On behalf of the Backbench Business Committee, I beg to move
That this House has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment.
This is the second time that we have had a debate on the Floor of the House that has been chosen by the Backbench Business Committee. We have chosen to keep the pre-recess Adjournment debate format, mainly because we have had so many insistent representations from colleagues to retain it. As Mr Speaker mentioned earlier, about 50 Members have put down their names to speak, and the Chamber is very full. This is a rare opportunity for Members to debate issues that they have not been able to raise elsewhere, either because they have not been called to speak in a debate or because they have been unsuccessful in securing an Adjournment debate.
The Backbench Business Committee believes that the pre-recess Adjournment debate could be improved, however, and we hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will commit to ensuring that those Members who want one will receive a substantive reply from the relevant Government Department. The Committee will also consider changes to the format of these debates, and we welcome any suggestions for improvement. With that, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish you and everyone else in the House a relaxing and enjoyable recess.
May I remind hon. Members that there is a limit of eight minutes on speeches in the debate?
I should like to raise a number of points before the House rises for the summer recess. I should also like to congratulate the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, Natascha Engel, on her wonderful decision.
I make my remarks against the background of an extraordinary general election result. There are not too many Members of Parliament left who were elected on the same day as Tony Blair and Mr Brown, and there are now 232 newly elected Members of Parliament. I want to say to colleagues in all parts of the House that I hold Tony Blair entirely responsible for the way in which this Parliament-the mother of all Parliaments-has been diminished, and for the way in which I believe he misled us over the war with Iraq. I hold the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath responsible for taking away the historic duty of the Bank of England to regulate the financial market. Against that difficult backdrop, I wish to raise a number of points.
The first is the plight of fishermen in Leigh-on-Sea, an historic fishing village in which 28 families are still involved in fishing. Sadly, because their boats are in the 10-metres-and-under category, they are experiencing a crisis because their quota has been exhausted. They fish for cod, but I am advised that if negotiations were to lead to the granting of a quota of 0.5 tonnes per boat for sole, skate and cod from September until the end of the year, fishing would continue to thrive and prosper in Leigh-on-Sea. I am supported in this by my right hon. Friend Mr Francois and my hon. Friends the Members for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) and for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris).
My next point is about myalgic encephalopathy, or ME. This debilitating illness is very hard to diagnose, and a number of my constituents have found it difficult to get benefits following a diagnosis. Following their work capability assessment, ME patients are often described as ineligible for the correct benefit. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will have a conversation with the relevant Department to ensure that ME sufferers are not disadvantaged when claiming disability living allowance.
Last year, I raised with the then Prime Minister the plight of my constituent, Julie Ditchburn. She was living with a gentleman who was not treating her and the children terribly well, and she left the family home and brought the children to this country. Under the terms of the Hague convention, however, the children were ordered to be taken away from her. These were very distressing circumstances, and the children are now back in Spain. It would be wonderful if the Deputy Leader of the House could have a word with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to see whether our consulate there could be a bit more helpful than it is being at the moment, as I was told it would be some months ago.
I shall move on to the plight of my constituent, Tinashe Sahanga, who came to the United Kingdom from Zimbabwe with his mother, brothers and sisters in 2000 when he was 16 years old. Quite extraordinarily, he has still not been granted leave to remain here. Sad though some colleagues might consider it, I watch the BBC Parliament channel, and on it I saw the lady who is in charge of these matters, Lin Homer, saying that she was determined to be proactive in helping Members of Parliament whose constituents were experiencing difficulties such as these. I appeal again to the Deputy Leader of the House to pass on my concern about the plight of my constituent, Tinashe Sahanga.
My next point is about Southend airport. Under the present Government, this problem would probably not have arisen. Permission has been granted for the expansion of the airport, and that is upsetting a number of my constituents. I have now launched a petition to the European Parliament, and I hope that it will look carefully at my constituents' concerns about noise and pollution.
Many hon. Members receive complaints from their constituents about their cars being clamped. Certain organisations are clamping cars, and my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East has even been threatened by one of these enforcement companies. They impose fines of £400 or £500, which is just outrageous. These people seem to be outside the law. I ask the Deputy Leader of the House to have a word with the appropriate Minister, to see whether anything can be done about this.
A week ago, I visited the wonderful Southend campus of Essex university, which was opened by Princess Anne in 2007. Student facilities will be opening there shortly, and 561 rooms for students will be available. I hope that, in these challenging times for seaside resorts, Southend will be seen as an attractive place in which people can advance their studies.
I also pay tribute to the YMCA, which is doing marvellous work locally, and I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will give it whatever encouragement he can.
I was delighted to learn from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that she is looking at the issue of policing. It seems somewhat perverse that, according to a report published last week, front-line police officers spend more time off work than on duty.
I am also delighted that Eastwood school in my constituency has facilities that would very well suit one of the smaller visiting teams in the Olympic games. I had the great privilege of chairing the Committee proceedings of the Olympic games legislation. The games are now just two years away. I understand from friends in China that there is a wonderful exhibition in Shanghai at the moment. Perhaps in two years' time, a similar opportunity will arise for the new Olympic games centre.
I know that a number of colleagues want to make their maiden speech today. I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy and well-deserved break during the summer recess.
I could speak about all the problems with the coalition, but there are two pressing cases in my constituency that I need to air.
