3.54 pm

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): Following the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), I must say that in my eyes it was new light from an old window to hear him want to escape the givens of history so readily. I would welcome that being applied in other directions.

Like other Members, the right hon. Gentleman rehearsed some of the strong and passionate arguments that he will bring to the debate that will take place on the back of the referendum, whenever it happens. I want to touch on some of those issues, but also to address the Bill and some of the questions about the quality of the referendum and what we will be afforded.

Hon. Members have made the point that compared with some of the debates on Fridays during the last Parliament, the Chamber looks very different. That is simply because many of us regarded the debates on the private Member’s Bill in the last Parliament as an exercise in which the ADHD wing of the Tory party was pleasuring itself, and we did not wish to spectate or to participate in that exercise. We are now in a different situation as the Bill comes from the Government, and other parties seem to have adjusted their view of the potential of a referendum. That done, we need to ensure that we do not simply rush into pre-emptively debating the referendum, but look at some of the issues in the Bill.

One of the questions is whether the franchise should be extended. I fully believe that the franchise for the referendum should be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds. I openly admit that I believe that 16 and 17-year-olds should have the vote in all elections anyway. In the past, I have tabled amendments to Northern Ireland legislation to give the Assembly that power in respect of its own elections and those for local government, and I have voted for such an earlier franchise here.

I heard the Foreign Secretary say that the question of votes for 16 and 17-year-olds was a decision “for another day”. From listening to what people are saying, we are talking about a referendum on a decision for future generations, so it is wrong simply to dismiss the issue as a matter for another day. As the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) said, nobody is pretending that the arguments for voting at 16 and 17 are the same as those for votes for women, but it is true that the arguments against doing so are invariably the same as those against votes for women—that people were immature, could not make decisions of their own and would derive decisions from others.

The Bill will alter the franchise for the referendum by extending it to peers. When we ask what is going to happen to votes for the young, we should know that four lords named Young and even one named Younger will get votes in the referendum. That is what the Government have done in response to the question about votes for young and younger people in this referendum: five people in the House of Lords will get a vote, but all the 16 and 17-year-olds are ignored.

I share the important concerns raised about purdah. Once people think that there has been any jiggery-pokery on the basic rules, that will create questions and cause

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consternation, some of which will be abused in a distorted and exaggerated way during the campaign to distract from the core arguments in the referendum. I therefore question why the Government have moved on purdah.

Similarly, on the questions about money, I again think it is important that the Government are not seen simply to be changing the rule in relation to this referendum, particularly given that there will be many questions about where a lot of it will be sourced.

There is also an issue about the wording—whether it should be a yes or no question, and whether it should be as advised by the Electoral Commission. I favour going the Electoral Commission way simply because of the experience in the Irish context, where a very powerful argument has continually been used in referendums: “If you don’t know, vote no.” That has been used time out of number in the context of Irish referendums, with people opposing the referendum creating all sorts of scares, arguments and detailed and technical confusions that nobody can quite settle. Not even the independent Referendum Commission can fully enlighten people about what is or is not involved. That makes it very easy for people to use the argument, “If you don’t know, vote no.”

Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): So far, it seems the scaremongering and the fear is on the yes side. Does the hon. Gentleman agree?

Mark Durkan: The hon. Gentleman may make that argument, but that is not how I see it. However, the point I am making is that we need to ensure that the Bill frames the referendum campaign in the right context, so that we are not subject to any allegations that the yes campaign has tilted or framed the thing in a particular way, or that the no campaign is resorting to scares. We all need to be free of those allegations.

Sir Gerald Howarth: The hon. Gentleman mentioned the view that the Electoral Commission has taken on what is the most neutral form of question. Does he agree that if that view is confirmed by the research that the Electoral Commission is undertaking between now and August, the Government would be well advised to change the question, because that would build confidence in the whole process?

Mark Durkan: I do believe that the Government would be well advised to change the question. We have seen this week that the Prime Minister is able to have a second take on some issues. Even when he feels that he is restating a position, it seems to be somewhat different. It might be a case of “EU turn if you want to,” with this Conservative leader. The Government should accede to the advice of the Electoral Commission.

When the referendum takes place, we need to recognise that there are many different issues for many different people. I represent a border constituency in Northern Ireland and the implications of the UK leaving the EU would be pretty fundamental, not just for my constituency but for the political institutions in Northern Ireland. The common experience of EU membership provided the very context in which there were changed British and Irish relations, which in turn provided the context for the peace process.

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It should be remembered that the institutions of the Good Friday agreement do not take as givens just the human rights provisions of the Human Rights Act and the European convention on human rights, but the common EU membership of the UK and Ireland. Even some of the cross-border institutions that were set up as a result of the Good Friday agreement directly address and reflect our common membership of the EU. Fundamental damage and change may be done when serious questions are raised about our commitment to human rights and to our membership of the EU. If we are facing a referendum, we will have to address those issues and carry forward the arguments responsibly.

We must recognise that people have more questions about the sovereignty of this Parliament than just where it stands vis-à-vis the European institutions. We heard that yesterday in the debate on the Scotland Bill. There are clear tensions and ambiguities around what the notion of parliamentary sovereignty means for this Parliament, and around the implications for devolved institutions and the rightful authority that they should have. Similarly, in terms of what comes out of any EU renegotiation, there will be tensions between this Parliament’s notion of its parliamentary sovereignty and what emerges in the new arrangements and treaty terms.

That is why, in my view, it would have been better to have had something like a constitutional convention before the referendum not only to address the longer-term democratic relations within the UK and create a new democratic charter between this Parliament and the other elected institutions in different parts of the UK, but to create a new democratic charter that clearly creates a delineation between this Parliament and the various EU institutions.

There is a danger that we will end up with a referendum campaign in which the yes side includes people who want to be both half in and half out, and a no side that is also confused because it includes some people who want to be totally out, as well as people who say that if we reject it, we can be half out and renegotiate in the way that Ireland did. The danger is that we will end up with a referendum that does not settle the question at all in the terms in which Members believe it will.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Given the number of Members who want to take part in this debate, we have to drop the time limit to six minutes. I call Mr Paul Scully.

4.3 pm

Paul Scully (Sutton and Cheam) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech as the new Member for Sutton and Cheam.

I have received a number of kind messages of congratulations over the last few weeks, two of which particularly caught my eye: one from Sir Neil Macfarlane, the esteemed former Sports Minister, and one from Lady Olga Maitland, both of whom are former Members for Sutton and Cheam. I was reminded of the long Conservative history in the seat. There has been a long 18-year hiatus, however. That break can be explained by

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a number of reasons, one of which is my predecessor, Paul Burstow, who built up a deserved reputation for working hard for his constituents. I know that no matter whether we agreed or disagreed, his heart was always in the place of his birth. Paul built up a reputation for experience and knowledge of social care and elderly people’s issues, and I hope that whatever he does in the future, that knowledge is not lost to the debate, because those are particularly pressing issues.

The Sutton Guardian reported a Department for Work and Pensions official last year describing Sutton as an “average place”. There are a number of reasons why that is just not so. We have some of the top-performing schools in the country; education in the borough is predicated on five selective schools, which all perform particularly well. We have a large number of parks, green spaces and street trees, which make us a truly green, leafy outer-London borough. Our pride in our local hospital and healthcare is way above average, and that is why my top priority is protecting local healthcare. I will always do right by our local hospital, St Helier hospital, in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake).

When I was walking around this place trying to familiarise myself with it, I found myself in the Members’ cloakroom and saw that, somewhat disappointingly, my coat hanger seemed to be the only one that did not have a pink ribbon from which to hang my sword. I do not know what you have heard about Sutton and Cheam, Madam Deputy Speaker, but crime is another thing that is not average. We actually have one of the lowest crime rates of any London borough, so I hope that puts your mind at rest that I can be trusted with pointy implements in and around the estate.

It gives me great pleasure, and is a real privilege, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and my right hon. Friends the Members for North Somerset (Dr Fox) and for Wokingham (John Redwood), who have spoken eloquently today and over a number of years about an issue that moved me from being interested in politics to being active in politics—an EU referendum. We have heard today that the European Union was not a major factor in the election campaign, but I would have to disagree. I believe that it became a major factor, mainly driven by the immigration debate. But for me, it is so much wider than that. It is about retaining sovereignty in this country. It is about accountability and transparency, and it is also about making sure that when we are breaking down barriers for the single market, we are not just replacing them with walls around our global trade and protectionism.

I have veered a little from the traditions of the maiden speech. I do not want to talk about history because I want to look forward. I do not want to talk about geography because for me it is not so much about representing the place of Sutton and Cheam as about representing the people of Sutton and Cheam. I am looking forward to representing them over the next five years. Last week I had a meeting and helped to secure 10 more parking places in Cheam. A couple of days ago we had an announcement that has helped us build a school in my preferred area, and today I am here helping to secure a European referendum for the people

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of Sutton and Cheam and this country. I am going to have to go some to top that next week—I am not sure I can.

As I said, this place is all about representing people, and the Bill is about trusting the people of the UK to determine their future in Europe. I am really looking forward to the next five years representing my neighbours, the people of Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park.

4.8 pm

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP): It is a pleasure to follow the excellent speech of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully). This is an opportunity for me to make my maiden speech, and I would like to congratulate my colleagues who have already spoken, who have set a very high standard.

My predecessor was Danny Alexander, who first took his seat in 2005, when my constituency in its current form as Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey was new. I know that he was very proud to represent this highland seat, and he did what he thought was best in delivering on his duties as an MP. I thank him for his hard work. No doubt there will be Members on the Government Benches who would wish to thank him for his work as Chief Secretary in the last Government.

My constituency is a diverse and wonderful place in which to live. In sport, leisure, tourism and business, my constituency has much to offer. It is the home of the Castle Stuart golf links, which will host the Scottish Open next year and has just announced a second course, to be constructed in conjunction with one of golfing’s greats, Mr Arnold Palmer. It will be his first course in Scotland. Beyond Castle Stuart lies Nairn, with its beautiful beaches, riverside walks and its own famous golf courses of Nairn and Nairn Dunbar.

South towards Aviemore we have the Cairngorms national park, the funicular railway, skiing and snow- boarding, as well as fantastic camping and hill walking. Of course, we also have one of the greatest visitor attractions of the world in beautiful Loch Ness. Legend has it that Saint Columba banished the beast to protect the people, and a similar task faces the 56 SNP MPs as we seek to banish the beast of austerity, although by no stretch of the imagination do I claim that we are as saintly.

Inverness is a city now home to the holders of the Scottish cup, the oldest football trophy in the world. Inverness Caledonian Thistle are to be congratulated on their win. The city attracts tourists from around the world and continues to be an inclusive and welcoming place for visitors and workers alike.

I want to make special mention of Grantown 250. The splendid old town of Grantown—a new town in its day—is 250 years old this week, and it will host a variety of events to mark the anniversary. Its history has many lessons for the present day. It was reported that James Grant appeared to have founded the town mainly to save his clansmen from the poverty that had overtaken so much of the highlands. It was said of his actions that

“Never, surely, was power so gently used, or protection so gratefully acknowledged.”

The need remains, 250 years later, to save people from poverty and protect them from an unjust use of power.

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That is why it is vital to provide a stronger voice for Scotland. We must deliver an understanding of our constituencies to this House. In my constituency, for example, some 70 communities have no one or two-bedroom social housing. We never needed to build them that small, but that means that the bedroom tax would have an inevitable, devastating effect on people who are at their most vulnerable and unable to protect themselves through no fault of their own. I commend the Scottish Government for finding the funding to offset that insidious tax, but that will not be made any easier by the cuts to the Scottish budget announced the other day. I intend to try to make some headway in relieving the highlands from the housing debt—the unfair burden that has been left on our people—which should be written off, as it has been for other constituencies around the country.

