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Peter Chapman, I later discovered through the trial, had absconded from his home in Merseyside, and it appears that Merseyside police were aware of this. I also learned that there was no obligation on Peter Chapman to register his credentials and his identity online, and that any breach of an obligation to do that would be met with no action whatsoever. I wrote to my
right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) about this at the time, and I commend his efforts to get the law changed. I hope that the Government will continue those efforts and will ensure that registered sex offenders are obliged to register who they are online, and that any such breaches will be taken as seriously as those involving their hanging around outside school gates.
I want also to say a few words about my predecessor, Mr Alan Milburn. Alan was elected to Parliament for the first time in 1992, bucking the national trend by taking Darlington for Labour from the Conservative, the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon), as he now is. Alan was a fierce campaigner for Darlington and the north-east, speaking in his maiden speech about the need for investment in skills, education and support for business in our region. Alan spoke powerfully against the proposed Tory cuts of the day in training for young people. It is hard not to make similar comments today regarding cuts to the future jobs fund.
Alan served the Darlington constituency for 18 years. His achievements include campaigning for the repeal of the unjust "year and a day" rule in murder cases, and working to bring a new university centre to Darlington. Alan also served the country as Secretary of State for Health where, using his understanding of the practicalities of modern life, he introduced NHS Direct, devolved power to localities through primary care trusts and ended the disgrace of deaths among people who had spent 18 months or more on waiting lists for heart operations. Above all else in his political life, Alan worked to make sure that we are rewarded according to who we are, not what we are. Alan believes in social mobility, fair access to the professions and encouraging access to higher education for everyone, regardless of their background. It is, therefore, no coincidence that Darlington is to be home to a new university centre, which is to be run by Teesside university, this year's university of the year.
Innovation, entrepreneurship and ingenuity are no strangers to Darlington. My constituency is the birthplace of the railways and home of the first national newspaper, The Northern Echo. Darlington is where the world's first black professional footballer, Arthur Wharton, got his break and where a local entrepreneur is campaigning to build a statue in his honour. Darlington people are single-minded; they voted "no" to Tesco, no to an elected mayor and no, this time, to Tory cuts to our school-building programme, the police, health and jobs.
I have helped young people in Darlington to establish a new charity to organise live music events. Now in its third year, Newblood Live regularly attracts more than 200 young people a fortnight. Beauty and the Bike is an international, Darlington-based initiative that encourages young women to take up cycling. First Stop works with some of the most disadvantaged people in our town-people who are homeless and often suffer from problems with alcohol and drug abuse. The Darlington rape crisis centre works quietly with women who have suffered violence and abuse. Resident-led community partnerships work in many areas, and our local council for voluntary service, eVOLution, is there to help third sector groups and volunteers to improve. Our citizens advice bureau and newly formed credit union work to provide affordable
credit and debt advice to those who need it. I agree with the Government that the voluntary and community sectors have a great deal to offer in delivering services and regenerating communities, but the Government need to understand that it is worklessness, above all other causes, that leads to the exhaustion, isolation and loss of hope in our communities.
The story of the north-east is not over. Our proud industrial heritage strengthens our potential for future success, and new technologies are thriving in the north-east. Thanks in no small part to support from our regional development agency, One NorthEast, we have grasped opportunities to compete globally in new energy production, green manufacturing and digital technology, thus bringing new jobs and skills to my region. That has happened not by chance, but thanks to the ability of our businesses, councils, colleges and universities to work together.
Darlington companies such as AMEC, Cummins, Marchday and Northgate all show what a great place the north-east is to do business, but to stay ahead we need, above all else, to keep on improving the skills of our people. Darlington is fortunate to have two outstanding colleges and its schools have some of the fastest-improving results in the country. Those have been achieved despite the fact that three of our secondary school buildings are in a serious state of disrepair: Branksome, Longfield and Hurworth schools have lost days of education because of heating failures, gas leaks and floods. I am delighted that they have been successful in getting to the heart of the Building Schools for the Future programme, and I encourage this coalition Government to stick to the agreement that we made with the community in Darlington to rebuild those schools.
Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech to the House, and I am delighted to be the first to congratulate the hon. Member for Darlington (Mrs Chapman) on her maiden speech.