First, I want to explain that the Bolsover constituency used to have 12 pits and about 20 textile factories. In the 1980s and 1990s, all those pits went. They were closed by the previous Tory Government. The textile factories, by and large, followed suit, mainly because Marks & Spencer and one or two other big stores decided to have all their goods made abroad. The net result was that unemployment in the Bolsover area, and in north Derbyshire generally, rose to more than 15% in the pit villages. We had a lot of work to do, and when the Labour Government came in-contrary to what Mr Amess said-the truth is that we managed to start regenerating the area.
Instead of leaving the pit tips there, we cadged the money from the previous Prime Minister-then the Chancellor of Exchequer-to flatten them and turn them into areas where work could be provided. The factories were not the same and the money was not the same as it was when people were working in the pits. The truth is that we needed a lot of factories to make up for the several thousand miners and the many textile workers who had been thrown out of work. This was a deprived area without any doubt, so we had to do a lot of cadging of money in that context.
When Building Schools for the Future came along, we were naturally very pleased. We thought, "Here we are: we can get about four or five schools, some of them very old, rebuilt and provide some work for all those people". The private sector would have been involved as suppliers for Building Schools for the Future and other schools in Britain. When the public sector is culled, it creates misery for the private sector-that is roughly it. Two or three schools were included in the programme, and Bolsover had its completion date only a fortnight ago.
When the Secretary of State made his statement to cancel 700 Building Schools for the Future projects, Members can imagine my horror when I heard that Tibshelf community school was not included in the list of projects that will go ahead. Looking at the website is enough to make you cry. I shall quote what came out in July 2010 on the Tory-controlled Derbyshire county council website. It is almost unbelievable:
"This is an immensely exciting time in the history of Tibshelf School. The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme for Derbyshire is arriving just as the school is preparing to celebrate its centenary... The plans for the new school are developing nicely"- this is in July this year-
"and have been shared with the whole community. From September 2010 the Tibshelf family will grow to include not only the villages of Tibshelf, Newton, Blackwell, Westhouses and Hilcote, but also Holmewood, Heath, Morton and Pilsley"- the latter in the constituency of my hon. Friend Natascha Engel.
Why did it say all that? Because not only was Tibshelf going to have its brand-new school; it was to be even bigger than we originally thought because it was going to take over Deincourt school in North Wingfield in my hon. Friend's constituency. The result would have been that even more pupils could attend and a new Deincourt primary school would be built. The ripples were rolling right across to the county council, which was excited by it. The truth is that the Secretary of State kyboshed all that in a second when he decided that Tibshelf was not going ahead. There we are, then, for a school that is celebrating its centenary next year.
Tibshelf did not get on the first list; it did not get on the second list; it did not get on the third, fourth or fifth lists. I am pleading with the Secretary of State to make sure that this school is included-not only because of the deprivation in the area and because the project provides work, but because the educational facilities needed for this wonderful sports college are so important. What has happened not only affects Bolsover, but creates problems for the kids in Deincourt and elsewhere. Deincourt school is due to be demolished in the next few weeks. It was to have a complete rebuild. Those children will have no school to go to unless we can change this decision.
Let me finish the first part of what I want to say today by calling on the Secretary of State in respect of this matter. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire mentioned that we should get answers. I want to know whether the Secretary of State will meet us when we come back in September; then we can bring down to this place the headmaster, officers of the Derbyshire education authority and others to get this decision reversed.
The second issue I want to raise is Bolsover's prefabricated bungalows. Like many others up and down the country, they were built after the second world war. We did not have the materials or the money then-by God, we certainly did not have the money-so these prefabs were built. A lot of people thought they would not last very long, but they were wrong because the prefabs were built pretty well. Then we cladded around them in many constituencies up and down Britain and we managed to give them a new lease of life. That is why houses built in about 1948 or 1949 were able to last right through to the year 2000 and beyond.
Sadly, however, in the past few years, the foundations have begun to collapse. In my constituency, there are 108 of these buildings, and pensioners are living in every one of them. They are in Bolsover, a deprived area, and in villages such as Langwith Junction and New Houghton. Pensioners in these areas are now living in fear, as some of these dwellings have been shut down. There are 40 in one village and about 15 have already been closed. Can Members imagine what the conditions are like for people when houses next door to them and peppered around them are closed?
Again, then, I am asking for a meeting with a Minister. When we met the Labour Housing Minister, my right hon. Friend John Healey, he did not give us a letter saying that the money was all gone. My right hon. Friend said to us: "Here is the money. Start the programme of rebuilding the prefabricated houses. Give the pensioners a chance to live in some decent accommodation." So we took the money and we thought we were going to start after the election. Then, we got the response from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that he is not prepared to find that money any more. We are asking for a meeting with him in order to get those houses built to provide people with work and-
Order. Time is up, I am afraid. We are grateful.
May I say how delighted I am, having sat in the shadow of so many excellent maiden speeches over the past two and a half months, to have at long last the opportunity to make my own debut, my maiden speech, as a new Member of Parliament in this august House of Commons? I add that I am conscious of the significance and importance of today's Adjournment debate to all our colleagues in the Chamber, so I am grateful to have your indulgence, Mr Speaker, and that of the House and all colleagues this afternoon as I make my debut.
It brings me genuine joy to pay tribute to my four predecessors. Thanks to the creativity of the Boundary Commission, the new and unique Witham constituency comprises three very distinct areas of the county of Essex. It was represented in the previous Parliament by four most distinguished Members of Parliament. I forewarned them that I was making my debut and I suspect they felt that I might make them blush-hence their absence.
