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Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): As I speak for the first time in the House, I am not only humbled but aware of the great burden of trust and expectation that has been placed on me by the voters of Reading, East. I thank them for their trust, and I promise that I will not let them down. I congratulate the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Edward Miliband) on his excellent maiden speech, made with enthusiasm for and pride in his constituency. As he could not see the Minister of Communities and Local Government on the Front Bench, may I tell him that he sat listening with a great deal of enthusiasm and pride, too?
May I pay tribute, as is customary on these occasions, to my predecessor, the former Labour MP for Reading, East, Jane Griffiths? Jane represented the constituency from 1997 to 2005, and was notable as the first woman to represent a Reading constituency. She was a skilled linguistthe only Japanese and Korean speaker in the House in the last two Parliamentsand did a great deal to give prominence to a number of unfashionable causes. Her work for sufferers of ectopic pregnancies and male cancers has been singled out for praise from across the political divide. She was also an enthusiast for ratsalthough sadly, it seems, she was ultimately ratted on by her local party. Despite this poor treatment she maintained the respect of her constituents, as reflected in the supportive letters sent to local newspapers.
Jane Griffiths was well known for her support for Crossrail and her determination to make the western terminus Reading. The Crossrail Bill is supported by all parties in Reading, East as a much needed enhancement for commuters. It is, however, a matter of great concern to my constituents that the plan is for the rail scheme to stop in Maidenhead. That makes absolutely no economic sense, as local business organisations have made clear, and could adversely affect the region's long-term economic development. For that reason, I am determined to continue the hard work of my predecessor in seeking to have the western terminus extended to Reading.
Some years ago, the boundary commission determined that Reading should be a town of two halves. While I know less of affairs in the western part, by a curious twist of fate, I believe that all that is best, brightest, exotic and uplifting is concentrated in the east. With a fine and highly regarded university, a regional retail centre and a major technological and industrial sector, the constituency lies at the heart of the prosperous Thames valley region. In fact, I liked the area so much that I moved there more than 20 years ago, and I am still proud to call it my home.
Geographically, my constituency includes the communities of Caversham, the bulk of Reading town centre and parts of the Wokingham district towns of Woodley and Earley. The superb biography of William Pitt the Younger, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), notes that former Speaker Addington lived in Woodley, and after Pitt's resignation, went on to become Prime Minister. I assure the House that my ambitions are far more modest, and if members of my local press are watching, I am ruling out a bid for the leadership! That should make the front page in Reading.
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Reading, East is a focal point for the information technology sector, and is proud to boast many of the top international IT companies such as Microsoft and Oracle. There is also a large banking and finance sector, represented by companies such as Prudential. I am grateful to all the wealth-creating companies in my constituency, large and small, which make such a great contribution to the wealth of the region. I will be their champion. Another major employer in the town is the borough council. Working in local government can often be thankless and frustrating, but I have been impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the many council staff with whom I have come into contact.
Reading, East has some excellent schools, both secondary and primary, but it faces enormous challenges, especially in the Reading borough. Reading's local education authority has been categorised by Ofsted as barely satisfactory, and about 40 per cent. of parents do not send their children to its schools. Many local parents and pupils have not been served well. I intend to support the dedicated teachers and LEA staff in turning around the parts of the system that are failing. I believe that Reading can learn much from the excellent LEA in Wokingham, and I hope that it will take the opportunity sooner rather than later to approach that LEA for advice and support, which I am sure will be given willingly.
I am a parent with a child at a local school. I was fortunate enough to be able to send my child to the local school of my choice. Dozens of local parents have not been so fortunate. Most affected are parents wishing to send children to Emmer Green primary school. It is imperative for good schools, with the support of parents, teachers and governorsas is the case at Emmer Greento be allowed to expand, and for children to be granted places at their local schools.
I now turn to the content of the Queen's speech, and in particular to the violent crime Bill. In the past six months, Reading, East has had more than its fair share of violent crime and murder. In January there was a fatal drive-by shooting at Cemetery junction, and Members will have recently read of the brutal murder of my constituent Mary-Ann Leneghan, who was just 16 years old. I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing sincere condolences to the family. What happened to Mary-Ann and her friend, who was shot in the head and callously left for dead, demonstrates that there are people who operate outside what we all regard as the norms of civilised society.
