Jeremy Corbyn – 1983 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

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Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons on 1 July 1983.

I should have thought that in four years’ time the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) will be an unpaid, unemployed employee of a non-existent local authority, if he follows the logic of his own arguments.

This is the first time that I have spoken to the House. It seems a million miles away from the constituency that I represent and the problems that the people there face. Islington, North is only a few miles from the House by tube or bus. We are suffering massive unemployment and massive cuts imposed by the Government on the local authorites. There are cuts in the Health Service. In common with the rest of inner London, we have lost all grant funding for education. That is a measure of the contempt with which the Government have treated Islington, North — indeed, the whole borough of Islington.

The borough has suffered an unprecedented media attack in exactly the same way as the GLC suffered because it was singled out as fair game for editorials in the Daily Mail, The Sun and other newspapers. The previous Member for Islington, South and Finsbury used an Adjournment debate in the House to raise complaints about the borough council on a number of matters.

It is significant that just this week the Minister received a letter from Islington borough council about objections made to the district auditor about the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the Islington News Co-operative and the council’s newspaper, Focus. The district auditor replied on detailed terms. He said that he felt that there was no case for the borough council to answer in the light of the allegations made by the previous Member. It is unfortunate that little publicity is likely to be given to the district auditor’s reply compared to the publicity that was given to the allegations made against the borough council in the run-up to, and during, the election campaign by Conservative and Social Democratic party members.

The borough which I have the honour to represent has suffered a stupendous loss in rate support grant since 1979. In 1979 £55 million a year was paid to Islington borough council. That was the Government contribution to the needs of that rundown inner city area. It is indicative of the Government’s determination to create massive unemployment in inner city areas and demonstrates their ignorance of the problems that people face in such boroughs that the Government grant is now down to £32 million and is destined to go down further. That is a massive indictment of the Government. The hon. Members who now represent Islington will speak up continuously on that problem and will speak up for a borough that has been maligned by the Government and the press mercilessly over the past two years.

Unemployment in Islington is as bad as anywhere else in London. If one takes the rate together with those of the neighbouring boroughs of Hackney, parts of Waltham Forest and Enfield, there is a horrific picture. There is 20 per cent. registered unemployment. Far more people are unemployed than that. About one third of those who are out of work at the moment in Islington have been out of work for more than a year. Within a few minutes of the House are areas in Finsbury Park where there are black people of 20 and older, both women and men, who have never worked since leaving school at the age of 16. They have little but a great deal of contempt for the Government and for proceedings that are adopted by the Government in attacking such boroughs. They have little regard for a system that seems destined to force them to stay permanently on the dole. I shall convey that spirit to the House as often as I can. The people in my constituency are bitter and angry.

The number of jobs that we have lost in the past few years give the lie to the argument that, if workers demand high wages, somehow or other they are pricing themselves out of a job. Conservative Members have often lectured us about that. In fact, the average wages in the borough of Islington are well below the national average. At the same time, thousands of jobs have been lost in the past two years. Very few vacancies are notified to the Holloway employment office and there is a feeling of hopelessness that is perhaps paralleled in other parts of the country. That is serious.

Another factor makes people suffer. Islington is an inner city borough where less than 40 per cent. of the population can purchase a car. Presumably many hon. Members drive through it on the way to their constituencies. Day in, day out a vast amount of commuter traffic also thunders through, as well as heavy goods vehicles and dangerous overweight juggernauts. Hon. Members may have seen reports last week of a serious road accident that occurred in St. Paul’s road which is a route for heavy lorries trundling through my constituency, bringing death and danger in their wake.

I hope that the call for a London-wide lorry ban is taken in a debate on London as such a danger cannot be allowed to continue on our roads. There never was a justification for allowing the size and weight of lorries that exist on our roads, and there is even less justification with the completion of the M25 for any opposition to a heavy goods vehicle ban throughout London. The argument that such vehicles serve London’s industry and businesses is fallacious and wrong. At least two thirds of the vehicles that thunder down the Archway road, along the Holloway road, St. Paul’s road and into Graham road in Hackney are travelling straight through London and using the city as a short cut to the Channel ports.

As the Government have taken so much money from Islington borough council and the neighbouring borough councils of Haringey, Hackney, and to a lesser extent Enfield because the Government have friends there, it is incredible that they should countenance spending more than £30 million on the building of a new stretch of motorway — the Archway motorway project — leading more traffic into inner London. That is another matter that I hope to bring often before the House.

The plight of the Health Service in my borough is serious. I am sponsored by the National Union of Public Employees and until yesterday I was employed as an organiser for that union. I am well aware of the cant and hypocrisy that is spoken about the Health Service. The Health Service in London has suffered more than almost any other service in the past few years. Cuts are made day in and day out. At this moment, 53 London hospitals are under threat of partial closure, ward closure or complete closure. Further, the jobs of about 4,000 health workers are at risk under the lunatic policy of continuing to cut health spending in every sense in inner London.

The effects of health cuts are very significant. If a hospital is closed, it might suit Health Service planners and the DHSS, as they might consider it to be an efficiency factor. What happens in reality is that people who were used to going to a convenient local hospital cannot do so, the waiting list for major operations gets longer and longer and the care of the sick is forced more and more into the home and on to women.

Yet the Government had the temerity to issue a press statement before the election about the value to society of private medicine, the development of private hospitals and encouraging people to spend their money on private health care. That freedom of choice does not exist for the constituents of Islington, North. They cannot afford private medicine. They do not wish to see private medicine develop or the obscenity of a private health service and pay beds continuing to exist in National Health Service hospitals. My colleagues and I at the National Union of Public Employees wish that topic, which is a crying scandal, to be brought before the House.

Greater scandals are also taking place in the Health Service. I could list, time permitting, all 53 hospitals in London which are under some form of immediate risk. I will not go through them all but I will draw some to the attention of the House. The south London hospital for women, which is most in the news, is due to be closed. Apparently, as a result of a decision made last night, the ball is now in the Government’s court. If the Government do not provide the money for the running of that hospital, it will close. That hospital was founded because women wished to have a health service in which they felt confidence and trust. It was founded for women, run by women and continues to provide a valuable service for women in south London. It will be a scandal if that hospital is allowed to close.

I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that the closure will not go ahead and that Government money will be provided to keep that vital facility open. Women suffer more than anyone else from Health Service cuts. They suffer through having to wait for operations and it is usually they who end up caring for the sick who cannot be cared for by the Health Service.

On the arguments about spending in the Health Service and the setting of cash limits, I have some useful information—all gleaned from DHSS sources and put together by the London Health Service campaign. The cash limit revenue allocations are compared with the surplus or shortfall, allowing for 5.6 per cent. inflation. There is some argument about the applicability of that figure to the Health Service, but that is the figure used. Only two health authorities in London—Croydon and Hounslow and Spelthorne—had a surplus of cash limit allocation compared with their expenditure. Every other authority was seriously overspending. As anyone who has served on a health authority will know, overspending means cuts, longer queues for major operations and beds deliberately left vacant not because they are not needed by the sick but because the Government are not prepared to provide the money to care for the sick. That is the reality of the situation.

As I have said, north Islington has suffered Health Service cuts perhaps as bad as those in any other area. The borough as a whole has recently lost Liverpool road hospital, the City of London maternity home and the casualty facility at the Royal Northern hospital, placing frightening and devastating pressure on the remaining facilities at the Whittington hospital which itself is now threatened with the closure of one wing. Disasters of that kind occur daily in the inner city areas. That is why people are so angry and it is incredible that only 13 Conservative Members can be bothered to attend today’s debate on these matters.

The DHSS has mounted a privatisation campaign in which it has consistently tried to lecture local health authorities about how efficient it would be if private enterprise played a part in running the Health Service, stressing the efficiency of laundry, catering, portering and gardening services. The private sector is already making a fortune out of drug sales to the health authorities. When Conservative Members lecture health workers who demand decent wages, they never criticise the massive profits made out of the Health Service by the drug companies.

Moreover, the lectures about the need for privatisation in the Health Service are not matched by the experience of health authorities which have brought in private enterprise laundry, portering, catering and cleaning services. In all cases they have said that the services are not only inefficient but difficult to control because one is constantly dealing with third parties whose interest is not the care of patients and the efficient running of a National Health Service that is free at the point of use but only the profit that they can make out of it.

With all the problems that London now faces —massive unemployment, problems of public transport and traffic management, and the rest—it is extraordinary that the Government should choose this moment to mount a fantastic media campaign against the GLC and, in a couple of lines in a badly written and ill-thought-out manifesto, to say that they intend to abolish the GLC. The real reason why they wish to abolish it is because they could not gain control of it at the last election. If the GLC were abolished, London would be the only capital in the world, so far as I can discover, without some central democratic and unitary local authority to administer its business.

It is amazing that the House should spend time debating the abolition of the GLC when it should be debating the lack of democracy in so many other areas of London life. I have dealt at some length with the problems of the Health Service. Greater democracy is needed in the Health Service. It would be advantageous to have a London health authority to discuss the problems of the Health Service in London rather than continuing the balancing act between expenditure in inner London and the needs of counties such as Essex, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and so on, as the regional health authorities consistently do, with the result that London suffers from an even worse Health Service.