First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Newmark. He has served the town of Witham, from which my constituency takes its name, and many of the surrounding communities with tremendous distinction and care. I also pay a personal tribute to my hon. Friend the outstanding Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), who has not only bequeathed me some of the most beautiful swathes of the Essex countryside, but served those parts of my constituency with enormous distinction and in a way that has won him many friends in the local area.
It is also an honour to pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Whittingdale. Mr Speaker, I was at one stage considered to be somewhat to the right of the political centre-until, that is, I inherited some of my hon. Friend's local Conservative party activists! My hon. Friend is nothing short of a colossus locally, and his advice and opinions are greatly sought. He has represented the local areas that now fall into my constituency with great gusto, forthright views and conviction, which I look forward to emulating.
Last but not least, I would like to pay a most sincere tribute to my coalition colleague, Bob Russell. He has quite rightly developed a reputation as an assiduous constituency Member of Parliament and I am aware that the area I have inherited from him-the ward of Stanway-has come to expect a first-class service from their Member of Parliament, and I intend to keep it that way.
As I said earlier, my constituency is a new one. Standing at over 130 square miles, it covers areas from the districts of Braintree, Maldon and the borough of Colchester. In previous guises, the constituency has also been in part represented by a number of our most distinguished parliamentarians. The two most notable were Lord Newton of Braintree and Lord Wakeham. Speaking personally, I cannot pay sufficient tribute to Lord Newton, who, wherever I go in my constituency, is spoken of with such genuine warmth, affection and sincerity owing to his years of public service and dedication to what was then the Braintree constituency. It is fair to say that I have a truly tremendous local legacy.
At the heart of my new constituency is the historic market town of Witham, which is surrounded by a significant number of villages and hamlets. Witham's history and buildings date as far back as the Domesday book, and the town is well known for its wealth of 16th-century timber-frame buildings, for its distinctive town hall, and, now, for the more modern developments that define the town. My constituency is also home to well over 40 villages and hamlets, including Hatfield Peverel, Coggeshall, Wickham Bishops, Kelvedon, The Notleys, Woodham, Totham, Marks Tey, Tollesbury and the village of Tiptree. I should like to think that hon. Members have already familiarised themselves with Tiptree's most famous produce while having their morning tea and toast, as the village is home to the orchards and the factory producing the world-famous Wilkin and Sons Tiptree jam.
Witham is also a constituency where small businesses, enterprise and traditional high streets matter. Local entrepreneurs and businesses support 83% of jobs in Witham, compared with the national average of 68%, and 25,000 people and their families depend on the prosperity of those businesses. In my view-and as they tell me-those businesses need a fair and flexible labour market and a competitive and low-tax framework to provide jobs and prosperity.
My own deep and personal interest in what I call the economics of enterprise and small business stems from my family background. My parents arrived in Britain from Uganda with literally nothing, and, like the thousands of British Asians-and also the many Patels-who arrived in Britain in similar circumstances at that time, they relentlessly pursued the path of pure hard work in order to get on in life. By working long hours and by saving their hard-earned money, my parents were able to buy their first business-what else but a newsagent's? As a result, my youth was literally spent sleeping above the shop and playing directly under the till, while watching my family-thanks to the free-market policies of Margaret Thatcher-thrive and grow. Wherever my parents set up shop, they employed local people, contributed to the local community, and made a substantial contribution to the local economy.
I speak from personal experience when I say that the impact of the last Government's policies on enterprise and small business was simply devastating. I saw at first hand the ever-growing burdens of the state encroach on our livelihood and sap our ability to function as a business, let alone support our local community by providing employment and much-valued local services. The excessive regulation from central Government stifled every ounce of the very entrepreneurial flair that once led Napoleon to describe our great country as a nation of shopkeepers.
I should like to think that the Witham constituency was a hotbed of Patels, but alas, not yet. None the less, I am proud to represent a constituency of entrepreneurs whose businesses create jobs and prosperity throughout our high streets, villages and towns. The Witham constituency is a place where the unique and unyielding ingenuity of the British people to create opportunities and prosperity is found in abundance. Nowhere is our reputation as a nation of shopkeepers and free-market entrepreneurs more apparent than in Witham, and while I am a Member of this House I will stand by the businesses on which my constituents depend and which, of course, make my constituency such a dynamic place to represent.
I believe that our country is at its strongest when it promotes the spirit of enterprise, the values of hope and aspiration, and the desire to get on in life. That is why I am certain that this Government's priority of lower corporation tax, providing incentives for small business, abolishing Labour's tax on jobs, and ending the over-zealous bureaucracy that has strangled our small businesses will enable this country to flourish again.
I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House for enabling me to make my maiden speech, but my greatest thanks go to the good-natured and hard-working people of Witham for electing me. I pledge that I will never shy away from representing them and being a strong voice for them in the House.
I want to express my concern about the development of the Princess Anne maternity unit at Royal Bolton hospital. The creation of a new regional baby supercentre at the hospital was announced in August 2007. Construction work on the expansion began in September 2009, and is due to be completed by the end of 2011. Royal Bolton hospital won the bid in competition with other hospitals, and we were naturally delighted in Bolton.
The care that the NHS delivers throughout our lives and during the period that leads to our death is priceless, but nothing can be more important than the start that our children are given in life, and quality maternity services can make an important difference in that regard. The development was welcomed by the whole region because it was designed to raise maternity services to another level. The state-of-the-art supercentre was designed to provide extra delivery rooms, new high-dependency beds, new intensive-care and high-dependency cots, new beds for antenatal and post-natal wards, new on-site overnight facilities for parents, and the best equipment possible to provide care for our sickest babies. Twenty million pounds were invested to make all that happen and 400 jobs were to be created in the town, not just for the benefit of Bolton but in the interests of parents and children throughout Greater Manchester.
