One of my first duties as the Royal Town’s newly re-elected Member of Parliament was to speak up on the first day of the Queen’s Speech in the Commons on those issues and those concerns that my constituents spoke about during the General Election campaign. The Speech, which outlines the programme of legislation to be delivered by the Government, contained a number of pledges that I know will be welcome in Sutton Coldfield, but there are other issues that it did not cover fully and that I will be championing over the course of the next five years.
Much of the focus of the speech - taking its lead from our election campaign - was on the economy. I found that this was overwhelmingly the issue of greatest concern to my constituents during the last Parliament and during the election campaign. As I said in my comments in the Chamber following the speech, I believe that our generation of politicians has been too willing to throw money at problems and has forgotten that it is not the Government’s money - the Government does not have any money - but the money of our constituents and those hard-working people who pay their taxes. It is the money of the people, whose servants we as elected representatives are, that we are spending, not ours.
We must not allow an intergenerational transfer of debt and deficit. The younger generation already face a vast number of challenges that my generation did not face, and it is not right for them to be saddled with an enormous debt that we built up and then were not able to pay off. There will be a number of difficult decisions that need to be made over the next few years in tackling the deficit, but it is right that this week the Government made it a priority to do so, and to do so urgently.
The Queen’s Speech today outlined a clear programme aiming to deliver security to all working people. A Bill was announced that will help to create two million more jobs in this parliament - representing a job for everyone who wants one. To help people get these jobs, we will train them through increasing the number of apprenticeships by three million over the next five years. We will also reward work by letting people keep more of the money they earn - committing to ensuring that the Minimum Wage will be tax free. This was alongside a commitment to a five-year tax lock, which promises no income tax, VAT or National Insurance rate rises in this Parliament.
Commitments to support for social justice through increasing numbers of Free Schools by 500 and the promise to turn a number of schools into Academies, alongside welfare reforms that will incentives work through reducing the benefit cap to £23,000, are also key parts of the government’s programme, as well as our commitment to implement the plan the NHS itself has produced to meet its needs, and to increase spending in the NHS by at least £8 billion a year by 2020.
As both a Midlands MP and the Secretary of the One Nation Group, on and off, since 1992 I am obviously delighted with the commitment to One Nation Conservativism in this speech and to bringing this country together. We will all benefit hugely from making sure that economic recover reaches everyone in our nation. The investment in the regions will usher in an era where Birmingham will be able to reap many of the advantages that we are seeing the Northern Powerhouse, as long as we in the Midlands are prepared to grasp the opportunity. I welcome the greater commitment to giving people more direct power over the areas where they live and the issues, such as planning, transport, policing and health, which they care about – including the option of a Town Council for Sutton Coldfield, but only if the powers that we receive are worth the cost we will have to pay for it.