As Members of this House we must ensure, for the sake of our constituents and of our families, that those with the capacity to commit such gross acts of evil are given no quarter. It is crucial for the police to be given support, not just in terms of funding but by the local community. I am pleased to say that that has been the case in Reading, East, where the strength of our community has meant that people have come forward at great risk to themselves to achieve what I pray will be the end result: justice for Mary-Ann.
I am sure that the House will also join me in saluting the excellent work of the local police force. As Members may have heard, a number of arrests have been made, and we all have high hopes that those who are guilty of these terrible crimes will be punished. I cannot help feeling, however, that a sense of security on our streets
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will be fully restored only if the police are equipped with the necessary manpower and tools to fight and win the battle against violent crime.
Reading is well known for the three Bs: beer, bulbs and biscuits. The bulbs and biscuits have faded in significance, but beer still plays a huge role. Like so many other urban centres, Reading town centre suffers from binge drinking and yobbish behaviour. I would like to see an extension of the experience of the London borough of Richmond, where a voluntary code of conduct has been implemented banning "happy hour" promotions in bars and pubs. Even at this early stage, the initial figures show a stark drop in violent crime in Twickenham and Richmond town centres. I was delighted to hear today that hundreds of pubs have recognised that, and decided to join in a voluntary ban on happy hours.
Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): It is with great pride that I rise to make my maiden speech, following the hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) and the others who today have made their first speeches in the House. Sometimes it is more difficult to speak late in the evening, knowing the quality that one has to follow.
In the early hours of 6 May, I promised the people of Bridgend that I would be working for them from day one. I kept my promise and, after three hours' sleep, I arrived at Westminster to begin my induction, collecting my security pass and the beginning of what I am sure will soon become a forest of paperwork.
During the first 10 days, I have been introduced to many Members who have told me what a charming man my predecessor Win Griffiths is. I have been told that when Win spoke in the Chamber, people knew that he would have something interesting to say and a new way of looking at the issues being debated. Win has a deserved reputation for integrity and probity, befitting a parliamentarian, Wesleyan lay preacher, teetotaller and resident of the village of Cefn Cribwr. The retirement to which Win has so looked forward will not involve simply tending his garden. He will continue to serve the people of Bridgend and south Wales as he takes on the chairmanship of Bro Morgannwg health trust, a task that he will undertake with his usual dedication and commitment.
When the Bridgend constituency was created in 1983, its first Member was Peter Hubbard Miles, who, like me, enjoys living in Porthcawl, the finest seaside resort in Wales. Peter tried living in Spain for a while, but was drawn back to the town which, the Bridgend county borough council website informs readers, has more hours of sunshine each year than Madrid. In following Peter and Win, I aspire to be as brave and fearless as Aileen Jones, helmsman of the Porthcawl lifeboat, who last week was awarded the Royal National Lifeboat Institution bronze medal for gallantry. She was the first woman ever to receive the medal. I can only pray that the storms in the House are less fearsome than those raging off the coast of my constituency.
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To understand the Bridgend constituency, people must know that it is made up of two towns: Porthcawl, a tourist resort, and Bridgend, a business hotspotthe second fastest growing area in Wales, and the ninth fastest in the United Kingdom. We are home to Sony, the Ford engine plant, and many dynamic small and medium-sized businesses. Surrounding the two towns are several smaller communities and villages with strong personal identities. Our local people have great commitment to their communities and many make a personal difference to the quality of life of those among whom they live.
I am thinking of people like Helena Parobij, who sadly died earlier this year. Thanks to Helena, 750 children in the communities of Pyle, Cornelly, Kenfig Hill and Cefn Cribwr have access to a range of facilities including a skateboarding and BMX park, IT suite, music room and somewhere to chill out, meet and make friends, and even occasionally do homework. Just as important, they have access to adult support, guidance and role models. At a meeting in March to discuss financial problems at the centre, Inspector Paul Lewis told the meeting that, before KPC youth centre opened in 1998, the community was plagued with rowdy youngsters drinking and taking drugs on the street. Once 750 eight to 21-year-olds had access to the centre at different times, the number of complaints decreased considerably.
If we are to free our communities from nuisance and provide inspiration and opportunities for our youngsters, local councils must help by funding the groups that work with young people. I am sure that the House will join me in calling for Bridgend county borough council to restore the funds that it recently cut for organisations doing invaluable work with young people.
