Paul Tyler – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Paul Tyler, the then Liberal MP for Bodmin, on 12 March 1974.

I am grateful and honoured to have been successful in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker.

I hope that the House will not think it excessively precocious of me to leap in so early in a parliamentary career. I have two motives. One is that I suspect that this Parliament may not last all that long, so I want to take advantage of my presence here as quickly as possible. More seriously, there seems to be no opportunity later in the debate on the Gracious Speech to discuss housing, so I was compelled to try to catch your eye today.

My predecessor as Member for Bodmin was a devoted and diligent constituency Member. We admired him for that and were grateful to him for the hard work he put in on behalf of the division. He will be missed, I fear, from the House for an additional reason: I understand that he had the best batting average of any hon. Member. I must confess that cricket is not my game and that even if the House manages to stay together until the cricket season, I shall not be performing in that way.

The constituency that I have the honour and privilege to represent may be known to many right hon. and hon. Members. I hope that it is known to you, Mr. Speaker. I know that it is an old parliamentary game to try to lure the Prime Minister into one’s constituency, but I should be much more glad to lure you into mine. The Prime Minister, I understand, frequently travels through my constituency at speed by railway. I would far rather have your presence, Mr. Speaker, so that I could demonstrate to you that it is the most beautiful constituency in the United Kingdom.

More than that—it is at the moment a comparatively prosperous part of Cornwall. I say “comparatively” because the Duchy of Cornwall has not found it easy to keep pace with the rising cost of living in the rest of the country and we have consistently lagged behind in terms of incomes under successive Governments in the last 25 to 30 years. However, for a short time there was a more positive approach to the problems of low income areas and my constituency was fortunate enough to obtain new industry, particularly light engineering. As a result, small market towns have been enabled to expand.

Unfortunately, in the last three-and-a-half to four years, this expansion has slowed up—not just because of a lack of interest among potential industrialists, but because of the housing situation. On this subject, I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson). The housing shortage is now a major social evil again. Perhaps for the first time, it is not just the central urban areas that are feeling the effect of the housing crisis. Certainly a rural area with comparatively small towns, such as South-East Cornwall, feels this now excessively, so much so that it is having a major impact on our whole economy.

Although five or six years ago, young people often had to leave the area because of lack of jobs, the reason now all too often is the complete lack of any suitable accommodation. Any hon. Member representing a large constituency must receive in his postbag details of many sad, unfortunate housing problems. On reaching this place, I certainly found myself engulfed in such a postbag. I know that the previous Member did a great deal of valuable work, but I suspect that my postbag is that much greater as a result of what has happened in comparatively recent months.

The sad fact is that the national and the local housing programmes have collapsed. The former Minister for Housing and Construction announced at the end of January that the figures for completions in the private sector had fallen to 186,100 and in the public sector to 107,500—decreases of 10,200 and 15,400 respectively, giving a total of 293,600 in 1973 compared with 319,100 in 1972. These are alarming figures.

The Natonal House-Building Council has already announced that in the first month of this year there has been a further drop in the private sector of 40 per cent. compared with the previous year. Judging from our own local experience, we in South-East Cornwall are experiencing this situation with the same gravity as that with which we meet all major economic, social and housing problems in the country. When the country gets a cold, we in Cornwall, I fear, seem to catch double pneumonia.

In the West Country in 1973 council housing completions were down by some 75 per cent. on the preceding 12 months. In East Cornwall the council house building programme is almost at a standstill. Very few family houses are being built. Only a handful of old peoples’ dwellings are being built. At the same time, the private sector is finding that it has no purchasers for the houses that it completes.

There are two or three immediate steps which the new Government could take. I think that I have my right hon. and hon. Friends with me in suggesting that this is something which the new Government should look at as a matter of urgency. First, it is now possible to give more responsibility to the local housing authority. Some of us had grave misgivings about the passage of the Local Government Act 1972, but its one merit was that in giving additional size and status to the new district councils, the new housing authorities, it should have been possible to trust them a little more. The first way in which I would seek to trust them a little more, to decide what their local needs are and then to meet them, would be to abolish the housing cost yardsticks.

As the House will remember, the housing cost yardsticks were introduced by a previous Labour Government in 1967. They tie down the local housing authority to an immense degree and to minute detail. They have all sorts of unfortunate side effects. Much of the condensation problem in recent council house building has been caused by the fact that the housing cost yardsticks provide for only partial home heating. The result has been that in the long term a great deal of remedial work has had to be undertaken, costing thousands or millions of pounds. The first step would be to abolish the housing cost yardsticks and to lay the responsibility fairly and squarely on the housing authority to undertake the sort of building that it needs for its own purposes.

Secondly, on the mortgages situation the Gracious Speech contains a splendid non sequitur. It states that Urgent measures will be taken to reverse the fall in house-building”. and goes on to elaborate other policies which are totally unrelated to that objective. Certainly at present the mortgage situation should be a cause for grave alarm on the Treasury Bench.

The Liberal Party has promoted for some years the idea of low-start mortgages. It is nothing new. Many hon. Members in all parts of the House now support that concept. But why is it that, when we have had an official report making it quite evident that it is possible to run such a scheme, it takes this country two or even three years to put it into operation? The National Economic Development Council produced a report at least two years ago, setting out in detail the financial implications of a low-start mortgage scheme, but it is still not fully operational.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant), who has now left the Chamber, referred to the role of building societies. I believe that building societies are too cautious. The Government should be in a position to encourage them to be much more open-minded and much more liberal with their funds. At the same time, the building societies should be encouraged actually to build. In the Scandinavian countries and in West Germany the building societies build houses. That is a role which would do a great deal for the societies and for the whole question of the finance of housing in Britain.

Thirdly, and very importantly, I believe that there should be immediate action to channel public funds to those most in need when it comes to buying a house. We must now wait for the Budget. It would be fair to say, however, that my right hon. and hon. Friends will be looking to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for some explicit statement or action to try to make sure that the tax allowances for house purchase go to those who are most in need of help.

The time has certainly come when we must regard housing as one of our biggest social problems. From this problem derive so many of our social difficulties. At the same time, we must not forget that it is a question of quality as well as quantity. We must be building to last. We must not be building the slums of tomorrow. The cost yardstick, sadly, has done a great deal to produce substandard homes in the longer term.

But the financial system which ensures that loans are raised for a period of 60 years, and then after that period we forget about the structure of the buildings, has also ensured that we have moved inevitably towards more and more throw-away building in the last 20 to 30 years. That process must now be reversed, because the energy crisis and the material crisis mean that a house or any building today must be built to last if we are to get good value from the public money which we invest in them. Buildings must be built to last at least 100 years, if not 150 years.

We must hope that the new Government will look again at the subject of housing. I fear that the brief reference in the Gracious Speech does not encourage me to think that the Government will approach this subject with a freshness which will enable them to insist that the particular representatives of our community, who are responsible for planning the shelter of our citizens, should look at the subject in the interests of all future generations. It is not good enough to build just for here and now. We must be building for a generation after the next generation. If we are to do that, we certainly cannot continue with the present hand-to-mouth financial restrictions which prevent local housing authorities from doing a good job for their community.

The time has come to trust the people and the representatives of the people. That must mean less Whitehall interference, rather than more.

George Robertson – 1978 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by George Robertson, the then Labour MP for Hamilton, on 14 June 1978.

I do not need to underline to this House the pride I have in being elected as Member of Parliament for Hamilton. I hope that my presence here and the result in that constituency are of some little relevance to this debate.
It is a great honour for me to follow in the footsteps of the late Member for Hamilton, Mr. Alexander Wilson. I knew him well and I know that he was widely respected in the House. He was a man of dignity and integrity, who worked quietly and without fuss in his constituency and in the House pursuing the interests of the people of Hamilton and of Larkhall. He did so diligently, without publicity and with honour.

