Below is the text of the maiden speech made by John Tomlinson, the then Labour MP for Meriden, in the House of Commons on 13 March 1974.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) will excuse me if I do not follow him, but I am privileged to have the opportunity to make my first speech in the House and wish to follow tradition by referring to my constituency.
It is not merely the largest in the country; it is also at the centre of England. Many people in my constituency are too modest to say what they already know; namely, that the rest of England revolves around them. Meriden has been well served by its Members of Parliament. The late Chris Rowland served the House and the constituency well and is still affectionately remembered in the constituency by all who knew him for the work he did. My immediate predecessor, Mr. Keith Speed, was also renowned for his diligence in dealing with constituency matters, and this held him in high esteem throughout the constituency.
My constituency has many facets to commend it. There is, for example, the new and extensive development outside Birmingham at Chelmsley Wood and Kingshurst, which, while magnificent, would be much enhanced if we were to get a swimming pool for which we have been fighting for many years. Many electors in my constituency work in the great conurbations surrounding Birmingham to the west and Coventry to the east. Between these two extremes we have a constituency which is tremendously diverse. It contains three coal mines—Baddesley, Daw Mill and Birch Coppice.
Miners, and the rest of the community in my constituency, are pleased to note the speed with which the Government have managed to settle the mining dispute, which many of my constituents felt should never have taken place. My constituents are not only pleased that the dispute has been ended so speedily; they they are also pleased that, following the speedy cessation of the dispute, the rest of the country has managed to revert to normal working. My constituency is grateful for Government action which has so far been taken in this respect.
In the centre of the constituency is Meriden village, where some of the world’s finest motor cycles are manufactured at the Triumph motor cycle works. I am pleased that we now have a Minister who is prepared to do something about the serious situation at the Triumph works—namely, the arbitrary attempt to close the factory. This has been resisted by employees who are in the process of forming a workers’ co-operative, which, it is hoped, will be established. I welcome the discussions on the co-operative development agency, and I look forward to sympathetic understanding from the Government regarding the problems of the workers at the motor cycle works. It would be a tragedy of enormous magnitude—not only in employment terms but also in terms of national resources which would be lost—if the works closed.
Closure would be particularly tragic when it is borne in mind that most of the production at the works is for export. I look forward to Government support in the months ahead in ensuring that this great venture in industrial participation gets off the ground.
My constituency is also concerned about the balance of payments problem. A number of hon. Members have spoken of the need to improve industrial productivity. I agree with this and with some of the measures which have been suggested to stimulate industrial productivity. I welcome the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act and the measures which will replace it and which will stimulate an atmosphere which will be more conducive to better industrial relations.
The need to expand industrial productivity has been emphasised, but many people in my constituency are also concerned that drastic measures should be taken to promote import-saving industries. In my constituency many people are dependent on agriculture. Stimulation of an import-saving industry such as agriculture is equally as important as stimulation of industries which will lead to expansion of exports. Agriculture is a vital industry to my constituency, and the problems of agriculture, particularly the present plight of pig producers, have already been brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries by one of my constituents, Sir Henry Plumb, president of the National Farmers Union. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture will find time to look at the problems of the industry.
My constituents join with me in welcoming the Gracious Speech and the fact that it deals with the real problems which we have to face. Nearly half the people in my constituency live in rented accommodation. Thus, there has been great delight in Meriden over the speedy way the Government have tackled the Housing Finance Act, which has placed unnecessary burdens on many people and led to unnecessary inflationary pressures. My constituents welcome the repeal of the Housing Finance Act, and they are pleased with the Government’s speedy action to freeze rents for the remainder of this year.
Proposals in the Gracious Speech for improving pensions are welcome, as are many other measures.
The Gracious Speech contains proposals which will deal with the interests of the whole community and considerably benefit the people I represent. On their behalf I welcome these proposals.
I thank the House for its indulgence and for the way it has received me. I hope I shall have an opportunity to catch Mr. Speaker’s eye on future occasions so as to address the House on, perhaps, more controversial issues of concern to my constituents.