I am sorry, Mr Speaker. It is a real privilege to follow Priti Patel. I am grateful to her for inciting that intervention, because it has given me another minute in which to speak, but I also congratulate her on what was indeed an excellent maiden speech.
The decision was made after the extensive making it better review of maternity services. Doctors, nurses, midwives and specialists were consulted throughout, and 12 primary care trusts, 12 hospitals and 12 local authorities were directly involved in the process. Thousands of information leaflets were distributed across the region. Workshops were held with members of the public, and a citizens' council, a maternity council, NHS managers, doctors and nurses were all involved. The level of public consultation was unprecedented, with more than 242,000 people sharing their views by means of formal responses, petitions and public meetings. At all stages, the focus was on making the necessary changes to provide the best possible care for patients.
It was decided to replace the 12 centres in Greater Manchester with eight centres of excellence, with three supercentres providing neonatal care. The higher standard of care provided by the new structure and concentrated resources would mean that more premature and sick babies would survive, and fewer parents would be turned away owing to staffing problems. It was estimated that between 30 and 50 lives a year would be saved. The move from 12 to eight centres was never going to be easy-it was bound to arouse strong and emotional local protest-but in this case it was the right thing to do, because it was in the interest of better-quality maternity services throughout Greater Manchester.
The problems started when the general election campaign arrived. Along came the then shadow Secretary of State for Health-the current Secretary of State, Mr Lansley-campaigning in Bury, Rochdale and other Greater Manchester constituencies. He was clearly a man in pursuit of votes and popularity, and he was going to get what he wanted by promising to keep all the maternity units open. In doing so, however, he was completely undermining the making it better scheme in a naked attempt to win Conservative target seats in Greater Manchester. He must have known-if he did not, he certainly should have known-that this money was being provided to fund the supercentres and the improved facilities for the benefit of everyone only because the available resources were being sensibly concentrated. What he said in one town alongside a prospective Conservative candidate was being denied in other towns. Eventually, however, under pressure, the then shadow Secretary of State for Health was forced to claim publicly that the Conservatives would keep all the maternity units open and at the same time ensure that Bolton's development and other supercentres would be unaffected.
Things have changed now, of course. The former shadow Secretary of State has lost the shadow part of his title and reality is setting in, but he still provides no explanation as to where the money will come from or what other services will have to be cut as a result of, effectively, his commitment to increase spending on Greater Manchester maternity services. He no doubt hopes that his general election promises will fade into the distance, and in order to try and wriggle out of them he has called for a review of Greater Manchester's maternity facilities. He does so even though the making it better programme had already involved an enormous review and public consultation, so he is simply playing for time. The major question that the Secretary of State must answer is if the centres that were previously due to close are now set to continue, where will the extra funding come from for the centres of excellence and the supercentres?
As a result of my concerns, I raised this issue in a recent Prime Minister's Question Time and the Prime Minister assured me that there were no plans to cancel the improvements to Bolton's maternity unit, but just one week later health bosses were told by the Government that they would have to, again, prove that the improvements are necessary in order to secure the investment.
The Secretary of State for Health and the Prime Minister need to be clear with the people of Bolton and Greater Manchester. The consultation work has already been completed and the most efficient plan put in place with construction and recruitment in Bolton already under way. After more than six years of preparation and investment the entire process is almost complete. Will the Government support the improvement plans as they did during the general election campaign? If not, what alternative do they propose, and how will services be affected and funded?
I have fought hard throughout my political life, but I would never dream of sinking so low as to put at risk the health and well-being of mothers and children for electoral advantage. The Secretary of State for Health has no honourable alternative now but to come clean and stump up the money to deliver what he promised to the people of Bolton and Greater Manchester by fully funding Bolton's maternity supercentre as he said he would.
First, may I say what a pleasure it is to follow so shortly after my hon. Friend Priti Patel? It is a delight to be speaking in the same debate in which she made her maiden speech. I am sure some of us can remember how terrifying that is, and my hon. Friend did amazingly well.
I want to use this opportunity to highlight the unusual case of an institution that fails people who look to it for protection and help when situations go wrong. I shall mention the names of a number of people and organisations, but there is no court case pending so that is not sub judice.
Many people work hard all their lives, and save hard. Some people may run corner shops or work as self-employed plumbers and save a deal of money, and a time comes in their life when they realise that they want to use that money for their pension or to help them through their later years, so they look to make investments with that money. Some people will use organisations such as investment banks and stockbroker firms, and I want to talk about a particular stockbroking firm with which, in 2007, a number of people decided to invest their life savings. This story is also about the Financial Services Authority. The company took these people's life savings-a number of people's livelihoods were also involved-and within weeks it had all gone.
A trader by the name of Stuart Waldron handled the accounts of these people. He asked all of them to set up a separate e-mail account that he could use for trades only. He then rang particular people and said that the e-mail account was not working and asked for their password. The investors thought that there was nothing unusual in that, because the account was just for trading, so they gave the trader their password. He then proceeded to send messages to and from himself giving instructions on buys and sells. When that became apparent, the FSA became involved and I sent a number of documents to the authority. That was a considerable time ago and I have not yet had a response from it. I e-mailed the relevant inspector at the FSA, Margaret Cole, three weeks ago because I knew I was going to speak about this matter today, but I have not had a reply.
