Keir Starmer responds to the King’s Speech

Mr. Speaker, before I turn to the address.

I am sure the whole house would like to join me in paying tribute to His Majesty, the King, on the occasion of his first Gracious Address as our sovereign.

Of course, he did give the address last year and he has, for some time, enjoyed the best view in the house on how it should be done. 

But nonetheless, this is a new chapter for him and our country, so we pay tribute to that.

Let me also congratulate both the mover and the seconder for their speeches.

The Right Honourable Member for Scarborough and Whitby once again showed us his love for his constituency.

He has been a good servant, well-respected but now he is wanted again on his farm.

I can inform the House, that he’s also one of this country’s leading steam engine enthusiasts.

The proud owner of a Fowler K5 ploughing engine, not a tractor, but nonetheless, a beautiful machine.

Which, on a good day, when the Right Honourable Member really steps on it, can still give the TransPennine Express a run for its money.

But I warn him – he should be careful.

There are some weird and wonderful details on all those Network North announcements and the Prime Minister might yet commandeer his Fowler – for illustrative purposes only, of course.

It was also great to listen to the Honourable Member for Stroud.

It is only right that the Prime Minister selected someone with good sense to second the Gracious Address, so of course, he had to turn to a working class lawyer, with a connection to Camden.

I can say with personal knowledge, that as a Camden councillor, she was respected across parties, as she is here.

Now, a year ago, the Honourable Member rightly pointed out – and I quote:

“That there are many ways to boost domestic energy security using nuclear, solar, marine energy and onshore wind”.

An argument, Mr. Speaker, which shows, exactly why she has a bright future within her party.

It’s just a shame that instead of choosing her to second the address, the Prime Minister didn’t ask her to write the energy section instead.

Mr. Speaker, we are lucky enough not to have lost any members of this house, since the last address, but as we approach the end of this cycle, it is only right that we once again remember those who we still miss so much, and who left us earlier in the parliament.

On these benches, our beloved friend, Jack Dromey, a champion of working people for the ages.

And on the benches opposite, Dame Cheryl Gillan, James Brokenshire, and of course, Sir David Amess who was taken from us in the most vile and cruel of circumstances.

On these benches, we still mourn the loss of Jo Cox – one of our brightest lights, seven years ago now, in similar fashion.

So we reach out across the aisle and say, as does the plaque put up over there just a few weeks ago: “His light remains”.

Mr. Speaker, it is also customary to welcome new members to the house.  

Though I have to say, given we know you are such a stickler for parliamentary time limits, this could be difficult.

Nonetheless, I welcome all 11 new members to their first of these debates.

One, for the party opposite, two for the party that sits over there, and eighton these benches.

Victories which show, without question, that Britain is ready for change.

Victories that have reduced the party opposite, now nearly fourteen years in power to the desperate spectacle of claiming it offers change away from itself.

But today’s address shows, just how ridiculous that posturing is because what we have before us, is a plan for more of the same.

More sticking plasters, more division, more party-first, country-second gimmicks, and no repudiation of the utterly discredited idea that economic growth is something the few hand down to the many.

In fact, today we reach something of a new low.

Because they’re not even pretending to govern anymore, they’ve given up on any sense of service. 

They see our country’s problems as something to be exploited not solved…

And in doing this, they underestimate the British people.

Because what Britain wants, is for them to stop messing around and get on with the job.

People want action, not inaction.

Solutions to real problems, not the imaginary ones that haunt their party’s imagination.

A government committed to the national interest, not desperately trying to save their own skin.

Our schools are crumbling; waiting lists – rising, rivers and streams – dying;

infrastructure – cancelled; violent criminals – released early; their mortgage bombshell blowing up the finances of millions; growth – set to be the lowest in the G7 next year; taxes – higher than any time since the war. He raised them himself – 25 times.

The Tory recipe for Britain’s decline – low-growth, high tax, crumbling public services, with a Prime Minister serving up more of the same.

Of course, there are steps we can welcome.

We support Jade’s law, Martyn’s law, an independent regulator in football, and we have said, on smoking and public health, he can count on our votes.

We will always serve the national interest.

That is why we have stood united in this house, in our support of Ukraine since the start of Putin’s aggression.

And we must never lose our focus.

The address also mentions the terrible events in Israel and Palestine.

It is now one month exactly since the senseless murder of Jews by the terrorists of Hamas and the taking of hostages on 7 October.

And every new day in Gaza now brings with it – more pain, more suffering, more agony.

Hostages still held, thousands of civilians dead – including so many innocent women and children. Millions struggling for the basics of life – food, water, sanitation, medicines and fuel. We cannot and will not close our eyes to their suffering.

We need a humanitarian pause – now. The hostages need to be released – now.

Israel has the right and duty to defend herself, but it’s not a blank cheque.

It must comply with international law.

And this house must commit to do whatever it can to keep alive the light of peace.

So, we welcome the address’s clear commitment to support the two-state solution.

But Mr. Speaker, returning once more to their plans for Britain, the biggest question is how they think this is anywhere near good enough.

That after all the chaos they’ve unleashed …

After “Levelling-up”, “no rules were broken”, “we’re all in it together”, and all the other broken promises of the past 13 years – this is the plan they put forward to the working people of this country and say – trust us, we’ve changed?