My constituency continues to attract visitors and businesses from around the world, but I am aware that more can be done to improve our connectivity. As with other rural areas in the UK, it is vital that we are prioritised for mobile and broadband coverage. The next time mobile operator licences are granted, and when 5G is sold for the many billions of pounds it will attract, priority must be written into the contracts to provide for rural areas in order to even the playing field.

This debate is on Europe, and my constituency is just like others in that it benefits from inward migration. In the highlands, we have suffered for too long a population drain, especially of our young people. A different policy on immigration is needed to address our needs. Our connections with Europe are vital, especially in my constituency. A referendum on EU membership should reflect what we were told by the Prime Minister about this family of nations and should respect the decision of the Scottish people on whether they wish to remain part of the European Union. Participation by 16 and 17-year-olds and EU nationals must be part of that decision.

Connectivity is another reason why I am pleased to have been made the Scottish National party spokesperson on Transport. I will go into that in more detail at a later date as I see I am running out of time. There are many challenges to come, but with the desire to be constructive and with a commitment to imagination and innovation that is driven by sheer hard work, I look forward to meeting those challenges. I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your attention and I also thank right hon. and hon. Members. This is likely to be the only time when I will ask you not to clap.

4.15 pm

Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): I rise to give the Government my wholehearted support.

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, and it is a joy to follow two new Members whose constituencies I know well. In the run-up to the 2010 election, I spent plenty of time in Sutton and Cheam and I listened very carefully to the maiden speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully). I particularly congratulate him on making his speech on the basis of light notes only. Like him, I know what it is to stand up and make a maiden speech when the time limit is short. I congratulate him on the grace and flexibility with which he made his speech.

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I remember my time in the RAF at Grantown-on-Spey very fondly, exhausting myself running around the beautiful constituency of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry). He made a noble and bold speech, and I congratulate him on coping with a shortened time limit. I am sure both Members will be steadfast defenders of their constituents. I wish them both very well indeed.

When the Foreign Secretary opened the debate my heart was lifted. I got a real sense, listening to his words, of the betrayal he felt that he had been sold a proposition other than the facts of the treaty at the time. As he explained, as an 18-year-old he had not read the details. All of us in this House can now read the details. If we read the Lisbon treaty, we will understand that the current circumstances do lead to ever-closer union and a single nation state.

This is a very happy day indeed. There are many subjects I care about extremely deeply, but the one thing that got me into politics was the treatment of the European Union constitution and, in due course, the Lisbon treaty. I am a sinner who has repented. I confess to the House that for many years I annoyed my wife most sincerely by being thoroughly in favour of European integration. What I realised with the handling of the EU constitution was that integration meant surrendering our democracy and I decided that I simply would not have it.

The House does not need me, in the time available, to rehearse that process, but the Lisbon treaty was a mess. I fondly recall the cover image of an issue of The Economist with the headline: “Just bury it: what to do with Europe’s Lisbon Treaty”. It has, rather appropriately, an arrow through the heart of what looks to be a sparrow with the EU flag on it. That is indeed what should have happened to the Lisbon treaty when the EU constitution was rejected. It was not appropriate to continue positively with the process of European integration against the democratic will of the people. This is where I have common cause with Opposition Members from the Scottish National party. We wish to see democratic self-determination peacefully at the ballot box. I wholeheartedly say that I am delighted we have this common cause.

Some disputes have been rather synthetic. It has been posited that those of us who are Eurosceptic are against international co-operation. Actually, I am for international co-operation. The question is: on what basis? Is it to be voluntary or is it to be compulsory, without adequate democratic control? There is then the question of nationalism. Of course, some Eurosceptics are ugly nationalists with an aggressive—militaristic even—nationalism which is wholly unhealthy and is to be resisted everywhere it is found. My critique of the European Union, however, is a classic liberal critique. I rather regret I have only two and a half minutes of my speech left.

The issue of equal treatment has been raised. In a constituency such as mine, one of the most pressing problems is that a large minority of my constituents have family outside the EU, whether in Kashmir and Pakistan, Sri Lanka or the Caribbean. They face fundamentally different migration circumstances compared with people from the European Union. I recently dealt with the case of a grandmother whose visit visa was rejected repeatedly. All the family wanted was for her to

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come from Pakistan to see the newborn baby and support the mother. The process of applying and reapplying for a visit visa was just causing more and more stress. It was, frankly, inhumane. Of course, if a grandmother wishes to visit from Spain, she can simply come.

I am for the free movement of people. I think it is a wonderful thing. All the great and liberal advantages of Europe are a wonderful thing, but surely most of us would accept that we cannot have open borders in relation to the welfare state. There must be some border controls. I would like to see a fair migration policy that applies equally to all. So as I have said, on co-operation, the critique of nationalism and equal treatment, some disagreements are rather synthetic.

We are reminded every day in this House during Prayers that we should keep in mind our duty to further the interests of all mankind. I will not pick up on the exact words, but in doing so we should remember that each and every one of us has a duty to promote peace and prosperity not only in the UK, but in Europe and the world. In doing so, we should oppose nationalism; we should proceed thoughtfully and with kindness to one another in this difficult time which will affect all our lives for a very long time.

I recently discovered a book by a very good trade economist called Razeen Sally. He described something called neo-liberal institutionalism, which is about the idea that we should impose liberalism from the top down rather than from the bottom up. I recommend his books and his work to the Government, because what we are suffering from, above all, is the imposition of a system of Government and a system of society to which people have not consented. The world has changed.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a fine speech. On the economy, is it not the case that one does not have to look any further than the eurozone itself to see what a complete and utter disaster—a basket case—putting everyone into one currency has been for the economy of freedom-loving peoples?

Mr Baker: My hon. Friend knows my view about money and banking, which is that we should have market-based moneys. That is one of the things that has gone profoundly wrong. He prompts me to say, however, that we are very clearly, across the world, in the midst of a profound crisis of political economy, and that is what we must wrestle and cope with. Some of the old, simplistic and unpleasant arguments of the past must be put to rest. We need to rediscover a true liberalism, one in which people are accepting of one another.

Sir William Cash: Does my hon. Friend also accept that the eurozone is a de facto entity, whereas the question before us in this referendum is about being part of the European Union? The eurozone is a basket case, but at the same time it is dominated by one country which causes a lot of distortion to the way in which it works.

Mr Baker: Indeed. It is important that there is a degree of flexibility in currency systems, and Alan Greenspan’s wonderful book on gold and economic freedom is something I commend to everybody.

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As the Minister knows, I have misgivings about some of the details in the Bill, which some of my colleagues have already fleshed out. But it is a happy occasion today, because our party is wholly united in supporting the principle of the Bill. It is long overdue. We are delighted that it has come forward and we look forward to its progress.

In due course the people will decide. On the one hand they have the choice of radicalism—political union across Europe. That is the radical choice. The moderate, conservative choice is trade and co-operation among friendly nation states. People in the end will choose either for the European Union, or for Britain.

4.23 pm

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is fantastic to see you in the Chair. This has been a brilliant debate with some absolutely superb maiden speeches, so I am delighted to be able to take part in it.

The EU has changed radically since Britain joined, when it amounted to a relationship between a small number of developed countries to promote trade through the creation of a common market. Today’s EU is very different from that: 28 member states with vastly different economies, Governments and social structures; ever-closer political and economic union, with the free movement of labour and a European currency; and other European countries wanting much closer relationships on foreign policy and defence. It has been a controversial question in British politics for decades, and Westminster has not been able to settle it to the public’s satisfaction. That is why I am delighted we are having this debate and very pleased that my party is backing this opportunity to let the British people have their say.

I have been saying for years that a referendum would be the best way to have a proper debate about the decisions that are taken in Brussels or in Britain, and about the jobs that depend on our membership of the EU, so that we can sort out those issues once and for all. But we can only settle the argument if it is carried out in a free, fair and balanced way, and if the public have complete confidence in the process. It is such a significant debate that everyone involved should have a chance to agree on the rules. There should not be any room for either side to say the contest was fixed or fiddled.

First, public funds should not be used to promote one side or the other and the spending rules should be designed to ensure that neither side has an unfair advantage. Secondly, this is such a significant decision that it should take place as soon as possible and be separate from any other election. It is a huge issue of great national importance and the issues need to be considered on their own merits, outside whatever other political issues are being debated in election campaigns at the time. Thirdly, the Prime Minister should have the confidence to give his Ministers the freedom to campaign as they see fit, as Harold Wilson did in 1975.

Mr Bone: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on taking a positive view of the referendum and on having done so in a party that has not always agreed with him. Does he agree, however, that his Front-Bench team should also have the right to debate on both sides of the argument?

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Ian Austin: Absolutely; without question.

I can see the benefits of our being part of the world’s biggest single market and free trade area—it has made a big difference to our economy, particularly in the west midlands, where the car industry is of huge importance—but I am worried about the impact of freedom of movement on low-paid jobs and the effect of high levels of immigration on public services.

Robert Flello: I am enjoying my hon. Friend’s good contribution. During the election campaign and over the past 10 years, my constituents have time and again raised with me their concerns about the levelling down of wages when somebody comes along from another European country and about employers, rather than embracing the opportunity to widen skills, using it as an opportunity to drive down wages.

Ian Austin: That has been one of the impacts of our membership, and I know that my hon. Friend’s constituents, like mine, will be very concerned about it.

I can see the benefits of membership, and I can see the costs. I think that Britain could survive outside—of course we could—but there would be massive risks, not least, as I said earlier, for the car industry. I think that that is where the majority of the British people are on this issue. Outside here, most people are not ideological or dogmatic; they are reasonable and pragmatic and hold mainstream views. They have a balanced view and can see the benefits and the cost on both sides of the argument.

The no campaign has to think carefully about how it presents a positive view. I do not think that the apocalyptic, doom-laden vision of Britain as a member of the EU that I have heard in speeches this afternoon will strike a chord with anybody out there. I suspect that if the yes campaign could pick a leader for the no campaign, they would choose Nigel Farage. He is clearly a good communicator and a charismatic leader—winning 4 million votes and coming third in the election was a huge achievement—but he is not regarded by most people as pragmatic or someone who holds balanced, mainstream views on Britain’s membership of the EU.

In 1975, the campaign to stay in was led by leading mainstream figures from both the major parties and the business community, and that had a huge impact. The campaign to come out was led by people on the extreme left of the Labour party and the extreme right of the Conservative party, and it was unable to show that it could speak for the reasonable, mainstream majority. I think that the British people want a clear analysis of all the issues so that they can make their decision once and for all, and that needs two mainstream, reasonable campaigns putting the respective arguments.

The debate about our relationship with the EU should start right now, not after the Prime Minister has completed his negotiations. We should be involving the British people in that debate directly and listening to their views. We live in an age when people want to be engaged and to know that politicians will listen and take their views into account. I would like Ministers to involve people in the debate by commissioning a body such as the National Centre for Social Research to construct a detailed survey to find out exactly what the British people think about the benefits and costs of our membership of Europe, looking in detail at the jobs that depend

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on it, the impact and benefits of immigration and the emerging questions of defence and foreign policy. Knowing what people think would strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in his negotiations. I am doing that over the summer in Dudley. I will be sending out a detailed but balanced survey to 30,000 households and inviting them to a dozen or so public meetings to discuss the issue, as we did last year on immigration.

I welcome this debate on our membership of the EU, but it has to be carried out properly. It has to be a fair debate that starts right now and involves all the British people. The truth is that people in places such as Dudley feel they have not had their say on the EU, and we should start this debate by listening to them. Let us use it to show there is a new way of doing politics, through a proper, serious debate and a real conversation. Let us use this debate to rebuild public trust in politics. I say to both sides: listen to and trust the people, and they will respond.

