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As the Prime Minister knows, we have our differences on football. He is a great Raith Rovers fan, so obviously, like me, he always supports an underdog such as Sheffield United. When we were at Wembley the other day for the Germany match against England I
was ribbing him about a great defeat that took place at Wembley a few years agoScotland 3, England 9 in 1961. I reminded my right hon. Friend, and yes he did smile, even on that day.
During the last 10 years Sheffield has been transformed. I would like to acknowledge the work of the Labour leader of our city council, Jan Wilson, and its chief executive, Sir Bob Kerslake. In the dark days of 1997, Sheffield had high unemployment, crumbling schools and second-rate housing. The social fabric of the city was under severe pressure, and families were experiencing second and third-generation unemployment.
I want to tell a little storyand this is a true story. In 1997, I was proud to become a Minister in a Labour Government and I was given the regeneration portfolio. I called a meeting in Sheffield, in the Manor estate, in the middle of my constituency. That estate had been condemned in the national press as one of the worst in the country. Civil servants from the region and representing national portfolios were at the meeting. It was progressing in this church on a wet Wednesday afternoon, when all of a sudden the big oak door of the church creaked open, and a little snotty-nosed kid put his head round the door and shouted, Anybody want to buy a microwave? I said, Come here! The civil servant from the Treasury said, What was all that, Minister? I said, That is the redistribution of wealth that stands in for the taxation system. Its called crime, and if we do not do something about it, it will happen in many inner cities, and it will get worse not better.
I am pleased to say that Sheffield is a city of opportunity. It is a modern university city with two great universities and teaching and childrens hospitals that I believe to be among the best in the world. It is a city of opportunity, but for that little lad who put his head round the door, it is also a city of hope, thanks to what has been done over the past few years.
In fact, Sheffield has been so successful that it has brought many people in, and I have a new political neighbour in Sheffield, Hallam. He has been there only two years but he has been so filled with confidence that he has decided to make a bid for the leadership of the Lib Dems. If the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) wants some advice, I am a little bit of an expert, having run a few election campaigns for my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). It took JP three attempts to get to the deputy leadership of the Labour partyI do not think that the hon. Gentleman can wait that long, but I wish him well in his leadership bid. [Interruption.] I gather that that sentiment does not gain universal acceptance.
In the past 20 years, I have had opportunities to serve on many Committees, perhaps none so challenging and rewarding as chairing the Select Committee on Trade and Industry in the early 1990s. Its reports in that period are still cited in many publications as authoritative and well presented. I want to put it on record that the servants of the House, especially the Clerks to the Committees, are the most talented and conscientious and have the utmost integrity. We should always respect and appreciate their services. Serving as a Minister for 10 years has taught me the dedication, value and quality of our civil servants. In the adversarial system in which politics
operates in this country, we should appreciate, respect and be proud of public service.
It is a great honour to propose the first Loyal Address under my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I have worked with him since I was elected to the House in 1983. We worked together on the Opposition Front Bench in the 1980s and developed many policies such as regionalisation, in which he and I have a great interest. He was also an active supporter of the anti-apartheid movement. Indeed, in those heady days of the 1980s and 1990s, working with my right hon. Friend was like riding a rollercoaster. His office was the most untidy that I have ever seen. His coffee cups were not washed for days on end and I used to say, Gordon, for goodness sake, wash the coffee cups out. He was always demanding. [Interruption.] Someone behind me asks, Didnt he say, Get on with it, Richard? My right hon. Friend is always driving forward. When he offered me a post, which I was proud to accept, as ambassador for the World cup 2018, he said, Richard, its a great job; youve got the credentials, the telephone book and the zeal to go out there. Oh, by the way, theres no salary. In his thrifty style, my right hon. Friend yet again got the old trade union official to work for nowt.
It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.
That little ray of sunshine comes through in the most hard-working, conscientious person whom I have worked with over the years that I have been here. I hope that the Loyal Address will be the first of many under his premiership.
