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Tourism is an essential ingredient of what we have to offer. Hotels and boarding houses boast that they have been popular with visitors since 1066-visitors, of course, have not always been so popular with them. We have fantastic beaches, wonderful countryside and arguably
the world's most remarkable heritage. We have flourishing language schools, visited by students from all over the world, and a community that welcomes them with open arms, not to mention open tills, because we need the business.
Like many towns, we suffer from the coastal problem of being at the end of the line. Looking at previous maiden speeches over the past 40 to 50 years, I see that there has been a recurring theme: transport. The A21 to Hastings needs renewing and improvement. Our survival and prosperity depend on access. There is no point having wonderful facilities if people cannot access them. It unquestionably puts off employers and tourists, both of whom we need, that it is so difficult to get to our part of the world. I am talking of a constituency where 43% of the work force are in the public sector. We are like an island. We know which way the tide is going; we need to attract the private sector to try to take up some of the unemployment. I fear that much of the money that has already been spent in my constituency will fail to improve the economy if we do not do something about that. For too long, we have been the underprivileged cousin of the south-east. Many of my constituents have suffered terribly from an economy that has simply left them behind.
I have two important considerations for my constituency of Hastings and Rye. The first is transport. I recognise the particular financial situation in which we find ourselves-there must be cuts; we have inherited a difficult legacy. However, I urge Government Front Benchers not to make them to vital infrastructure projects, on which everything else depends. In my constituency, they are a link road to open up the area to more jobs and more employers, improvements to the A21, and better rail transport. We must be accessible to prosper. Conservatives understand above all the importance of enterprise and encouraging private sector growth so that families and communities can grow on their own.
We have discussed the high-skilled economy, and I agree that we all need that for our country to advance. However, I would like to draw hon. Members' attention to a very old trade. In Hastings, we have the largest beach-launched fishing fleet in Europe. In Rye, we have an important port and fishing fleet. They have been treated shamefully in the past 15 years. In the 1990s, there were 44 fishing vessels leaving Hastings; now there are 20, and the fishermen eke out a precarious living. Those men earn their living in a traditional, honest and environmentally friendly way, battling with the sea and the dangers of the deep. However, the common fisheries policy, as enforced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has made their lives impossible. In 2005, there were prosecutions of those fishermen. The role of Government must be to help people, not put them out of business. Their way of life needs bailing out. Our Fisheries Minister understands the issue and the urgency and has visited Hastings twice, but we cannot wait for a full renegotiation of the common fisheries policy. We need change now, with the cod season approaching and difficulties ahead of us. We need a Government who protect our fisheries and our fishermen. I urge particular consideration of coastal towns.
The Government recognise the importance of promoting private sector growth. I hope that we can demonstrate
that in Hastings and Rye by supporting better transport links and securing a fairer deal for fishermen. All we ask is a fair wind and an even keel.
James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to address the House for the first time. It is a nerve-racking moment, made all the more so by following the excellent contributions from hon. Members throughout the debate, with constituencies ranging from Central Devon to Pendle, and Hastings and Rye to Rossendale and Darwen. I am therefore grateful for the courtesies that the House extends to new Members during their maiden speech. I promise not to detain the House too long.
Sitting in the House as Conservative Member for a constituency in the north-east of England makes me something of a rare specimen, thought almost extinct just over a decade ago, but I assure hon. Members that we are showing encouraging signs of life and energy once again.
I follow in the footsteps of Harold Macmillan and Tim Devlin, as well, of course, as my most recent predecessor, Dari Taylor. Ms Taylor represented Stockton, South for 13 years, during which time she worked hard for her party and gave energetic support to the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young.
All Stockton MPs follow in the footsteps of Joseph Dodds, the first Member of Parliament for the seat. He won it when it was first enfranchised in 1868. He built up one of the largest majorities in the country in the next 20 years, having won only narrowly when he was first elected. Unfortunately, towards the end of his career, there were what might be termed financial irregularities, and he had to resign his seat after being made bankrupt. However, that was reported rather more generously in the press of the time than might be the case today. I hope it will not be taken amiss, or as not in the spirit of the new politics, in which those of us on this side of the House are so energetically engaged, if I say that Joseph Dodds was, of course, a Liberal Member for Stockton-on-Tees.
It will be my aim over the coming years not only to represent the good people of Stockton South and its surrounding towns and villages, for whose support and confidence I am grateful, but to wave the flag for Teesside. My predecessor Tim Devlin said in this House 23 years ago:
"It persists in the minds of southern folk who think that we northerners all live in back-to-back houses and keep whippets."-[ Official Report, 4 November 1987; Vol. 121, c. 972.]