4.29 pm

Alan Mak (Havant) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech in this House. I am honoured to represent the people of Havant and I thank them for placing their trust in me. I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) and the other, excellent maiden speakers, who have set the bar high.

Like many hon. Members, I suspect I will be spending some of the coming weeks and months engaging with voters on the EU referendum, probably standing at the front of school halls and community centres. But it was my father who first inspired me into public service, because he was more used to standing at the back of all the rooms he was in. He had escaped communism and dictatorship to find freedom and opportunity here in Britain. He worked as a waiter and a bartender, standing at the back of restaurants. It was tough work, but it allowed him to save up and open a small shop up in Yorkshire with my mother. We lived above our shop, and much of my childhood was spent working in it. That journey from the back of the room to the front—from the shop floor to the Floor of this House—sums up the spirit of the opportunity society that my family and I have cherished, and which we must safeguard for future generations.

One man who shares that view is my predecessor, David Willetts, who represented Havant in this House for 23 years. David was an outstanding local MP, a distinguished Parliamentarian and a successful Minister who served his country and his constituency with distinction and honour. David was a practical and innovative thinker, and many of his ideas became Government policy. David understood that a strong economy is the driver of social mobility. Building a country where everyone has the chance to succeed, no matter what their starting point in life, will be the focus of my work in this House. As many hon. Members will know, David was affectionately nicknamed “Two Brains”. I want to manage the House’s expectations for the future, because although I have twice as much hair as David, I must confess I only have half his brains, but I hope to make up for it with my passion for Havant.

Although the modern Havant constituency is named after the ancient market town between Chichester and Portsmouth, today the seat is a microcosm of modern

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Britain—leafy suburbs, social housing, a rural island and a coastal town—and each part of my constituency values its own identity. Emsworth, for example, is a beautiful market town overlooking Chichester harbour that hosts an annual celebration of British produce. Emsworth also used to be famous for its oysters—until a banquet in 1902, that is, when some local councillors died from food poisoning after eating Emsworth oysters. I am sure that hon. Members would never want any councillors they know to suffer a similar fate. Further south, Hayling Island combines rural charm with a bustling visitor economy. Its beach has been awarded a blue flag for the last 24 years, and Hayling is a world-class centre for water sports and sailing. Bedhampton, Purbrook, Widley, Stakes, Warblington and Denvilles complete what is a wonderful constituency nestled between the south coast and the South Downs.

For centuries, Havant’s economy prospered on the back of parchment making, brewing and manufacturing, powered by our famous watermills and natural springs. In fact, local tradition says that Havant parchment was used for Magna Carta and the treaty of Versailles. In the modern era, Havant is now a world-class centre for high-quality engineering, science and technology. Multinationals such as Lockheed Martin, Colt, Pfizer and Kenwood all have substantial operations there, joining our many small businesses. The IBM factory that David Willets mentioned in his maiden speech has reopened as Langstone Technology Park, an outstanding example of economic regeneration and one of the crown jewels in our local economy. Whatever the British people decide in the coming referendum, which my party has enabled, we must maintain our status as an outward-looking nation, working with our partners in Europe, but also strengthening our ties with the exciting, fast-growing economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

I am also mindful that in today’s economy, every worker in Havant is facing competition, not just locally but globally. We must equip them with the skills to compete and win. Having benefited from an assisted place scholarship myself, I am confident that the Government’s academies and free schools programme will do just that. The transformation of Havant Academy shows exactly what can be achieved. Five years ago, it was literally a different school. Then called Staunton Community Sports College, it recorded England’s worst GSCE results, but by last summer it was England’s most improved school.

Havant Academy largely serves Leigh Park, one of Britain’s largest post-war housing estates. Some may ask me why my seat nevertheless returns such a large Conservative majority. I can tell them: Leigh Park is home to entrepreneurial tradesmen—some with white vans and England flags rightly and proudly displayed—small business owners, military veterans and hard-working families. They all want to get on in life, not just to get by. Most of them bought their council houses through right to buy, many work for local businesses and understand the importance of a strong economy, and they all care about their children's future. I am proud that they have turned to my party for a secure and prosperous future, and I am proud to represent them in the House.

My parents not only taught me how to serve people from all walks of life, but instilled in me an enduring faith in the enormous possibilities of our great nation,

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our great United Kingdom. For example, I am proud to be the first-ever Member of Parliament—in any party—of British-Chinese heritage. In many places, a seat in Parliament is open only to the rich and powerful, but we are all privileged to live in a country where anyone, even a family of modest shopkeepers, can stand tall and achieve their dreams. I hope that, through my work in the House, I can help everyone in Havant to achieve the same.

4.35 pm

Tom Elliott (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) (UUP): Let me begin my maiden speech by congratulating you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your election. I look forward to impartiality throughout the Chamber. I am also grateful to you for calling me to speak in the EU referendum debate. What an interesting debate it is in which to make a maiden speech, especially because it unites so many Members from different parties. By and large, it unites Members on either side of the political divide. I shall be interested to see what happens as the Bill proceeds, and how many members of each party support their leadership.

I pay tribute to the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, who took on a great challenge to elect me. The Fermanagh and South Tyrone voice has not been heard in this place for the last 14 years. I am grateful to the people who put their faith in me, and I know that they will want to be rewarded for that. I also want to record my thanks for the contribution of the previous Member of Parliament. Although she did not sit in this place, she went out of her way to campaign on mental health issues.

Some other quite flamboyant Members have preceded me, notably Ken—now Lord—Maginnis. He was quite reserved and backward about speaking; I am sure that people will remember that. [Laughter.] Over the past 65 years the constituency has changed from nationalist to Unionist, and vice versa, on no fewer than seven occasions, notching up some notable records on the way, such as what I understand to be the still unbeaten 93.4% turnout in 1951. I wonder whether there will be the same turnout for the European referendum when it comes about. In the 2010 election, not so far away, there was a majority of one: the seat was won by a single vote. I bet not many other constituencies can equal that.

Another former Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone was Frank Maguire. He did not normally turn up in this place, but, unusually, he did so on one occasion in order to abstain in person, and actually brought down the Government of the day. The Labour Government had expected him to vote for them, and to keep them in place.

Mine is a very interesting constituency, and I hope to be here for much longer than the short periods that became established some time ago. It is the most westerly constituency in the United Kingdom. Last weekend, in the constituency, I attended a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. What a privilege it was to remember the two great regiments that were raised in Enniskillen. It was a momentous occasion.

Coming from that area, I have a farming background. I make no apology for standing up for rural communities, because I think that they face a hugely difficult task. However, my constituency also has a strong engineering

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base, which stretches from Severfield, a United Kingdom-based company with a branch in Ballinamallard, County Fermanagh, to Dungannon, where there are a number of light engineering companies.

We also have a great tourist industry in Fermanagh. The lakes of Fermanagh are known far and wide, and I say to any Member who might not have visited Fermanagh to see the beauty of the lakes, “Shame on you, and I hope you’ll do that in the not too distant future.”

I want to put on record what we have been through over the past 45 years. Things have moved on; things have progressed in Northern Ireland, and we are happy about that. We would, however, like to see more progress, and I want to remind people that we in Fermanagh and South Tyrone have suffered some terrible atrocities. Three individual family members were murdered in three different incidents by the IRA. We had the Enniskillen bomb, which killed—murdered—11 people; I am sure we all remember that.

Those victims and their families have still not got justice, and I will want to remind the House on every occasion I can that they deserve justice, as do all the other families in Northern Ireland who deserve such justice. We need a new definition of a victim, because the definition we have is not appropriate. How can we equate the perpetrator of the serious crime of murder with the family of the person they murdered? That is not fair or right. We are debating the EU referendum, and at least the European definition of a victim is much better than that which we have in Northern Ireland, and I would like to see that implemented much further than it is.

I thank everyone who voted for me, and I thank those who did not, because they will get exactly the same service from me in the constituency.

4.41 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is also a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Tom Elliott), who made a very good, traditional maiden speech, but in addition touched on the important subject of justice for victims in Northern Ireland. If he speaks in that way in the House in future, he will be listened to on every occasion.

I also thank the other Members on both sides of the House who have made their maiden speeches, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully), and of course my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Alan Mak) who made such a powerful speech just a short while ago.

The EU referendum is now taken for granted. It appears that almost every Member will vote for it tonight if there is a Division. [Interruption.] Yes, of course, except for the principled Scottish Nationalists, who hopefully will divide the House so we can show what immense support there is for the European Union Referendum Bill.

Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP): I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect that the appetite for this referendum is not the same in all parts of these islands. At the recent general election there were parties who advocated a referendum and parties who advocated not having a referendum. Over 80% of the people in Scotland

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voted for parties that did not want a referendum, and according to most of the opinion polls the great majority of Scottish people are content to be Europeans and with their relationship with the EU. I presume the hon. Gentleman does not support the amendment, so what is going to happen—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order.

Tommy Sheppard: What is going to happen—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Please.

Tommy Sheppard rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman’s contribution is an intervention, not a speech. When the Chair is standing, you sit down. That is a very long intervention and we are very tight for time. Thank you. I call Peter Bone.

Mr Bone: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s intervention and he makes a fair point, but I do not think SNP Members are here in numbers because they oppose the EU referendum Bill. I think they might be here for other reasons. Also, as a democrat, I am sure the hon. Gentleman was pretty pleased about the referendum that happened in Scotland, although he might not have liked the way the Scottish people voted.

If I had stood up here three years ago and suggested this House was about to vote for an EU referendum Bill, I would have been laughed at. Every party was against it. The coalition Government were against it, the Labour party was against it; it was just never going to happen. That proves that this House and MPs can change things. The people were ahead of Parliament. They wanted their say on whether we should be in or out of the European Union. We have seen how Parliament slowly changed its position and how the excellent Minister for Europe, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), has been on the same journey—I am sure I shall be cheering his speech tonight, as I was booing it three years ago. People say that this House and MPs do not matter and that everything is done by Government and by people sitting on sofas in No. 10, but that is simply not true. Another party, the UK Independence party, might have been born out of this, but I do not think that that is what changed things—it was Members of this House.

I remember that, under your chairmanship, Madam Deputy Speaker, the Backbench Business Committee—the first time that Back Benchers could schedule business in this House—put on a debate about whether we should have a referendum. The Government tried to manipulate things and brought the debate forward from the Thursday for which it was originally scheduled to the Monday. MPs went home on Friday night and talked to their constituents, local members and party chairmen—they thought about the issue—and when we came back on the Monday, we had the debate and I had the great pleasure of winding it up. Yes, the vote was lost, but 80-odd Conservative MPs opposed the three-line Whip.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Let us not be too horrible to our colleagues who disagree with us or to the Labour party, which changed its mind. After all, those who arrive last at the vineyard are equally to be valued.

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Mr Bone: My hon. Friend is far too kind, as always, but I was not making a point about any individual Members. My point, to all Members sitting here, is that if we really care and campaign about something—as the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) has done consistently —we can get there in the end. We should never be scared to stand up and be in the minority, because after a while the minority often becomes the majority.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman welcome the fact that all UK nationals, including those in Gibraltar, will have a vote on this issue? We in Northern Ireland want to see it happen so that we, too, can make our choice. The only thing that I am a wee bit perturbed about is that we would prefer the referendum to be held earlier, rather than later. Does he agree that we should have it as soon as possible?

Mr Bone: This is a Second Reading debate, so I want to support the principle of what is happening and to celebrate the fact that we will have the in/out referendum. However, the hon. Gentleman raises an issue that slightly concerns me, which, it will be no surprise to learn, is the timetabling of the Bill’s Committee stage.

