Jim Lester – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Jim Lester, the then Conservative MP for Beeston, in the House of Commons on 19 March 1974.

It is difficult to say at this moment that one is at home in the Chamber, but I felt immediately at home when I walked into the Lobby. I believe that that was mainly because the servants of the House thought that I was the reincarnation of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), whose name I happen to share but for one letter.

It took me a little time to explain that there were little differences and that neither of us would be flattered if it were suggested that we either looked alike or shared political views. However, we are already having difficulties with crossed mail and so I should like to make a proposition to the hon. Lady: perhaps we should share a room and a secretary and, with the permission of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), form a regular pair, although I gather that that ​ is not the custom. However, if he would not allow us to form a regular pair, we ought to be allowed to pair regularly.

It is a great honour to represent the new constituency of Beeston, because this is the first time that the name has appeared in the annals of the House. My constituency is situated in the west of Nottinghamshire and represents seven-eighths of the old constituency of Rushcliffe, which has been so well served in the House by succeeding Members. Currently, my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) sits immediately below me. In the past, Lord Redmayne and Tony Gardner were hard-working and industrious Members.

It is an area of settled communities of great variety and richness. It is a pleasure for me to speak of at least two aspects of the constituency which one feels are to be affected by Europe in the future. Industrially, it is as varied as its people, with many major companies. I was sorry to hear that the Leader of the House had ‘flu over the weekend—an illness that I shared with him—but I hope that the medicines produced by Boots, in my constituency, helped him through his difficulties, as they did me. Equally, as Members punch the buttons of the telephones in the House they may be interested to know that they were installed by Plessey Telecommunications, another big company in my constituency. I am sure that many people’s homes are warmed by the boiler which bears the name of this constituency.

There is much more—light engineering, hosiery, knitwear, and 52 farms. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) talked of moving about on her bicycle and using it for getting around her constituency. She will be pleased to know that that also, although not built in, was certainly invented in Beeston.

As one travels round the industrial constituency one finds that in many ways it has accepted the challenge of the EEC by collaboration, by working with other companies in Europe, and by genuine increases in exports. I believe that the marketing director of Boots described its increase in exports as “explosive”. As one who abhors violence in all forms, particularly in its present form in modern society, I enjoy using the word “explosive” when we refer to trade and exports within the Community.

I am concerned that the uncertainties raised in the Queen’s Speech will not necessarily be helpful to the long-term livelihood of the area that I represent—an area which has accepted the challenge so well. When discussing fundamental renegotiation, one wonders whether it includes and takes account of the great deal of industrial groundwork that has been carried out over the past years, because within one year it can scarcely begin to bear fruit. I hope that these figures and calculations, when they come through, will also play a part when the benefits are calculated.

My constituency is in the heart of the country, in Nottinghamshire. In the heart of the constituency there is the Festival village of Trowell, which was chosen by the right hon. Herbert Morrison at the time of the great Festival of Britain.

There is, therefore, a constant reminder of where one’s heart should be.

Equally, in my constituency the coal industry has played a big part. I want to get involved in this subject, particularly in the House, because in local government I have been involved in the coal industry in so many ways, dealing with closures and with the healing of the scars that the coal industry has left on the landscape. I view the industry’s future with great concern and interest, particularly within a European framework, in which it has played a founding part. The total of British energy, particularly the production from the coalfields of Nottinghamshire, will play a major part in the future.

But Europe is not all industry. At the top of my constituency there is the little town of Eastwood, which was part of the constituency of the hon. Member for Ash-field (Mr. Marquand) until the boundary changes. It is a town with a character and accent of its own. It is also the birthplace of D. H. Lawrence—and many of us are quoting literary figures in our speeches today. D. H. Lawrence was a man of few inhibitions, and there is no question but that he drew strength from his background in this community, and those of us who read both his books and his poetry know it. It is significant, however, that it was not until he visited the Rhine that his poetry started to blossom and his pansies or pensées were really a product of the Suns of Tuscany—and ​ Tuscany is an area which I should like to consider my second home. This, therefore, is part of Europe and part of the important thinking that influences most of us.

One of the most enjoyable occasions that I attended as a candidate was when the Eastwood comprehensive school staged a celebration of our entry into Europe. The young people of that school, with comparatively scarce resources, captured the culture, the variety, the cuisine, and the expanding horizon that was part of their natural history. They put that before many of us, including their parents. Whatever comes before the House concerning Europe I shall tend to judge in the light of these young people and hundreds of thousands like them, and their interests. We tend to talk about Europe as if it were just today; yet for many of us it is much more than that.

The Queen’s Speech could mean that committed people would work for a better Europe. I was delighted to hear the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies). Indeed, one was comforted by the tone of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the practical way he approached the future. Many of us feel that there could be a tepid disinterest which is merely an excuse for withdrawal and a referendum which would just take account of the temporary discomforts.

Yesterday the Secretary of State for Employment showed a fine sense of the House and of the historic past, but many of my colleagues and I are concerned that the House should show an equally fine sense of the historic future.