Jeremy Hanley – 1983 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Jeremy Hanley, the then Conservative MP for Richmond and Barnes, on 1 July 1983.

I thank you sincerely, Mr. Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech in this historic place, and I thank the Minister for his kind remarks.
Richmond and Barnes is a new, enlarged constituency, containing the well-known communities of Barnes in the north-east, Mortlake, Palewell, East Sheen, Kew, Richmond, Petersham, Ham in the south and St. Margaret’s and east Twickenham, north of the Thames. It is now the only London constituency which spans that great river, and a greater utilisation of it, coupled with the preservation of its beauty, will be one of my regular pleas in this House.

I pay tribute to my predecessor as the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey, Sir Anthony Royle. He served his constituency for nearly 25 years and was also Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 1970 to 1974. His wisdom and guidance over the last two years were instrumental in my being here. Many things are said by many people—perhaps occasionally with a political axe to grind—but I must set the record straight concerning that gentleman.

During the last two years I have met literally hundreds of people to whom Sir Anthony had given help and they would willingly walk to the end of the earth for him. If people called on him and he believed they were genuinely in need, he would unstintingly seek a satisfactory solution, but, unlike certain cynical politicians, Sir Anthony would never parade his constituents’ problems through the press. That, for him, would have been a breach of privacy and honour.

There were, of course, thousands of people who never needed to seek out Sir Anthony for help and therefore had no evidence of his care and concern, but there are nearly 100 new Conservative Members of this House who would vouch for his labours, because for the last four years he has been the vice-chairman of the Conservative party, with responsibility for candidates. During that time he has radically changed the selection and training system.

Perhaps only time will tell whether the new intake will be of particularly good vintage, but I believe that it will be, and that, far from some of the more spectacular and lurid speculations made by less well-researched journalists—and, indeed, the Opposition—the new Members, in my experience, are almost exclusively men and women of compassion, loyalty and dedication, possessing simple common sense and energy. That is Sir Anthony’s doing.

I must also pay tribute, on behalf of those in east Twickenham and St. Margaret’s, to their previous Member of Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel). That he should lose, through redistribution, his east Twickenham ward, and the constituents for whom he cared for 13 years, was a great distress to him. His record as one of the very best constituency Members for exposing and fighting those matters that affect the peace and environment of those who are his responsibility is, quite literally, an inspiration to me. I hope that we may, as brother Members for the same borough, work together for the mutual benefit of the nearly 200,000 people whom we represent. I have much to learn from him, and I offer him my deep gratitude for his willingness to help me.

Tributes are deemed to be traditional, but I hope that I shall be permitted to pay a less conventional compliment. My opponents in the general election were men of the highest integrity and a credit to their respective parties. Their attitude throughout the last few months and years, their co-operation on matters of community interest, and their willingness to work with me rather than against, have constructively caused local wrongs to be put right wherever possible. Co-operation between political rivals — unfortunately by no means commonplace — can produce a combined weight against which it is hard to resist.

On the Richmond Royal hospital, on London Transport’s bus policy, on Windham road nursery school, on aircraft noise and on Richmond’s traffic blight, we have fought our battles together. That has meant that the campaign in Richmond was, if anything, more healing than divisive. It also helps that whoever won the battle could feel that he had the support of the whole community, not merely the party of his preference.

We candidates had many differences in political and social policies, some of them diametrically opposed, but it is pointless in politics to strike a pose, purely to propose some separate dogma, when co-operation can achieve so much. I hope that all my constituents will know that I am open and willing to hear their problems, as I intend to serve their constituency in the way that I believe it deserves.

We are fortunate in Richmond and Barnes that, in addition to being one of the most historic parts of London and Surrey, we have 21 miles of river frontage, 743 acres of urban parks and open spaces and, indeed, the highest number of conservation areas in London. That is in addition to the Royal parks and Kew gardens. The greatest pleasure to be derived from those enormous benefits is in quiet enjoyment of the facilities offered, but quiet enjoyment is what we sadly lack.

While it is a beautiful area in many ways, the immediate impression of Richmond and Barnes is scarred by the inordinate and constant noise from road traffic and from the air. The blight to the area caused by the south circular road, the constant landing of aircraft at Heathrow, flying directly down the line of the upper Richmond road west, and the ever-increasing helicopter noise, causes conversation in the street to be rendered impossible for more than a few moments at a time. A casual meeting of neighbours in Sheen or Palewell is more often accompanied by nods and waves than by words.

In my 10 years of political experience, I have met my various opponents on many platforms and experienced a wide range of opinions and views, often vociferously put, but since coming to Richmond I have never known an issue to unite people of different political persuasions so closely as that of aircraft and traffic noise. On Saturday 5 March 1983, the threat of a possible fifth terminal at Heathrow caused all three political parties to unite in a march to show our strength of feeling. I am not one to take to the streets with banners raised at every opportunity—and, indeed, believe that little good usually comes from such protest—but I was moved in that instance to give my active support, and that of my wife and family, to demonstrate that political barriers had been dropped and that the community as a whole was moved to join together. The support of those along the route was indeed heartening, and those who listened to our speeches later in the centre of Richmond gave us evidence that our complaint was shared by people who would not normally have been moved to protest. Incidentally, during our march of three miles, my younger son counted 32 aeroplanes of varying sizes flying directly overhead. That made the decision to take to the streets that much more rational. Hardly any of the Conservatives in our contingent had ever joined such an event before.

Quite apart from the countless letters that my predecessor Sir Anthony Royle received over the years on the subject, already in nearly two years I have had over 200 letters complaining about aircraft noise, and that must be the tip of the iceberg. Wherever I go in my constituency, whenever I speak to constituents, aircraft noise is second only to traffic noise and volume as a reason for complaint. That we are used to it, as British Airways seems to believe, I refute. We might accept our experience as being unavoidable, but we shall never become used to it and will always pray for its reduction. With summer here, during a hot and airless night it is impossible for almost half my constituents to open their windows, because 15 to 25 aeroplanes destroy the peace which we believe to be ours by right when trying to sleep.

Humphrey Atkins – 1983 Speech at Election of the Speaker

Below is the text of the speech made by Humphrey Atkins, the Conservative MP for Spelthorne, in the House of Commons on 15 June 1983. He was speaking in support of Bernard Weatherill becoming the Speaker of the House of Commons.

First, Mr. Callaghan, I welcome you to your new role as Father of the House. A great many Members have held it before you, Mr. Callaghan but, while it is not unprecedented, it is rare that anyone comes to it with such a distinguished record of public service in so many of the highest offices of State. As one who arrived both in the world and in the House 10 years after you, Mr. Callaghan, I congratulate you.

As we have just heard, it is always the first duty of a new House of Commons to elect a Speaker, and I beg to move, That the right hon. Bernard Weatherill do take the Chair of this House as Speaker. I could easily list all the qualities that we require of our Speaker, but I do not intend to do so. It would take too long and, in any event, hon. Members are as well aware of them as I am. However, I shall refer briefly to three of the Aides and one of the burdens that we place upon our Speaker.

First and foremost, the Speaker is the sole guardian of that most precious of rights that each of us has the moment we are elected to this place—the right to state our point of view and to have it heard. It does not matter whether that view is generally acceptable or whether we are in a minority, even a minority, of one.

If we are in that position, only the Speaker will help us. We have been fortunate in the House of Commons for far more years than any of us here can remember in having a succession of Speakers who have upheld that right and made this Chamber the envy of the world. That right must never be allowed to disappear.

