Valerie Vaz MP speaks in the King’s Speech debate

During the King’s Speech debate, I spoke and raised the issue of energy and climate change, public services and empowered local government, and keeping us all safe through the criminal justice system. There was not a single word in the Gracious Speech about public services, there was nothing about how to deal with the present crisis.

The Government say they want to strengthen the UK’s energy security, but there are no measures set out to bring down bills. Onshore wind projects have recently stalled, as there are no new applications, so investment is being driven abroad. However, new licences for oil and gas are set out in the King’s Speech. Despite 13 years of North Sea licences, only small amounts of gas have been found—the equivalent of nine weeks of usage; we are talking about 12 fields and nine weeks. Despite six rounds since 2010, only five new fields have been discovered, and the Sillimanite gas field is 30% owned by the Russian gas giant Gazprom. How is that making us secure?

Inflation, mortgage costs, and food and energy prices are creating a crisis in every household. There was nothing in the speech to help those on the frontline who are providing statutory services. The Government-funded part of local authority spending
has fallen in real terms by 52%. Instead of giving local authorities a grant based on a
formula that calculates need and deprivation, the Government have retained funding and purport to dish it out by ensuring that local authorities have to bid against each other for a particular fund. Most local authorities are struggling to provide child protection and other statutory services, but there was nothing in the speech to deal with the issues surrounding vulnerable children, which have increased since the pandemic and have had a major impact on local authority budgets. Local authorities are on the frontline, and they should be in a position to provide these services face-to-face. They are there to support our constituents, not to close down or turn people away.

There was also a lack of clarity in the Gracious Speech regarding the criminal justice system, which is collapsing. Some 90% of crimes are going unsolved. Arrests on thefts are down 40% on just a few years ago. Those who work on the frontline in supermarkets are suffering abuse. The Government have not even looked at prisons; there was no mention of those difficulties in the King’s Speech. Prisons that should be at 70% capacity are now at 99%. We need a return to extended court sittings to address the backlog of cases, and we should perhaps bring back Nightingale courts. We need to see respect for the rule of law.

HM Opposition’s Gracious Speech in the future will bring in the Energy Independence Bill which will include a target to achieve clean power by 2030 and establish ‘Great British Energy’ to generate profit-free power for our citizens that will cut energy bills, create good jobs, ensure energy security and protect the planet for future generations. We will put 13,000 more neighbourhood and police community support officers on the street; introduce respect orders, with criminal sanctions for antisocial behaviour; get the NHS back on its feet by cutting waiting lists, delivering out-of-hours treatment and doubling the number of scanners to provide faster treatment; and get Britain building again, with 1.5 million homes built in five years and first-time buyers being allowed to bid for those houses in their local community.