|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
If the goal now, as for the previous Government, is to halve the deficit within four years, that means that there is still a gap of about £28 billion. I believe that this debate, which the Government want to encourage, should focus far more closely on how that remaining gap could be met by a mix of taxes on the banks and on the
hyper-rich-a group that accounts for less than 1% of the population, and whose wealth has risen staggeringly over the past decade. While the average real incomes of the rest of the population in this country have remained flat over the past half decade, the wealth of the super-rich-and I am talking about just 1,000 multi-millionaires, who are listed in The Sunday Times rich list, issued only a few weeks ago-has almost quadrupled since 1997. In money terms, which is what matters, their wealth has apparently grown by an eye-watering £337 billion. In the last year alone, when the rest of the country has had to pull in its belt pretty tightly, their wealth grew by a cool £77 billion-a 30% increase in a single year.
Against that background, the banks, many of which are turning in record profits, and, above all, that rich elite, to whom the director general of the CBI referred as an alien class apart, because of their excessive executive pay, should certainly be expected to make a contribution proportionate to their increase in resources in the nation's time of need, particularly as many of them were directly involved in causing the crash in the first place. The Chancellor no, less, is on record as saying at a recent party conference:
"We are all in this together."
If that is true, and the rich are not a race apart, exempt from the privations of the rest of the population, I certainly think that they can contribute at least £7 billion a year over the next four years-a minuscule fraction of their recent increase in wealth.
Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to deliver my maiden speech in the House. May I compliment preceding speakers from across the country who have given their own maiden speeches today? The right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) did not make his maiden speech, but I compliment him on a speech he made in the House some time ago on post offices, and on speaking against the then Government.
I begin my speech by acknowledging and paying tribute to my predecessor, Tom Levitt, who was MP for High Peak for 13 years from 1997. In my seven years as a candidate in High Peak, he always treated me with the courtesy befitting a Member of the House. A steadfastly loyal Member of Parliament, and an assiduous attender of debates, he took the decision late last year not to stand for re-election-an action to which he referred in his maiden speech 13 years ago as "the chicken run".
I am especially proud to represent High Peak, not just for its beauty and its many attractions, but as someone born and bred in the area. As we move towards the summer recess, I would like to recommend High Peak to fellow Members as a wonderful place to take their summer holidays. It is a large constituency covering over 200 square miles and containing some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. I have listened to many maiden speeches over the past few days: everyone proclaims that the represent the most beautiful seat in Britain, but they are all welcome to challenge for second place.
In Buxton, we have numerous architectural delights, including the crescent, the Devonshire dome and the renowned Buxton opera house, which is a fabulous example of a Matcham theatre-one of the finest in the country-and the venue for the Buxton festival, which is an opera and literary festival to rival anything Glyndebourne has to offer, and one graced only last year by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Buxton is also the home of the world famous water, which is oft seen being consumed at major sporting events across the world, and more recently by President Obama. If he continues to consume Buxton water and benefit from all its life-giving properties, he may well live up to his election slogan, "Yes we can."
In the north of High Peak, the town of Glossop has a different character from Buxton, but it is its equal in every way. With its industrial architecture, it shows a different face of High Peak, and one that tourists all too easily miss. The neighbouring village of Tintwistle gave us Vivienne Westwood. It has distinct problems with traffic-something to which I shall return before I conclude. Glossop has the proud distinction of being the smallest town to have a team in the highest level of English football. At the time, Glossop North End-last year's Wembley finalists in the FA vase championship-was owned by Mr Samuel Hill-Wood, a former member of the House and predecessor of mine, who eventually left the town to concentrate his efforts at Arsenal, where his family still retain a considerable interest.
I would add at this stage, for those Members who are fans of "The League of Gentlemen", that that television programme is filmed in Hadfield in my constituency, so therefore I assume I am by default the member of Parliament for Royston Vasey. The Hope valley covers a large area, arguably the most beautiful area of all, against very strong competition, all of it contained in the Peak District national park, which is the oldest national park in the country, and reputedly the second most visited in the world after mount Fuji.
The caves of Castleton, which are the source of Blue John stone-unique to those caves and mined since Roman times-and the southern end of the Pennine way in Edale are particular delights. It is an area in which the farming community plays a crucial part in making High Peak what it is. They have suffered much in recent years, and they are a group whom I hope to stand up for in the House. I could go through High Peak village by village, as they all have their own attractions, but the tradition is to be brief-I am conscious of that, and there are lots of other nervous people trembling in the wings-so I will just mention that my home village of Chapel-en-le-Frith is the birthplace of Ferodo brake linings, and that New Mills is the home of Swizzels Matlow, which makes the famous loveheart sweets. Containing messages such as "Want you", "Need you", and "Be mine", they are very much the flavour of the new coalition.