Secondly, the Speaker has to be at one and the same time both our servant and our master. We and our predecessors have laid down a long series of rules for the orderly conduct of our affairs. The Speaker cannot change them by so much as a comma. He is entirely bound by them, but he has to be ready at a moment’s notice to interpret them, sometimes in the face of the most 3 ingenious arguments, and, having interpreted them, to enforce them. Only someone who has the respect and good will of the House as a whole can possibly hope to do that.

The third duty is one that I think is new to the third quarter of the 20th century. Now that some of our proceedings are broadcast on the radio, far more people than ever before have the opportunity of hearing our debates. As everyone knows, the public reaction is not as favourable as we should all like. That is not altogether surprising, for we have always been an unruly lot when our passions are high. However, the one person who more than any of the rest of us in the House affects the world outside is our Speaker. If he is calm, courteous and firm, the good name and dignity of Parliament are restored, and each of us is the beneficiary of that.

The worst of the burdens that we place upon the Speaker is that of loneliness. He is one of us and yet he is not. The Speaker is always someone who has spent years in this place doing what we all do—making friends with our colleagues, talking informally with them in the Tea Room or in the Corridor, eating together and sometimes, possibly, even drinking together. It must be a great trial for someone who has been accustomed to all this to cut himself off to a great extent, as Mr. Speaker must necessarily do. We must be grateful to anyone who is prepared to do it, and we have such a one.

Perhaps I can claim to know my right hon. Friend—I expect that this is the last time that I can call him that here—as well as any right hon. or hon. Member. Those who were in this place before 1979 will know that he and I worked together for nearly 12 years. For the last five of those years we worked together especially closely. Certainly, we were working on the business of only one party in the House, our own party, but I can truthfully say how often I was amazed at the time by the trouble and the care that my colleague took to help members of our party, especially those who felt that they were being neglected or that the Government were not listening properly to their ideas. He could be firm, too, as Deputy Chief Whips sometimes have to be. I can tell the House that never in all that time did I hear him get angry, lose his temper, or even raise his voice, even though sometimes the provocation was great.

During that time the right hon. Member served the House, too, most notably on one of the Committees that was responsible to the then Speaker and whose main interest was the safety, comfort and convenience of all right hon. and hon. Members.

Some might think that a long period of such service to one party is not the ideal background to serving as Mr. Speaker, but every Speaker in one way or another has had that background. Furthermore, as everyone who was a Member of this place during the last Parliament will know, the right hon. Member has already proved by four years’ service as Chairman of Ways and Means that a long period of service is not a bar. I believe that he has shown all the qualities that we want in our Speaker—knowledge of our procedures, recognition of the need to protect the rights of minorities, firmness where necessary, fairness, and always courtesy. To those who know the right hon. Member that is no surprise, for if he has one quality that stands above all others it is his readiness to serve our 4 parliamentary democracy, to serve it in whatever capacity is asked of him. I believe that he will serve us well as our Speaker.

I hope that the House will approve my motion with as much enthusiasm as I have in moving it.

Eric Forth – 1983 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Eric Forth, the then Conservative MP for Mid-Worcestershire, in the House of Commons on 9 December 1983.

As I address the House for the first time, I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members who take a pride in identifying accents will quickly recognise that I have the honour to represent the new Mid-Worcestershire constituency.

I am delighted to be able to pay tribute to my predecessor in that constituency—Sir Herbert Whitely—who represented it from 1916. I suspect that even senior right hon. and hon. Members will not remember him. Although he is strictly my immediate predecessor it gives me greater pleasure to pay tribute to those from whom I have inherited my constituency. The first is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, who now represents the Worcester constituency, who is a distinguished member of the Cabinet and for some 22 years assiduously represented a part of what is now my constituency. The second is my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Miller) who is a distinguished Back Bencher of great integrity who has worked hard on behalf of the people of Redditch. I am aware that I shall find it difficult to follow my distinguished colleagues, but I shall do my best to try to maintain their standards of representation.

My constituency was originally to have been named Redditch and Droitwich as those towns comprise about 85 per cent. of the electorate in Mid-Worcestershire. Redditch is one of the best examples of a new town. It is well planned and well built and has moved away from its traditional industry of needle making. It has diversified into several light industries and is ideally poised in the midlands to take advantage of the economic recovery that we are now experiencing. Droitwich has Roman origins and is now working hard to develop its tourist industry on the basis of its spa and the brine baths which were the origin of the salt industry on which it lived for many centuries.

I cannot leave the subject of my constituency without mentioning some of the villages. Hartlebury, Ombersley, Himbleton, Fernhill Heath and many others make up the new constituency of Mid-Worcestershire in the heart of England.

It gives me great pleasure to address the House for the first time during this debate as the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) was my opponent in the two general elections of 1974. Although it has taken me nine years to catch up with her, I am delighted to participate in this debate. I must crave some indulgence of the House as it is remarkably difficult to be uncontroversial in a maiden on sex. I might try the patience of right hon. and hon. Members almost beyond endurance. If I stray across some of the conventions of the House I hope that I shall be forgiven, but that is almost inevitable when making a maiden speech on this subject.

In many ways, the Bill epitomises one of the regrettable tendencies of politics today — the increasing gulf between rhetoric and aspirations on the one hand and reality and practicality on the other. It is most unfortunate that politicians of all parties feel obliged or tempted increasingly to claim what they will or intend to do whereas in reality they are quite unable to live up to or deliver what they promise. The Bill is a perfect example of that. We are now in the difficult and delicate business of attempting to legislate for human behaviour. We are in danger of adding to the behavioural interference industry which is already established in Britain.

I refer, for example, to the Equal Opportunities Commission which already costs about £3 million a year to run and the Commission for Racial Equality which costs about £8 million. The Bill proposes to add to that cost although experience in many other parts of the world, such as Title 7 in California, has shown that such attempts fail. Such measures have disappeared in a welter of argument and counter-argument from which the only beneficiary is the legal profession. There is a serious risk that what the Bill proposes will end up in much the same way.

The Bill will also add serious additional burdens to those already faced by industry when we are worried about employment. We all want industry to be helped as much as possible to provide more jobs. Anything which prejudices that must be examined carefully and sceptically. Many of the Bill’s provisions would seriously prejudice industry’s ability to be flexible, meet the needs of the future and provide employment. In that regard, I refer to one of the most difficult provisions in the Bill—the attempt to give home workers equal status with other employees. Such a provision would seriously prejudice the employment opportunities which are available to those who work at home. Moreover, it would create serious difficulties for employers who use home workers extensively. If such a provision were accepted, we should have to ensure that all of the health and safety at work provisions and the rest were implemented in every home where people work. If we impose one provision, we must impose them all. Following that line of argument, it is already obvious that we shall have great difficulty in implementing such a provision properly. There is also a danger of giving people false hopes that we shall improve something when we are patently unable to do so.

The provision of paternity leave would also put a heavy burden on industry. Annual reporting to the commission would create more bureaucracy when we are trying to reduce the burden of paperwork on industry. Providing that arrears should be paid as far back as 1976 could also be a heavy burden.

The hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) mentioned sexist calendars. This is a serious question. Are we contemplating making illegal calendars that portray men, women or anything else, and preventing them from being shown in places of work? That is the implication of what the hon. Lady said, If we are to make words such as “waiter” and “stewardess” illegal or the basis of a case for discrimination, that is going much too far in the direction of trying to legislate for behaviour and the way in which people speak.

