I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to make a speech which some weeks ago people forecast that I would not be in a position to make. But may I first congratulate you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your appointment. I am sure that I speak on behalf of hon. Members on both sides of the House in saying that we are delighted at your appointment and we wish you well in the next five years.
I congratulate the hon. Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton), for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) and, although it was not his maiden speech, for Cornwall, North (Mr. Tyler). I listened carefully to those speeches and I congratulate all those hon. Members on their eloquence, the passion with which they spoke, their concern for their constituents and the great understanding in a short space of time of their constituencies. All I can say is that the 1992 intake is obviously of a high calibre. Although politically I have nothing in common with Opposition Members, I wish them well in the future. On behalf of Conservative Members, I thank them for their gracious and generous tributes to my hon. Friends whom they defeated.
We lost 44 Members of Parliament. As Opposition Members would expect me to say, I held each and every one of them in high regard. It will be remembered and noted that Opposition Members were so generous in their speeches. In particular, I shall miss my friend, Ken Hargreaves, who was the Member for Hyndburn. He was well respected in the House. One could not find a more hard-working Member of Parliament than Ken Hargreaves. He will be truly missed.
Much has been said about the constituency of Basildon. Some have described it as a remarkable win. That is certainly not the case. It was my good fortune that mine was the first marginal seat result to be shown on television. I have received in my postbag letters not only from within the United Kingdom but from all over the world. There were many more remarkable Tory victories than mine.
My victory is due to the tremendous campaign in my constituency. I was supported by Lady Emily Blatch, our former colleagues Cecil Parkinson and Norman Tebbit, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) the Parliamentary Under—Secretary of State for Health, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security, the former Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, and, to complete a winning team, Henry Cooper. I realise that I am straying somewhat from the main content of the Gracious Speech, but I shall come to that shortly.