It would not be right to mention High Peak without reference to its famous limestone, which is quarried in great quantities in the south of the constituency, providing jobs and economic benefit for the whole community. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions remarked on the vastness of the quarries on his visit to the constituency several years ago.
As we move into the stormy waters ahead caused by the deficit left by the Labour party, I commend to the House the actions of the local High Peak borough council which, when it entered a strategic alliance with the neighbouring Staffordshire Moorlands district council, has driven out over £1 million of saving, yet managed to maintain and improve front-line services for its residents. The strategic alliance continues to make strides forward under the leadership of Councillor Tony Ashton, together with his team of Conservative councillors and supported by the excellent and determined staff of that council. This small borough council has shown the way to us all. The savings are there to be made, and we should heed its example.
As the coalition embarks on this Parliament, and as I embark on my first but I hope not last term as the Member for High Peak, we are aware of the tough times ahead. I am and always will remain aware of the problems facing my constituents. In Glossop and Tintwistle, the Tintwistle bypass is an issue that has meandered on for many years. It was promised by my predecessor 13 years ago but has still to be built. It is a difficult issue. There are difficult environmental consequences to be considered but something needs to be done to alleviate the traffic problems suffocating Glossop. Tintwistle shudders and resounds to the thundering of wagons as they cross the Pennines. I know that money is tight and will be for some time, but if money becomes available a workable solution may be achieved.
Both Buxton and Glossop have health service issues. In Glossop, where the Tameside and Glossop primary care trust prevails, my residents are reliant on Tameside hospital, the subject of much debate locally. In Buxton and the remainder of the constituency, Derbyshire County PCT is responsible for provision. I will meet the PCT to discuss provision for hospitals in Buxton and care outside the hospital in the central area.
I shall deal quickly with another issue-pensions. I have made many efforts over several years to help the members of the Turner and Newall pension scheme and I will continue to make those efforts, as it is still in assessment for the Pension Protection Fund. I have met the PPF and will meet the independent trustee, and I hope to get the best result for my residents.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech. I thank hon. Members for their speeches beforehand-including the hon. Member for High Peak (Andrew Bingham). We look forward to visiting High Peak as a holiday destination. If we go to all the places that hon. Members have spoken about in the House, we will not have to go abroad this year to get the sun. I thank the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) for his comments on the social politics. There are many bread and butter issues there to interest us. I thank the hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan). We have something in common. I am a Leicester City football supporter and have been for umpteen years. I do not know whether that is a good or a bad thing, but it shows how loyal I am anyway.
Thaur is monies a guid thang at A cud sae aboot tha fowk o mi Baille-Wick bot yince an firmaist A coont it a muckle oaner tae spake oot oan thair ahauf in tha Hoose O Commons. Tha Strengfird fowk ir tha satt o tha grun, an in thenkin thaim fer thair support A wud promis thaim at A'll wrocht an dae fer thaim aa at A caun.
For those who did not understand me, and there may be some here who did not, I will translate that for them. There are many good things that I could say about the people of my constituency, and first of all is that it is a great honour to speak on their behalf in the House of Commons. The Strangford people are the salt of the earth and in thanking them for their support, I also assure them that I shall work and do for them the best I can.
A hard-working MP is nothing new to the people of Strangford. My predecessor, Iris Robinson, was known for years as a conscientious worker. John Taylor was the MP for many years before that, and I had my first meeting with him and his wife Mary in the House of Commons some 20-odd years ago. Before that we had Jim Kilfedder, who represented the area of Strangford within North Down. We have been blessed over the years to have a number of good MPs. I can remember placing my X for the first time ever next to Jim Kilfedder's name many years ago.
Those former MPs all had one thing in common-a love for Strangford and its people. I represent a new constituency of Strangford as the boundaries have changed. Whether it be from Portaferry to Carrowdoor, from Comber to Crossgar, Ballynahinch to Ballywalter, Newtonards to Grey Abbey, I would urge any of those in the Chamber to see the unparalleled beauties of my constituency and I defy them not to fall in love with it, as I have.
Today's debate focuses on the economy and on work and pensions, and I wish to outline a number of opportunities to build the economy of Strangford and the whole of the United Kingdom in areas such as tourism, manufacturing and agriculture. Since 2008, unemployment in Northern Ireland has risen by 18,000 and too many able-bodied people are out of work. I urge the Government to do something about that. The solution requires a cross-sectoral and cross-Government approach.
Tourism offers a first clear opportunity. It is my belief that Northern Ireland will be able to carve out a niche in the global scene in tourism. The Lonely Planet tour guide praised Northern Ireland as
"abuzz with life: the cities are pulsating . . . and the people"-
"the lifeblood that courses through the country, are in good spirits".
