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Sarah McCarthy-Fry (Portsmouth, North) (Lab): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech today. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) and the hon. Members for Newbury (Mr. Benyon) and for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) on the eloquence of their maiden speeches.
I have counted my predecessor, Syd Rapson, as one of my friends for many years, since we served together on Portsmouth city council. Syd is a classic example of a local boy made good. Prior to serving as Portsmouth,
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North's MP, one of his proudest achievements was serving as lord mayor of the city. He was very proud of his trade union and working class roots, and always remained loyal to the Labour party. Whenever he was asked whether he was old Labour or new Labour, he always replied, "I'm recycled Labour."
During his eight years as an MP for Portsmouth, North, Syd lived and worked among his constituents and was a champion for the hard-working families of the constituency. His experience as an aircraft fitter and a union convenor in the defence industry was invaluable in supporting the companies that maintain our ships in Portsmouth naval base. Nobody was more pleased than Syd when, in 2004, shipbuilding returned to Portsmouth after 37 years. His appointment as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the defence team enabled him to use his experience and expertise to good effect.
Like Syd, I have spent all my life living and working in Portsmouth and I also have a background of over 20 years working in manufacturing in the aerospace and defence sector. Over the centuries, Portsmouth has been at the forefront of defending our shores. It is the historical home of the Royal Navy and the sea continues to have a huge influence over the lives of its residents, whether through the microclimate that Portsmouth enjoys as a result of its proximity to the coast or through the economic benefits of being the trading gateway to Europe via our commercial ferry port.
Syd Rapson was not the first Labour MP for Portsmouth, North: that accolade goes to Donald Bruce, who took the seat in the first Labour landslide of 1945. Another of my distinguished predecessors, Frank Judd, now Lord Judd of Portsea, served Portsmouth between 1966 and 1979 and was Navy Minister in Harold Wilson's Government, thus cementing Portsmouth's link with maritime and defence matters in government. I spoke with Lord Judd during the election campaign. He wished me well and told me that I would be very fortunate to have the people of Portsmouth, North as my constituents, as they were some of the warmest and friendliest people he had ever met. I concur with his view.
Portsmouth people share a pride in our city and in our heritage, and we delight in sharing them with visitors. This year, we have a golden opportunity to share that heritage as part of the "Sea Britain" celebrations: 2005 is the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, and Portsmouth, as the home of HMS Victory, will be centre stage. Since the reign of Edward III, British sovereigns have reviewed their fleet off Spithead off Portsmouth, and on 28 June an international fleet review will take place in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and senior members of the royal family, continuing that 600-year-old tradition, but this time extending it into a modern symbol of international maritime friendship and co-operation. Ships from all corners of the globe will arrive in the Solent: naval ships from some 40 nations will join our Royal Navy, merchant vessels, tall ships and thousands of sailing craft of all shapes and sizes.
The fleet review will be followed by a return visit to Portsmouth for the international festival of the sea. Visitors will be able to climb aboard fascinating vessels from around the world and listen to sailors' real-life stories about life at sea. They will be able to step back in time to the sights and sounds of 200 years ago in the
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historic dockyard area and take part in interactive demonstrations and exhibitions showcasing our high-technology industries.
It is those industries that will be the key to the survival of manufacturing industry in Portsmouth. Many of the technology industries and engineering companies based in my constituency support the Navy or the defence industry in some way. My constituency office will be based in the Portsmouth Technopole, an innovation centre set up to maximise the formation and development of businesses with the potential for growth. I hope that my presence there will demonstrate my commitment to fostering entrepreneurship in Portsmouth and help the creation of local jobs.
I have been elected as a representative of both the Labour party and the Co-operative party, and I cannot let this occasion pass without reference to the co-operative movement. I welcome the Labour Government's support for mutuality and the recognition that co-operative enterprises have a strong role to play in regenerating communities and the local economy. It is through economic regeneration that we will be able to achieve our goals of sustained full employment and the eradication of child and pensioner poverty. When people are working and contributing to their community and young people have goals to which they aspire and good job prospects, they are much less likely to turn to crime.
When our visitors to the international festival of the sea stroll through the historic dockyard area and watch re-enactments of life in Nelson's time, they should not forget what a lawless place Portsmouth was in the early 19th century. Theft and muggings were rife and, if any hon. Members present have seen the famous Rowlandson engraving of "Point at Old Portsmouth", they will know that it depicts prime examples of 19th-century antisocial behaviour and binge drinking. Of course, people in those days did not have the sanctions of antisocial behaviour orders; on the contrary, for young men a more unwelcome consequence of a night on the tiles might be a visit from the press gangs that roamed the streets looking for naval recruitsand choice, I regret to say, was not a word in their vocabulary.