We hear a great deal about democracy and freedom of choice. I find it incredible that at the same time as the Government propose to abolish the Greater London council and to take away the democratic powers of the Inner London Education Authority they allow London’s undemocratic police force to continue its operations and they allow Sir Kenneth Newman to make monstrous attacks on people who merely demand some form of democratic representation in the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds on London’s police force.

I hope that the House will return again and again to the debate on the democratic running of London. It is clear that the Government are determined to take away all democratic rights of local government in London. They tried to destroy our borough councils. Now they seek to destroy the GLC and the ILEA.

I represent an area of London that has suffered as much as any other from the policies of this Government, and I shall be telling the House repeatedly that we do not intend to take these issues lying down. We shall not allow unemployment to go through the roof. We shall not allow our youth to have no chance and no hope for the future. We shall not allow our borough councils to be attacked mercilessly in the way that they have been by the Government and by the press in the past year. We shall return to these issues because justice has to be done for those who are worst off and unemployed in areas such as the constituency that I represent.

David Blunkett – 1987 Maiden Speech

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Below is the text of the maiden speech made by David Blunkett in the House of Commons on 25th June 1987.

I wish to pay tribute to Joan Maynard who, for 13 years, represented the people of the constituency that I am here to serve, and the people of Sheffield, to the best of her ability. On 12 June, I was the only Opposition Member who could genuinely say that he was looking on the bright side.

I congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion — the hon. Members for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) and for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart). I remind the hon. Member for Davyhulme, who talks about high-rated local authorities and eulogises about the sort of solutions that the Government are proposing for other parts of the country, that until last year the district council in whose area his constituency lies was controlled by the Conservative party. I remind the hon. Member for Sherwood that Robin Hood was born in Locksley in Sheffield, and, like the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), I recall that Robin Hood took from the rich to give to the poor, and not the other way round. From Sheffield, we shall continue to advocate that as hard as we can.

It is not surprising that the issue of what sort of democracy we are and the nature of our local government is a primary part of the Government’s programme. The Prime Minister has spelt out on many occasions that it is her intention to sweep Socialism from the face of Britain. This afternoon she has reminded us that she has nothing but disdain for collectivism. Like the trade unions, local government has stood in the way of the restructuring of our economic and social life; instead of the democracy of the ballot box at all levels, the democracy of the bank balance and of the privilege that comes with wealth and property will be how our democracy operates in a Conservative Britain.

In other words, we shall be taking a step back 100 years to the time when people fought to ensure that democracy was based on citizenship and not on the property that people owned. Talk of a property or share or capital-owning democracy is an insult to the people of Sheffield, Brightside, who, day in and day out, look not at where they can put their money on the Stock Exchange or in the best possible share dealing but at where they can put their money to ensure that their children have food on the table and clothes on their backs. Any family or parent would expect to ensure that the money that they wish to earn will keep their families well looked after.

The words that the Prime Minister used this afternoon about decreasing dependence are hollow to those whose dependence on the state has been increased by mass unemployment, by the increased poverty that goes with it and by the ever increasing dependence on state benefits that they experience. If we want to lift people out of dependence on a central state, we need to ensure that they can earn their living and that they have the dignity and status that go with using their skills. They must earn their money, not make money by speculating on the Stock Exchange or selling property that they may have acquired at a knock-down price from a give-away Conservative Government. They must be able to earn it by hard work in our factories, offices, shops and communities, by providing services and producing goods, and making sure that we have wealth for the future.

The people of Brightside do not want to hear talk of pricing themselves into jobs. Lower wages mean increased dependence on benefits for those who are in work. The number of those who receive housing benefit as rents are pushed up and their earnings go down has dramatically increased—it has doubled during the eight years of the present Government.

In that spirit, we need to examine a different future. This afternoon we heard a dangerous and disturbing comment from the Prime Minister about the security of local government finance. I hope that she will withdraw that remark at some point, because the interest rates for all local authority borrowing and the well-being of local government finance as a whole are not served by statements such as that made by the Prime Minister. That applies to Conservative, alliance or Labour-controlled local governments.

We have, I hope, a pluralistic democracy that is based not solely on the ownership of wealth or the votes that put us in this House, but on being able to make decisions across the country for the well-being of our communities. The cultural, political, social and economic diversity of the country must be respected if we are not to have the elective dictatorship of which Lord Hailsham spoke some years ago. We must not have a single solution imposed on every part of our country, or a position in which the zealots and missionaries from down south believe that they have the answers for Scotland, Wales and the inner cities of the north.

Some of us are working together. Industry, commerce, business, trade unions, higher education and research institutions are working with local government to come up with solutions of their own. We do not want the solutions imposed through urban development corporations, for which public money is readily available as long as it is directed from the centre and is in the hands of those who wish to offer our communities as hosts to those who want to come in and make for themselves, rather than to stimulate and support the community.

I wonder whether the intentions of the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) or of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry reflect what the Government intend to do. Is it to be the colonisation of Scotland, the north and Wales, or the self-help programmes for the inner cities? There is a considerable difference. Sheffield alone has lost almost exactly the same amount of money in local government grant and subsidies as has been pumped in public money into the London docklands. I challenge the Prime Minister to give the city of Sheffield the money about which she spoke, in terms of the urban development corporations that were mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan), to use for the benefit of local people through the democracy that has existed for generations, rather than to impose her solutions from outside. Working together, we can use enterprise arid initiative to rebuild our communities. Until eight years ago our people had jobs. They had pride in the crafts and skills that they used in steel and engineering. I was appalled to hear those industries described today by the Prime Minister as the bad parts of our industry. They were the industries on which our wealth was created and on which many people in this part of the country were happy to live for generations. We want the opportunity to do that all over again. We expect even this Government to respect those differences and that diversity.

If we are to have the opportunity to extend and develop democracy, we must stop the vilification and undermining of confidence in local democracy, as the leader of the Liberal party said earlier. If we remove the safety valve that allows people to determine what will happen in their communities for themselves, if we remove the opportunity for people to be helped to change the nature of their lives, we pose a dangerous threat to democracy itself. If people cannot find an outlet for their frustration, and if the symptoms of the present decay of inner city areas are not allowed a democratic outlet, the Government will inevitably be forced into even greater authoritarianism in order to suppress those symptoms and overcome the frustrations and difficulties that people in such areas will be displaying.

I appeal to the Prime Minister to take account of all that. Democracy is not a slogan about whether people own capital or shares; it is something that belongs to us, which our grandparents fought to achieve. The ballot box, in local as well as in national elections, is an important part of the pluralistic democracy of which we have been so proud.

I hope that we will also ensure that public money is made available for our people and not simply for those who are willing to come from abroad to exploit our country. We do not need the Japanese and Americans, and we certainly do not need to invest in golf courses or in mansions to provide for them. We want leisure facilities and decent housing for our people, because that is their birthright.

If the Government are to invest public money in inner city areas through housing action trusts, as described this afternoon, why are the Government not prepared to provide the same resources to those local authorities that are willing to work with their tenants to ensure that together they are able to repair the desperate housing stock currently existing in many of our major areas? Why is the money that is being made available to the London Docklands Development Corporation not being made available to local government? Is it that the direction of the LDDC suits the Government? Two hundred-year leases without rent review are being given to speculative companies willing to put their money into the London docklands. Property is being sold at well below the market price to encourage people to make a quick buck. If that was done by the much vilified local government system, those councillors would be surcharged and disqualified for neglecting their fiduciary duties.

I say to the Government, to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is, of course, not with us in the House, and to those who, on his behalf, listen and report back to him that we do not want solutions imposed as though we were colonies of an underdeveloped nation. We are not a separate part of the country. We want the opportunity to do things for ourselves with our people. If the Prime Minister means what she says about the need to listen and to be willing to co-operate with those who wish to regenerate their economies and communities, I hope that, respecting the cultures and the politics of those areas, she will be willing to put some of those resources and some of that commitment into areas where it is clear that the whole of the community, speaking with one voice, is unified in seeking a way forward. It is statesmanship of the first order that unites a nation and does not divide it. It is those who give people the dignity of having a job and of using their skills who will be remembered. Those of us who have to suffer the difficulty of Opposition in the years ahead will continue to ask that this country should see our democracy operate in the interests of everyone, and not just in the mission for a few.

Tony Blair – 1983 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

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Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Tony Blair in the House of Commons on 6th July 1983.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me this opportunity to make my maiden speech, especially on such an important Bill, as the new Member of Parliament for Sedgefield. I only hope that I can acquit myself as well as the hon. Members who have preceded me in this difficult task.

Sedgefield is in county Durham, and having lived there for almost 20 years it was an especial honour for me to be chosen by the Labour party to contest the seat. Given the Labour party traditions of county Durham, my subsequent election with a good majority was hardly surprising, but it was no less pleasing to me for that.

The constituency is remarkable for its variety and contrast. In the north-west is the large modern conurbation of Spennymoor, flanked by old mining villages, such as Chilton and Ferryhill. Turning east, one travels through more villages such as West Cornforth, Bishop Middleham, Trimdon Village, Trimdon Colliery and Fishburn, and still further east there are the villages of Wingate, Thornley, Wheatley Hill, Deaf Hill and Station Town. Although most of those villages share the common history of mining, they also have their own distinctive and separate character.