The Bill is a constitutional one so, rightly, the Committee stage will be held on the Floor of the House. Today, immediately after Second Reading, we will vote on the programme motion, which we are not allowed to debate at that point, although by tradition we may refer to it on Second Reading. My concern about the timetabling is that the Bill is scheduled to be in Committee in the House for two days, which will be Tuesday and Thursday of next week. The programme motion states that the first set of clauses will be debated for four hours after the commencement of the Bill in Committee. We know what happens, however, especially on a Thursday—there will be business questions after normal Question Time, and that is two hours used up. If there is then a statement and an Urgent Question, although we will have been able to debate the first group for four hours, we will have no time at all to discuss the last group.

Before we have the business statement on Thursday, will the Minister ask the business managers whether they can change the programme motion so that, instead of the debate on the second group of new clauses finishing at the moment of interruption, it can go on for as long as necessary? This is an important constitutional Bill, and we should not be in a position of having only about 10 minutes to debate certain new clauses. That happened too often in the old Parliament. If we could just remove from the programme motion those two little bits that would cause the Committee stage to fall at the moment of interruption, it would help the democratic process a lot. Many people have said today, whatever side of the argument they are on, that they want a fair and proper referendum. I absolutely agree with that, and if the House has the ability to consider properly what is going to be in the Bill and what is going to happen in the referendum, we will be all the better for it. This is the one point that I ask the Minister to look at.

4.50 pm

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): First of all, Madam Deputy Speaker, may I say what an absolute pleasure it is to see you in the Chair and to speak under your chairmanship this afternoon? The only note of sadness I would sound is that you are no longer with us on these Benches. Your company was always a delight.

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I am very pleased to be able to support the Bill. Indeed, I have campaigned in favour of a referendum on Europe for a long time. I speak as a former board member of People’s Pledge, the multi-party campaign for an EU referendum, and as a member of Labour for a Referendum. Both campaigns have succeeded, albeit a little late in the day in the case of the latter. Labour for a Referendum has included EU supporters—Europhiles—as well as sceptics like me. Recent voter analysis has concluded, sadly, that had we persuaded our Labour leaders to support a referendum earlier, we would have won an extra eight seats in the recent general election and prevented the Conservatives from having an overall majority. That would have made this Parliament rather different from the one that we shall have for the next five years, so it was a significant decision not to support a referendum before the election.

I am pleased that my party leadership has now had a change of heart and is supporting the referendum. A few years ago, a mini-referendum was held in my constituency on whether local people wished to be granted an EU referendum. There was a 2:1 vote in favour. The wishes of my constituents are now being reflected on both sides of the House, and I am pleased about that.

I have a track record on EU matters going back to the 1975 Common Market referendum, when I was chair of the Luton Vote No campaign and the Bedfordshire agent for the no vote. I have not changed my view since then. Perhaps that just demonstrates rigidity of mind, but I believe that events since then have strengthened my view that the European Union is not a sound organisation—certainly not for Britain. Interestingly, the Bedfordshire agent for the yes vote was the late Sir Trevor Skeet, then the Conservative MP for Bedford. When I met Sir Trevor a few years ago and reminded him of his previous position, he was horribly embarrassed because he had since become a strong Eurosceptic who would no longer have wished to vote yes.

In 1975, however, the Conservatives were overwhelmingly pro-Common Market while Labour had a majority against it. It has been suggested that the Eurosceptics were just a small number of extreme left-wingers, but I have to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) that we had a massive majority at the special conference on the Common Market that I attended in 1975. A great majority of Labour MPs were in favour of a no vote. It was not just a small group of left-wingers—I happen to be on the left myself—who took a Eurosceptic view; people on the right of the party did so as well.

Labour Eurosceptics have included many distinguished former Members of this House, including Hugh Gaitskell, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, Peter Shore and Tony Benn. Indeed, I last met Denis Healey in the late 1990s at a meeting that had been called to oppose Britain’s membership of the euro. I hope, therefore, that there will be no personal disparagement during the campaign on the referendum, and that the debate will focus on the arguments. I hope that those who take a critical view of the EU will not be abused, and that their arguments will be listened to. I have set out my own views in print, and I shall be writing and speaking on this matter much more in the coming months.

In simple terms, I believe that the EU is about economics, and the economics are failing. Low growth, mass unemployment and falling living standards—in swathes

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of the eurozone in particular—are evidence of the EU’s failure. But the overwhelming argument against our membership of the EU is about democracy. Democracy must mean elected national Parliaments making the final decision on how their people are governed and how they choose to be governed. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) referred to a dictatorship. It might not be a dictatorship, but it is certainly an authoritarian bureaucracy. We want our laws to be made following debate in this House, not by bureaucrats in Brussels. That is of fundamental importance.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): I support all the points that the hon. Gentleman is making. He mentions the importance of democratic decisions, so is he concerned about the increase in the spending limits for referendum expenditure in the Bill and the danger that that could undermine true democratic debate and put the decision in the hands of the big spenders?

Kelvin Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. Spending limits are crucial and I remember the vast amounts of Euroslush poured into Britain to win the yes vote. Every corner shop in my constituency had a steel noticeboard cemented into the pavement with pictures of Harold Wilson on it saying “Vote Yes.” That money did not come out of the pockets of ordinary people—well, it did indirectly—but it came though big business or from the European Union.

I have a final point to make, repeating what I suggested in business questions last Thursday. I suggested that all parties ought to have a free vote for all Members of this House on whether they accept the terms that come back from Brussels when the Prime Minister has finished his negotiating. I hope that my party will observe that and I hope that the Government will too. It was probably my fault that the row broke out over the weekend, because clearly some Conservative Members were rather taken with my suggestion that there should be a free vote for all Members. I shall be voting freely and I hope that my Whips will understand when the time comes. Harold Wilson wisely allowed a free vote on his renegotiated terms of membership of the Common Market before the referendum and I hope that all parties will follow that wise example so that we not only have a free debate in which we discuss the issues and do not abuse each other but are free to vote with our consciences, as we should be in this Parliament.

4.56 pm

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): It is a pleasure to be called to speak in this debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, for three reasons. First, I congratulate you on your rightful elevation to the Deputy Speakership. Secondly, I congratulate the makers of three excellent maiden speeches, my hon. Friends the Members for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) and for Havant (Alan Mak) and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Tom Elliott). They have certainly set the bar for quality high. Thirdly, it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins), who is not a Johnny-come-lately to the referendum campaign but has consistently been in favour of giving the people the vote and seems to be the only person who has spoken in this House today who voted no back in 1975.

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Who remembers the words of the failed UK Independence party candidate for South Thanet, Nigel Farage, in the run-up to the general election, when he constantly hoodwinked the British public with his grandstanding with lines such as

“it is infuriating how the Conservative Party can string the British public along and constantly make claims over holding an EU Referendum when it was clear from day one that it would never happen”?

Not only is the European Union Referendum Bill already under way within days of the state opening of this new Parliament, but the Prime Minister has hit the ground running and toured EU capitals to start the serious business of renegotiating our terms of membership and the whole future of the EU, and the main Opposition party has belatedly come round to our way of thinking. Barring an affront to the democratic will of the people, in the upper House there will be a referendum on our future membership of the European Union, with a straight in or out vote, before the end of 2017 at the latest.

The only broken promises and stringing along of the public came from UKIP. Indeed, the biggest threat to a meaningful referendum came from UKIP. If we had listened to its siren voice and held a referendum immediately, all the polls suggest that it would have resulted in a yes vote to stay in before we had achieved any reform. It would probably have brought the nightmare scenario of the UK staying in a reformed EU, so that when the PM went to summits in search of reform in the future he would be met with a frosty “Forget it, chum, you voted to stay in the club. Like it or lump it.”

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): My hon. Friend’s point reinforces why it will be so important that the facts are clearly laid before our constituents. Will he welcome the Church of England’s initiative to provide hustings so that our constituents can hear clearly and objectively both sides of the argument?

Tim Loughton: I absolutely welcome that, and I hope that one thing that will come out of this referendum is a full, frank and long debate engaging as many members of the electorate as possible, as was the case in Scotland, so that at last we can discuss the situation and familiarise ourselves with the facts.

Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that this should not be an in/out referendum but a referendum on whether we want further and closer political union or a common European market for all our goods and services?

Tim Loughton: The argument about an ever-closer union has been won. That movement is dead, certainly as far as this country is involved. It will be a question of whether we can make the EU work not just for the UK but for the sustainability of the whole EU, or whether we are better going it alone. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve genuine, lasting and sustainable reform of the EU, not just in our interests but in the interests of the whole EU.

Many of us believe that the EU in its current form is not working. It cannot survive in an increasingly globally competitive world. The status quo is just not sustainable. If one statistic tells that story, it is the fact that within

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five years the EU’s share of world GDP will be just 60% of the levels that we enjoyed back in 1990. We are shrinking while the rest of the world gets bigger, and we are not getting a slice of that cake.

Some of us have waited a long time for this moment. Many constituency Fridays were brutally sacrificed in vain in support of the valiant efforts of my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton South (James Wharton) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill). I am co-chair of the Fresh Start group, which was set up with the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) and for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom). We have produced with Open Europe detailed work on the amount of change that it is possible to achieve. We have had scores of meetings with European Ministers and Members of Parliament from across EU countries. One thing that we need to appreciate is that the 28 members of the EU all have their own reasons for wanting to be part of the EU.

Finland shares a 1,500 km border with Russia. Poland and the Czech Republic talk about the relationship with Russia. They want a bulwark against Russia, which is why the EU is so important to them. Other countries want the agricultural and trading links. The reasons are all different, and we have gone wrong in the past by assuming that all countries have one reason for becoming and staying members of Europe. The scenario has completely changed. We have a clear and present prospect of a referendum by 2017, in which the British people could vote, if they choose, to leave the EU. The dynamics of EU reform have changed drastically.

Inevitably, this debate is less about the Bill itself—goodness knows, its progenitors were scrutinised exhaustively in this place. I support the detail of the Bill. I do not support extending the franchise in the actual vote, which has become a recent talking point. The main issue will be how the next months and years pan out up to the referendum, and how its passing will change the dynamics of the debate in Europe.

Neil Gray (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Tim Loughton: I will not, because I have given way twice.

I have a few words of advice for the Prime Minister. We have made a great start. Go for maximum reform. Take it to the wire all the way to 2017. It will be a long, hard slog. He will find many detractors along the way and also many allies, but the major players in Europe who will shape its future—like Germany—desperately need the UK to be part of it, shaping it along with them. We will achieve some things that we want, and other things that we had not expected. That is how negotiation works, and we will inevitably have to compromise. As the Finnish Prime Minister said:

“The EU without Britain is pretty much the same as fish without chips. It’s not a meal any more.”

This is not just about a better deal for the United Kingdom, important though that is. It is about a sustainable future for the whole of the EU. There are encouraging signs already. The “ever-closer union” mantra of Monnet is dead. The French Economy Minister said this month that it was time to accept the idea of a two-speed

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Europe. The Prime Minister’s notion that we need the flexibility of a network, not the rigidity of a bloc, is gaining traction.

We need to remember why we joined the EEC in the first place and in particular the advantages of the single market that so attracted Mrs Thatcher, despite the warnings from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). Yet the single market is far from complete, especially in services. Services account for 71% of the EU GDP, yet only 22% of this is from intra-EU trade; there are still some 800 professions in Europe that are subject to country regulation; and only 11% of internet shopping across Europe is cross-border. There is still lots to do, yet we seem to spend too much time sitting around the table in Brussels, working out ways of making regulations more complicated for our businesses and citizens, rather than looking beyond Europe to see how, working together, we can secure a larger slice of the global economy for all 28 members, for our mutual benefit.