The work which Mr. Wilson did quietly was all designed to help the people of the area and to further the interests of his constituents. I know from the volume of work which is there and the catalogue of achievement mentioned to me during the by-election that he was a man who clearly made an impact in the House and had much to offer.

Although I am proud to be the new Member for Hamilton, I am aware that that is possible only due to the tragic and untimely death of Alex Wilson. I know that he also made a considerable contribution within the parliamentary mining group. That is an industry which he knew well and from which he came. He is well remembered within the industry in Scotland, throughout Scotland and in the mining group.

At this stage in history it is also a pleasure for me to represent Hamilton because the features of that part of Lanarkshire show all the promise of the new Scotland which lies ahead. It is an exciting mixture of ages, of classes, of population and of industry. In that mix it has changed dramatically from the older and more traditional industries of the past—especially that of mining, on which Scotland’s economy previously relied—to light engineering, electronics and the production of sophisticated clothing. In those areas it is excelling. The character of Hamilton is an indication of the way in which Scotland will go in future—not just electorally but in the areas of industry and of technological progress.

During the by-election, as perhaps during any by-election, local circumstances and problems were highlighted. Although there is much of promise in the area, one of the greatest causes for concern is unemployment. As an aspiring Member, I made it my duty and obligation to pursue the subject of joblessness in the community. We cannot rest, in the House or throughout the country, as long as the present level of unemployment continues.

At 11 per cent., unemployment in Hamilton is considerably above the Scottish and national average. It is a substantial problem. The most serious aspect is youth unemployment. The prospects for young people leaving school this year and in future without jobs are a matter of concern for them, for their parents and for us in society as a whole, because the future of the country and the future stability of society will be largely dependent on the sort of future that we can offer to young people.

I feel that we have in the country as a whole to make a concerted effort to ensure that the problems of unemployment that we now face are purely temporary, and that we can build a future prosperity which will mean that especially the young people will be assured the jobs, the training and the prosperous future that they would wish for themselves, and that their parents would wish for them.

However, I fought a campaign based on the Government’s record. I did it not uncritically but not apologetically, and I asked the people to give their assessment of the situation and their view of the future and to say which party they would trust to run the country’s affairs in the future. In the context of this debate, it is instructive and relevant to remember the answer that the people gave.

However strongly we feel about the present position of the economy, we must recognise that locally and nationally much has been done to alleviate the problems of unemployment, and especially to look after the needs of young unemployed people. In the Hamilton area, much has been done about unemployment as a whole. In the past five months there has been a positive increase in employment and a very clear decrease in unemployment which has been greater than the national trend, which in itself is welcome. As for youth unemployment, over half those between the ages of 16 and 17 registered as unemployed are already involved in job creation schemes and Government-assisted programmes. We were able to show that, although there was a level of concern that we should not in any way attempt to disguise, there has also been positive Government action to make sure that the impact was the least that was possible in the circumstances.

The area also shows other signs of Government intervention, and of the intervention of a Government in regional policy which has made a serious impact on the problems of Central Scotland. The Scottish Development Agency—of which I was privileged to be a board member until I came to Parliament—had quite a significant impact in the area. Its industrial estates employ the vast majority of the people in the area, and in companies in which investment has taken place in surrounding areas jobs have been safeguarded for people who work within Hamilton. In the steel industry—one of the largest employers in Hamilton, although it is marginally outside the constituency—investment by the Government has assured the future of Ravenscraig and associated industries.

Although temporary Government measures are not an answer, there are all the signs in the area that the jobs which are necessary for the future, the growth that is needed and the hope that is desired by the people are being promised by the Government. The people in my area gave a pretty clear and decisive answer as to which party they would trust for the conduct of their affairs in the future.

The acid test at the end of the day is the will of the people, and there have not been very many tests of public opinion in Scotland where the issue has been put to the country. Not only has the Government’s record been judged and, I think, honourably tested in this election. The future of the constitution of the country was also put to the test in the circumstances here. The policies of separation and of the disintegration of the United Kingdom as we know it were clearly put to the electorate. The electorate gave an answer which shows that people in that area, as throughout Scotland, want to see Britain united and the problems faced head on.

I also feel that one of the lessons of that by-election, and its result in my presence here today, is that the people of Britain and of Scotland are tired of the cynical manipulation of policies by whichever party may choose to pursue them. They have rejected confrontation quite clearly and precisely whether it be in industry or within the separate parts of this country. If there is an answer to be taken from any of the election results that we have had recently, it is that the constitutional settlement proposed by the Government is necessary, desirable and in keeping with the desires of the peoples of this country, who are looking for a different constitutional set-up.

The Government’s resolve in this area of the constitution, despite the frustrations with which they have clearly met so far, has been of enormous consequence in stemming the tide towards the break-up of the United Kingdom. I believe that the lesson of the present period is that the British people are tired—and clearly tired—of confrontation, and that they will in future continue to put their trust in this Government, believing as they do that only this Government’s competence, conviction and philosophy will be relevant to the problems of all these islands in the 1980s.

Malcolm Rifkind – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Malcolm Rifkind, the then Conservative MP for Edinburgh, Pentlands, on 19 March 1974.

It gives me great pleasure to participate in this debate, but as a new Member I feel that, both of necessity and through pleasure, I should make some observations on my constituency and on my predecessor. I have the pleasure of representing the Pentlands division of Edinburgh, a city that returns some seven Members to this Parliament, thus ensuring that all the deadly sins are well represented on both sides of the Chamber; I leave it to hon. Members to decide for themselves which should be attributed to whom.

Pentlands is somewhat unusual for an urban constituency in that almost half its area consists of the impressive hills that give it its name. In addition, within the boundaries of the constituency there are three thriving villages, and at least one full-time shepherd, which ensures that the agricultural interest cannot be ignored. The bulk of the electorate, however, live in the gracious houses of Colinton and Merchiston, the new massive council estates of Wester Hailes, the older estates of Sighthill, and the new private housing estates of Bonaly, Buckstone and Baberton.

My predecessor was a man whom the House held in high regard—a former Lord Advocate, Norman Wylie. He had the somewhat unusual distinction of having Front Bench responsibilities not only from the very day on which he entered this Chamber but as Solicitor-General for Scotland for some months before that. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have been delighted to hear of his elevation to the Scottish Bench as a Senator of the College of Justice.

I, too, am an advocate, and I am sure that the House will be glad that the quota of lawyers in this place has not been diminished by Norman Wylie’s departure. However, I can sympathise—if not agree—with those who, like Burke, believe that the country should be governed by law but not by lawyers.

I am particularly delighted to be able to speak in a debate on foreign affairs. It has been one of the sadder features of recent election campaigns that our overriding infatuation with economic statistics and the cost of living has driven considerations of Britain’s international rôle into forgotten corners.

Perhaps the only issue which came to the forefront in the election campaign was our relationship with the European Economic Community. It was sad that, for the bulk of the electorate, that was largely a matter of domestic significance, concerned only with the price of butter and eggs. We are in danger of becoming morbidly introspective and insular, forgetting that, while we do not have an imperial tradition to continue, we have a vital contribution to make towards the solution of international problems.

I hope that I am not being unduly optimistic. I accept that we cannot look back on a world that has left us for ever. I know that we cannot emulate the naïve innocence of Canning, who, having sent British troops to Portugal in 1822, was able to remark that the British flag now flies from the heights above Lisbon, and where the British flag flies no foreign domination shall come.

However, Britain—as, indeed, does France—has a strength which cannot be matched by the super-Powers. We share parliamentary, historical and linguistic links with the great majority of the nations of Africa and Asia. We are part of their history, and they are part of ours. More importantly, we are no longer a threat to their independence or to their security. At such a time as this, Britain and France have the potential to bridge the awful and depressing gulf between the rich nations and the poor nations, which happen also to be the white and the coloured nations. It is a terrible responsibility upon us, and it would be tragic if at such a time we were to retreat into being a small island off the western coast of Europe, concerned only with our domestic problems and whether we should sub-divide ourselves even further, like some schizophrenic amoeba.