The Queens Speech refers to the health of the nation. I believe that that and climate change are the two biggest issues that face our nation and many others. As Sports Minister, one of my proudest achievements was delivering, through the school sports partnerships, an increase of more than 60 per cent. in sport and physical activity in our schools in the past six years. That means that nearly 4 million hours a week more of sport and physical activity are undertaken every week in our schools now than happened in 2001. That, coupled with more playing fields being opened than closed in the past two years, is starting to change the culture of our nation in the right direction.
In the past six years, it has been very pleasing to be part of a team that brought the 2012 Olympics to London. It was great to see the nation get behind the bid and when, in July 2005, the result was London, we saw the nation rejoice in a way which, I think, we had not seen before.
I have two little stories of how that bid was won. The first involved David Beckham. London 2012 came to me and said, Can you get David Beckham to go to Singapore? Itd be greatremember when the 50 kids walked in and Beckham was with them? It was absolutely great to set up that part of the bidding process. I said, Fine. I talked to Svenhe was then the manager of the England team and very close to David, who was the captain of the England team. He was very generous and came in to see me. We discussed whether David could goit was Davids wedding
anniversary on the Monday and we made the bid on the Wednesday. Sven said that he would do what he could, but by the way, could I meet Nancy to talk about her charity, Truce Internationalso, there was a quid pro quo. The rest is history. Beckham went to Singapore and did a fantastic job, along with Tony Blair, Seb Coe, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics and many of that team, both then and before that. I pay tribute to what Sven did in delivering that part of the bargain, and I delivered my part, as well.
The other person who supported us and was helpful in giving us kind words of encouragementI hope hon. Members will listen to this, particularly the Leader of the Opposition, because what I am going to say is important in terms of what we did for our bid and how people can returnwas Nelson Mandela. As I travelled down to South Africa to see Nelson Mandela, I reflected on 20 or so years in the House and on my association with the anti-apartheid movement and with Nelson Mandela. It was remarkable that he was denounced by prominent people in the House as a terrorist, for being part of the leadership of the African National Congress. I say this genuinely: we should always be careful to distinguish between terrorists and freedom fighters.
Before one of Mandelas first visits to this country in the 1990s, after serving 27 years on Robben island, I was told by the secretary of the all-party South Africa group that it would not be advisable for him to visit the House of Commons. However, as a good trade union officialas you know, Mr. SpeakerI did not take no for an answer. We negotiated and we got a compromise, which saw him enter via the back door of Westminster Hall and after that attend a meeting in the Grand Committee Roomit was a fantastic meeting, but the conditions were no TV, no cameras. What was remarkable on that day was that six Caribbean lasses who worked in the Members Tea Room wanted so desperately to meet Nelson Mandela that as he leftyes, through the back door of Westminster Hallthey formed a line of honour and he hugged and kissed every one of them. They will remember that for the rest of their lives.
To roll the clock forward six years, what happened on Mandelas first visit was a far cry from 11 July 1996, when he came on a state visit and entered Westminster Hall through the front door, with a fanfare of trumpets, to speak to some of those who had denounced him as head of a terrorist organisation but a few years previously. Times have changed and they have changed for the better. I say that sincerely to Opposition Members.
I finish on this message. It is a message that Mandela gave to me after signing the flag. He said, Richard, I really want to thank you and the British Government for something that we believed would never happen in Africa. That a single Government could make such a difference to a continentthe African continent. What the current Prime Minister did when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, alongside the Blair African mission, was to persuade international financial institutions that the restructuring and rescheduling of debt is a key to relieving African poverty. Mandela said that thousands
of people are alive today because of that action, that countries such as Zambia are becoming more economically viable and that the future for Africa is considerably brighter than it was a decade ago.
