Thank you very much indeed for inviting me to speak, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have been very impressed with the numerous debates to which I have listened, and the one thing that I have learned about the House is that one does have to be patient from time to time. I completely agree with Cathy Jamieson about the power of the speech of my hon. Friend Paul Maynard. It was outstanding, and it will be one of those that everybody remembers-and quite right, too. It was also so right that he emphasised the need for special education. That is of pivotal importance, and he should be appreciated for that.
I want to talk about two of my predecessors. The first is Lord John Russell, who was twice Prime Minister and once MP for Stroud, between 1835 and 1841. I do so because I want to emphasise the good neighbourliness that exists with our coalition partners-Lord John Russell being a Whig, a Liberal. That is a good sign that we will co-operate well, especially because he piloted the 1832 Reform Act through the House, and as the Deputy Prime Minister said recently, this Government will be as dramatic in shaping our constitution as the Government of that period were. That represents a signal change.
The next predecessor whom I want to mention is, of course, the one who preceded me, David Drew. He was an outstandingly good constituency MP. He served his constituents with total devotion, and there was never a stone left unturned in order to ensure that they were looked after. His will be a hard act for me to follow, but I intend to do just that. He was a very good constituency MP, and I therefore pay tribute to him. Incidentally, I wish him well in his new role as chairman of Forest Green Rovers, our local football team, which is based in Nailsworth. He has a job to do there, and I am sure that he will tackle it with vigour.
All constituencies are beautiful, but none is as beautiful as Stroud. I can prove that by reference to a king who was on his way back from the failed siege of Gloucester. That, of course, was King Charles I, who stopped off along the Painswick valley and was so impressed by it that he remarked that it was "paradise". That name has stuck to the community in Painswick ever since. Stroud contains another four magnificently beautiful valleys, which all comprise really interesting communities and some fantastic reputations-for writing, with Laurie Lee, for example; for textiles, with the mills; and so on. We also have the vale, which is about the same size as the valleys put together. It is equally beautiful and impressive, but very different in terms of appearance.
Stroud has a number of other features which it is well worth telling the House about. One is its reputation for engineering and manufacturing. The businesses are usually small, but they are all really exciting and think about high added-value and new technology products. If we manage to support manufacturing and engineering, as we so desperately need to do, that is where Stroud and the whole country will find its economic growth once again.
Stroud is beautiful, as I have said, and we rejoice in the fact that we have got rid of the regional spatial planning system, because it is good to know that we will not be carpeting over green fields to the absolute outrage and fury of our residents. We need to build houses and more social housing, but that will come from proper local community activities, decided by local people. That is very exciting, and we already have a very strong movement through community land trusts.
I should mention agriculture. I am a farmer myself, and it is an important part of the constituency. We have big and small dairy farms, all of which are vulnerable to TB and struggling with the price of milk and so forth, so the House can expect that I shall be a steadfast supporter of agriculture.
Stroud has a good tradition for renewable energy and some exciting ideas about its promotion. Hydro is one good example, and we will see more of that as the Government unfold their policies to encourage renewable energy. That is good news for Stroud, and renewable energy is one of its characteristics.
I want to talk about education, and I have only two minutes and 46 seconds in which to do so. The Gracious Speech contains some important measures that will benefit Stroud and, indeed, this country. One is the move to academies, but the key thing to remember is that our task is to ensure that all schools are good schools. The issue is not just about the best schools; it is more important to talk about the schools that are having problems and failing, because we have to ensure that everybody can fulfil their lives. There is nothing more heartbreaking than discovering that people cannot do things simply because they have not had a decent education. That must, of course, be the fundamental point about our interest in education.
It is also critical to emphasise the importance of school leadership and management. I have had some experience of dealing with such issues as a governor of a school. I am still a governor of Stroud college, in which I must clearly declare an interest. Leadership and management in schools is critical because the most important thing about schools is the people who are in them-the people who do the teaching, who do the work, who deal with the pupils and who ensure that the pupils are given the best chance. We must never forget that.
Further education is an important subject. Sometimes it is the Cinderella of education, but I want to emphasise how important I think it is. Effectively, it is the facility that can overcome the problem of people who thrive not in schools but in vocations and in the further education environment, so it is absolutely right that the further education sector be helped as much as possible. Reducing the amount of bureaucracy and regulations is clearly one thing that must happen, but we must also tackle the question of funding. That is complicated, but we need to ensure that FE colleges know where the money is coming from. Governance of colleges and schools is important. Governors must recognise and take on their responsibilities, because if we are to have academies we must have capable governors and a governance system that works and ensures that schools are checked.
The House can be sure that I shall represent Stroud's constituents as vigorously as David Drew did, and I shall also ensure that it is properly and powerfully represented in this House in terms of policy, holding the Government to account and ensuring that the people of Stroud thrive.