Economic Affairs and Work and Pensions

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 6:08 pm on 8 June 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb Conservative, Aberconwy 6:08, 8 June 2010

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech. After sitting in the House for seven hours yesterday, I can say that there is only one thing more nerve-wracking than being called upon to make a maiden speech-sitting on the Bench for seven hours and not being called to make a maiden speech.

Before I pay tribute to my constituency, Aberconwy, I must say that I am proud to stand here as the first elected Member for the constituency, which is a new construct for this Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House came up to Aberconwy during the election campaign to offer me support. I am sure that hon. Members from both sides of the House have had the experience of a senior politician coming to support them. We were walking along the promenade in Llandudno, which is the most beautiful promenade in Wales, and probably in Britain, and my right hon. Friend asked me about the arithmetic in the constituency. When I informed him that Aberconwy had 44,000 electors, he immediately said, "Oh well, your seat will be abolished, won't it?" That was before I had won the election. If that is how prominent politicians are supposed to help candidates, then I am not sure that was the case in that instance. He left me dumbfounded and went off on the cable car that takes people up from the promenade to the Great Orme, a visit that I would recommend to anyone.

Aberconwy is built upon two constituencies-the Conwy constituency and the former Meirionnydd Nant Conwy constituency. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my two predecessors in those constituencies. Mrs Betty Williams was the Member for Conwy and she served the constituency with distinction for 13 years. Even though I stood against her in 2005 and disagreed with her time after time, on every doorstep in Conwy I was told that if I was as good a constituency MP as Mrs Williams, I would do well. I will aspire to ensure that I do serve the area as well as Mrs Betty Williams did.

More importantly, Mrs Betty Williams has recently published her memoirs in Welsh, and, being a first language Welsh speaker, I have had the pleasure of reading them. What shines through is the fact that she embarked upon a political career for the right reasons. She was a quarryman's daughter, and she served local communities on district and county councils and stood for Parliament on four occasions before she won. Throughout, her commitment was for the right reasons. She wanted to serve her people and she wanted to make sure that her Labour party views were expressed in the House. For that, I respect her very much indeed, and I hope that I will be able to do as good a job on behalf of my constituents as she did.

The Meirionnydd Nant Conwy part of the constituency was extremely well served by Mr Llwyd. Despite the fact that we have had our disagreements-viewers of Welsh language television can attest to that-I would also like to pay tribute to him. When I canvassed in the Conwy valley, people said that Elfyn Llwyd was always approachable and always served his people very well, and, again, I would hope to do the same. I follow in the footsteps of two hard-working Members and I am aware of the responsibility and privilege that I have in serving.

Aberconwy is a diverse constituency. It is dependent on tourism, with Llandudno, which I have mentioned, the queen of Welsh resorts, in the centre of the constituency, and locations such as Conwy with the castle of Edward I, Llanfairfechan and Betws-y-Coed in the Snowdonia national park. There is no doubt that tourism is an important industry within the constituency. Agriculture, on the other hand, has seen a decline during the past 10 years. The agriculture industry, which is centred on the market town of Llanrwst in my constituency, is in need of support. While I am in the House, I will try to support the tourism industry and ensure that it is not seen as a Cinderella industry. In our part of Wales it is crucial to creating employment and retaining young people in the area. In the same way, we need to develop the food sector and the food industries by working with farmers and the agriculture sector. I would like to see the development of real opportunities for businesses to be created in the food sector in my constituency.

The other thing that I need to say about Aberconwy is that it is an historic constituency. I have already mentioned the castle in Conwy that was built by Edward I, but in many ways the history of Wales is apparent in Aberconwy by the fact that we have Conwy castle on the coast, but we also have the castle in Dolwyddelan, which was built by the Welsh princes. Those two castles are a snapshot of the history of Wales. One thing that causes me immense regret is that the history of the building of Conwy castle is well known to most people in the House, but the history of the Welsh princes and the castle at Dolwyddelan is not as well known. Our education system should deal with that, because it is important to know our history-British history and Welsh history.

The Welsh language is a living, breathing language in Aberconwy. Around 40% of my constituents are first language Welsh speakers, and the Welsh language still survives basically because of the work of two people who are associated with my constituency. The first is Bishop William Morgan, who was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I to translate the Bible into Welsh in 1588. He created a work of literature, which is much better than the recent Welsh Bible translation. I suspect that the fact that I prefer the old version shows that I am a natural conservative in many ways.

The other individual associated with my constituency is Wyn Roberts, now Lord Roberts, who served the Conwy constituency for 27 years. In his time in this House he played a huge part in ensuring that the Welsh language had the opportunity to survive into the 21st century. Wyn Roberts was in many ways responsible for ensuring that we have the fourth television channel in Wales, S4C. He was responsible for the Education Act 1986, which ensured that the Welsh language had a proper place in our education system, and, just as crucially, he was responsible for the Welsh Language Act 1993. He is a hard act to follow.

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to give my maiden speech.