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Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber), who gave us a clear exposition of some of the manufacturing and other issues connected with her constituency.
"In rising to speak in this House for the first time, I ask for the indulgence which is normally accorded to maiden speakers and my feeling of trepidation in speaking here on the first occasion is somewhat allayed by the experience of very great kindness which I have received from Members of all parties and indeed from everyone . . . in this House."[Official Report, 19 April 1950; Vol. 474, c. 167.]
Those are my sentiments, but the words were spoken by my most illustrious predecessor more than 50 years ago. It is a tribute to a Member of Parliament that after
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50 years he is so fondly remembered in his constituency. Mr., later Sir, Cyril Black is still remembered in Wimbledon as one of our most favoured sons. He was devoted to the community and was the epitome of what a good constituency MP should be.
Even during the recent election campaign, several older constituents reminded me of Sir Cyril's good works and efforts on their behalf, and entreated me, were I fortunate enough to be elected to this place, to ensure that I was a Member of Parliament like him. He was a tireless campaigner for, and a promoter of, Wimbledon. He was truly Wimbledon's voice in this place, and in both those endeavours I intend to try to emulate him. It is a testament to his work that his name lives on in buildings and roads throughout Wimbledon. Various large office blocks are named after him. One of his memorials from grateful constituents is the Sir Cyril Black way, which I trod during the recent campaign[Interruption.] No, it was certainly not the third way.
Hon. Members will understand that I hope that I can do as much for my constituents now as Sir Cyril did for them 50 years ago, and I rather hope that my memorial will not be the Stephen Hammond cul-de-sac. However, his maiden speech was notable for one thing: he did not address any of his opening remarks to his predecessors or, indeed, the constituency. That is a trend that I do not intend to follow.
After Sir Cyril Black, Sir Michael Havers served in this House with great distinction as Attorney-General during the Falklands campaign and was a distinguished Member of the other place. Dr. Charles Goodison-Wickes is principally remembered in Wimbledon for the fact that he was the Member of Parliament who went to the Gulf war. Most recently, Roger Casale, although he and I disagreed on most things political, was, I believe, well intentioned and sought to do his best for the people of Wimbledon.
To some, Wimbledon is strawberries and Pimms, tennis and hot summer days; to others, it is the Wombles. To those of us who live there, it is not just the leafy suburb of SW19 that one sees on the television for two weeks a year; it is the best place to live. It is a very diverse area, each part of it unique and each part of it special. We have the part that most people seethe unique city village, which is Wimbledon village. We have a vibrant town centre where business, visitors and residents alike work together. Wimbledon common is protected not by the Wombles but by the excellent work of the Conservatives, and the common land Bill that we may see through during this Parliament will be welcome.
We have a very lively small business community and a cultural life enriched by the phoenix of the New Wimbledon theatre rising from the ashes two years ago, supported by a very active civic trust that works with schools to promote the arts. We have another common in Wimbledon that most people do not know aboutCannon Hill common, which joins two of our residential areas, West Barnes and Cannon Hill. I myself am fortunate to live in the splendidly named Wimbledon Park ward, which has the magnificent Inigo Jones-designed park.
I believe that Wimbledon is simply the best place to live, but it is not without its concerns and problems. Local transport has suffered as a result of the
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inconsistent policies of the Mayor and of the Government: the illogical decision to stop the East London line at Clapham Junction, the delayed Thameslink, and the poor service that we receive on the District line, which is the subject of a campaign by me and my hon. Friends the Members for Putney (Justine Greening) and for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) that we will further pursue through this Parliament.
Unlike the hon. Member for Burnley (Kitty Ussher), I am not sure that I recognise, after eight years, all the positives on education. Several of our primary and secondary schools have had to face deficit budgets this year. Standards do not match those of surrounding boroughs. There is a real need for a diversity of provision and for an increase in vocational training, and a particular need for a school-based sixth form.
Conservation is one of the key issues. We need to protect our metropolitan open land from the onslaught of overdevelopment. The high quality of life in Wimbledon stems from the fact that we have protected our green spaces, parks and playing fields. We must continue to do that, and I pledge to do all that I can in this House to ensure that that happens.
