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8 Jun 2010 : Column 265

Edinburgh South is a diverse constituency stretching from the old mining villages of Gilmerton to the leafy suburbs of Morningside and beyond. Some literary geniuses that hon. Members may recognise live in the constituency-Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and, of course, J.K. Rowling lived but a stone's throw from each other in the heart of the constituency. Those literary geniuses are complemented by a large student population, people in academia, public service workers and people in the professions.

The southern part of what is called the Athens of the north was represented in this House for over 100 years by the Conservatives. The area has had many distinguished Conservative Members of Parliament, including Sir William Darling, the great-uncle of the shadow Chancellor. The seat was last held for the Conservatives by the right hon. former Member for Devizes, the Earl of Ancram, who, in 1979, defeated a certain Gordon Brown.

The Earl of Ancram lost Edinburgh South to my predecessor, Nigel Griffiths, and I am delighted to be given this opportunity to pay tribute to him. Nigel was without doubt one of the most hard-working constituency MPs in this House. His dedication to serving his constituents was second to none, and his mantra that everyone knew someone he had helped is certainly true. He leaves behind a long legacy of how a Member of this House should serve, and a couple of other things, too. If anyone has had the unenviable pleasure of campaigning with Nigel and his infamous megaphone, they will know legendary megaphone phrases such as, "Don't leave it to the folks next door," and "We are knocking on your door now," the latter said just as his finger reached the bell. Those are aspects of campaigning that I hope Nigel will continue to employ for many years to come. Nigel was also well known for championing the cause of the disabled and the most vulnerable, and I know he will continue to do that outside this House.

Edinburgh was one of the major centres of the enlightenment, led by world-famous institutions based in south Edinburgh. One of them was the university of Edinburgh, a research-led university with an international reputation. It has long held a principal place in science and engineering research, which is based in King's Buildings. It has world experts in biological science, chemistry, engineering, geosciences, informatics, mathematics and physics. The university of Edinburgh and the other fine academic institutions in Edinburgh hold much of the intellectual property for what could be a modern enlightenment in science, innovation and green technology, and that must be wholeheartedly supported by Government. The Chancellor's announcement that he will cut 10,000 university places as part of his £6 billion of so-called efficiencies will do nothing to help our universities to flourish and our economy to grow. There will be a significant knock-on effect for universities in my constituency.

The royal observatory in Edinburgh South houses the UK's national centre for the production of state-of-the- art astronomical technology. I recently visited it to see the people there making lenses for the most technologically advanced telescopes in the world. They are training them now on the Liberal Democrats to see if they can find anything left of the principles that they stood on in the election.

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Edinburgh South also boasts the new Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, a state-of-the-art teaching hospital built by Labour, and now the centrepiece of plans for the largest biomedical park in Europe. For 150 years, the Royal hospital for sick children has been caring for children in Edinburgh and beyond.

This week is Erskine week. Erskine has provided nursing and medical care for former members of our armed forces for over 100 years, rebuilding shattered lives, restoring dignity and providing first-class care to ex-servicemen and women, both young and old. The Erskine facilities in my constituency are well worth a visit.

I am fortunate to have been elected Member of Parliament for a constituency that boasts some of the best state schools in the country, with the most dedicated and dynamic head teachers and staff. Added to that, there is a plethora of faith and charity groups, which contribute so much to our community.

My constituents are well informed by the wonderful Edinburgh Evening News, a bastion of all that is truth in the Edinburgh journalistic community since 1873. I know that because one of their journalists wrote this paragraph for me.

Many of my constituents work in financial services-banking has been part of Edinburgh's economic life for over 300 years. The devastation to the Edinburgh economy if our banks were left to collapse, as championed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be incalculable. Time after time, issue after issue on the economy, the Tories called it wrong, and put my constituents at risk. The intervention by the Labour Government, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling), laid the foundations for a worldwide economic turnaround that saved many thousands of jobs for people in my constituency while protecting their savings. The Conservatives have been in government only a matter of days, but we have seen a massive £6.2 billion cut-what they describe as efficiency savings.

Ultimately, this is not a real Tory-Lib Dem coalition; this is a personal relationship between the Prime Minister and his deputy. The coalition is held together by the unnatural empathy and their deep, deep comfort in each other's personalities, politics and background: two peas from the same pod. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher claimed that the Liberal Prime Minster William Gladstone would have felt very much at home with the dominant ideology of the Conservative party. I am convinced that the Deputy Prime Minister would fit in very well, too.

I would like to conclude by paying tribute to my mother, who taught me the values that I hold dear. I was born and brought up on the Wester Hailes council estate in Edinburgh. When my father died suddenly at the age of 39 from a brain haemorrhage, my mother was left with my 13-year-old brother and me, aged just nine. She was written off by the Conservative Government of the day. My mother and many others like her who lived around us were left to fend for themselves, through no fault of their own, when they needed their Government most. I saw first-hand communities ripped apart to the resonance of cheap political soundbites. The first few weeks of this Conservative Government show that they have not changed, and I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that the communities I represent in Edinburgh South do not suffer the excesses of Tory ideology again. I owe that to them, and I certainly owe it to my mother.