I could talk about a shopping list of what we want, but now is not the time to do so. Now is not the time to hamper the Prime Minister’s negotiation with emotional and artificial red lines. Now is the time to pass a Bill that will trigger a referendum, which will change the mindset of our EU partners to achieve sustainable reform for the whole of Europe. The Prime Minister’s every waking conversation, discussion, breakfast, lunch and dinner with EU leaders must focus on getting the best possible reform package for us and our European partners. This Bill, at last, is an essential part of achieving that and some sort of cross-channel state of nirvana.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Before I call the next speaker, could I make a plea to Members to keep speeches as short as possible and interventions to an absolute minimum? We are really squeezed for time and I would like to get as many speakers in as possible. With that in mind, I call Mark Hendrick.

5.5 pm

Mr Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): May I start by congratulating you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on taking the Chair? It is well deserved. May I also congratulate those new Members who have made their maiden speeches today? They have caused many of us to cast our minds back to our own maiden speeches.

I rise as a Member of the Labour party, which did not want a referendum. I did not think that a referendum was necessary, and it is my view that we are better off in the European Union, with its current faults, if there are any. Indeed, whatever future circumstances arise, I think it is inconceivable that the UK could leave the European Union. I am happy with the status quo.

The reality, however, is that we lost the general election, there is now a Conservative majority and a referendum will go ahead, whether we like it or not. This is not, therefore, a policy change that has been brought about because we have suddenly had a change of mind, but a recognition of reality: there is going to be a referendum, whether we like it or not, so the best thing we can do is take part in it and do our best to ensure that Great Britain, or the UK, stays in the European Union.

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The reason for the referendum has nothing to do with the high-minded argument that, “It’s about time we had a decision.” Some of the speeches made by Government Members have been beyond credibility. They seem to be suffering from collective amnesia and to have forgotten that the Prime Minister was dragged kicking and screaming into having a referendum because many of his own Back Benchers were talking about making a pact with the UK Independence party so that UKIP candidates did not stand against Conservative candidates. Some of those Back Benchers—one of them is here today—chose to jump ship and join UKIP, and the Prime Minister was scared to death of seeing his own party falling apart before his very eyes. No Government Member has mentioned that simple fact.

The reason we are here today has more to do with holding together the Conservative party in the run-up to the last general election, and the next two years will also be spent trying to hold it together, to the detriment of all the other issues of state that this Government should be dealing with. That puts today’s debate about the referendum in context.

Mr Carswell: Does the hon. Gentleman imagine that his party may have done better had it actually allowed voters the choice that other parties gave them?

Mr Hendrick: I think we may have done slightly better, but I do not think it would have greatly affected the measure of our defeat—let me put it that way.

Conservatives for Britain, which now has up to 60 members, neglects Britain’s interests in remaining in the European Union. Our place in Europe is about Britain being an outward-looking nation that sees the way in which the world is developing and that recognises globalisation and the opportunity offered by the 21st century and the modern economy. It is not an inward-looking Britain, which is what is suggested when some Members hark back to the days when we had an empire and then a commonwealth. Some Government Members give the impression that they still wish we had that empire, and some do not seem to have realised that the second world war is over and that the Germans are no longer the enemy. In my constituency, for example, we are working with the Germans to build military aircraft to fight other possible future foes. I come from a constituency that spent 100 years building aircraft to fight Germany, but now we build aircraft with the Germans to fight potential enemies elsewhere.

What is happening in the world is that nations are coming together and deciding that it is better to work as closely together as possible. Britain is not the little but extremely powerful nation it once was; it is a less powerful nation working with a much more powerful bloc of European countries—now 28 countries, with more than 500 million people—that can now take on, economically and politically, the likes of the United States and can start to compete with massive developing nations, such as China, India, Russia and Brazil. This is a new world for the 21st century. For Conservative Members still looking back at the loss of empire and our past relationship with European countries, we are a world away from that. They should sit down and think about that.

I have no problem whatever with ever-closer union. The more we can do to enhance our effectiveness through working with European partners on legislation that

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affects all of us, the better. People say that we could manage on our own, but we would not manage as well. People say that the European Union is not as strong as it was in the past and has a lesser share of trade. Perhaps it has, but it still has far more trade, business and clout than we ever had in the past or ever will have on our own. We must look at superpowers such as the United States and China, as well as the emerging powers I have mentioned.

I genuinely believe that the referendum will be won by the yes camp. By our staying within the European Union, we will see a Europe emerging that is not a united states of Europe, but a unique Europe that will ensure Britain has stability, a voice and a bright economic future and that Britain counts on the world stage in the way it will not if we leave. This debate is a very historic occasion: we will soon have a referendum on our future. I look forward to the debates during the referendum, even though I did not think that it would be necessary and I think it is a shame to spend two years fighting on an issue that I see as a no-brainer.

5.12 pm

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. I congratulate you on your election. I also congratulate all hon. Members from both sides of the Chamber who have made their maiden speeches during today’s debate.

I, too, welcome the fact that this new Conservative Government have wasted no time in introducing the Bill. That will have immediately quashed the fears of the people of this country who thought the Conservatives were saying they would give them a say on our membership of the European Union simply to gain votes in the general election.

Some Members from the last Parliament will recall that I moved a motion to provide for the holding of a referendum with an out option in October 2011. Back then, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers were all opposed to the idea. There was a three-line Whip against the proposal; nevertheless, 81 Conservative colleagues supported the motion that day. Today, after the promise of a referendum in the Conservatives’ election manifesto and its inclusion in the first Queen’s Speech in this Parliament, I am pleased that the Bill is having its Second Reading.

Alex Salmond: Does the hon. Gentleman really think that the huge issue of the future of this country in Europe should be entrusted to members of a political party who cannot even organise themselves to doughnut the right speaker?

Mr Nuttall: That is a very interesting point, but my hon. Friends would have difficulty getting behind me here; as the right hon. Gentleman might have noticed, there is a wall. I did think about sitting on the Front Bench, but I always like to speak from this seat on the Back Bench, as he would have known if he had been here in the last Parliament.

It is 40 years since the people of this country last had their say on this issue. Back then, the question was whether or not the United Kingdom should remain part of the Common Market—the European Economic Community. Since then, the nature of the organisation has changed

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beyond all recognition. The European Economic Community became the European Community and the “Economic” bit was quietly dropped. Then, the European Community changed its name to the European Union. It had its own elected Parliament, its own flag, its own anthem, its own currency, its own courts structure and its own foreign offices. One does not have to be a constitutional expert to realise what is going on: this organisation is turning itself into a united states of Europe—a single European superstate.

I believe that this country would not simply survive, but thrive, outside the European Union. We hear a lot about how important it is that this House reflects the country outside, but on this issue the House does not reflect what is going on outside. The proportion of Members of this House who believe, as I do, that we would be better off out of the European Union in no way reflects the millions of people outside this House who hold that belief.

I realise that the Bill is not about the merits of our membership of the European Union, but about setting up the mechanism to hold the referendum. It is essential that the British public accept and believe that the referendum is being held on a level playing field. There are a number of issues in the Bill about which they will rightly have concerns. First, there is the date on which the referendum is to be held. It is vital that it is held separately from any other form of election.

Perhaps the most contentious point is the precise wording of the question. I have never understood why the Government regard it as essential that we have a question that elicits a yes or no response. When the Electoral Commission looked at the private Member’s Bill on this issue in the last Parliament, it decided that the most neutral question was,

“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”,

with the answers being either

“Remain a member of the European Union”


“Leave the European Union”.

I believe that that would be a much clearer question.

I do not think that changing the franchise to include 16 and 17-year-olds just in this Bill would be the right way to proceed. The franchise should be based on the general election franchise. On the issue of purdah, it is essential that the Government, the EU itself and, crucially, EU-funded organisations are precluded from making any statements or from campaigning in the weeks in the run-up to the referendum.

I am delighted that my constituents in Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington are finally getting their say on this crucial issue, which will determine whether our country has a future as an independent, sovereign nation or merely as a region of a European superstate.

5.19 pm

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): May I congratulate all the new Members who have made their maiden speeches today or are about to do so? There has been no more important debate so far in this Parliament in which to do so.

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I chair the all-party British-German group here at Westminster, and on the morning after a difficult, disappointing election for Labour the German ambassador was kind enough to call me to congratulate me on retaining my seat in Newcastle-under-Lyme. During that call, I said that I feared the first casualty of the election result, policy-wise, would be our stance on the European Union referendum. I regret that it has been, but I understand the politics behind it.

I still think, however, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) showed great courage in not joining the chase for an in/out referendum on the EU. Like him and the very experienced right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), I think it is a reckless gamble with our country’s future and its place in the world, hastily conceived by the Prime Minister to throw red meat to the anti-Europeans in his party. They, of course, have just wolfed it up, snarled for more and will never be sated until Britain leaves. The referendum will clearly happen now, and despite Labour’s change of stance, I am glad that we will make the same argument that we made in 1975—that membership of the EU is in the best economic interests of our country’s trade, jobs and investment.

For many of us, membership cannot simply be reduced to statistics without regard to the history of war after war in Europe before 1945 and peace through dialogue, co-operation and more unity since. In my late teens and early 20s, I worked closely with the German War Graves Commission, organising camps for young people from across Europe and tending war cemeteries in Berlin during the time of the Wall, when reconciliation in Europe simply could not be taken for granted. The original connection came through the German war cemetery in Staffordshire, at Cannock Chase, which stands next to our Commonwealth war memorial.

My father was an immigrant, who came from Ireland in the 1950s, and his decent, generous employer, Hubert Steiner, was a former Luftwaffe pilot who had been shot down and interned at Cannock. He fell in love with a local girl through the wire, stayed after the war and built a great local contracting and engineering business.

Working in Berlin between school and university, one of my great joys was playing chess with a colleague, Willi Lotz, who was then in his 60s. Willi could only do light shop work, because his withered arm had been shot to pieces on the Russian front in a battle that had claimed the lives of all his company. In 1961, months before the wall, Willi and his wife left the east for the west, going to West Germany. Now a united Germany plays the fullest part in the European Union, remembers its history and needs Britain as an ally now and in the future.

Later on, when I joined Reuters as a journalist in 1990, the civil war in the former Yugoslavia was about to erupt. I cannot help but think now that if Croatia, Serbia and the other republics were to join Slovenia in dialogue and co-operation with the EU, such a conflagration simply would not happen again. For the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—joining the EU in 2004, as much as joining NATO, was an expression of their desire to be part of a union that guaranteed peace in our time and in the future. Like it or not, Britain plays a vital role in the European Union, and it would be simply unforgiveable to our country, and all our European neighbours, if we withdrew.

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Turning to the economics, in my area we have Siemens in Congleton, Bentley, owned by Volkswagen, in Crewe, and Toyota in Derby. All those companies believe that it would be bad for investment, jobs and Britain if we withdrew. Indeed, as soon as the Prime Minister announced the intended referendum, one of our local companies put on hold an £80 million, 10-year investment because the political risk was simply too great.

In the Potteries, we have regular meetings with the local ceramics industry, at which there are endless discussions about EU carbon and environmental regulations. It is frustrating fighting our corner in Brussels, but the thought never seriously occurs that if we simply break away, we can be free of the burdens of the rules while being able to trade in a single market without any tariffs.

Our biggest local employer in the Potteries is now bet365, which owns Stoke City. It does not want 28 different sets of gaming regulations in 28 countries—that would be bad for business. It wants us to remain in the EU, arguing from the inside and leading by example to extend the single market in the future. That will be good for business and good for Britain.