The stockbroking firm is called WorldSpreads, and it operates outside the City of London-surprise, surprise. Therefore, it does not come under the jurisdiction of the City of London police. It appears that the people who run WorldSpreads used to run a stockbroking firm called Square Mile Securities, which was inspected and closed down, although because of its financial situation at the time, it paid a reduced penalty. Those people from SMS who were closed down and had to pay that fine then went on to set up WorldSpreads. The inspector who closed down SMS was Margaret Cole.
WorldSpreads held up its hands and said Stuart Waldron was a rogue trader. My investors decided not to believe that and chose instead to take the case further. They had a meeting with the directors of WorldSpreads, which was recorded. On the recording it is made very clear that Stuart Waldron was not a rogue trader but that the operation was planned-indeed, it was a procedure that the company appeared to carry out regularly.
One key point is that the FSA has so far failed to represent the individuals who have lost their life savings, but there is also a bigger point. I am aware of this group of individuals-I know what has happened to them in their particular case-but how many more stockbroking firms are operating in such a way? How many more individuals are the FSA failing to protect? How many people are walking into a stockbroking firm with their life savings-even as I am giving this speech today-trusting that firm and hoping that there is a procedure behind them and an organisation such as the FSA that will regulate and monitor events and protect them should something go wrong and their life savings are taken away?
I am not being naive in making this speech, and I am aware that financial journalists might want to pick up on this story. If they do so, we would love to know whether Stuart Waldron, who disappeared overnight, is still trading somewhere in the City of London. We have a barrister's statement of case that analysed the whole situation. Unfortunately the case cannot be taken on any further because there is no money left to do so; the people involved cannot fight their corner. If any financial journalist would like a copy of the barrister's statement of case they would be very welcome to it.
It is amazing that an organisation such as the FSA, which is supposed to protect the interests of ordinary hard-working people, should have let people down so spectacularly. It will not be the stockbrokers, the City bankers or the huge institutions that bring about the upturn in this country; it will be the hard-working individuals who set up their own businesses, go to work every day, save as hard as they can and hope that, with those savings, they can look after themselves and their families and see the rewards of their labour. It is an absolute disgrace when organisations such as WorldSpreads try to blame their own misdemeanours, corrupt dealings and failings on to one individual, Stuart Waldron, who disappears overnight-paid, we believe.
I hope that while I am giving this speech there is not someone sat in the WorldSpreads offices handing over their life savings, because we will know what will happen to them. We know the pattern: over a number of weeks, those savings will dwindle and suddenly, a situation will occur-perhaps like that involving BP-and the explanation given will be, "We are so sorry your savings have disappeared, but the markets were badly affected by the current situation". That provides the smokescreen for such activities. We know the corrupt e-mails that such organisations send. They depend on the naivety and inexperience of those who do not have the educational background in, or experience of, the financial markets.
I am sorry to have taken the House's time up with this case. I hope that, as a result of highlighting it today, some steps might be taken towards providing justice and to returning some of those people's money to them.
It is an honour and a humbling privilege to represent Haslingden and Hyndburn in this House. It is a constituency that sits in the impoverished east Lancashire corridor, with its companion constituencies of Blackburn, Burnley and Pendle, some 18 miles north of Manchester. It is a valley littered with the history of a bygone industrial heritage: mill towns that earned Britain great wealth. The demise of "king cotton" has run in parallel with economic difficulty.
My grandfather and grandmother, whom I owe so much and who now reside in a far greater place, would be beaming with pride today. It was family-along with the lack of prosperity in the Thatcherite '80s that capped people's aspirations and life chances-who determined my political persuasions. It is the strength and courage of party colleagues that has brought me to this place, and I am eternally grateful for that.
The local government area of Hyndburn was formed in 1974 and makes up six sevenths of the constituency. It constitutes the borough of Accrington and the old urban districts of Church, Clayton-le-Moors, Rishton, Altham, Great Harwood and Oswaldtwistle. Haslingden sits in the Rossendale valley and is a proud market town famous for cotton and textile manufacturing, and for the 19th-century Irish republican leader and parliamentarian Michael Davitt.
My constituency stretches to the rural north, to the place I understand to be a one-party state, known as the Ribble Valley. Parliamentary boundaries do throw up odd surprises. While canvassing the borders of this iron curtain of political difference, I discovered the annexation of several farms whose cherished Ribble Valley postal address-BB7, Clitheroe-now falls within Hyndburn. My predecessor, Greg Pope, still maintains with great certainty that his defeat by a margin of 22,000 in the Ribble Valley constituency in 1987 was all down to rain on the day affecting the Labour turnout.
Having heard the laudable but extravagant claims that were made in the House about the industrial revolution, I feel duty bound to honour the history of my constituency by wresting away the title of the birthplace of the industrial revolution from my hon. Friend Tristram Hunt-he made that claim in his maiden speech; he has a keen eye for history-and from my hon. Friend Chris Williamson.
As we all know, James Hargreaves-a "gobbiner" from Oswaldtwistle-invented in 1764 the spinning jenny, which revolutionised the manufacture and mass production of cotton. By the 1830s, approximately 85% of all cotton manufactured worldwide was processed in Lancashire.
