Andrea Leadsom – 2022 Loyal Address Speech

The speech made by Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, in the House of Commons on 10 May 2022.

It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson), who spoke very powerfully of his commitment to the Union, which I very much share.

I would like to start by paying huge tribute to Her Majesty the Queen and wishing her a very speedy recovery. I regret very much that she was not able to attend the other place in person. I pay tribute to the speech that was given on her behalf. It was very positive and very optimistic, and I am delighted to support the Government in implementing it. Why is that? We, as the Conservative party and the Government, truly believe in opportunities. Opportunities and a hand up ran through the Queen’s Speech today in full measure. I was delighted to see that. There is a lot in it that will enable people right across our country to make their lives better and their opportunities greater. I want to touch on a couple of specific measures announced today, starting with the levelling up Bill.

I want to focus, rather selfishly, on my own wonderful constituency of South Northamptonshire. We are often seen as a lovely midlands area in the middle of England. We are quite mixed. We have the fabulous Silverstone circuit. We have motorsport valley and hi-tech engineering. We have some fabulous rugby, cricket and football teams. It is a wonderful place to work and live. However, we also have quite a few problems. One, which is also one of our assets, is that I am fortunate to represent 92 villages and parishes, but sadly they have very few bus links. In my constituency, wonderful as it is, for many young people levelling up would mean being able to get the bus to work or school. I therefore hope that, in the measures the Government take to level up, many more bus routes will be made available so that young people and, yes, people who do not necessarily reach for a car as their first thought, will be able to get around on the bus. I urge the Government to do everything in that regard.

Secondly, on planning, South Northamptonshire is in the middle of England, between the M1 and the M40. The A43 runs through it. We are the rat run of choice for every HGV, whenever there is congestion on the M1 or the M40. As a result of being logistics central for HGVs passing through, they now want to park themselves in South Northamptonshire. We are under massive threat from huge warehousing applications, which are completely inappropriate for the area. There are plenty of logistics and warehousing dotted around, but I implore the Government to ensure that local communities will be able to resist inappropriate warehousing development that would literally concrete over the beautiful areas of Northampton, Towcester and Brackley. We are very much under threat.

The third plea I would like to make on behalf of my constituency relates to demographic growth. Again, because we are a lovely area, people want to move here. They are most welcome. We are absolutely open for newcomers from all over the place, but with new housing, newcomers, new pupils, new jobs needed and so on, we never, ever receive our fair share of funding for anything, whether for the hospital, GPs or school places. I understand that there is a lag, but I urge the Government to consider places where the population is growing very quickly so that they, too, can get some of the funding that is desperately needed.

I wanted to make those pleas for South Northamptonshire, but, of course, levelling up is about the whole country and there is a huge opportunity right across the United Kingdom. There is the energy security Bill, which is an absolutely brilliant Government initiative to ensure not only that our energy is cleaner and greener in future, but that we can make our fortune in the world, using our strengths in energy and innovation in the renewables space, the nuclear space and the technology space.

Jim Shannon

I agree with the right hon. Lady and reiterate Northern Ireland’s position on hydrogen, one of the new energy systems that we can all use to our benefit. I am very pleased to hear her mention the commitment to levelling up all the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland has to be part of that.

Dame Andrea Leadsom

I completely agree and will come to that issue shortly. The hon. Gentleman’s comments about the prospects for hydrogen power in Northern Ireland are music to my ears. That is a good example of some of the measures that the Government are putting in place to ensure that we can green up and grow our energy security and energy accessibility, as well as having more green growth and jobs.

I spent 25 years in the financial services sector before coming to Parliament. That sector was always considered the jewel in the crown of the UK economy. Those jobs, however, were specifically in areas such as the City, Edinburgh, Bournemouth and Birmingham. They were not widespread across the country, tended to be a bit specialised and were not for everyone. However, there are jobs for everyone in the green technology sector. There are new apprenticeships for young people in installing electric car infrastructure and solar panels. There are jobs for people coming from the industrial clusters in the north and in Scotland who might want to retrain to work on offshore wind stations or in carbon capture usage and storage. There are lots of opportunities, including for the brilliant scientists and universities across the United Kingdom that are developing new technologies in the green space.

I believe that, for jobs and growth, the green space could be even bigger than financial services in the years to come. If I was a betting person, which I am not, I would bet that by 2030 more people will be employed in the UK across the green technology sector than in financial services today. I hope that the Government remain absolutely committed to that agenda.