I was elected chair of the British-Norwegian group this week. Norway, for its own reasons—fish and oil—has decided to remain outside the EU, but that is in name only. To access the single market, Norway complies with its provisions and contributes to its funds, but—unlike Britain—it has no say at the negotiating table or in decision making. Becoming a Norway or a Switzerland would not be a panacea or an answer if Britain were to leave the EU but wished to retain the benefits of a single market.

To conclude, I turn back to an event at the German embassy a couple of years ago. An animated discussion about our place in the EU took place, including the Indian High Commissioner and the Chinese chargé d’affaires. Neither of the representatives of those huge and growing countries and markets could fathom why Britain would want to leave a market of 500 million people and strike out on its own in the world today. We would have no clout and no place, unlike our combined European neighbours, at their negotiating tables. I hope all parties will join a coalition of common sense in this campaign for an emphatic yes when the referendum is held.

5.25 pm

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): It is a delight to follow the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) to give a slightly more positive view on how we can trust those who send us to this House to make the right decision on our nation’s future. It is an honour to make my maiden speech in a debate on what will be the most vital issue of the next five years—Britain’s place in Europe and in the European Union. The decision to be made in the referendum will decide what Britain’s place should be, not just for the next Parliament but for a whole generation.

It is right that at the start I pay tribute to my predecessor in Torbay, Adrian Sanders. Over 18 years of hard work in this House, Adrian ensured that Torbay’s view was heard, and his work on issues such as diabetes and animal welfare commanded my immense respect. It is also appropriate that I make my maiden speech on this issue, as Adrian was the only Liberal Democrat to vote for a referendum in the famous rebellion of some four years ago.

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My constituency is made up of Torbay and Paignton, two of the most beautiful towns in the whole of England. We are famous for Basil Fawlty—played by a comedian who does still support the yellows—and as one of the best places to retire in the whole country.

Today’s debate is on an issue that is so important to many people across the bay—securing a referendum. When people heard that I had applied to speak today, some of them asked whether I would vote yes or no, but today is not really about that. Today is about why it is so important that millions of people—not 650 Members of Parliament—decide the issue. It has been 40 years since the last time people had a direct say. We have heard lots of talk about how old people were then, but I was minus three when voters, including both my parents, took that decision for me.

It is always said that the British constitution is based on conventions. It is right to say that in the 21st century we now have a strong convention that certain changes—such as the voting system for the House of Commons, changes to the monarchy or radical changes to the other place—should have the direct consent of those who would be governed by them. We saw that in Scotland, where the Union is no longer based on the treaty of 300 years ago, but on what has been described as the sovereign will of the Scottish people. I am pleased to see the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) in his place, as I know that he was concerned that I was being unnecessarily squashed on these Benches a few moments ago—[Laughter.]

Looking at the Scottish referendum last year gives me a real excitement about what will happen with this referendum. We saw people who have never really been very interested in politics getting involved. The classic moment was in the early hours of the morning as the results were being announced, when someone asked, “Why has there been a low turnout of 75% in Glasgow?” One of the other pundits replied, “The very fact we have just described a 75% turnout as low shows what this referendum has managed to do.” I hope that we have the same positive debate across the whole UK as we saw last year north of the border.

The Bill contains a key principle: it is about one person, one vote. We are members as the UK and we should therefore vote as the UK. Others think that a new nation should perhaps join as a new member. I am clear that it was the UK that joined, based on the parliamentary franchise exercised in 1970, and therefore it is right that the parliamentary franchise should be used to decide the issue now. One thing we cannot have is a pick-and-mix approach. It would be somewhat bizarre if we had a referendum on one Thursday in which some voters could take part and a local by-election a week later with a different age limit.

On the role of public bodies, it is absolutely right that councils and others should promote the referendum. It is absolutely right that they should make the public aware of their vote—how to get a postal vote, how to have a proxy and what choice the country faces—but it is also right that it is left to the campaigns to persuade voters on what the answer to that question should be. There should, and perhaps will, be time for a proper debate on the franchise. The debate on the referendum Bill is not that time.

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I am pleased that in my maiden speech I am talking about giving millions of people the chance to have their say on an issue that will define the future. Many businesses in Torbay trade across Europe. There are many debates that people will want to have. Some in the tourism industry will probably favour the yes campaign; others will favour the no campaign. The key is that it will not just be me, as their Member of Parliament, voting on the decision; it will be every one of them who sent me to this place.

Last year, I lost someone who played a key role in supporting and encouraging me to reach my goal of being elected to this House. The adverts say that a majority of people now survive cancer. My mother Linda did not. My mum said that in life success was not always guaranteed. Things would sometimes get in your way, but the key was to always do your best. That is what I intend to do as a Member of this House.

5.31 pm

Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab): Like all of my newly elected colleagues of all political persuasions from right across the green Benches, I am incredibly proud to be making my maiden speech here today in this historic Chamber. It is a privilege to have been chosen by the people of Halifax to represent them, to fight for them and, wherever possible, to protect them. Halifax has a proud history of sending tough Labour women from our town to represent us in Westminster. My predecessors worked hard, stood their ground and delivered for Halifax. This is a tradition that I very much intend to continue.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, Linda Riordan. She dedicated herself to the people of Halifax, representing them first in local government before going on to champion our town and its people here in Westminster. She was a fierce advocate of workers’ rights, and offered vital help and support to hundreds of people in Halifax. I wish her all the very best for her retirement.

Halifax has a lot to offer, with a rich industrial heritage. One could say that we have successfully upcycled a number of our mills into new business units, supporting both established and start-up companies alike. There are thriving communities boasting restaurants, cafes, art galleries and enterprise at both the Elsa Whiteley Innovation centre and Dean Clough Mills. We have the National Children’s Museum, Eureka!, which has welcomed more than 6.5 million people through its doors since opening 23 years ago. I still remember Prince Charles making the trip to Halifax to mark its opening. I joined my mum and my younger brother, who was just four at the time, to go to see the prince drive past the bottom of our street on his way to Eureka! As the motorcade drove past and my mum told us both to wave at the prince, my brother instead waved at the police escorts, telling my mum, “I didn’t know Prince Charles would be coming to Halifax on a police motorbike.”

We also have the Piece Hall, which has served as a trading hub in Halifax for more than 230 years. It is currently undergoing a multimillion pound transformation and will once again attract investment and support jobs, just as it did all those years ago for those looking to buy and sell pieces of cloth—hence its name.

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Halifax is a great place to live and work. Of course, many Members on the Government Front Bench do not need me to tell them about the charm of my hometown, as they all spent a great deal of time there during the general election campaign. It was rumoured to be the only seat nationally that the Conservatives were campaigning to take from Labour. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those right hon. Members for pledging to fix almost every problem that Halifax has ever had. We were promised the electrification of the Calder Valley line and an enterprise zone. Most importantly, the Prime Minister himself pledged that the accident and emergency department at Calderdale Royal would not close.

Despite the best efforts of hard-working and dedicated staff, the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, which oversees both Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal hospital, is facing a budget deficit of £1.6 million for the year 2014-15, partially due to a £4.4 million restructuring bill and an increase in agency staff. The trust runs an A&E department at each hospital, and best practice guidelines suggest that it needs 20 consultants, 10 for each department. The trust is currently coping with just 10 to serve across both departments, and in March last year it was down to just seven. We are now moving towards consultation on the possible downgrade or even closure of the A&E department at Calderdale Royal hospital, meaning that residents right across Halifax and the Calder valley could face a trip to Huddersfield for their emergency healthcare provision. The Prime Minister’s promise to save A&E has been a great relief to all those served by Calderdale Royal, and voters in my constituency have put the Prime Minister’s word in the bank. I will be asking him at every opportunity just how and when he will be making good on that promise.

I also take this opportunity to echo the sentiments in the maiden speeches of a number of hon. Friends, but in particular in that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer)—that we as British citizens have a long and proud history of establishing and promoting human rights both here and around the world. From the Magna Carta to the European convention, human rights have never been something that happen to us or are forced upon us. The origins of human rights in their current manifestation are entwined with our recent history. Having witnessed the brutal possibilities and reach of injustice, we have always sought to take the lead on human rights both here and around the world. Our very own Sir Winston Churchill is often credited with the original idea of the European convention in the aftermath of the second world war; British judges represent us in the European Court; and even the iconic building itself was designed by a British architect, Lord Richard Rogers.

We have been instrumental in the establishment and promotion of modern human rights, but, as we look to the rest of the world, as we take a stand against the atrocities committed by ISIL, as we speak up for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar, when we strive to lead the world in bringing about an end to the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, and call for an end to human rights violations in Kashmir and in Palestine, is our credibility not undermined when we are taking a backward step on human rights here on our own shores?

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With that in mind, many of my constituents are growing increasingly concerned about our role in the international community, in relation not only to human rights but to our membership of the European Union.

After graduating from university, I spent four years working for a dynamic and growing SME called Matrix Technology Solutions in my constituency. We traded right across the world, but it was no coincidence that our biggest trading partners were within the single market. Anyone who has argued that we will simply continue to trade with the rest of the world if we leave the European Union has not struggled as I have to sell products to some of the emerging economies which, for example, have import duties of anything up to 35% on certain products.

I hope to serve my family, my constituents and my party well in my next five years.

5.37 pm

Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) (Con): I am sure Members will be unsurprised that I have stayed for the whole day of debate on a topic that is of great interest to me. Indeed, it is the topic that brought to the fore my interest in politics some 24 years ago.

It is 40 years since this nation has had a decision of any type made by the people of this country—by their hand alone—about where the European Union is going. I give great credit to the Foreign Secretary for his very wise words this morning and for his great preamble to this debate. He really had the heart that I have in some of the concerns he raised. I also pay tribute to the shadow Foreign Secretary, because he argued his case equally well, albeit from a completely different viewpoint. Indeed, I wonder how Labour Members will vote later and as this debate develops.

We have heard this afternoon from some very good right hon. and hon. Members about the pros and cons of various aspects of the European Union, and I do not suppose I need to expand on too many of them. However, when we compare what we have today with the 1975 settlement and the agreement that the British people gave to what was then the EEC, and we look at its move through the Single European Act, the Maastricht treaty, to the treaties of Amsterdam and of Lisbon, we find that we have a very different beast. It is only right that the issue is put to a referendum of the British people, so for me this is a day of great joy. It is, perhaps, the end of a journey; but it is also the start of a brand-new one.

I suggest to Members on both sides of the House, but to more on the Opposition Benches, I think, that when they say they would stay in the European Union no matter what, which we hear a lot, they ought to consider where we were those 40 years ago compared with where we are today. If we cast our minds forward 40 years, we can imagine there being no purpose to this place whatsoever.

Referendums do not come round very often, so this has to be a proper referendum. It must not be pored and raked over after the event, with people saying, “It wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t quite fair”. I am fairly comfortable with the question as it stands. It has gone through the Electoral Commission, which, for many of us, has pluses and minuses—we used to run elections quite easily without thousands of sheets of paper—but on this I think it has got it fairly right. However, I was more than convinced by last year’s Wharton words, which had a

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complete lack of ambiguity, were simple and did not favour one way or the other. The words in the Bill have the benefit of simplicity but still angle slightly towards the status quo, and therefore do not have the neutrality I would prefer.

The purdah period has been discussed widely this afternoon. It was good to hear from certain Opposition Members—as ever, I listened to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) very closely. The Bill is full of clauses about loans, permitted persons and maximum expenditure, but it puts aside section 125 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which causes me concern. On this, I actually agree with the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond). I would perhaps be more comfortable if it was set out in legislation exactly who could spend what, how and where. Of course, I am most concerned about how the European Commission spends public money. I want the Commission, in particular, excluded from what is a personal debate within these islands on a constitutional matter.

