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27 May 2010 : Column 373

I can state very clearly that Angela Browning stood up for what she said in her maiden speech throughout the whole of her political career. When she was talking about this topic in the early '90s, it was not so easy to do so. I pay huge tribute to her for that great work, because what she said in her maiden speech 18 years ago she really lived up to. On a personal basis, may I say that it was a great pleasure to work with Angela? I know that many new Members say what a great pleasure it was to work with the retiring Member, but I can say with great genuine affection that she was a great supporter and a great help. If I can be half as good a Member of Parliament as she was over the previous 18 years, I shall do very well in this House. As I say, I pay great tribute to her.

Tiverton and Honiton has new boundaries. The constituency is now 40 miles long, starting up in Bampton, on the borders of Exmoor, and stretching right down to the sea-the first time that it has reached the sea. It passes through the Blackdown hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Romans worked out what a wonderful constituency it is in the 1st century, because they landed at Seaton and proceeded inland; they obviously knew the value of Seaton. It is now a beautiful seaside town, but it suffers from having a proposed Tesco supermarket on its outskirts. We are rather fearful that that may dominate too much of Seaton and destroy some of our local shops. It is also about scale and development; much as we need regeneration in Seaton, particularly in some parts, we are worried about that. The constituency contains the excellent Colyton grammar school, which I look forward to supporting hugely during my period in office in Tiverton and Honiton. It will be a great pleasure to see that school progress, because it has a huge following and delivers a very good education.

As we walk around the corridors of this House, we think of Axminster and its famous carpets, because many carpets in this House were manufactured there-in fact, replacement new carpets for the House are still manufactured in the town, and I have seen them being made, which is a great thing.

Honiton is famous for its lace making. The Speaker used to wear the ceremonial robe-I shall not comment further on that matter-the lace for which was made there. The robes are now in the museum in Honiton, and I recommend that all hon. Members pay a visit, not only because mine is such a beautiful constituency, but because they can see the amazing spectacle of that lace.

When the previous Conservative Government came out of power in 1997, the A30 and A303 were just about to be dualled. Unfortunately, because of what was said by the one great, honest man in the previous Labour Government, the outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury-he left the note saying "There is no money left"-I am not expecting that road to be dualled quickly. However, I assure the House that I shall persist with the matter to ensure that we get that road, because it is essential, as not only does the M5 run through the constituency, but so too do the A303 and A30 and they can create a bottleneck through Honiton.

The constituency also contains market towns such as Collumpton, which contains many traditional shops but whose town centre is in much need of some help and regeneration, and junction 28 of the M5, which is
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in great need of repair. Tiverton is a very interesting town, because in 1815 the industrialist John Heathcoat bought an old woollen mill on the River Exe with a view to setting up a lace manufactory in the town. Following the destruction of his lace-making machinery in Loughborough by former Luddites in the pay of the lace makers of Nottingham, he moved his entire operation to Tiverton. As hon. Members can see, Tiverton has had an illustrious past. I hope that it can have an illustrious future and, as I have said, we look forward to furthering the facilities in the hospitals in Tiverton and Honiton.

The constituency contains a great mixture of market towns and small rural villages; it contains nearly 100 villages and lots of hamlets. I look forward to our rolling out broadband throughout the constituency and throughout rural areas. I also look forward to our building more affordable homes, because one of the problems in the constituency is that house prices are high and wages are not meeting those prices. I welcome the fact that we will put things right for people who invested in Equitable Life, because that was a huge travesty of justice under the previous Government. I look forward to that.

I should probably declare an interest as a farmer, and hon. Members would expect me to talk a bit in the rural affairs debate about agriculture, food production and the need for food production. My view is that the rising world population means that we need food. We need food in areas where we can produce it. In Devon, we have the rolling hills, the beautiful water and the right climate to grow excellent grass and produce good milk, good beef and good lamb. We should make sure that the whole country eats it, not just Devon, because it is among the best and healthiest that can be found. We have to promote our food more. I look forward to the Government introducing a food ombudsman, because farmers have to get a fair price for their food. It is not just about the subsidy that might or might not come from the common agricultural policy and the European Union, but about farmers being able to make a decent living from what they produce and to look after the countryside at the same time. Farmers are not the problem for the countryside and the environment, but the solution. That is something that I am determined to speak up about in this House. In the west country, we have a particularly virulent disease at the moment, which is tuberculosis in cattle. I look forward to this Government ensuring that we not only have healthy cattle but healthy wildlife.

My constituency is very much at the heart of what was Monmouth rebellion country. Ever since the Monmouth rebellion, we have thought that people should stand up and speak up for the area. I hope that the same does not happen to me as happened under Judge Jeffreys to many of those who would have been my constituents, but I look forward to standing up in this House-the one thing that I was taught in Young Farmers was to stand up, speak up and shut up-and to keep speaking up. I shall do so for the simple reason that my constituents in Tiverton and Honiton want a Member of Parliament to represent them, whether they are from the towns, the villages or the rural communities, and to ensure that we get a good deal for the west country and for Devon, whether it is on water rates and South West Water or on fairer funding for schools. All those things have to be put right. I am a great believer in the fact that throughout
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the constituency-it is a great constituency-we need to have support. I look forward very much to representing the constituency in future years.

