Orders of the Day — Home Affairs
Mr Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)
I am very pleased to have been called to make my maiden speech today, when so many fine maiden speeches have been made. In particular, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington, East (Mr. Kemp) for the great political passion which has obviously brought him to the House.
My predecessor in Sheffield, Hallam was Sir Irvine Patnick. He was and is above all a good Sheffielder—and in Sheffield that counts as much as, if not more than, one's party political allegiances. Sheffielders have the particular quality of speaking quickly and not wasting words, and I hope that I, too, will bring those qualities to the House.
As well as spending 10 years in this place, Sir Irvine was well known for the decades of dedicated public service that he performed on various local authorities in Sheffield. Indeed, legend has it that it was he who coined the great phrase "the socialist republic of South Yorkshire"—a phrase which, of course, needs updating nowadays, but the phrase "the new Labour (socialist values updated for the modern era) republic of South Yorkshire" somehow does not have quite the same ring.
The constituency of Sheffield, Hallam covers the south-west of the city of Sheffield. While in general it is an affluent area, it contains quite a mixture of people and places, as befits most of our metropolitan constituencies. I want to refer particularly to three key aspects of the Hallam division. The first is the part of the Peak district that it contains. That magnificent landscape of moors and gritstone edges was preserved by previous generations of far-sighted people who understood the deep meaning of the environment and the necessity to preserve it against development. We now enjoy it, along with our many parks and the wonderful tree landscape that we find in Sheffield.
Secondly, the constituency contains the two universities of Hallam and Sheffield, which are the biggest employers in my constituency. They have brought so much to Hallam and I am sure that much of my time in this place will be spent on issues concerned with them. Thirdly, there is the strength of our local communities in Sheffield, particularly in the Low Edges estate, where local residents have set up a community safety forum to work with the police and other agencies to deal with some of the problems in the area, particularly those relating to youth crime.
That brings me to the subject of the debate. I want to draw attention to the importance of the environment in reducing crime. If we are to tackle the causes of crime, we must create a high-quality urban environment that people will respect. As we can all see, when a house becomes derelict in our area, as it starts to fall down the vandalism begins. First one window goes; then the rest rapidly follow. The quality of our urban environments is crucial if we are to start tackling the causes of crime.
We should increase the visibility of the police in our communities. Our community constables in Hallam do a first-class job, and that should be built on so that we see more police on the streets.
Given all this—from the natural glories of the Peak district to the academic glories of our universities, and the human glories of our communities—I am filled with pleasure to have been able to speak on behalf of Sheffield, Hallam today.