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Queen’s Speech Debate: Harriett Baldwin highlights the importance of certainty for the financial sector


20th January 2020

Speaking in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, Harriett Baldwin highlights the importance of the financial sector to the British economy and the need for certainty in the future if we are to ensure the UK is the best country in the world in which to locate a financial technology firm.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)

If a week is a long time in politics, three months must be an absolute age. It has been three months since I last spoke in an economy debate on the Queen’s Speech, and what a lot has changed in this Parliament. I have to say that I like this Parliament an awful lot more than I liked the previous Parliament. I am aware that there have been some wonderful maiden speeches in these Queen’s Speech debates, and I look forward to hearing more maiden speeches today, but I particularly enjoy the speeches from Members who represent areas that have never before elected a Conservative MP. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the good voters of West Worcestershire for returning me to this place.

I welcome the measures outlined in this Queen’s Speech, and I am very pleased that they have a much greater chance of being enacted and put on the statute book than when we last had the opportunity to debate them. My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) asked the shadow Chancellor for his analysis of why the awful diatribe we heard from the Opposition Dispatch Box earlier did not resonate with the British people and lost the Labour party seats at the last general election. The shadow Chancellor simply said it was Brexit. Well, I am going to give him some free advice on some of the other things that I think led to that performance. First, we clearly had a much better manifesto. It was much more fiscally responsible and much more credible to the British public. As the shadow Chancellor said, we also had a much clearer and united approach to Brexit as a party, and that certainly was another factor. Clearly, we also had much better leadership, and that came up time and again on the doorstep.

A point that has not been made as frequently, however, is the one about our economic track record. We would never believe it—would we?—when we listened to that woeful speech of woe from the shadow Chancellor that we have actually just enjoyed an uninterrupted decade of economic growth in this country. We would never believe it when we heard that speech from the shadow Chancellor that we actually have record employment—record full employment almost—and particularly for full-time workers. And we would never believe it when we heard that speech from the shadow Chancellor that ​we actually have the lowest percentage of people in low-paid work in our economy than we have ever had before in history. That economic track record made a real difference going into the general election.

One thing that has not changed since I last spoke in a Queen’s Speech debate on the economy regards additional clarity for a sector that is important to our economy: the financial services sector. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) raised that issue earlier, and I wish to ask about it again. Financial services are an important sector for our economy. It is our biggest export sector, and it employs well over 2 million people, not just in the City of London, but across the whole UK—indeed, two thirds of jobs in the financial sector are based outside the M25.

When I was Economic Secretary to the Treasury, I had the pleasure of seeing those jobs not only in my constituency of West Worcestershire and the west midlands but in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Newcastle, and Leeds. Right across the UK and down to Bournemouth or Cardiff there are important and well-paid jobs in the financial sector. As a result, about £1 in every £10 of tax revenue comes from financial services, which is huge. As we leave the European Union, it is important that we get things right for that sector.

Sir Robert Neill

My hon. Friend makes an important point and I entirely agree with her. Does she agree that another strength and reason for the dominance of our financial services sector is that it is part of a hub, together with other key professional services that support it, such as law, accountancy and other services? As we leave the EU we must have a solution for all of those.

Harriett Baldwin

It is indeed the world’s global financial hub, as we saw today with the wonderful news coming from the UK-Africa Investment Summit. Tax revenues are important, and without that £1 in every £10 of tax revenue we would have 36 new hospitals instead of 40, and 18,000 police instead of 20,000. It is important to get things right with that major engine of tax revenue in this country.

I know that lots of Members wish to make their maiden speeches today, Madam Deputy Speaker, so in conclusion I ask those on the Front Bench to update the House on what they mean by “outcome-based equivalence”. If they are seeking something similar to a Canada-style free trade agreement, chapter 15 of which covers financial services, what will be the mechanisms for certainty and for businesses investing in the sector, regarding how quickly that equivalence could be contested or argued about? What will be the strategy for the FinTech sector and the UK being the best country in the world in which to locate a financial technology firm? What, if anything, will we have as a specific strategy on market access for businesses in the FinTech sector?

In reflecting on what has or has not changed from three months ago, I wish to repeat those questions to those on the Front Bench.

Hansard

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