Portsmouth has come a long way since those days. Since 1997, we have seen real reductions in crime. We have record numbers of police officers in Portsmouth and in Paulsgrove and Wymeringparts of Portsmouth, North that are some of the most deprived areas in the countrywe have seen the successful implementation of a community warden scheme. The wardens have made a difference to the local community, acting as the eyes and ears of the police and providing a visible, uniformed presence that has reassured local residents and made a real impact in terms of crime reduction.
The 21st century, however, has brought different kinds of threat to local neighbourhoods. We have to be aware of the very real threat of an indiscriminate terrorist attack and we also face the new and growing phenomenon of identity theft. That is why I welcome the proposals in the Queen's Speech to introduce legislation for a biometric identity card, a view that is shared by the overwhelming majority of my constituents. Law-abiding people should have nothing to fear from an identity card, and although we must always consider the
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civil liberties aspects of such measures, there has to be a balance. My constituents have a right to feel that their Government are doing all in their power to protect them from modern-day threats.
My constituents also have the right to feel that their Government value their dreams and aspirations and are not prepared to write off whole communities, as happened in the '80s and early '90s, when the only future young people had to look forward to was a life on the dole. Portsmouth's young people now have a bright and vibrant future. More students than ever are going to universityno longer is it seen as something only for the wealthy. To those people who say that our 50 per cent. target is unrealistic, I reply, "It is just a startwhy should we put a cap on the aspirations of our young people?" A secondary school in my constituency named after Admiral Lord Nelson has as its motto, "Dare to Dream, Aim to Achieve". Under successive Conservative Governments, most of the people in my constituency did not dare to dream, because the vast majority were bound to be disappointed. Thankfully, that has changed since 1997.
There was a man who was born in Portsmouth in 1912 just a few streets away from where I live now who did dare to dream and who was not disappointed. He became an MP for Cardiff and achieved the highest office in this country. I am, of course, talking about James Callaghan, who became Lord Callaghan of Cardiff and who was Prime Minister between 1976 and 1979.
Portsmouth is my home city and I am proud to have been elected to serve as its first woman MP. I hope that I can represent my city with the same dedication and commitment as my distinguished predecessors. I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech, and I thank the hon. Members present for listening to me.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): It is a great privilege and pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Sarah McCarthy-Fry), who made an excellent speech. She obviously knows a great deal about the history of her constituency. I am a sailing man myself and know what a thrill and pleasure it is to sail out of Portsmouth harbour, passing all that history. She mentioned the Spithead review: at the risk of injecting a tiny note of controversy, I have to say that it is a pity that our fleet on that occasion will be a little smaller than it was the last time. None the less, hers was an excellent speech on which I warmly congratulate her.
I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie). What a great pleasure and honour it is to be the first Conservative Member of Parliament to welcome him to the House. His speech was most moving. Having said that he came from an ordinary background, he expressed his great pride in this place, in our Britishness and in the jobs and the hope that he has given to those whom he has employed in the past. He also voiced his determination to proceed along the path of empowering ordinary people. His was a wonderful speech and we are grateful to him.
We also welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Benyon). He was a candidate in that constituency for 11 years and has finally made it to this
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House. I pay tribute to his predecessor, David Rendel, who was a colleague on the Public Accounts Committee, a superb member of that Committee, and highly regarded in the House. Finally, thanks are due to Syd Rapson, whom the hon. Member for Portsmouth, North mentioned. He was a well-liked and thoroughly decent man, whom we will miss greatly.
From new Labour, I turn to old Labour and the right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher)if I can catch his attention. It was a pleasure to listen to his speech. He, a Labour MP, said that the Queen's Speech was piecemeal and that there was an "absence of vision"I hope that I quote him accurately. That was to be the theme of my remarks, too. We all know that the Queen's Speech is not really the Queen's Speech, but the Government's. What is worse, however, is that this Queen's Speech does not even come from the Government themselves: it is merely an amalgam of what focus groups have told the Government would be popular. It lacks any sort of theme. I am sure that focus groups told the Government that the introduction of identity cards would be a popular measure. It was significant that the Home Secretary said that identity cards are supported by 80 per cent. of the population.
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