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The Meirionnydd Nant Conwy part of the constituency was extremely well served by the now hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd). Despite the fact that we have had our disagreements-viewers of Welsh language
television can attest to that-I would also like to pay tribute to him. When I canvassed in the Conwy valley, people said that Elfyn Llwyd was always approachable and always served his people very well, and, again, I would hope to do the same. I follow in the footsteps of two hard-working Members and I am aware of the responsibility and privilege that I have in serving.
Aberconwy is a diverse constituency. It is dependent on tourism, with Llandudno, which I have mentioned, the queen of Welsh resorts, in the centre of the constituency, and locations such as Conwy with the castle of Edward I, Llanfairfechan and Betws-y-Coed in the Snowdonia national park. There is no doubt that tourism is an important industry within the constituency. Agriculture, on the other hand, has seen a decline during the past 10 years. The agriculture industry, which is centred on the market town of Llanrwst in my constituency, is in need of support. While I am in the House, I will try to support the tourism industry and ensure that it is not seen as a Cinderella industry. In our part of Wales it is crucial to creating employment and retaining young people in the area. In the same way, we need to develop the food sector and the food industries by working with farmers and the agriculture sector. I would like to see the development of real opportunities for businesses to be created in the food sector in my constituency.
The other thing that I need to say about Aberconwy is that it is an historic constituency. I have already mentioned the castle in Conwy that was built by Edward I, but in many ways the history of Wales is apparent in Aberconwy by the fact that we have Conwy castle on the coast, but we also have the castle in Dolwyddelan, which was built by the Welsh princes. Those two castles are a snapshot of the history of Wales. One thing that causes me immense regret is that the history of the building of Conwy castle is well known to most people in the House, but the history of the Welsh princes and the castle at Dolwyddelan is not as well known. Our education system should deal with that, because it is important to know our history-British history and Welsh history.
The Welsh language is a living, breathing language in Aberconwy. Around 40% of my constituents are first language Welsh speakers, and the Welsh language still survives basically because of the work of two people who are associated with my constituency. The first is Bishop William Morgan, who was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I to translate the Bible into Welsh in 1588. He created a work of literature, which is much better than the recent Welsh Bible translation. I suspect that the fact that I prefer the old version shows that I am a natural conservative in many ways.
The other individual associated with my constituency is Wyn Roberts, now Lord Roberts, who served the Conwy constituency for 27 years. In his time in this House he played a huge part in ensuring that the Welsh language had the opportunity to survive into the 21st century. Wyn Roberts was in many ways responsible for ensuring that we have the fourth television channel in Wales, S4C. He was responsible for the Education Act 1986, which ensured that the Welsh language had a proper place in our education system, and, just as crucially, he was responsible for the Welsh Language Act 1993. He is a hard act to follow.
Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate, particularly as employment was one of the central themes of my campaign.
It is an amazing privilege to be standing here as the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, a place described as the heart and soul of this great country, of which I am incredibly proud to be a citizen. I feel just as proud to be one of the first three Muslim women MPs ever to be elected to this Parliament, and the first person of British-Bengali heritage to be elected to this House.
I thank the people of Bethnal Green and Bow for giving me the honour of representing them. At a time of great national scepticism about this institution, I can assure the House that for millions of people in Bangladesh, where I was born, this Parliament has always been a beacon of democracy and self-determination. The power of this House to inspire and to do good is undimmed.
It is customary to pay tribute to one's predecessor-in my case, the inimitable George Galloway. Where do I begin? Perhaps I should begin with his long service in this House, and his rather shorter stay in the other house. His great oratory was admired by many, even when they passionately disagreed with him. While the people of Bethnal Green and Bow chose unity over division, and while my politics could not be more different from Mr Galloway's, we have one thing in common, which I know that the House passionately shares-a deep commitment to a lasting settlement in the middle east. For me, that is impossible without ending the blockade of Gaza and a viable independent Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
I would also like to pay tribute to my Labour predecessors. Oona King was a hard-working, dedicated MP for almost a decade, who fought for people who suffered enormously from the appalling housing conditions in the east end of London. She fought relentlessly to tackle poverty and inequality, both in this country and in developing countries.