However well intentioned, the Bill is yet another step along the road to additional bureaucracy and burdens on industry. It will not achieve its aim, but will be counterproductive. Living as I do in a society in which the Queen, the Prime Minister, my wife, my daughters and my mother are all female, I still find it in my heart to oppose the Bill.

Margaret Thatcher – 1983 Statement on Falkland Islands Report


Below is the text of the statement made by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 18 January 1983.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about the report of the Falkland Islands review committee.

The House will remember that I announced the setting up of the review committee in July 1982, after consultation with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and with leading Privy Councillors in other parties. At that time I expressed the hope that the committee would be be able to complete its work within six months.

The committee has justified that hope. I received its report on 31 December 1982, and I am presenting it to Parliament as a Command Paper this afternoon. Copies are now available in the Vote Office.

I should like to express the Government’s gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and to his colleagues for the amount of time and effort which they have devoted to producing such a thorough and comprehensive report in so short a time.

The report makes it clear that the committee was provided with all the papers relevant to its terms of reference, including a comprehensive collection of reports from the intelligence agencies. The committee’s report contains a number of references to intelligence matters which would not in other circumstances be divulged. These references are essential for a full understanding of the matters into which the committee was asked to enquire, and the Government have agreed that the public interest requires that on this occasion the normal rule against public reference to the intelligence organisation or to material derived from intelligence reports should be waived.

The Government have, however, agreed with Lord Franks amendments to certain of the references to intelligence reports with a view to minimising potential damage to British intelligence interests. Lord Franks has authorised me to tell the House that he agrees that, first, all the references to intelligence reports included in the committee’s report as submitted have been retained in the report as presented to Parliament, most of them without amendment; secondly, none of the amendments that have been made alters the sense, substance or emphasis of the reference to the intelligence report concerned, or removes anything of significance to the committee’s account of the matters referred to it or to its findings and conclusions; thirdly, apart from those agreed amendments, no other deletions or amendments have been made to the committee’s report as submitted.

The report is unanimous and is signed by all the members of the committee without qualification. It falls into four chapters. The first gives an account of the dispute from 1965—when the issue was first brought formally to international attention by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations—to May 1979.

The second chapter covers the period from May 1979 to 19 March 1982. The third deals with the fortnight from 19 March to 2 April 1982, which included the South Georgia incident and which led up to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. The fourth and final chapter deals with the way in which the Government discharged their responsibilities in the period leading up to the invasion. There are six annexes, the first of which deals with 10 specific assertions that have been made by some who have commented on the matters in question.

In the fourth chapter of the report—that is, the one that deals with the way Government discharged their responsibilities—the committee notes a number of points where, in its judgment, different decisions might have been taken, fuller consideration of alternative courses of action might have been advantageous, and the machinery of government could have been better used. That chapter defines and addresses itself to two crucial questions: first, could the Government have foreseen the invasion of 2 April 1982; secondly, could the Government have prevented the invasion?

The committee emphasises that its report should be read as a whole. At this stage, therefore, I shall do no more than quote the committee’s conclusions on those two crucial questions. On the first question, whether the Government could have foreseen the invasion of 2 April, the committee’s conclusion is: In the light of this evidence, we are satisfied that the Government did not have warning of the decision to invade. The evidence of the timing of the decision taken by the Junta shows that the Government not only did not, but could not, have had earlier warning. The invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April could not have been foreseen. I have quoted the whole of paragraph 266.

On the second question, whether the Government could have prevented the invasion, the committee’s conclusion, contained in the final paragraph of the report, is: Against this background we have pointed out in this Chapter where different decisions might have been taken, where fuller consideration of alternative courses of action might, in our opinion, have been advantageous, and where the machinery of Government could have been better used. But, if the British Government had acted differently in the ways we have indicated, it is impossible to judge what the impact on the Argentine Government or the implications for the course of events might have been. There is no reasonable basis for any suggestion—which would be purely hypothetical—that the invasion would have been prevented if the Government had acted in the ways indicated in our report. Taking account of these considerations, and of all the evidence we have received, we conclude that we would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government.

May I finish the conclusion of the Franks Committee? It was its conclusion and has nothing to do with the Government. It said: we conclude that we would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government for the Argentine Junta’s decision to commit its act of unprovoked aggression in the invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982. I have quoted in full the final paragraph of the Franks report.

Time will, of course, be found for an early debate, and that will be discussed through the usual channels. The Government will welcome an early opportunity of discussing the matters contained in the report more thoroughly than is possible this afternoon.

Francis Maude – 1983 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Francis Maude
Francis Maude

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Francis Maude in the House of Commons on 27th October 1983.

I cannot hope to match the rhetoric of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden), who spoke with great passion. I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity in this debate to make my maiden speech. I am not quite the last of the new intake of Members to get off the mark, though the list of those who have not done so is gradually diminishing.

My constituency is more recreated than new. It has been absent from the political map of Great Britain for about 98 years. It disappeared under the hand of the Boundary Commission of 1885. I would be delighted to follow the convention of paying tribute to my predecessors from that time, but, even in the healthy climes of Warwickshire, North, I have not been able to find anyone who remembers them.

Warwickshire, North was created from two previous parliamentary seats—the old seat of Meriden and the old seat of Nuneaton. It has been used to a high standard of parliamentary representation. The old seat of Meriden was one of the most marginal seats in Britain and changed sides politically at each election. It had a series of talented and hard-working Members of Parliament, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed), my hon. Friend the Member for the new seat of Meriden (Mr. Mills) and, between them, Mr. John Tomlinson, who was my Labour opponent in June. All three of them served their constituencies and the House with distinction. They worked for their constituents most conscientiously and all are remembered in Warwickshire, North with gratitude and affection.

The Member who represented the old Nuneaton constituency, from which I have the town of Bedworth, was Mr. Les Huckfield, who I believe worked hard for his constituents wherever they were. I am sure that he will make his involuntary absence from the House a temporary one.

It is customary to talk about one’s constituency and I find it a pleasure to do so. It is in the area of the west midlands which is precariously balanced between but excluding Birmingham, Coventry, Nuneaton and Tamworth. It contains a wide range of activities and occupations. There is an example of virtually everything except, I think, deep-sea fishing. There are four flourishing coalmines with industrious and extremely realistic work forces. There are many square miles of extremely efficiently husbanded farmland. There is a multitude of small, specialised and innovative engineering firms, about whose interests I shall have much to say on other occasions. It contains a number of towns and villages which are expanding and which are providing housing for people working in Birmingham and Coventry. All in all, it is a demanding, stimulating and delightful constituency which I am proud to represent.

The Health Service is increasingly perceived not to be short of resources. There is a mismatch between needs and resources. This explains the apparent paradox that there are too many acute hospital beds while there are still long but, I am glad to say, decreasing waiting lists. There are thousands of beds in acute hospitals that are not being used by those who need acute medicinal care.

About 20 years ago provision was made for people not in need of acute care in cottage hospitals, which we now have to call community hospitals. Nursing care was provided with overall medical supervision from general practitioners. In our wisdom, we chose to get rid of them, but they had many advantages. I believe that in future we shall have to look towards that sort of provision if we are to match needs to resources. The cottage hospitals were cheap to run and they were local. That was especially important in rural areas where people wanted to visit elderly relatives in hospital. The fact that they were close to the areas that they served was an enormous advantage. They were small and because of that they were efficient and cheap to run.

