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My Lords, it is an honour and a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness as I rise, slightly nervous and daunted, to give my maiden speech.
As patron of and donor to the Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract and the new Thames Hospice build in Windsor, and as a donor to the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice in Maidenhead, I strongly support the Bill and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for bringing it to the Chamber. It is worth noting that, according to Marie Curie, end-of-life care is £280 per day per patient more expensive when delivered in a hospital compared to in a hospice.
I thank everyone in this House from all sides for their kindness, support and advice—as well as Black Rod and her staff, the Clerk of the Parliaments and his staff, our fantastic doorkeepers, the attendants and police officers. All have been incredibly helpful and given me so much guidance and direction. I cannot thank them and all other parliamentary staff enough. I also thank my supporters, my noble friends Lady Chisholm and Lord Callanan, as well as my noble friends Lord Cormack, Lord Leigh and Lady Rock, and the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, who have all helped me further understand the workings of your Lordships’ House.
My journey to this place started modestly in Anfield in Liverpool, where I was born. Noble Lords will know that Liverpool has gained renown over decades for musical genius, football prowess, sharp wit and a generosity of spirit. I leave it to others to suggest which of these I bring to your Lordships’ House, but I admit to being an avid crime fiction reader and, curiously, a builder of complex Lego models, my latest project being the Taj Mahal.
By the time I was 14, my father’s job had taken us to Doncaster and then Southport. I read economics at Newcastle Polytechnic, where I was a contemporary of my noble friends Lord Callanan and Lord Bates in student and Conservative politics. After graduating, I became a police officer in Slough. I left the Thames Valley Police in 1988 and became a recruitment consultant, with time spent working around the Home Counties and in London.
In 1996, I started my own business. There were just two of us on day one. Today, that business employs thousands of people and works with clients all over the United Kingdom. We provide specialist resources focusing on governance, compliance and regulation. A few years ago, we passed the milestone of having paid over £1 billion in tax, proudly contributing to the British Exchequer as well as creating jobs and opportunity directly.
To date, I have started or invested in 16 companies, from pubs and restaurants through housebuilding and fashion to travel, technology, documentary filmmaking and education and, most recently, two green technology companies. Between them they operate throughout the UK as well as in Sydney, Shanghai, Singapore and Toronto. A thread that weaves its way through my portfolio is people. While I believe that an invisible hand works best in the market and the economy, I think there needs to be a more visible, gentle hand to protect vulnerable and less aware people.
While legislation and regulation exist to protect these and others, an essential problem is the failure of some organisations to comply. It cannot be right that an employee of the BBC has to go to an employment tribunal to have it ruled that she was denied equal pay on the basis of gender when a male colleague earned six times more than she did; nor that millions of bank customers can have financial products mis-sold to them. These are just two examples of the failure to comply with existing rules, but I believe there is scope to legislate and regulate further to protect people and resolve injustices without trampling on personal freedoms. That is why I look forward to the introduction of the online harms Bill and the much-needed domestic abuse Bill. But more needs to be done as part of our collective duty of care.
It cannot be right that a TV viewer can be enticed through advertising to take out loans that carry interest rates of over 1,000%. It cannot be right that a tenant justifiably granted a council house continues to stay there having married somebody earning £40,000 per year, and is still there today with an even bigger joint salary, as the original tenant is now also earning. It cannot be right that a person can become a fully trained nurse within the NHS only to leave, move abroad, become an agency nurse, commute to the same hospital and earn in two weeks what an equivalent employed nurse earns in a month, allowing the contractor to spend two weeks a month off duty and in the sun. It cannot be right that for the same train journey a passenger can more than halve the cost of a ticket by splitting the train journey into smaller chunks with multiple tickets, compared to one ticket bought for the whole journey.
I am very proud of my own charitable foundation, which works to help individuals or communities where there is an element of disadvantage, locally to me and across the country. It is through my foundation that I first started working with my Member of Parliament, Theresa May, as my foundation worked on projects throughout her constituency. Today that work continues, and she and I are also working together on a number of green initiatives as part of the UK’s trailblazing goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. So my final thanks are to our former Prime Minister, who nominated me to join your Lordships’ House. I know I have a lot to live up to.
However, my thanks are tinged with regret—regret that the challenges and circumstances of the last three years have meant that we have not fully benefited from the ideas and initiatives that she had in mind when she stood on the steps of Downing Street wishing for a fight against burning injustices. As she said, if you are born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others; if you are black, you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white; if you are a white working-class boy, you are less likely than anyone else in Britain to go to university; if you are at a state school, you are less likely to reach the top of your profession than if you are educated privately; if you are a woman, you will earn less than a man; if you suffer from mental health problems, there is not enough help to hand; and if you are young, you will find it harder than ever before to own your own home.
Much progress has been made over the past three years but these burning injustices remain. That is why, with an inherent sense of optimism, I hope that the Government, with their majority, will deliver on levelling up our society and create one nation that is fairer and more just. I thank noble Lords for the immense courtesy that they have shown me today.