Henry Smith MP (Crawley)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate on the King’s Speech. It was poignant to attend the House of Lords last week to hear His Majesty’s first King’s Speech. It is perhaps appropriate that this debate takes place on Charles III’s 75th birthday, and we all wish him a very happy day indeed.
At the beginning of this parliament, almost four years ago, I do not think anyone could have predicted the events that would unfold after just a few months, with the global Covid-19 pandemic. It is quite remarkable and not by accident that the UK economy has had one of the fastest and strongest recoveries of any in Europe, including Germany and France, and elsewhere in the world, including Japan. I welcome the investment of over £20 billion a year in research and development. It is no accident that this country is decarbonising and reaching our 2050 net zero carbon emission goals more than any other country in the G7.
I welcome the Trade (Comprehensive & Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill, which was announced in the King’s Speech. Yesterday evening, the New Zealand high commissioner was here in Parliament. I welcome the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which truly is a demonstration of global Britain and global reach post Brexit.
We are an island trading nation, and that is why economic growth has to be supported by a thriving British aviation sector. It has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic but is coming back extremely strongly. I am delighted that later this month, Virgin Atlantic Airways, which is headquartered in my constituency, will be flying the first ever 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel fight, transatlantic from London to New York. However, we need to do more to support the sustainable aviation fuels industry, which has the potential to create over 10,000 jobs in this country. It is better for our economic and energy security to produce SAF here in the United Kingdom than to be reliant on importing it from abroad, with all the expense involved.
Another area in which we could boost our economic growth would be to use a Brexit freedom to introduce duty-free shopping on arrivals. Most of the rest of the world does so: parts of Europe that are not in the European Union have introduced duty-free shopping, including Norway and Switzerland, as have many other countries around the world. It is a freedom that we should be using. It would not cost the Treasury any lost revenue, but it would onshore those sales to UK shops and create employment.
Turning to animal welfare issues, I very much welcome the Livestock Exports Bill. Live animal exports for slaughter and fattening have not taken place for a number of years, but certainly in the past, that was an extremely cruel practice that caused great distress to animals who were trafficked over long distances to meet a very sad end. It is very good that that practice will come to an end in law, so that it can no longer take place. That is another Brexit animal welfare benefit, and something that my late mum would have been very pleased about. Many years ago, she often used to write to her local MP calling for an end to live animal exports. It is great that that is now being achieved.
Finally, a manifesto commitment that the Conservative party made four years ago and that featured in most of the main parties’ political manifestos, was the banning of trophy hunting imports—the import of endangered species’ body parts into Great Britain. In the last session, I tabled such a ban in the form of a private member’s Bill, but unfortunately that Bill was filibustered, blocked and eventually timed out by a very small number of peers—one of them a hereditary peer—in the other place. The ban passed this elected House unanimously, has widespread public support and was a Government commitment. If the Minister wants to intervene on me to say that the Government will bring forward that legislation in this session, I would be delighted. I understand that she probably does not have that brief in front of her, but hopefully the Government can confirm that they will legislate in Government time to achieve that manifesto commitment, end what is a very cruel practice, and lead the world further in animal welfare measures.