The problem is to decide how we shall pay for that sort of hospital. We must look to much more effective management of resources within the Health Service. There are many parts of the service which are overmanned and it is folly to ignore that unfortunate fact. These areas are not overmanned only by ancillary workers. In some parts of the service there is an over-provision of medical resources and, as I have said, we must match resources to needs.

There is a massive inertia built into the present NHS management structure. I served for a short period as a member of a district health authority shortly after the reorganisation of the NHS. It took an extraordinarily long time for any changes to be made. I believe that the fault lay with the system of consensus management which arose in the early 1970s. No one person carried final responsibility for what actually happened. Members of the district management team took it in turns to act as chairman of the team, and that meant that the system had inefficiency built deep into its structure. I am delighted that the Griffiths report recommends the appointment of chief executives and general managers, who will carry the can for the units that they run. This is an essential step if we are to get inefficiency out of the system.

Many part-time members of district health authorities do a good job, but even those with a will to do so have difficulty in rooting out inefficiency. They do not have the time to do so and in many instances management is incapable of providing the information on which they need to act. It came as no surprise to some of us that in the recent review a number of authorities were unable to provide figures and information on the number of people that they employed. If anyone in the private sector tried to run a business in that way, he would not be around for long. It is astonishing that such a situation was allowed to continue for so long. It is a source of delight to me—and it should be to the entire House—that dramatic and radical action is being taken to improve the level of efficiency of management.

There exists an attitude which has fossilised the way in which we view the National Health Service. The idea seems to be propounded by Opposition Members that it is uncaring and uncompassionate even to contemplate the possibility that the Health Service is working at less than full efficiency. It is as though, in allocating money to the Health Service, one puts a label on it saying “NHS”, and then one cannot follow where it goes. One cannot find out how it is spent. One assumes that because it goes to the Health Service it is automatically going to a good cause. One does not improve the Health Service just by pumping in money to make the statistics look better. The Health Service exists to provide a service to patients, and we must make sure that the money goes where it is needed.

It is therefore folly, when a private contractor can provide an ancillary service better than the direct labour force, to set one’s face against it. The right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) made a number of points in his passionate speech about the way in which private contractors can operate. One cannot guarantee that a private contractor will provide a perfect service, any more than one can guarantee that a direct labour force will provide an adequate and efficient service. The difference is that if a private contractor falls down on the job it is possible to replace him immediately. As the privatisation of ancillary services develops, there will be an increasingly large number of firms which are able to take on the work at short notice. There will be competition and efficiency in those important services.

Discussions about the National Health Service have been surrounded for some years by a cloud of muddle and cant. Now we have to tackle the real problem, not so much of shortage of resources as of making sure that the resources we have go where they are needed. That is the challenge for the future, and it is a challenge that the House must face.

Clare Short – 1983 Maiden Speech in House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Clare Short in the House of Commons on 29th June 1983.

I am grateful for this chance to make my first speech, as I prefer to call it, in this House. I intend to follow tradition and speak about my constituency. However, it is impossible for me to follow the tradition of not being controversial, for what is happening in my constituency encapsulates much of the harm done to many parts of the country by the policies of the Conservative Government.

I wish first to pay tribute to my predecessor, Sheila Wright, who was the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth in the last Parliament. I am the Member for Ladywood and a large part of Handsworth has come into my constituency. Sheila Wright worked with me when I was a candidate and she was a Member of Parliament. For a long time she supported and helped me in my work. She is a friend of many years. She worked for the people of Handsworth for five years as a Member of Parliament and, before that, for 25 years as a councillor. The best tribute I can pay to her is the one that was paid during the election campaign by many people in the area who spoke warmly of her, sent their regards to her and remembered all the help she had given to them and their families.

It is a great honour for me to represent Ladywood in this House. It is an honour for all of us to represent our constituencies, but in my case there is an added honour in that I come from Ladywood. I was born there, grew up there, have many friends there and many members of my family live there. Therefore I care about my constituency with the intensity with which people care about the place from which they come. I make the pledge to my constituents that I shall work with all my ability and energy to represent and fight for their interests for as long as I am here.

The people of Ladywood are suffering terribly from the Government’s policies. According to the census of April 1981, Ladywood has the sixteenth worst unemployment in the British Isles. The male rate of unemployment then was 25 per cent. Unemployment in the country has doubled since then, and the male unemployment rate in my constituency is now 50 per cent. For school leavers it is 95 per cent. People say cynically that it cannot get much worse than being nearly 100 per cent. It can, because the period of unemployment is getting longer all the time; young people leave school and go on a YOP scheme—now being replaced by the youth training scheme, which will be no better, and in many ways will be worse, than the scheme it is replacing—and are then unemployed for ever-lengthening periods.

In Britain as a whole, two out of every three school leavers are unemployed, as are one in four of all under-20s and one in six under-25s. A whole generation is being blighted. Of the total unemployed, more than 1 million have been unemployed for one year or more and more than 500,000 for two years or more. They are living in grinding poverty, and the hopelessness they feel about their future is destructive and intolerable.

Long-term unemployment is growing faster for young people than for any other group. Of the 1 million who have been out of work for one year or more, 250,000 are under 25, and they comprise the group for whom long-term unemployment is growing fastest. That is damaging to the future of the nation. When we damage our youth, we damage ourselves.

Half the population of Ladywood is black and half is white, and we are nearly all immigrants. I am a child of Irish immigrants. The white community is made up of immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and many other parts of Britain who came to Birmingham in more prosperous days to seek a better life for themselves and their children.

The black population similarly came, more recently, from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Caribbean for exactly the same purpose. We are the same sort of people. We sought out our homes in the west midlands because we wanted to better our lives and those of our families.

Now, everything they hoped for and came to the west midlands to achieve is being snatched from them as a result of the collapse of the west midlands in the recent past. In the 1930s the west midlands escaped much of the suffering that went on in Britain. Today the west midlands symbolises the destruction that is being done to the British economy by Conservative policies.

We were told by the Prime Minister yesterday that recovery is patchy. Indeed it is; there are no signs of recovery in my constituency. As has happened in many other areas since the election, another major closure has been announced and unemployment is rising. It is not true to say that this amount of unemployment, misery and suffering is creating anything good. Nothing is coming out of it except pure destructiveness, and that is not only intolerable but stupid. It is said that productivity is going up. In fact, the less efficient firms are closing down; inevitably productivity goes up, but nothing new is created.

Investment is at an all-time low. That means that we are laying down nothing new for the future. We cannot secure a recovery and a better future without investment and that investment is not taking place. The money that is available is flowing out of Britain to invest in other countries. We have North Sea oil—we are lucky to have it—but it is being wasted. I understand that £17 billion a year is being poured down the drain merely to keep people unemployed. These people want to work. They want to be productive and we must recognise that a large part of the nation’s wealth is our people and their capacity to produce. We are arranging things in such a way that they cannot produce. We are damaging them and ourselves.

During the election campaign I was asked repeatedly, “Why are the Government doing this to us?” The people in the west midlands see clearly that there is destruction everywhere and that nothing new is replacing it. They said, “It is claimed that the Government’s policies are designed to reduce inflation but when we had inflation we all had incomes, our incomes increased and we lived better. We now have nothing and we still have inflation.” There are two rates of inflation in Britain and the one for the poor— for those who live in council houses, for example—is still increasing. Nothing is coming out of the Government’s policies.

The right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), the former Secretary of State for Transport, said that we must get rid of inflation to create jobs, but that is not true. Inflation has been decreasing and more jobs have been destroyed. We have seen that happen in the recent past and we know that we are not creating jobs. The policy is not working.