I was taken by other speeches this afternoon, particularly that by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox)—there were others, but hon. Members must forgive me for not knowing everybody’s constituencies just yet. The important words are those in all the treaties: “ever-closer union”. As one advertiser says of its product, it means exactly what it says on the tin. In fighting my election campaign over the past 10 months—I am only 90% of the person I was, having walked so much—I found that this referendum was on the lips of many. People want this referendum, and it is right that we have it, but I want it done pretty much for good. The lid must not come off again for 40 years. We must not pore over it afterwards and say, “It was not right and fair”. That is what I will fight and argue for in this place, and doubtless, when the debate moves to the streets of this country, I will make clear which side of the debate I am on. Currently, I could support staying in the EU. It would have to be massively reformed, but I am not one to close my mind; I am here to listen to arguments. That said, I want what we thought it was going to be: free trade and friendship.

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for interfering briefly in this important debate. On Thursday, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Mr David Anderson, is publishing a 300-page report on surveillance strategy. It is normal for the Government’s reports to be presented to the House first, before anybody else, but I understand that there are major press briefings tomorrow about it, meaning that we will not be the first to hear about it. We will hear about it first on the “Today” programme, rather than in the House of Commons. Can you advise me, Mr Speaker, on what we can do to bring the Government to heel on this matter?

Mr Speaker: If the Government have anything to say about the report to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, they should say it first to the House of Commons. He is extremely dexterous in his use of parliamentary mechanisms to flag up matters of importance, be they local, national or international, and I do not think that that capacity is likely to desert him in this case. Where a matter is judged to be pressing, there are means by which it can be brought to the Floor of the House. He is well aware of those mechanisms and can deploy them if

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he so wishes, but this is a serious matter, and although we are pressed for time, I am genuinely grateful to him for drawing to my attention something of which until five minutes ago I was myself unaware.

5.45 pm

Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for calling me to give my maiden speech in this debate. It is a pleasure to follow the maiden speeches of the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch), the hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), who gave a moving speech, and, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry).

There have been many things said about the great city of Glasgow in this House over the years that have gone by, but I wish to submit the words of Sir Compton Mackenzie, the first nationalist rector of the University of Glasgow, who defeated the fascist candidate Oswald Mosley in that election. He noted, when gazing over Glasgow from the Campsie Fells, that it offered something that neither Rome nor Athens could:

“the glory and grandeur of the future and the beating heart of a nation.”

My constituency, in the south side of Glasgow, has a long tradition of playing a major part in writing the story of Glasgow. It is home to the battle of Langside, the national football stadium, Hampden Park, the last village in the city, Carmunnock, and vibrant communities such as Cathcart, Pollokshaws, Shawlands and Carnwadric, to name just a few.

I hope Members will indulge me for just one moment, as I note on the record that I am the first Member of this House to be elected from what is probably the most famous part of my constituency, Castlemilk. Castlemilk has featured in the maiden speeches of three of my predecessors in this House. It is often referenced when talking about urban deprivation and social and housing problems, but I wish to change that in my remarks today. Instead, I wish to draw Members’ attention to the anthem of Castlemilk, the famous Jeely Piece song. “The Jeely Piece Song” is much more than a piece of fun. It has at its heart a fundamental message: that everyone deserves a decent start in life—a fair crack of the whip—no matter the circumstances of their birth. It is that message which has inspired people such as Maureen Cope and Bessie Anderson, two pillars of the community, to keep on fighting for a better future for their place and to write further into the story of Glasgow. It is these fundamental values that inspire my politics: justice, fairness and equality for all.

I would at this point like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Tom Harris, who I can honestly say I have had the pleasure of knowing for many years. He is a generous, spirited man with a great sense of humour, and I wish him, his wife Carolyn and their two children—and, indeed, his staff—all the very best for the future. As I have been advised to bring something for everyone, I should also note that one of my other predecessors, Sir Teddy Taylor, the last Tory MP in Glasgow, is still mentioned with much love in my constituency, not least because he attended to his duties with great diligence as a constituency Member.

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The most famous son of my constituency is of course the great John Maclean of Pollokshaws. John Maclean never made it to this House, but there can be no question about the impact that he has had on our national politics. He is probably the best MP that Glasgow never had. He was an internationalist to his fingertips, but absolutely committed to Scottish home rule. That was not a dilemma for Mr Maclean and it should not be for this House. I am a European citizen; Scotland is an outward-looking European nation. Our history, our literature, our songs and our stories pulsate with internationalism and solidarity, whether they be the poems, songs and stories of Hamish Henderson, such as “Freedom Come-All-Ye”, or those of Liz Lochhead or Alasdair Gray.

I and my 55 colleagues have been sent to this House to argue for Scotland’s place in Europe and for the rights of young people and European nationals to have a say on our future in Europe. However, so rose-tinted are the spectacles of some Conservative Members that they cannot see the problem that they are walking into: the problem that, in trying to kill one Union, they may end up killing two. If Scotland is to be dragged out of the European Union against its wishes, and on the back of votes from people in England, that may be the result that they do not see coming. If only they had a little of John Maclean’s foresight, rather than engaging in the navel-gazing that we have seen this afternoon.

In a speech to the High Court in Edinburgh, John Maclean, who had been charged with unconstitutional behaviour, refused to accept that he stood there as the accused, and instead said that he was the accuser. So too do my party and I stand here, as the accuser of a Government who want to make our country small and inward-looking, and to divide our citizens. We will oppose that in the most vociferous way.

The Glasgow story will continue to be written, and it must continue to be told. I hope to add something meaningful to that story by emulating the diligent approach of Teddy Taylor, but with a political philosophy much closer to that of John Maclean.

5.50 pm

Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak. It is a great honour to represent Wealden in Parliament, and I am thankful for the hard work of my volunteers and all the voters who placed their faith in me.

Wealden has always been highly selective in its choice of candidates and Members of Parliament. Fifteen years ago Charles Hendry, my respected predecessor, won the Conservative selection against a stellar list of candidates, most of whom ended up in the Cabinet. He even grabbed the seat from the present Prime Minister. I note that this time round, much of the Wealden shortlist has joined me in the House. No pressure, then.

Charles not only dedicated his life to public service and served our country as Energy Minister, but served twice as deputy chairman of the Conservative party and was chief of staff to William Hague when he was its leader. He and his wife Sallie were dedicated to the Conservative cause, and gave our party backbone, stability and common sense during the toughest of times. No doubt there are parties on the Opposition Benches that are looking around for a few Charles Hendrys of their own. They certainly need them.

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Wealden is the most beautiful of constituencies, tucked away in East Sussex and described by G.K. Chesterton as

“the place where London ends and England can begin.”

The stunning Ashdown forest and the market towns of Crowborough, Uckfield and Hailsham, as well as numerous community-minded villages, mark Wealden out as quintessentially English, but we are by no means insular. Small businesses flourish, trading beyond Europe in the world. We have winners of the Queen’s award for enterprise and innovation, and we even export Sussex wine to France. However, we depend on our connections with the rest of the country and the wider world, which is why the state of the local infrastructure is a source of deep frustration for my constituents.

We have a thoroughly inadequate rail service, which frequently lets commuters down. Delays, cancellations and short trains, combined with a lack of communication with passengers, are simply not acceptable. Similarly, the broadband and mobile networks in Sussex need to improve. This is not just about the rural economy; given an increasingly elderly population, it is a vital social issue as well. We also suffer Gatwick as a neighbour, and its demand for a second runway does not sit well with my neighbours.

Britain’s relationship with Europe matters deeply to my constituents, and I am pleased to say that they have a history of always supporting the policies of the Government of the day on Europe. Back when the Weald was the centre of the iron-smelting industry, it produced the arrowheads that were used at Agincourt, and later made many of the cannon that were used to defeat Napoleon. During the second world war it was home to the Aspidistra project, transmitting black propaganda to Germany. Of course, we have no need of that now.

I hope that the prospect of a referendum convinces our European friends that we are serious about reasserting our sovereignty, and I am proud that this Government will give the people of this country the chance to decide on their future relationship with the EU. However, we must be careful not to turn the debate about our membership of an institution into a closed-minded attempt to pull up the drawbridge. This country is at its best when it is open to the world, embracing opportunities and welcoming people who want to contribute.

It will not have escaped the House’s notice that my roots are from further afield than East Sussex, and it says a great deal about the constituency which contains the oldest Conservative association in the country that it chose someone with a somewhat different background. You see, Mr Speaker, I am from Birmingham. In fact, my parents arrived in this country over 40 years ago. My father exchanged his Kashmiri headmaster’s cloak for Birmingham biscuit factory overalls, and here I am, just one generation later, giving my maiden speech in the greatest democratic Chamber in the world, and with the great privilege to represent thousands of voters across Wealden.

I draw inspiration from a saying of my most famous constituent that politicians everywhere should take to heart. It was Winnie the Pooh, resident of the Hundred Acre Wood in the Ashdown forest, who said:

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

I shall endeavour to follow that advice in all I do here.

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5.56 pm

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): I thank every Member who has made their maiden speech today, especially the hon. Member for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani), whose excellent speech we have just heard, and, on the Opposition Benches, my hon. Friends the Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) and for Halifax (Holly Lynch). If they, and all the others who have made maiden speeches today, continue to speak in the coming months and years as they have done in this debate, I am sure they will be listened to not just in this House but, more importantly, out in the country as well.

I want to say a few things about Europe, because Europe is very important to me and my constituents. The largest industrial estate in the north-east of England is in my constituency. The question of our future in the EU is important not just for my constituents but for the whole of the north-east and the rest of the country.

I agree with the Labour MEPs for the north-east, Paul Brannen and Jude Kirton-Darling, who outlined the five key factors of our membership of the EU: it creates jobs and growth; it means investment in the north-east; it protects our rights; it keeps us safe; and it improves the environment. It has done all these basic, essential things not just in the last two or three years but in the last 40 years, and it will do so well into the future. In addition there is the fact that, according to the North East chamber of commerce, over 63% of businesses in the north-east want us to be part of Europe.

We also gain in net terms from our contributions to Europe in respect of social and economic investment in the north-east. There will be £1 billion of investment in the north-east of England over the next six years for transport infrastructure, small business support, international trade support and digital skills.

The EEF and the North East chamber of commerce have called for less political game-playing, as that is causing greater business and economic uncertainty for firms in the north-east. I think a lot of games are being played in the Conservative party, because this referendum issue is ultimately not about what the people think but about whether it can keep the Conservative party together. The EEF has said:

“British manufacturers remain overwhelmingly of the view that our economic wellbeing is linked to the EU and we must stay in membership. It makes no sense to disengage from our major market where we would still face all the costs of compliance and enjoy none of the influence.”

I want to mention two major firms in the north-east. Everyone has heard of Nissan and of its importance to the economy in the north-east and the rest of Great Britain. Over 37,000 jobs in this country depend on Nissan. It employs 6,500 directly in its factory in Sunderland. Fifty per cent. of what the factory produces goes to Europe, into the EU, and the factory is part-owned by Renault.

Over the next two years or so, major new models will be coming out—the Juke, the Qashqai—and the Washington plant will be in competition with the Nissan plant in Spain for a new model. If it gets that new model, that will sustain the existing jobs and probably lead not only to more jobs in the Sunderland plant, but to other jobs in the north-east of England. That is why it is vital for us to stay in Europe: I do not want to see

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the factory going to Spain, France or anywhere else. I want it to stay in Europe as one of the most productive car plants in the world.

There is also Hitachi in my constituency, which is bringing train building back to the north-east of England, where the first trains were built 190 years ago. Hitachi, with 730 jobs and thousands in the supply chain, has come to this country because it wants to export trains to the rest of Europe.

