Economic Affairs and Work and Pensions

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 8 June 2010.

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Photo of Andrew Bingham Andrew Bingham Conservative, High Peak 5:54, 8 June 2010

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to deliver my maiden speech in the House. May I compliment preceding speakers from across the country who have given their own maiden speeches today? Mr Meacher did not make his maiden speech, but I compliment him on a speech he made in the House some time ago on post offices, and on speaking against the then Government.

I begin my speech by acknowledging and paying tribute to my predecessor, Tom Levitt, who was MP for High Peak for 13 years from 1997. In my seven years as a candidate in High Peak, he always treated me with the courtesy befitting a Member of the House. A steadfastly loyal Member of Parliament, and an assiduous attender of debates, he took the decision late last year not to stand for re-election-an action to which he referred in his maiden speech 13 years ago as "the chicken run".

I am especially proud to represent High Peak, not just for its beauty and its many attractions, but as someone born and bred in the area. As we move towards the summer recess, I would like to recommend High Peak to fellow Members as a wonderful place to take their summer holidays. It is a large constituency covering over 200 square miles and containing some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. I have listened to many maiden speeches over the past few days: everyone proclaims that the represent the most beautiful seat in Britain, but they are all welcome to challenge for second place.

In Buxton, we have numerous architectural delights, including the crescent, the Devonshire dome and the renowned Buxton opera house, which is a fabulous example of a Matcham theatre-one of the finest in the country-and the venue for the Buxton festival, which is an opera and literary festival to rival anything Glyndebourne has to offer, and one graced only last year by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Buxton is also the home of the world famous water, which is oft seen being consumed at major sporting events across the world, and more recently by President Obama. If he continues to consume Buxton water and benefit from all its life-giving properties, he may well live up to his election slogan, "Yes we can."

In the north of High Peak, the town of Glossop has a different character from Buxton, but it is its equal in every way. With its industrial architecture, it shows a different face of High Peak, and one that tourists all too easily miss. The neighbouring village of Tintwistle gave us Vivienne Westwood. It has distinct problems with traffic-something to which I shall return before I conclude. Glossop has the proud distinction of being the smallest town to have a team in the highest level of English football. At the time, Glossop North End-last year's Wembley finalists in the FA vase championship-was owned by Mr Samuel Hill-Wood, a former member of the House and predecessor of mine, who eventually left the town to concentrate his efforts at Arsenal, where his family still retain a considerable interest.

I would add at this stage, for those Members who are fans of "The League of Gentlemen", that that television programme is filmed in Hadfield in my constituency, so therefore I assume I am by default the member of Parliament for Royston Vasey. The Hope valley covers a large area, arguably the most beautiful area of all, against very strong competition, all of it contained in the Peak District national park, which is the oldest national park in the country, and reputedly the second most visited in the world after mount Fuji.

The caves of Castleton, which are the source of Blue John stone-unique to those caves and mined since Roman times-and the southern end of the Pennine way in Edale are particular delights. It is an area in which the farming community plays a crucial part in making High Peak what it is. They have suffered much in recent years, and they are a group whom I hope to stand up for in the House. I could go through High Peak village by village, as they all have their own attractions, but the tradition is to be brief-I am conscious of that, and there are lots of other nervous people trembling in the wings-so I will just mention that my home village of Chapel-en-le-Frith is the birthplace of Ferodo brake linings, and that New Mills is the home of Swizzels Matlow, which makes the famous loveheart sweets. Containing messages such as "Want you", "Need you", and "Be mine", they are very much the flavour of the new coalition.

It would not be right to mention High Peak without reference to its famous limestone, which is quarried in great quantities in the south of the constituency, providing jobs and economic benefit for the whole community. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions remarked on the vastness of the quarries on his visit to the constituency several years ago.

As we move into the stormy waters ahead caused by the deficit left by the Labour party, I commend to the House the actions of the local High Peak borough council which, when it entered a strategic alliance with the neighbouring Staffordshire Moorlands district council, has driven out over £1 million of saving, yet managed to maintain and improve front-line services for its residents. The strategic alliance continues to make strides forward under the leadership of Councillor Tony Ashton, together with his team of Conservative councillors and supported by the excellent and determined staff of that council. This small borough council has shown the way to us all. The savings are there to be made, and we should heed its example.

As the coalition embarks on this Parliament, and as I embark on my first but I hope not last term as the Member for High Peak, we are aware of the tough times ahead. I am and always will remain aware of the problems facing my constituents. In Glossop and Tintwistle, the Tintwistle bypass is an issue that has meandered on for many years. It was promised by my predecessor 13 years ago but has still to be built. It is a difficult issue. There are difficult environmental consequences to be considered but something needs to be done to alleviate the traffic problems suffocating Glossop. Tintwistle shudders and resounds to the thundering of wagons as they cross the Pennines. I know that money is tight and will be for some time, but if money becomes available a workable solution may be achieved.

Both Buxton and Glossop have health service issues. In Glossop, where the Tameside and Glossop primary care trust prevails, my residents are reliant on Tameside hospital, the subject of much debate locally. In Buxton and the remainder of the constituency, Derbyshire County PCT is responsible for provision. I will meet the PCT to discuss provision for hospitals in Buxton and care outside the hospital in the central area.

I shall deal quickly with another issue-pensions. I have made many efforts over several years to help the members of the Turner and Newall pension scheme and I will continue to make those efforts, as it is still in assessment for the Pension Protection Fund. I have met the PPF and will meet the independent trustee, and I hope to get the best result for my residents.

In summary, the High Peak is a beautiful place to live, and I hope that I can make the residents of the High Peak as proud of me as their MP as I am of them and the constituency.