I wish to speak specifically about Southern Africa. I believe that Britain has a rôle, through both history and inclination, of vital importance to that area. I speak with a little knowledge, having spent almost two years working at the University of Rhodesia in Salisbury. That university was multi-racial in character, which is very unusual for that country. Indeed, it was its multi-racial character which caused some of the Rhodesian Front members to describe it affectionately as the “Kremlin on the Hill”.

Despite that, Rhodesia is of considerable importance. It has, perhaps, been one of the more endearing features of the activities of this House that successive Governments have produced what can only be called a bi-partisan policy on the problem of Rhodesia. I, for one, welcome that fact. Few who have been to Rhodesia, whether to visit or to live there, cannot but be aware of the grave injustices that one finds in Rhodesian society. One cannot but be aware of the deep division in Rhodesian society between white and black, and of the great gulf that separates the two halves of the population.

There is one aspect of the present Government’s policy towards Rhodesia which I cannot but regret. As I see it, there are two schools of thought in Southern Africa. There are those who, on the one hand, however optimistically, however naïvely, believe passionately in the possibility of a multi-racial society in that unhappy country. There are, however, on the other hand, those who, equally sincerely and perhaps equally passionately, believe that the only alternative to European domination is African domination. Adherants to the latter view can be found both in the Rhodesian Front and in the African Nationalist Parties.

While I clearly and willingly accept that the Government in their policy support the former view that we must work towards a multi-racial society, there is one aspect of their approach which belittled that. We saw how, in the Queen’s Speech, it was stated that the Government would accept only a settlement that was supported not by the majority of the population but by the African majority.

Likewise, the concept of NIBMR is often referred to as “no independence before” not “majority rule,” but “majority African rule.” That is not simply a matter of linguistic importance. It is of great importance, because it suggests that the Government of our country are moving towards a situation where they believe that the only alternative to European domination is African domination. Indeed, it confirms the belief of the Europeans in Rhodesia that Britain in general, and the Labour Party in particular, does not care for the interests of the European community in Rhodesia with regard to their long term future. It is terribly important that at every available opportunity we should make it abundantly clear that we believe that there is a long-term future for the European community in Rhodesia, albeit in a very different Rhodesia from that in which they are living today. But it is vital that we should put that point.

There is one final matter concerning Southern Africa to which I should like to refer. Many arguments are made about the rights and wrongs, the pros and cons, of economic or diplomatic boycott. I should not wish to enter into those arguments at present, save only to say that the arguments have force on both sides. But there is one passionate plea that I would make, and that is to dissuade as far as I am able those who would argue for a cultural and academic boycott of Southern Africa. I do not, for one moment, doubt the sincerity of their motives, but I know from the people, both black and white, who are fighting against apartheid—not in Trafalgar Square, but in Southern Africa itself—that this sort of approach creates the greatest of anguish.

There is little enough originality, creativity or progressive ideas in the Southern part of the African continent, and it would be singularly unfortunate were we to support those who suggest that what little originality, what little cultural creation there is in that part of the world should be stifled from it. I say instead that we should encourage all forms of cultural and academic contact with Southern Africa, not because it will turn the Europeans into the great believers in a multi-racial ideal—I am not sufficiently naive to believe that to be likely—but I believe that where there are whites and blacks in Southern Africa fighting for contacts with the finest parts of Western European civilisation we should maximise their opportunities and not minimise them.

I have said what I wished to say. A former resident of my constituency—Robert Louis Stevenson—once remarked that politics is perhaps the only profession for which a training was not thought necessary. I thank the House for listening to me, and I hope that I have not confirmed that observation.

Merlyn Rees – 1963 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Merlyn Rees, the then Labour MP for Leeds South, on 17 July 1963.

It is as well for me at this personal moment to realise that I can depend upon the traditional tolerance and indulgence of hon. Members on both sides of the House. For I am faced not only with the normal problems which confront a new Member, but with the additional one arising from the fact that I am here in place of one of the most distinguished and honoured former colleagues of hon. Members, the former Leader of my own party and a man whom the whole nation mourned just six months ago.

I learned during the recent by-election of the very high regard in which Hugh Gaitskell was held in South Leeds. I know only too well, at this moment, the very high regard in which he was held in this House. Comparisons are odious at the best of times, and, bearing in mind the comparison which many hon. Members must be making now and will be making in the next few minutes, I can only ask for even more of that tolerance and indulgence for which hon. Members are noted.

I am one of the Welshmen of the great dispersion of the 1920s and the 1930s, but although, as a consequence, I have spent the greater part of my life in an outer London suburb, to which I owe a great deal, my roots are firmly embedded in the mining valleys of South Wales where many of my family still live and where I was nurtured. Many of the values and virtues and general outlook on life which I have come to associate with my native Wales I have already recognised in that part of the West Riding which I represent in this House. The West Riding has long been noted for the independence of mind and of character of its people. In its fertile soil has long flourished every major development in the field of higher education.

In the City of Leeds there is not only a world-famous university. There are four teacher training colleges, a college of technology, a college of commerce and many forms of adult education. This fact has encouraged me to speak in this debate, and for the first time in this House.

I think that now there is general agreement on the need for an expansion of higher education. The arguments that remain are on amount and on the direction in which to go. This has not always been so, and I feel that the reason for the change is the very apparent need for higher education as a form of capital investment. This is a very powerful argument which I believe in strongly and to which I shall return in a moment.

I wish to point out, however, that there is an equally powerful argument for higher education, whether it is useful or not. The arts and the social sciences are equally important as the natural sciences and technology. I think that I am using both sides of the argument when I say that we shall not get the teachers we need in all parts of the education system unless we greatly increase the facilities for higher education. Based on my own practical experience, I can say that unless we can radically reduce the size of classes, a great deal of the very valuable educational reforms which will get on to the Statute Book will be vitiated.

One of the odd things about the teaching profession is that the further one gets away from the actual point of teaching, the higher becomes one’s status and the higher is the salary. And yet, to me, the sole reason for the whole operation is to teach students. During the war I served in the Royal Air Force where the whole reason to be there at that time was to keep aeroplanes in the air. As a mark of this, pilots received flying pay. I am wondering whether there is a case for introducing “teaching pay” into the salary arrangements. I offer this suggestion to the Minister with some diffidence, although the diffidence is lessened because I am given to understand that now he has some concern with teachers’ salary arrangements.

I said earlier that everyone is agreed on the need for expansion of higher education. I feel strongly about the problems that remain, but I will not go into them now. Perhaps, in the spirit of the occasion, I may ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman which is related to the needs of my constituency. In South Leeds there is a high school, one of the old municipal secondary schools set up under the Act of 1902. It has a powerful sixth form which will grow. There is also a comprehensive school which has a quickly generating sixth form which will grow very rapidly. There are secondary modern schools which run advanced courses and some have sixth-form classes as well. May the children in my constituency who are at school now, and who will be at school in the next decade, be assured that when the time comes for them to move into higher education there will be sufficient places for them?

This growth of sixth forms is, in my view, one measure of the reservoir of ability which exists in this country. Another measure of it is the great expansion of courses which is taking place in the field of technical education. I do not mean just the C.A.T.S but also in technical colleges. I am not concerned only with degree courses, diploma courses and courses leading to professional examinations but also with the very valuable management courses which are held up and down the country. It would, I think, be a great pity if the current concern with the need to set up a top-level Harvard-type business college should lead us to overlook the valuable work being done for middle and lower management which is being extended to include quite remarkable courses for developing shop stewards; because this, too, is management.

This reservoir is seen in adult education to which my constituents owe a great deal and to which, over the years, they have given much. For it was in my part of Leeds that the W.E.A. flowered early. There are far more people capable of advanced education. I am encouraged in this view by the success of the emergency training scheme for teachers which was set up after the war, and also the organisation of further education and training schemes which, as many hon. Members will remember, enabled ex-Service men to obtain a university education when otherwise they would not have been able to do so. The House may be interested to know that there are five hon. Members who attained a university education under this scheme. It so happens that all five that I know are on this side of the House. One of them is my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). There is also my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy). A third is myself.

