Harriett uses her speech to raise three subjects of particular interest; the community-led proposal to take over Malvern Hills College, support for girls’ education in developing countries, and the need to get the deficit under control to stave off inflation.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), and to speak in this debate to welcome the measures outlined in Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech.
I want to put on record my thanks to everyone here, everyone in West Worcestershire and everyone across the land who has helped us get through such a difficult year. It has been a truly testing time, and it is wonderful at this moment that we can look forward to seeing an end in sight. I thank everyone who has worked so hard to get us here.
In the local election results last week, we saw support across the land for so many Conservative candidates. In the Queen’s Speech as well, we saw that we have a Government nationally who really listen to what people want, pledge to deliver what people want and then get on with the task of delivering it. I think the measures in the Queen’s Speech cover a wide range of those pledges, and the job is now to deliver on them.
I want to cover three disparate topics in today’s debate, all of which are related to a brighter future for the next generation. The first is to do with further education in my constituency of West Worcestershire, and specifically the situation with Malvern Hills College, which was taken over in a merger by Warwickshire College back in 2016. Unfortunately, during the last year Warwickshire College has announced that it is going to close the site at Malvern and start delivering the courses elsewhere, sometimes as far as 40 miles away. I back the local initiative to take over Malvern Hills College with a community-backed offer. We could use the college, for example, to deliver some of the courses under the lifetime skills guarantee and the important training that we are going to need for our flexible economy. The board of Warwickshire College is meeting next week, and I urge its members to engage very seriously with this community bid. Malvern really wants to keep this college in our community. It has been there for over 100 years and performs an incredibly important function. Now is surely not the time to be closing that college.
The second topic I want to talk about is the important commitment to the world’s poorest that we made in our manifesto. The Whips know my views on this subject; they know that I am sad that we are breaking our promise to the very poorest in the world. However, I welcome today’s announcement about a plan for girls’ education, and the leadership that the UK Government are showing to ensure that every child in the world can get 12 years of quality education. Surely there is nothing better that we can do for our world than to ensure that every child, wherever they are born in this world, is able to have an education. Doing so will make our world so much more prosperous, so much healthier and so much safer. It will also tackle so many of the issues that we are facing in this country.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) alluded to, so many desperate people are fleeing parts of the world. If they can get a good education where they are born, surely that would be the better way forward for the world. I welcome the leadership that the UK Government are showing on this issue, as they co-host with Kenya in July the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education, which is asking for $5 billion of funding over five years. I hope that the UK—albeit with the reduced amount of UK aid—will be able to contribute very significantly to that sum. We are asking the UK Government for $600 million of that $5 billion over five years.
There is a third, rather disparate, topic that I want to touch on as we talk about a brighter future for the next generation. I will just play the role that I am afraid I played in the Budget debates: a bit of a Cassandra regarding the bond markets. As someone who traded the bond markets—I do not even like to mention how long ago that was, but it was a long time ago, when we had bear markets in bonds—I know that the bond markets can turn on a dime. With the amount of fiscal stimulus and monetary stimulus that we have in this country, I think there is quite a strong risk that we might spark inflation. We saw inflation in America in the statistics that came out this week, and we saw the way in which the markets react to it. We are running quite a large risk in terms of our deficit, with the potential for interest rates to go only one way from here: upwards. That could really damage the brighter future for the next generation.
I urge those who are looking at the leading indicators for our economy, and the Chancellor, as he thinks about some of the fiscal choices that he is going to make, to remember that often a stitch in time saves nine when it comes to fiscal decisions. To ensure a brighter future for everyone and for future generations, I want to see us bring our deficit back to being a manageable one that gives bond markets confidence that the UK gilt market is one of the best places in the world to invest.