Although some progress has been made in addressing perceptions of the north, there is much still to do. I hope to play my part in ensuring that such perceptions are challenged and corrected. In my own constituency, we have vibrant towns such as Yarm and Eaglescliffe, which showcase the very best that this country has to offer. There are also things that must be done: Ingleby Barwick needs more school places, Thornaby's regeneration is not yet complete, and Stockton itself has a high street which, although not in my constituency, must be the focus of local efforts to secure real and lasting improvement.
The economy of the north-east of England is, and has for many years been, dependent on the public sector. I hope that over the coming years our private sector might take on a more significant role, and I trust
that the Government will make promoting and sustaining that private sector one of its key aims in these difficult times. By building on the skills that we in the north-east region have, with our manufacturing and engineering heritage, I believe that we can build a stronger economy, regionally and nationally, which will benefit many generations to come.
Teesside as a whole needs to re-establish its true identity. Half of my constituency has been in Yorkshire, half in Durham, all was once in Cleveland, and all was also once in Teesside, and now, confusingly, we are told that we are in the Tees valley, although I have yet to find the Tees valley on any standard highways map. In Stockton South we have Durham university and Teesside retail park, but we are served by Cleveland police and Tees Valley Unlimited, and we celebrate Yorkshire day. Should any hon. Members find that perplexing, I invite them to visit that wonderful part of the world, especially over the summer recess-I can assure Members on both sides of the House that even in the north-east, we do indeed have a summer. Of course, they could fly direct into Durham Tees Valley airport-or at least they could have done when we had a direct service, which is another issue I hope to address and be involved with over the coming years. Those of us who were born and raised in Stockton can occasionally be heard to joke that we do not have a county. That joke has worn thin over the years and I hope the new Government recognise the anomaly and work with myself and others to address the current confusion.
The people of Teesside are hard-working and industrious, and there are all the signs of real success and wealth, but all too often, as is the case in so many other places, they sit next to pockets of real deprivation and need. We must raise the sights of those who have looked down at the ground for too long, and realise the true potential hidden beneath the surface of the terrible jobless figures and levels of personal debt which, for far too many families, have become the norm. It is by training and education that that can be achieved. My part of the north-east has suffered more than most during the recent recession, with the mothballing of our local Corus plant at Redcar, and the recent announcement that Garlands, a previously highly successful local company, has gone into administration, so we must ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear from both sides of the House.
Our local entrepreneurs, such as Sir John Hall, Duncan Bannatyne and Steve Gibson, are key drivers for our economy, not just in the region but far beyond. We must support individuals like them, from the smallest new businesses to the largest and most successful of enterprises. I want the north-east to be known as a place where business can be done. We have the skills and the spirit; we just need the chance to prove what we can achieve.
Throughout history, the north has been a powerhouse driving this country forward. Since the days of the industrial revolution, Teesside has played its part-Sydney Harbour bridge was made from our steel, and our coal powered the engines of empire. My constituents have sent me here to tell that to the House, to speak out for a great place and to support the Government in their work to tackle many of the problems that we now face.
The people of the north-east will look to the Government and to their representatives in the House to ensure that the transition to a new economic model is successful,
and that jobs and livelihoods are protected. We want to grow, succeed and impress. I am confident that the new Government will listen to what the people of the north-east have to say, and I look forward to working to secure a bright future for its people.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your indulgence in calling me this afternoon, and in particular I want to thank the people of Stockton South for putting their confidence in me and sending me here to speak to you today and on however many other occasions I have the pleasure to address the House. It is a real pleasure to serve the constituency in which I live and in which I was brought up. I look forward to serving, and to working with Members on both sides of the House to ensure that the voice of the north-east is always heard here in Westminster and elsewhere.
Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con): It is kind of you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and generous of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), to allow me to speak. I know that the clock is against me, but I am no stranger to that. For many year, I worked in television so I am used to the ticking arm and the fierce direction of a floor manager and director who told me, in no uncertain terms, to shut up. I also worked as a criminal barrister for 16 years, so I am also used to someone firm in the chair telling me in even firmer terms to shut up, and on those occasions I never argued.
This is a great opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessors and to give a short explanation of the constituency that I have the honour and privilege to represent. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister knows the answer to the question that many ask about the exact location of Broxtowe. It does not exist on any map, but I urge all hon. Members to look at Nottingham on the internet. If they zoom in to the western side, they will see a stretch of land between the city and the border with Derbyshire. I urge those who travel up the M1 to come off at junction 25 or 26 and experience Broxtowe. It is a fine place, as my hon. Friend knows because his mother is one of my constituents. She lives in the village of Bramcote.
Many people would say, on visiting Broxtowe, that it is part of the urban sprawl, but last bank holiday I spent two days walking-I had sore feet afterwards-across the constituency to enjoy the green belt. In that time, I saw all the places that I am so very proud to represent, including Beeston in the south and more green areas around Greasley, Giltbrook and Kimberley in the north.
