King Charles III came to parliament to give his first King’s Speech. Over the past 14 months, His Majesty has always acted with dignity, gravitas and compassion both here in the UK and on his overseas visits. History, and lessons from other countries, show that transferring a crown from one monarch to another can be deeply unsettling for a nation and lead to great uncertainty. But His Majesty has been remarkable, ensuring the transfer of the monarchy has been delivered with certainty and stability. I spoke in the debate that followed his speech, expressing gratitude for his service.
The King’s Speech sets out the Government’s agenda for the year ahead. A major thread was security which was mentioned nine times, including health and security; financial security; energy security; security for leaseholders; national security; and security across the world.
Having spent my childhood in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and worked at the top of Canary Wharf tower during 9/11, I have always hoped that my children would grow up in a more peaceful and secure world. I do not think that I have seen global security in such a precarious state as it is now for at least two decades.
There remains huge focus on the situation in the Middle East. The loss of civilian lives since October 7th in Israel and Palestine has been beyond horror and everyone, including myself, wants the killing to stop. The statement by Hamas that they will not stop until the population of Israel is annihilated is deeply chilling. In the House of Commons on Wednesday, I said that Israel must also be seen to be taking precautions to prevent loss of civilian lives and re-iterated the need for pauses in fighting to allow aid to get in and people to get out.
The focus on the Middle East risks drawing attention away from other conflicts, including the war in Ukraine. In Parliament, I hosted a meeting for members of the Darfur diaspora in the UK to meet with MPs. The Darfur region of Sudan has witnessed genocide in the past. Last weekend over seven hundred men from the Masalit tribe were rounded up by members of the Rapid Support Forces and local militia and killed. There are signs that systemic ethnic cleansing is happening again. The continuing war in Sudan is also contributing to further instability in North Africa and the Middle East.
Insecurity overseas leads to instability in the UK. We have seen this most acutely in energy prices. I joined other members of the Energy Security and Net Zero Select Committee questioning the Secretary of State on detailed policy. We do need oil and gas as part of our transition towards cleaner energy. It important that the UK supports our own domestic sources of this energy whilst also continuing to focus on delivering renewables, nuclear, hydrogen and other infrastructure.
In Chelmsford, I went to see the massive infrastructure project that is being undertaken to complete our second railway station at Beaulieu Park. Platforms two and three north side of the line are now nearly complete, and the new track has been laid between them. The coming weekends and the period between Christmas and New Year are critical, each hour has been planned out in meticulous detail. If all goes according to schedule then, from January, trains will start to use these new tracks so that work can commence on delivering platform one which is on the south side of the site.
At a time when so many people across the world face violence and oppression, it is doubly important to remember those who have laid down their lives to fight for our freedom and thank those who serve in our armed forces.
I stood with Galleywood residents as they gathered together for a moving ceremony at their war memorial at the 11th hour on the 11th November. I joined supporters of Chelmsford Women’s Rugby. The team captain, Ella, works at the Army Museum in London.
I was honoured to escort Brian, an army veteran, as he laid a wreath at the start of the Chelmsford City Football Club match. Brian, an amputee, is supported by Blesma, the charity for Limbless Veterans, that is head quartered in Chelmsford. In the evening, I drove out to Chelmsford City Racecourse, where a special Remembrance Raceday was held. This was arranged in partnership with the Royal British Legion, a military band played and the Wimbish Military Wives Choir sang most movingly. The fifth race was dedicated to the Blesma Charity, on behalf of the people of Chelmsford I presented the trophy to the winner.
I would like to thank everyone who took part in the Remembrance service at Chelmsford’s War Memorial on Sunday, especially the veterans, the standard bearers, cadets, representatives of all faiths and the organisers. It is always a deeply moving service, but, this year, as we stood in the rain holding the silence together, it felt especially poignant.