3.53 pm

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful for the guided tour of Tiverton and Honiton that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). I was also grateful to hear the contribution from the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), the first Green Member of our House.

I thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for paying tribute in their Queen's Speech addresses to Jonathan Burgess of 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh from Townhill in my constituency of Swansea West, who lost his life serving and protecting our country in Afghanistan. His family, including his unborn daughter, will know that the recognition of his service will remain on record throughout history in the tributes paid in this place.

This is my first speech as the new MP for Swansea West and I am privileged and proud to be able to pay tribute to my predecessor, the right hon. Alan Williams, in whose distinguished footsteps I follow. He served in this House for some 46 years, for 22 of which he was on the Front Bench, and served in four Departments in a ministerial capacity. I hope that in recognition of his fine service and of the fact that he was the most senior Privy Counsellor to leave in 2010, we will see him rejoin us in the House of Lords. I hope and expect that we all wish him well in achieving that elevation. In his maiden speech, on 2 February 1965, Alan mentioned that Swansea had a radical tradition that, between 1959 and 1964,

I should say that I am very grateful that after 46 years Swansea did not feel the urge to do so again.

Those who know Swansea West will know that it has a beautiful bay with golden sands that is best admired from the highest elevations of Townhill. It has a bustling city centre and a famous market, and it stretches west to the Mumbles and north into the countryside into Waunarlwydd. It is a community of communities and a warm and friendly city-a city that has certainly benefited from a Labour Government, with thousands more people employed and paying taxes instead of drawing the dole, compared with what we saw in 1997 when millions were affected across Britain. That change has enabled our country to invest in a better health service, police service and schools.

In Swansea, with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the university, local government, police and defence, nearly 40% of the work force are gainfully employed in public services, and those incomes are feeding into the private sector, small businesses and other businesses in Swansea communities. The choice of whether the deficit reduction should be largely through economic growth, jobs and skills as Labour said during the election or through cuts from the Conservatives and their new-found friends is a big issue for the people of Swansea.

We should remember that the deficit figures in March were £22 billion less than had been projected and predicted just four months earlier in the pre-Budget report. That
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£22 billion figure shows the massive engine that growth can be in reducing deficits compared with the £6 billion we are about to cut by way of savings. If those cuts and further cuts were to produce a further million unemployed people, that would completely wipe out the £6 billion of savings because of extra costs in dole money and so on. We should also remember that unemployment in February last year was 2.5 million, and that it was predicted at that time that unemployment would rise to 4 million by now. If it were not for the fiscal stimulus co-ordinated by the previous Prime Minister, Barack Obama and other world leaders, we would have been facing probably the worst recession since the 1930s. When we talk about cuts, we need to think very carefully about how quickly and how deeply to make them. The fact that the election was lost by the previous Government does not change the argument and the risks we are playing with.

What we need to do, as we move out of recession, we hope, is to generate a green recovery out of the global downturn. In the past four or five years, I have been leading Wales's adaptation to climate change in respect of flood-risk management-investing in flood defences for the Welsh Assembly Government through the Environment Agency-so green issues are very close to my heart. I know, as other Members know, that we face a critical time in the world with shrinking land masses caused by rising seas, alongside shifting habitats and with the spiralling global population lifting from something like 6.8 billion to about 9.5 billion by the middle of this century. With less land and more people, there will be food and water shortages and, obviously, there will be issues with migration and possible conflict.

The stakes are very high so we must tackle the emissions issue very quickly. We are fortunate, in a sense, that emissions have fallen due to the downturn. The focus should be on re-engineering markets and behaviour to keep them falling. Part of that is to ensure that the environmental cost of production is properly factored into the price of products that people buy, which currently is not the case. That should also be the case for imports. That might mean that we need to consider emissions tariffs on imports, certainly at the European level, but we must also know that the problem we face in the bigger global picture is that world trade is completely disfigured by agricultural and fossil fuel subsidies of $1 trillion a year.

Those subsidies in essence disable the rural economies of developing countries and worsen the environmental crisis we face. They are part of the resource gluttony of the old world that has led to this twin problem of economic and environmental crises that go hand in hand. Those subsidies need to be challenged and reversed. We need environmental costs factored into prices. We need the environmental benefits from forests and ecosystems that support us to be credited. We need companies and nations in their accounts to measure environmental and social impacts.

People will know-having read, I am sure, "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity" study-that if we increase the network of global protected areas from about 13% to 15% on land and from 1% to 30% on sea, it would cost us about£45 billion, but it would save us 100 times that value- £4.5 trillion. Meanwhile, the world's 3,000 biggest companies create damage to the environment worth £2.2 trillion a year, so perhaps they could pay the £45 billion to save the £4.5 trillion. It is up
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to world leaders and world Governments to get the maths right and to get the subsidies in the right place to help to save the planet. Let us remember that what the words "biodiversity" and "ecosystems" actually mean in the real world is food, fuel, fibre, clean air and fresh water-the stuff of life, and life that needs saving.

