I congratulate Liz Twist on securing this debate and on succinctly setting the scene. We are here because we have an interest in fair trade and Traidcraft and the good that they bring to those who produce the products that we use in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I pay special tribute to Jeremy Lefroy, who has a deep interest in this matter—a practical, physical interest—from his past work. He has hands-on knowledge of how it can benefit people.
We live in a dog-eat-dog world, to use terminology that we have in Northern Ireland. I frown upon it, but it is sought after by some. There seems to be no shame in doing someone over as long as you come out on top. To succeed, people are expected to trample on other people, instead of working with them. Traidcraft and Fairtrade are essential, because they bring us back to where we should be. All of us in this Chamber are people of faith and understand what it means, and therefore we have an interest in people. That is one of the reasons why we are here to participate in this debate. We also have an interest in people across the world.
I think it was Margaret Thatcher who referred to us as a nation of shopkeepers. Well, my family were shopkeepers. My dad was a shopkeeper—he was one of the first to go into the grocery trade. At that time it was VG—it is now Spar—and it was one of the first grocery groups in Northern Ireland. He had a wee shop in Ballywalter. I call it a wee shop—it was a big shop in those days, but it is probably a wee shop today. He was known as a man who operated with fair pricing. I want to make this illustration, because it is important. There was always the ability to take advantage by putting the prices up, as we lived in a rural community and not many people had their own cars, so they could not get to the big towns easily. That is how it was in the ’60s and early ’70s. My dad could have hiked the prices, but he chose not to. I remember him saying, “James”—everybody else calls me Jim, but my dad christened me James—“we may never be rich, but we will always have enough. We will never put someone in need as a sacrifice to our greed.” He had a very clear message as a shopkeeper. It was not about excessive profits, his grandeur or his lifestyle; it was about producing things for other people.
My dad ran another business that I remember very well. He probably supplied furniture, carpets, lino and blinds to every house in the villages of Ballywalter, Greyabbey, Carrowdore, Kircubbin, Ballyhalbert and Portavogie. He did what we called “cuff” in those days—a form of borrowing, with so much paid back per week. He was a very generous person. His ethic of fairness to people is one that Fairtrade and Traidcraft share. It is so important.