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You and I made our maiden speeches in the same year, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I sat two Benches back from the Dispatch Box, on the Government side of the House. On that occasion, it was not possible to find a place to sit, whereas nowadays it is hard to find a Member of Parliament who is available to sit on the green Benches. I also note that the usual courtesies in debates no longer seem to be entirely observed, which is disappointing. No doubt that has all happened via the Modernisation Committee and perhaps I need to understand it a bit more. The best way to deal with that would be to put it on the agenda of the next meeting of the Chairmen's Panel.
The first maiden speech today was by the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil)I shall not pretend to pronounce his constituency correctly. When he began speaking, I did not understand anything he said and thought that it was the usual speech by a colleague. It eventually dawned on me that he was not speaking in English. When he reverted to English and I could understand him, I thought that he made a splendid speech. I am sure that the House looks forward to his contributions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) also made a splendid speech. He has a loud voice, and my hon. Friends will be in no doubt as to how he stands on things. I am delighted that he paid such a warm and generous tribute to our former
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colleague, Dame Marion Roe. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) made a remarkable speech without a piece of paper in his hands. I was impressed by his command of the constituency that he represents. He paid a generous and warm tribute to Melanie Johnson, his predecessor, who used to sit on the Labour Benches.
We then heard a speech from the hon. Member for Taunton (Jeremy Browne), who again spoke with no notes, although technically he had a piece of paper in his hand. He made a splendid tour of his constituency. It was a shock to most of us when he said that there had been four different Members of Parliament in four elections, but we will not dwell on that.
My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) spoke about the normal courtesies of the House, and I very much agreed with what he said about the supremacy of Parliament. I look forward to his contribution on that subject in the years to come. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) is someone I know well: he happens to be a member of the same dining club as myself, the 1912 club, and he has earned his spurs in winning a place in this House. He will prove to be a splendid MP.
My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Fraser) is a retreadwe were together in one Parliament. As ever, he spoke splendidly. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) that there is nothing wrong with being a retread. I go for economy in motoring and most of my tyres are also retreads.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Jenny Willott) made a splendid speech. Inadvertently, I have become a regular visitor to Cardiff because the various football teams with which I am associated keep turning up at the millennium stadium. I shall refer later to Saturday's match, but so far, we have had no success. Having listened to the hon. Lady's speech, perhaps we will be successful on Saturday.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) made a stunning speech. When we saw her face on the television on election night, Conservative Members were all greatly cheered up. I noted that she said that she sings carols, and there is an effective group in the House of Commons for her to join. I am sure that, in every sense, she will make a great contribution to the affairs of the House.
The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) made a splendid speech and paid a warm tribute to her colleagues. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Greg Mulholland) comes to this House with great experienceno one could accuse him of taking a short cut to the House of Commonsand we look forward to hearing from him in the years ahead.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, what a joy it is for you and I to listen to new voices. It is a privilege to listen to maiden speeches, as some of us get fed up listening to the same voices. I get particularly fed up listening to my own voice and if my family were to take a vote, they would very much agree.
Traditionally, these debates are about local matters. I am puzzled that, having fought a general election campaign, so few hon. Members are here to raise constituency points. I should have thought that now was
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the time to deliver on the promises made on the doorstep. I intend to do as is traditional and raise constituency points.
I welcome the Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths), to his new position. He and I know one another very well: he once borrowed my eldest daughter to introduce her to the leader of his party at the Brit awards, but I shall not hold that against him. He also led her astray by getting her an autograph from the leader of his party, but I shall not hold that against him either.
When the Minister really gets into his job, he will be briefed by his officials that I have continually raised the case of Majid Narwaz. He is one of four British citizens detainedor should I say "banged up"?in prison in Cairo. The other Members of Parliament who have constituents there are my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), and the hon. Members for East Ham (Mr. Timms) and for West Ham (Lyn Brown). I must tell the Minister, although this is not directed towards him personally, that my patience on this issue has now run out.
My constituent has now been in prison in Cairo for three and a half years, so he has already done three and a half years of a five-year sentence. The members of the Foreign Office team who have been dealing with this case are very courteous and, no doubt, when the Minister responds he will reassure the House that Ministers have done everything that they possibly can on the issue. Well, I am no longer convinced that they have been terribly effective. Considering the relationship between the Labour leader and President Mubarak, I am certain that, with a bit more tenacity, we could get some real movement on the issue of these four detainees.
When I visited my constituent in prison in Cairo, I found the conditions grim, to say the least. Some of my colleagues would doubtless say that that is as it should be, but I believe that the detainees are not guilty of the crimes of which they are accused and that there has been a great miscarriage of justice. Majid Narwaz is a young man, and his mother came to see me at my surgery on Friday. She advised me that inmates from the prison's criminal wingnot the four British detaineeshad smuggled in a mobile telephone and that, as a result, all the inmates had been punished. They were not allowed out of their cells to exercise, and food from their families was not allowed into the prison. The situation is very grim indeed. My constituent is allowed out of his cell for only two hours.
The detainees' families would very much welcome a further meeting with the Foreign Secretary to discuss their welfare, and I urge the Minister and his ministerial colleagues to make representations to the Egyptian Government, so that Majid and the other detainees can return to the UK as soon as possible. This morning, I was delighted to receive a letter from the Egyptian ambassador. I shall not read it all out to the House because I understand that a number of my hon. Friends have received similar letters. The ambassador congratulates me on being re-elected, then goes on to say:
"While I am looking forward to meeting with you soon, I would like to assure you of my readiness to cooperate fully with your goodself in order to enhance further the already excellent existing bilateral relations between our two countries."
The next issue that I wish to raise is that of law and enforcement. So many of my colleagues are parroting the chorus that we need 5,000 more police officers. However, it will do no earthly good to have even one extra police officer patrolling our streets unless they know what they are doing. It is ridiculous for people to call for more and more police officersI know some of my colleagues will grimace: fancy a Conservative Member of Parliament saying that!when what is needed is a well-managed police force. I am less than reassured that that is the case at the moment. We also want a properly trained police force.
A number of my friends and relatives joined the police, although some of them have left the force. When I learn at first hand about what is happening in the police force, I am very concerned because it seems that whenever an Opposition Member makes a criticism, the fault is always thought to lie with the last Conservative Government in the previous century. However, we have lost too many experienced police officers, who for all sorts of reasons have taken early retirement. That has happened not just in the police service but in the teaching profession and among health professionals. We have lost a huge number of experienced policewomen and policemen, and we are now paying the price for losing all that experience. I suggest to the Minister and to my colleagues that we need more police officers, but we also need common sense. Our police officers should be properly trained.
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