In answer to the question that was put to me by my constituents, I explained, “We have an extremist and dogmatic Government who are deliberately using unemployment” — that is what monetarism is — “to reshape our society. They are using unemployment to frighten workers, destroy trade unions and cut wages. They have a vision of a more unequal society, a more competitive society. They say that from that will come more efficiency and, therefore, more economic prosperity.”

The people of Ladywood, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I reject the Government’s policies. We do not want the future that they hold before us. It is not acceptable to us and, what is more, it is not even working.

We frequently hear the excuse that the problem in Britain is the problem of the international economy, over which we have no control. It is clear from OECD figures and American Bureau of Labour statistics that unemployment in Britain has increased massively faster than in any other industrialised country. Britain led the world into recession, but an international recession is made up of individual national recessions. If in turn we each throw our economies into recession, we shall have, of course, a great international recession. We started it and similar policies to ours have been pursued in the United States of America.

We can now start to undo the recession. We can work with international partners to change the world economy. There should be no excuse there. There can be jobs for all, and it is our duty and obligation to organise our society in such a way that everyone can work, make a contribution and get a decent income. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

There are nine old people’s homes in my constituency, and I visited them all during the election campaign. They are all desperately short of staff. There are nine old people’s homes in a sea of unemployment. People are queuing for jobs all around them, but those responsible for running the homes are not allowed to employ more staff to take care of the elderly. That is the result of public expenditure cuts. Pretence is made that cuts in public expenditure are cuts in bureaucrats but that is not so. The cuts lead to reductions in the staff who can care for the elderly and the very young. It is disgraceful and unnecessary.

The great sadness for the people of Ladywood is that they see what is going on in the knowledge that they have rejected it. However, they must continue to suffer because it seems that the rest of the country has to learn the hard way. The Government’s policies are not beneficial to any of us.

Racial equality is important to the people of Ladywood. As I have said, half of my constituents are black and half are white. However, we are united in our need for jobs, decent schools for our children, decent housing and proper health care. We need to respect one another. We must respect all the various racial groups in our society and we must work alongside one another, or it will not be a good place in which to live and work.

The black community in Ladywood has been undermined and hurt badly by the Government’s actions. The Nationality Act 1982, which was placed on the statute book in the previous Parliament, has made the black community feel insecure and unwanted. That includes the generation which came as immigrants and the generation that is growing up that was born in Britain. These people must be made welcome and be part of our society, or it will be dangerous for us all.

Black people, especially those who originated from the Indian subcontinent, are harassed constantly by disgraceful immigration procedures. Many of them have approached me already to make representations. There are families which want to look after their aging parents and which can afford to do so. They have a house and they want to care for them. However, we do not allow Asian families settled here and which are prosperous to look after their aging parents.

I am making representations to the Minister of State, Home Office about a case which encapsulates all that is wrong with our immigration procedures. It concerns an old man who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and the colonies. He fought for Britain in the first and second world wars. He was made a prisoner of war by the Japanese. He has come to Britain and has been refused entry. He is here on temporary admission while I make representations. That old man is shocked and astounded that the country that he respected, honoured, worked for and fought for will not allow him to come in as a visitor. That is what has been done to a large part of the population in my constituency and it is not good enough. It is not the behaviour of a civilised society and we can do better than that.

I shall draw my remarks to a conclusion in a form that will reflect part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), who was the Foreign Secretary in the previous Government. The Government must not think that their increased majority means that they have a mandate for their policies. They were given a smaller vote than that which the previous Government secured in 1979. They did not win a great victory in areas such as Ladywood, where more than 50 per cent. of the people are opposed to them. The intensity of that opposition is great. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Government are hated in my constituency, especially their leadership. People hate them with vigour. This is divisive, destructive and damaging to our society. If there are not changes, I fear for us all.

Simon Hughes – 1983 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Simon Hughes in the House of Commons on 21st March 1983.

I hope that it is significant that I utter my first words in the House on the first day of spring. The occasion may be doubly significant in that I follow not only to these Benches but in this debate a Member for the borough of Croydon. In 1949 Fenner Brockway wrote a biography of one of my most eminent predecessors, Dr. Salter, whom I believe you met, Mr. Speaker, before you were called to high office or had started on your journey to this place.

The borough from which my constituency takes its name was described by Fenner Brockway in 1949 as a backwater in the life of the metropolis”. I shall deal with the economics of the matter in a moment, but politically one thing seems sure. Not only is Bermondsey no longer a political backwater; it is arguable that today there runs through it the strongest current in British political life. That may be because over many years, and particularly since they have been closed, massive pressure has built up behind the dock gates that have represented the industry and the economy of that part of south-east London, and that pressure has found its escape at last.

In 1884 the Bill to establish separate parliamentary representation for Bermondsey was introduced in the House by the Liberal Adminstration. The issue which concerned the first Member for Parliament for the area was one that is as commonly discussed on these Benches today. It was the issue of electoral reform. Seventy-five years ago my Rotherhithe predecessor, Mr. Carr-Gomm, argued for the representation of workers on the Port of London Authority. The demand for the proper representation of workers on the seat of management has not been heeded as it might have been in the intervening time.

Sixty years ago, in 1923, in an address to the electors of Bermondsey before a campaign that was successful, but—perhaps I know the feeling—not originally expected to be so, a Methodist minister and Liberal candidate, Rev. Kedward said: The enemies are in front of us in plain sight: unemployment, poverty, sickness, bad housing; let us attack them with courage. He continued: There is no easy road to victory over such foes, no magic word which when uttered will banish cares for ever”. In the same year Dr. Salter made his maiden speech, calling for a national minimum wage and decent treatment for the people who start at the bottom of the heap. He said that in a civilised society every worker has a right to a living wage. That has been a principle, though not a practice, endorsed by Governments since then. He added that wages have now sunk for millions of our people below the subsistence level”. I use his words because they are no less appropriate today. He added that it is grossly unfair that the whole burden of that depreciation of the standard of life should be borne, as it is, by one class, and that the most helpless and the weakest class. If the country has to submit to a reduction of the standard of living, that should be universally applicable.”—[Official Report, 7 March 1923; Vol. 161, c. 627–36.] I listened to the Chancellor’s Budget statement last week, and I ask him this: where are the reforms of justice and the social progress of sympathetic and progressive economic management? Why will he not consider giving the security and hope that his long-suffering fellow citizens in the inner cities need to hear from this place? Why could he not promise that they, when qualified adults, would not be left behind in the struggle for survival, and often not just left behind but also left out? Why, after 60 years, could he not ensure that people received a decent minimum wage? If he wants to see a monument to his four years of economic policy, let him come and look at my constituency. The Chancellor’s Budget last week and the examples given by his colleague today reminded me, in a phrase that came to mind last Tuesday, of a Chancellor fiddling while Britain groaned.

My predecessor gave 36 years of distinguished service to the House and for much of that time served all the constituents whom I now have the honour to represent. He was joined in that task for a short time by my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), until my right hon. Friend’s seat was taken away by the process of democracy. In that election, in which my predecessor first stood as a candidate at Rotherhithe, there was one thing in common with my own—his Conservative opponent, like mine, lost his deposit. In a local election in Bermondsey two weeks after my own election, the Conservative vote fell yet again—this time to 3.6 per cent. The message is firm. The deserving people of the inner city are saying loud and clear that they have no trust in the Conservative Government.

