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Bob Spink : Speaking as someone who was himself a retread, I welcome my hon. Friend back to the Chamber. Is not the point about ASBOs that when they are breached, the courts should hit those yobs hard, generally with a custodial sentence? Only that will send out the message to these people that they must respect the ASBOs and stop their offending behaviour, which is destroying our communities, and stop attacking innocent and often elderly people.
If my voice holds out, I will agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. I believe that the
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best way to tackle crime effectively is to put more police officers on the street, free of the burden of red tape and political correctness and actually dealing with the Government's failures on crime. I hope that the Home Secretary will address my concerns and those of my constituents.
I have tabled various questions over the past 24 hours or so and I look forward to the answers in relation to policing in places such as Norfolk, because security in one's home, feeling safe and what one can do as an individual without facing the law in an unjust way are issues that have to come to this House in a timely manner. I hope that the relevant Bills in the Queen's Speech will address those matters and that the Home Secretary will ensure that all people in Norfolkhis constituents as well as mineare better off because of the Government's plans, and not worse off.
Jenny Willott (Cardiff, Central) (LD): I congratulate all those who have made their maiden speeches before me, and particular credit goes to those who did so without notes. I look forward to working with new Members on both sides of the House for at least the next four to five years and, I hope, for longer. It is a great honour to make my maiden speech in such impressive surroundings and in such impressive company, in a place with so much history. I should like to claim my own small place in history today as I am the first female Member of Parliament for Cardiff, Central and the first Liberal Democrat woman in Cardiff. There has only ever been one Liberal woman MP in Wales, Megan Lloyd George, who later joined Labour. I can assure the House that history will not be repeating itself.
This year, we had the highest ever Liberal Democrat vote in Cardiff and victory has been a long time coming. The Liberals last won in 1923 when Sir Harry Webb was the MP. But in the year of the Welsh grand slam in the millennium stadium, in the heart of my constituency, the Liberal Democrats have won the grand slam in Cardiff, Central, winning 100 per cent. of the seats at every level of politics. I am proud to be elected to represent the heart of Cardiff in 2005, the centenary of Cardiff becoming a city and the 50th anniversary of Cardiff becoming the Welsh capital.
While I am not staking a claim so early on in my political career, Cardiff, Central has an impressive history of its Members of Parliament becoming Ministers. My immediate predecessor, Jon Owen Jones, was Welsh Health Minister in the run-up to devolution in 1999 and his predecessor Ian Grist was a Conservative Minister in the Welsh Office from 1987 to 1990. I believe that Ian Grist's predecessor, Michael Roberts, was a Conservative Minister in the 1970s.
It is a long-standing tradition of maiden speeches that the new Member of Parliament should say something nice about their predecessor. It must be difficult losing a seat that one has represented for years and, although Jon Owen Jones and I did not see eye to eye, there were a number of issues on which we agreed and I pay tribute to his work on them. During his time in this House, he introduced a ten-minute Bill to ban the sale of junk food in school vending machines. Given the current trend of increasing childhood obesity and the associated health problems, Jon took an important stand on this issuehe was, I suggest, the Jamie Oliver of Parliament and I salute him for it.
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I also agreed with Jon about his opposition to the war in Iraq and commend his courage in standing up against his own party on this point of principle. Jon dedicated 13 years of his life to being the Member of Parliament for the people of Cardiff, Central, and I am sure that many would want to thank him for that.
Cardiff, Central is a very diverse constituency, with some of the wealthiest areas in Wales as well as some areas of significant deprivation. It ranges from the prosperous suburbs of Cyncoed to the estates of Pentwyn and Llanedeyrn, and the inner-city area of Adamsdown, which is an EU objective 2 area owing to the levels of deprivation there. Cardiff is an amazing city that is becoming progressively younger, increasingly ethnically diverse, and more and more vibrant. My constituency has five mosques, two synagogues, numerous churches and chapels and two Sikh gurdwaras, and an amazing choice of food in the local restaurants and shops as a result.
There are four universities in Cardiff, three of which are in my constituency. Cardiff, Central has one of the largestif not the largeststudent populations in the UK. It has almost 16,000 students, who significantly enhance the economic and cultural life of Cardiff, Central, particularly with the Royal Welsh college of music and drama at its heart.
Not surprisingly, Cardiff, Central covers the city centre, with all the economic and cultural opportunity that that brings. I am fortunate in that, unlike some Members before me, I do not have to talk about the interesting sights just outside my constituency. In Cardiff, Central, we have Cardiff castle and Cathays park, representing Cardiff's history, and the jewel of Roath park, with its magnificent lake and memorial to Captain Scott. Unusually for a city seat, we are also fortunate enough to have a ribbon of parks running for miles, almost from one side of the constituency to the other.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have impressive new modern buildings in the city centre. They include the Millennium stadium, which has brought huge economic and social benefits to the city. As many will know, the FA cup final was held there last weekendprobably for the last time for a while, unfortunately. One of the biggest advantages of hosting such sporting events is that they encourage people who would otherwise never come to Wales to visit Cardiff. I have lost count of the number of times that friends and acquaintances, following trips to the Millennium stadium, have said to me in tones of great surprise, "Cardiff's really nice, isn't it?" A unique selling point that sets Cardiff, Central apart from every other constituency in Wales is the fact that it does not have a single sheep in it.
Looking ahead, I am passionate about campaigning on the issues that matter to my constituents and, as part of the official Opposition in Wales, I hope to be able to make a real difference. The rebanding of council tax has hit many residents of Cardiff, Central extremely hard. More and more people want to live in my constituencypresumably because it is now Liberal Democratand house prices have risen disproportionately. Nine out of 10 people in the area in which I live have seen their houses go up by at least one council tax bandindeed, my house has gone up by two. Seven out of 10 people in my constituency will have to pay significantly more tax, just as a result of the
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rebanding. I will do all that I can to raise the concerns of my constituents on this issue and to work towards a fairer alternative, namely the local income tax.
One of the other great concerns during the election was the state of the local health service. We have some of the longest waiting lists in Europe and the hospitals in Cardiff are creaking under the strain. Recently, the main hospital in Walesthe Heath hospital in Cardiffhad to close the doors of its accident and emergency unit for 14 hours. Ranks of ambulances full of waiting patients are not an uncommon sight outside the A and E. The situation has worsened over recent years, primarily as a result of the introduction of the Care Standards Act 2000. Over the past five years, almost every nursing home in my constituency has closed, leaving Cardiff with 200 too few nursing home beds and 200 too many people in hospital beds. The local council is working hard with the local health board and the Welsh Assembly to secure investment in new nursing homes, and I will do what I can to help them.
As we would expect in a constituency with so many students, tuition fees and top-up fees are a huge issue, and not only for the young people themselves. Many parents, grandparents and employers have expressed their opposition to fees, and I only hope that the Welsh Assembly Government take on board the majority view among Assembly Members, which is opposed to variable fees.
I have been given lots of pieces of advice over the past few weeks, some more helpful than others. One letter from a constituent really struck a chord, however. People in Cardiff, Central have long memories, and the letter harked back to Jon Owen Jones's predecessor, the Conservative MP Ian Grist. One paragraph read:
"If you are half as good as our old MP, Ian Grist, then that will do for me. Ian Grist was a wonderful MP for Cardiff. He made himself available 3 Saturdays out of 4, and he got things done. Put yourself about in Cardiff and you won't go far wrong."
That is a good piece of advice, and one that I shall endeavour to remember over the next four to five years. If all else fails, I can always fall back on the advice that my mother used to give me, and which is taken from a prayer:
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