I wish to start by paying tribute to my predecessor, Lynda Waltho, who was a conscientious constituency MP and a powerful advocate for our area's many voluntary and charitable organisations, more of which later. She was a teacher by profession and she used her knowledge of that profession, and of children, to champion the causes of education and the needs of children, particularly those from our most deprived communities. She also served as a member of the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families.
My constituency lies on the border of north Worcestershire and the old industrial black country. For many years, people have argued about where exactly the black country lies, and I am pleased that, thanks to our local Black Country chamber of commerce and others, we finally have the black country delineated on the Ordnance Survey map. I am very proud to represent the old black country towns of Lye, Quarry Bank and Cradley, as well as the townships that make up modern-day Stourbridge.
Lye, Quarry Bank and Cradley have a very proud industrial past of forging, nail-making and chain-making, but it is really the glass industry for which Stourbridge is best known. I was delighted to be invited to 10 Downing street a few weeks ago for drinks. It was my first visit
and I was proud to see all the glass, candelabra and chandeliers on display, many of which would have been made in Stourbridge. I gather that there is also some fine work on display in Buckingham palace and the Mansion House that was made by the famous Stourbridge firms, Stourbridge Glass, Webb Corbett and Stuart Crystal.
The people of Stourbridge are proud not just of our wealth creation, but our long tradition of philanthropy. I would like to pick out one individual who inspired me as a relative newcomer to Stourbridge. He is buried in the church of St Mary's in Old Swinford, near where I like to walk my dog. Ernest Stevens died in the year I was born, aged 100. He was the son of a miner, and tragedy struck him when he lost his young wife in childbirth. He created a vast fortune through hard work and ingenuity in the manufacture of pots, pans, baths and kettles. He responded to his wife's death by acting in the interests of the town, donating vast sums of money, land and civic buildings. We have our Mary Stevens hospice and many parks and areas of natural beauty thanks to him and that philanthropy. The strength of our voluntary and charitable sector is a testimony to that philanthropy, and we have many such organisations. I should like to speak up for Age Concern in Stourbridge, where many thousands of older people go, 364 days a year. It is absolutely remarkable what that organisation achieves.
Social change has been paramount in Stourbridge. The Muslim community arrived from Pakistan in the 1950s. I have done much work with that community and others, and I am very proud to represent the community in Lye with all that it represents to us.
We are very proud, in Stourbridge, of our industrial history, and there is sometimes a tinge of regret at what many see as its passing, but of course it has not all passed. Many firms and manufacturing and engineering companies are still doing wonderful work in our constituency, but many people have suffered in the transition, and there are now families in which no one works and generations of people live on state benefits. That cannot go on. There is a rising sense of injustice among people who work-many for low pay-and those who have worked their whole lives and are now on state pensions. The Prime Minister is saying today that there is much pain on the way. I feel very strongly that the people of Stourbridge will face up to the very difficult decisions that the Government and local authorities are going to have to take in coming years. The people of the black country and Stourbridge hold on to certain basic truths that are not just old-fashioned notions that can simply be cast aside-for example, that one should never borrow what one cannot pay back, that we should not foster a culture in which people are led to expect something for nothing, and that, in the more elegant prose of Abraham Lincoln:
"You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
Finally, as a Christian country, and indeed a country of many faiths, we should always look after those who cannot look after themselves. During my time of service in the House, I will work to reflect those enduring values for my constituents in Stourbridge. I am so proud to represent Stourbridge, and I am deeply grateful to my constituents for giving me this opportunity.
Paul Murphy (Torfaen) (Lab): May I say how much I enjoyed the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James)? She was extremely generous to her Labour predecessor. Her speech was compassionate and I am sure we shall hear a great deal from her in the months and years ahead. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mrs Chapman) on the things she said about her predecessor, my old colleague Alan Milburn. Both hon. Ladies have a tremendous career before them.
I am not quite so sure about the third maiden speech I heard this afternoon-the one made by the Deputy Prime Minister from the Treasury Bench. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), I agreed with some of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. The Deputy Prime Minister seemed pretty convinced about the alternative vote, but the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) probably represents the true feeling of the Conservative party. Anybody who heard what Liberal Democrat spokespeople said about our proposals for a referendum on the alternative vote some months ago would hardly have found them encouraging. Only the Labour manifesto proposed the alternative vote, so this conversion is very welcome.
