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As I make my maiden speech, I am conscious of and very humbled by the great privilege that has been bestowed on me by the people of Kilmarnock and Loudon electing me as their Member of Parliament. As people may be aware, I also serve in the Scottish Parliament, and those who know me from that place may have warned Mr Speaker and Mr Deputy Speaker that I need little encouragement to wax lyrical about my home town of Kilmarnock, not least because it is the home of Scotland's oldest professional football team. My family roots are there as well as in the nearby mining community of Auchinleck, and my adopted
home is in Mauchline, which was also home to Rabbie Burns. I will not have time today to extol the virtues of every town and village in my constituency, but I trust that I will, given Mr Speaker's good grace, have the opportunity in future to talk at length about issues that matter to the people in my constituency, particularly when we come to debate jobs and the economy and how to revitalise our former coalfield communities and our former industrial towns, which is highly pertinent given the impending loss of jobs at the Kilmarnock Johnnie Walker plant.
Kilmarnock has an enviable history of representation. I am delighted to be the first woman to take my seat to represent Kilmarnock, if not the first woman elected to serve. At the general election in 1945, Clarice Shaw won the parliamentary election with a majority of just over 7,000 to become the first woman Labour Member of Parliament in Ayrshire. Unfortunately and tragically, she was struck down by a serious illness shortly afterwards, which stopped her ever attending the House of Commons, although she continued faithfully to deal with her parliamentary work until she was forced to resign in September 1946. I am grateful to a resident historian at the Kilmarnock Standard , Mr Frank Beattie-whose mother was one of my primary school teachers-for researching Clarice's background and for a fascinating account of her journey. Clarice was a socialist and a co-operator, and I intend to bring those values and principles to the House on behalf of my constituents, and perhaps take up some of the issues that my predecessor was not able to take forward.
It is also an honour to represent the constituency of Kilmarnock and Loudon as a Labour and Co-operative Member, partly because that area is home to what is now generally recognised as the first consumer co-operative in Scotland, and-dare I say it-perhaps in the UK, if the Rochdale Pioneers will forgive me. The Fenwick Weavers Society began in the village of Fenwick in 1761-meeting at a place, incidentally, that is now known as the Parliament Wall. In 1769, the society expanded to become a consumer co-operative, initially designed to foster high standards in the craft of weaving, although activities later further expanded to include collective purchasing of bulk food items and books.
The need for the co-operative movement and those co-operative principles to be represented in this place has perhaps never been more important, particularly in light of the turmoil that our financial services sector has recently faced. Perhaps the near collapse of a system to which we have been intrinsically bound may be the crucible of a new beginning. Surely the time has come for co-operation to come to the fore again, and the idea of people owning and running their own democratically accountable banks has once again come of age.
Co-operation also brings new opportunities in education and health. Mutually owned and run care co-operatives are already providing more responsive services, and the principles of co-operation are taking root in many of our schools. I hope that the new Government will take account of those values and principles as they move forward rather than simply trying to rely on private sector solutions that have failed in the past.
Other notable representatives in Kilmarnock and Loudon include Willie Ross, who has legendary status, certainly in Scotland and probably also in the House. Although I hope to match his commitment, I doubt whether I will
ever be able to match his skills of oratory. Similarly, the Member who followed him, Mr Willie McKelvey-much loved in Kilmarnock-was well known in the House not just for his wit but for his love of greyhounds. He was succeeded by the retiring Member for Kilmarnock and Loudon, Des Browne. Des will be a hard act to follow. He served this House in a number of important posts, in his own distinct and inimitable style. I pay tribute to his work on behalf of all my constituents and wish him well in his future political career in another place.
