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Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab):
I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech. To be able to do so on the day after being presented to the House, and on the day of the Queen's Speech, is indeed an honour. I promised the people of Hove and Portslade that I would waste no time in taking their concerns and aspirations to the House and the heart of government, so that is what I intend to do. Having said that, I am still unsure of the
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exact route from my office to the Whips Office, but perhaps that, too, could be seen as further service to my constituency.
Hove has been blessed by nature. In addition to being among the sunniest cities on mainland Britain, it enjoys the uninterrupted beauty of the south downs to the north and a wonderful coastal promenade to the south. Ramblers and kitesurfers alike have thus discovered Hove's desirability as a modern city with easy access to outdoor life. I want the best for that way of life as well, which means taking steps to protect our environment. I support measures to create a national park on the south downs, ensuring that future generations may enjoy them as much as we have done. On a local level, I offer my support to council planners and campaigners to encourage new developments that are beacons of environmental sensitivity. The House will also find in me a key proponent of the wider, more global, challenges that need facing up to if we are to stave off the invidious effects of climate change which will blight the lives of many unless we act soon.
It is a particular privilege to make my maiden speech on the day of the Queen's Speech. As the Government begin their third term in office by laying before the people an ambitious legislative agenda, I begin my own, more humble, parliamentary duties. In so doing, I want not to forget just how significant the last two terms have been, and to reflect on exactly how much has been achieved in my constituency since Labour took office.
The 2005 general election was a tough fight, but as far as we were concerned, a principled one. The Opposition, who placed immigration posters in ethnically sensitive areas, cynically used the diversity of our local population for political gain. We, on the other hand, focused our attention on speaking and listening to people on the doorsteps. People shared their concerns about, for example, the insensitive siting of mobile phone masts in residential communities, inappropriate development in suburban areas and the rising cost of housing. I have listened to their concerns, and hope to become the advocate that they deserve.
I was struck by how seldom issues of employment and child care were raised. As a veteran of many previous campaigns, I know how past elections were dominated by the social and economic consequences of joblessness. Hove and Portslade suffered greatly from this disease, but since 1997 they have witnessed an incredible 56 per cent. fall in the rate of unemployment. Had we promised that to the people of Hove and Portslade in 1997, no one would have believed us.
My predecessor, Ivor Caplin, stated in his maiden speech in 1997 that the Chancellor's decision to grant independence to the Bank of England would be shown by history to be the right one. How right he was. The people of my constituency are better educated, better cared for when they are sick, and have more personal freedom than at any previous time. It is on this platform of achievement that we stand proud today, and I look forward to playing my part in this next Session of Parliament, when yet more of Britain's potential will be unlocked for my constituents.
I should also like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to my predecessor, Ivor Caplin. Much symbolism has been assigned to Labour's victory
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in Hove in 1997, but it would be a mistake to assume that that was merely the result of a national trend. Ivor had been a tireless advocate for the people of Hove for a great number of years and had already set in motion an ambitious programme of rejuvenation for the town. As leader of Hove council before coming to the House, he achieved the rebuilding of the Portland Gate estate, for example. It was his hard work and considerable leadership skills that mobilised the constituency Labour party, and together they communicated the new Labour vision and earned the respect and trust of constituents.
Such focused campaigning achieved many victories for the people of Hove and Portslade, such as the regeneration of the old market into an active community facility and centre for the arts. As many hon. Members here today will know, it is a work ethic that Ivor carried into his parliamentary career, earning him the respect of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
During the recent election campaign, I had the privilege of visiting a mosque in Hove with Ivor, and was deeply moved by the expressions of warmth and gratitude made towards him by people there, as they bid him farewell as their Member of Parliament. That he could sustain a productive and personal relationship with the Muslim community while carrying out his challenging ministerial duties of the time speaks greatly of his abilities as an advocate. Those who underestimated his genuine commitment to every section of the constituency usually paid a price, which might be why the local Respect candidate lost his deposit in the general election.
As I look forward, I see much that can be done to build on Labour's achievements and to make Hove and Portslade an even fairer and more prosperous place in which to live and work. Despite much improvement, there are some pockets of deprivation and social exclusion that need to be tackled. In those areas, I shall continue to forge partnerships with the private sector and providers of public services to ensure that job opportunities and community support are fully extended to those who are most in need.
As the many hon. Friends who came to Hove during the election campaign discovered, Hove today is a modern, vibrant city, ethnically and socially diverse. I support that healthy trend, which is attracting people and companies to my constituency. This week, the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry will visit Hove to further his design proposals for the regeneration of the King Alfred sports centre. The scheme offers a startling opportunity for the people of Hove and Portslade, who will not only take pride in the prestige development, but benefit from its imaginative proposals for environmental and social sustainability. Mr. Gehry's design will give the people of Hove world-class sports facilities and a residential area offering 40 per cent. affordable housing, all of which will cost the taxpayer not a single penny. I am especially proud that such a prestigious development in Hove's best seafront location will be fully accessible to every section of our community, not only to the rich and privileged. For that reason, I shall engage positively with the development team to ensure the best possible outcome for all my constituents.
