delivered 19 December 2019, House of Commons, London, UK
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
beg to move,
Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that this is quite possibly the most terrifying thing I have ever done, it is, of course, a great honor [to "move" the Address] as the re-elected and proud Member for Chatham and Aylesford to move.
This speech is usually a gift reserved by the Whips for those thought to have had their best times. The Chief [Whip], a man well known for his elegance, charm and wit, has clearly clocked it's panto season. So for asking me to do this [speech] is the equivalent of shouting, "Your career is behind you!"
Hon. Members: Oh, no it isn’t!
Ms. Crouch: Mr. Speaker, I think we can do a bit better than that and, frankly -- frankly, Mr. Speaker, I'd feel a bit more reassured if indeed the Prime Minister could perhaps join in.
So, if I may, the Chief, a man well known for his elegance, charm, and wit, has clearly clocked it is panto season, for asking me to do this is the equivalent of shouting, "Your career is behind you."
Hon. Members: Oh no it it's not!!!
[Laughter and Cross-talk]
Ms. Crouch: Instead of "Cinderella" -- Instead of "Cinderella" or "Puss in Boots", let us raise the literary tone and note that today is the anniversary of "A Christmas Carol" being published in 1843. Now, Charles Dickens was a son of Chatham, and so this old has-been speech clearly makes me feel like the ghost of Christmas past.
Hon. Members: Ahhh....
Now, Scrooge -- Now, Scrooge would have been brilliantly played by the former Chancellor, Philip Hammond, but was sadly pipped1 to the part by the last Speaker of this House, [John Berkow] who auditioned powerfully for the role for many a bleak year.
Hon. Member: Smile, Jeremy.....
[Laughter and Cross-talk]
Ms. Crouch: But who, Mr. Speaker, who is our Tiny Tim, so valiant and small, the object of universal pity? It could be none other than the Right Honourable Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale [Tim Farron], whom we welcome back to the House and wonder if he'll have another go at his party’s leadership.
Hon. Member: He's not here.
Ms. Crouch: Now I had thought -- I had thought, Mr. Speaker, of continuing the "Love Actually" election theme --
Hon. Members: Ahhh....
Ms. Crouch: -- by delivering a speech on bits of card, with the parliamentary choir singing carols in the background. But, one: We are not allowed to bring props into the Chamber; two: I think Hugh Grant has suffered enough; and, three: it would be simply impossible to fit all the names of the new Conservative intake [inaudible].
Now I note that the last Kent MP to propose the Loyal Address was Bob Dunn, the long-serving Member for Dartford, who started his speech by mentioning that he had "been returned as [its] Member in four successive general elections -- and at each election, the Conservative vote ha[s] been significantly higher than the time before." Well, thanks to this [Boris Johnson] Prime Minister, I now know how he feels.
This legislative program outlines plans for a Bill authorizing the construction and operation of High Speed 2, but it was in that Queen’s Speech of November 1994 that the legislation for High Speed 1 was tabled [i.e., proposed]. Along with his constituency of Dartford, High Speed 1 travels through mine and many others in Kent. He [Bob Dunn] spoke of its potential virtues, predicting "the economic benefits associated with it."2 And he was right. Thanks to that Bill, 25 years ago, there are parts of Kent that have seen major regeneration thanks to a much-reduced travel time to London, and there is still even more potential to unlock.
Now, I'm privileged to be the Member for Chatham and Aylesford, a diverse constituency with a strong naval history. A friend, a mentor of mine, the Member for North Thanet [Sir Roger Gale], mentioned to me earlier this week that he is now the only Kent MP to have been serving while the Chatham dockyard was still operational, but that rumor has it he is also the only Kent MP to have been here when the last time a Thanet MP proposed the Queen's Speech3 in 1937.
Alas the dock -- Sorry, Sir Roger. Alas the dockyard, while not within the boundary of my constituency, has always been of critical significance to the town, it ceased operations in 1984. However, its regeneration has been remarkable, paying tribute to its heritage through housing, employment, and tourism.
Now, another female member of the 2010 intake to have proposed the Queen's Speech is, of course, my Right Honourable Friend, the Member for Portsmouth North [Penny Mordaunt]. Like Chatham, her constituency is built very firmly on the foundations of the Royal Navy and, of course, she famously littered her speech with bits of the male anatomy as a dare from her colleagues in the reserves.
Hon. Member: Steady.
Ms. Crouch: Now, I thought I would seek her advice, given I know that I would feel sick to the core and shaking with fear, whereas she has served with great calmness and tranquility during tough times at the highest level. She looked at me, she took my hand, and she said, "Tracey, you’ll be fine. Just don’t cock it up."
Now, I note that the last humble Address to take place after a December election was proposed by a Mr. Reginald Mitchell Banks from Swindon. Hansard notes that he delivered his speech in court dress, a tradition I am grateful no longer exists --
Hon. Member: Same.
Ms. Crouch: -- although if Hansard wishes to note that I'm wearing high-street chic, they are of course welcome.