Sedgefield town itself is at the crux of the constituency. It contains some new industry, the important hospital of Winterton and also has its prosperous residential parts. Travelling south from Sedgefield, one enters a different world altogether. One can tell that it is different because it is the place where the Social Democratic party ceases telling the people that it represents the Labour party of Attlee and Gaitskell and begins saying that it represents the Tory party of Butler and Macmillan. Its towns include Hurworth, Middleton St. George, Whessoe and Heighington. It is sometimes suggested by the fainthearted that Labour support is less than solid here, but I have great faith in the good sense of the people.

This new Sedgefield constituency is made up of parts of several other constituencies, and I pay tribute to the hon. Members from those parts—my right hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) and my hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Mr. Dormand), for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) and for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes). I am grateful that they are all here as colleagues in this Parliament.

Though new in 1983, Sedgefield as a constituency has in a sense only been in hibernation, as it existed as a constituency until 1974. Distinguished predecessors have represented Sedgefield, the last three being John Leslie from 1935 to 1950, Joe Slater from 1950 to 1970 and David Reed from 1970 to 1974. Their maiden speeches provide an interesting synopsis of south-west Durham’s history.

In the 1930s, John Leslie spoke of the poverty of his constituents, particularly the mines. However, in 1950, Joe Slater, himself a miner, described a better world where under public ownership the views of the miner are respected, and even acted upon, and that is how it ought to be”. — [Official Report, 29 March 1950; Vol. 473, c. 489.] That was a speech of optimism. David Reed, who like me had the distinction of being the youngest member of the parliamentary Labour party, also spoke with some optimism. He pointed out that the mining pits had largely closed but said: The influx of new industry into my constituency has shown a remarkable increase during the last five years”.—[Official Report, 7 July 1970; Vol. 803, c. 530.] In my maiden speech, I would have hoped to continue the theme of progress and optimism, but it is with the profoundest regret and not a little anger that I must say frankly that I cannot do so.

The speech most appropriate to my constituency now is not the speech made in 1970 or even the speech made in 1950, but the speech that John Leslie made in the 1930s. In that speech, he said: Everyone will agree that it is nothing short of a tragedy that thousands of children are thrown on to the labour market every year with no possible propect of continuous employment, with the result that thousands drift into blind alley jobs and drift out again. They have no proper training, they feel that they are not wanted and the future seems hopeless.”—[Official Report, 4 December 1935; Vol. 307, c. 213.] That is tragically true for my constituency today. In the area of the Wingate employment exchange, which covers a very large part of the constituency, unemployment now stands at over 40 per cent. A large proportion of the unemployed are under 25 years of age. It is said with bitter irony that the only growth area in the constituency is the unemployment office. Those young people are not merely faced with a temporary inability to find work. For many, the dole queue is their first experience of adult life. For some, it will be their most significant experience. Without work, they do not merely suffer the indignity of enforced idleness — they wonder how they can afford to get married, to start a family, and to have access to all the benefits of society that they should be able to take for granted. Leisure is not something that they enjoy, but something that imprisons them.

The Bill offers no comfort at all either to those people or to the vast majority of those of my constituents who are fortunate enough to be in work. Indeed. it adds the insult of inequality to the injury of poverty. It gives a further clutch of tax concessions to those who are already well off. Some 200,000 people are taken out of the higher rate bands, whereas only 10,000 come out of the poverty trap. That is a good illustration of the sense of priority shown in the Bill.

When I say “well off” I mean very well off. It is not those who earn the average wage who have benefited from the Government’s fiscal policy, or even those who earn double the average. The only beneficiaries are those who earn more than three times the average. It is to that tiny and rarefied constituency that the Conservatives address themselves. The provisions of the Bill contradict in practical terms the myth that the Conservative party is the party of lower taxation for the people. In reality, lower taxation under the Conservative Administration has been confined to an exclusive club of the very privileged.

You may wonder, Mr. Speaker, why, contrary to tradition, some maiden speeches have been controversial. Perhaps it is pertinent to ask in what sense they can be controversial, since the deprivation and unhappiness that afflict our constituencies seem beyond argument. What impels us to speak our minds is the sense of urgency. As I said, in the Wingate area, unemployment is over 40 per cent. A Government who are complacent or uncaring about a level of unemployment of over 40 per cent. are a Government who have abdicated their responsibility to govern. A Government who refuse to govern are unworthy of the name of Government.

Yet, despite the 40 per cent. unemployment, NSF, a subsidiary of the National Coal Board, announced in February this year a proposal to close the Fishburn coke works. If implemented, that proposal would push unemployment in the Wingate employment exchange area to over 50 per cent. The coke works is the major employer in Fishburn. It is not ailing. It is a highly efficient plant which produces some of the best domestic coke in the world. It provides work indirectly for many other people in the area, such as road hauliers and dockers.

In case anyone is unmoved by the loss of jobs, I can add that even in economic terms the closure is questionable. We are told that the recession is ending. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Dorrell) that we need a broad-based economic recovery. My constituents are not interested in promises about economic recovery; they are interested in performance. In the recession, NSF loses money. However, the direct cost of closure in terms of redundancy payments, lost taxes and other related costs amounts to £3 million in the first year and £1 million in the following years. To close Fishburn is an act of economic madness multiplied by social disregard on an unbelievable scale. Its only true justification is a blind allegiance to dogma.

Fishburn is significant not just in itself but as an example of the peril facing the north-east — a peril exemplified in the Bill. Fishburn is a real community. The constituency of Sedgefield is made up of such communities. The local Labour party grows out of, and is part of, local life. That is its strength. That is why my constituents are singularly unimpressed when told that the Labour party is extreme. They see extremism more as an import from outside that is destroying their livelihoods than as a characteristic of the party that is defending those livelihoods.

There is not a pit left in my constituency. In the 1960s and the early 1970s, new industry came to the constituency, but it often lacked strong roots. When the recession began to bite, many companies—particularly the multinationals — saw their northern outlets as the ones to be cut. Some still remain, including Thorns and Black and Decker, although both have suffered cutbacks. Carreras Rothman, also in Spennymoor, is one area of growth, but in general terms the picture is bleak. It should not be so, because any discerning observer can see the advantages that the area offers. There is a capable and willing work force. There are massive amounts of factory space let at low rents by a district council that, unlike central Government, is eager to assist economic growth. There is ready access by road, rail and air, and some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain.

What Sedgefield and the north-east desperately need is a Government committed to marrying together the resources of the area—a Government committed to the north. Over the last few years the level of investment in manufacturing industry in the north has dropped not merely in absolute terms but relative to other parts of the country. That situation must be reversed. In practical terms, the Government must pledge themselves to a massive investment in the region and must plan that investment.

I and others will continue to press for a northern development agency to perform for the north the task that the Scottish Development Agency performs for Scotland. That is not a request for fresh bureaucracy but a realistic assessment of need. Experience of the present Government may teach caution in hoping for such a commitment, but a refusal does not make the case for such a body any less strong. The aim would be to harness the considerable resources of the constituency and the region and to let them work to create a better standard of living for the people. After all, that is the essence of Socialism.

I am a Socialist not through reading a textbook that has caught my intellectual fancy, nor through unthinking tradition, but because I believe that, at its best, Socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral. It stands for co-operation, not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear. It stands for equality, not because it wants people to be the same but because only through equality in our economic circumstances can our individuality develop properly. British democracy rests ultimately on the shared perception by all the people that they participate in the benefits of the common weal. This Bill, with its celebration of inequality, is destructive of that perception. It is because of a fear that the Government seem indifferent to such considerations that I and my colleagues oppose the Bill and will continue to oppose it.

Tony Benn – 1951 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made to the House of Commons by Tony Benn on 7th February 1951.

As this is the first occasion on which I have ventured to address the House, I must ask for the usual indulgence and sympathy of hon. Members. I am sure that all hon. Members realise that the hesitancy of a maiden speaker is a very real thing indeed; hesitancy, one might almost say, is an understatement of the way a maiden speaker feels. Conscious of the traditions of this occasion, I have chosen to speak in this very non-controversial debate. I have been inspired by hon. Members on both sides of the House in their appeals for unity at this time, and I believe that a great deal of unity of opinion is possible on both sides of the House over a great many of the issues we have to discuss this evening.

I detect in the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition three distinct ideas. First, it is a fundamental challenge of the wisdom of the last Parliament in passing the Steel Nationalisation Act. Secondly, it suggests that fresh evidence has come to light which should lead this House to reconsider its decision. Thirdly, in the wording of this Amendment, in which I note a trace of pained surprise, there is an implication that the Government have somehow or other behaved rather badly in this matter. I would like to deal, if I may, as non-controversially as I can with those three propositions.

I do not want to deal at any great length with the main case of hon. Members on this side of the House for nationalisation, for the arguments are well known to all hon. Members. However, it is necessary to recapitulate them briefly so as to be able to see whether, in fact, the fresh evidence adduced in this Amendment is likely in any way to alter the necessity for this decision. Curiously enough, it is on the basic issues of nationalisation that the greatest agreement is possible on both sides of the House. Hon. Members on this side and hon. Members opposite are united in their agreement that this is a basic industry, that the health of this industry, the investment policy of this industry, the development of this industry in the future are absolutely fundamental to our economic life and to our standard of living. There can be no disagreement about that.

