Henry Smith MP (Crawley) (Con)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for affording me a few minutes to contribute to this Gracious Speech debate on a bright future for the next generation. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen). This Queen’s Speech very firmly laid the foundations for the next generation to build our country back better from the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic.
I start by welcoming the legislation to support our NHS and to make sure that it is the most innovative health service in the world, using the most up-to-date technology. When it comes to the future of education for our young people, and, indeed, for people of all ages, I welcome the announcement of the skills and post-16 Bill in the Queen’s Speech. Just this week, I welcomed the fact that Crawley College, working with the Universities of Sussex and Brighton, had got to the next stage of introducing an institute of technology on its site.
I very much welcome the “building back safer” announcement in the Gracious Speech. As right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned, the worrying rise in knife crime—particularly here in the capital—needs to be addressed, as does the scourge of county lines drug dealing, which is affecting my constituency and many others. I welcome the Government’s commitment to increasing support and resources for law and order so that those issues are tackled, because young people are all too often the victims of criminal behaviour.
I greatly welcome the announcement of an Environment Bill, as it will secure the UK’s place in the world as a global leader in the new green industrial revolution as we recover from the pandemic in a sustainable way. As Chair of the All-Party Group for the Future of Aviation, I welcome the fact that British airlines last year committed to net zero carbon by 2050, and the Government have committed to the Jet Zero Council to ensure that we are at the forefront of technology to deliver on that.
I also wanted to mention the animal welfare legislation that was announced in the Gracious Speech. Again, I declare an interest, as Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare and a Patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation. It was wonderful news when a fortnight ago, in the last Session of Parliament, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill went on to the statute book. A whole raft of measures have now been announced in the Queen’s Speech to deliver further on that animal welfare pledge.
The introduction of sentience into UK law is very important. Anyone who has grown up with animals or works with them knows that they are sentient beings, and it is vital that that will be enshrined in our legal system, with an animal sentience committee to ensure that the legislation is delivered in the best way.
I have campaigned for many years on ending live animal exports for fattening and slaughter. This incredibly cruel practice has been going on for far too long. Now that we have left the European Union and the European single market, it is possible for us to end this cruel trade, and I am delighted that that announcement has been made. This is a two-way process, and the Government need to do more to prevent cruelly produced products from being imported into this country. In the last Parliament, I spoke about the cruel practices involved in foie gras, including the force-feeding of ducks and geese to produce a fatty liver, which some people believe is a delicacy. The importation of that product should be banned, as should the importation of fur.
I welcome the announcement in the Gracious Speech of an international animal welfare Bill, which will strengthen measures against the importing of trophy hunting products into this country. In the last Parliament, I was pleased to sit on the Ivory Bill Committee. That Bill is now law, and we are going further still.
Domestically, I welcome the legislation announced in the Queen’s Speech to ban puppy smuggling. That practice causes great distress and ill health to many animals, and it is a fraud often perpetrated on people who want to provide a loving home to a pet. It is important that that matter is addressed. I welcome the establishment of the pet theft taskforce, which the Government announced the other day. Pet theft is a horrible crime whereby pets who are much-loved members of families are taken, causing great distress. I also welcome the introduction of mandatory microchipping for cats, as is the case with dogs, so that lost pets have a much better chance of being reunited with their owners. This Queen’s Speech represents a solid foundation for future generations, and I commend it to the House.