In the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), there is a rumbling of discontent. I, too, rumble with discontent. I come here to share that anger and discontent. As in the city of Cardiff, which I know well, as do you, Mr. Speaker, and as does the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), male unemployment in my constituency is very high. In Southwark it is no less than 18.6 per cent.; yet the Chancellor holds back for a further seven months the restoration of the unemployment benefit abatement for those who need that money to live. Of all London’s ratepayers, the residents of Southwark pay the highest inner city rates. Non-domestic ratepayers pay 245p in the pound and, as in Cardiff, are daily being driven out of business. The borough has the worst record for empty properties and hard-to-let accommodation of any authority in London. The Opposition can take no comfort in that, as it is the Labour party which is responsible locally.

Just before I took my seat in the House there was a pensioners’ lobby here. One out of five of my constituents was represented by those who rightly came here to ask for a better deal. What do they receive in the Budget? The answer is a mean-minded and ill-timed administrative alteration in pensions that will lose 70p for a single person and 110p for a married couple every week. They receive no help with heating or standing charges and are still penalised if they receive income which is additional to their pension.

At the other end of the age scale, the young, with whom I have worked for a long time in this city, are job-starved, often educationally deprived, having left school before the statutory age, and look with little hope at the future of communities where they want to stay. Therefore, as in the past, they are soon forced out—and will continue to be so, whether it be on bicycles or whichever other form of transport the Government have not seen fit to provide.

Yesterday’s papers told us that the low-paid have lost at least £45 a year in real terms over the period of the past five Budgets. It is no benefit to them to know that people who earn £30,000 now get an extra £3,500 each year.

The economy of the past four years has done nothing for the inner city. That area is as bare, empty and lacking in progress as it was in 1979. Our people refuse to believe that there cannot be a better way. They also refuse to believe that they do not deserve a better way. I hope that I am not arrogant, but I am angry on their behalf. I am not only the newest but I am the youngest Opposition Member of this House. I am here to tell the House what people said by electing me three weeks ago. This waste and mismanagement of our resources, both human and natural, is, and I agree with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, not only unacceptable, but immoral too.

The people of Bermondsey and Southwark are, however, spirited and have not yet given up the fight. The spirit that led them to resist some of the worst attacks that the city knew during the second world war has led them, in peace, to resist the destructive attacks of politicians in their turn. However, they cannot resist for ever. They have already been generous. They were generous when my learned predecessor made the mistake of saying that the docks would close only over his dead body. They forgave him for that. They were also generous to the Leader of the Opposition when he made similar statements about an election not many weeks ago. They spared him from that. However, they cannot be generous for ever. They have turned to me and I, above all, now turn to the House to remedy their problems.

William Wilberforce died 150 years ago this year. It was his part as a reformer to liberate the people who were enslaved abroad. At home, Gladstone and Lloyd George followed that tradition, as did others who turned their attention to inner cities where the work was done and where the workers remain. My politics are to be those politics of liberation. I am anxious to liberate our people—those whom I can help—in little ways as we are allowed to do, from enforced idleness, unjustified discrimination and harmful dogma.

I have news for the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). He seems to think, to judge from his comment when I took my seat, that I shall not be here for long. I can tell him this. I shall be here for as long as is necessary to work for those people who sent me here to get them back to work.

I conclude with a quotation from a small guide which my library provides for those who want to know about the history of the constituency which I now have the honour to represent. It says: People are right to be proud to say ‘I am from Bermondsey’. This little area has a great history. In the old times it was the place of Chaucer, Shakespeare and, later, Dickens. It continues: In Victorian times it was at the centre of London’s trade and industry. Later, it took a lead in social reform. Now is a time of change when Bermondsey, like its neigbours in North Southwark and Rotherhithe, awaits new developments. The tide of economic welfare has flowed out far enough and for long enough as well. Although there may be an appropriate analogy between my arrival here and the quiet, timid and, as yet, inexperienced first cuckoo of spring, I hope that the Government will listen and learn that it is still not quite too late to turn the tide and to come to the rescue of the people who, at the moment, are beached and waiting for help.

Michael Howard – 1983 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

The Leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard, delivers his speech to the Conservative Party Conference, Bournemouth.

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Michael Howard in the House of Commons on 29th June 1983.

I begin, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by echoing the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville) and of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms Short) for being permitted to make my maiden speech today. I am particularly pleased to have caught your eye at such a relatively early stage in the Parliament because it enables me to pay an early public tribute to my predecessor, Sir Albert Costain. He is a much loved man both in the constituency and, as I have discovered during the past fortnight, in this House. He is not a man who seeks the limelight but he has rendered sterling service both to his constituents and to the House. More than 22 years ago he first became a member of the Public Accounts Committee and, I believe, the length of his service since then is without equal in the history of that Committee. During a much shorter period when I was a prospective parliamentary candidate, he was unstinting in his kindness to me. That was somewhat remarkable as he had some cause to be disenchanted with those who, like me, enter the House as practising banisters. On one occasion he was waiting to catch Mr. Speaker’s eye but felt constrained to visit the room which was referred to with such affection by Mr. Speaker in his acceptance speech. Before he left the Chamber, Sir Albert entrusted his notes for safekeeping to one of his hon. and learned Friends. When he returned to the Chamber, he was somewhat dismayed to find that hon. and learned Gentleman addressing the House in a most accomplished manner with Sir Albert’s notes in his hand and Sir Albert’s words on his tongue.

My constituency of Folkestone and Hythe is a richly varied area, containing some 20 miles of coastline, Romney marsh, a most beautiful stretch of the north downs and the two towns that give it its name. Its economic activities are similarly varied. Communications to the continent of Europe are excellent and communications with the rest of England will also be excellent when the missing link of the M20 motorway between Maidstone and Ashford is completed. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) for reinstating that project in the road programme when he was Secretary of State for Transport. His successor will hear a good deal from me about the priority to be given to it and the date on which we may expect completion.

I cannot pass from my constituency without reminding the House that it includes, in Hythe and Romney, two of the original Cinque ports which answered the summons issued by Simon de Montfort in the name of King Henry III to send representatives to what is usually regarded as our first Parliament in 1265. They have valued the closeness of their links with their Members of Parliament over the centuries since then and the loosening of those links which would be a consequence of the proposals for electoral reform presently being put about would be something I should greatly deplore. When one considers not just the proposals for electoral reform but also those for regional government espoused by the alliance parties and the sympathy with the creation of a federal European state expressed by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), it is not always appreciated how much the total package of alliance proposals would emasculate the powers of this House. I hope to retain for many years the trust of the people of the Folkestone and Hythe constituency who have sent me here, and I hope to continue to serve their interests in a House of Commons that has not been shorn of its powers.

I understand that there is still a view that a maiden speech should keep its distance from controversy. Although as a practising barrister of nearly 20 years’ standing I cannot pretend to be a stranger to controversy, I shall do what I can to honour that tradition in the hope that the two brief points that I wish to make will command such widespread assent that no question of controversy can arise.

In the recent election, it was widely recognised, not only by Conservatives, that strikes and industrial action contribute to the problem of unemployment. Increasing recognition of that in recent years has been reflected in the increasing reluctance of workers to take industrial action. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor referred earlier to the importance of the reform of trade union law, especially as it affects the rights of individual members of trade unions. There is one critical area — critical for the personal freedom of individual workers as well as for the link between strikes and unemployment—in which in my view the legislative support given to the individual is inadequate. I refer to the position of the worker who refuses to join a strike, who may be excluded from his trade union as a consequence and who in a closed shop may lose his job for that reason. It may surprise some of my hon. Friends to know that, despite all the legislation of the last Parliament, it is still possible for that fate to befall a worker and for that worker to be denied any of the compensation or other remedies generally available at law for a worker who is unfairly dismissed.