Today has been set aside for us to talk about environment and industry, so I want to touch on two issuesone is mentioned in the Queen's Speech and one is notthat are relevant to the constituency and to the topics of the day. Like many other constituencies across the country, Wimbledon has experienced a huge increase in the number of applicants for phone masts over the past few years. I recognise the need to balance the ever-increasing demands of users against local residents' concerns, rational health concerns against the "phone fried my brain" health scares, and over-expansion against nimbyism. However, the simple fact is that the siting of phone masts near homes, schools and hospitals, the health effects, and particularly concentrations of masts should be matters for proper consideration. The old telephone exchange on the Ridgway in my constituency already has 10 different masts and equipment boxes on its roof. There are three outstanding applications, each of which is for six more multiple masts. There is a high incidence of cancer in local areas.
Local residents and I have campaigned to oppose that concentration and the visual intrusion, but to no avail. Local residents feel powerless and the local authority hides behind Government legislation that does not allow it to adjudicate many applications, so it waves through planning applications on the basis of prior approval without allowing the discussion of opposition on the grounds of health. We need to have a debate on the health concerns, including the impact of proximity and concentration and the most recent studies of Professor Henshall. We need to ensure that all phone mast developments are subject to full planning permission. Councils should be allowed to take on board health concerns and visual amenity. I trust that this House will have time to debate that at some stage during this Parliament.
I note that Her Majesty's speech said that legislation will be introduced to streamline regulatory structures and to remove outdated and unnecessary legislation. Let us hope that we have a bonfire of the targets. However, the Queen's Speech, which is heaving with
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new Bills, does not do well in that regard. There can be few Members who, when campaigning, did not meet small business people who told us about the problems that they were facing with over-regulation. In Wimbledon, I was particularly struck by the number of such people in the construction industry. One gentleman, an electrician, showed me all the forms and ID that needed to be supplied for him to get on to a site, and told me that he is unable to compete with electricians from some of the newly acceded EU countries. He was but one of many. While one could say that that is only anecdotal evidence, one should not forget that the director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce recently said that it is fed up with the spiralling costs of regulation and estimates that overall regulation has cost £40 billion since 1997. If the Government are truly about to set about reducing the cost of regulation, we will support them. However, if we see a set of targets to reduce targets and regulation, and more administrators and regulators to reduce regulation, I am sure that there will be ironic smiles and laughter from Conservative Members and we will know that yet again the legislation will not work. For any legislation to be effective it must transform regulatory impact assessments, repeal some of the specific business regulation and grant some exemptions to small businesses.
I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech today and to the House for listening to me with courtesy and forbearance. I intend to be a loyal and conscientious Member of the House and to live up to my election pledge to be my constituency's voice in this place and to serve my constituents loyally.
Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech during this debate on the Queen's Speech on industry and the environment, which are themes of immense importance to us all. Before I begin, I congratulate the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) on an excellent maiden speech. I have learned many things about Wimbledon that I did not know 10 minutes ago. He may be giving away his age by mentioning the Wombles, but I must confess that I remember them too.
It is a great honour to have been elected to represent the constituency of Llanelli, which I have to say is a marked contrast with Wimbledon. I follow three distinguished parliamentarians who have held this seat for Labour uninterruptedly since 1922. They are the hon. Dr. J. H. Williams, who served the constituency for 14 years, the right hon. Jim Griffiths, who served for 34 years, and the right hon. Denzil Davies, who served for 35 years. I do not intend to be in the running to try to break the record of 35 years, unless of course some future Chancellor who is much less competent than our current one leaves us with no option but to work on until an age that I do not intend to reveal today. I simply pledge to do my very best for my constituents during the time that I serve them.
My predecessors would have been delighted to hear the Prime Minister reaffirm last week to the parliamentary Labour party the importance of the Warwick agreement to this third term of Labour
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Governmentan historic partnership between union members and Government to improve job security and working conditions. My immediate predecessor, the right hon. Denzil Davies, the Member for Llanelli for the past 35 years, will be remembered fondly by many in the House today and in the constituency for his immense ability, wit and eloquence. He served as a Minister in the Treasury under both the Wilson and the Callaghan Governments, and as an Opposition spokesman on Treasury matters, foreign affairs and defence.
How fitting it is that in the first Session in this historic third term of a Labour Government, we should be continuing to implement and update the vision of that great parliamentarian, Jim Griffiths, the second Labour Member for Llanelli. He is perhaps best known for his work as Minister of National Insurance, with the introduction of the national insurance Bill in 1948, which he described as
In this Session of Parliament we are once again committed to developing a workable model of pension provision that reflects the current demographic situation. Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that Jim Griffiths introduced the first system of family allowances. We shall continue to show our commitment to helping hardworking families through the extension of maternity leave and increased child care provision.