Nor, I submit, can there be any disagreement on the nature of the present organisation of the industry. I do not want to press this point too much. I do not want to use the word “monopoly” in reference to this industry, because I do not want to be controversial. But I do think that hon. Members on both sides must agree that in the past this industry has shown a marked aversion, to put it mildly, to the workings of the competitive market both at home and abroad, and that it could hardly be described as the sort of industry which would make the classical economists smile with pride—if classical economists were ever known to smile. On these points, then, I submit there is universal agreement: it is an important industry and the control of it is in a limited number of hands. The point on which we disagree is the way in which this power should be controlled.

It is significant—significant, I would suggest, of the result of five years’ political education since 1945—that nobody in the House today has suggested that there is no need for any control whatsoever. To do so would be to suggest that there was no likelihood of any divergence of interest between the industry and the people of this country. Certainly such a suggestion involves an optimism which it would be hard to justify. On the contrary, hon. Members on both sides have stressed that there is a need for some degree of supervision. In accepting that, the point is immediately made that there may be in the future, as there has certainly been in the past, a divergence between the interest of the industry and the interests of the nation. Our problem tonight—indeed, the problem which was being considered throughout the last Parliament when this Measure was under consideration—is how such a supervision can be made effective.

I realise that analogies are dangerous, but there is one analogy which is as simple as it is instructive when we are considering the question of making supervision effective. It is the analogy with the present Parliamentary situation. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench are making sustained efforts to supervise the policy of the Government. They find this supervision difficult because the political power in the country rests with my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench. Similarly with the iron and steel industry, it is difficult to organise effective supervision over an industry when the real power lies, as in this particular case, with the shareholders. I would suggest to hon. Members opposite, if I may be so presumptuous, that the solution of their Parliamentary difficulties lies in a return to power at a General Election. There could be no dispute on the solution of their difficulties in that case, and there can be no dispute on the solution of our difficulties in this matter. If we are to make supervision effective, we must have control over the sources of the power in the industry, and this lies with the shareholders in the industry.

So much for this substantial case. I apologise to the House for recalling it, except that it is worth keeping it in mind when considering the fresh evidence adduced in this Amendment. The first piece of fresh evidence adduced is the record production in the industry. I, along with many of my hon. Friends, regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did not devote more attention to the efforts of the steel workers in this connection. There are, however, many hon. Members on this side of the House who are better able to speak of that than I am. The point I want to make is a simple one: that the steel industry since 1945 has been working in what it is quite fair to call a sunny economic climate.

In this connection I should like to say a word about my predecessor, Sir Stafford Cripps. No one did more than he to bring about the economic recovery of this country since 1945. He, and those who worked with him, brought this country through the difficulties that faced it without many of the instabilities which arose from different policies, both in the United States and in Western Europe.

One of the major reasons of the success of the steel industry since 1945 was that it enjoyed, in the opinion of our British businessmen, a sustained justification for optimism about the future. I would, of course, only take this information from businessmen themselves. Hon. Members who doubt this, have only to read the annual reports of the company chairmen—that is, the business parts of their reports, and not the political parts—to see that the industry as a whole has benefited immensely through the sound economic planning of the Government. I do not underrate the value of American help—how could I when I am married to an American girl?—but I suggest that the success of the steel industry is much more a vindication of the Government’s economic policy than a measure of the soundness of the present basis of ownership.

The second piece of evidence adduced was on rearmament. The part that the industry has to play in the rearmament drive simply underlines its importance, and therefore we on this side, to say the least, have every right to argue that as the industry is likely to be even more vital in the years ahead. We have even more right to believe that it should be in public hands. Also there are specific problems involved in rearmament, and it is upon these that I should like to focus the attention of the House.

First, there is the fact that the high demand for the products of the industry would tend to push considerations of costs and efficiency into the background if the industry were in private hands. The interests of the shareholders in this respect would be likely to diverge from the interests of the Government. We saw after the First World War—I say “we saw,” but that is a politician’s phrase: I was not born at that period—a similar situation, and we cannot afford to allow the demands made on the steel industry at present to result in its getting behind with its modernisation and development projects. Coupled with the need for a balanced programme is the need also for a proper system of supervision, which, I have tried to suggest, can be achieved only by public ownership.

There is also an important psychological factor. Owing to the curious nature of the industry, the fact that its units of production are of widely differing degrees of efficiency, and because of the complications of the price structure in the industry, there is at least the possibility that high profits will be made in the years during which the rearmament programme is under way. At a time when there is a very real threat to our standard of living, it would be psychologically disastrous to have an iron and steel industry which was doing very well indeed from a business point of view. [Interruption.] That was put badly. I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I submit that the point itself is valid.

The last point with which I should like to deal is the implication in the Amendment that the Government have in some way behaved badly. We on this side are a Socialist Party—we have been for some time. We have never made any secret of the fact. In 1945, when our election programme was published, we made no secret of it, and if any members of the electorate failed to read our election programme, they had only to listen to the Leader of the Opposition to realise that we were a Socialist Party. Everyone on this side pays tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his valiant work in informing the electorate of the intentions of the Labour Party.

The Bill was introduced in Parliament in 1948, and was debated throughout the following year. After some disagreements in another place, a compromise was agreed which seemed, to say the least, to be very fair to the critics of the Bill. Finally, the Bill was enacted. The people and their steel were married, after what, I suggest, was a long period of not very reputable cohabitation—if I may misquote the marriage vows—”For better for worse, for richer or poorer, until the advent of the Conservative Government doth us part.” Moreover, it should be remembered that “That which Parliament hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” This, surely, has some relevance to the Amendment which is before the House. That is the case which we put from this side.

We have learnt some lessons from this controversy. We have learnt that when one is up against the steel “bosses” it may not be as easy to get one’s way as was thought. I believe that the whole history of this controversy is a final justification for our refusal to accept mere control. We have also tasted the political ambitions of economic power, and we shall not forget that either.

There seem to me to be two ways of dealing with the industry. One is an entirely new way, which nobody has actually suggested but which, I believe, is implied in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition; that is, for an entirely new form of public accountability, based on a constantly postponed plan of nationalisation, in which the work of the industry would be regularly surveyed by Parliament on Motions of Censure. That is one way in which it has been suggested that we could retain our ideological security and hon. Members opposite could retain their position of power. I do not think it is a very satisfactory solution, and therefore, with continued diffidence but with no hesitation now, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Hilary Benn – 1999 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

tonybenn

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Hilary Benn in the House of Commons on 23rd June 1999.

I rise with some trepidation, as I am sure is customary among Members making maiden speeches. There is, however, nothing customary in what I wish to say about my predecessor, Derek Fatchett. His tragic death just six weeks ago left us all the poorer. His family lost a much-loved husband and father; the House lost a fine parliamentarian; the Government lost a first-class Foreign Office Minister; the trade union movement lost a committed advocate of the rights of working people; and, above all, the people of Leeds, Central lost a friend as well as a Member of Parliament.

Derek served his constituents with passion and with distinction. People liked him as well as respected him. That is why his passing is still deeply felt by many, and why he is and will be greatly missed by all who knew him. As the new Member, I am proud to serve the constituency that he served.

Over the years, the strength of the city of Leeds and the source of its prosperity have been both its diversity and its capacity to change with the times. That diversity is reflected in the constituency. Starting from the north, it covers two universities and two hospitals, “Jimmy’s” and the Leeds general infirmary. It takes in the West Yorkshire playhouse. It then runs down across a thriving city centre, and on to a large area of manufacturing—to Holbeck, Hunslet and Beeston, which welcomed the first Kosovar refugees to this country. From Cottingley in the west to Richmond Hill in the east along the York road, each part is a unique community with its own characteristics and traditions. Let me add that the warmth of its people is matched only by their plain speaking.

The constituency contains two other great institutions: the Hunslet Hawks rugby league club, in its splendid stadium in south Leeds, and, of course, Leeds United football club at Elland Road. I shall always have a special affection for Elland Road, because that is where my selection conference took place. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) can readily testify, as he was present, it was a colourful scene that night as the votes were counted. The ballot box was pitch black. The voting slips piled on the table were a very pale shade of pink—no political significance whatever should be read into that! The faces of the candidates were, to put it mildly, a little grey. But, resplendent in their traditional white, gazing down at us from their picture frames on the wall, were those two great heroes of Leeds United teams gone by, Gordon Strachan and Johnny Giles. I knew at that moment that there was something special about the constituency, and so it has proved.

There is, however, something else about Leeds, Central, which is why I wanted to contribute briefly to this debate. It contains some of the poorest parts of Leeds, and some of the most deprived communities. It has the highest unemployment in the city. For many of the people who live there, social exclusion is not a theory, but their life experience. These are people whose faith in the capacity of the democratic system to produce real and lasting improvement is tested daily by crime, poor housing and social decay.