The Deputy Prime Minister was a bit ungenerous about what the Labour Government did on constitutional reform over 13 years. After all, we brought in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1998. We almost completely abolished hereditary peers in the other place. By the way, I believe that the minority parties should be involved in discussions about the House of Lords. My name is not on any ballot paper this week, but I agree with what has been said on that issue.
We brought devolution to Scotland and London and, in my own field of ministerial responsibility, there was devolution for a Welsh Assembly and the establishment of the Assembly in Northern Ireland. Those huge constitutional changes were brought about by the last Government, so the Deputy Prime Minister's references to 1832 are a bit daft and do not accurately reflect the history of the last 150 to 200 years.
A million years ago, I was taught by Michael Brock, who wrote the best book on the Great Reform Act of 1832. He wrote about the Bill's passage through Parliament and how the then Whig-Liberal-Government wanted to stuff the House of Lords with extra peers to get their way. They tried to do the same thing in 1911, probably for the best reasons. However, the Deputy Prime Minister simply did not answer the points made to him today about the number of people he and his friend the Prime Minister intend to put into the House of Lords. That is a huge issue that we must all address in the days to come.
My right hon. Friend the shadow Justice Secretary rightly referred to the fact that for all those 13 years Labour could have packed the House of Lords, but did not. That was right. Only in 2005 did Labour have the biggest vote, although not the majority, in the House of Lords. Our Government were defeated in the other place 528 times between 1997 and 2010. No Government should have an overall majority in the House of Lords. They could be the biggest party, but not with an overall majority. That issue, together with how this House
decides on a vote of confidence, is something that the House of Lords in its capacity as guardian of the constitution should examine in huge detail in the months ahead. I was not convinced by the arguments for 55%. I do not think that people outside-whether academics, political people or the ordinary man in the street-believe it either. I am told that at least 8,000 people on Facebook have already said that they disagree with the 55% proposal for a vote of confidence.
As for boundaries, the proposal for equal electoral districts is okay, so far as it goes, but it would be impossible to have absolute, rigid electoral districts. In Wales, for example, that would produce huge-mostly Liberal, by the way-constituencies in our rural areas that Members of Parliament would find it impossible to manage. Similarly, in south Wales, people can look at a map and draw lines, but those maps ignore the valleys, the mountains and the geography. The Government have made no attempt, so far as I know, to talk to the Welsh Assembly or the Welsh Assembly Government about these changes. The reality is that changing the boundaries and composition of parliamentary constituencies has a direct effect on how the Welsh Assembly is elected, as indeed it does in Scotland.
The necessity for wide-ranging reforms is a case that cannot, could not and should not be ignored, but the way that the Government have done it is a bit clumsy and calculated. They have a big job of work ahead of them to convince the people of our country that these proposals are not about rigging, gerrymandering or fiddling the rules to keep themselves in office. This is not new politics, but bad politics of the oldest kind.
Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker for inviting me to make my maiden speech. I congratulate the hon. Member for Darlington (Mrs Chapman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Margot James) on their impassioned speeches on behalf of their constituents. Having spent some 24 years in local government and made three previous attempts to join the House, I think that I have served my apprenticeship, but little did I think that it would take me 25 years to make this speech. I hope that it will be worth waiting for.
I pay tribute to my predecessor, Tony McNulty, who served the House for 13 years as a diligent Member for Harrow East and 11 years prior to that as a councillor in the area. He rose through the Labour party's ranks to government and high office and eventually to become the Minister for London, and I am glad to say that that is one of the positions that we have abolished in this new Administration. I have served as a local councillor in coalitions, Mr Mayor-Mr Deputy Speaker; a Freudian slip-and I have spent the past four years in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. That demonstrates that going from one place to another is not such a big step after all.
