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Ms Angela C Smith (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to make my maiden speech. I congratulate those who have today made their maiden speeches. In particular, I draw attention to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Ms Johnson), who spoke about school meals. I am sure that it is an initiative that will have a positive impact on children's well-being and on their fitness to learn, and consequently on their educational attainments.
The House will no doubt be aware that there are now two Members named Angela Smith. It may be of some assistance to right hon. and hon. Members to remember that the other Member with my name is tall, blonde and possesses a southern accent. I am relatively shorter and darker, and possess the flat vowel sounds of a northerner. Unlike me, my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Angela E Smith) has been a Member of this place for some time, and long may she continue to be so.
Right hon. and hon. Members will also be aware that the previous Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough, Helen Jackson, was a hard-working representative who was respected everywhere she went. She is a hard act to follow. Helen was well suited to her constituency with her no-nonsense approach and her recognition that sometimes we have to fight long and hard to get what we want. No one got anything fancy with Helen. It was just hard work, commitment and a recognition that achievements never come cheap.
Helen could dig her heels in hard. She is passionate in what she believes; she is warm-hearted and caring. For instance, she led tributes to her agent, Alan Wray, when
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he sadly passed away. She was quick to recognise in her tribute that her work was built on a collective effort by all those Labour members like Alan who worked for her and her constituency.
I have known Helen for more than 10 years, and I pay tribute to her work. She fought for equality for women and championed the interests of the developing world. She worked with Mo Mowlam to establish the Good Friday agreement for Northern Ireland. It is something of which I am extremely proud, as one of the greatest achievements of the Labour Government.
Helen also worked tirelessly in tackling the mass unemployment which Sheffield suffered in the 1980s and 1990s as a result of the savage destruction of the city's economy under the previous Conservative Government. Helen was instrumental in establishing the earliest attempts at economic regeneration in Sheffield. That is now bearing fruit, with higher economic growth in the city than the national average, and above average reductions in unemployment. In Sheffield, Hillsborough, unemployment is now down by more than 70 per cent. since 1997. That is thanks to people such as Helen and thanks to the policies pursued by this Labour Government.
My final comment about Helen refers to her maiden speech back in 1992, when she talked about the plight of refugees from the brutal regime established by Pinochet in Chile. Sheffield extended a warm welcome and a helping hand to many of those refugees, and Helen played a key part in all of that. To this day there are Chileans in Sheffield who talk about how much Helen did to help them when they came to the city. That is what Sheffield is like. It is a city with a warm heart. The media, politicians and churches work together to ensure that the city remains welcoming. Only last week it was announced proudly by the local press that the city is to provide a safe haven for 51 refugees from detention camps in Burma. I am proud to represent a tolerant city in Parliament. There is nowhere quite like Sheffield and I am proud to call it my home. It sets an example which in my view should be followed by those who make an issue of asylum and immigration and exploit these matters in a cynical and unscrupulous manner.
I shall make a few comments about Sheffield, Hillsborough itself. It has within its boundaries 10 reservoirs, including the beautiful Broomhead reservoir. However, that is an indication of how wet the area is. It takes in a large part of the Peak district. A previous Member for the area, Alan McKay, joked in his maiden speech that there were more grouse than people in the area. I do not know about that, but I sometimes think that there are more bogs than people in this part of my constituency, as I have often realised to my wet and muddy expense.
Despite all this, a significant proportion of my constituents enjoy rambling in this beautiful part of the world. The Government's right-to-roam legislation has therefore been welcomed, again as one of their great achievements.
Alan McKay also talked at length in his maiden speech about a dispute between shop stewards and management at the Hepworth factory in the Loxley valley. I find that ironical because the factory is now closed, and I am delivering my maiden speech when the Hepworth site is at the centre of another controversy.
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Proposals are being developed to build a large number of new homes on the site500much to the dismay of the Loxley Protection Society and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. The site is in the green belt and I, for one, will support those who fight to protect that lovely valley from overdevelopment.
Loxley cannot be mentioned without referring to its other main claim to fame. Research has suggested that Robin Hood was born in the village of Loxley. Hon. Members will form their own view on the strength of this research, but I am confident of its validity and am pleased to claim Robin Hood for Yorkshire, which I am sure will be hotly disputed by hon. Members from Nottinghamshire constituencies.
On a more serious note, my constituency is home to manufacturers varying from Corus to Cadbury, from specialised steels for the aviation industry to liquorice allsorts. The constituency is also home to a large number of public service workers, and it is clear, therefore, that we have a wide range of needs in relation to education and training. One of my main priorities will be to ensure that people living in Hillsborough, young and old alike, are able to benefit from Sheffield's growing economy.
To that end I am pleased to support wholeheartedly the Government's investment and focus on developing a highly skilled work force. This investment has already produced a new further education facility for the people of my constituency, Hillsborough college, which will open later this year. I look forward to further developments in relation to 14-to-19 education and adult learning. Our people are our future, and I am excited by the challenge of ensuring that more of our young people engage in education post-16 and that more of our adult population engage in extending their education and their skills.