This expansion of higher education will raise many problems both educational and administrative. I venture to suggest that it will also raise social problems. For we cannot put this increased number of young people through the forcing house of a mental discipline and expect them to emerge the same people. They change socially as well as academically.

During past debates on foreign affairs I have sat in another part of this House and heard hon. Members on both sides say that one of the great hopes for Soviet Russia was the fact that the Russians spend large sums on technical education, and that this would breed a new sort of middle class which would reject the old order. I shall not take that argument further; the analogy is by no means complete, but there is sufficient of it to cause concern to many of us, to whatever political party we may belong. They look at life completely differently and there can be no complacency on the part of anyone. It is a political challenge, and it is developing into a social challenge in general

The whole of this experiment in the expansion of higher education is a challenge. Our response to it will decide whether we are to remain one of the leading Powers in the world. Our response to it will also determine whether the people of this country in general and the people of the North in particular—I include among those my constituents—are going to enjoy a significantly higher material standard of life in the years to come.

I have little patience with the argument that there is something noble about poverty. I know too much about it in whatever degree to believe this. I believe passionately that there is a case for using science and technology to raise the standard of living of the people of this country. If, concurrently, we not only think of that, but think also of the arts and social sciences, we shall be taking a step towards making eventually a better country. The key to it all is an expansion of higher education.

John Redwood – 1987 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by John Redwood, the Conservative MP, in the House of Commons on 29 June 1987.

Sir William van Straubenzee represented the Wokingham constituency for almost 28 years, and during that time he showed himself to be a tireless correspondent and letter writer, a doughty debater and an elegant and witty speaker. In representing all of the people of Wokingham, I shall do well if I live up to his high standards as a parliamentarian and a fine constituency Member of Parliament. During his career he served in the Department of Education and Science and in the Northern Ireland Office, and in later years in the House he intervened frequently on education matters when his wisdom and knowledge were highly prized. Recently he gained the affectionate nickname of “The Bishop” for his role in trying to sell the mysterious ways of the Church to those here on earth gracing these Benches. It is with great affection that I step into his shoes, with the hope that I can live up to his high standards.
The constituency that Bill van Straubenzee won in 1959 was a very different place from the one that I have inherited. Geographically it was much broader, and in tone and style much more rural. So much so, as the new Member in 1959, one of Bill’s first and most important tasks was to go and meet the local farmers. He equipped himself with a strong stick, and with not a little apprehension, because he knew nothing whatsoever of farming. He went to the occasion and confined himself to nodding wisely, making a few encouraging noises and from time to time tapping his stick. He subsequently learnt that this had been a great triumph—the farmers said to each other, “Well, you know, our new Member doesn’t say much, but he can certainly recognise a good cow when he sees one.” That is a skill that I need much less.

The Wokingham constituency now comprises the three large and important settlements of Wokingham town, Woodley and Earley, where recently has been constructed one of the largest new private housing developments anywhere in Europe. To the north of those three big settlements lie the delightful villages of Twyford, Ruscombe, the Remenham, Wargrave, Sonning and some of the other smaller settlements. To the south lie the villages of Winnersh and northern Crowthorne, the village I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay).

The main problem we face is the tremendous success of the enterprise economy in the Thames valley. The pace of growth and development has been such that it begins to produce strains on roads, hospitals and education facilities. I should like to say how much I welcome the initiative to be launched by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to cut the waiting lists. I remind him that high growth areas of the country need that additional resource to take care of population growth as well as the advance in medical treatments, which we all welcome.

In the Wokingham constituency we also experience the problems that the area of the Thames valley to the east of Reading into London is now really a unified labour market where wages are high and where there are many attractive job offers available. Whereas places a little further east than my constituency enjoy the benefits of London weighting or outer London allowances for housing and for the competitive forces in the labour market, Wokingham has no such luxury. I urge the Government to look carefully at the possibility not of introducing complete regional pay, but of re-examining the geographical confines of London weighting and outer London weighting and also the amounts involved because we have difficulties in recruiting people of the right skills. If we can find them in other parts of the country, we have problems in housing them because of the high cost of housing.

Above all, the success of embracing an enterprise culture and the success of the Government in lowering taxes and getting growth and prosperity running again in so many parts of the country is more than relevant to those hon. Members representing inner urban constituencies that still suffer dereliction or poverty. There is common ground between us, because many of us representing vast growing areas would dearly love to see some element of that growth passing instead to those inner city areas where there is already public infrastructure and the need for more jobs and development. Therefore, we particularly welcome the Government’s concentration in the Queen’s Speech on setting forth a series of bold measures to tackle the problem of inner city decay.

It cannot be right that there are people in council blocks, tower blocks or medium rise blocks without hope of an improvement in their housing conditions. It cannot be right that there are acres near the heart of Manchester, Newcastle or in some of the less advantaged London boroughs crying out for commercial or industrial development that, for some reason or another, has been blocked when opportunities have arisen to return prosperity to those once great city areas.

The Government are right to put forward two particular proposals. The first is to give tenants the right to choose different styles of housing and to set up tenants’ co-operatives. That should improve the lot of those in inner city housing. It is also right that urban development corporations should take on the task of rebuilding and restructuring industry and commerce by facilitating the massive influx of private capital that those derelict areas so clearly need.

I hope that hon. Members believe in the United Kingdom and understand that the debate in the House is to try to better conditions in all towns, villages, regions and nations within the United Kingdom. I hope that hon. Members will accept that there are many of us on the Government side of the House who, with good will, say that we wish to see those areas of poverty and dereliction cleared and improved. We invite Labour Members to study the reasons why the south-east is so prosperous and why it has embraced the enterprise economy with such success. I hope that they will ask whether, together with some public money and a lot of private initiative, we can kindle exactly the same kind of success in those inner city areas where the prosperity has not yet reached.

Kate Osamor – 2015 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Kate Osamor, the Labour MP for Edmonton, in the House of Commons on 2 June 2015.

I am most grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for calling me during today’s debate to deliver my maiden speech.

I have dedicated 15 years of my life to the NHS, working as a practice manager in a GP surgery—so I have seen at first hand how hard it is to get an appointment—and as an administrator in an out-of-hours GP co-operative. I will be proud to apply the same principles and values as an MP. I stood for election as a Labour and Co-operative candidate, and now I have the privilege of representing the Co-operative movement in the House. With my colleagues, I hope to bring its principles, values and experience to bear on Members’ deliberations.

Among the distinguished list of my Labour predecessors, I pay tribute to Lord Graham of Edmonton, but my immediate predecessor was Andy Love. He was the eighth Member of Parliament for the constituency and all his predecessors were men, but I have broken that tradition as the first woman to represent Edmonton. I feel most honoured and proud of the responsibility bestowed upon me. It is a measure of the regard in which he was held that Andy Love served for 18 years in this House, and I pay tribute to him. I have big shoes to fill: he was a tireless representative of constituents, and he will be particularly remembered in the House for his advocacy on behalf of Cypriot communities both here and abroad.

The name Edmonton is of Anglo-Saxon origin. The medieval parish was centred on the church of All Saints, the oldest building in the borough of Enfield, which is still in use. There are several other listed buildings in Church Street, such as Lamb’s Cottage, the Charity School Hall, the former Charles Lamb Institute, and some Georgian houses. In the 1970s it was designated the first conservation area in Edmonton and there are now three others. In 1996 the Montagu cemeteries, comprising the Tottenham Park and Jewish cemeteries, were also designated because of their unique landscape qualities.

Fore Street, an historic main road leading north from London, attracted rapid development in the 17th century. As some of the buildings survive, it was designated a conservation area in 2002. The Crescent in Hertford Road was added to the borough’s list of conservation areas in 2008. Besides the buildings in these special areas, there are other listed buildings—St Michael’s church and vicarage in Bury Street, Salisbury House in Bury Street West, and St Aldhelm’s church and Millfield House in Silver Street.

