Debate on the Queen’s Speech

27 June 2017 – House of Commons

Unfortunately, Mr Deputy Speaker, this is not my maiden speech. I am happy to welcome you to the Chair. It is 34 years since you and I arrived in this place—some would say too long—but we are still surviving. It is my great pleasure to congratulate, as I am sure all Members wish to do, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson), who made a speech that was witty and to the purpose. I am sure that the good people of Aberdeen, like those of Lincolnshire, which abuts Grimsby, will welcome our taking back control of our fisheries, which will be a vital part of the Brexit negotiations.

I think that what people want, particularly young people, is for us to be positive, aspirational and honest. If there is any fault with our Prime Minister, it is that during the general election we were almost too honest in explaining the level of the national debt, but in these debates we have to keep making the point. We have heard many calls for more public spending, but it all comes from hard-pressed taxpayers. I make no apology for reminding the House that the national debt stands at £1.7 trillion. In the five minutes that it was going to take me to make this speech, the national debt will have risen by £443,000—it will rise a bit less in four minutes, but it is still going up. There is no point in talking about cutting the deficit if the national debt keeps rising remorselessly every year.

The job of the Conservative party is to speak up for business, for wealth providers and wealth creators, and for taxpayers, because all this national debt has to be provided by our constituents. Sometimes that is not a popular message.

I have been asked to speak today on behalf of the headmaster of Queen Elizabeth’s High School, a grammar school in my constituency that is providing the scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs of the future. It is a high-performing school, but its budget has been cut by £600,000 in the past five years. Of course I support a fairer funding formula, but we need some equality of fairness throughout the country. It is simply not good enough for us to argue continually for higher levels of public spending to accommodate this or that interest group.

The first honest debate this country needs to have is about our ageing population and the cost of social care. Full marks to the Prime Minister for trying to talk about it. At the moment, we are apparently committed to maintaining the triple lock. We have not yet had a full debate in this Parliament about a future adult social care cap or floor, but we must have that debate. We have to be able to convince our ageing population that we have the resources to care for them, and that we will be humane and honest. The same argument surely applies to the NHS. Sometimes, I am the only person in this place who argues that we have not only to put more money into the NHS, but to be honest about where it is coming from. There is a limit on how much we can pay from generation taxation when the top 1% pay for 25% of all spending, so let us be honest in these debates.

Let us be honest, finally, in our Brexit negotiations. Let us not talk about a hard or a soft Brexit. I am afraid that we have to stick to the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech. It is not hard or soft Brexit; it is inevitable Brexit. We are leaving the EU. If we leave the EU, we have to leave the single market. So let us be positive, let us be aspirational and let us, as a party, be united.​

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | June 28th, 2017

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