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8.30 pm

Mike Crockart (Edinburgh West) (LD): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech. I want to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) for his considerable knowledge of the banking industry. I cannot wait to hear more about that in future debates. It is slightly difficult for me to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray)-we are starting to become slightly Edinburgh-centric, with the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore) hopefully still to make a contribution this evening-because I can no longer mention the Edinburgh Evening News. The journalist mentioned by the hon. Member for Edinburgh South wrote the same paragraph for me.

My predecessor, John Barrett, is taking a well-deserved rest after more than quarter of a century of public service, having represented the many people of Edinburgh West on community councils, city councils and, latterly, as its MP for nine years. He was a local business man and entrepreneur. In that spirit, he sold this job to me as being the best in the world. It has certainly been the most exciting in the first four weeks-even more exciting than my first few weeks as a green probationer in Lothian and Borders police.

In his time, John met many interesting people, including the Queen and Dolly Parton. I will let the House into a secret-it was the photograph of Dolly Parton that hung on the wall in the office. The seat has a well-established Liberal history, and I join a select but growing group, including my hon. Friends the Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) and for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) by being a third-or perhaps even more-generation Liberal MP. We are joined, too, by my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert). That Lib Dem legacy is established through the quality of service given to our constituents, in my case in Edinburgh West, and an absolute commitment to them.

I have deliberately chosen this debate on economic affairs in which to make my first contribution. My constituency is immensely diverse, taking in areas of great affluence as well as areas of great poverty. Historic villages such as Corstorphine, Davidsons Mains and Cramond are now subsumed in the Edinburgh sprawl, as well as modern housing estates such as Muirhouse. Residential Barnton as well as rural Ratho and Kirkliston. The constituency is a key player in the powerhouse that is the Edinburgh economy, boasting within its boundaries some of Scotland's most iconic and important brands and businesses, which have brought prosperity to Edinburgh and, indeed, to Scotland. Some of them, however, have been at the centre of the catastrophic events of the past two years and that has resulted in many thousands of people losing their jobs in Scotland.

There are many, many community groups in Edinburgh West, from those conducting community litter picks in South Queensferry or on Cramond beach to those fighting to protect the integrity and boundaries of Corstorphine hill. The Carrickvale community centre provides services to older and young constituents, and the Gylemuir Community Association does a similar job. Thousands of people are actively improving their communities all over Edinburgh West.

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I am in the middle of the summer gala season-for the benefit of the English in the Chamber, I should explain that is a fête. On Saturday, along with thousands of others, accompanied, surprisingly for Scotland, by the sun, I attend the Corstophine fair-the largest community-run event in Edinburgh, and perhaps in Scotland. In it was a programme bursting with entertainment, kids' activities and community displays, as well as the usual stalls to give people a chance to meet those behind the many community groups across the constituency. At the end of that, I officiated at the tug-of-war event, where two teams battled it out for victory. There was much name calling, shouting and huge efforts in blood, sweat and ultimately tears before both teams claimed a moral victory, at the very least. It reminded me a great deal of the past four weeks on this side of the House.

Edinburgh West is also a centre for many varied Scottish, British and internationally renowned companies. I have already found that across the business sector too, there is unity and solidarity in the adversity that we face, and I am immensely lucky that in these difficult times, Edinburgh West has a shared aim and a sense of team spirit. So as we rightly place more emphasis on industries such as biotechnology and the engineering of exciting new marine energy solutions, we should not forget two other priority industry sectors in Scotland, which have contributed significantly to the success of the Scottish and UK economies in the past decade. I refer to tourism and the financial services, two sectors in which my constituency has flourished.

Edinburgh airport, the gateway from mainland Europe not only for Edinburgh but for Scotland more generally, has 320 flights a day and 20,000 passengers, and those numbers are climbing. It is opening up new routes all the time-for example, to Marrakesh and many others announced in February. This is to be commended, as the more direct routes we have, the less wasteful travel we have through the London hubs of Heathrow and Gatwick. Add to this the potential for a much-needed high speed rail link with London, and we will see a continuing healthy picture for Scottish tourism and business, boosted by the year-round reputation of Edinburgh as a festival city.

I must not forget Edinburgh zoo when talking about tourism. In his maiden speech my predecessor joked about representing more penguins than any other Member in the House, and I am proud to say that that is still the case, but I can now add to that list of animals and say that I am the only MP in the UK to represent koalas. Should present plans come to fruition, I hope to be standing here in five years' time as the only person representing pandas.

The financial services sector is a major sector in Edinburgh West, employing many people, but I shall move on as time is defeating me. Understandably, many of those working in the financial services sector and banking in particular fear the banking reform that must surely come. They should be reassured that the aim of that reform is to make their jobs more secure, not less. I will work closely with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to ensure that that happens.

I conclude by quoting my Conservative opponent during the recent contest, who said-

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Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. That was a fine maiden speech, but we must move on to the next maiden speech. I am pleased to call Chi Onwurah.

