Eleanor Laing backs Queen’s Speech based on principles of freedom, choice and individual responsibility

14th May 2013

Speaking in the Cost of Living debate on the Queen’s Speech, Eleanor Laing backs measures to support people who work hard, look after their families and contribute to their communities.

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Mrs Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): It is a privilege to support the Gracious Speech. Although I appreciate that it is unfashionable to talk about conviction politics, I suggest to the House that there is nothing wrong with having principles, talking about principles and sticking to principles. The principles underlying the Queen’s Speech are those of freedom, choice and individual responsibility as well as rights. Through those principles, Conservative Governments throughout the ages have brought prosperity to Britain and improved the lives of British people.

The Labour party does not work on principle. It works—[Interruption.] Labour Members are shouting; if they have a principle to tell me about, let them get up and tell me the principle on which they oppose the Queen’s Speech. They work not on principle, but on short-term party political popularity.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab) rose—

Mrs Laing: Yes; let the hon. Lady have a go.

Debbie Abrahams: On principle, could the hon. Lady say how the Government’s statement on and commitment to fairness in the Queen’s Speech relates to child poverty, which my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) has just been talking about?

Mrs Laing: The hon. Lady makes my point for me. The Queen’s Speech is all about fairness, to which I am coming in a moment. Child poverty has arisen not because of the content of the Queen’s Speech but because of 13 years of economic mismanagement by the last Labour Government.

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Queen’s Speech is fair to women, through its raising of the personal tax allowance and doing so much for child care?

Mrs Laing: Indeed it is. I thank my hon. Friend for that point. It is important that we treat women fairly, and much in the Queen’s Speech will make it easier for women to go to work and look after their families and do the two important jobs of being a mother and being active in the economy and the workplace. It is through measures such as reforming how we organise child care that that will be done. That is fairness and how we eradicate child poverty and improve the position of all families throughout the country.

Andrew Selous: On child poverty, did my hon. Friend note, as I did yesterday, that the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-wing think-tank, has now disowned Labour’s approach to priority and is backing ours in dealing with the causes of child poverty? That is good news, as I am sure my hon. Friend will agree.

Mrs Laing: I did indeed, and my hon. Friend makes the point extremely well.

There is something that has not surprised me, but let me draw it to the House’s attention. The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) and many of her colleagues get excited about food banks because they believe that it is in the power of the state to do everything to help people. We believe, as a matter of principle, that power is with the people and it is up to individuals to help each other, voluntarily, if they so wish, in times of need. Food banks are not about entitlement. Entitlement and benefits are one issue, but food banks are about relieving short-term need. It is important that we should be able to do that voluntarily.

It is not nasty to make difficult economic decisions, but necessary. It is not nasty to tell the truth about having to cut public spending, but necessary. It is not nasty to reduce the nation’s debt to secure the future for our children, but necessary. It is right to construct a taxation and public spending regime that makes work pay. That is what fairness is all about—taking people on lower incomes out of taxation and not requiring them to pay benefits for those who can work but find that there is no point because they are better off not working. That is what Labour brought about, and it was wrong.

By reforming benefits and immigration laws, we are putting Labour’s mistakes right. It is wrong that people who have worked and saved all their lives have to sell their homes to pay for care in later life, and we are putting that right. It is wrong that enterprising people should be held back by the dead hand of an overbearing state. That is what Labour believe in and it is one of the reasons why they made such a mess for 13 years. It was wrong and, again, we are putting it right.

Something else is wrong. Most of us appreciate the benefits of the European single market. However, it is wrong that unnecessary rules and regulations from expensive institutions are hindering our businesses and restricting our freedom. We must, as a nation, renegotiate the terms of our membership of the European Union. I am not going to mention any hypothetical amendments, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I know you know better.

Mrs Laing: Indeed. We are today debating the cost of living, an issue fundamental to the lives of everyone in Britain today. On these Benches, we care about the prosperity of our country and the well-being of our people, so we want the freedom to run our economy and the institutions of our country in a way that benefits the people of Britain.

I hope that the Queen’s Speech will be augmented by a Bill that might come through the private Member’s Bill route and that such a Bill will pave the way for a referendum on our relationship with the European Union. I fully understand, although some appear not to, why such a Bill cannot be a Government Bill. We have to appreciate that we are in the most unfortunate situation of being in a coalition, and one part of that coalition does not want a referendum on or a renegotiation of the terms of our membership. However, many of us do want those things. We need a renegotiation and then a referendum for the simple reason that there is a silent majority of people out there who get on with their everyday lives, work hard, look after their families, contribute to their communities and look to this Parliament to hear their voice and give them the freedom to do the best for their country.

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