Perhaps not surprisingly in view of that, Leeds, Central had one of the lowest turnouts in the country at the last general election: only 55 per cent. Just a fortnight ago, only 20 per cent. of the electorate voted in the by-election, under the first-past-the-post system, and in the European elections, under proportional representation. Such a low turnout must be a matter of concern to all of us; but perhaps there is a deeper message than one just about electoral systems. I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not comment today on the relative merits of those systems, let alone the complexities of the d’Hondt system. I do not even understand the Lewis-Duckworth rule when it comes to rain delay in one-day cricket. However, I believe that the link between a Member of Parliament and his or her constituency is very important.

While there are steps that can and should be taken to make voting easier, I believe that the deeper message is this. The true test of our democratic system—and of the House, in the eyes of those who put us here—is whether we can demonstrate in practice to people in a constituency such as Leeds, Central that they can use this place to make a difference to their own lives.

As the community police officer for Lincoln Green said to me last Friday, when I was talking to him about the area which he knows very well and cares about so passionately: People are looking for a sign that things will get better. That statement summarises why the ballot box has to be an instrument of hope as well as of democracy, a means of economic and political progress, and a way out of poverty and despair.

It was that instrument of hope that, at the end of the second world war, created the national health service, and, under the current Government, created the minimum wage and the new deal, of which we are justly proud. I believe that it is that instrument of hope that remains our best chance of meeting the challenges of the new century that will shortly dawn.

Leeds, Central is special, if not unique, in one other respect: the potential of the people who live there to find a voice for themselves. As I travelled round the constituency during the by-election, time and again, I was impressed by the people I met who were not waiting for us to do something, but were trying to do something for themselves.

At the Holbeck community forum, for example, which I visited, 40 people turned out on a Wednesday evening simply to talk about how they could improve the community in which they live. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I visited a supported housing scheme on a tenant-managed housing estate that was providing supported living—and advice, help and a shoulder to cry on—to young people who could not, for whatever reason, continue to live with their own families. The elderly care project based in the Woodhouse Road community centre, which has raised 80 per cent. of its own funds, is now providing a hot breakfast every day for those in the community who might not otherwise get a square meal.

All those people have very high expectations of us, and rightly so: there is much more that we need to do. But those examples—and there are many others—give me hope, because they are a living demonstration that, where a community finds a voice for itself, it is in a much stronger position to tackle the problems about which it knows most. I also believe that, when that happens, our job as Members of Parliament is made that much easier, because we can then add our voice to theirs. If, by doing that, we can together make a difference, we shall be able to demonstrate not only that the House is the servant of those who elect us but that it is something worth voting for.

Leo Amery – 1911 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Leo Amery in the House of Commons on 17th May 1911.

 

I trust that I may have the indulgence of the Committee for venturing so early in my Parliamentary career to address the Committee on so an important and great a subject as the year’s Budget. I know that I cannot rival the eloquence of the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) below the Gangway, who has just sat down, nor could I attempt to go into the intricacies of the Budget with that wonderful lucidity and grasp which was shown by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman). What I would like to do, if you have patience with me, is to make a few reflections on the general features not only of the Budget as it stands to-day, but on the financial situation of this country as indicated by this Budget. Before I come to more general topics I should like to say how pleased, as one who has spent a little while in East Africa, I was to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that the pledge given some three years ago by the Home Secretary as regards East Africa is to be fulfilled, and that a loan is to be advanced for the purpose of extending a feeder to the Uganda Railway in East Africa, and that money is to be spent on the splendid harbour of Kilindini and in improving the condition of the town of Mombasa. I am glad to say that there was almost universal approval on the other side of the House of the working and the success of the Uganda Railway. I may say that the success attained has been very striking, considering the great cost of that undertaking. I am not going to say that the work was extravagantly done, in the sense that money was wasted, but the railway was, in the opinion of engineers of Colonial experience in such matters, carried out on much too careful a scale and was much too well done for a new country. Even so, the railway has begun to pay its way. What is important is, that it should have feeders to help to develop East Africa. At present a great part of the traffic over that railway is not contributing to the development of British East Africa, but is bringing traffic from German East Africa from the south shore of Lake Victoria Nyanza. I was very glad to find the hon. Member for East Northants (Mr. Chiozza Money) come out as such an eloquent advocate of a policy of wisely spending money on the development of our possessions. I believe that there is no wiser way in which we can spend money. I May not be a financial purist, but I entirely agree with one who is considered to be so, the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who expressed the hope that the surplus might sometimes be devoted to development loans for productive works. The instance of the Uganda railway has not had so much attention paid to it in this House as it deserves. Immense good followed as the result of the loan advanced to the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. There you had a country as empty and utterly desolate as any part of East Africa to-day. There was hardly a farm standing. Ten millions of money spent on railways, and the building of various public works, and ten millions more spent in restoring farms, in bringing to them cattle and stock, brought that country, in six or seven years, into a condition far exceeding anything that could be claimed during the previous fifty years of its history. The lesson which I draw is that what has been done in what, to all intents and purposes was a wilderness, can be done in other wildernesses which exist in our Empire to-day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was sometimes necessary to spend money to utilise previous expenditure. So it is with the expenditure in East Africa on the railway and on the improvement of the harbour of Kilinclini; but we do not know whether the benefit is to accrue to the German East Africa line or to British industry. It is a heavily subsidised line. The hon. Member for East Northants welcomed what the United States are doing in the case of the Panama Canal. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, like many Chancellors of the Exchequer before, has referred to the income which this country derives from the Suez Canal shares.

For an original cost of less than £4,000,000 we are now earning over a million a year, the company paying between 25 and 30 per cent. But it is doing so at the cost of a very heavy burden laid upon shipping, certainly 78 per cent. of which is British. If I might make the suggestion, it is impossible, I believe, for this country with only a minority of representation upon the Canal Board, to insist upon the rate being lowered. What the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself suggested at the Imperial Conference four years ago was that a rebate might be given to British shipping off the Canal dues. There is this further advantage in that, if they are prepared to give two or three hundred thousand pounds of rebate, we should without doubt get a substantial further grant towards rebate from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. Again I regret that there was no mention made in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement of the All Red Route, a subject to which four years ago he promised to devote most earnest attention, but of which we have heard nothing since. It is the one subject on which His Majesty’s Government have shown the least indication of readiness to bind the Empire together. The Imperial Conference will meet in a few days, and one would imagine that at any rate the possibility of some contribution being made towards this scheme would be brought forward. I hold with the Member for Northants that every development of opportunities for trade, the opening up of pathways for commerce and finding employment, is money well spent. Money is better spent if you give five shillings to a workman to enable him to earn thirty shillings a week than if you give him five shillings for a week’s pittance. Let me return to the main question, the relation of our revenue to our expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke with eloquent contentment of the state of trade, and he was ready to wager that we should have another prosperous year. I think he is probably right. A year like the last, which was a very prosperous year, is always followed by large revenue. But the drop in the importation of raw material might indicate a slight check in that movement; whether that is so or not I do not know. But what I do know is that the present movement is not going to last for ever.

There will be sooner or later, possibly sooner rather than later, a period of worse trade. In fact what other justification is there for that great scheme of insurance against unemployment which has been introduced to the House? The Chancellor of the Exchequer boasted of the present prosperity, and suggested that some of it was due to his own Budget. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) dealt with some of the details. But might I say that another part of the right hon. Gentleman’s speech somewhat demolished the credit accruing from these taxes against which we protested most strongly in this House, from which we foretold serious consequences, and taxes which, according to him, have not matured yet and have not begun to exercise their in fluence. When the present period of trade prosperity is over, and those taxes are beginning to mature, does he really think they will relieve a depression of British industry, or is it not very likely that they will tend to accentuate that depression? I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Chelmsford and the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London into the discussion as to the extent to which the Death Duties are actually a tax on capital and not on income, or whether they are heavy burdens upon industry. The difficulty is you have the evil in operation, but the effect of it may not be seen for a very considerable period of time, but, generally speaking, I do not think any one who listened to the final remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer can doubt that even in this period of good trade we are perilously near the margin of elasticity of our revenue when compared with the steady and ever-growing burdens laid upon it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown a spirit of optimism as to the future burdens to be laid on this country. I noticed that he said nothing about the possible future cost in connection with Ireland. The hon. Member for Chelmsford has referred to the possibilities of increased expenditure in connection with the scheme of Home Rule, and we had an eloquent plea made just now by the hon. Member below the Gangway. It seems to me if we have measures in contemplation of that character on that side of the House, we on our side will, in the same spirit, have to approach the question of Ireland as for the development of East Africa, and possibly to incur substantial burdens in order to develop Irish trade, and if possible to bring back to the population that prosperity which they should enjoy with the rest of the Empire.