Let me say a few words on the subject of today's debate. Having had the privilege of serving as a Minister for Education and Young People in Scotland, I hope to make meaningful contributions not only today but in future in relation to those matters. Education in Scotland is a devolved matter, but what happens in this House is important, particularly in terms of decisions on budgets, because what happens here has an impact on what is taken forward in the Scottish budget.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) who spoke earlier, I am very fortunate to have been one of the first pupils to go through the comprehensive education system when it was introduced, and I am pleased that the current constitutional settlement recognises the opportunity for us to do things differently in different parts of the UK. However, those solutions must be based on the underlying principle that every child is given the best possible start in life, with added support for those who, like myself, come from a low-income background, and for those whose life chances make things very difficult.
I want to conclude on a particular note, with a plea to the Government to reconsider their position on child trust funds and, specifically, the proposal to end the payment of such funds to looked-after children-some of the most vulnerable and needy children, for whom we all have responsibility. Those funds for looked-after children give youngsters who have been brought up in the care system the opportunity to move forward and go with some financial backing into further or higher education or the world of employment. Surely it is not too much to ask that any Government consider it important to look after those young people as we move forward.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak to the House today. I hope that the Government will address those issues, and I look forward to being able to play a meaningful role in, and make a meaningful contribution to, our debates in future.
Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): Thank you very much indeed for inviting me to speak, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have been very impressed with the numerous debates to which I have listened, and the one thing that I have learned about the House is that one does have to be patient from time to time. I completely agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) about the power of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard). It was outstanding, and it will be one of those that everybody remembers-and quite right, too. It was also so right that he emphasised the need for special education. That is of pivotal importance, and he should be appreciated for that.
I want to talk about two of my predecessors. The first is Lord John Russell, who was twice Prime Minister and once MP for Stroud, between 1835 and 1841. I do so because I want to emphasise the good neighbourliness that exists with our coalition partners-Lord John Russell being a Whig, a Liberal. That is a good sign that we will co-operate well, especially because he piloted the 1832 Reform Act through the House, and as the Deputy Prime Minister said recently, this Government will be as dramatic in shaping our constitution as the Government of that period were. That represents a signal change.
The next predecessor whom I want to mention is, of course, the one who preceded me, David Drew. He was an outstandingly good constituency MP. He served his constituents with total devotion, and there was never a stone left unturned in order to ensure that they were looked after. His will be a hard act for me to follow, but I intend to do just that. He was a very good constituency MP, and I therefore pay tribute to him. Incidentally, I wish him well in his new role as chairman of Forest Green Rovers, our local football team, which is based in Nailsworth. He has a job to do there, and I am sure that he will tackle it with vigour.
All constituencies are beautiful, but none is as beautiful as Stroud. I can prove that by reference to a king who was on his way back from the failed siege of Gloucester. That, of course, was King Charles I, who stopped off along the Painswick valley and was so impressed by it that he remarked that it was "paradise". That name has stuck to the community in Painswick ever since. Stroud contains another four magnificently beautiful valleys, which all comprise really interesting communities and some fantastic reputations-for writing, with Laurie Lee, for example; for textiles, with the mills; and so on. We also have the vale, which is about the same size as the valleys put together. It is equally beautiful and impressive, but very different in terms of appearance.
Stroud has a number of other features which it is well worth telling the House about. One is its reputation for engineering and manufacturing. The businesses are usually small, but they are all really exciting and think about high added-value and new technology products. If we manage to support manufacturing and engineering, as we so desperately need to do, that is where Stroud and the whole country will find its economic growth once again.
Stroud is beautiful, as I have said, and we rejoice in the fact that we have got rid of the regional spatial planning system, because it is good to know that we will not be carpeting over green fields to the absolute outrage and fury of our residents. We need to build houses and more social housing, but that will come from proper local community activities, decided by local people. That is very exciting, and we already have a very strong movement through community land trusts.
I should mention agriculture. I am a farmer myself, and it is an important part of the constituency. We have big and small dairy farms, all of which are vulnerable to TB and struggling with the price of milk and so forth, so the House can expect that I shall be a steadfast supporter of agriculture.
Stroud has a good tradition for renewable energy and some exciting ideas about its promotion. Hydro is one good example, and we will see more of that as the
Government unfold their policies to encourage renewable energy. That is good news for Stroud, and renewable energy is one of its characteristics.
