Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Neale Hanvey, the Independent MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, in the House of Commons on 27 January 2020.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my first speech, in this important debate. I would like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), who had quite a lot of good lines. I do not think I am going to match his humour, sadly. I would also like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) for making his maiden speech tonight.
Being elected here to represent the communities that I grew up in is an extraordinary and humbling honour. To do so today in the presence of my partner Lino and our children makes it especially memorable. The honour of representing my constituency carries with it a significant responsibility to be my constituents’ voice and advocate on matters both here and at home, and to endeavour to serve the best interests of every constituent.
As a new Scot and a pragmatist, I am a product of this Union. Born in Northern Ireland and raised in the east of Scotland, I forged my professional career for the most part here in the heart of London. My apologies to hon. and right hon. Members from Wales: I landed in Cardiff airport once for refuelling, and I am not sure that counts, but hopefully I will remedy that as soon as possible.
If, to go by the Prime Minister’s repeated assertions, this is the most successful political union in the world, why have I and so many others never felt that to be true? Could this be an example of the iniquity that my predecessor, Lesley Laird, rightly focused on in her maiden speech, as she began her service to the constituency, from May 2017 until December of last year? Indeed, she lamented that the arguments for economic equity and social justice had been a theme not just of hers, but also of her predecessor, Roger Mullin. On this matter they have no quarrel with me.
From the coalmining communities of Benarty and Kelty, through to our largest conurbation, the Lang Toun of Kirkcaldy, and the picturesque coastal towns and villages stretching from Dalgety Bay to Dysart, the constituency I serve is bursting with ambition. That potential has been damaged by the ravages of Thatcherism and restricted in many respects by the limitations placed upon my constituency—and, indeed, Scotland as a whole—by politicians in this place who have not won an election in Scotland since 1955. All these communities have a proud history of hard work and great intellect and a strong sense of community. That sense of community has somehow withstood the imposition of political and economic policies that neglect, ignore, dismiss and sometimes extinguish the hopes, aspirations and potential of so many. While some Members of this Parliament may jeer at, dismiss and deny the potential of Scotland, I will not tire of giving voice to those aspirations and the hope of a better, independent future that works for all of Scotland.
As the UK turns in on itself, wrapped in the false promises of a Brexit that Scotland did not vote for, this Government have shaken the magic money tree to give cash-strapped public services some of the funding that they have been denied over 10 long years of neglect. This brings me to the subject of the debate and my reflections on it. While I readily agree that the proposed funding in the Bill is preferable to ruinous austerity economics, we must never forget that that was initiated by those on the Government Benches, aided by the Liberal Democrats and eased into being by the abstention of many members of the Labour Opposition.
If the English NHS is the patient, then this Bill is a fig leaf, treating the symptoms and not the cause of the English NHS’s woes. The cause is, of course, pernicious and has proven deadly for many—Tory economic and social policy—but the Government must know that. Why else would they refuse to publish their own impact assessment on universal credit and the two-child cap? What are they afraid of—the truth? In Scotland, many of us on these Benches have been working on a remedy for some time, but this Government are withholding consent and, at the same time, they ignore the refusal of consent to this damaging folly from the devolved Parliaments. We must take our Brexit medicine regardless.
In 2014, the people of Scotland voted for a status quo that no longer exists. They were promised equal status, respect and greater autonomy. That vow lies shattered, as does Scotland’s trust in this place. If Scotland is not equal, if it is not respected and if it is not listened to, are we to assume that we are hostages in our nation, forever prone to the wiles of our larger neighbour? Well, let me say this: that is neither right nor, indeed, honourable. The health of a nation cannot be improved using honorific titles in this place. It requires right, and right honourable deeds, not words. If this is the most successful union in the history of the world, why is it that we need to measure deprivation, poverty and homelessness? Whether I support this EVEL policy or not, I am denied a vote, despite the consequences for Scotland.
In closing, I will—like my predecessors—turn to the words of one Adam Smith fae Kirkcaldy, in the hope that this will be the final time they need to be said in this place:
“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”
The Government should publish the impact assessments. Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.