Since the 1960s Edmonton has been transformed from a predominantly white, working-class industrial suburb into a multicultural area through Commonwealth immigration, asylum seekers and the expansion of the European Union in May 2004. Edmonton Green ward has been identified as having one of the highest numbers of working-age adults living on state benefits in the UK. Much of the industry for which Edmonton was famous—furniture making, electrical goods and electronics —has disappeared or moved to greenfield sites. We do not have one dominant employer to bring an end to adult worklessness in Edmonton, but despite the lack of low-skilled jobs on offer, Edmonton has a growing entrepreneurial spirit. A hub of small and medium-sized businesses along Fore Street make the best of things, whatever the circumstances. True community spirit is fostered and rewarded and we see this in the numbers of small businesses within the constituency.

Edmonton is a community of many contrasts. Alongside increasing prosperity, many people suffer considerable hardship and deprivation. Edmonton is a priority regeneration area. Edmonton Green and Angel Edmonton have been identified as town centres that need improvements to make them look and feel like much better places to shop. There are a wide variety of schemes and projects happening in Edmonton under a Labour-run council to ensure that these priorities are delivered.

Regenerating the wider Edmonton area is focused on improving the shopping centres, creating access to new jobs, and improving the education and health of our local people. These plans will also deliver improvements to transport facilities and links to other areas, such as central London. They will improve the quality of and access to open spaces and parks, as well as restoring and maintaining connections with all the historical sites.

Up to 5,000 new homes and 3,000 new jobs will be created by the £1.5 billion Meridian Water redevelopment on a former industrial site. This should be completed by 2026. The improvements to the wider Edmonton area and the plans for Edmonton Green will all come under a Labour-led council. I am happy to report that only yesterday Transport for London appointed London Overground as the train operator to run local train services out of Liverpool Street to north-east London. TfL’s presence will bring immediate improvements to Edmonton Green station, improving security and safety for passengers and disability access. This will improve standards for everybody.

It is a great honour to represent the people of Edmonton and I thank them for electing me as their Member of Parliament. I would like to thank all those who campaigned for me and worked hard to achieve a Labour victory in Edmonton.

Dominic Raab – 2010 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton, in the House of Commons on 6 July 2010.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me at this point in the debate. I beg the patience of the House in making my maiden speech, and pay tribute to and commend the maiden speeches made by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

For new Members such as me, this is a humbling experience. For me, it is especially daunting, as my predecessor, Ian Taylor, did such a good job over the past 23 years that when he announced his retirement last year, The Times described the constituency as

“the closest thing to paradise in the UK”.

Ian set the bar high. He promoted our diverse local enterprise. He fought for our community hospitals, which are cherished in Walton, Molesey and Cobham, ​and he promoted local charities, from the inspiring philanthropic legacy at Whiteley retirement village to more modest but no less vital groups such as Lower Green Community Association—the “little platoons” that define our local civic spirit, which we must revive and empower across Britain today.

Ian Taylor’s contribution to national life was no less important, particularly as Science and Technology Minister at the Department of Trade and Industry from 1994 to 1997. He pioneered free trade, leading a business delegation to Cuba in 1994. He was the first British Minister to visit Cuba in 20 years—the only one to return with cigars from El Presidente. Ian’s immense contribution to science and technology will be sorely missed as we seek to diversify and reinvigorate our economic base.

The history of Esher and Walton counsels against taking anything for granted. The constituency was once home to the Diggers—agrarian communists during the civil war—but later to US President Herbert Hoover, the intellectual architect of “rugged individualism”, which inspired the economic liberalism of Thatcher and Reagan, but also the aspirations of a certain Derek Trotter from the TV series “Only Fools and Horses”. When Rodney asks where the tenants will live if all the council homes in Peckham are sold off, Derek shrugs and, unblinking, replies, “Esher, or somewhere like that.”

My constituency is an aspirational place, and generally my constituents enjoy a high quality of life—generally, but not uniformly. Last year, the “Hidden Surrey” report for Surrey Community Foundation found that child poverty in Walton Ambleside was double the national average, and that poverty among the elderly in Walton North was two thirds above the national average.

No county pays more to the Treasury than Surrey’s taxpayers, yet we get back just one third of the national average level of funding for local services, resulting in the neglect that I have mentioned. The “Hidden Surrey” report concludes that the previous Government had choked money for local services in the area because there was “no electoral cost”. I hope that in the forthcoming spending reviews we can ensure that the funding formula reflects a truly objective, and less political, assessment of local needs.

Turning to the national picture, there is much to cheer in the coalition Government’s programme, and in particular the commitment to defend our freedoms by scrapping identity cards and by enacting a freedom Bill to restore our proud tradition of liberty in this country—eroded after 13 years of legislative hyperactivity and government by press release.

In particular, the coalition programme pledges to defend trial by jury—that ancient bulwark of British justice, dating back to Magna Carta. Steeped in our history, it was a jury that acquitted William Cobbett when he was prosecuted for campaigning for social and political reforms in the 1830s. But that is also relevant today, and not just to whistleblowers and political activists. Take the vindictive prosecution of Janet Devers, the east end market trader prosecuted for selling vegetables in pounds and ounces. She was convicted in the magistrates court of a string of petty offences, but the additional prosecution in the Crown court collapsed on day one when faced with the prospect of trying to convince a jury.​

Juries are the reality check on bad law and abuse of state power. Lord Devlin famously described trial by jury as

“the lamp that shows that freedom lives”.

That light has flickered of late. In 2003, the previous Government tried to remove juries from complex fraud cases, and in 2008 an attempt was made to remove juries from coroners’ inquests—both with scant justification. Parliament defeated or diluted both those attempts, but a third attempt landed a more telling blow.

The Government enacted part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, allowing for removal of juries where there is a risk of or actual tampering with a jury. In January, we had under those provisions the first criminal trial in 400 years to dispense with a jury. Four men stood charged with armed robbery of a Heathrow warehouse. Three previous trials had collapsed, at a cost of £22 million to the taxpayer, with evidence of jury tampering. The High Court refused on application to dispense with the jury, but was overturned on appeal. The four men were found guilty in March, and in the process we junked a fundamental safeguard of fair trial in this country. Immediately after that case, prosecutors lodged a string of applications to dispense with juries in further cases.

A dangerous precedent has been set. A slippery slope beckons. So I wish to put the question why, for the first time in our history, are we now uniquely incapable of protecting the integrity of our justice system? Why, after the billions invested and the enormous legal powers bestowed on our police are they today, in 2010, incapable of shielding juries in criminal trials? Let no one be in any doubt. This development is no sign of strength in law enforcement, but rather the most feeble weakness, and it is not a resource issue, given the huge amounts squandered on the previous trials that collapsed.

British justice should be firm but fair, two sides of the same coin. So I urge Ministers to review and consider the case for repeal of part 7 of the 2003 Act, in the forthcoming freedom Bill. The light that shows that freedom lives is flickering, but we have an opportunity to restore it. I hope we can take it.

Tristram Hunt – 2010 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Tristram Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, in the House of Commons on 6 July 2010.

It is a great privilege to be called in this important debate to make my maiden speech and to be the first to congratulate the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) on his wonderful maiden speech, his description of the multicultural Mecca of Harrow and his generous comments about his predecessor, Tony McNulty, which many Labour Members share. Let me pay my tribute to my esteemed predecessor, Mark Fisher, who sat in the House for 27 years and conscientiously, effectively and passionately represented the interests of Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Mark’s connections to the Potteries began, improbably enough, when he was writing film scripts in Staffordshire Moorlands—an ambitious venture at the best of times in California, even more so in the Roaches of north Staffordshire. He then stood for Staffordshire Moorlands ​and was selected to succeed Bob Cant in Stoke-on-Trent—all the while as an old Etonian son of a Tory MP. People in the Potteries are, as I have discovered, enormously forgiving of one’s past.

