Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech in this very important debate on both the role of Back Benchers and, most importantly, how we can protect the power and authority that this Chamber has had throughout several centuries of our history.
First, I must say that I am very relieved that I managed to arrive here to make my maiden speech without incurring any serious injury. The first time I sought to catch your eye, Mr Speaker, was during the Queen's Speech debate. I moved on quickly, however, because my hon. Friend Daniel Kawczynski had secured a debate in Westminster Hall on an issue of interest to me, and I quickly wrote to tell you, Mr Speaker, that I would like to speak in it, but then, unfortunately, my hon. Friend had to go to hospital for a couple of weeks. I hope that that was not a result of my desire to speak, but I suspect that it might have been because a fortnight later I asked if I could speak in the debate on the emergency Budget only then to finish up in hospital myself for a week. I am relieved to arrive here undamaged on this occasion, therefore.
It is a convention that Members refer to their constituency in their maiden speech, and I would like to do that. Montgomeryshire is a beautiful constituency, and I have lived there all my life. Indeed, although my family encouraged me to move away, I always resisted because I simply love Montgomeryshire, especially its uplands. That love is what led me to become president of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales for the last few years, a position I have had to relinquish since becoming a Member of this House.
Montgomeryshire is also a culturally diverse constituency, where the Welsh language plays a very important part. It is probably the dominant language in a third of the constituency. When I was elected as a Member of Parliament, my first seven words were in the Welsh language. I said:
"Dw i'n falch gael fy ethol fel Aelod Seneddol dros Sir Drefaldwyn."
Well, perhaps that is 10 words, Mr Speaker, but I knew I might be testing your patience, and I should hasten to explain that that just means that I am very proud to be elected to represent Montgomeryshire as a Member of Parliament. I thought that that was the right thing for me to do in that constituency.
A second convention is that the Member making their maiden speech should refer to their predecessor, and I would like to make reference to more than just my immediate predecessor. I was doing some research and I discovered the most incredible coincidence. I thought I was the first person in my extended family ever to have any interest in politics, yet I discovered that in 1880 a certain Arthur Humphreys-Owen, a Liberal Member, owned the house where I live. He was followed by Lord Davies of Llandinam, a very great man in Welsh history, and he in turn was followed by Clement Davies. Some current Members might remember him; he was a great leader of the Liberal party. It is said in Montgomeryshire that many of the Liberal Democrats there voted for me because it was an opportunity for them to vote yet again for a Davies, and that that probably contributed to quite a substantial part of my majority.
My immediate predecessor was Lembit Öpik, and I want to pay tribute to him. He was a man of great talent in many, many areas of activity-and I must say that in some areas he achieved a level of excellence that I am sure I will not be able to match. He served his constituents very well, however, and I wish him well in his new chosen careers.
I am often asked in the constituency how I have found being a Member of Parliament. Like my hon. Friend Jane Ellison, who is no longer in her place, I have said that it is a wonderful experience to be here; it is a wonderful experience for me to be speaking in this Chamber, representing the people of Montgomeryshire. That is a great thrill, as is being part of what happens in this House.
That brings me to the debate in which we are engaging at the moment. Since I have been here, we have seen some amazing things happen. We have seen two of the great parties of Britain come together to form a dynamic coalition, rising phoenix-like from the ashes and smouldering embers of the Labour party-I am sure that it will be able to recover. It was a dramatic event to have been here in the presence of and to have witnessed.
I sat at the back of this Chamber watching and listening to the statement on the Saville inquiry. I was in some sort of enrapture, because it was a most wonderful occasion. I am certain that it was the sheer power of the words and the speeches that brought that hugely damaging issue to a conclusion that is to the benefit of us all. The reputation and presence of this House, and its historical context in which we speak, helped to solve what was a dreadful scar on our history.
This is a very special place, and I think we probably all know that. Several Members, including Stephen Pound, who spoke before me, have made reference to the issue of where we go from here. Dealing with that is the next step, because there is general agreement across the whole House that there is an issue that we need to address. I must say that I think it is a matter for the Procedure Committee. We must await its response and take what it says seriously, because dealing with this matter is complex.
There is a temptation for us to move into the realms of various punishments, but I am not going to do that. What I will say-this is the only comment that I wish to make on this matter-is that to be asked to apologise in this House for committing something that we all consider to be a serious misdemeanour is a serious punishment. If I ever became a Minister and such a punishment was visited on me, I would consider that to be a huge blow. All the other punishments would be small in comparison with the damage I would feel to my reputation if that happened. So I do not think that we should underplay this.
I have come to this House to represent the people of Montgomeryshire and my constituency, and to represent Wales, the nation that I love. I have come here to do what I can to protect and enhance the reputation of this House. Contributing to this debate and supporting the intention espoused so eloquently by my hon. Friend Mr Hollobone at its outset is what I really want to do.