Before I start, I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. There is much to be welcomed in the Queen’s Speech, which comes after electoral success across the country, and I welcome to the House our new colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Jill Mortimer). However, time is short, so let me press on.
I would be negligent if I did not start with an ask for my beautiful constituency of South Dorset. We hear much about levelling up, and I sincerely hope that that does not just mean in the north, much as it needs the investment. It is crucial that we in South Dorset attract jobs that offer a more secure future, not least because parts of the seat rank among the most deprived 10% in the country. The Government do not create jobs, but well-targeted investment does attract the private sector, which employs people to do the work. To this end, a panel of high-profile businessmen and businesswomen from Weymouth and Portland have drawn up a business plan with an ask of £250 million. Chaired by Portland port’s inspirational chief executive, Bill Reeves, the wish list includes a short relief road and moneys to repair the harbour and marina sea walls and Weymouth’s sea defences. Without these essential works, the Environment Agency is unable to give the green light to much-needed redevelopment around our picturesque harbour.
Secondly, I have noted that today’s debate is called Safe Streets for All. I give credit to, and thank, Dorset police for their endeavour in this regard. We all want our streets to be safe, but the reduction in police numbers and the changing nature of crime, with more online offences, have led to fewer bobbies on the beat. More are coming and more still are promised, which is welcome, but worryingly, the budget cuts and some hard decisions have resulted in the closure of around 50% of Britain’s police stations in the past decade. The physical presence of a police station is a deterrent, a source of comfort to the public, and a refuge of last resort. Call me a luddite, but for our streets to be even safer, these closures must be reversed as a matter of urgency.
I will touch quickly on Northern Ireland, where I served on three operational tours. I and many colleagues in this place, and thousands of veterans outside it, have been waiting patiently for a Government Bill that will prevent our former soldiers being chased to the grave. Regrettably, I do not see one: just more talk. This is simply not good enough, and I urge the Government to bring forward a Bill as fast as they can.
Finally, no more lockdowns, please. I think we are all fed up with being told what to do, when to do it, and with whom. Enough, Madam Deputy Speaker; enough.