Many maiden speeches-I have listened to a few-shamelessly act as a tourist bulletin for their constituency, and I intend in mine to follow that trend. My constituency is famous for Accrington "NORI" brick-the word "IRON" was painted upwards on the chimneys when it was supposed to be painted downwards; educational standards have obviously gone up since then-which was used in the construction of the empire state building and Blackpool tower. Europe's largest collection of Tiffany glass is also in the constituency.
Of course, there is also Accrington Stanley. The club has risen from bankruptcy and I can inform the House that it is on an assured footing under the stewardship of my friend Ilyas Khan, whose commitment to the club, passion for the area and dedication to the Leonard Cheshire disability charity I must commend.
One cannot mention the constituency without honouring the 11th East Lancashire Regiment, known as Accrington pals. The pals' first day of action was on the battle of the Somme on
At this point I would like to say a few words about my predecessor, Greg Pope, as is an honoured tradition in this place. Before I do so, however, I would like to place on the record a word of thanks to his predecessor. Greg Pope, in his maiden speech 18 years ago, said of Ken Hargreaves that it is
"no overstatement to say that he has devoted his life to representing the people of the area"-[ Hansard, 20 May 1992; Vol. 208, c. 322.]
of Hyndburn. I can only report to the House that that remains true 18 years later. It is fair to say that Greg was everyone's friend. Articulate and thoughtful, he cared about his constituents, bequeathing a constituency office that in my opinion provides a service to constituents that is second to none.
Greg, like me, traversed a local path to Parliament, beginning his political life in his home town of Great Harwood as a councillor back in 1984, under the wings of George Slynn. Rainy days in the Ribble Valley did not deter his determination, and he was rewarded on a sunny day in 1992, when the Labour vote did come out in Hyndburn. He secured four terms of office as the Member of Parliament for Hyndburn. His vast experience as a Member of this House will be missed by those in all parts of it, as will his pleasant demeanour, honesty and sincerity, and particularly his expertise in foreign affairs.
It would be remiss of me-Greg would welcome my saying this-not to remind the House that
"he is thought to be the only Member of Parliament to have invaded the stage during a gig by The Clash in 1978".
Finally, let me speak briefly of the challenges facing my constituency in the coming years. Despite investment by the previous Government, which has led to significant improvements in some areas, much still needs to be done. Some 40% of privately owned residential properties in the constituency are not up to the decent homes standard, and more than 10% are unfit for human habitation. There are some 2,500 empty properties, including in the Rossendale town of Haslingden, and today some wards in Accrington rank amongst the most deprived in the country in terms of health care, life expectancy and other such indicators.
The Government's housing market renewal programme is attempting to remedy those problems, but it goes without saying that the huge cuts in funding handed out so far-particularly to my area, which is one of the most affected-will blight the local economy for perhaps the second time following 18 years of Thatcherism. Hyndburn has one of the lowest rates of participation in adult sports and recreation in Lancashire, and is the third lowest in the country. In my constituency it is not possible to create opportunities for the private sector to deal with those fundamental issues without public sector support, and I intend to be a fierce and vocal supporter of my constituents' interests in this House.
Localism, we are told, is very important and I agree with that concept. We need to have more powers for local councils in Shropshire-for Shropshire unitary authority and Shrewsbury town council-moving away from Westminster and from regional quangos, so that those who take the decisions can be accountable to local people in Shropshire.
Shrewsbury town council is the largest town council in the United Kingdom. Following the reorganisation of local councils in Shropshire, I very much hope that we can evaluate how more power can be devolved to Shrewsbury town council, but one area in which I think a greater lead, and certainly more advice, is needed from government is waste management. There are proposals for an incinerator to be built in Harlescott, which is a highly residential part of Shrewsbury. The Minister will know that Shrewsbury is an extremely beautiful mediaeval town. The No. 1 income generator for our community is tourism, so local residents are extremely concerned at the prospect of the incinerator being built. As the local MP, I have received many petitions on the matter and have attended many public meetings about it.
Hon. Members will be interested to hear that the issue involves the French operator Veolia, which its chief executive told me when I met him in the House of Commons was originally set up by Napoleon Bonaparte. That company is like an octopus with its tentacles all over the UK. How will the Minister regulate and control that ever-growing, powerful company in its quest to build more and more incinerators throughout the UK? What checks, balances and supervision are the national Government going to put in place? What co-ordination from Government will there be regarding where such incinerators are placed?
Is my hon. Friend aware that we, too, have an application for an incinerator in my constituency and that many such incinerators are to be funded through the private finance initiative project? Does he agree that it is tremendously dangerous to fund technology projects with PFI on a potential 25-year payback given that the technology could be out of date within five or 10 years?
Yes; I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I was just about to talk about concerns that the technology will be antiquated by the end of the contract. I want to press the Minister for greater national co-ordination. Councils up and down the country are looking separately, in silos, at incinerators with little regard to national co-ordination in their placement. My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. In our case, the contract would last for 29 years, but the polluting technology involved is already antiquated and should be avoided. Why cannot we have more efficient carbon dioxide-neutral methods of waste disposal? There are many examples in Sweden and other European Union countries that use the most modern and pioneering technology for their waste. Please will the Minister look at them and try to give a greater lead and incentive to councils such as Shropshire not to go with antiquated technology that pollutes our atmosphere? Will he explain the policy and advise that there should be greater co-ordination between councils and more assistance to help them evaluate the best solutions?
