Wetherby MP alec Shelbrooke outlines the Queen's Speech in his Wetherby News column.
At the heart of the Queen's Speech last month was an agenda of economic wellbeing, focussed on increasing life chances and opportunity for people across the UK.
The push to roll out broadband to all houses, ensuring at least ten megabits per second, will help push our economy into a faster growing and competitive digital age, while at the same time increasing productivity and resources in manufacturing and service industries. Broadband is an issue our local councillors regularly raise with me as a problem for our smaller villages so I’ll be keen to see further detail coming out on this issue.
Similarly, for those who struggle to be part of traditional pension schemes because they don’t have consistent income, or those who just want to save for retirement, the Lifetime ISA will allow people to save as their circumstances allow with the added bonus of government support worth up to £1,000 a year.
None of the growth and prosperity that the Government wants to achieve here in Wetherby and across the UK will be possible without strong security at home and overseas, thereby securing stable economies with which to trade.
Contributing to global security the Queen’s Speech included an ongoing commitment to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence; meeting a commitment of NATO membership. This was something members of the Wetherby branch of the Royal British Legion have lobbied me about over many years. Out of the 28 member states in NATO we are now only one of five delivering on this commitment, making our military budget of £35million the fifth largest in the world and the second largest of all NATO member states.
This is against a backdrop of a reinforced and modernised Russian military whose Supreme Commander-in-Chief is not afraid to push the boundaries of peace and sovereignty. Now more than ever the NATO alliance, on which I sit as a UK representative to the Parliamentary Assembly, plays an effective and well-functioning counterbalance to security threats.
Often events around the world seem so far away that many wonder why we should get involved but those events have an effect on us closer to home than most would recognise. Next week I’ll be revisiting Ukraine where the situation will need to be resolved peacefully as the European continent takes 25 per cent of its gas supply from Russia, via Ukraine.
Europe remains a group of key markets for the UK taking 40 to 50 per cent of our exports, to European countries inside and outside of the EU. A disruption to their growth and productivity would reduce their ability to trade with us and therefore have a knock on effect to our own economy at home.
Ultimately, economic uncertainty always hits the poorest in society the hardest as a section of society with little ability to shelter themselves from circumstances out of their control.
It is against this backdrop of maintaining stability in world markets that the 0.7 per cent International Aid budget is as much an investment in our own security as it is a moral obligation.
The situation in Syria has seen over 11 million people displaced and neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon have had to take the brunt of this refugee crisis.
To put into perspective the strain this has put on Lebanon, the equivalent proportion of refugees entering the UK compared to the country’s population would result in over 17 million people coming into our country. This pressure would cause our economy to buckle and it is therefore crucial – for moral reasons and for our own security – that we continue to play a role in international humanitarian assistance.
Without our support, these refugee camps could well collapse and the movement of millions of refuges will head towards European mainland. Although it is unlikely that they would reach our shores, this would have a significant impact on our European neighbours with whom we rely on economic growth for trade.
A one-nation programme for government must remain focussed on moving Great Britain to a high-wage, low-welfare economy so people can take responsibility of their own lives. That’s what I’ll be focussing on as Wetherby’s Member of Parliament over the next Parliamentary session.