Ms Dawn Butler (Brent, South) (Lab): It is an honour and a privilege, not only for me but for my constituents in Brent, that I have been asked to second the Loyal Address. I must admit that, when I got the message to call the Chief Whip, my first reaction was, Uh-oh, what have I done now? Hes caught me. Then, when I was told that this honour was to be bestowed upon me, I thought, Uh-oh, he has caught me! However, my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip has such a nice way of putting things that, even if he asked me to sit on the Crossrail Bill, I would probably be inclined to say yes [ Laughter. ] Oh dear! I fear that I have made a rod for my own back.
It is truly an honour to be asked to speak today. It is also an honour to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn). Like me, he is a former trade union official, and we have an awful lot in common. We have also shared great moments cheering and shouting at football matches at the amazing new Butler stadium, also known on the streets as Wembley stadium. One of my most surreal moments was when I was travelling on the Jubilee line from Westminster to Wembley with him and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. When we got on to the train, I was so caught up in my own excitement that I thought everyone was looking at me. This really cute guy started to walk towards me, and my heart started to beat a little faster. Then he pushed me to one side and asked for the PMs autograph.
Many hon. Members may know that Brent has one of the new modern wonders of the world. It is not Dollis Hill house, which is used as a hospital for world war one and world war two soldiers; nor is it the largest temple outside India, which is also in my constituency, or the multicultural mosque, or even the house where Bob Marley used to live. Amazing though all those buildings are, it is, in fact, Butler stadium. Hon. Members might want to visit my constituency to see the many wonders that are scattered all around, and I hope that they will do sobut please do not ask me for football tickets, as refusal often offends. For anybody wanting football tickets, their best bet is probably to ask my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Centralhe is our ambassador for the 2018 World Cup, after all. I am sure that he will have fond memories of the times that we shared at Wembley, and that he shares my hope that someone in my constituency will help to bring football home for GBthe country and the Prime Minister.
I like to think that I am a fairly modern chick, so when the opportunity arose to sit on the Modernisation Committee, I jumped at the chance. I am not quite sure whether the Committee helps with modernisation that much, but it has helped me to understand some universal truths: men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and
some Members of Parliament are from a planet not yet discovered. The modernisation measures set out in the Queens Speech have given me new hope. The Queen often awards OBEs and MBEs regardless of colour, creed, religion or class. As we are on the theme of modernising, perhaps we could have a word change. Order of British Excellence or Merit of British Excellence would sum up the people around the country and in my constituency beautifully.
Brent, South is one of the most diverse constituencies in the UK, and, although I might have some of the poorest wards in the country, I can testify that the constituency is full of richness and ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things every day. I am glad that the Queen has acknowledged in her speech the rising aspirations of the many, and not the few, through the education and skills Bill and the new housing and regeneration Bill.
I was elected to the House in 2005, and it was one of the proudest moments for me and my family. I promised, at my first meeting in the school hall, that I would be the voice of young people and that, when I stood in this place, I would make sure that their voices were heard. That is why I am really proud that the Government have announced that unclaimed assets can be used to improve young peoples services across the UK. More than 700 places will be createdmore than one for every constituencyso we shall all have something to look forward to. That will ensure that young people in every constituency will have a place to go and something to do.
I remember addressing a group of young people, and one of them saying to me, Why are you so interested in youth issues? Before I could answer, a young guy jumped up and said, Because she used to be young once. I think it was at that same school that I wore a bright orange suit, and a young girl with tears in her eyes said, Miss, do all MPs have to dress like that? I might have been offendedafter all, it was quite an expensive suitbut it is time that we stopped demonising young people.
There is constant talk about gangs. I witnessed a gang mentality just a month ago, when a group of mainly white men heckled and jeeredat times in unisonand its leader started stabbing his middle finger in the direction of the other side. He went on angrily to goad the other side, which duly responded with insults and jeers to match. I felt inclined to join in: after all, this was Prime Ministers questions! We should be careful how we label people. Youth week, as outlined in Aim high for young people: a ten year strategy, will help the media, the public and politicians to gain greater understanding of young people and their culture.