Dr. J. H. Williams, the first Labour MP for Llanelli, was well known for his work on miners' compensation. Indeed, he was one of only three Labour MPs elected in south Wales who was not a miner himself. Following on, Jim Griffiths in the autumn of 1945 was the driving force behind the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946, with its provisions based on his experience as compensation secretary for the south Wales miners.
It is with great pride, therefore, that in this debate on industry I continue the work of my predecessors by supporting the corporate manslaughter Bill, which will create a new offence enabling the conviction of corporations for homicide where death has been caused by a management failure to ensure the health and safety of its employees. That is not because anything can ever adequately compensate for the grief at the loss of a loved one, but because it highlights the need for continued vigilance and should lead to a more responsible approach by all employers to the safety of their workers to prevent accidents.
As one glances across the Llanelli constituency, one sees looming large on the skyline the chapels and working men's clubs that fostered the democratic radicalism which to this day has given us a strong sense of community, a determination to care for the vulnerable and a certainty in our belief that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve much more than we achieve alone.
It was this warm and caring community, materially poor but spiritually rich, that welcomed into its midst an eastern European refugee family by the name of Hecht. They changed their name to Howarda very thoughtful gesture, but hardly necessary in Llanelli, where "Hecht" presents few problems to those of us who regularly say "Llanelli". It was their shop to which the coalminers and tinplate workers and their families went to spend their hard-earned pennies to buy their Sunday best. Mr. and Mrs. Howard's son, who is better known
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to the House as the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe, went on to serve in the Thatcher Governmenta Government who were to deal such a bitter blow to the coal and steel industries, throwing thousands out of work and ripping the heart out of those warm and caring communities.
Since the election of a Labour Government in 1997, hope has returned and there has been regeneration on an unprecedented scale. We have seen the benefits of a well-managed economy reaching Llanelli, with unemployment levels falling dramatically. Diversification and regeneration have increased the proportion of jobs linked to tourism and other service industries, but in spite of all the challenges of the global economy, manufacturing continues to account directly for some 20 per cent. of the employment in the constituency, with many more jobs being linked indirectly. That is rather higher than the national average of 14 per cent., though it cannot quite compete with the figure of 30 per cent. reported by my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber).
Although we are now supplying parts to a range of car companies, jobs have been affected by the Rover tragedy, and it is vital that we secure alternative employment and do not let the skills be wasted. I welcome our measures to facilitate capital for small businesses and the role of the manufacturing advisory service.
At one time, with the old images of the industrial revolution, it might have seemed contradictory to link industry and caring for our environment, but as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry at the outset of the debate, both are vital aspects of our modern society, as we all want to benefit from the manufactured goods and a clean environment. There is an irony that it is our successful economic policies supporting thriving industries and improved standards of living which threaten to make it more difficult for us to reduce our carbon emissions.
We must, however, continue to strive for cleaner, safer industrial practices and invest in the development of innovative technology that can provide the means to reduce carbon emissions. We need to look with increased urgency at the development of all forms of renewable energy, and at new technologies that help us to reduce energy consumption. Surrounded on three sides by tidal waters, the Llanelli constituency could be an ideal site for a tidal power station, perhaps spanning the Loughor estuary, in the same way as the Rance barrier in northern France has been producing electricity for some 40 years.
As one glances across the skyline of the constituency, one sees a land of contraststradition and the modern, the juxtaposition of our industrial heritage, our spectacular scenery and our regeneration projects; the rolling countryside; rows of terraced houses perched perilously on the hillsides sloping down past the historic castle of Kidwelly to the sea and the new marina at Burry Port; the magnificent coastline now enhanced by the millennium coastal park created from the biggest industrial reclamation project in Europe; the coastal link road snaking its way past the brand-new world-class golf course and the skeletal asbestos-ridden factories soon to be demolished to make way for a
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leisure village; the shimmering glass pyramid of the modern shopping centre and the boarded-up shops, like the last remaining ghost of yesteryear, shortly to be done up; the colossal Corus steelworks; the new Technium centre for innovation; an ex-miner struggling to get his breath, his lungs permanently damaged by coal dust; and boys playing rugby, a reminder of Llanelli's scrum-half Dwayne Peel, who played in all five of Wales's grand slam victory matches this year.
One senses apprehension about the challenges facing our manufacturing industry, hope arising from the regeneration, a vitality, a spirit of community, an anticipation, an expectation and, above all, a conviction that it is a Labour Member who can best serve Llanelli. I am proud to be that Member. I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak, and I thank the House for listening to me so attentively.
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