I write this while returning from a trip to the Indo-Pacific in my role as Minister for the Armed Forces. It has been a pleasure to visit our outstanding servicepeople stationed in the region, and to meet with my counterparts in Singapore, Fiji Australia and Malaysia.
Building on our long-term friendships is extremely important in the Twenty First Century world order, and as we look to learn the lessons from the conflict in Ukraine, it is essential that we continue to champion our shared values and closeness in our defence strategies. My conversations gave me great confidence that our deepening bi-lateral relationships in the region will bring long-term benefits for defence cooperation.
Summer recess in Parliament has now also begun, with the House rising on Friday to coincide with the end of the school term. Last week I praised the excellent work of our teachers and students this year, who I hope are all now enjoying a thoroughly well-deserved holiday period.
I would also like to congratulate my new colleague, Sarah Dyke MP, who will be joining me in representing Somerset in the House of Commons when the House sits again in September after winning the by-election in Somerton and Frome.
This is also an appropriate time to reflect on the work that has been done during this Parliament, as the Government has sought to address our five key priorities of halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists, and stopping illegal channel crossings.
In recent weeks inflation has started to fall and we have seen economic forecasts beginning to brighten, we’ve negotiated public sector pay settlements and published an ambitious long-term plan for reforming the NHS workforce, and the Illegal Migration Act has now achieved Royal Assent, making it easier to prevent and deter unlawful migration, and in particular migration by unsafe routes.
As the country has continued to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and we have sought to the tackle the intense global cost of living crisis – which was in no small part exacerbated by President Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine – we have made some important progress towards addressing these priorities over the last year, and this hard work will no doubt continue over the summer.