First Day

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:53 pm on 6th May 1992.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Assistant Whip (HM Treasury) 2:53 pm, 6th May 1992

It is a great honour for me to second the motion proposed so wittily, ably and brilliantly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker). The honour belongs, however, not to me but to my constituents, who have so generously sent me back to this place to represent their views; and who, with such good sense, have been electing Conservative Members of Parliament for my constituency since the first world war—with one minor lapse of taste in 1945.

I am well aware that, over the past five years, my constituency of Gedling has not been as well known in this place as I should like it to be. I therefore intend it to become, over the next five years, as famous and as celebrated even—perhaps—as Basildon, although maybe not for quite the same reason.

As you will understand, Madam Speaker, I do not usually have the pleasure of being joined by so many of my colleagues on both sides when I address the House. Faced with this task today I took myself to the Smoking Room to seek the advice of a distinguished and senior member of my party. He said, "Don't worry, you will be fine. The motion is nearly always proposed by some genial old codger on the way out and seconded by an oily young man on the make."

I decided to take some further advice and I went to another distinguished member of my party—an ex-Minister. I asked him what I should do. He said, "You will be fine. You come from a political family and follow in immensely distinguished parental footsteps." I said, "Thank you for your advice—father."

I decided not to take any further advice because as I walked down the Library Corridor I met another immensely senior and distinguished grandee of our party. He put out his hand to me and welcomed me to the House of Commons. He said that if I needed any advice in my first few days he hoped that I would come to him. Such is the mark that I have made in the House during the past five years.

But it is at least a contrast to the occasion when Nigel Lawson came to speak in my constituency in 1987 when I was first seeking election to this place as a new boy. He told my astonished constituents that they should re-elect me because I had done such a good job in the House of Commons during the previous five years. I do not think that my constituents have believed a Cabinet Minister since.

My constituency of Gedling may be better known to some of my colleagues as Carlton which was previously represented by my predecessor, Sir Philip Holland, and before him by Sir Kenneth Pickthorn. It lies to the eastern side of the boundaries of Nottingham city and takes in the predominantly urban areas of Carlton and Arnold. I am deeply proud to represent it in this place.

My constituency gets its name from the village of Gedling that traces its origins from Saxon times. It is reputed to have been settled by a Germanic tribe led by an extremely fierce and war-like lady of strong opinions and firm convictions. She ruled over the tribe for many years before being deposed and replaced by a man of milder countenance but of steely resolve. Legend has it that he ruled over the tribe for nearly twice as long as she did.

My constituents welcome the words in the Gracious Speech about the Government's commitment to beating crime and continuing the battle against drugs. However, they feel strongly that more can be done by Parliament, by Government, in schools, within the home and family as well as by the police. My constituents are particularly mindful that many reports, including those produced by the Audit Commission, have demonstrated clearly that police efficiency is mixed and varied across the country. I hope that we can continue to make important progress on crime and I welcome the commitment to doing so in the Queen's Speech.

It is now extremely important that we should have another look at reforming the procedures in the House. The Select Committee has produced an interesting report on the sittings of the House. I do not say that it is the answer and I do not agree with everything in it, but I hope that the nettle that has so often failed to be grasped by Government and Parliament will be dealt with on this occasion. I speak as the father of two young children and, previously, the child of a young father and I hope that this issue will now be addressed.

Finally, whatever the problems and strains in the world around us may be, I believe in the thread of national pride which has run through this United Kingdom. In all humility, I beg to suggest that many of my generation who sit on these Benches are passionate supporters of the United Kingdom. We believe that the people of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are justifiably proud of the differences between them, yet are integral parts of a unified nation fashioned by history over almost 300 years.

If there are better ways of administering that union, and of providing good governance within it, let us seek them out. But in seconding the Loyal Address to Her Majesty I want to stress my emphatic belief that she should remain Queen of the United Kingdom.

I hope that our Government will not allow any event to take place which could weaken that objective, or replace the ties which bind us together with policies which could force us apart.