The speech made by Gagan Mohindra, the Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire, in the House of Commons on 17 May 2022.
It is an honour to speak in the debate on Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech. I wish to cover three topics in my limited time: security, the economy and planning.
Hon. Members will be aware that the Northwood NATO base is in my constituency, which it is a real privilege to host. Through the awful war between Russia and Ukraine, we have seen the importance of global security and I welcome the movements of Sweden and Finland to join that global peace organisation. I strongly associate myself with the commitment, as put forward by this Government, of
“defending democracy and freedom across the world, including continuing to support the people of Ukraine.”
However, as well as military might, we also need to think about energy security and food security. I am pleased to see further progress on cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy here in the UK, building on our hugely successful COP26 presidency. As a Member of Parliament who represents a constituency that is approximately 80% green belt, I am really passionate about supporting British farmers and encouraging consumers throughout our great nation to buy British where possible.
On the economy, our primary focus as the Conservative party should be on growing and strengthening the economy, just as it has always been and just as we always have, but particularly now as a means of easing the cost of living. Our stated aim in the Queen’s Speech, to grow our economy by taking the responsible approach to public finances, supporting people into work, reducing public debt and, most importantly, cutting taxes is the correct way, in my opinion, to manage our economy. I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is looking forward to doing all of that before the next general election.
The measures set out in this Queen’s Speech demonstrate our continued commitment to driving forward our economy while tackling the cost of living, protecting British businesses and investing in a modern, cleaner and greener society. Britain has always been a global country, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade will continue to secure further deals to boost our economy and benefit our society now that we have the freedom to do so outside the EU.
Planning is a topic that is very important to my constituents. The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill proposed in the Queen’s Speech is a really interesting piece of legislation. I have spoken many times in this place about how beautiful my constituency is. As I have said, approximately 80% of my constituency is green belt, so balancing the preservation of this undoubted natural beauty with the importance of helping families and young people to own their own home is a crucial issue for me. One of the great many pleasures about meeting my constituents is hearing the passion and love they have for their own area and the strong desire they have to protect its character. I know that the proposed Bill will help with that.
Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con)
One of the points I think my hon. Friend is making is that it is so important to make sure that we utilise brownfield land to the maximum for housing and so on, but does he agree that it is important that local people have their say on the design of their area and what goes where?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I feel as though she was looking over my shoulder because that is exactly the next point in my speech.
Introducing a Bill for local growth, giving further powers to local leaders to regenerate their own area and reforming our planning system to give residents greater involvement in local development are all positive steps. However, we must ensure that any local devolution from this House on this issue also comes with accountability, where necessary. Part of my constituency covers the Liberal Democrat-led Three Rivers District Council, and it is disappointing that there have been continual delays in the local plan process. That is unacceptable, especially when the Liberal Democrats continue to blame both the Government and the independent Planning Inspectorate for what I regard as issues that they should primarily be dealing with themselves. Local people absolutely should play a bigger role in deciding how best to improve and expand their local area, and we must be tougher on local councils that seek to play party politics and pass on all the blame for the decisions they are taking.
In closing—I realise I have taken enough time in the Chamber—I welcome the measures introduced in this Queen’s Speech, particularly those affecting security, both of ourselves and of our friends and allies; the economy, which we must continue to grow sustainably and with as little taxation and spending as possible; and planning, which will allow us to give local people more of a voice in protecting their communities.