I come originally from Grimsby, and I am very proud of that fact. On my mother's side I come from several generations of steelworkers who were born and bred in the Don valley. I am therefore honoured to represent Sheffield, and particularly proud to represent Sheffield, Hillsborough in Parliament. Finally, I take this opportunity to congratulate Sheffield Wednesday on securing a place in the play-off final on Sunday. I wish our team all the best for victory in the match against Hartlepool.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I am grateful to you for calling me this evening, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is an honour to have been elected to serve all the residents of the Kettering constituency. I must be one of the few speakers today who has a constituent in the audience. I am delighted to see the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, the hon. Member for Corby (Phil Hope). I promised to represent all those in my constituency, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman can best represent himself and will want to do so on most issues.
I have the honour to be a local councillor in the Kettering constituency for Kettering borough council and I am delighted to be asked to contribute to the
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debate today on health and education, not least because I had the privilege of serving on the community health council in Kettering before the Labour Government abolished it. I then served on the health scrutiny partnership for Northamptonshire county council. I also have the privilege to be a school governor at two local schools, Avondale infants and Montsaye community college.
The Kettering constituency is situated in the very heart of England. Its people, its heritage, its strong community spirit and its enterprising approach to life make it an example of England at its very best. I am delighted to be able to represent the constituents of Kettering in the United Kingdom Parliament. Kettering touches the lives of many of us in ways that may be surprising. Anyone who had Weetabix, Alpen or Ready Brek this morning will have sampled the products of Britain's leading cereal manufacturer, Weetabix, which is based in Burton Latimer in the Kettering constituency. All the wheat that goes into those breakfast cereals comes from the rich farm land within 50 square miles of Weetabix's headquarters.
Anyone who reads a paperback book will be reading a publication that has been produced on book presses made by Timsons, which has almost a complete monopoly of book printing presses in Great Britain. Many hon. Members here today may be wearing shoes from Loake's, Cheney's or Padders, which are among the last remaining shoe manufacturers in Britain, and which have a proud heritage in Kettering.
Also located in the constituency is the battlefield site of Naseby where there was a major battle in the civil war in 1644, which is a lesson for us all because there the parliamentary forces overcame an overmighty Executive.
Not so long ago, the back of the £10 note had a scene on it from Charles Dickens' "The Pickwick Papers", of the cricket match between Dingley Dell and All Muggleton in 1836. It may interest you to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Dingley Dell is located in the Kettering constituency and Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor to my part of the world. Indeed, he followed closely a local election that took place in Kettering in 1835, and which is faithfully recorded in the marvellous history of Kettering by R. L. Greenall, who says:
"rough housing the Tories became part of nearly every contested election. On occasions, election day was more than boisterous. The most violent was a by election in 1835, reported by a horrified Charles Dickens in the Morning Chronicle. When Tory supporters rode into Kettering they were so intent on taking over proceedings that one of them produced a loaded pistol and might well have committed murder had he not been restrained by his friends."
Perhaps at this point I should pay tribute to my eminent predecessor, Phil Sawford, who remains a constituent in his home town of Desborough. I said at the time of the count how grateful all of us who live in Kettering are to him for the tremendous service that he gave this House and his constituents during a distinguished eight-year period in office, and all of us, I know, will wish him well in his retirement from this
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place. I would also like to pay tribute to the Member of Parliament for Kettering before Phil Sawfordthe right hon. Roger Freeman, now Lord Freeman of Dingley, who serves in the other place. He too was greatly admired by his constituents, who were grateful for his role as the Member of Parliament.
I should like to take this opportunity in the debate on the Queen's Speech to thank all the public service workers in the Kettering constituency for the marvellous work that they do for and on behalf of local residents. But I am afraid to say that despite record investment in local public services all is not well with local health and education services and policing. There is grave concern about waiting times at Kettering general hospital. There is also concern about the cleanliness of both Kettering and Northampton general hospitals. There is great concern too about the lack of NHS dentists in and around Kettering. During the campaign, one resident said that he had found an NHS dentist but that it was in Bedford. That was the closest NHS dentist that he could find.
Some of our schools are close to bursting point, others cannot find enough teachers, and there is great concern about how local schools will fund the 10 per cent. non-contact time being dictated by the Department for Education and Skills. Advice from the Secretary of State on how local schools can meet the funding gap would be most welcome. There is also huge concern among aspirant students who want to go on to university that they are about to be burdened with thousands of pounds of new debt.
I could not leave this debate, however, without mentioning policing and the local concern about antisocial behaviour and crime. The chief constable of Northamptonshire has said that he needs at least 200 more officers to police Northamptonshire to the standards required, yet the Government consistently refuse to provide him with the resources that he needs.
Perhaps one of the most worrying aspects over the next four to five years will be the growth proposals for the Kettering area made by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Local people welcome new housing, but they do not welcome the scale and extent of the housing plans put forward by the Government. Our local public services are already overstretched, and local people have come to the conclusion that that situation will not improve if tens of thousands more houses are built in and around the Kettering constituency over the next 20 years. Already, crucial infrastructure projects are being delayed. Very quietly, just before the election, improvements to the A14 were postponed by five years, from 201216 to 201721, and there are now no plans to upgrade the A43 Kettering to Northampton road until at least 2021.
I see it as my role as the local Member of Parliament to stand up for residents in the Kettering constituency, whatever their political colour and whether they voted or not. I will do my very best to ensure that I am a good constituency Member of Parliament, and I am proud to represent a constituency that, in my view, represents England at its very best.
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