Then comes the question of naval expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman is sanguine because under the statutory provision now in force in Germany there will be a decrease in the German naval estimates in the next few years. But is the statutory provision now in existence in Germany to be the only and the last statutory provision to be put in force in that country? The only test you can apply as to what is likely to happen in the future is the general trend of German policy, and the general trend of German industrial development. The other day, at a meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute, they were deploring the fact that the German iron and steel industry is now twice as large as ours. Can Members of this Committee contemplate that, in the long run, we can attempt to maintain a two-to-one standard of battleships when the other side have got a two-to-one standard against us in the iron and steel industry? Apart from that, let us consider, not only the possibility of statutory provision being made in Germany, but the fact that there are new statutory provisions made in Austria. There may be a great problem before us in the Pacific. Certainly this concentration of the Navy in Home waters is a thing which cannot be continued always. If there should be a demand for warships in other waters, we would have at once either a large naval increase or we should have a considerable increase of military preparation. I for my part, own that our military preparations are utterly inadequate, and the expenditure of five millions more will not be sufficient, even with a cheap and effective system of national service, to secure our home safety, but even on present lines there must be increase of expenditure We have heard a great deal about the shortage of officers, and the fact that the pay of officers is inadequate. We have also heard of the shortage of horses, and if we are to have horses we must pay for them. We have also heard a great deal in the last few weeks about the serious state of the Territorial Army, and it is likely to be still more serious. If the Territorial Army be put on its proper basis, and is to be made to respond to what the Secretary for War expected it to be, it will have to have a very considerable expenditure made upon it. Naval and Military expenditure is necessary, and it is bound to increase.

I consider it necessary, and I do think it has compensating advantages on which the right hon. Gentleman did not dwell. Certainly as regards naval expenditure it provides a great deal of skilled employment, and, furthermore, it does indirectly give a great deal more unskilled employment, payment for which does not come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. Take the great amounts given for building battleships for foreign Powers—a subsidiary development which is pure profit for the people of this country. Let me now come to the expenditure under this great scheme of insurance. The Bill has been welcomed in all quarters. The sickness part of the scheme has some basis of admitted calculation behind it, though it is bound to exceed the estimate already formed. But as to the unemployment part of this scheme, we have practically no evidence as to what the cost will be on the present narrow and restricted basis, or of what it would cost if other industries insist upon being included in its benefits. When you consider what this will involve in taxation, you must remember the weekly levy upon the employer and the workman, upon which the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) has eloquently insisted. What is the effect of this taxation going to be? The Chancellor of the Exchequer considers, according to an interview reported in the “Daily Telegraph” the other day, that the extra cost will fall on the consumers of this country. Why! he asked, should not the consumer contribute in some measure to the health, comfort, and happiness of those who produce. That is a very significant admission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There can be no one stronger on behalf of the cause of Free Trade than the right hon. Gentleman when he is conscious of the fact that he is discussing the fiscal question, but when his mind is on other matters his utterances must be a continual and terrible source of anxiety to the hon. Member for East Northants. If it is the case that the burden falls on the consumer, then what about its effect upon production? In his speech yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer noticed that a very small increase in the price of tea appreciably diminished consumption. An increase like this upon the cost of goods in this country would, judging by that, have a very serious effect upon consumption and upon production and employment, and possibly would do a considerable amount of harm to industry. I confess I do not hold the view that this burden is going to fall on the consumer. While, the consumer has got an alternative supply to draw upon, he is not subject to that burden. It would be imperative on the producers unless they wished to lose their employment to pay the tax themselves. If they do the question is upon what part of their expenditure will it fall? The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) suggested that it would fall upon the necessaries of life of the working people. If, as he suggests, the result of this scheme of insurance was going to be that the children of the working men will get less food or clothing, or that they will have to live in worse homes, then I am not sure whether the final result of that scheme will be a great benefit. But let us suppose that they pay it out of luxuries; the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested that the money they would contribute would be equivalent more or less to an ounce of tobacco and two glasses of beer per week. Supposing it does fall in that way, has the right hon. Gentleman considered that practically six-sevenths of the cost of that ounce of tobacco and two glasses of beer per week is money taken away from the revenue, and that the revenue will thus lose, and that the shrinkage in the consumption of the working man’s luxuries, represented by the ounce of tobacco and the two glasses of beer, would have a very serious effect on the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman?

Apart from that actual issue of the way in which the tax will be met there remains the fact that these measures add considerably to the burden resting upon the industries of this country. A few years ago a calculation was made, and I think it is generally admitted, that of the cost of production, or the price of any British article in a shop window, something like 12½ per cent. or 2s. 6d. in the £ represented local and Imperial taxation. I think the extra burdens imposed in the last few years, together with the burden now imposed by the Insurance scheme, would bring that amount somewhat nearer t o 15 per cent. If you have a burden of that extent resting on the production of goods of English manufacture, sold in the shops of this country, is it reasonable, and I am not talking at this moment from the point of view of a Tariff Reformer, but from the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that £156,000,000 of manufactures coming into this country should he exempt from that duty. That exemption is equivalent in essence to having an Excise and no Customs to correspond with it. I can only imagine that any Chancellor of the Exchequer, who would really face the problem from that point of view, would be bound to deal with it. It is not satisfactory from the point of view of the consumer either, who now imagines that he saves money when he buys untaxed goods; he has still got to meet the burdens that fall on the industries of the country and to meet the taxation himself. Let me give a concrete instance. A man goes into a shop and sees two articles, one costing a sovereign and English made, and the other 19s. 6d. and German made. Hon. Gentlemen opposite recommend him to buy the cheaper article and save 6d., but the so-called dearer article really only costs 17s. 6d., and the remainder went to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The man makes this assumed saving, but he has forgotten that he is defrauding the Chancellor of the Exchequer of half a crown or three shillings. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not forget that and when the time comes round he has got to make him pay that sum of money, so that along with the cost there is to be added the half-crown, and thus, instead of having paid 19s. 6d., he has paid 22s. for the article.

That is not the end of the story, for after buying that foreign article there is somebody unemployed in this country, somebody whose family are suffering and who is suffering himself. That suffering may not attract the attention of the Free Trade purchaser, but it attracts the warm-hearted sympathy of hon. Members opposite and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who comes to this House with a large scheme for insurance and relief which involves taxation. The Free Trade purchaser finds he has also got to pay for keeping the man whom he deprives of his employment? Even there the story does not finish, because this German article he has bought goes to strengthen the wealth and prosperity of Germany, and a considerable portion of it goes towards the revenues of that country, and a considerable portion of that may be devoted to battleships. Then the First Lord of the Admiralty comes down here and tells this House that he has discovered some time after the event that the Ger man navy has been increased, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, hoping against hope that this may be the last time, asks for a further increase in the Naval Estimates. Thus your Free Trade purchaser who followed the advice of hon. Gentlemen opposite finds that the article for which he paid 19s. 6d. costs him from 24s. to 25s. I wish to suggest that to impose an equivalent burden upon those £156,000,000 manufactured in other countries equivalent to the burden upon our industries is not protection but equalisation. Hon. Members opposite, on the reasoning which they so very often employ against the advocacy of Protection, say that a disadvantage from the revenue point of view of a system of Protection is that you tax part of the supply, and only part, and that only the taxation on that part supplies revenue, and that the price of the whole supply is raised, and that consequently a heavy burden of taxation falls on the consumer and which does not find its way into the Treasury, but into the pockets of capitalists. If that is so I would ask the Members of the Committee to consider the present case, where we have a burden of from 12½ to 15 per cent. put upon the goods made in this country, and that the portion of the supply coming from abroad does not pay anything.

The conclusion, according to the argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that this country at this moment is paying from £15,000,000 to £20,000.000 to the capitalists of other countries and capitalists who are not amenable to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose incomes he cannot touch and whose deaths give him no satisfaction. To put on equalising duties, by the argument of hon. Members, would only mean that the revenue would be getting what at the present moment is going to foreign capitalists. As a matter of fact, I do not share that view in its entirety, and I do not hold that foreign capitalists are making a profit to that extent; but I imagine, in those instances where they are making a substantial profit, that an equalising duty would cause them to lower their prices to contribute the cost of that and relieve the taxpayer of this country. In other instances I believe the real truth is that they are not producing as cheaply as our manufacturers, but owing to the unfair handicap caused by their not having to pay an equalising share in our taxes, they at present can compete where they ought not to compete.

That brings me to the point, or dilemma, that was raised by the hon. Member for Greenock, and also by the hon. Member for Woolwich. They said, “If you do impose those duties for revenue on the foreign importations, and if you do get your revenues, where does the case for employment come to, and if you do keep out those goods and get employment, what happens to your revenue?” A more absurd dilemma there never was. There is no dilemma. If the goods come in then the revenue gets the money; if the goods do not come in, and instead of that are produced in this country, then by all the channels of revenue that production will yield the extra money to the revenue. According to the existing basis of taxation they yield to the revenue at the rate of something like from 12½ to 15 per cent. Therefore there is no question of having a dilemma from which we cannot escape. If we can find employment and production, the revenue will come. That is really the main point. Look after the production of the country and the revenue will look after itself. That was the great point Mr. Gladstone made in his great Budget speeches when he said in taking off one tax and adding another, he did not care so long as they made for the development of commerce.

The whole issue between hon. Members on this side and the other is that we hold that you raise your revenue from the production of the country, and that wherever you raise it and in whatever particular way you raise it, the cost of that burden is inevitably diffused over the whole of the production. Hon. Members opposite, more particularly the hon. Member for Leicester, the hon. Member for East Northants, and to a very large extent the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, have a sort of notion that the annual wealth of the country is something that is taken out of a large sack, and distributed in unequal amounts into the pockets of different classes of persons, and that it is there, and that it ought to be taken to a larger extent out of those pockets where they are most full, and to a less extent where they are not so. That is an entire misconception of the nature of the income of this country. The income of this country is not something which is distributed and then remains in various pockets. It is something that is continually in circulation. To use the phrase of a leading economist, there is a continuous wheel of wealth production.

