Last week, the Queen performed the State Opening of Parliament. This event is a wonderful display of pomp and ceremony which reflects on the traditions and history of our Parliament. One of these traditions is the Queen’s Speech during which Her Majesty outlines the Government’s plans for legislation for the year.
After the Queen’s Speech is read, MPs spend the following five days debating the contents and themes of the year. I opted to speak in a segment entitled ‘Defending Public Services’. My themes were the NHS, Schools and the BBC. On the NHS I talked openly about the challenges facing our health service, with the struggle to find the spending to keep up with the demands of more people needing treatment at greater expense.
I also lamented the Junior Doctors’ strike and spoke supportively of this profession, and the need of the health service to look after its workforce better. I also considered whether constituents would like to see Government and the medical profession join together and give out some hard messages for those who abuse the NHS and waste resources.
On schools, and having been a critic of the plans to academise all schools, I spoke about my hope that schools in my constituency would take control of their own budgets if they wanted to expand and offer more choice to their students, particularly for studying A levels. On the BBC, I have spoke about the need to defend all that it does. I hope that this gives the comfort to back up my genuine feeling that the Government’s charter renewal will give the BBC the certainty and funding to grow even stronger. I know that the BBC’s senior management feel that this is a good deal. As with all my speeches, this can be viewed and read on my website.
Despite the 21 bills in the Queen’s Speech, much of the attention in Parliament, and in the media, is around the European Union Referendum on 23 June. This is a hugely important vote for the nation but it is for the people to decide. I take the view that my time should be spent provide the arguments and the basis for voters to make up their own minds.
To promote the eight debates which I am organising and chairing across the constituency, I have just sent invites to over 40,000 households. Those who attend will hear the competing arguments and get to have their say. I hope this will help people to make their decision based on what they feel would be best for them, and not through the pressure from some of the voices of doom or fantasy which have been all too prevalent.
I am conscious that the impact of this decision may be most felt by those who are not old enough to vote or understand it. I have written to every secondary and primary school in the constituency and offered to spend 10 days hopping from each to explain what the referendum means and what the various arguments are. It is important that everyone feels included in this momentous decision.