Mark’s maiden speech to the House in 1983 was a heartfelt lament at the state of the national health service in north Staffordshire owing to sustained underfunding. He spoke of old buildings, outdated operating theatres, waiting lists for general and orthopaedic surgery of more than 12 months. Now, after 13 years of good Labour Government, that decline has been reversed and Stoke-on-Trent has a brand new £370 million university teaching hospital, springing up around the old City General—it is the first new hospital for 130 years. In addition, we have new GP surgeries, walk-in centres and marked improvements in public health.

Mark was also highly active in the House, working closely with Tony Wright on reforms to the workings of Parliament, the all-party parliamentary history group, which, in a different incarnation, I once had the pleasure to address and was mildly surprised at the intimate knowledge of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) of dialectical materialism and the life of Friedrich Engels.

Mark also made a contribution to the management of the art collection in the palace. He was, indeed, an Arts Minister in 1997 and formed part of the heroic team in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that delivered a great Labour pledge of free entry to Britain’s museums for the people of Britain. As his successor, I will be watching closely the incoming Administration’s commitment to honour that pledge. It is now my great privilege to take up his place in Parliament.

In an excellent maiden speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) made an ambitious play for his city being the birthplace of the industrial revolution. While I am a deep admirer of the Derby silk mill and the Derby arboretum, and even the Derwent valley, we all know that the historic, earth-shattering event—the dawn of modernity, the dawn of industrialisation—began in my constituency with the opening of Josiah Wedgwood’s factory in Etruria, near Shelton, in 1769. Since the 1770s, Stoke-on-Trent has become the premier global brand-name for ceramics.

In a recent programme of his excellent series “A History of the World in 100 Objects”, British Museum director Neil MacGregor described the fact that

“human history is told and written in pots… more than in anything else.”

He went on to quote Robert Browning:

“Time’s wheel runs back or stops; potter and clay endure.”

At the heart of the English enlightenment, and indeed global civilisation, Stoke-on-Trent makes its place in history, but out of the six towns has emerged more than just pottery—from the rise of primitive Methodism to the works of Arnold Bennett, from the football of Stanley Matthews to the lyricism of Robbie Williams and the social justice politics of Jack Ashley.

The area has also faced profound challenges, and to be frank, globalisation has knocked the north Staffs economy sideways. Cheap labour in east Asia sparked a freefall in ceramics employment, the steel industry could not compete with China or India, and Michael Heseltine did for the last of our coal mines.​

This process of economic dislocation—when “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air”— has by no means ended, but there are signs of hope. A vibrant university quarter is springing up around Staffordshire university. Onshoring is seeing the return of ceramics jobs to Stoke-on-Trent, while a new generation of designer-makers, led by the likes of Emma Bridgewater, are creating high-value, high-design, locally rooted companies. The Portmeirion business, which produces the iconic Spode designs, is successfully growing from its Stoke base, exporting to Europe, America and South Korea.

However, we have much to do in rebuilding our engineering supply chain, raising skills levels across the constituency and exploiting the human capital of Stoke-on-Trent. While we welcome the Government’s commitment to rebalancing the British economy, perhaps the best way to do that is not to begin by cutting the regional development agency funds or the Building Schools for the Future programme.

My seat is an old if not ancient one. It has a proud pedigree. Born of the Great Reform Act of 1832, of which the Deputy Prime Minister is now such a student, it was first represented in this place by Josiah Wedgwood, the son of the potter. Wedgwood was a liberal—in the proper sense of the word. Like his father, he was committed to the abolitionist cause and was a stalwart of the anti-slavery movement. It was a great pleasure to have seen that spirit reawaken in the general election this year as my constituents sent the racist, reactionary and frequently criminal British National party packing.

However, Stoke-on-Trent also knows that change has to be matched with continuity, and my constituents share a deep apprehension over the Government’s ill-thought-out plans for constitutional reform. They want to know that when a Government fail to win a vote of confidence, Parliament can be dissolved by 50% plus one vote, rather than the absurdity of the 55% self-protecting ordinance.

Then we come to the five-year Parliament—again, a retrospective, constitutional fix to get this Government through some muddy waters, and that is before we get on to flooding of the House of Lords with new Members, redrawing the boundaries, leaving 3.2 million voters off the register and underfunding the individual registration scheme. However, my hon. Friends and I will come back to those issues in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I simply thank the House for the indulgence of this, my maiden speech, on the Gracious Speech.

Matt Hancock – 2010 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Matt Hancock, the Conservative MP for West Suffolk, in the House of Commons on 7 June 2010.

It is an honour to be called to speak and to follow the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford), who spoke so passionately about her new constituency. She also spoke about a subject to do with the constitution that I, too, wish to address-the devolution of power to people more locally. That is a thread that binds together all of us on this side of the House. We believe that the constitution has become too centralised and that local people should be given more of a say. That is certainly true in West Suffolk.

West Suffolk has been represented for the past 18 years by Richard Spring, who was well loved in the constituency, worked tirelessly for it and was admired and respected in all parts of the House. I cannot recall the number of times that, during the election campaign, I knocked on a door and the person who answered said, “Oh, you are following Richard Spring. Well, you’ve got big shoes to fill.” If I can manage to fill those shoes and do as good a job for West Suffolk as he did over the past 18 years, I will have done a very good job indeed. I say from the bottom of my heart that that is what I intend to do.

Richard Spring made the decision early on in his time as an MP to, as he put it, “out-liberal the Liberals” in local campaigning. Now that I find myself on the same Benches as that party, perhaps it is appropriate that I have learned a trick or two from the campaigning that he undertook locally to ensure that West Suffolk was well represented in the House. His biggest impact on the constituency was undoubtedly in the town of Haverhill, which is the largest in the constituency. It has a long history and was in the Domesday Book. It is now a town on the up, largely thanks to his work and that of St Edmundsbury borough council. It has companies such as Genzyme that export to China, which is truly where the future of our manufacturing economy will come from.

West Suffolk is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful constituencies in our country. I have heard the claims of others, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman)-I look forward to challenging his claim to have the most beautiful constituency in the country. With villages such as Ixworth, Stanton, Bardwell, Hundon and Wixoe, and the Stour valley village of Thurlow where I now live with my family, all in all there are 42 villages of thatched roofs and pink cottages all through Constable country, which inspired the great artist.

As well as the most beautiful, West Suffolk is one of the largest constituencies in England, and that large area is united by the poor transport links that we find throughout it. The A11, which serves the whole of Norfolk, desperately needs the final nine miles to be dualled to provide better transport and a better economy to the whole east of England. At the most northerly point of the constituency, Brandon is a peaceful market town, but that peace is destroyed as the holiday traffic runs up the high street. Members will not be surprised that as a new MP, I support the fully locally funded proposal to bring a bypass to Brandon. However, they can imagine my horror when, in preparing for this speech, I read the maiden speech of my predecessor 18 years ago and found that he, too, had argued that there was a desperate need for a bypass for Brandon. I hope that it will not take a whole 18 years to bring it about.

Just south of Brandon is Mildenhall, famous for the Roman Mildenhall treasure and now, of course, home to a large United States air force base. Finally, I turn to the town of Newmarket. It is undoubtedly the most famous town in West Suffolk, and its heritage lives and breathes in the 62 studs and racing yards that are woven through the town centre. It is a unique town with a unique character, and it has unique needs. For instance, it was once illegal to blow one’s nose on Newmarket high street. That rule was in place for the benefit not of the local people but of the bloodstock that ran up and down the street.