It’s laughable.

They can’t see Britain – that’s the only possible conclusion.

The walls of this place are too high.

But let me assure the house, Britain sees them.

And Britain sees today that they offer no change on public services, no change on the cost-of-living crisis, and ­no change to the economic model that has failed to give working people the security and opportunity they deserve.

Because Mr. Speaker, that is the change Britain needs and today was a missed opportunity.

We needed a King’s Speech that would draw a line under 13 years of Tory decline. A King’s Speech for national renewal and a serious plan for growth.

But instead we have a party so devoid of leadership, it is happy to follow a Home Secretary who believes homelessness is a “lifestyle choice”, and that the job of protecting us all from extremists – the most basic job of government – is legitimate terrain for her divisive brand of politics.

Mr. Speaker, as Director of Public Prosecutions I worked very closely with police and counter-terrorism forces and their job is hard enough already without the Home Secretary using it as a platform for her own ambitions.

So I say to the Prime Minister, think very carefully about what she is committing your government to do and think very carefully about the consequences of putting greater demands on public servants at the coalface of keeping us safe.

Because without a serious Home Secretary there cannot be serious government and he cannot be a serious Prime Minister.

Homelessness is a choice, it’s a political choice.

Constant u-turns on no fault evictions – are a political choice.

Not facing up to the blockers of aspiration on those benches – is a political choice.

And it’s not that there aren’t better choices. 

On these benches, we have a plan to build 1.5 million homes across the country with a reformed planning regime that will unlock our potential.

Because you can’t fix homelessness without increasing the supply of housing, you can’t boost growth unless workers have the homes they need.

And you can’t escape the cost-of-living crisis, unless there is more affordable housing.

We all know why he finds himself in this position but if he is prepared to stand-up to the blockers, if he shows he that can radically improve the supply of housing by bringing back national housing targets – then yes – he can count on Labour votes.

Because, Mr. Speaker, that is what this country needs most – a credible plan for growth.

A Britain where growth comes from the grassroots and where growth serves the grassroots.

With higher living standards in every community.

An ambition that can only be delivered, if we roll up our sleeves and get building.

At the moment, just to get a tunnel built in this country, can require a planning application 30 times longer than the complete works of Shakespeare.

And as the Prime Minister knows – you can’t even build a swimming pool in your garden without someone shopping you to Council.

That’s why today, we needed a planning bill to strip out the red tape and get Britain building.

We also needed a bold commitment to train the next generation. 

With new Technical Colleges, apprenticeship levy reform, expert teachers in every classroom, giving British businesses the skills they need.

We needed a modern industrial strategy on a statutory footing – with a Bill to match, a signal of intent – to the world that we are serious about fighting for the jobs of the future.

We needed an employment bill. Time and again – this bill has been promised. Time and again – it fails to materialise. When we could be scrapping fire and rehire, ending zero hour contracts, making work pay with a real living wage and saying, unambiguously, that strong workers’ rights are good for growth.

What we got instead is an exercise in economic miserabilism.

An admission that his government has no faith in Britain’s ability to avert decline.

Take the Oil and Gas Bill announced today.

A Bill that everyone in the energy sector knows is a political gimmick. 

And that even the Energy Secretary admits will not take a single penny off anyone’s bills.

I don’t know which of his seven bins, the Prime Minister chucked her meat tax in but this one will follow soon. 

Nonetheless, it’s a gimmick that tells a story.

A King’s speech with no concern for the national interest, wallowing in a pessimism that says the hard road to a better future isn’t for Britain. It’s been this way for 13 years now.

A failure to seize the opportunities, perhaps even to see the opportunities.

Working people hit – because they didn’t build the gas storage.

They didn’t invest in clean British energy. They scrapped home insulation. And they’re doing it all again.

Moving the targets back, passing it on to the next generation, even as costs rise and rise. 

Sticking plaster politics.

An approach as riven through the foundations of our security as the crumbling concrete in our schools.

The never-ending cycle of Tory Britain: party first, country second.

Drift. Stagnate. Decline.

We have to turn the page on this, Mr Speaker. 

They are wrong about clean energy. 

It is cheaper, it is British, and it can give us real security from tyrants like Putin.

But more importantly – they are wrong about Britain.

We canwin the race for the jobs of tomorrow, we can work, hand in glove, with the private sector, and invest in the critical infrastructure – the gigafactories, the new ports, the clean British steel, that can once again, light the fire of renewal in Britain’s industrial communities.

Today was the day we could have struck the match on that light, embraced a new sense of mission, and tackled the cost-of-living crisis with a new plan for growth.

It was a chance to get Britain building again, take back our streets, get our NHS back on its feet, deliver cheaper bills and real energy security, and tear down the barriers to opportunity.

But Mr. Speaker, for the fourteenth year in a row, the Government passed it up, severed its relationship with Britain’s future, and gave up on the national interest. 

Because what this address shows, with ever more clarity, is that the only fight left in them is the fight for their own skin.

A government that has given up, dragging Britain down with them, ever more steadily, towards decline.

A day, when it became crystal clear that the change Britain needs is from Tory decline to Labour renewal.