Michael Martin – 1979 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Michael Martin in the House of Commons on 17th May 1979.

It is a privilege to represent the Glasgow, Springburn constituency. I have lived in the constituency for more than 13 years, and before that I resided in the neighbouring constituency. Therefore, I know of the good work that my predecessor, Dick Buchanan, has done for the area. I was pleased to learn that he was held in high regard in the House. He had many fine qualities. I was always impressed by his willingness to give service to the community. As a young man he was a shop steward in the local railway workshop, and he fought for, and succeeded in getting, better conditions for his workmates. When he was city treasurer in the old Glasgow corporation he was responsible for many projects which are still of benefit to the people of Glasgow. I am sure that the House will join me in wishing him well in his retirement.

At one time Springburn had a thriving railway industry which produced steam locomotives. In fact, Springburn made more than half the number of steam locomotives produced in the world. Many of them are still in use in Africa, India and South America. The industry not only employed thousands of skilled and semi-skilled workers but provided work for the smaller firms in the area. I am convinced that had the private railway companies ploughed their profits back into the industry Springburn would not have the unemployment problem that it has today. I hope the Government recognise the need to strengthen the Scottish Development Agency so that it can bring new industry to Glasgow and to places such as Springburn. My constituency needs industrial revitalisation to prevent its becoming an industrial graveyard.

The constituency has various types of housing. In the Dennistoun district there is a mixture of private and local authority tenements. In Petershill we have the highest multi-storey dwellings in Europe—33 storeys high. In Germiston, Balornock and Barmulloch we have mainly council housing stock. The Cow-lairs area consists of private tenements, where many of the tenants are suffering from landlords and property owners who have neglected their properties and refused to carry out repairs for more than half a century.

Recently an organisation known as Norman Properties operated in the area. Its activities were questionable, to say the least. Young couples, desperate for a house of their own, had to pay as much as £1,000, only to find that they had no legal rights when the local authority introduced compulsory purchase schemes. The good people of Cowlairs deserve better, but the private sector has failed them miserably.

The only hope for the people in this area is for council house building to be speeded up and for encouragement to be given to community-based housing associations, which have an expertise in the modernisation of older tenemental properties. I hope that the Government do not intend to make cuts in the Housing 496 Corporation’s budget, because it does an excellent job in building up such organisations.

Reference is made in the Queen’s Speech to the sale of council housing. It worries me considerably that the Government may feel that they are giving some sort of freedom to the sitting tenant. Have they considered what it will mean to the types of tenants whom I have just described? The sale of council housing will mean that the good-quality housing stock will go to the highest bidder and not to those in need. Have the Government considered the consequences of selling houses in a city such as Glasgow, which consists largely of tenemental properties? Who will ensure that the owner-occupier maintains his share of the council tenement? Who will ensure that the owner-occupier looks after the communal facilities, such as the back greens and the drying areas, or even the paths leading up to the tenements? Who will make sure that these communal facilities are looked after? I foresee many practical difficulties in the proposal to sell council housing.

I should like to bring to the attention of the House the fact that less than a year ago every party on Glasgow district council called upon the Government to make Glasgow a special case. Glasgow has many problems, and it needs a massive injection of capital to revitalise the city and attract new industry. I hope that the new Government will give Glasgow such consideration.