Ulster, and Strangford in particular, has the unique combination of a beautiful landscape and coastline, a land steeped in history and a welcoming and diverse people who cannot help but draw others to our shores. Yet it seems that the only people who are fully aware of all that Strangford has to offer are those who are blessed enough to have been born there or passed
through it. This is a loss not only to the people of my constituency, but to the people of the United Kingdom. I am in the business of changing that impression.
If Strangford was marketed to its full potential it could deliver significant benefit to local and visitor alike. For the cyclist, the walker and the nature lover, there is abundant bird and wildlife along the coast and lough shores. Short-break visitors can shop, be pampered and enjoy our excellent restaurants and entertainment. Strangford is the perfect base for those who wish to explore towns, the countryside, the coast or all of them together.
One sector which clearly demonstrates this is country sports. The game fair at Ballywalter attracts a record number of people, and this is an area in which Strangford has the potential to excel. For example, five American shooters came to the constituency on a five-day trip to Northern Ireland. They spent some £50,000 in the local economy-high-value tourism. I understand that country sports in Northern Ireland employ some 3,000 people. Again, there is opportunity. When I was elected, the people of my constituency were glad to have me in the House of Commons to work for them. It is also rumoured that the pheasants and the ducks of Strangford were looking forward to at least two free days a week when I would not be about. That is probably good news as well.
Northern Ireland's private sector is underdeveloped but at its core is the manufacturing sector. It contributes around 25% of the gross value added to the Northern Ireland economy. Therefore, the Government's recent commitments to bolster regional economies and manufacturing are of deep interest. However, the lack of detail is concerning, especially in comparison with their clearer plans to cut public expenditure. I want to put my concern about that on record.
The urban and rural mix of my constituency also means that the farming and agri-food sectors are a key component, possibly more so than in other parts of the United Kingdom. I am well aware of the push that there has been to encourage local Northern Ireland businesses to compete on the global stage. We have various international exporters in the constituency. I want to plug the humble Comber potato and the Portavogie prawn, because they are world leaders. Many people enjoy them as delicacies.
The family farm is important to us in the constituency. There are those who have diversified into the ice cream business or adapted unused barns and land for quad bikes and crazy golf, all of which are advertised in our local paper, the Newtownards Chronicle. Commercial fishing is also important, a once proud industry. Fishing boat numbers have been halved, due to EU regulation and scientific information. The common fisheries policy needs to be right for the people of my area. It needs to restore confidence and give people viability and jobs. I hope the Government will work towards that.
"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
I stand in this place humbled and honoured at the fact that the voters of Strangford have elevated me from the Northern Ireland Assembly to the House of Commons.
The Assembly was my beginning, but my election to the House is certainly not the end of the matter. That quote from Winston Churchill reminds me of another of his. I have made it to the end of my maiden speech with no heckling from Irish Nationalists or anyone else, something that I am exceedingly grateful for. I hope this will be the first of many speeches in the House.
Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech. After sitting in the House for seven hours yesterday, I can say that there is only one thing more nerve-wracking than being called upon to make a maiden speech-sitting on the Bench for seven hours and not being called to make a maiden speech.
Before I pay tribute to my constituency, Aberconwy, I must say that I am proud to stand here as the first elected Member for the constituency, which is a new construct for this Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House came up to Aberconwy during the election campaign to offer me support. I am sure that hon. Members from both sides of the House have had the experience of a senior politician coming to support them. We were walking along the promenade in Llandudno, which is the most beautiful promenade in Wales, and probably in Britain, and my right hon. Friend asked me about the arithmetic in the constituency. When I informed him that Aberconwy had 44,000 electors, he immediately said, "Oh well, your seat will be abolished, won't it?" That was before I had won the election. If that is how prominent politicians are supposed to help candidates, then I am not sure that was the case in that instance. He left me dumbfounded and went off on the cable car that takes people up from the promenade to the Great Orme, a visit that I would recommend to anyone.
Aberconwy is built upon two constituencies-the Conwy constituency and the former Meirionnydd Nant Conwy constituency. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my two predecessors in those constituencies. Mrs Betty Williams was the Member for Conwy and she served the constituency with distinction for 13 years. Even though I stood against her in 2005 and disagreed with her time after time, on every doorstep in Conwy I was told that if I was as good a constituency MP as Mrs Williams, I would do well. I will aspire to ensure that I do serve the area as well as Mrs Betty Williams did.
More importantly, Mrs Betty Williams has recently published her memoirs in Welsh, and, being a first language Welsh speaker, I have had the pleasure of reading them. What shines through is the fact that she embarked upon a political career for the right reasons. She was a quarryman's daughter, and she served local communities on district and county councils and stood for Parliament on four occasions before she won. Throughout, her commitment was for the right reasons. She wanted to serve her people and she wanted to make sure that her Labour party views were expressed in the House. For that, I respect her very much indeed, and I hope that I will be able to do as good a job on behalf of my constituents as she did.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|