George Freeman welcomes measures in the Queen’s Speech that set out a framework for the UK to lead in innovation across new sectors such as life sciences, clinical trials, digital health, agri-tech, nutraceuticals, the decarbonisation of transport, mobility as a service, satellites, and scale-up finance in the City.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) on behalf of the people of Mid Norfolk, and to speak a little more optimistically and positively about this country and its future, and reject the narrative of doom and gloom from the Opposition Benches.
In particular, it is a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend the Chancellor at the end of a year in which he has inherited a crisis like no other, and, in the eyes of my constituents, passed the test with flying colours by announcing with speed last year a commitment to “do whatever it takes” and to take unprecedented measures to ensure that this country comes through the pandemic.
It is in no small part due to the Treasury’s commitment —to the 9 million people in employment the Treasury has helped and the 2.7 million in self-employment; with the tens of billions of pounds for small and medium-sized companies, and the £407 billion of relief moved at pace to support our economy—as well as the genius of our life sciences sector and the huge success of the Government’s vaccination programme that we are now in a position to lead the recovery post pandemic. It would be nice to hear Opposition Members at least pay some tribute to some of that extraordinary leadership this year. The polls last week show where the public have their trust, and the Opposition would do well at least to acknowledge that the Government are dealing very well with a historic crisis.
I particularly welcome the announcements on science in the Queen’s Speech, including the £22 billion commitment and the creation of our new Advanced Research and Invention Agency. I also welcome the skills guarantee, so that everyone around the country has a chance to take part in the new economy that we are creating, and the commitments to go further and faster on infrastructure.
I mentioned the figure that the covid crisis has cost us: £407 billion has been the total Government support, although the total cost will be much higher. I wanted to address the real question that we must all face: who pays for this debt? It is simply not fair for us to bequeath the debts of this crisis to the next generation, and that means it is incumbent on us to find the mechanisms to drive up prosperity, growth and opportunity. As we leave the European Union and take sovereignty over our regulatory and trade powers, it is important that we grip that opportunity and unleash the full genius of British science, innovation and engineering to create new sectors and new jobs.
Earlier this year I was delighted that the Prime Minister asked me and my right hon. Friends the Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) and for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) to lead a taskforce on innovation, growth and regulatory reform. We reported this week and our recommendations go to the heart of the measures in this Queen’s Speech—a new framework for regulation in the UK to be able to lead the world in the regulation of new sectors, and to use regulation to lead in innovation across the life sciences, clinical trials, digital health, agri-tech, nutraceuticals, the decarbonisation of transport, mobility as a service, satellites, and scale-up finance in the City. If we make such reforms, we can create here in the UK a genuine innovation nation—a small country, yes, but one that punches above its weight in developing the clean-tech, agri-tech and med-tech solutions that the world desperately needs as it faces an agricultural and industrial revolution in the next 30 years like the one we led here more than 200 years ago.
All that will be good not just for Britain but for local communities, because new sectors of growth create clusters right throughout the country—from hydrogen in Aberdeen to plant breeding in Aberystwyth and immunotherapies at Queen’s University Belfast. The Queen’s Speech is a speech for opportunity, regeneration and recovery as one nation, strengthening the Union and creating opportunities for people whoever and wherever they are. On behalf of the people of Mid Norfolk, I strongly commend it to the House.