Before the House decides to adjourn for the summer, with its leave I shall bring some concerns of my constituents to its attention. I warmly congratulate the two other Conservative Members who have been called to address the House for the first time today—my hon. Friends the Members for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) and for Havant (Mr. Willetts).
Windsor and Maidenhead, the constituency that I am honoured to represent, unlike the pudding which so disagreed with Sir Winston Churchill, has a clear theme. It is provided by the silvery thread of the River Thames in its most appealing reaches. The Thames flows softly from one end of my constituency to the other. To the west lie the charming settlements of Hurley and Bisham, which were both originally monastic foundations, where the former ecclesiastical buildings tell a fascinating tale. The Cookhams come next. They are famous for swan-upping and were once the home of that very individual painter, Stanley Spencer. Then comes Maidenhead, which owes its local pre-eminence to the bridge which made it an important post town on the road from London to Bath. Originally sited some way from the river, in recent years it has grown substantially and was one of the many towns in southern England which flourished in the 1980s. That growth has led to problems in the more recent past. Boulters Lock is more popular with my constituents in Maidenhead than the too many office buildings which are standing empty.
Maidenhead is a purposeful and popular town. Nevertheless, it should strongly resist further domestic in-filling and should not encroach on precious green belt land that surrounds it. I am utterly opposed to further erosion of the green belt.
Further downstream is the village of Bray, which is famous for its remarkably flexible vicar. As those who know the old English song will recall, the vicar of Bray changed his heart to match the political conditions of the day. He did so from
Good King Charles's golden days
George in Pudding time came o'er".
I dare say he is a model for some contemporary politicians.
On the north bank of the Thames we then come to Eton, except that one does not just "come to Eton"—not even the many former Prime Ministers who went to that school. Facing across the river is one of the jewels of our universal heritage: Windsor. I almost feel like apologising for this embarrassment of riches. That town was honoured when King George V took its name for that of his family.
My predecessor in this House, Sir Alan Glyn, represented the royal borough of the royal county for 22 years. His attendance in this House was praiseworthy and, almost uniquely among Back Benchers, he had a recognised place of his own in this Chamber. With his indefatigable wife, Lady Rosula, he served the people of Windsor and Maidenhead loyally and assiduously. My constituency association recently honoured Sir Alan and his wife in Sir Christopher Wren's magnificent guildhall at Windsor. On that occasion we also welcomed Sir Alan's predecessor and his wife, Sir Charles and Lady Mott-Radclyffe. Sir Charles represented the constituency for 28 years, so between them they chalked up half a century of service. Some Members and Officers may well remember Sir Charles; he is certainly still a legend in cricketing circles in the House.
While on the subject of former Members, I might add that Sir Christopher Wren was once a Member for Windsor, but unfortunately, for a few days only, following which he was debarred from the House because of an "irregularity" in his campaign. He was obviously not the best architect of electioneering.
With its outstanding buildings and extensive parks, Windsor struck the poet Michael Drayton thus:
Windsor, where abound All pleasures that in Paradise were found",
Paradise or not, however, the problems brought by millions of visitors each year have to be paid for in financial and environmental terms by my constituents. It is a matter of some concern that the community charge raised by the royal borough contains a substantial element —about £10 per year each for the people of Windsor and Maidenhead—to cope with those problems. That is a full 10 per cent. of the borough's standard spending assessment.
The Department of the Environment insists that day tourism affects many parts of the country and that it is difficult to measure, and I accept that that is probably the case on a national scale, but the evidence of one's own eyes in Windsor is too strong to be denied. Every year some 4 million day tourists come to Windsor, which is not by any means a large town. It is not difficult to visualise what that means in terms of traffic management, litter disposal, and other amenities that visitors require, the cost of which falls directly on my constituents. It cannot be beyond the skill of Government to develop a formula that would recognise those specific financial strains. If ever there was a special case, this is it.
I am also disturbed by the effect that the all-ages social index has on the SSA. Again, I refer to the evidence of my own eyes. It is nonsense to suggest that the differences between my constituency and the neighbouring town of Slough are so great as to justify the £100 per capita difference in Government support. That decision is largely due to the social index.
