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I pay tribute to my predecessor, Tim Yeo, who served in this House for 32 years, holding a range of positions in both opposition and in government, most notably perhaps in 2003, when he held the position of shadow Secretary of State for Public Services, Health and Education —an interesting brief. At a local level perhaps his most notable achievement, among many, was in helping us to deliver the brand new Sudbury community health centre, in our largest town, which will play a key role, as Sudbury is an early adopter in Suffolk’s moves to integrate health and social care. Tim Yeo was very well respected on matters of energy policy as the Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change. I pay tribute to his length of service and to his passion for environmental issues, and I wish him well for the future.
South Suffolk is quite simply a gem. It is one of the most beautiful constituencies in England, and it is a huge privilege to be sent here to represent it. There is not time to mention all its most beautiful villages, but those that are most famous are known as “Lovejoy” country, because they featured in that very popular television series, which some hon. Members may remember. Many scenes in “Lovejoy” were filmed in my constituency, including in the antique shops of Long Melford, and the very last episode, “Last Tango in Lavenham”, was filmed in possibly our most famous village.
I say “last episode”, but you Mr Speaker may be interested to know that I recently heard on very good authority that a Mr Tony Jordan is putting together a new series of “Lovejoy”. My message to him is, “Please do come and film again in our constituency. It’s a great boost to tourism, it gets the cash tills ringing.” And if he needs any extras, I am available—when the House is not sitting or with kind permission of the Whips Office.
We have a very fine artistic heritage in South Suffolk, being directly connected to two of our country’s greatest painters, Gainsborough and Constable. Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, and his home has become what is known as “Gainsborough’s house”, now a very successful art gallery that I support in its push for national lottery funding.
If you travel up the River Stour to East Bergholt, you come to what is called Constable country, where John Constable painted some of his most famous landscapes, including of course “The Hay Wain.” For those who do not know what it looks like, it is the backdrop to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
We are also spoiled by the beauty of our churches. Again, there are too many to mention. Favourites include Clare, Denston and Stoke by Nayland, but there are two in particular that I wish to mention: one is St Mary’s, Shotley, which looks out to sea and has the naval graves of many young sailors who gave their lives serving at sea; the other is my own church of St Edmund King & Martyr, in Assington. Members will recall that the Chancellor of Exchequer is fond of saying how on the economy we should fix the roof while the sun is shining. In the case of our church, we desperately need to fix the roof before it starts raining again. So, Mr Speaker, you will appreciate our great joy when in the Budget the Chancellor announced further additions to the places of worship roof repair fund, including a grant of £37,600 to our church. One or two eyebrows have been raised, asking, “Is it not a coincidence that we should be the only church in the Babergh district to receive funding in the same year when a member of the congregation is standing for Parliament?” But I can assure the House the only lobbying that has taken place has been of a very discreet kind between the congregation and someone even more powerful than the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The past 12 months have been challenging for all of us as candidates, but in our household we thought we would make it a little more interesting, as my wife gave birth to twins last June. We had a fantastic result in the Babergh council elections in May, so it means for the second year running we have seen incredible results in labour wards—[Interruption.] They don’t like that!
Raising in public the subject of my twins enables me to say two very important thank yous: first, to the fantastic staff of Ipswich hospital maternity unit, whose care was absolutely incredible; and the other, to Philips Avent, the makers of those famous baby bottles, which we have relied on for the past year. Parents up and down the country will be familiar with those bottles and their teats, but they will not know—[Interruption.] It is not sponsorship! They are not made in the far east; they are made in Glemsford, in my constituency.
I conclude with this key point. We have a very great history as a constituency, but I am confident that we have a great future as well, and the key to it is the diversity of our economy, which includes not only tourism to “Lovejoy” country and the rest of it, and acres and acres of arable agriculture, but seriously top-end manufacturers and exporters like Philips Avent and Celotex in Hadleigh. I took great pleasure in seeing in the Gracious Speech measures that will help our firms go forward, cutting red tape, cutting taxes and continuing to push for full employment, because I am a one nation Conservative, and for me that means not going back to dark and divisive days of high unemployment.
I look forward to being a strong voice for all my constituents, speaking for them from the Floor of this great House of Commons.