I want to talk about education, and I have only two minutes and 46 seconds in which to do so. The Gracious Speech contains some important measures that will benefit Stroud and, indeed, this country. One is the move to academies, but the key thing to remember is that our task is to ensure that all schools are good schools. The issue is not just about the best schools; it is more important to talk about the schools that are having problems and failing, because we have to ensure that everybody can fulfil their lives. There is nothing more heartbreaking than discovering that people cannot do things simply because they have not had a decent education. That must, of course, be the fundamental point about our interest in education.
It is also critical to emphasise the importance of school leadership and management. I have had some experience of dealing with such issues as a governor of a school. I am still a governor of Stroud college, in which I must clearly declare an interest. Leadership and management in schools is critical because the most important thing about schools is the people who are in them-the people who do the teaching, who do the work, who deal with the pupils and who ensure that the pupils are given the best chance. We must never forget that.
Further education is an important subject. Sometimes it is the Cinderella of education, but I want to emphasise how important I think it is. Effectively, it is the facility that can overcome the problem of people who thrive not in schools but in vocations and in the further education environment, so it is absolutely right that the further education sector be helped as much as possible. Reducing the amount of bureaucracy and regulations is clearly one thing that must happen, but we must also tackle the question of funding. That is complicated, but we need to ensure that FE colleges know where the money is coming from. Governance of colleges and schools is important. Governors must recognise and take on their responsibilities, because if we are to have academies we must have capable governors and a governance system that works and ensures that schools are checked.
The House can be sure that I shall represent Stroud's constituents as vigorously as David Drew did, and I shall also ensure that it is properly and powerfully represented in this House in terms of policy, holding the Government to account and ensuring that the people of Stroud thrive.
Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate the hon. Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) and all those who made their fascinating maiden speeches that we have heard in this debate. It has been a real education. I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this debate. In his book "In Place of Fear", Nye Bevan wrote of the frustration caused to new MPs who provocatively deliver the concerns of their constituents in their maiden speeches and are met simply by a polite response from the next speaker, according to parliamentary convention:
"After remaining in his seat a little longer, the new Member crawls out of the House with feelings of deep relief at having got it over with, mingled with a paralysing sense of frustration. The stone he thought he had thrown turned out to be a sponge."
Notwithstanding parliamentary tradition, I shall endeavour to make my points provocatively, and to receive equally strong, uncompromising answers from Members opposite in due course.
I succeed the right hon. Jane Kennedy, an inspirational lady who served our nation and the people of Liverpool, Wavertree-formerly the constituency of Liverpool, Broadgreen-for nearly 20 years. She worked tirelessly for her constituents and was also a Minister in no fewer than six Departments. Her time as security Minister in Northern Ireland was precious to her. Jane was incredibly proud that it was the Labour Government who made such strides against the scourge of youth unemployment. When Jane was Minister for Work, there was virtually no youth unemployment, and serving as Health Minister, Jane was also so proud of the improvements made to our NHS under the previous Labour Government, particularly as they affected older constituents.
Jane did what so many could not or would not. I was struck by the number of people I met on Wavertree's doorsteps who admired her greatly for the courageous actions that she took, particularly for her stance against the militant tendency. A brave woman, she will always remain an inspiration-never afraid to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in, even at the highest levels of Government. Jane did a sterling job for her constituents, for the Labour Government and in this House. As my friend and mentor, I hope to do her proud.
I have the privilege of representing the warm and kind people of Liverpool, Wavertree. It is a remarkably mixed constituency-culturally and historically rich, and ethnically diverse. It is a mixture of suburbia and metropolis, and a place where the old meets the new. We have our fair share of notable residents and landmarks from across the business, academic, musical, religious and political worlds. Wavertree is the birthplace of Meccano, Littlewoods pools and catalogue shopping. It is also home to the oldest Hindu community in the UK outside London.