We all want clean fuel. We heard earlier about nuclear fuel and clean coal. I also call for international co-operation on green energy, which is crucial. The Desertec project in the Sahara is progressing, and people may know that it connects solar power to a network grid at a place where the sun is probably at its hottest. That could provide 15% of Europe's future energy needs.

The North sea countries' offshore grid, which has been established recently, can feed Europe with power matching that previously produced by North sea oil and gas, as estimated by the Offshore Valuation Group. Using information and communications technology to work at home instead of travelling to work around the globe on planes could reduce our emissions by a further 15%. Those opportunities and collective action globally need to be embraced, and alongside that, consumers must be given the choices, prices, information and help to promote sustainability collectively.

In a nutshell, Britain and Europe must take a lead together to secure a sustainable future beyond our shores and to protect and enhance our ecosystem, because it is up to us to shape the future. We share one world, so let us act together for all our tomorrows and put sustainability at the centre of our thinking, not into the bottom drawer until the economy recovers, because then it will be too late.

4.2 pm

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to make my maiden speech. I will start by paying tribute to the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) for his passionate, detailed and knowledgeable speech on climate change. Indeed, it has been marvellous to listen today to some great speeches. We heard the speech of the new hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), whose brother is a minister in my constituency, Waveney in Suffolk. We then heard the speech of the new hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray), who listed some films that had been made in the famous Ealing Studios. She actually missed out the most famous, "Kind Hearts and Coronets", where the star had a particular way of getting into the other place. I think that constitutional reform will put an end to that.

I chose this debate to make my maiden speech because energy and offshore renewable energy is vital to the future of my constituency-Lowestoft and the surrounding area, which have suffered from industrial decline for the best part of 30 years. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Mr Bob Blizzard, for the work that he has done over the past 13 years. He has been a passionate advocate for Waveney and a hard-working and diligent MP. I thank him for all the work that he has done.

Waveney is the most easterly constituency in the country. Perhaps at times, we Suffolk people hide our light under a bushel and do not make the most of the virtues that we have. The constituency's make-up is
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diverse. We have the coastal town of Lowestoft, famous for its fish, its maritime history, its decent, honourable people and its clean beaches. There is the fishing village of Kessingland, and the market towns of Bungay and Beccles, and wide open rural expanses in between. The people up there do at times feel that they have been forgotten down here. It is as if we were at the end of a line.

We have been crying out for better roads and railways for what seems like many, many years. I will continue to make that cry, as other Waveney politicians have done. In November 1959, Jim Prior, now in another place, described the road and communications system in East Anglia as the Cinderella of the country. It seems as if we have not got very much further in the past 50-odd years.

We have industries that have declined. The fishing industry is no longer what it was; shipbuilding has gone; and the canning factory has gone. That is what we need to address. I am not going to moan; offshore renewables present us with a great opportunity to bring Waveney into the 21st century. It was an opportunity that Bob Blizzard recognised, and I will be taking the baton from him to make sure that we deliver on that goal.

We need a new and radical energy policy. If we do not have it, the lights will go out. We need to be in control of our own destiny. We need energy security. We owe it to future generations to take a major step towards a low-carbon economy. We need a mixture of energy sources-green energy sources. To me, nuclear has a vital role to play; so, too, does clean coal, and micro-energy is also of great importance, but it is offshore renewables on which I want to focus. We have to get 15% of our energy supply from renewables by 2020. We have a lot of work to do, being at just over 5% now. There are great opportunities for green jobs; I see that it is estimated that there will be 1.2 million by 2015. If we do not do the work, we will fall a long way short.

Lowestoft has a great opportunity, and great advantages in setting about giving us those green jobs and taking us forward. It has a great location, close to where the offshore turbines will be-the East Anglia Array and the Greater Gabbard. We have a skills base, built up over many years, in fishing, in shipbuilding, and in the North sea oil and gas industry. Those skills are transferrable, and we can make best use of them in the renewables sector.

We have to improve our training and education. We have a further education college that is delivering skills, and there is the opportunity for University Campus Suffolk to provide higher education with regard to those skills. We also need to reinvigorate the apprenticeship system, which, in Waveney and Lowestoft, has been so important in our past. There are measures in the Queen's Speech that will help to deliver that.

I am here to represent Waveney, but I must not be parochial. To deliver green energy, and get the renewables that we need, I have to think outside my constituency, and think about the surrounding constituencies. In East Anglia, we have great opportunities. There is a deep-sea port in Yarmouth; that will help us to bring opportunities there. There is land elsewhere in other constituencies, too. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis) is not here at the moment; in the past, Lowestoft and Yarmouth have spent a lot of
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time fighting each other. We fought on opposite sides in the civil war, and we had the herring wars, but we are united now in seeking to deliver the renewable energy opportunities.

The energy Bill will be a foundation stone; we have to build on that for the benefit of Britain, East Anglia and-to go back to being parochial for a minute-Waveney. Looking at it from Britain's point of view, we have the opportunity to lead the world in a transition to a low-carbon economy. We owe it to future generations to grasp that opportunity.

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