Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye so that I can make my maiden speech. I am grateful for the courtesies that the Chamber shows to new Members when they make their maiden speeches, but, being a doctor, I am reminded of the occasion on which I stood outside the human dissection room. I feel like that now: rather anxious, rather excited, and perhaps too eager to get stuck in.
It is customary for new Members to pay tribute to their predecessors. My predecessor, Andrew Mackay, served in the House for 29 years, representing Birmingham, Stechford for two years between 1977 and 1979, Berkshire, East from 1983, and Bracknell from 1997. It is fair to say that his reputation for constituency work was outstanding. His will be a tough act to follow, and emulating it presents a challenge that I hope to meet.
The name "Bracknell" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Braccen-Heale, which means "bracken-covered secret place". It was first mentioned in a boundary charter in 949 AD. A thousand years later Bracknell was designated a new town, and ceased to be a secret place. Its has grown significantly since then, and has managed to attract many companies: Honeywell, General Electric, Cable & Wireless and 3M, to name but a few. But Bracknell is not just good at business; it is also a regional centre for culture, and South Hill Park is within its confines.
The theatre at South Hill Park is named after Oscar Wilde. He is reputed to have stayed locally, and may have named his most famous stage character, Lady Bracknell, during his stay. Like, I fear, many present and former Members, I have a past in amateur dramatics. I can assure the House that I did not take the role of Lady Bracknell, but I did take the role of Jack Worthing in the same play. Members may recall that that character had two names, Ernest in town and Jack in the country. I can assure the House that I will be Philip in all places, but that I will always remember, when speaking,
"the vital Importance of Being Earnest".
My constituency includes two other towns, Crowthorne and Sandhurst, and the delightful village of Finchampstead. Crowthorne is perhaps best known for being the site of Broadmoor hospital and Wellington college. Sandhurst, of course, has the Royal Military Academy, but in addition it has a remarkable series of events and community activities under the banner of Sandhurst Pride. Finchampstead is a delightful part of the world. It is famous for its association with Tudor royalty, who hunted there, and is also the site of a remarkable community centre, the Finchampstead Baptist Centre. It provides wonderful views of the Hampshire countryside from Fleet Hill.
Let me now talk about a topic that is allied to this debate. Next week we shall all be in the Chamber to listen to the Budget statement, and to hear about the dreadful finances of the country. Of course we need to make some decisions very quickly to deal with not just the deficit but with the debt, but I believe that we also need to make decisions about the future balance and direction of the economy so that we can secure greater stability, sustainability and strength, an emphasis on a creation of wealth that is real rather than transitory, and more energy-related and knowledge-related independence from friend and foe alike. That is why I want to mention the space industry, which I think merits Government support. As I look around the Chamber, I suspect that there are quite a few BlackBerrys in operation. I look at the cameras and delude myself into thinking that millions have tuned in to watch my maiden speech. Both forms of communication need satellites. Someone had to make the decision to put the satellites up there, and we are really good at making them.
The space industry is a growing area. That is why it is vital for UK prosperity. There is a multitude of economic opportunities. The industry has grown four times the average since 2000. It adds £6.5 billion to the UK economy annually. My own company, Tektronix, in Bracknell makes sophisticated measurement gear for satellites. The key point is that the industry is growing. Why is it growing? It is because we are the best at it. We have to be the best in this global economy. We also need to anticipate the direction of technological demand in the world.
It is not just about the economy. The industry also benefits education. It inspires innovation. It inspires generations of scientists and engineers. In one poll of engineers, almost 40% cited it as the reason that they went into their chosen career. It also helps us with the environment, an issue that I am very interested in. It allows us to assess man's impact on the natural world. It also offers solutions, one example being the transfer of data into space, getting rid of terrestrial-based masts that are so energy dependent.
The industry is also strategic. It underpins critical parts of infrastructure. It allows Government to have intelligent ways of formulating transportation plans. It is hugely important in defence, of course, and it aids our ability to wield soft power in the world.
Space is indispensable; that is basically what I am saying. It is an open goal for us. We should be shooting at it repeatedly. The sky is not the limit when it comes to the space industry. It offers a new economy, a green economy that offers real returns, and a niche market that depends more on knowledge than on labour, which is relevant when competing with China, India and Brazil.
I am often asked why I stood for election to this Chamber and moved away from being a doctor to being a Member of Parliament. To my mind, people who come in here should want to make this country a better place. I want to put Britain first. I do not want to be part of a Government who manage decline. One way of doing that is by having a strong high-tech sector. Government's role is to reduce tax and regulation and thereby stimulate an increase in scientific knowledge.
I have no idea how long I have in this House. That is up to the people of Bracknell constituency to decide, but when I leave I hope that I will have contributed to putting the "Great" back into Great Britain.
Copy and paste this code on your website