Perhaps our most famous residents were John Lennon and George Harrison; Penny lane sits on the border of the constituency. Some lesser known people also deserve mention for the contribution they have made, not only to local life but also nationally. Dr Fred Freeman was a Wavertree businessman who owned a large department store in the constituency; he was also the philanthropist who pioneered tax-effective giving in the UK. James Newlands, a resident of Edge Hill, became the first borough engineer for Liverpool in 1847 and paved the way for municipal engineering as the world knows it today, creating the world's first integrated sewerage system. The significance of that development cannot be overrated. During his years in office, Newlands succeeded in doubling the average life expectancy from 19 to 38.
Politically, the constituency has seen a whole spectrum of political representation. The new hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) went to school in the constituency, as did Edwina Currie. Lord Alton was once its Member of Parliament and Derek Hatton lived in Childwall. Although Wavertree has been home to notable political representatives from across the political divide, it is the rich Labour witness within the constituency that has made such an impact. Stewart Headlam, one of the pioneers and publicists of Christian socialism, was born in Wavertree, and fiery campaigner "Battling Bessie"
Braddock attended a Socialist Sunday school in Marmaduke street in the constituency. I intend to keep the rich socialist tradition alive.
We will be celebrating two notable anniversaries in Wavertree this year. In 1836 the world's oldest passenger station, described by some historians as the start of the modern world, opened in Edge Hill, and this September marks the 180th anniversary of the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway line, which started at Edge Hill station. That was the first time anyone in the world could travel between two cities by rail. This celebration will be taking place at Metal, a creative hub that sits in the station today. We are also marking the 100-year anniversary of the Wavertree garden suburb, a development that was part of a national movement to improve urban living conditions, which gave tenants a stake in the place where they lived.
I requested the opportunity to make my maiden speech during the education and health debate because knowledge and well-being are so important to my constituents. I urge the right hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr Lansley) to honour the guarantee that he made in March to rebuild the Royal Liverpool hospital. The scheme is so important, not only to sustain the provision of high-quality health care for all the people of Liverpool, including many in my constituency, but also because it will be the catalyst for sustaining growth in the economic renaissance of Liverpool, with the creation of a globally excellent, biomedical science campus.
Similarly, as highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), Alder Hey-the largest national children's hospital in Europe, which treats young people from more than 85% of the UK's PCTs-must see its accommodation upgraded. Alder Hey has put forward the most affordable hospital scheme in the country to replace its Florence Nightingale design from 100 years ago, so it can provide paediatric treatment in 21st-century facilities.
As a Labour and Co-operative MP, I am delighted that there have been real strides to expand mutualism in our public services. Mutualism ensures the promotion of democratic accountability-giving users, staff and other stakeholders a real say in how our public services are run. So far, the biggest expansion of mutuality has taken place in the NHS, with the formation of 129 NHS foundation trusts, which are accountable to a widely defined membership of more than 1.5 million. Similarly, in social care 178 user-led organisations have been created, and they both design and deliver high-quality services.
I move on to education. Incredible investment has been made into my constituency, where we have made great strides in education. Before the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) starts redirecting money from the education budget to create new free schools, I urge him to come and see how education is working in Liverpool. I urge him to invest in those schools, such as St Hilda's in Picton and Archbishop Blanch School in Wavertree, that already have a vibrant community ethos and active governing bodies, and are already achieving above national-average grades at GCSE.
Nearly 90 years ago, my great-uncle, Manny Shinwell, newly elected as the Member for Linlithgowshire, made his maiden speech to this House. It feels almost eerie now to echo the words that he said then, that
"in opposition we would bring every kind of pressure-constitutional pressure, I may say-to bear on the"
"Government in order to compel the Government to implement the pledges they gave".-[ Official Report, 23 November 1922; Vol. 159, c. 119.]
Mr Deputy Speaker (Hugh Bayley): Order. That was a wonderful maiden speech, but I am afraid that the clock stops for no one in this place. I call David Ward.
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