Such attention to local need is unfortunately in marked contrast to the one-size-fits-all, we-know-best attitude that Newmarket has seen over the past 13 years, and it is to that point that I turn in the final moments of my speech. For many years, the constitution has endured a creeping centralism. In particular, in planning, John Prescott’s regional spatial strategies have tried to turn every market town into a clone town. The powers of local people to resist have been stripped away, but already the new Government are succeeding in giving power back to the people. The regional spatial strategy was forcing through an inappropriate proposal to build thousands of homes and an industrial park in the middle of Newmarket, which the council found itself powerless to reject-but no more. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has given councils the power to make decisions for themselves once again. The people were given their voice and their democratically elected councillors voted unanimously to reject the proposal.

So there we have it. After less than a month in office, the new Government are already improving our constitution to make it more local, more responsive to the people and less in hock to unelected, unaccountable quangos. A law and a quango cannot solve every ill of this world, but by trusting people and sharing responsibility, we can make a start. That principle binds us together on these Benches. I commend the Queen’s Speech to the House.

Ken Livingstone – 1987 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Ken Livingstone in the House of Commons on 7 July 1987.

I shall start by praising my predecessor, Mr. Reg Freeson. There are some who may he surprised at that. Our differences were political and I do not think that anyone would suggest that he did not serve his constituency as well and as excellently as any other hon. Member. Therefore, I praise his record in this place, although I played some part in ending his presence here. Given how bad the post is currently, I cannot report that I have had a letter of congratulations from him yet. I shall notify the House when t do. I would not urge right hon. and hon. Members to hold their breath.

I want to thank all the officials of the House, including the police, for their assistance. I cannot recall anywhere that I have been where there is such a degree of helpfulness, general good humour and pleasantness. I am certain that other new Members think the same. I do not know why that should be. Perhaps close proximity to 649 fellow politicians induces this state of good humour, or perhaps there are those who have a private joke that they are not telling the rest of us.

I wish to start by making clear my position on violence. I condemn without equivocation all acts of violence, but I am not prepared to be uneven-handed. I do not believe that we should condemn the violence of the IRA and produce a less strident condemnation of the violence of other extra-legal organisations. Nor do I believe that we should be any the less outraged when those who operate on behalf of the British state and security forces go beyond the law or the conventions of decency, as has occasionally happened. Either we condemn all violence or we are not placed to condemn any of it.

Like many others, I do not believe that direct rule is a workable option for Ireland. I believe that nothing short of a united Ireland will bring about an end to the troubles that have assailed our involvement with that island over hundreds of years, with an especial viciousness over the past two decades. Throughout my parliamentary career I shall continue to press at every opportunity for a withdrawal of Britain from Ireland and the opening to a united Ireland in which the Irish people can decide how best to govern themselves.

There are many inevitable contradictions—I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members will not share this view—in what I perceive as a colonial situation. As in the past, it is inevitable that problems will arise when one power occupies wholly or in part another nation with a separate culture and identity. With the best intentions in the world, the occupying power is led into abuse of its authority, and in so doing alienates key sections of the community.
I should imagine that much the most effective method of recruitment into the IRA has been the consistent abuse of power over decades by those who held the whip hand while Stormont existed through 50 years of misrule. The only thing that is remarkable is that it took 50 years before the present violence erupted. That suggests a degree of patience and tolerance on the part of the minority of Northern Ireland that I do not think many other peoples around the world would necessarily have been prepared to equal.

There have been many instances when the present Government’s policies and their agents have been ideal recruiting agents for the IRA. The attitude of the Government towards the hunger strike did more to boost support for those pursuing a violent solution for Northern Ireland than anything that they could have done themselves.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Royal Ulster Constabulary had a shoot-to-kill policy. That has been successfully covered up, but it came close to exposure when Mr. John Stalker was set to investigate it. When it became clear that he was not prepared to be corrupt and that he would not do a whitewash job to let the RUC off the hook, the British establishment, through all its usual means, ensured that he was removed from his task. I wish that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would pursue the inquiry with the same vigour that he condemns the terrorists and ensure that the results of it are brought to the Floor of the House as rapidly as possible as a matter of public debate. As long as the minority in Northern Ireland believes that there is one law and one tone of condemnation of violence for one section of the community but not the other, we shall not be able to achieve any real progress towards peace.

Representatives of the unionist parties have talked about double standards, and these cannot be denied. We have heard since the Gracious Speech that the British Government intend to continue with the policies that they have been pursuing in the north and possibly to sharpen them to end discrimination against the minority in employment. I welcome that, but if it is good enough for Northern Ireland, why do the British Government do everything possible to prevent Labour councils in Britain that wish to adopt similar policies from ending discrimination against minorities in Britain? We shall not be able to unite the people of Northern Ireland while we have a policy stance for them that is different from that for the rest of the United Kingdom. That makes a mockery of the idea that this is a united kingdom.

One of the greatest problems to arise during the present troubles has been the backlash against the Irish community in Britain, which my constituents in Brent have suffered. Far too many innocent people are subject to harassment by the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. It has been used in a way which was never intended. Still today not 1 per cent. of those detained and harassed by the security forces—I am talking about individual ​ Irish women and men making their way backwards and forwards between the two countries—is ever convicted of any form of crime. The Prevention of Terrorism Act is being used by agents of the British state to harass those who actively campaign for a united Ireland. Every time they do it a nail is driven further into the concept of our remaining with any hold in Ireland.

As many other nations have found—for example, the French in Algeria—it is inevitable that if we set out to hold a nation against its will, however good our intentions, abuses of power will occur. I wish to draw attention to that by referring to one specific instance.

During my election campaign in Brent, East, there was an unusual public meeting. An individual was invited to it who has never been a Socialist, who will never be prepared to vote Labour and who thinks that the Tory party is the natural governing party of Britain. He was invited to share a platform with myself and some of the relatives of those who have been subject to miscarriages of justice by the British courts over issues of bombing here in Britain. We invited Mr. Fred Holroyd. For those who do not know, Mr. Holroyd served in Northern Ireland with distinction. As I said, he is no Socialist. He comes from a military family. He went to a Yorkshire grammar school. His whole objective in life was to serve in the British Army. He believed in it totally. He enlisted as a private in the gunners, and three years later he was commissioned into the Royal Corps of Transport. He volunteered for the Special Military Intelligence unit in Northern Ireland when the present troubles began, and he was trained at the Joint Services School of Intelligence. Once his training was finished, he was stationed in Portadown, where, for two and a half years, he ran a series of intelligence operations. I quote him so that there can be no suspicion that he might be a secret member of the Militant Tendency or a secret republican. At the public meeting, his words were that he believed that the Army officers and men with whom he worked were
“genuinely honest men trying to do the best job in the circumstances. They were in a no-win situation.”

When he was recruited as an M16 officer, he said of them that they were not disagreeable; their ethics were reasonable; they were seeking a political solution. His complaint, which eventually led to his removal from the Army and an attempt to discredit him, which has been largely successful, was made when the M16 operation was taken over by M15 in 1975—by many of the same people who are dealt with in Peter Wright’s book, and many of the same people who are alleged to have been practising treason against the elected Labour Government of the time. He said that once the M15 took over the reasonable ethics of M16 were pushed aside by operatives in the intelligence world who supported the views of Mr. Kitson and the policies and tactics of subverting the subverters. I recommend Brigadier Kitson’s words to those who are not aware of them. His attitude was to create a counter-terror group, to have agents provocateur, to infiltrate, and to run a dirty tricks campaign in an attempt to discredit the IRA.

Mr. Holroyd continued to believe that what he was doing was in the best interests of the British state until early in 1975, when Captain Robert Nairac, who, as many hon. Members will know, was later murdered by the IRA, went into his office, fresh from a cross-border operation ​ —something that of course is completely illegal—and showed him the colour photographs that had been taken by Captain Nairac’s team. Captain Nairac had crossed the border with some volunteers from the UDF. He had assassinated John Francis Green, an active member of the IRA who was living south of the border. As an agent of the British Government operating across the border as an assassin he had brought back photographs as proof of that operation. When Captain Nairac showed the photographs, Mr. Holroyd started to object, not because he objected to an active member of the IRA being assassinated in a highly illegal cross-border raid but because he realised that once the British state started to perpetrate such methods there was no way that eventually Britain would not alienate vast sections of the community and eventually lose the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Irish people.