Nowhere is the social fabric of my constituency more evident than in the community-wide campaign for a new stadium at Falmer for Brighton and Hove Albion. I
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cannot stress in strong enough terms the passion and pride that my constituents feel for their team and the frustration felt by many at the protracted inquiry into its new home. The process has cost the club £3 million to date, but that has not detracted from the club's extensive community work, particularly with schools and those with special needs. The need to give young people that kind of incentive to participate in sport has never been greater, and enabling the development of the Albion will grant many children in my constituency a healthier lifestyle. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has commented on the passion and good nature of the supporters' campaign. I agree with him wholeheartedly.
I see a new community stadium at Falmer as part of the regeneration of Brighton and Hove and the further strengthening of constituents' pride in their vibrant and inclusive city. I share that pride in my constituency, but stand here today with humility, eager to learn from my hon. Friends how to become the best parliamentarian that my skills will allow and to serve the people of Hove and Portslade to the best of my abilities. Mr. Deputy Speaker, please accept my sincere gratitude for calling me to speak today and for listening to me with such grace.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Member for Hove (Ms Barlow), who spoke from the very same place from which I made my maiden speech 35 years ago. She might not be encouraged to hear that, but she might at least be encouraged to know that this place does not kill uswe can live through it all and enjoy it even as we become older and, perhaps, wiser.
I am at a disadvantage, in that I cannot enter into the battle of the election that has been fought again in the House today. The Conservative party, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats have all fought the battle again, but I have no one to fight with. The Social Democratic and Labour party Members are not here, nor are the Sinn Fein Membersthank Godand the remaining Ulster Unionist party Member. As a result, I am on my own, as it were, with my hon. Friends.
I was reminded by one of my constituents that when I spoke in the House the other day I should have mentioned a little song that they sing sometimes in Ulster about bottlesnine green bottles hanging on the wall. It was suggested to me that I should have said that there were nine bottles but they were not hanging, and that they were not green but orange. Perhaps that sums up the matter.
I come from a province that has been torn asunder by terrorism. I come from a province that lost its democratic structures because this House thought that the way to deal with it was by taking away the democratic structures that it had. They were not perfect. I am sure that many of us think that the structure of this place is not perfect. However, it was the will of the people that put the structures in place. Alas, we have been through momentous years.
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I asked for the figures for the three main years of the previous Parliament, given that some parliamentarians think that all the trouble is over and that the peace movement, as it is called, and progress are absolutely successful. In 2002, we had 350 shootings and 188 bombings. Three incendiary devices exploded and there were 120 incidents of attacks by firearms and explosives. There were 312 paramilitary attacks.
In 2003, we had 229 shootings and 77 bombings. There were eight incendiaries and there were 156 finds of explosives and firearms. There were 305 paramilitary attacks. In 2004, we had 185 shootings and 64 bombings. There were 21 incendiaries. There were 90 finds of firearms and explosives and there were 228 paramilitary attacks.
The darkness is still upon us. The murders are still prevalent, as are the killings. I take cognisance of your looks towards me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but we have been told that the Government will work to bring about the conditions that are necessary for the restoration of political institutions in Northern Ireland, and it is to that that I am addressing my remarks.
It is all very well for the Government to say that they will deal with terrorism, but they need to start with terrorism in their back yard, which is Northern Ireland. It must be dealt with. There is no use telling our peopleI want to make this plain to the Housethat we will do our best to rejuvenate the so-called agreement that has failed four times: it was set up, it broke down again and it was broken up. We must go down another road, which must be that no terrorist, whether they come from one side or the other, can be in any Government of any part of this United Kingdom. An ultimatum must be given by the Government that the day of terrorism is over and that people cannot shoot their way into Government office. They cannot murder people, rob banks and destroy their country and then demand that, because they have a mandate, they must get into government. The Prime Minister has promised that. I told the Prime Minister privately that I was a Blairite on that matter. I told him that I was a convinced Blairite, and that I was not changing. There are nine Members from Northern Ireland in the House because of it. The people do not want terrorists in the Government of Northern Ireland, and the time has come for the Government to deal with that.
Today, I talked with an emissary from the American Government, and I have talked to the people representing the south. They, too, must take a stand on that issue. They should unite, then move forward. If people do not want to get on the train of democracy, they will be left behind on the platform. The train of democracy must move forward in Northern Ireland.
It is not morally right for terrorists to be in the Government of Northern Ireland. I should like the House to get to grips with that issue, and the Government to keep the promise made by the Prime Minister, to which he referred when I questioned him in the previous Parliament. He gave an undertaking, and I should like it to be honoured. I should like the other parties in the House to recognise it and realise its importance. There is not a single Member in the House
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who would like to have the situation that we have in Northern Ireland in their own constituency. I make a plea to the Houselet us get to grips with the issue.
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