hugely welcome, especially for my constituents in beautiful Hastings and Rye. This amazing Constituency, my home, is located in the affluent South East, but it suffers from some of the lowest levels of deprivation in the country. Hastings is slipping further down the levels of deprivation and is now the
13th most deprived out of 317 local authorities, based on the 2019 Indices of Multiple deprivation. In East Sussex, 9 out of the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods are located in Hastings and St Leonards. Baird Ward, for example, is still among the most deprived 0.5% in the whole country. It makes me angry to see these levels of deprivation becoming increasingly worse after years of a Labour controlled Borough Council.
I am utterly delighted that in last week’s local elections, the residents of Baird elected Conservatives at both Borough and County elections. Our residents deserve better – so we will give them better because we believe in levelling up, not driving down.
This Conservative Government is committed to developing opportunities for everyone and every place across the country to fulfil their potential, to excel. As such, I was proud to stand on a manifesto commitment to level up - boosting jobs, driving growth and innovation, increasing opportunity for everyone, and ensuring everyone has access to excellent public services, regardless of where they live.
I would like to take a stand for parts of the South East, like Hastings and Rye, which must not be overlooked when it comes to levelling up. Yes, it is absolutely right that those neglected parts of our country – neglected by Labour politicians and taken for granted - for generations, are given the opportunities and investment, but we cannot overlook parts in the South East which are also in desperate need of investment in education and skills, transport infrastructure, connectivity and job opportunities. We simply must not neglect nor take for granted our core support; if we do, we are no better than the Labour Party.
Turbo-charging our economic recovery in every part of our country, increasing and spreading opportunity is vital. I therefore welcome the landmark Levelling Up White Paper which will set out bold new policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunity in all parts of the UK as we recover from the pandemic, grasping the opportunities of Brexit. The Government is right; a one size-fits-all approach does not work and nurturing different types of economic growth and building on the different strengths that different places, different towns, have is vital.
The Levelling Up and Community Renewal Funds and Hastings Town’s Fund Bid, if successful (which I hope it is!) will provide a huge step forward towards combating poverty and providing opportunity.
At a recent meeting with my local Federation of Small Businesses, they were delighted, as am I, to find out that employers are being placed – utilised - at the heart of the post-16 skills system through the Skills Accelerator, enabling employers and providers to collaborate to develop skills plans aimed at ensuring local skills provision meets local needs.
On roads I welcome the huge investment and whilst we have secured safety upgrades along A21 worth £20 million, I will continue to lobby, with my A21 MP colleagues, for improvements and dualling of the whole of the A21. Improving transport infrastructure is as important as skills and I welcome the Government’s massive programme of rail investment across the North and the Midlands through the Integrated Rail Plan, building on our £4.2 billion investment. HS1 to Hastings via Ashford will be vital in levelling up Hastings and Rye – as well as Bexhill and
Eastbourne and I hope the Prime Minister and the Treasury Look favourably on Transport for the South East’s vision for this vital region of the UK and on Network Rail’s recent business case for HS1 to improve better connectivity and link up some of the most deprived communities in the South East.
With this Queen’s Speech and the vision, aims and legislation of this Government we have much to look forward to and a bright – blue - future.