Hal Miller – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Hal Miller, the then Conservative MP for Bromsgrove and Redditch, in the House of Commons on 13 March 1974.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye and so to make my maiden speech. It will concern the interests of my constituency of Bromsgrove and Redditch, which I am proud to be able to serve. The constituency has been very fortunate in its Members to date—Sir Michael Higgs and James Dance from the Conservative Party and, more recently, Terry Davis from the Labour Party. They established and developed a tradition of service which it will be my first concern to uphold.

In my home we have a Lord Chancellor’s purse and a Black Rod, bequeathed me by my forebears, so I am conscious of the traditions of Parliament and one may imagine my pleasure at being here and my determination to uphold that parliamentary tradition, which is the only guarantee of the liberty so dear to the citizens of this country.

My constituency is dependent on industry, largely the same industry, and dependent on it to the same extent, as that of my neighbour the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter), who so ably moved the Loyal Address yesterday. Both his constituency and mine suffered from the previous Labour Government’s commitment to regional ​ development when they were in office in the matter of industrial development certificates and other incentives which resulted so frequently in the relocation of existing industry rather than the development of additional capacity. With a new town we are, of course, more than ordinarily exposed to the effects of Government policy in this respect, and I should welcome clarification of the Government’s intentions.

Physical controls, although potentially serious, are only of equal importance to the financial régime, the proposals for which we have to await in the Budget, but I urge the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Industry and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in framing their detailed proposals, to bear in mind the length of time between making an investment decision and bringing that investment into production.

Nothing is more harmful to investment than uncertainty and constant changes in the ground rules. The one inhibits and the other vitiates investment. Confidence, about which the Secretary of State spoke this afternoon, can be based only on certainty of the Government’s intentions and on knowledge that the assumptions will hold good long enough to bring the investment into production.

The industry in my constituency is, in the main, connected with the motor industry. It is central to the economy of the country, and this fact has made it a prey to Governments of both parties intent on managing the economy, often with disastrous results in terms of the employment and the wage packets of my constituents when the brakes are applied with too heavy a foot.

It is a matter for regret that the Gracious Speech makes no reference to motorways. I had hoped for a commitment to re-examine the programme last put to the House in a Green Paper as long ago as 1969. The developments which have taken place since then have made such a re-examination urgent both as to the routes and as to the national priorities, the engineering standards adopted and the procedures for publishing specific proposals for public inquiries and for compensation.

I have had occasion to write direct to the Secretary of State on the more detailed proposals—and here I pay tribute to the unflagging efforts of Terry Davis in this respect. But there are matters of general import that I wish to raise now.

The first concerns the procedure which allows the publication of details of short stretches of motorway at one time, because once one section has been agreed after an inquiry it inevitably prejudices the remainder, although without a hearing. So it is that the M42 must prejudice the western orbital route in the vicinity of Hagley, although no detailed proposals have yet been published to which residents affected can yet object.

The second concerns the need for some contribution towards the expenses of objectors at a public inquiry in retaining the experts and the advocates necessary to plead their cause and rebut the expertise of the Department. If an inquiry is necessary in the public interest, it would seem equitable that the public purse should bear the expenses of both parties once it is determined an inquiry is necessary. These costs have been aggravated by the incidence of value added tax.

The M42 is planned to run through an area of green belt. I look in vain in the Gracious Speech for an indication of the Government’s intentions towards green belt land. We in Bromsgrove and Redditch do not wish to be engulfed in the West Midlands conurbation, and we look to the Secretary of State for speedy confirmation of interim green belt in north Worcestershire. Our fears in this regard have been sharpened by the recently announced decision of his predecessor regarding permission to build in the so-called “green wedges”.

If there is a theme which links these remarks, it is that the people want to know, need to know and have a right to know what is happening.