First Day

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 8:20 pm on 6th May 1992.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston 8:20 pm, 6th May 1992

May I be the first new Member to congratulate you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your appointment to that position? I rise for the first time in the House with a certain amount of trepidation—not because of the television cameras or the members of the public in the Strangers Gallery but because of the comment of a small boy whom I was showing round this place last week.

I thank my predecessor, Mike Woodcock, for his work in the House, and wish him every success in his new work. He has just published a new book, which I have promised to buy when it is remaindered. I admit to already owning two books by Conservative Members of Parliament, so I shall not buy a third—at least until it has been remaindered.

I also thank Mike for organising the visit of St. Bernard's school last Monday, partly because he made the arrangements, which was helpful, and partly because the visit gave me an insight into the way in which this place works.

To find oneself on one's first day here showing round a party of inquisitive schoolchildren was indeed a challenge. I have also to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) for rescuing me from the mire on that occasion. I congratulate him on his skills as a well-informed and entertaining guide.

The small boy whom I mentioned told me with no equivocation that he did not like Conservatives. His view is in keeping with that of most of my constituents—I thought that he was a young man with excellent judgment. He went on to ask, "But why are they so noisy?" That was another perceptive and astute comment—hence my trepidation, but I am pleased to note that as only six Conservative Members are here tonight the noise will not cause me great concern.

Ellesmere Port and Neston is a constituency of great contrasts—.from rich to poor, from urban to rural, from beautiful landscapes to industrial dereliction, and from environmental perfection to environmental concern. I shall concentrate on that last aspect, and contrast the peace and tranquillity of Ness gardens with the serious concerns about the protection of the environment round the vital petrochemical and related industries.

Ness gardens were the creation of a great socialist—A. K. Bulley who, incidentally, fought the then Rossendale constituency early this century on behalf of the women's suffrage movement. The gardens, which he and his daughter later gave to Liverpool university, now provide a place of great beauty and tranquillity for my constituents and for many thousands of visitors. They also provide the university with important research facilities on plants and their habitat. In this House my skills as a guide have yet to be developed, but I should happily share the experience of the beauty and tranquillity of Ness gardens with other Members of the House.

In contrast, one of the greatest petrochemical complexes in the British Isles is based at Stanlow, and stretches for several miles. It provides much-needed employment and wealth for the area, but inevitably it continually raises environmental issues of great-importance to the local community. I will cite two examples.

Kemira is a company producing fertilisers. Why should it suffer from eastern bloc countries' dumping of products in this country? Those products are manufactured and transported according to standards that we in this country would not accept, and that is not a fair basis on which companies can operate. It is immensely damaging to the environment to allow such unfettered trade. Regrettably, 1 see little in the Gracious Speech to resolve that dilemma.

The prevalence of the free market seems to override environmental concerns. Is it right that toxic waste should be imported into my constituency for incineration? That waste is transported under inadequate trans-frontier shipment regulations. Unwanted waste comes from as far away as Australia. We do not want toxic waste from Australia or any other nation to be imported into this country for incineration. Again, I express my belief that issues of great importance to our nation, and to the planet as a whole, cannot be tackled by using market principles.

In conclusion, I ask Conservative Members to think again about the issues raised in the Gracious Speech—such as anti-union dogma and another privatisation charade. I ask them to drop those issues and tackle the real issues facing my constituents—jobs, housing, health, education, transport and, as I have described in detail, the environment.

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me, and I thank the House for doing me the courtesy of listening to me.