Paul Girvan (South Antrim) (DUP)

The right hon. Lady mentions the green economy and everything associated with it. I do not necessarily want to green Northern Ireland, by the way; I am talking politically about that agenda. I want to mention the technology relating to passive housing. We should drive that forward and lead the world in developing passive housing, reducing the need for carbon burning in our properties to keep them warm. We have the technology available to do that. Why do we not use building regulations to impose that on new development? Every year, 100,000 houses have to be built. Let us see whether we can drive that agenda forward and reduce our carbon footprint dramatically.

Dame Andrea Leadsom

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Legislation is already in place to put new requirements on house builders to reduce the carbon footprint of new homes. Those will tighten up as time goes by. As he and his hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) have pointed out, there are so many different green initiatives. I hope that that becomes the way that we make our living in the world, through jobs at home and exports overseas.

The pledges to the Union are the third area that I will highlight from the Queen’s Speech. For me, as a proud Conservative and Unionist party member, keeping the Union together is what it is all about. There is no doubt in my mind that the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is so precious to all of us. It would be a grave mistake—in fact, I simply cannot understand why separatists want to do this—to break apart our Union. It makes no sense to me. This is a fabulous place, where we have centuries of shared history, shared family, shared culture, shared language, a shared currency and shared institutions.

Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)

A whole range of Bills in the Queen’s Speech fly in the face of the Standing Orders, including No. 9B, in the Scottish Parliament and the Sewel convention, which requires legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament for this range of Bills. Does the right hon. Lady think that riding roughshod over the Scottish Parliament and imposing these Bills against its wishes will strengthen or weaken the Union?

Dame Andrea Leadsom

I say to the hon. Lady that, as a separatist, she wants nothing more than to see the UK Government setting out any sort of possibility whatever that she can argue against with some sort of fake grievance. I want to appeal to the fabulous people of the United Kingdom: let us stick together.

I have some ideas. I think that we should share rights to one another’s health systems because, in Wales, there are serious problems with healthcare. I would like nothing more than to see Welsh citizens able to access the healthcare systems of England, Scotland or Northern Ireland whenever they want to, and vice versa. I would also love to see school exchanges right across the UK so that children, as they are growing up, can develop a better sense of the unity of the United Kingdom. I would love to see consideration given to more freeports around the United Kingdom and, particularly, to a freeport that could encompass the whole of Northern Ireland. It is one part of the UK that really needs and deserves a huge boost to jobs, growth and opportunity, so I would love to see a freeport that gives beneficial tax status and makes sure that Northern Ireland is integrally joined to and feels part of the United Kingdom.

Jim Shannon

The right hon. Lady is most gracious in giving way again. She is putting forward a good argument on behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I agree that we are always better together. To make that happen, however, the Northern Ireland protocol has to be addressed. Will she commit in this Chamber to ensuring that the Northern Ireland protocol is done away with and that we in Northern Ireland have the same rights as everyone else in this House?

Dame Andrea Leadsom

I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the Northern Ireland protocol. I am absolutely determined that there should be no barriers to internal trade or any other form of union between all the component parts of the United Kingdom.

John Redwood

Given how the EU always wants everything in Northern Ireland to be aligned with the Republic of Ireland, does my right hon. Friend think that it might be a good idea to add to that freeport the same corporation tax rate as the Republic has, because that seems to me to be the one thing that it is actually getting right?

Dame Andrea Leadsom

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point, which emphasises my view that Northern Ireland could be considered as a freeport to have a beneficial corporation tax rate and other regimes to encourage more jobs and growth and more spread of business right across the United Kingdom. I agree with him.

I will finish, Madam Deputy Speaker, by—[Interruption.] There are two Madam Deputy Speakers here, how wonderful! I will finish by talking about what I think is the greatest levelling-up policy, which is—this will not come as a surprise to anyone in the Chamber—the best start for life. When we human beings are born, we do not have any cognition. We do not know that someone is our mum. We do not know that we are wet, cold, tired, hungry or bored. We do not know anything—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) says, “Of course we know it is our mum”, but we do not actually. A baby does not know that someone is their mum. They know that that person is an important creature to them, but they do not know that that is their mum, and it is very important to make that distinction.

Babies adapt to the environment in which they find themselves, so if we want to level up, it is critical that in everything we do we provide support for families of all shapes and sizes to give their babies the best start for life. There may be those who do not understand about sleeping, crying or weaning, who may have relationship difficulties with their partner because of the stresses of a new baby in the household, or who may not know what a baby’s stage of development should be and may therefore miss an important problem with their tiny baby that could be easily resolved if tackled straightaway. I know that there is a shared desire across the House for much, much better support. Nothing could be more important for levelling up than giving every baby the best start for life.