As Bridgend has expanded, newer communities such as Brackla, Wildmill and Broadlands have been built. Partnership working is critical to making those new communities succeed. In Brackla, Gordon Taylor and the residents association work with NCH, youth services and housing association staff, neighbourhood police and local councillors to try to meet the needs of a large development, while that invaluable facility in any communitythe community hallprovides a range of activities from taekwondo to senior citizens club to Welsh classes.
In Wildmill, people such as Idris Jones, workers at the tenants and residents association and at the youthworks, and community support officers have helped many to leave behind or avoid the drugs culture that made life on that estate unbearable for its many law-abiding residents. During the election campaign, it was good to talk to youngsters on the estate, who would perhaps have inspired fear in many adults with their appearance and noise, yet they wanted to comprehend politics and were eager to understand and to learn about national issues.
The Broadlands development in Bridgend is an estate that was planned for 700 houses and now has more than 2,000 dwellings. Central to life there is Maes yr Haul primary school. Pupils at the school recently won a national animation award and learned about the
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lifestyle and traditions of Japan from parents of children attending the school who have come to work at the Sony factory in Bridgend.
One of the most rigorous question and answer sessions I experienced was at Llangynwydd primary, where I had been expecting to talk with the head teacher and staff. Instead, I was introduced to 300 primary school children who raised questions about helping the world's hungry, support for people with diabetes, stopping adults smoking and finding a cure for cancer, among many other issues. Those children will be watching the outcome of the forthcoming meeting of the G8 and will be pleased at the Government's proposals in the health improvement and protection Bill. In primary schools such as Trelales, Litchard and Pen-y-Bont and the integrated children's centre in Cornelly, it was good to see parents, governors and older residents volunteering time and listening to pupils as they read, taking an interest in their community school and investing in the future of local children.
Eight years ago, David Matthews, our director of education and leisure services, who has since died, introduced an award of citizenship for people who contributed to their community. Eight years on, the list is still growing.
I look forward to debating the new mental health Bill with Mental Health Matters and Mind. I know that the Shaw Trust will take an interest in the planned changes to incapacity benefit and that voluntary organisations such as Age Concern, Help the Aged and Shout will want to debate the provisions of the Government of Wales Bill. As someone who has worked with vulnerable adults, I know that the protection of vulnerable adults Bill will be an important addition to legislation.
It may have been noted that, unlike the other new Welsh Members, I was not born in Wales. My family has Scottish roots on my father's side and Irish roots on my mother's. My mother, who is 91, has developed a new addiction for the parliamentary channel on her digibox and will no doubt be watching today. My parents set me an example of community service, my mother providing nursing help and support to neighbouring families and care for my grandmother, my father an active member of the sea cadets, Fellowship of the Services and the Royal Naval Reserve. It was their example that brought me here today.
I am also here today thanks to my husband Steve, who enticed me to Wales in 1976. Our son David was 21 last week. He is our Celtic crown having been born in Wales. Set possibly a poor example by his mother, he is studying politics at university.
Steve and I moved to Wales when he was appointed the first warden of the newly designated local nature reserve at Kenfig. Perhaps hon. Members will have a chance to look at a video recently compiled by Ted Davies of Kenfig when they consider proposals in the commons Bill. Kenfig is now a European site of nature conservation, a site of unique biodiversity and tranquillity. It would have become a housing estate or a caravan park if Ted and his fellow commoners had not been willing to risk their homes to battle in the High Court to keep the dunes from commercial development. I know that Ted will be watching the progress of the marine Bill to ensure that it will help with the declaration of a marine nature reserve off Sker.
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Should hon. Members wish to purchase Ted's video, profits are going towards Sandville Court self-help centre, where Sister Gwyneth Poacher and her band of volunteer helpers provide support and access to a range of alternative therapies to those with terminal and debilitating illness. Without Sandville, many carers would not have coped and many people would not have faced the end of their lives with dignity and comfort. All the services and facilities at Sandville are provided through voluntary action. It is a local and national treasure.
I thank the House for its courtesy in listening to me today. I am proud to represent Bridgend, a constituency where so many hold fast to the understanding that what makes life good are the things we share, and the glue that binds communities is the things we do for othersa constituency with so many examples of how individuals can change the quality of life for their communities, especially when given the tools and legislative support of Government.
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