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Posted: 18/05/2022

Six days of debate on the Government's legislative agenda for the year ahead, as set out in the Queen's Speech, concluded on Wednesday 18 May 2022. A vote was held on the following Humble Address presented to Her Majesty the Queen:

"Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which was addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

HM Opposition tabled the following amendment to the Humble Address, Amendment (w):

“but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech fails to bring forward immediately an emergency budget to tackle the cost of living crisis or to set out a new approach to the economy that will end 12 years of slow growth and high taxation under successive Conservative Governments.”

The Government must not wait any longer to address the crisis engulfing our country. I voted to support Amendment (w), which was not passed, Ayes: 229 and Noes: 312. 

My constituents deserve a safety net in bad times, opportunity and prosperity, and these were not offered by the programme set out by the Government. I voted against the Humble Address, which was passed, Ayes: 312 and Noes: 229.


Posted: 17/05/2022

In my speech in the Queen's Speech debate I called for the introduction of a windfall tax to ease the cost of living crisis. On Tuesday 17 May I voted on an amendment to the Queen's Speech tabled by HM Opposition: "At end add 'but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech fails to announce a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas producers, in order to provide much-needed relief from energy price increases for households.'" 

The Office for Budget Responsibility have warned that this year living standards are set to fall by the largest amount in a single year since records began in the 1950s. The Resolution Foundation have predicted that the income of the average household will be cut by £1,200 this year. A windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies could raise £2 billion. This money would be combined with VAT receipts on oil and gas, and existing tax on profits, both up significantly due to rise in cost of energy.

This funding could be used to cancel VAT on energy bills for a year, saving up to £200 a year, and expand the Warm Homes Discount from the Govt’s target of 3 million to 9 million, including pensioners, saving up to £400. It would also allow for a £600 million contingency fund for businesses struggling with soaring energy prices. Overall, households most in need of support could access up to £600 off their energy bill.

I voted in favour of the amendment to the Gracious Speech, which was not passed, Ayes:248 and Noes:310. It is shocking that having brought forward no new measures in the Speech to lower the cost of living, the Government did not take this opportunity to do so. 

Posted: 17/05/2022

On Tuesday 17 May 2022 I spoke in the debate on the Queen's Speech. The Government's legislative programme for the year ahead is set out in the Queen's Speech. This year, 38 prospective pieces of legislation have been outlined.

The theme chosen by the Government for the day's debate was "Tackling Short and Long-Term Cost of Living Increases". MPs are able to discuss any issue in their response to the Queen's Speech.

My full speech is below:
"It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris). It is sad that our Gracious Sovereign missed announcing the Government’s programme, but we look forward to seeing her again in the future.
The cost of living is one of the biggest crises engulfing our nations and regions. That is what people have said to us in the recent local elections; from Cumbria to Westminster, they are facing a cost of living crisis. In April, benefits and pensions rose by 3.1%, yet the rate of inflation was 6.2% and is to rise tomorrow. The Government’s independent fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, says that living standards are set to fall by the largest amount in a single year since records began in the 1950s, and the Resolution Foundation says that the income of an average household will be cut by £1,200 this year. That is the background of life for our constituents, but the Gracious Speech contained nothing to help them.
Some are okay. The oil and gas companies have said they have “more cash than we know what to do with”.
That is why a windfall tax is the best way to ease people out of this crisis. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) eloquently set out, the proposal has been costed; it is not borrowing. It will raise £2 billion, and will give £600 to each household that is most in need and extend the warm home discount. Even businesses are suffering from the increase in energy prices, but it seems that the Government prefer windfall donations or windfall fast-track contracts for their friends to a windfall tax. A Minister says, “Work harder, people”, yet people have to face more insecurity at work because there were no measures to remove the pernicious fire and rehire policy, which must end.
This Government are wasteful, not innovative: £8.7 billion was wasted on personal protective equipment that was unusable, past its sell-by-date and overpriced; the Government are burning £45 million of PPE a month to get rid of it, and the contract for the waste companies is £35 million; and £11.8 billion was lost to fraud through covid support schemes. Just ask the Minister, Lord Agnew, who said it was “a happy time to be a crook”.
And £71 million was wasted on the Chancellor’s eat out to help out scheme, which Warwick University said accelerated the second wave of the pandemic. We have also had a Government Minister leaving a note on the desks of civil servants telling them to come back, then a week later leaving the note to tell them that he was going to get rid of 90,000 of them. It might be a new Gracious Speech, but it is the same old Government incompetence.
I want to touch on two other points. Planning was mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and some of those proposals will need to be looked at. I welcome the fact that the Government will enhance the green belt but I am not quite sure what they want to do with the revised national planning policy framework. Street votes would pit one neighbour against another, and they must be based on planning grounds. And what do you do with a council such as Walsall Council? Despite 2,000 residents not wanting a transit site in Pleck, the council went ahead—against the wishes of those people, against the site allocation document and against the planning inspector’s agreement—and put it in one of the most dangerous places, where, by Walsall’s own assessment, the acceptable nitrogen dioxide levels are being breached. Young children will be living on that site. It is costing £500,000, yet the council says it has no money for allotments.
On the subject of tinkering with the Human Rights Act, this is about the right to a fair hearing and to be represented; all it does is enact the convention into UK law to provide an effective remedy. Lord Bingham said that every one of the convention rights was breached in the second world war. Just ask the people of Ukraine if they think there should be a Human Rights Act. The Government must remember that the margin of appreciation doctrine allows our country’s unique legal and cultural traditions to be incorporated without flouting the objectives of the convention, and they cannot fetter the ability of judges to do their job, because they hear the evidence.
I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) about a public advocate. That would end the hurt of the people involved in Grenfell Tower, the Horizon post office system, Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough. Remember that the Hillsborough inquiry took 27 years. I also want to congratulate Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool on winning a fantastic FA Cup.
Our constituents are faced with an increase in mortgages, fuel prices, food prices and energy costs; they are all going up. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has found that wages are now lower in real terms than they were in 2008. Our constituents deserve better. They deserve a safety net in bad times but, most of all, they deserve opportunity and prosperity."