Money goes into the pockets of one class, and is spent in supporting another class. That goes in its turn to still another class, and so on. To this rule there are certain exceptions. There is such a thing first of all as the circulation of wealth within a certain limited class. A very appreciable portion of the large nominal incomes of what the hon. Member for Leicester called the classes is due to the fact that they pay each other large sums. Thus you have successful barristers and doctors who exchange with each other in the guise of high fees. These fees are not a real addition to wealth, but they represent a certain scale or convention of living. Take the wealthier parts of London where you have high rents, which the same landlord class pay out in high fees to doctors who pay those rents and to barristers who pay those rents, and to dear shops and restaurants. In one way or another a very appreciable proportion of the nominal income of the so-called classes is money that circulates among themselves. If you tax income at a moderate rate you do not prevent the process of circulation amongst them, but if you raise Income Tax beyond a certain point you may find them stopping the circulation of money and you will have an appreciable shrinkage of wealth from which you can get revenue. There is a further point. The circulation of wealth need not take place wholly within the country. There is a necessary and salutary circulation, in which raw materials that are required are brought in from outside, and manufactured articles are sent out by us. There is also a circulation in which only a small part of the process is in this country. People get income from investments in other countries, and they spend income in supporting the labour of those other countries. In that case only a small portion of the circulation is in this country, and a very small portion of the income will serve its natural and proper purpose of providing income for other classes. I will not attempt to labour that somewhat elaborate economical point further.

The ultimate source of revenue is the production in this country. If you want to lighten the burdens of the working people the task to which you should devote yourself is not that of discovering elaborate means of punishing this or that class, with a view to getting more out of one class than out of another, but that of finding means to increase the amount of production in this country, and to increase the demand for labour. In conclusion, though I believe the condition of the revenue can be enormously improved by a different fiscal system, I feel that the responsibilities which are going to be laid upon this country in future are so great that no fiscal system based on the resources of the United Kingdom alone can ever bear them. We have to face an immense task—a task which two islands like these can never face alone. If I may adapt the famous words of Canning we must call a new world of Empire into being to redress the balance of the old. The lesson I draw from that is that when you consider the proposals which have been made for drawing the Empire closer together by preferential tariffs, by expenditure on better means of communication, and so on, you should not look at them from the point of view of fiscal theory, or from the point of view of the immediate expenditure involved, but you should consider what their effect is to be on the Budgets and the social programmes of the future. Hon. Members should remember that every quarter of wheat brought from Canada carries in itself some contribution towards the ultimate solution of the great problem of defence, because the man in Canada is prepared to take a share in the defence of the Empire, either in his own person or in contributing to the revenues of a Government which has already done something, and mill in time to come do more. By that very act we are also contributing some thing towards solving the social problems of the country. I am not talking of the advantages to trade, because I am not now making a speech on Tariff Reform, except in its revenue aspect, but even in that aspect the task of the social reformer will be lightened.

I conceive that the true object for social reformers to have in view is, not to aim at the impossible, not to demand reductions or armaments which would bring the country into danger, and undermine the whole groundwork on which any social reform must rest, but to find ways and means of diminishing the intolerable nature of the burden by calling in others to share that burden. May I appeal still more earnestly to Members of the Government, who in the next few days are going to enter into discussion with representatives of the dominions beyond the seas as to how best the Empire may be drawn together and strengthened? I ask there to forget for the moment that they are a party majority in this House, and to remember that they are the representatives not only of the England of to-day, but of the England of the future. I ask that, in considering the schemes brought before them, they should judge them not in a narrow spirit, but broadly, looking to what they may mean in the long run to the revenues of this country and its prosperity.

Danny Alexander – 2005 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Danny Alexander in the House of Commons on 19th May 2005.

 

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this House today. I start by congratulating my right hon. Friend—sorry, my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy). I was going to say that Cornwall had maybe discovered another star of the future, but perhaps I have promoted her somewhat too quickly. I congratulate her on her maiden speech and I congratulate other hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches today.

I am personally grateful to hon. Members from all parties, but especially to Liberal Democrat Members and to the staff of the House, whose advice and kindness have helped me and other new Members to find our feet. I am proud to say that I am the first Member of Parliament to represent Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. This is a new constituency, and there are many in Scotland. Three quarters of the constituency was previously within the Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber constituency. I pay tribute to David Stewart, who was the Member of Parliament for that constituency from 1997 and the Labour party candidate at the election.

Mr. Stewart conducted his campaign in the way he conducted himself in this House: he was understated, industrious and gentlemanly. He was a renowned campaigner on many worthy causes, and I would particularly like to highlight his work to tackle global poverty through the Jubilee 2000 movement. I wish him well for the future. Of course, the highlands of Scotland have a long and radical tradition. Hence it has been for many years a stronghold of Liberalism and now Liberal Democracy. Prior to 1997, much of my constituency was represented by that great Highland Liberal Russell Johnston, who continues his service in the other place. Throughout his 33 years representing the area, Russell exemplified the thoughtful and independent-minded approach that is characteristic of the highlands. I was especially grateful to him for spending so much of his time with me during the election campaign. It is striking to think that Russell was a Member of this House for as many years as I have so far spent on this earth. Russell Johnston was to me, as to many others, a political inspiration, but he was not the first Liberal influence on my life. My mother tells me that, when I was three months old, my grandfather was seen rocking me in my pram and saying “Repeat after me: ‘I am a member of the Liberal Party.'”

A quarter of my constituency was previously represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr. Kennedy). Indeed, that is not the only thing that we have in common, for we are both former pupils of Lochaber high school and, as has been remarked upon in the press, share a hair colour that is perhaps more prevalent in the far north of Scotland than anywhere else. I have been very grateful for his help and support locally over the past year as a candidate, as well as for his outstanding leadership of the Liberal Democrat party, which has seen us to our best performance in a general election since the 1920s. Both my right hon. Friend and Lord Russell-Johnston have spoken up loudly for the highlands and for their principles, and if I can live up to their standards in the years to come, I shall be serving my constituents well. Like them, I shall work hard for everybody in my constituency, irrespective of their party preference.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is the longest name of any constituency in the country—indeed, to some it may prove to be something of a tongue-twister. While many Members can speak of the visual attractions of their constituencies, I believe that Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey can rightly be described as one of the most beautiful of all. It is also one of the most diverse, encompassing the fast-growing city of Inverness, the remote splendour of the Cairngorm mountains, the mysteries of Loch Ness and the popular seaside town of Nairn. I have not yet had the pleasure of canvassing the most famous resident of Loch Ness, but I am reliably informed that she is not a Labour supporter. Like the Prime Minister, Nessie was not seen in my constituency during the election campaign, but unlike the Prime Minister, her reputation has grown as a result. Tourism is one of the most important industries in the area and hon. Members on both sides of the House can be assured of a warm highland welcome as and when they choose to visit. Indeed, I hope that the Prime Minister will now take the opportunity to do so.

One of the most important recent developments in Badenoch and Strathspey has been the creation of the Cairngorms national park, and I previously worked for the park authority. Readers of the National Geographic Magazine recently voted the highlands one of the top 10 sustainable tourism destinations in the world. Clearly, the need to develop the tourist industry further must be accommodated in such a way that it does not at the same time undermine the natural features that attract the visitors in the first place. We must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

As Members on both sides of the House are all too aware—the right hon. Member for Fylde (Michael Jack) eloquently made the point in his speech earlier—threats to our environment are more often international than local. The threat and indeed the current reality of climate change are all too apparent to my constituents, not least because they are highly visible through the fortunes of the Scottish ski industry. The Cairngorm mountain ski area has successfully diversified into a very popular summer attraction, as the amount of time and the snow available for winter sports have fallen as a consequence of global warming. I hope that we might finally see some genuine progress made on that most pressing question when the G8 comes to Scotland in the summer.

I am proud to represent the whole of the city of Inverness, capital of the highlands. Britain’s most northerly city is also one of the country’s fastest growing. The quality of life, as well as the quality of employment, have caused the population to rise, especially in the Inverness and Nairn areas. As well as being a service centre for the highlands, with much income from traditional areas such as tourism, Inverness is home to an increasing number of innovative modern industries, particularly in the medical field. The success of LifeScan Scotland, formerly Inverness Medical, which now employs more than 1,200 people, is helping to attract many new businesses to the area.

Inverness’s growth and success present challenges, not least the fact that, despite recent progress, with wages at 80 per cent. of the UK average, the highlands and islands is still one of the poorer areas in the United Kingdom. Problems caused by remoteness are as pressing as they were when Russell Johnston raised them in his maiden speech in 1964. Of course, there has been progress, and I pay tribute to the work of many public agencies in the highlands. The fact remains that there is considerable room for improvement in all aspects of the transport network—bus, train, road, and air—in my constituency, despite the substantial progress made under Nicol Stephen, our Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive Minister for Transport.

Effective transport links between the highlands and London are vital for the region’s continued growth, so it is a matter of regret that the Government have so far not seen fit to protect vital air routes between Inverness and London with a public service obligation. Considerable further investment is also needed to improve road and rail infrastructure around Inverness and between Inverness and Nairn, particularly by upgrading the A96 and completing the Inverness southern link road.