I want to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that Shropshire has exceeded the national recycling targets and is massively ahead of other suggested targets. I am greatly worried that we will be importing waste from other parts of the UK to be incinerated in Shropshire. In the last Parliament, we had many debates in this Chamber and Westminster Hall about incinerators. Labour and Conservative Ministers always come back with the same response on this issue. They say, "This is a local matter and you should take it up with your local council," but I do not believe that the Minister can wash his hands of this issue, because there needs to be direct Government intervention. For the record, I am extremely upset that the council-a Conservative council, I hasten to add-is proceeding with the incinerator.
My next point to the Minister is that I would like the council to receive greater clarification about house building targets. The previous Labour Administration wanted to foist huge house building targets on Shropshire-almost concreting over it-leading to great concern among villagers, including those in Cressage and Pontesbury, who love their rural way of life. I should like the Minister to clarify the matter and to assure us that local councils will have greater responsibility to decide house building programmes rather than their being imposed by central Government.
Lastly, I shall address my pet subject, about which, as chairman of the all-party group for the continuation of first past the post, I feel passionately. The only three countries around the world that use the alternative vote system are Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. I do not believe that the United Kingdom should be using a voting system that is predominantly used in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
Does my hon. Friend agree that first past the post is so called for a reason, because it rightly suggests that the horse that wins the race deserves to get the prize? To carry on the analogy, does he agree that the alternative vote means that the backers of the horses that came third, fourth or even worse decide whether the horse that came first or the horse that came second ought to get the prize?
I absolutely concur with my hon. Friend on that point. The referendum will cost the United Kingdom millions of pounds. In five years of being a Member of Parliament, I have received only one letter-and only then because I went on the "Today" programme and said that I had not received any on this issue, after which I received one-from one constituent saying, "Dear Mr Kawczynski, could you please support a change in the voting system?" My constituents come to see me about pensions, child tax credits and Child Support Agency payments-all the things that affect their day-to-day lives. All Members in the Chamber will know some of the terrible difficulties that our constituents are going through and will go through in coming years as a result of the fiscal mess that we have inherited. For us to be distracting ourselves on
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech on the last day before the House rises for the summer recess. May I congratulate all those who have made their maiden speeches to date? I congratulate in particular Priti Patel and my hon. Friend Graham Jones, who painted very attractive pictures of their constituencies, albeit with different political landscapes.
You might be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I am unique in this House in that there are two of me-at least, I am one of two Members with the same name. I share my name with my hon. Friend Grahame M. Morris, albeit with a different spelling. Some might say-my apologies to Oscar Wilde-that to have one Graeme Morrice in the House of Commons may be regarded as a misfortune, but to have two looks like carelessness. Like all new Members, I am absolutely delighted to have been elected to Parliament to serve my constituents and the community in which I have lived for most of my life. It is a great honour and privilege to have the trust of my constituents placed in me, and I pledge to serve them faithfully in the years to come.
It is customary during a maiden speech to pay tribute to one's predecessor and I want to thank Jim Devine for his work during his four and a half years as an MP. Jim campaigned on many issues, most notably on the collapse of Farepak, and the issue of Greenbelt. Jim Devine became a Member of the House following the untimely death of the late Robin Cook in 2005, and he would often say that it was a place he did not want to be in those sad circumstances. I understand and share those sentiments. Much has been said and written about Robin Cook's outstanding contribution to national politics and world events, and I am sure that will be the case for many years to come. However, I knew Robin as the local, hard-working and caring constituency MP who gave 22 years of dedicated service to the people of his community. Robin was my friend, and I miss him deeply to this day, as I am sure many hon. Members do.
My constituency has one of the biggest populations among Scotland's constituencies, with about 77,000 electors. It stretches 16 miles from the Edinburgh boundary in the east to the Lanarkshire boundary in the west, and 14 miles from the Pentland hills and Scottish borders in the south to the constituency of Linlithgow and East Falkirk in the north, beyond which is the firth of Forth and Fife. The constituency is strategically located within the central belt of Scotland, situated as it is within the local authority area of West Lothian.
Although the name of my constituency is Livingston, as it takes in the new town of Livingston, it also covers many of the more traditional towns and villages of West Lothian, some of which have such delightful sounding names as Breich, Dechmont, Ecclesmachan and Faucheldean. The constituency itself was created only in 1983. It was a new seat created to reflect the growth of Livingston new town, as well as taking in parts of the former West Lothian and Midlothian constituencies. It therefore boasts of such historic and eminent figures as Manny Shinwell, William Gladstone, the Liberal Prime Minister, and of course my friend Tam Dalyell, a former Father-and indeed favourite-of the House, who will always be remembered with immeasurable affection for his independence of thought, integrity and immense tenacity, much to the annoyance of many a premier.
My constituency is a very diverse area including, as I mentioned, the new town of Livingston, which is one of Scotland's five new towns created in the 1960s. Livingston is the biggest town in the Lothians outside Edinburgh. Over the years it has become a major hub in Scotland's silicon glen. BSkyB has its main call centre in Livingston, and is the largest private sector employer in West Lothian. The Livingston designer outlet centre, which is one of the biggest in Britain, attracts 6 million shoppers annually. The town is also home to West Lothian's only senior football team, which came third in the Scottish premier league in 2002 and qualified for the UEFA cup-a remarkable achievement for such a new club. My constituency also takes in numerous other communities of a more post-industrial and rural nature, covering the Almond and Breich valleys and Strathbrock.
Historically, West Lothian was dominated by both oil-shale mining in the eastern part of the county and coal mining in the west, as is evident from the bings that still exist on the landscape. In the 1850s West Lothian was home to the first truly commercial oil works in the world, thanks to the eminent chemist James "Paraffin" Young. The Union canal and railways, with their stunning aqueducts and viaducts that were built during that era-they are still standing to this day-facilitated the economic success of the area.