The Government have not been wholly insensitive to this issue. In some circumstances, set out in the code of practice on closed shop agreements and arrangements which in its revised form came into operation last month, it is likely that compensation will be payable. In my view, however, that is by no means good enough, for two reasons.

First, as a matter of basic individual freedom a worker should be entitled to know without qualification that he cannot be sacked for refusing to strike without being entitled to all the remedies for unfair dismissal provided by our law. That protection is rightly conferred on the worker who is sacked because he is or proposes to become a member of a trade union. The worker who is sacked for refusing to strike is surely entitled to the same protection.

Secondly, in the real world it is stretching credulity beyond breaking point to suppose that a worker faced with an extremely difficult decision and subject to considerable pressure will sit down and go through the code of practice line by line to determine whether the circumstances set out in it correspond with those of the strike in which he is involved. The full absurdity of the situation becomes apparent when one appreciates that the definition of the circumstances set out itself involves very difficult questions of law and a consideration of the meaning of statutory provisions recently described by Lord Diplock, sitting in a judicial capacity in another place, as most regrettably lacking in the requisite degree of clarity. That brings me to my final point, which has far wider application than the law relating to employment. When the same case was before the Court of Appeal, the Master of the Rolls made a plea to Parliament which we should do well to heed. He said: My plea is that Parliament when legislating in respect of circumstances which directly affect the ‘man or woman in the street’ or the ‘man or woman on the shop floor’ should give as high a priority to clarity and simplicity of expression as to refinements of policy. He continued: When formulating policy, Ministers, of whatever political persuasion, should at all times be asking themselves and asking parliamentary counsel ‘Is this concept too refined to be capable of expression in basic English? If so is there some way in which we can modify the policy so that it can be so expressed?’ Having to ask such questions would no doubt be frustrating for ministers and the legislature generally, but in my judgment this is part of the price which has to be paid if the rule of law is to be maintained. I do not believe that the refinement of policy which gave rise to the inclusion of some circumstances and the exclusion of others from the code of practice on the closed shop can be justified. Even if it could, I believe that the questions posed by the Master of the Rolls should have been asked. Had they been asked, I believe that the answer would have been to abandon that refinement of policy.

In the first maiden speech of this debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) asked for greater simplicity in the law as it affects the right to buy council houses. I endorse that plea, but the area that she identified is not the only one that calls out for such treatment. For the reasons that I have given, lack of clarity in employment law can cause injustice and can damage the economy. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will introduce measures to alleviate that injustice in the near future and that my other right hon. Friends who bring forward legislation will pay full attention to the plea made by the Master of the Rolls. Many of us on the Conservative Back Benches intend to encourage them to do so in the months and, I hope, years ahead.

Charles Kennedy – 1983 Maiden Speech


Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Charles Kennedy to the House of Commons on 15th July 1983.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for recognising me on this the occasion of my maiden speech. I think that the House, and especially the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), will agree that it is appropriate that I should deliver my maiden speech during a debate on the future of the younger generation. As fate would have it, I find myself the youngest Member of this distinguished House. I hope that the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) will find it interesting to witness a live specimen of today’s subject matter.

Although the younger generation is a concern of the present and even more so of the future, as the new Member for the new constituency of Ross, Cromarty and Skye I find myself deeply aware and conscious of the past and of those who have preceded me in representing the old constituency of Ross and Cromarty. As many Liberal Members will be aware, it was represented from 1964 to 1970 by the late Alasdair Mackenzie, who was a distinguished and highly thought of Member of this place during his time in it.

From 1970 until this election it was represented by the Conservative Member, Mr. Hamish Gray. I congratulate him on his peerage and movement to another place. I congratulate him equally on his appointment as Minister of State at the Scottish Office. As many know, there was considerable interest and, indeed, controversy not just in the Highlands but in Scotland generally about his appointment. I am optimistic and encouraged by what happened to Lord Gray, and I hope that it sets a trend by the Government. I hope that 3 million people, many of whom lost their jobs largely as a result of Government policies, will shortly be placed, as a result of Prime Ministerial decision, in much better jobs.

One figure who is certainly not a name or force of the past but very much of the present, to the extent that he is sitting behind me, is my hon. Friend who was the hon. Member for Inverness—with the boundary changes parts of his constituency have been moved into Ross, Cromarty and Skye — and who is now the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston). I pay tribute to him and promise that I will try to follow in his footsteps with the diligence that he has shown to the parts of his former constituency that I have inherited.

William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was Prime Minister of Canada, once said that the problem with that country was that it had too much geography and not enough history. The problem with my constituency is that it has more than its fair share of both. My constituency and the Highlands generally have had more than their fair share of a bad deal in recent years in their chances and opportunities, especially for the younger generation.

A perennial problem that has faced the Scottish Highlands is that, time and again, too many of the more talented young people have had to move elsewhere—even abroad — through a lack of opportunities that should have been available. In the 1960s we believed that there was a golden opportunity for that part of the country. However, under the previous Conservative Government’s policies that golden opportunity has turned to dross, largely as a result of the Government’s economic approach and social disregard. The pulp mill in Fort William has been closed. In my constituency, the Invergordon smelter closed and, more recently, there have been lost opportunities with the abandonment of the gas-gathering project, although there are still strong signs that that project should go ahead.

Despite their vast majority and the convincing lead, which they will have for the next four or five years, in the Division Lobbies, the Government must display greater sensitivity to the problems of the Highlands, and especially of its young people. I make that sincere plea on behalf of my constituents. The alliance will work constructively during this Parliament to assist and support, with any help that the Government can give, the Highlands and this group of its people. One example of a scheme that will provide job opportunities is the Ben Wyvis development. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland’s comments on financial commitment will be supported and that we shall see a more pragmatic and less doctrinaire approach from the Government to the traditional concerns of the Highlands, such as farming, fishing and forestry.

In the few short weeks since I was elected the Forestry Commission has proposed to sell Ratagan forest in Glenelg. That is a product of the constraints that have been placed on the commission by the Government. There is considerable local opposition to the proposed sale, and I hope that the Government will rethink their attitude and take stock generally of the problems faced by the forestry, fishing and farming interests in the Highlands. Young people, hoping to enter those industries, have been discouraged. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East will agree that our subject for debate is extremely relevant to my constituency. It is fair to demand more pragmatism and constructive thinking of the Government.

I have two basic observations, which I formulated during my election campaign, on the attitudes of young people. I know that other right hon. and hon. Members reached the same conclusions during the constituency campaigns. First, there is a yawning gap in outlook between those who have a job and those who have not. Some Ministers are fond of talking about a return to Victorian values. We must realise that those Victorian values are being expressed by some of the younger people in this society in shameful and disturbing disregard for other members of their generation who are not as fortunate as they are in having a job. That is disturbing for a Government of any political complexion. The yawning gulf is becoming wider as, each month, the unemployment total increases. I hope that the Government will take cognisance of that during this Parliament.