8.37 pm

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the honour to follow so many excellent maiden speeches.

I would like to start by paying tribute to my predecessor. To be able to say on the doorsteps of Newcastle upon Tyne Central that I was the new Jim Cousins was a huge asset. Perhaps one in five constituents knew him personally, and had a tale to tell about how he had helped them. As a constituency MP, he could not be bettered. He was also a champion of Newcastle and the north-east, and his long service on the Treasury Committee was of great benefit to his country and his city. His role in saving Northern Rock will be long remembered.

In the boundary review, Newcastle Central gained the wards of Elswick and Benwell and Scotswood from the old Tyne Bridge constituency. I want to thank David Clelland for his dedication to his constituents in those historic areas of my city.

The Romans chose Newcastle as the lowest bridging point of the Tyne, and later built Hadrian's wall, which runs through the constituency. In the centuries that followed, we guarded England from the attacks of Scottish raiders. How times change! But as a port, we were ever open for trade. Newcastle played a huge part in the major industries-wool, salt, shipbuilding, coal and engineering. We were at the leading edge of the first industrial revolution.

If history is merely the story of great men, I need mention only some of Newcastle's favoured sons to prove our place: Earl Grey, who has found such favour on the Government Benches; Armstrong, the great industrialist and founder of Newcastle university; and my own hero and fellow engineer, Stephenson, who built the railways.

But I believe that it is the contribution of those whose names are not recorded that it is most important to remember. It was the unnamed, ordinary men and women of Newcastle who built the ships that enabled this small island to wield global influence. My own grandfather worked in the shipyards of the Tyne. The men and women of Newcastle built the trade union and Labour movements, to which we owe so many of our working and voting rights. They built the co-operative and the Fairtrade movements, which combined the best of international idealism and local realism. Closer to home, they fought to protect the unique environment that is the heart, or rather the lung, of Newcastle.

Newcastle's town moor is justly famous-a vast expanse of open moorland, kept in common and grazed by herds of cows. In London, cows in the centre of the city are considered installation art. In Newcastle, our councillors debate the future of our city within spitting distance of cowpats, an arrangement that I recommend to the House as ensuring a grass-roots sense of perspective.

With this history and community, it is no wonder that I felt a huge sense of privilege growing up in Newcastle. Yes, we were a one-parent family on a poor working-class estate, North Kenton, but good local schools, great public services, great housing and the health service meant that I could fulfil my ambition of becoming an engineer. But just as I was deciding to enter engineering,
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the country was deciding to leave it behind. We were going to become a service economy. I believe in a strong service sector, but time has shown that an exclusive focus on services left our country weaker. Certainly, I had to spend much of my career abroad. Still, I saw first hand the devastation brought about by the loss of the great northern industries of mining, shipbuilding and steel-whole communities robbed of a purpose. Let us be clear, that loss was not just a north-east loss; it was the country's loss. Although we remain the sixth largest manufacturing economy in the world, building and making things is no longer a part of our culture. That has to change.

I know that I should not touch upon controversial subjects, which is why I am so glad that what I am going to say is entirely uncontroversial. During the election, all parties were in agreement that the economy needs to be rebalanced in favour of manufacturing. Newcastle, with our great universities, specialising in medicine, design and engineering, our industrial heritage and strategic assets, has an essential role to play. We can help the UK to meet two of the great challenges that face us-securing sustainable energy resources and supporting an ageing population. These sectors need to be part of the new economy. We need to build up our science and manufacturing base and foster the spirit of innovation that led George Stephenson to invent the steam engine and make his fortune.

I know from my own experience that building a business takes vision, courage, blood, sweat and tears. But manufacturing is particularly difficult. It needs long-term investment. I recently visited BAE Systems and Metalspinners, two engineering firms in my constituency. I saw 60-tonne pressing and cutting machines that cost millions of pounds and are expected to last for decades. We must continue to help these companies invest. They need a strong public sector. They need apprenticeships, good transport links, a strong regional development agency and tax allowances for manufacturing and innovation.

We are a small country and it is no longer our ships that set the boundaries of the world. But even as a small country, we can set the direction of the new industrial revolution if we equip ourselves to grasp those opportunities, and I will fight to make sure that the Government do just that. My career in Parliament will be dedicated to ensuring that Newcastle upon Tyne Central is an economically and culturally vibrant contributor to the UK and the world.

8.45 pm

Joseph Johnson (Orpington) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me this evening. The six hours that I have been waiting have truly passed in a flash, such has been the quality of previous maiden speakers, including just now the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah). I should particularly like to associate myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), who is sadly no longer in the Chamber, about the equalities agenda and gay rights.

At the outset, I should make a declaration, as we do a lot of that at the start of Parliaments. Anyone hoping that I will enliven proceedings in the manner of one of my elder brothers, the former Member for Henley, is likely to be disappointed. Private Eye, in the issue on
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newsstands at the moment, has helped me to set expectations appropriately low. It quotes an unnamed Oxford contemporary, in the first of a series that it is doing on new Members, and that friendly Oxford contemporary of mine says:

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