Mr. Banks spoke of the importance of trading with our friends abroad, and of course the bonds of commerce and enterprise between the United Kingdom and those countries both near and far have only strengthened since. The famous Watling Street -- a trading route used by ancient Britons, Vikings, Saxons, and Romans -- runs through Chatham. And it was on that road that famous battles were fought against Roman invaders. But I am delighted to say that things have changed, and it's on that road today, now known as the A2, along with the M20 through Aylesford, that goods come and go from the port of Dover, which, as the Foreign Secretary now knows, is a rather important trading point.
It is in that spirit, Mr. Speaker, of being open to the world that, 96 years on from that election and its subsequent humble Address, we have proposed legislation that, by delivering on Brexit, creates new and exciting trading opportunities -- and it starts in this House tomorrow with the [European Union] Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This Bill will unlock and unleash Britain’s potential. With the rest of the world, alongside other pieces of the Brexit legislation announced this morning, we stand ready to build a new relationship with our friends in the EU and elsewhere based on free trade and co-operation.
And then thanks to the legislative program put forward today, we can raise our own standards in areas like agriculture and of course my personal passions of animal welfare and environment.
The reintroduction of the
Environment Bill will protect and restore our natural
environment for generations to come, set ambitious, world-leading but achievable
programs to tackle pollution, and enable us to make the most of our much loved
landscapes. For those of us with densely populated, polluted constituencies,
with its last pockets of green space under threat from inappropriate and
strategically ill-thought-through planning proposals, demonstrating that these
fields provide not only a haven for wildlife but a breathing space in urban
areas that enhance the health and wellbeing of our residents is our last
Members of this House, including myself, have spoken powerfully and personally about their own brushes with various mental health conditions. It is right that we help remove the stigma around mental health by talking about it; but it is actions, not words, that matter. And so it's paramount that we ensure that our constituents, whose voice may not be as loud as our own, receive the treatment that they need by guaranteeing that we treat mental health with the same urgency as physical health.
I was proud that our manifesto included commitments to improve the overall wellbeing of the nation. And while there may not be a [legislative] program outlined today, measures such as investing in grassroots sport, enhancing physical education in schools, and reform of the out-of-date gambling legislation, the Prime Minister should know that there is wide cross-party support for such improvements to begin the laborious Whitehall process, and I hope they will do so soon.
Mr. Speaker, I made my maiden speech during a debate on poverty. Part of my constituency suffers enormously from deprivation, and I work alongside many organizations to support those who find themselves unable to cope. Charles Dickens chronicled vividly the poverty of Victoria[n] Britain, inequalities which were alleviated in the ensuing 180 years by moderate, enlightened Governments of all colors. Mercy and altruism must remain our mission in today’s one nation Conservative party.
I've worked with many MPs from other parties in this House on various issues. And of course I welcome and congratulate my new colleagues on these Benches, but there are friends Opposite who I will miss enormously. And although we've not covered ourselves in glory for these past few years, new MPs will soon discover that this place is at its best when we work together; and relationships and friendships will be formed over issues that need cross-party consensus if they are to progress.
Chatham’s hero, Dickens, may have been a great social reformer, but he also observed that there is nothing in this world so irresistible as laughter and good humor. Perhaps it would be no bad guide for us, as we repair this House of Commons in the coming months. Let laughter and good humor replace recent rancor; let friendships thrive through adversity; and let us respect our differences but not let them divide us. And of course, let Tottenham finish above Arsenal in the league this year.
So as I finish my humble offering to Her Majesty, may I take this opportunity to wish colleagues and all the hard-working House staff a very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and a peaceful holiday season. And in the words of Tiny Tim at the end of "A Christmas Caroll," God bless us, everyone!
Broader quotation: "The
Queen's Speech referred to legislation that will authorise the
construction and operation by the private sector of a high-speed rail
link between London and the channel tunnel. I welcome that legislation,
because it makes Ebbsfleet and all the economic benefits associated with
it a closer reality. It will also provide, through parliamentary
procedure, local authorities, institutions and, above all, the people of
Kent with the opportunity to give Parliament—in the form of
petitions—their views on the impact of the rail link as it affects them
and their communities." [Source: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1994-11-16/debates/a173f9e7-4df3-4d8b-9f09-f6c180a4a313/DebateOnTheAddress]
"Queen's Speech" is an annual formal address delivered by the Queen but
written by the Government. The "Loyal Address" is the Government's
response to the Queen's Speech as delivered by a Member of Parliament.
Original Audio, Video, Images (Screenshots) Sourcee::
2 Broader quotation: "The Queen's Speech referred to legislation that will authorise the construction and operation by the private sector of a high-speed rail link between London and the channel tunnel. I welcome that legislation, because it makes Ebbsfleet and all the economic benefits associated with it a closer reality. It will also provide, through parliamentary procedure, local authorities, institutions and, above all, the people of Kent with the opportunity to give Parliament—in the form of petitions—their views on the impact of the rail link as it affects them and their communities." [Source: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1994-11-16/debates/a173f9e7-4df3-4d8b-9f09-f6c180a4a313/DebateOnTheAddress]
3The "Queen's Speech" is an annual formal address delivered by the Queen but written by the Government. The "Loyal Address" is the Government's response to the Queen's Speech as delivered by a Member of Parliament.
Original Audio, Video, Images (Screenshots) Sourcee:: parliamentlive.tv
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