For all those reasons, I do not understand how any parliamentarian of any political party in the north-east can be against continuing membership of the EU.

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): If any region in the United Kingdom is the perfect example of the necessity for inward investment and a relationship with the European Union, it is the north-east of England. In our area we have three Tata Steel factories and the largest potash mine in Britain, which, incidentally, was protected by European regulations from Russian dumping. Would the north-east not be severely harmed if we left the European Union?

Phil Wilson: The north-east of England would be severely harmed, but not only the north-east—it would be the UK and our position in the world, which is the other issue that we need to think about. Are we an outward-looking country that wants to embrace the EU and the rest of the world, or do we want to pull up the drawbridge? Some people want to pull up the drawbridge and to let the world get on and pass us by. Over the next five years one of the major issues for this Parliament will be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It is controversial and could regulate nearly 50% of the world’s GDP. It could lead to better standards for labour, in consumer rights and in trade for, as I say, 50% of GDP in this country.

We would not get that kind of agreement for the UK alone; we can only negotiate something like that if we are part of the EU, part of a marketplace of 500 million people and a union of 28 countries. Yes, we do have to pool some of our sovereignty to achieve better things in this world. We are a member of NATO and could go to war for another country if it is invaded—that is what I call pooling sovereignty. Pooling sovereignty for economic gain is worth while if it benefits this country, which I believe that it will.

We are talking about the future of the UK, our future in the world and where we want to be in the globalised economy. We cannot close the door on the rest of the world. We have to remain part of the world, and being part of the EU is vitally important to us. That is why, when the referendum comes, I will be voting yes and campaigning to stay in the European Union.

6.3 pm

Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) (Con): Anyone who thinks that MPs are all the same would do well to listen to the excellent maiden speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani) and for Havant (Alan Mak).

I was eight years old when the last referendum took place. My brother and I were given a long string of stickers saying, “Say Yes to Europe”. Being young lads, we stuck

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them to everything we possibly could and it was only later we discovered quite how difficult it is to get rid of orange, pro-European stickers.

The 2014 European elections indicated the scale of the public’s concern about our relationship with the EU. We have long recognised the movement within Europe towards closer political union. We wanted to give the British people a choice on the European Union, and we are delivering on our promises. This has been called an in/out referendum, or a yes/no referendum, but the choice is far more complex than the question allows. It is rather a choice between closer political union with Europe and a free-trade and common market.

We each have our specific concerns about the EU and how it functions. In March, it became clear that the European Commission was pressuring our Government to scrap the exemption for small-scale producers of cider and perry who make less than 70 hectolitres a year. Fortunately, when I made representations to the then Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel), I was delighted by the positive response that I received. She assured me that the Government would make strong representations to the Commission about that ruling.

Various studies have been made to calculate the cost of membership of the EU. The estimates vary significantly, with one showing a cost of between 3% and 4% of GDP and a recent study by the CBI suggesting a net benefit of between 4% and 5%. Figures from the House of Commons Library show the EU accounting for 45% of our exports and 53% of our imports last year. The UK exported £227 billion of goods and services to other EU member states and imported £288 billion. That is compared with exports to the US of £90 billion and exports to China of £17 billion. It is also claimed that about 3 million jobs are dependent on the EU. However, the Treasury explained the 3.3 million figure to Open Europe, saying that it was

“not an estimate of the impact of EU membership on employment”.

That is because trade with EU countries would continue if the UK were to leave the EU.

Before we put the referendum to the people, we need to renegotiate our deal with the EU. The Prime Minister rather helpfully set out his proposals for reform in March 2014 in what was called the Bloomberg speech, in which he talked about powers flowing away from Brussels, not always towards it; national Parliaments being able to work together to block unwanted EU legislation; businesses being liberated from red tape; UK police forces and justice systems being able to protect British citizens without interference from the European institutions; free movement to take up work, not free benefits; and removing the concept of ever-closer union. That last element is the one that matters most to me.

Once renegotiation has been concluded, the referendum will be put to the British public. I am certain that every Member in this place has a list of changes they would like to see enacted. The Labour party has a long list, including scrapping the Strasbourg Parliament, but the elephant in the room is ever-closer political union, which means being in Europe and run by Europe. Without doubt, the Labour party was right to reject the euro, but that is a contradiction because if it really wants to become a European partner, it ought to want to join the single currency too. Happily, I do not want either.

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This debate is only one of many more to come on this subject. When the campaigns commence, I would like those on both sides to be positive. I am optimistic that the campaign and the debate can be centred on visions of better futures. No one should be fearful of the unknown. Those on each side should fight by explaining why life would be better if we stayed in or why it would be better if we left. I hope that our constituents will hear such arguments. That is what they want, and it is what they deserve.

6.8 pm

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): I should like to begin by congratulating all the new Members who have made their maiden speeches this afternoon, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Stewart McDonald), who made an accomplished and confident contribution that will stand him in good stead into the future.

Plaid Cymru is in favour of Wales remaining in the European Union, so the answer to the question in clause 1(5) of the Bill should be a resounding “dyla”, or even “ia” or “ie”. There are several ways of saying yes in Welsh. We are a critical friend of the EU, but our firm belief is that Wales should stay in. That is based on at least three counts, all of which have a bearing on the Bill and on the referendum.

First, we see ourselves as Welsh and European. The European Union reflects our multicultural and multilingual social reality in Wales. Indeed, that condition is normal throughout most of the world, although sadly not always in these islands. Secondly we value the peace, stability and openness between peoples that the EU has fostered over the decades. That is the true meaning for us of the phrase “ever-closer union of peoples”. Thirdly, although there are problems, not least in the lax enforcement of employment standards, Wales enjoys significant economic and social benefits within the EU. These might be endangered in a renegotiation that is heedless of our requirements and would certainly be put in jeopardy were we to be dragged unwillingly out.

Throughout our history, Wales has had links with other European countries beyond the valuable links with our nearest neighbours. Plaid Cymru’s support for the idea of one Europe stretches back right to the foundation of our party. We put enormous stress on our role as part of the struggle against the dehumanising effect of the large state with its oppressive drive toward uniformity and centralisation, and this stance has always been mirrored by the moral and political value we place on supranational co-operation.

As Common Market membership became a probability in the 1970s, we were sceptical of that very common market as an exclusively economic entity. That is of course very much what some Eurosceptics now long for, and we remain sceptical of their position. The European Union that emerged in the 1980s, however, allowed smaller nations more of a voice and we continue to work for a “Europe of regions and smaller nations”. That underpins our membership in the European Parliament of the Greens/European Free Alliance group of like-minded national, regional and green parties.

Our leader, Leanne Wood, has set out our standpoint on this referendum. The result should be announced nationally for Wales and if our nation decides to stay in

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the EU it should not be dragged out against its will. The same goes for the other nations of the UK. Our 16 and 17-year-olds should have a say in the future direction of our country and EU nationals living here should have a vote, as they do for local, European and National Assembly elections and as they did in the Scottish independence referendum.

We want the EU to be reformed. We want a greater say for Wales with direct representation for Welsh Ministers, a reformed and improved regional policy, safeguards for our environment and in areas such as food standards, the reform of the tripartite structure to include the Committee of the Regions, and an end to the scandalous waste of the Strasbourg Parliament. We oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. However, to want an end to all those things does not mean that we want out.

What happens if there is a no vote? Wales has some of the poorest communities in the UK and in western Europe. The UK Government must set out contingency plans to replace structural funds and the common agricultural policy, which provide billions of pounds to Welsh communities every year. We are deeply sceptical about the UK’s commitment to continue such funding as many of us still bear the scars of the protracted campaign to enable Wales to benefit from objective 1 funding in the first place and we well recall the institutional obstructionism from London that we had to overcome.

The family farm is the cornerstone of Welsh rural life and the rural economy. It is vital that support for the family farm and agriculture, which support our culture and language, continues. We know nothing of any replacement for vital funds to support our farming communities. Those are yet more reasons why Plaid Cymru will fight to keep Wales in the EU. Our reservations about the Bill are clear and tonight we will vote accordingly.

6.13 pm

Peter Heaton-Jones (North Devon) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech in this debate. I had imagined making my maiden speech in some obscure late-night debate on a piece of legislation when the House was half empty, so this is nice.

I am immensely proud to have been elected to represent the people of North Devon and I am particularly proud to have been part of the blue tide that has swept through the south west. We are known for strong tides in our part of the world, but not all of them are as welcome as this one.

Let me begin by paying tribute to my predecessor, Sir Nick Harvey. Sir Nick served North Devon and this House with diligence and distinction for 23 years and served in the previous Government as well. We owe Sir Nick a debt of gratitude for spending so long in public service during his career.

Although I always hoped to take the seat of North Devon, there was a lot of uncertainty, as there was with the election as a whole. That was summed up for me perfectly on one sunny afternoon when my campaign team and I went into the front garden of a cottage in a lovely village called North Molton. The lady approached us and, seeing blue rosettes, said, “You won’t want to talk to me. I am a committed Marxist.” Then she took a deep breath and, with perfect comic

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timing, said, “And I’m never voting Liberal Democrat again.” We knew from that moment that all the pieces were in flux.

My overriding priority in this House will be to stand up for North Devon. The overall theme is that we need our fair share. For many years now, under Governments of all colours, we have not had our fair slice of the funding cake in North Devon. I am here to say that that is something up with which we will not put. We need investment in our infrastructure, especially the North Devon link road, the A361. We do not look on it as our only link to the rest of the country; we look on it as the only means that the rest of the country has to be lucky enough to visit us. It is not fit for purpose, it is dangerous, it is slow and it is inhibiting economic growth and investment in North Devon. I have lobbied my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on many occasions, to the point that I think he is getting bored with me, but I am happy with that and I will keep lobbying. I am delighted to say that he has now made commitments, and I will see the project for the North Devon link road through. It is a long-term ambition; dare I say perhaps it is aspirational, to use the word du jour, but I am sure that we will achieve that.

The other main issue is rural broadband, or should I say the lack of it. The information superhighway should not stop just because we are west of Bristol and north of the M5, and I will do all that I can to ensure that we achieve improvements.

The tourism industry in North Devon is also high on my list of priorities. I shall unashamedly use this opportunity to promote everything that North Devon has to offer. We have quite simply some of the most beautiful coastline and countryside not only in the south-west but in the United Kingdom. We have some of the rugged north-facing coasts and the surf beaches that face west. The place where the two meet is called Baggy Point, which is derived from an old English word that means “full of holes”. I am told that some parties considered launching their manifesto there.

We also have Exmoor national park. We have beautiful towns such as Ilfracombe, South Molton and Chulmleigh and the biggest village in England, Braunton—woe betide anyone who thinks that it is not a village. We have our principal town in Barnstaple, an important commercial and economic centre, and a driver of the region’s economy, which is undergoing welcome redevelopment, with a major riverside development of shops, hotels and restaurants, homes and businesses now taking shape.

Obviously, it never rains when people take their holidays in North Devon, but I remember as a young boy more than 40 years ago being on a family holiday on the North Devon coast and retreating to the cinema in Barnstaple when the rain at the seaside became more horizontal than vertical. Little did I know that all these years later I would be representing North Devon.

It is a particular privilege to be making my maiden speech on the same day as my hon. Friends the Members for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) and for Havant (Alan Mak), with whom I have family connections. Indeed, more than 60 years ago my mother and father met at the Young Conservatives in the seat of Sutton and Cheam, so the Whips will be delighted to hear that I am literally a product of the Conservative party.

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I will work hard every day to repay the trust that the people of North Devon have put in me. I will do the very best that I can for everyone in the area that we are so lucky to call home.