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Devolution and Growth Across Britain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:38 pm on 3rd June 2015.

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Photo of Byron Davies Byron Davies Conservative, Gower 4:38 pm, 3rd June 2015

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech during this particularly important part of the debate on the Gracious Speech. I shall return to the issue of devolution in the United Kingdom shortly.

I pay tribute to all the Members who have made their maiden speeches this week. Let me also say that it is a pleasure to follow Dr McDonnell.

Today is my wedding anniversary, and I forgot to send a card. I do hope that this will make up for it.

The Gower constituency was first contested in 1885, following a Boundary Commission review that year, and was won by none other than a Liberal, Mr Frank Yeo, who served as its representative until 1906, when Mr John Williams became Gower’s very first Labour Member of Parliament. Gower remained a Labour seat from 1906 until May 2015, when, I am delighted to say, the electorate of Gower voted for a change. I am extremely proud and honoured to be here as their representative, and as Gower’s very first Conservative Member of Parliament. I am the first since it was formed in 1885 and after 109 years of continuous Labour representation.

I am doubly proud of my election to this House as my constituents’ representative, as I was raised in Port Eynon on the southern side of the Gower peninsula and educated in the constituency. What is more, we have three brand new Members from Wales, all called Davies—but I am assured that we are not related. So you can now travel the length and breadth of Wales and be represented by a Davies.

Returning to the history of the constituency, I should like to touch on notable Labour former Members. In 1922, Mr David Rhys Grenfell was elected Member of Parliament. Prior to his election, he worked as a coal miner until the age of 35. Eventually, in 1951, he was appointed a Privy Counsellor and acted as Father of the House of Commons between 1953 and 1959. There are those in Gower who can still recall his being a representative, although I am not one of them.

More recently, from 1997 Martin Caton served as Labour Member of Parliament for Gower, and I should like to pay tribute to Mr Caton for his 18 years of very professional service to this House. Martin Caton, in the brief dealings I have had with him in recent years, can be described as a quiet and perhaps somewhat reserved person, but he served his constituency with great distinction and is widely referred to by those who called on his services as a particularly good constituency MP. He was anything but reserved when pursuing issues for his constituents, and many people have told me of his tenacious approach to authority when addressing their individual problems. In Parliament he chaired many Committees, and prior to entering the House he served the people of Swansea as a county councillor. I am delighted to say he is now one of my constituents.

The constituency of Gower combines the magnificent beauty of the peninsula and the powerful local communities of north Swansea. The peninsula, designated in 1956 for its classic limestone coast and the variety of its natural habitats, was the first area of outstanding natural beauty in the UK. Rich and diverse, Gower’s scenery ranges from the northern dunes of Llangennith and Broughton, through to the salt marsh also in the north and the dramatic limestone cliffs along the south coast. From Mumbles to Worm’s Head, it is inter-cut by sandy beaches, and I am often to be found there walking my labrador.

Inland the hills of Cefn Bryn and Rhossili Down dominate the landscape of traditional small fields, wooded valleys and open commons, and I pay tribute to the farmers of Gower, who have maintained the land and secured the peninsula’s lasting beauty. The award-winning beaches, the dramatic coastline, the rolling downs and the traditional villages make this area one of the greatest tourist attractions in Europe.

Devolution has brought about many changes, particularly the creation of a National Assembly for Wales, of which I was a Member prior to being elected to this House. The burning question for me has always been, “What added value does devolved government bring to the people of Wales?” It certainly brings decision making closer to the people—a principle that I passionately believe in. But on the doorstep it was clear this time around that there is much discontent after 16 years of devolution in Wales.

There are, however, some aspects of central Government which I believe cannot and should never be considered for devolution. I refer in particular to policing, despite calls from the other end of the M4. I shall not dwell on the issue, but I speak as a former Metropolitan police officer and National Crime Squad officer of 32 years, several of which were spent working in the shifting political sands of eastern Europe. I believe that maintaining a unified and cohesive approach to policing is crucial in the current world of terrorist and organised criminal activity which we find ourselves living in. It is an area that I will pay particular attention to during my time in this House.

Finally, let me say how much I am looking forward to representing Gower’s constituents in Parliament; tackling their problems; representing their views; challenging and scrutinising Governments at all levels, both in Westminster and in Wales, particularly with reference to the issues I have raised; and challenging the inadequacies of those charged with providing essential everyday services to the people of Wales. Enhancing the quality of life for the people of Gower is what I am about, and I am very honoured to serve in this House in order to achieve that.