We need people to understand that politics matters. When our Prime Minister took action to secure debt relief, it was a question not of some figures on a balance sheet but of shifting the balance on the scales of justice. He moved the balance in favour of the poorest, but some debt cannot so easily be written off. One such debt is the enslavement of 13 million Africans. As we approach the end of the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade legislation, I know that our legacy will be to teach an objective history as part of the curriculum. I hope that we will commemorate slavery each year, as we do the holocaust.
The national armed forces memorial in Staffordshire, which the Prime Minister visited to pay his respects to all who lost their lives in past and present wars, makes this years remembrance very special. I wear my poppy with pride, as all hon. Members do.
We must also remember all our young people who have needlessly lost their lives to gun and knife crime. The proposals outlined today will have an impact and help to make our communities safer. I have seen the youth opportunity fund and the youth capital fund work in Brent. I have seen the difference that they make and I believe that my constituents would want me to take this opportunity to bring to the Houses attention the energy and creativity of Brents young people. I have seen the work commitment, the dedication and the pride on young peoples faces when their projects have been completed.
I have spoken to many kids on the streets, who say that they want things to do, places to go and an education that will give them a good job. Imagine my surprise when the Youth Parliament, which I helped to set up, came to Westminster and voted to stay on at school beyond 16. When I was at school, it was not so much me wanting to leave as the teachers hoping that I would! They could not think of a profession for someone so mouthy and argumentative. Well, here I am!
For the first time, we have had a pre-legislative draft, which has helped us to prepare for today. It means that we can quickly progress to implementation of the health and social care Bill; it means that we can commit to continued investment in the NHS, which is 60 next year; and it shows that we have real belief in the aspirations of all the people of this country.
We have so much to do and we must not shy away from the great work that Labour has done for our country. We have lifted 600,000 children out of poverty19,700 of them in Brent alone. The minimum wage now stands at more than £5 an hour, the winter fuel benefit in Brent is £11,600and I could go on and on. [Interruption.] Tempting as it is to go on, I would like to end.
Ten years ago, as a trade union official, I had colleagues who travelled in car boots just to get here to speak to Members and to recruit new ones. I witnessed first hand how a Labour Government changed peoples lives for the better. We stopped riding in car boots and finally walked in through the front door. It is a memory that will stay with me for ever. My members, some of whom were earning only £2.50 an hour, felt empowered by having their trade union official by their side. I was a young idealistic activist trying to change the world. Although I hope I have not changed that much in 10 yearsbeyond a few grey hairs and a dodgy orange suit, perhapsI am very grateful that this country has changed.
I am one of the youngest Members in the House and I hope that young people watching our proceedings today are inspired not just by our democracy, but by the sense that they, too, can be part of it. If anyone hearing our speeches today or reading about them tomorrow questions whether politics works or whether it matters, I say to them that cynicism did not create the welfare state, indifference did not introduce the minimum wage or bring peace to Northern Ireland, and apathy did not end debt slavery for the worlds
poorest people or give our most valuable pensioners dignity in their retirement. It was politics that did all that. That is the difference that politics makes. The strength of self-belief, the dignity of truth and the engagement of politics can turn slaves into free people. I dedicate this speech to my ancestors and all those who gave their tomorrows for our todays. I commend the Gracious Speech to the House.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Let me start by paying tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives in the tragedy in Warwickshire on Friday evening. It was a reminder of the great risks that our emergency services take on our behalf all the time. The thoughts and prayers of the whole House will be with their families.
I congratulate the proposer and the seconder of the Loyal Address. The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Centurysorry, I meant Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn); his speech did not feel like a centuryspoke powerfully about his constituency and the city that he loves. When he made the case against professional politicians, he united the whole House against both Front Benches, which was a great achievement.
The right hon. Gentleman was a popular and successful Minister for Sport, but things did not start quite that well. Few of us will forgetI hope that he will not mind too much if I remind hon. Membersthe Radio 5 Live quiz with which he launched his career. For greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy. He was asked,
Can you name the four players in todays semi-finals of the Stella Artois?
um...errr...Henman. I cant, no.
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