We remember the late Lord Shore of Stepney who worked tirelessly for the people of my constituency. He has a special place in the hearts of Bengalis, especially among my parents' generation, for the way in which he led Members on both sides of this House to speak up for the fight for democracy in the war of independence in 1971 in Bangladesh. I am only sorry that he is not here today to see someone born in the country he supported, brought up and educated in the constituency he represented, elected to this Parliament.
My passion for Bethnal Green and Bow is about the place, the people and our political heritage. I would urge hon. Members to go east and visit places such as the Whitechapel gallery, Columbia Road flower market, and Spitalfields market near Brick lane. Brick lane has iconic status in this country, both for its vibrancy and cultural activity and for its extraordinary history: for being the place that provided a home for many waves of migrants, including the Huguenots, Jews, Irish, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Somalis and many others, manifested poignantly in the Brick lane Jamme Masjid, which was built by the Huguenots for Christian worshippers, later became a synagogue and is now a mosque, reflecting the different contributions of so many to our great country.
In other parts of my constituency I come across people who remind me of the courage and determination of so many in the east end. I think of the elderly lady who survived the blitz but overnight lost her family, and the many other stories of sacrifice and loss, such as the Bethnal Green tube disaster, when 173 people lost their lives seeking shelter from air raids in 1943.
We owe it to those east enders never to forget that freedoms are never easily won. For me, it is an honour to stand here, as a successor, I hope, to the great social reformers of the past, who took ideas born in the east end, developed them and changed this country for the better. It is no exaggeration to say that the east end inspired men and women to make history and fight for social justice. I think of the trade union movement, the suffragettes and the welfare state.
My constituency sits between the glittering towers of the City of London and Canary Wharf and is a stone's throw away from the Olympic village. The Olympics have the potential to deliver huge opportunity and a sea change in attitudes towards our country, our pride and our sporting ability, yet many in my constituency remain unconvinced that they will benefit. I hope that the job opportunities and the legacy that we wish to create will benefit them, and I am acutely aware that it is an extraordinary opportunity for an historically poor part of London.
I want to speak on behalf of those who face the rough few years ahead. Already, unemployment is incredibly high in my part of London. The east end has been in that situation too many times before, and for us wasted talent is never a price worth paying. In the recessions of the '80s and '90s I saw families, friends and neighbours lose their homes, jobs and livelihoods overnight. That was the time when the Liberals controlled the council and the Conservatives ran the country. Any community that does not provide useful work for its people risks falling apart.
It is not that people in the east end lack resourcefulness; on the contrary, it is impossible to walk the streets without seeing the energy, dynamism and drive that take whatever resources are available and turn them into success. But when programmes such as the future jobs fund are shut down, the Government send a message to thousands of people, saying, "You're on your own. We wash our hands of you." That is why I shall fight to create jobs in the east end and work hard and tirelessly to serve the people of this great constituency.
Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I am very grateful for this opportunity to address the House for the first time. Today's debate and the excellent speeches of so many hon. Members have done nothing to reduce the awe with which I approach this task, and I commend the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) for her passionate speech and associate myself with her views on the blockade of Gaza and the importance of creating employment. I share in the salute of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) to the brave soldiers of the Mercian Regiment, who have laid down their lives for our country.
My first thanks are due to the electors of Worcester, who have sent me to this Chamber, and I am conscious that I shall be forever in their debt. I intend to repay
that debt by working tirelessly on their behalf and being Worcester's man in Westminster. I must thank also my predecessor, the former Member for Worcester, Michael Foster, who for 13 years was a fierce advocate for his party, a tireless campaigner for animal rights and a distinguished supporter of his Government. As a Whip, a Parliamentary Private Secretary and a Minister, he did much to further the interests of peace in Northern Ireland and international development, and for that he deserves the approbation of this House.
It would be remiss of me not to mention some other former Members for Worcester. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Peter Luff), who is now an Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, served the city well until boundary changes took him from us. He is a friend and a mentor, the first MP for whom I ever had the privilege to vote, and now one who has the dubious privilege, shared by my right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Mr Dorrell), of having voted for me. I know that every Member will join me in wishing my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire success in providing the best possible equipment to our gallant armed forces over the years to come.