I wish to pay tribute to another place in my constituency and thereby pay tribute to my predecessors. It is a hamlet called Cossall, which lies in beautiful rolling pastures. It has a fine tradition of mining, and D. H. Lawrence's fiancée had the joy of living there, but an unfortunate legacy from the mining industry is the threat of open-cast mining. The first Member of Parliament to represent Broxtowe-it was created in 1983-was Sir Jim Lester, who was well known and much loved in this House. He was followed by my immediate predecessor, Nick Palmer. Both men have many attributes in common, and I hope to share those in the years to come. They were moderate and reasonable in their politics, they worked hard for the people they represented, and both
joined in opposing any plans for open-cast mining in that beautiful green land. I seek to emulate both in my time in this House.
During my time here, it will be an honour and privilege to represent the people of Broxtowe, as others have said about their constituencies. There are many new Members and we bring diverse experiences to the House, but we all hope to play a real part here. We will challenge and hold the Government to account, and we will ask questions whenever we can, but most of all we will represent our constituents. Many of us were selected many years ago and getting here has been a long journey, so we are well aware of the responsibilities that we all bear. We will take great joy and pleasure in representing our constituents and do our very best for them by bringing forward the causes that they all hold dear.
Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): Madam Deputy Speaker, may I welcome you to the Chair and wish you very well in your new role in the House? The House has been at its very best this afternoon, and I have enjoyed all the contributions, particularly the maiden speeches. The subject of education and skills always brings out the very best in Members. Indeed, for many of us, from whatever party represented in the House, it is the reason why we came into public life, and we have seen that today.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) on his contribution. He spoke warmly of his predecessor, Dr Starkey, who is remembered fondly on the Labour Benches, and of Milton Keynes' great heritage in higher education. I was pleased to visit the new university centre in Milton Keynes, and I hope that he continues to support it in its work to extend access and widen participation in that area. Of course, Labour Members are particularly fond of, and are keen to remember, the great Open university and the heritage of Jenny Lee and the Wilson era Labour Government.
We heard a fantastic and wonderful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), who I know was a very effective mayor of Liverpool during its year as capital of culture. He included many of the football references that we hear in the House. He obviously has big shoes to fill-many of us remember Peter Kilfoyle fondly-and I particularly enjoyed his reference to growing up on an estate. Those of us who grew up in very humble circumstances wish him well in his endeavours to remind the House that there are many people a long, long way from this Chamber.
We also heard an eloquent and articulate speech from the hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes). I hope that she will not be overwhelmed by liberalism, as she referenced in her speech. I am sorry that I was not in the Chamber to hear the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney), who made many football references, so I will look at them in Hansard tomorrow. He spoke warmly of his predecessor, who was well respected on the Labour Benches.
I know the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison) because she stood against me in Tottenham in 2000. She will remember that back then I looked a little more like
Denzel Washington, but 10 years later I look a lot more like Forest Whitaker. She has championed the Conservative cause in London. I wish her well in her seat, and it is good that she mentioned Battersea Dogs Home-an institution of which we in London are very fond.
The hon. Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) made me want to rush up to north-east Lancashire. I do not claim it is an area of the country I know well enough, but I thought he gave a very eloquent speech in which he reminded us of that city's manufacturing heritage.
The hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) also gave an eloquent speech. He was very kind about his predecessor and reminded us that we must continue to rediscover the importance of our industrial heritage-the Humber clearly played an important role in our history.
The hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) could have got a job with a tourism agency in speaking about his constituency. His effective speech reminded us not just of the industrial nature of so many of the areas that we represent, but of the importance of agriculture and the skills that we need to support agriculture in our economy.
Let me pay tribute to the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris), who made a warm and passionate speech. She placed a great emphasis on role models-an issue that I have also championed in the House-and again, the beauty of the area that she represents came across.
The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) also paid an eloquent tribute, not just to his constituency but, importantly, to our armed forces. Historically, they have always played an important role in this country, by providing so many men and women with skills who have not just served our armed forces, but gone on to serve the wider community once they left the armed services.
Like the hon. Member for Central Devon, the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) reminded us of the importance of seaside areas and the work that we must continue doing, particularly in the south-east, where there remain acute pockets of deprivation.
I was not surprised that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), being a barrister, managed to cram a lot into her speech in the time available. I look forward to her contributions in the Chamber over the years ahead.
Let me turn to the returning parliamentarians. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) for reminding us of the role of group training associations in extending apprenticeships and helping small businesses in particular to take part in our wider apprenticeship schemes.
My hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods) has tremendous expertise in higher education issues, but she also reminded us of the importance of the Leitch targets. I hope that when the Minister winds up we might hear something about whether the Government remain committed to those targets.
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