Perhaps the most pressing problem across the highlands—and, as we have heard in other speeches today, in many areas across the country—is the shortage of affordable housing. The rapid rise in house prices has pushed owning a home beyond the means of many local people. One Conservative Member has already confessed to me that he owns a second home in my constituency. I look forward to meeting him there, but I have to say that demand for second homes has enormously exacerbated the problem of the shortage of affordable housing. We need radical solutions, which will be one of my priorities during this Parliament. Although housing policy in Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Parliament, decisions made here can have a significant impact on the problem.

Our rural areas are home to many thousands of people, so services in small communities such as those that I represent must be preserved and enhanced, not undermined or removed, as has been the fate, for example, of too many post offices in recent years.

In his book, “Memory Hold the Door”, the author, John Buchan, wrote of the importance of holding public office in words that I believe still hold true today:

“Here our surface ribaldry covers a sincere respect, and in recent years, when parliamentary government has been overthrown elsewhere, I think we have come to cherish ours more than ever. Public life is regarded as the crown of a career, and to a young man it is the worthiest ambition. Politics is still the greatest and most honourable adventure.”

I look forward to the next stage of that adventure and I thank hon. Members for their forbearance of my opening foray today.

Peter Aldous – 2010 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Peter Aldous in the House of Commons on 27th May 2010.

 

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to make my maiden speech. I will start by paying tribute to the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) for his passionate, detailed and knowledgeable speech on climate change. Indeed, it has been marvellous to listen today to some great speeches. We heard the speech of the new hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), whose brother is a minister in my constituency, Waveney in Suffolk. We then heard the speech of the new hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray), who listed some films that had been made in the famous Ealing Studios. She actually missed out the most famous, “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, where the star had a particular way of getting into the other place. I think that constitutional reform will put an end to that.

I chose this debate to make my maiden speech because energy and offshore renewable energy is vital to the future of my constituency-Lowestoft and the surrounding area, which have suffered from industrial decline for the best part of 30 years. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Mr Bob Blizzard, for the work that he has done over the past 13 years. He has been a passionate advocate for Waveney and a hard-working and diligent MP. I thank him for all the work that he has done.

Waveney is the most easterly constituency in the country. Perhaps at times, we Suffolk people hide our light under a bushel and do not make the most of the virtues that we have. The constituency’s make-up is diverse. We have the coastal town of Lowestoft, famous for its fish, its maritime history, its decent, honourable people and its clean beaches. There is the fishing village of Kessingland, and the market towns of Bungay and Beccles, and wide open rural expanses in between. The people up there do at times feel that they have been forgotten down here. It is as if we were at the end of a line.

We have been crying out for better roads and railways for what seems like many, many years. I will continue to make that cry, as other Waveney politicians have done. In November 1959, Jim Prior, now in another place, described the road and communications system in East Anglia as the Cinderella of the country. It seems as if we have not got very much further in the past 50-odd years.

We have industries that have declined. The fishing industry is no longer what it was; shipbuilding has gone; and the canning factory has gone. That is what we need to address. I am not going to moan; offshore renewables present us with a great opportunity to bring Waveney into the 21st century. It was an opportunity that Bob Blizzard recognised, and I will be taking the baton from him to make sure that we deliver on that goal.

We need a new and radical energy policy. If we do not have it, the lights will go out. We need to be in control of our own destiny. We need energy security. We owe it to future generations to take a major step towards a low-carbon economy. We need a mixture of energy sources-green energy sources. To me, nuclear has a vital role to play; so, too, does clean coal, and micro-energy is also of great importance, but it is offshore renewables on which I want to focus. We have to get 15% of our energy supply from renewables by 2020. We have a lot of work to do, being at just over 5% now. There are great opportunities for green jobs; I see that it is estimated that there will be 1.2 million by 2015. If we do not do the work, we will fall a long way short.

Lowestoft has a great opportunity, and great advantages in setting about giving us those green jobs and taking us forward. It has a great location, close to where the offshore turbines will be-the East Anglia Array and the Greater Gabbard. We have a skills base, built up over many years, in fishing, in shipbuilding, and in the North sea oil and gas industry. Those skills are transferrable, and we can make best use of them in the renewables sector.

We have to improve our training and education. We have a further education college that is delivering skills, and there is the opportunity for University Campus Suffolk to provide higher education with regard to those skills. We also need to reinvigorate the apprenticeship system, which, in Waveney and Lowestoft, has been so important in our past. There are measures in the Queen’s Speech that will help to deliver that.

I am here to represent Waveney, but I must not be parochial. To deliver green energy, and get the renewables that we need, I have to think outside my constituency, and think about the surrounding constituencies. In East Anglia, we have great opportunities. There is a deep-sea port in Yarmouth; that will help us to bring opportunities there. There is land elsewhere in other constituencies, too. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis) is not here at the moment; in the past, Lowestoft and Yarmouth have spent a lot of time fighting each other. We fought on opposite sides in the civil war, and we had the herring wars, but we are united now in seeking to deliver the renewable energy opportunities.

The energy Bill will be a foundation stone; we have to build on that for the benefit of Britain, East Anglia and-to go back to being parochial for a minute-Waveney. Looking at it from Britain’s point of view, we have the opportunity to lead the world in a transition to a low-carbon economy. We owe it to future generations to grasp that opportunity.

Adam Afriyie – 2005 Maiden Speech

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Adam Afriyie in the House of Commons on 23rd May 2005.

afriyie

As an ardent campaigner for decision making to remain in this House, I am delighted to address the House today. I must thank the retiring Member for Windsor for his continuous hard work over many years. It is thanks to him that the doors of the Edward VII hospital remain open; it is thanks to him that the doors of the Helena Day ward remain open. I must also thank him for his good work with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and its continued work in Belarus and Tibet.

I must also thank the members of the Windsor Conservative association, who selected and supported me more than 19 months ago. It really means something to me that they have stuck with me the whole way through the hard work of getting elected. Of course, I must thank the residents of Windsor for the warm welcome that I received on 35,000 doorsteps. I recognise that many of them will have broken with former allegiances to deliver the result that delivers me here today.

I would like to tell you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, about the wonderful constituency that I represent. It has leafy hills and dales; it has great parks and lakes. It is beautiful and attractive, as are the people. I recall one particular doorstep on which I was campaigning early one morning. I knocked on the door and a beautiful young lady answered. She seemed stunned to see me, and I was certainly stunned, but also delighted, to see her — thinking that I was her boyfriend, she had come to the door completely naked. I have lost my train of thought now.

We have some wonderful schools in the constituency. One near Slough, with which many Members will be familiar, is particularly notable. We also have wonderful historic buildings. With the award given to the Fat Duck a few weeks ago it is now accepted the world over that we have the finest dining in the entire world. We benefit from internationally renowned race courses, and we have a strong military presence, with the Household Cavalry and the Blues and Royals. We have one of the finest, grandest and most popular tourist attractions in the whole world — a symbol of our national historic heritage. I refer of course to Legoland. We also have one or two notable residents, of whom I am sure we are all aware.

We face some challenges, too. The character of our area, our community and our neighbourhoods is being ruined by insensitive high-density development. That is placing pressure on our roads, creating queues at our GPs’ surgeries and causing stress to parents who cannot find a place for their children in the local schools. We have also had the blight of flooding in recent years. In areas such as Horton, Wraysbury, Old Windsor and Datchet, the risks caused by the inadequate measures on the Jubilee river still exist. In other parts of the constituency, the challenge and threat of increasing aircraft noise remain. We have a noisy neighbour in Heathrow, which not only provides employment but brings stresses and strains with the continued noise and pollution that is created. We have some challenges, and we must rise to meet them.

Like many Members, I come from a fairly ordinary background. When one comes from an ordinary background, one is determined to make something of oneself. I worked hard at school, I made it to grammar school and then on to university. I have worked hard in business for many years. I am delighted that today, the organisations that I helped to start provide incomes and livelihoods for about 300 people and their families. I will continue to work hard here in Parliament, to take action on the issues that matter to us all.

When I was being lovingly dragged up in south-east London, a thought struck me. My friends, my family and the people with whom I have worked over the years all seem to be happier when they are making decisions for themselves — when they have control of their own lives. One of the biggest causes of stress in Britain today is a feeling that one’s own life is out of one’s control. With my hon. Friends, I am determined that people should regain a sense of control over their lives. We have had a lot of talk today about civil liberties, and I am determined that we shall continue that push towards civil liberties, towards a country free from unnecessary interference from state and government.

Despite the sleep deprivation during the campaign and for the first couple of weeks here in Parliament, I am thrilled, delighted, excited and elated to be here, but I am also conscious of the onerous responsibility that we bear as Members. The House has my commitment that I will take action; I will not only campaign for the residents of Windsor but take action on the things that matter to us all. In the years to come, I want all of us to feel a sense of control over our lives, a sense of self-confidence in who we are and, as far as is possible in a civilised society, a sense of freedom to enjoy our lives in the way that we choose. Above all, I want all British citizens to rediscover a sense of pride in being British. I say without hesitation or hindrance that I am proud to be British. I am proud to play a small role in this debate, and I am proud that under your watchful eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will play a small role in the future of our great nation.