My second observation is relevant to my party and the Liberal party. We have heard much from the Liberal and Social Democratic parties, and I do not doubt that we shall hear even more in future, about the iniquities of our electoral system. Under the present system many people are effectively disfranchised—the Whip will be pleased to know that I will not comment on that today. However, voluntary disfranchisement is also taking place. During my campaign people of my age and younger said consistently that they would not vote because their votes simply no longer matter and because no Government or Member of Parliament cared a whit about their problems and their striving for employment. That is disturbing for all of the parties and all hon. Members. Those who will contribute most to British democracy in the future are extricating themselves from the system already because they believe that it is no longer relevant. Part of the solution to that is electoral reform, but even more urgent is the need for a more tolerant, caring and compassionate Government. Sadly, we do not have that at the moment. I hope— I say this to the Minister in a constructive fashion—that we shall have it in due course.

To involve young people and make sure that the system is more relevant to them in Scotland, we have a clear obligation to implement a policy of home rule. Lord Home said not so many years ago that there was a genuine grass roots desire in Scotland for more decisions to be taken by the Scots. If that were implemented and the Government made a compromise or concession on that issue, young people in Scotland, and in the Highlands as much as anywhere else, would feel more affected by and therefore more involved in our political institutions. Home rule was supported by voters across a broad spectrum of parties in Scotland, which received significantly more support than the Conservative party. It is a legitimate demand, which is backed up in the ballot box. I hope that if the Government care about the younger generation they will see it as a way forward and a means to improve young people’s involvement in our political institutions.

The hon. Member for Eltham alluded to this. Throughout Britain over the past few years there has been a considerable decline in our fortunes. There has been a considerable decline in manufacturing, matched by a lost generation of younger people who are now unemployed and who, in terms of training and skill, might be fated to be classed as unemployable. The great sadness about the economic policy of the past four years is that when the recession bottoms out and when the world economy begins to pick up, we shall not have a skilled work force of the right age group to take advantage of it. That, coupled with the manufacturing decline and the rundown and closing down of industry, will mean that we shall lack the right blend of manpower and machinery to capitalise, as we should, on the improvements in our economic fortunes.

Equally important is that there is surely a moral responsibility for any Government and any Parliament to try to represent legitimate interests. What interests could be more legitimate than the interests of the younger generation who represent the country’s future? Yet, despite the best-laid plans of mice and even Ministers on youth training and youth opportunities, there is not enough for young people. That undermines the moral basis of government. It undermines respect for and participation in the democratic process. As a result of both those present tendencies, there is a disturbing implication for the country’s social, political and economic future. I feel most strongly about that and I urge the Government sincerely to address their priorities to the matter during this Parliament.

I hope that the Government will take heed because, if they do not, many Opposition Members will continue to remind them of it. I hope that, as the leader of my party said in his recent speech in the House, the Government will succeed in their objectives because that is in all our interests. It is from that constructive position that we approach the whole issue and from which I give my wholehearted support to the motion of the hon. Member for Newham, North-East.

Michael Forsyth – 1983 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made to the House of Commons by Michael Forsyth on 18th July 1983.

It has been obvious that for many hon. Members tonight’s discussion is a rerun of an almost familiar classic, albiet with some of the leading cast in new roles. For me it is rather different. I was not in this place on 29 November 1982 for the Second Reading of the previous Telecommunications Bill and I was not here for the detailed debates which took place in Committee.

My experience of the telecommunications industry, as a business man and a private individual, seems to be very different from that of many Opposition Members. It is from that experience that I derive my commitment to replace the monopoly that British Telecom has endured with competitive private enterprise. The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) spoke about charges being made for telephone numbers to be supplied in Chile. That seems to be the reality of the black market experience of far too many of my business colleagues.

The new constituency of Stirling, which I have the honour to represent, is not entirely unknown to the House. Its district council affairs have had to be debated in this place in the past, and I regret that they will have to be discussed once again on Thursday. It is a constituency of great contrasts — and I do not refer to the obvious contrast of a Conservative Member representing an area which has one of Scotland’s most Left-wing and extravagant councils.

The constituency stretches from the north at Collin and Tyndrum and Strathblane in the south, and from the tidal reaches of the Forth to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, an area of about 800 square miles. It includes the university town and commercial centre of historic Stirling and the old boroughs of Callendar, Dunblane, and Bridge of Allan. From the great rural areas drawn from the former counties of Stirling and Perth, I have a constituency of outstanding natural beauty in which tourism, agriculture, commerce and new high technology-based industries are playing an increasing role. In short, it is a constituency which provides exactly that range of demands which the new private enterprise British Telecom will have to meet. It is a constituency in which industry and commerce require effective speech and telex communications with Europe and the rest of the world and within the United Kingdom, as well as data handling and processing.

A rural area needs effective communications to minimise its isolation, and services that are needed especially in emergencies. Despite the smears and innuendos of the Bill’s opponents, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will ensure that in bringing private enterprise into the communications network he will make provision for meeting social costs within the licensing requirements and the fears that have been expressed about call boxes and the cost of connection in rural areas.

It is because I believe that private enterprise will more effectively meet those demands in my constituency that I speak enthusiastically in favour of the Bill. The arguments do not need to be repeated and I suspect that if they were I should be called out of order. Private enterprise brings a force to bear on companies through competition that makes them more efficient and keeps prices down. Competition, not private enterprise, is at the heart of the debate. I hope that the many speeches which have been made will alert the Minister to the grave dangers of substituting a public monopoly with a private one.

The Government’s decision during the last Parliament to license Mercury showed their commitment to competition, as do the provisions of part II of the Bill for further licensing, provided those powers are used imaginatively to create the maximum possible innovative competition and not to restrict it, as has been so often the case. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the commitment not to issue licences that was made on Second Reading of the previous Telecommunications Bill during the last Parliament. I hope that more licences will be issued and that that commitment will be withdrawn.

As part V of the Bill now stands, British Telecom will be transformed lock, stock and barrel into one company with a dominant position. If it had arisen in any other way, it would almost certainly have attracted the unfavourable attention of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. I wonder whether, even if we proceed along the lines that have been suggested, it might not create a difficulty with our obligations under the treaty of Rome. The City editor of the Daily Mail asked on 23 June: Would it be any less of a monopoly because half the shares had been sold? Do we have to keep British Telecom in its present shape and size? He is not alone in asking such questions.

Some people have suggested the organisation of local services into separate locally owned companies working within the national network. An example that is often quoted is the municipal service in Hull. Others have suggested hiving off the specialist services which make up British Telecom enterprises. I ask the Government —clearly this is not the place to discuss detailed provisions —to consider part V carefully before British Telecom is brought to the market. The experience in the United States, with the break-up of the AT and T empire and the reorganisation of the Bell telephone network, might provide useful evidence.

So far we have considered only the benefits of competition as they affect the consumer, but British Telecom is also virtually a monopoly buyer of telecommunications equipment. In the past, this has led, to put it mildly, to unhappy relations with suppliers, or at least would-be suppliers. This could easily recur if the enterprise and innovation which is important to these support services were stifled in favour of company-inspired regulation and conformity. Only with a wider range of purchasers for products will telecommunications manufacturers be encouraged to recapture their share of overseas markets.

I add only a few words, lest it be thought that I have forgotten my traditional duty as a new Member to pay tribute to my predecessors. My constituency is carved out of three long-standing ones, all of which have disappeared. All the previous Members, such is their quality — the hon. Members for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) and for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn)— have returned to the House to play a full and prominent part. Therefore, it would be redundant of me to sing their praises.

Mr. Denis Canavan (Falkirk, West) Why?

Mr. Forsyth Their performance is a testimony to that. I look forward to matching their records in dealing with constituency matters in the years to come.