Posted: 13/05/2022

Valerie with co-chairs of the PPA, Nathalie Loiseau MEP and Sir Oliver Heald QC MP

In January 2022 I was appointed to the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA), a new forum to enable members of both Parliaments to exchange views on the relationship between the UK and the EU. On Thursday 12 May and Friday 13 May 2022, I participated in the first meeting of the PPA in Brussels, Belgium.

The Assembly was established to allow members of the UK and EU Parliaments to discuss and scrutinise the implementation of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). The TCA sets out the relationship between the UK and the European Union after the UK’s departure, covering issues including trade, security, state subsidies for businesses, fishing, and shared scientific programmes. The Assembly is also able to request evidence on the relationship between the UK and the EU, and make recommendations on the implementation of the TCA.

The operation of the TCA is supervised by a UK-EU Partnership Council. This is chaired by the UK Foreign Secretary, and EU Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič. If either side encounters problems with the implementation of the TCA, the issue can be referred to the Council. Decisions of the Partnership must be taken by mutual consent and are binding on both two parties. Our meeting on Thursday concerned the state of play within the Partnership Council, with an exchange of views from Vice-President Šefčovič and the Minister for the Cabinet Office Rt Hon Michael Ellis QC MP. 

Later in the meeting, UK-EU co-operation was considered with regard to the war in Ukraine. The Armed Forces Minister and the European External Action Service's Secretary-General gave their views. Co-Chairs of the PPA Nathalie Loiseau MEP and Sir Oliver Heald QC MP released a statement on behalf of the PPA condemning the Russian attack in the strongest possible terms and expressing our ongoing solidarity with the people and government of Ukraine.

On Friday we discussed strengthening co-operation between the UK and the EU on energy, especially given the consequences of high energy prices. We considered the effect of Withdrawal Agreement on the work of the Partnership Council.

A report will now be produced following up on our first set of meetings. The next PPA meeting will be held in the autumn, in London.

Posted: 10/05/2022

On 10 May 2022 a new Parliamentary session was opened with the State Opening of Parliament. The Queen was unable to attend who was represented by the Prince of Wales. 

The process starts when MPs assemble in the House of Commons Chamber waiting for a message to be "summoned" by Black Rod.  Black Rod processes from the House of Lords but before she is allowed into the Commons, the door is shut, signifying the independence of the Commons from the Crown. Black Rod knocks on the door of the Chamber and only after 3 knocks is allowed into the Chamber with the message that the Lords requires the attendance of the Commons.  The MPs led by the Party leaders then walk from the Commons to the Lords. For only the 3rd time the Queen was unable to attend and The Prince of Wales read out the Queen's Speech on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.

The Speech set out the Government's legislative priorities for the forthcoming session. There are 38 prospective pieces of legislation outlined in the speech. The Chamber sat at 2.30pm and there was an opening speech by HM leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer and the Prime Minister. Two backbenchers are chosen by the Government's Chief Whip to reply to the address. These are usually light hearted speeches. Six days of debate on the contents of the Speech follow and each day takes a different theme: preventing crime and delivering justice; fairness at work and power in communities; making Britain the best place to grow up and grow old; tackling the short-term and long-term cost of living increases; and achieving economic growth. This is nominated by HM Opposition but MPs speeches can cover any topic.  

On Wednesday 18 May 2022 the debate will end and there will be a series of votes on the contents of "the gracious Speech." 

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