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Valedictory Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford 6:00 pm, 5th November 2019

I can never resist anything that my right hon. Friend says, so I will most definitely do what I can.

I would like to pay tribute to all those who work in our schools and colleges, police service, fire and rescue service, ambulance service and the local councils. We have three very good local councils, with excellent staff and councillors who make a real difference. I would also like to pay tribute to the businesses in my constituency. We have two new business parks. General Electric could have relocated elsewhere in the UK or, indeed, the world, but we were able to retain it in Stafford by having a wonderful new business park at Redhill, where we are the only manufacturer of large transformers in the UK. We manufacture many other things in the constituency, including the world’s best lawnmowers and some of the world’s best washing machines. Never let it be said that all these things are only manufactured outside the country. They are not; they are manufactured right here.

My constituency has a wonderful agricultural sector. People have told me that the constituency of Stafford produces about 10% of the UK’s strawberries. I do not know whether that is the case, but it certainly produces a lot. The former resident of Stafford, that great author Izaak Walton, said:

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”

We also have the country’s largest producer of spinach, as well as one that produces 1 million lettuces a week in season, alongside other arable and dairy. It is a great pleasure to see my hon. Friend Paul Farrelly in his place—I had the pleasure of being defeated by him in 2005.

The voluntary sector is very large in Stafford, and I would like to place on record my desire to see an awful lot more done for unpaid full-time carers. I am working with a constituent on providing more breaks for unpaid carers. They often do not have the resources, and they do not have the time, but they need those breaks. We all value our holidays. Why should they not have them, even if it is a week a year? I would like to see that become a priority.

I would like to pay tribute to my neighbours, my right hon. Friend Gavin Williamson and my hon. Friends the Members for Stone (Sir William Cash), for Cannock Chase (Amanda Milling), for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) and for Burton (Andrew Griffiths), as well as others in Staffordshire, all of whom have been most generous to me. When I had the misfortune of falling ill and fainting during the address of President Obama in Westminster Hall, it was my hon. Friend Mrs Latham who looked after me and my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin who visited me in St Thomas’ Hospital.

I must pay huge thanks to my staff: my magnificent chief of staff, James Cantrill, who has had to endure a lot in these difficult times, and Pauline Ingall, Sonya Redfern-Price, Alex Simpson and Jan Owers. In my constituency, I would like to thank Ann Foster, who has chaired the Conservative association for many years, Ray Sutherland and Amyas Stafford Northcote; at this difficult time for him, I wish him God’s blessing. I also want to thank Owen Meredith, James Nixon and Hetty Bailey, who have all worked for me in this place. Above all, I want to thank my wonderful wife Janet, who has combined supporting me here with being a full-time GP and university lecturer at Keele medical school. I simply could not have done it without her support.

Finally, I would like to echo the point made by my right hon. Friend Sir Michael Fallon about the importance of looking outwards and discussing what is happening in the world much more than we do, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby said. We are sometimes told that we talk too much about what goes on outside this country, but all those things are relevant to our constituents. Africa has a population of 1.2 billion, which will go up to 2.4 billion. We need to support them in the creation of hundreds of millions of jobs. Otherwise, they will look elsewhere. People do not want to migrate. They want to stay where they are, with their families, but if they are forced to for a better life, they will. We have to look at what we can do.

In terms of world health, Ebola is still in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has spread into Uganda. We have to do more research on antimicrobial resistance. Otherwise, we will face great challenges. There are also the issues of climate change, conflict resolution and freedom of speech and religion; I pay huge tribute to my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce and Jim Shannon, who have done magnificent work on the latter.

I will finish with two quotations from Izaak Walton. He said:

“He that loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping.”

And, for those of us who are not standing again, he said, “Be grateful for the simple things in life. Don’t take them for granted.”