I cannot help feeling that the social index is an anachronistic way in which to judge local expenditure and that it has not kept pace with changing times. I hope that the Department of the Environment will be prepared to look at this matter afresh before entrenching the present arrangements in the new council tax.
I have endeavoured to take the House on a brief cruise down our great River Thames and to describe some of the riparian delights of my constituency. I recommend that as a form of leisure for all under pressure and in need of relaxation. In this House we are familiar with our own historic part of the Thames. I hope that others will share my discovery of another more gentle stretch which commends itself unselfishly to all.
I have covered the water and the land, and now I want to turn my attention to the skies. Maidenhead, and particularly Windsor, are continually affected by aircraft on their way to or from Heathrow airport. From living in Windsor, I know that the horrendous noise of aircraft coming in to land can shatter the good night's sleep to which my constituents and I are entitled. I am conscious of the many benefits brought to the area by the airport and of the important part it plays in the local economy, but I believe that more can and should be done to control aircraft noise. In particular, I should like a total ban on night flights, much closer monitoring of the decibel levels produced by individual aircraft, and fines for irresponsible carriers.
My constituents share anxieties common to people in other parts of the country. In Windsor and Maidenhead, there are a number of victims of the criminal acts of Mr. Robert Maxwell. Many angry dentists come to see me in my surgeries. Other people are unhappy about the fate of whales which are slaughtered for commercial gain and of the distressing circumstances in which battery hens are kept. I would not be honest if I did not add that there is concern about the proposed combining of the two Household Cavalry regiments—the Lifeguards and the Blues and Royals. Hon. Members may know that Combermere barracks in Windsor is the present home of the Blues and Royals.
In common with other Members, since I was elected to the House I have been impressed by the amount of correspondence which comes our way. It has been instructive to see which public services have been most responsive and helpful. I have been pleasantly surprised at the speed and sensitivity with which local hospitals and doctors deal with complaints. Other letters, however, betray what I regard as a potentially dangerous development which faces parliamentary democracy in all parts of the developed world—the current tendency to blame Governments and legislatures for all life's ills. Such writers are often encouraged—irresponsibly, in my view—by insidious single-issue lobby groups. I believe that we are heading for troubled times unless we can be more precise in the limitations of government and the obligations of people.
Some years ago we talked of the nanny state. It is time that the influence of such a state was further curtailed. The Governments of the 1980s achieved much in that regard, but more needs to be done. Many different people have a part to play in that—the Government, Ministers, Members of Parliament, religious leaders, teachers, judges, parents and others with influence.
The essential order which lies at the heart of civil life is based on simple courtesies which must be transmitted from generation to generation. The spiritual element of life must also be given prominence in an increasingly materialistic world.
On the domestic side of politics, I warmly welcome the great education reforms introduced in the past 10 years. My constituency is blessed with excellent maintained schools, and the pupils are intensely proud of them and of their teachers. That represents best practice and the best guarantee for the future.
On foreign affairs, I believe that our country still has many important responsibilities throughout the world. In particular, we should never cease to speak up for the human rights of those unable to do so for themselves. I have a particular interest in the people of Tibet and on future occasions I may bring their plight to the attention of the House.
Like many colleagues on both sides of the House, I have now fulfilled a long-standing ambition to become an elected Member of the Chamber. I am not in the least bothered by the fact that for a number of weeks I lived out of a locker, nor that I have now acquired one desk, alongside many others, and one telephone, nor that I am not provided with hordes of researchers and that I have to spend long hours in this beautiful building when I could be spending more time with my family—as they say.
I do not believe that having to rough it slightly, compared with being de luxe middle management of a company or a pampered shop steward of a union, calls for any complaint. I am honoured, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and indeed humbled to be a Member of this great House of Commons. It is, I may say, an added bonus to be sitting on the Government side.
I also regard it as a privilege to have the opportunity to follow on the service of distinguished predecessors for my constituents of Windsor and Maidenhead, on whose behalf it is my intention to work to represent their interests. I intend to support the policies on which I was elected and the principles in which I believe.