Unfortunately, West Lothian's proud heritage of mineral extraction ended in the mid-1980s with the enforced closure of the Polkemmet pit. That, along with the loss of British Leyland in Bathgate and numerous other factory closures, meant that unemployment in the county rose to an unprecedented 25%. That was the legacy left in my constituency by the Conservative Governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and it took more than a decade of the interventionist policies and public service investment programme of the incoming Labour Government before the tide was eventually turned. I do not want a return to the days of laissez-faire economics, wholesale privatisation and the decimation of public services that I remember only too well, as do the people and communities that I represent.
My background is in local government. I have been a councillor in my constituency for the past 23 years, serving the community of Broxburn and Uphall, which was the birthplace of my mother, and where I lived from the age of 12. I had been council leader for 12 years when, in 2006, West Lothian became the first Scottish local authority to be honoured with the prestigious accolade of UK council of the year. Indeed, in this very House Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, commended myself and the council's chief executive, Alex Linkston, on that remarkable achievement.
If I may, I wish to congratulate Alex Linkston on his 45 years' service in local government, during which he has worked continually for West Lothian council and its predecessors. He is retiring in September, and he was awarded a CBE in 2007 for his services to local government. I am sure that the whole House would like to join me in thanking him for his long and distinguished public service and wishing him well for the future.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech. I wish you and the rest of the House a very enjoyable summer break.
I pay tribute to the excellent maiden speeches made by the hon. Members for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) and for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) and by my hon. Friend Priti Patel; they sold their constituencies very well.
As a reasonably new Member of Parliament-I have been a Member for only a few weeks-I have quickly discovered that one of the joys of the role is the enormous range of issues that one reads about in each day's postbag. Some of them are very easy to deal with and can lead to good resolutions, but others are more complex. I therefore welcome the opportunity to bring some of those issues to the Floor of the House.
Traveller sites represent a great problem facing much of South Staffordshire. Of all the west midlands constituencies, we have one of the largest numbers of Traveller sites. Under the previous Labour Government there were proposals to double the number of such sites in my constituency, but that would put great pressure on our communities. It is somewhat unfair that a constituency with a large number of Traveller sites should also have to deal with many new sites. It is particularly unfair that the proposed location of many of the sites is green belt land. The previous Government's rules allowed sites to be placed on such land because of the exemptions that they enjoyed, so I hope that the coalition Government will change that.
Later today I will present to the House a petition with more than 2,100 signatories. It has been signed by South Staffordshire constituents as well as a few others who have visited South Staffordshire and enjoyed the pleasures of its beautiful countryside. I hope that the Government will change the law. Most importantly, however, there is something that they can do during the recess: get rid of circular ODPM 01/06. That would make a major difference to the planning system straight away, and change the way in which faceless bureaucrats in Bristol can force on my constituents, as well as those of many hon. Members, Traveller sites that are not wanted, and should not be built on green belt land. I hope that my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House will pass that message on to Ministers.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem relates not just to Gypsy sites? The Bristol office can exert a lot of influence over all sorts of planning applications in our communities, but its right to do so should be abolished, with the power devolved back to local councils.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. If Members of Parliament had as much power as the inspectors in Bristol, we would truly appreciate it. We need the power to be devolved because the process has a great impact on local communities, and local voices are not being heard. Local councillors can say no to something, yet inspectors in Bristol will say yes. That cannot be allowed to continue.
A further problem affecting South Staffordshire is car boot sales. When hon. Members think of car boot sales, they probably imagine pleasant events involving 20 or 30 cars that might be raising money for a local hospital, church or school, but South Staffordshire is blighted by industrial car boot sales involving many hundreds of traders descending on our rural villages. There is no regulation or control by the district council, and the events bring misery to many areas. I invite Members to visit the villages of Featherstone or Himley on a Sunday to see the blight that the car boot sales bring- [ Interruption. ] Members are probably booking their train tickets right away. The villagers are not able to leave their homes because of the traffic chaos inflicted on them. I am asking not for a vast amount of legislation, but simply for South Staffordshire district council to be able to impose the same regulations as many London boroughs, so that we can control those industrial car boot sales so that my constituents can go about their daily lives without this terrible affliction.
My final point touches many hon. Members' constituents; it is about cancer drugs. I welcome the Government's moves to take decision making on need away from primary care trusts and give it to clinicians. I hope that that will benefit one of my constituents, a brave young woman with a young family, who, with immense courage and incredible bravery that would humble anyone, is battling lung cancer, for which her clinician has advised that she needs a course of Taxol and Pemetrexed. This has been declined by South Staffordshire primary care trust, which is an utter disgrace. I hope that the changes to PCTs, and to the making of decisions on whether patients are allowed to have certain medicines, will benefit my constituent, but I fear that they will not come in time for her. I urge the Deputy Leader of the House to do everything within his powers to put pressure on anyone, whether at Cabinet level or in the Department of Health, as I have tried to do, who could do anything to help my constituent to have a chance at life and to be able to enjoy her family. If my hon. Friend can do that, I am sure that my constituent would be incredibly grateful, as would many of our constituents.
This coalition Government have made some positive changes and a positive start, but so much more is needed, and requires to be done. I urge my hon. Friends to keep pushing those on the Treasury Bench to ensure that that change is delivered.