I speak on behalf of my constituents and pay tribute to my constituency, from the great beauty of Old Redding in the north to the deprivation of Wealdstone in the south, from the opportunity areas of Edgware in the east to the tradition and history of Harrow Weald in the
west. Harrow West abuts the constituency. Harrow East is the most diverse constituency in the country. We have 22 churches-not only of the Anglican and Catholic faith, but the Greek Orthodox church as well, to the south of the constituency. We have two Hindu temples, two synagogues, an Islamic centre and, indeed, the first Hindu state-sponsored primary school in the country. Some 35,000 residents stem from the state of Gujarat in India. There is a broad swathe of Muslim population, some 15,000 Jewish people and a range of people who come from every country on the planet, including some 5,000 European Union citizens who have come from the new emerging states.
This Government will do one thing of vital importance for all those people: restore civil liberties in this country. The threat of identity cards, the threat of being detained for 28 days without charge, and the huge amounts of data on individual people who are innocent of any crime kept on police DNA databases-the police state that has started to grow in this country-will be swept away. I believe that that is something for which people who are relatively new to this country will feel immensely grateful. Indeed, right across my constituency, there is a demand for better policing, better law and order and a more consistent approach to that whole process. There is also great demand in the constituency for more schools, and better schools as well. I look forward to them being set up under this Administration.
I intend very firmly to hold the new Government to account on the promises made before the election to ensure that the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital in the north of my constituency is rebuilt to the standards that everyone expects. That hospital is a national treasure, with people doing brilliant work in sub-standard conditions-standards that should not be accepted in the modern world. I look forward to that rebuilding starting in 2012. I also look forward to the opportunity of safeguarding Northwick Park hospital, which, of course, has been under threat, with the potential closures in north-west London under the previous Administration.
I am very proud and privileged to represent the people of Harrow East, and I have set out my course of action over this Parliament to be their representative here, speaking up for them at every opportunity, not to be the House's representative in Harrow. I intend to make sure that those people who depend on me will have a stern, very fierce advocate on their behalf.
Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): It is a great privilege to be called in this important debate to make my maiden speech and to be the first to congratulate the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) on his wonderful maiden speech, his description of the multicultural Mecca of Harrow and his generous comments about his predecessor, Tony McNulty, which many Labour Members share. Let me pay my tribute to my esteemed predecessor, Mark Fisher, who sat in the House for 27 years and conscientiously, effectively and passionately represented the interests of Stoke-on-Trent Central.
Mark's connections to the Potteries began, improbably enough, when he was writing film scripts in Staffordshire Moorlands-an ambitious venture at the best of times in California, even more so in the Roaches of north Staffordshire. He then stood for Staffordshire Moorlands
and was selected to succeed Bob Cant in Stoke-on-Trent-all the while as an old Etonian son of a Tory MP. People in the Potteries are, as I have discovered, enormously forgiving of one's past.
Mark's maiden speech to the House in 1983 was a heartfelt lament at the state of the national health service in north Staffordshire owing to sustained underfunding. He spoke of old buildings, outdated operating theatres, waiting lists for general and orthopaedic surgery of more than 12 months. Now, after 13 years of good Labour Government, that decline has been reversed and Stoke-on-Trent has a brand new £370 million university teaching hospital, springing up around the old City General-it is the first new hospital for 130 years. In addition, we have new GP surgeries, walk-in centres and marked improvements in public health.
Mark was also highly active in the House, working closely with Tony Wright on reforms to the workings of Parliament, the all-party parliamentary history group, which, in a different incarnation, I once had the pleasure to address and was mildly surprised at the intimate knowledge of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) of dialectical materialism and the life of Friedrich Engels.
Mark also made a contribution to the management of the art collection in the palace. He was, indeed, an Arts Minister in 1997 and formed part of the heroic team in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that delivered a great Labour pledge of free entry to Britain's museums for the people of Britain. As his successor, I will be watching closely the incoming Administration's commitment to honour that pledge. It is now my great privilege to take up his place in Parliament.
In an excellent maiden speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) made an ambitious play for his city being the birthplace of the industrial revolution. While I am a deep admirer of the Derby silk mill and the Derby arboretum, and even the Derwent valley, we all know that the historic, earth-shattering event-the dawn of modernity, the dawn of industrialisation-began in my constituency with the opening of Josiah Wedgwood's factory in Etruria, near Shelton, in 1769. Since the 1770s, Stoke-on-Trent has become the premier global brand-name for ceramics.
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