Last week saw the State Opening of Parliament. The Queen has been present at every single one throughout her reign apart from two in 1959 and 1963 when she was pregnant. Despite her recent loss the Queen did not falter in giving the Queens Speech, as always showing the huge strength and fortitude she has shown to our nation throughout her reign.
The Queens Speech is where the Government sets out its new agenda and laws it plans to introduce over the new 1 to 2 years. This Queens Speech sets a positive way forward to get us out of the pandemic and build back better, stronger than we were before.
It particularly outlines measures to ensure our NHS and social care system are able to recover from Covid. Better meeting the challenges of the future with a more integrated and efficient health and care system, this will especially include proposals for adult social care reform brought forward this year.
We will also see the introduction of a Skills Bill, transforming access to skills so we can move towards the high skilled, well paid workforce we need. This is particularly vital for Stoke-on-Trent and I am determined to ensure we see more better-quality jobs which ensure people take home more pay.
Tackling crime and the most serious offences will also remain a top priority, we will continue to introduce new laws which better support our emergency services and ensure the most serious offenders spend longer off our streets behind bars. Alongside this we will put in place new measure to better protect victims and ensure they are properly supported.
And, through the New Plan for Immigration, we will better deter illegal entry into the UK, break the business model of criminal trafficking networks and protect the lives of those they endanger. We will continue to support those in genuine need but take a much tougher stance to remove more easily those here illegally with no right to be here.
These are just some of the more than 30 new laws that are set to be introduced to level-up our country and ensure opportunity is spread to areas like Stoke-on-Trent.
Usually the State Opening and Queens Speech would be an event involving over 600 people with a great deal of pomp and pageantry, however clearly this was a very different scaled-down affair this year, just as everything has had to be due to the ongoing Covid restrictions.
But we look to the future with a great deal of optimism. Thanks to everyone’s efforts in following Covid measures to control the spread of the virus and the incredible successes we have seen rolling out vaccinations, we are able to further ease restrictions this week in line with the Prime Ministers Roadmap.
In Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, more than 1,000,000 doses have now been administered. Across the UK more than two thirds of the adult population have had a jab and over a third of the adult population, who are the most vulnerable have now had both. Huge thanks must go to everyone who has made this possible.
The further easing of restrictions means from 17 May people are now able to meet indoors with up to 6 people or two households and outside gatherings of up to 30 will now be possible. This will also allow the further reopening of our economy and businesses which have remained closed.
People will now be able to once again enjoy visiting a cinema, theatre or museum, and they will be able to enjoy attending live events and performances. I know many Stoke City fans will be especially keen to get back in the stands with the Premier League 2 play-off semi-final against Sunderland on Monday.
As we start to see life heading closer to normal, we have much hope and confidence about the brighter future ahead. The Bank of England have said they expect to see our economy grow at its fastest rate in over 70 years as restrictions are eased, and the impact of the pandemic on jobs is likely to be far less worse than initially expected.
In Stoke-on-Trent we have a city on the up, with renewed energy and vision for the future. Only recently we have seen the Centre for Cities identify over 17 per cent more employment vacancies to be filled in Stoke-on-Trent now than there were before the pandemic. There are an increasing number of opportunities available locally and it will be vital we ensure people have the skills needed to access these better skilled and better paid opportunities.
Whilst the pandemic has hit us hard, nothing can hold us back now in reaching our true potential. We must not stray from the path towards levelling-up opportunities for our city and unleashing all we have to offer. I will remain focused on working to ensure we attract the attention and investment Stoke-on-Trent needs to achieve this.
- This article originally appeared in The Sentinel, 17th May 2021