Holroyd then started to object to the use of such illegal methods by M15 officers. He was immediately shuffled to one side by the expedient method of being taken to a mental hospital and being declared basically unfit for duty. During the month that he spent in the British mental hospital, the three tests that were administered to him were completely successfully passed. Certainly, over a decade later, having met him, I can see no evidence whatsoever that he was in some sense mentally unbalanced. He was a spy who realised that the operations of the British Government were counter-productive. He started to object, and was pushed to one side for his pains.

I raise the link with Captain Robert Nairac because, as I said, Fred Holroyd had qualms about this but was not particularly shocked; these things happen in a war. The matter needs to be investigated. I cannot prove the claims but allegations are being made extensively here in Britain, in republican circles and on Irish radio and television. A particularly horrifying incident that many hon. Members will remember was the murder of three members of the Miami showband—completely innocent musicians with no political affiliations whatsoever. It took place in the midst of the ceasefire that had been negotiated by the then Labour Government and the IRA. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) pushed it through and sustained it, although there was considerable opposition from within the security services and within many political parties. The Labour Government did everything possible to make the ceasefire work, but it was not wholly accepted within the apparatus of M15—our operatives who allegedly were working on behalf of the British state in Northern Ireland.

What is particularly disturbing is that what looked at the time like a random act of maniacal violence and sectarian killing now begins to take on a much more sinister stance. It has begun to emerge that Captain Robert Nairac is quite likely to have been the person who organised the killing of the three Miami showband musicians. The evidence for that allegation is forensic and members of the UDF are prepared to say that they were aware of the dealings between members of the UDF gang who actually undertook the murder of the Miami showband musicians. The evidence is quite clear. The same gun that was used by Captain Nairac on his cross-border trip to assassinate John Francis Green was used in the Miami showband massacre.

Earlier this year, the radio and television service of southern Ireland, RTE, showed a documentary in which the makers—not myself; no one could accuse RTE of ​ being pro-IRA—that allege they have now had contacts with members of the UDF in that area who say that Captain Nairac passed the explosives and the guns to the UDF and set up the killing of the Miami showband musicians. If that is true, it needs to be investigated. The allegation was made on the broadcasting networks of southern Ireland. It is supported by men who served on behalf of Britain as spies in the area at the time. It needs to be investigated and disproved, or the people behind it rooted out. If one wanted to find a way of ending the ceasefire that had been negotiated between the Labour Government and the IRA, what better way to do so than to encourage random sectarian killings? I believe that that was happening.

It is likely that many of the officers mentioned in Peter Wright’s book who were practising treason against the British Government at home were also practising treason against the British Government in Ireland. If the allegations are true, they were prepared to murder innocent Catholics to start a wave of sectarian killing which would bring to an end the truce that the Labour Government had negotiated with the IRA. No democratic society can allow that sort of allegation to go uninvestigated. It is made by people who served on our behalf as intelligence officers in the area.

We saw in last Sunday’s edition of The Observer that another intelligence officer, Colin Wallace, who was closely linked with Fred Holroyd in a campaign to expose what was going on, has been dismissed as irrelevant by the British Government. We see now that The Observer, using forensic tests, has been able to demonstrate that the notes that he wrote were not written in the past couple of years by somebody who is embittered and is trying to cash in on what has started to come out. A clear analysis of the ink that was used in the notes shows that they were written in the early 1970s. Slowly, it all begins to pull together.

The interesting thing about the Peter Wright case is that in his defence in court he said that he was a loyal servant of Britain, and that he sought only to expose corruption and spies in Britain and an establishment that covered them up. One of the arguments by which he demonstrated his loyalty to Britain was when he said in his book that he did not deal with what he knew about operations in Ireland because that could still be damaging to the British Government.

One needs to take together the accusations of Wallace and Holroyd and link them clearly to what is being said by Peter Wright. There was not just treason by some M15 officers in Britain. Treason was also taking place in Ireland. Those employed by the British state are alleged to have been responsible for killing innocent civilians in order to end a ceasefire with which they disagreed because their political objectives were different from those of the Labour Government of the day. That is a most horrifying crime.

Wallace and Holroyd are making these quite specific allegations. They are now drafting a book that will expose much more, and we need to ask why the British Government take no action to stop them or to silence them. They pursue Peter Wright, but they are terrified that if they take Wallace and Holroyd to court they will expose in court things that will shake the Government to its foundations.

A stupid thing happened when the British Army decided to get Holroyd out and discredit him. The officer put in as his replacement, and who was unaware of what had been going on, arrived in the office and assembled all ​ of Holroyd’s papers into a large container and dispatched them to his home. Before the British Government start rubbishing Holroyd too flamboyantly, they should be warned that he retains almost all the case papers that were in his control. They deal with his operations and his work and they are safely out of this country and beyond the reach of the Government.

We must have a full investigation. Before I could happily vote for this extension of direct rule, I want to see some evidence that the Government are prepared to ensure that these abuses are exposed. I want them to guarantee that similar abuses are not continuing. The whole series of events about which I have spoken must be investigated. Very soon we must have the full evidence about the shoot-to-kill policy of the RUC because I have no doubt that that is being covered up. It would have been most useful if John Stalker had been able to conclude his inquiry after the attempt to discredit him had been exposed and overturned by the local police authority.

We have to examine other allegations made on RTE that M15 officers were engaged in undermining the power sharing Executive set up by the Government of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). We have to look again at the allegations by Colin Wallace about the Kincora boys’ home scandal. It has been suggested that young boys in a home effectively controlled by M15 were buggered so that Protestant politicians could be blackmailed and silenced by M15. ‘That allegation cannot continue to drift around. It must be investigated and the truth exposed. The longer the British Government cover up and deny all this and refuse to investigate, the more the impression will be created that they know full well what has been going on and that far too many members of the Government are the beneficiaries of these acts of treason by M15 officers in Britain and abroad.
I do not believe for a minute that these things could have been going on without members of the Conservative party being kept informed in the generality if not in specific details. It looks increasingly likely that Mr. Airey Neave was in touch with some of these officers, and it is certainly the case that Airey Neave delivered a speech that had been——

Mr. Gow On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is with very great reluctance that I intervene during the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), but will you please make it clear to him, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that references to Airey Neave of the kind that we have heard are deeply offensive?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) Order. Hon. Members making their first speech in the House are usually heard without interruption. So far I have heard nothing in the speech of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) that is out of order.

Mr. Livingstone May I make it clear to the House that I am reporting allegations that hon. Members have read in newspapers and that are reported on radio and television both here and abroad. They are made by intelligence officers who served at the time in Ireland on behalf of the British Government. It may well be that the allegations are all a tissue of lies, but can we imagine any other Western Government who would allow such damaging allegations to circulate month after month and year after year and not move to lance the boil? They would either deal with the allegations or demonstrate that they ​ were untrue. The Prime Minister’s day-by-day refusal to investigate what was happening in M15 at that time can only lead a large number of reasonable people both here and abroad to believe that there is some element of truth in the allegations now circulating.

If Conservative Members are shocked that allegations are made about Airey Neave, they should join me in demanding a full investigation so that Airey Neave’s name can be cleared. Why just Airey Neave? The allegations that I have outlined to the House about Captain Robert Nairac should also be investigated, as should the allegations about the Kincora boys’ home. They should be investigated by a Committee of the House so that we can know the truth. As long as the Prime Minister continues to resist this, and as long as it is quite obvious that she was the main beneficiary of the work of these traitorous officers in M15, many reasonable people cannot avoid the conclusion that she was kept informed to some degree via Airey Neave who had close links with the intelligence services. He made a speech for which false information was provided by Colin Wallace, and Colin Wallace now admits that.

There is something rotten at the heart of the British security services, and we will not have a safe democracy until it is exposed in its entirety and dealt with.