Before my hon. Friend's time there was, of course, another Member for Worcester with whom I am very familiar, but as my hon. Friend spoke so eloquently on his behalf in his maiden speech, I shall say only that, as many thousands of constituents have reminded me on their doorsteps, he is a hard act to follow. I owe that Member, my father, my lifelong knowledge of, and deep love for, my constituency and its history, not to mention my support for the once and future premiership rugby team, the Worcester Warriors, and my support-shared with the Governor of the Bank of England-for the cricket team, which has the most beautiful ground in the country.
The task of representing Worcester, made so enjoyable by those factors, is made all the more daunting by the fact that the city has been represented in Parliament since the 13th century. Empires have risen and fallen and royal houses have come and gone in the time that MPs have spoken for Worcester, but I do not intend to go on for that long. The city, of course, played its own major part in the civil war. The first shots of that war were fired beyond the boundaries of my constituency, near Powick bridge, and its last slaughter took place at the Sidbury gate, now in the heart of modern Worcester, as Cromwell finally crushed the King's army and took the faithful city. That war started after an arrogant Government had overspent and oppressed the people of the country with unfair taxes.
"Say you have been at Worcester, where England's sorrows began, and where happily they are ended."
The civil war was one of the historic events that gave us the evolved constitution that we have today. Respect for that constitution is one of the things that inspires me in politics, and, despite much tinkering over the past 13 years, there is still much to be defended: the unique
position of the Crown; the privileges and stature of this mother of Parliaments in holding the Government to account; the powerful ties that bind Members to their constituencies; and a system of election that is simple, effective and allows for the removal of failed Governments. All those are worth fighting for with the same passion with which our ancestors fought on the battlefields of Worcester.
As I am passionate on that subject, so also I am passionate about opportunity. My party has always been the party of opportunity. In the Gracious Speech and in this debate, we have set out plans to support opportunity for British businesses, for young people, and for those on welfare to escape the traps of unemployment and dependency. Opportunity in business, and that unleashed by the national insurance reforms that we propose, will benefit Worcester Bosch and Yamazaki Mazak, innovative manufacturing companies that, between them, employ thousands of people in my constituency.
The coalition Government have set out exciting plans to support green technology, and I support those initiatives. I believe that they will benefit companies in Worcester, but I am concerned that there has so far been no mention in Government statements of the renewable heat incentive. Given that homes are responsible for 21% of the carbon emissions generated in this country, and that 73% of energy in the home is used for heating or hot water, supporting renewables for heating should be given as high a priority as support for the renewable generation of electricity.
Worcester has a range and diversity of businesses, great and small, that reflects the range of topics covered in the Gracious Speech. The breadth of our economy ranges from engineers to health care companies, industry associations, recyclers and housing associations. I have visited firms, such as Craegmoor Healthcare, Skills for Security, the Remarkable recycling company and Sanctuary Housing, which are all headquartered in Worcester and, as an MP, I want to ensure that Worcester remains a place to which businesses want to come, maximising the opportunities for my constituents.
To maximise opportunity, we need the best education to be available to all, and that is why I welcome the exciting reforms proposed by the Secretary of State for Education. We have already seen how academies can turn around the fortunes of failing schools and, in Worcester, the Tudor Grange academy is a shining example of that trend, so I welcome the decision to open up the opportunity of freer education to more schools in the area.
Supporting opportunity means careful nurturing of further and higher education. I shall support both, and I am very proud that Worcester boasts the country's fastest-growing university. The university of Worcester, which I congratulate on its recent Ofsted report, was rated "outstanding" for its training of teachers at primary and secondary level, and the principal of Worcester college of technology was recently elected president of the Association of Colleges.
For opportunity to thrive everywhere we need fair funding in education. Today the average pupil in Worcestershire receives £370 less than the national average and a staggering £762 less than children in the neighbouring authorities of Birmingham, despite the fact that some parts of my constituency are among the 10% most
deprived areas in the country. I have high hopes for the coalition Government's pupil premium policy in addressing that issue.
"I hope that if, in the course of my remarks...I make what are considered to be constructive criticisms of the Government's economic policy, this will not be considered indicative of a person representing a constituency noted throughout the world for its production of sauce."-[ Official Report, 20 April 1961; Vol. 638, c. 1433.]
The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. At half-past 6, you will leave the Chair for the last time. May I endorse what Mr Speaker said earlier and, on behalf of the whole House, thank you for your impartial, firm but courteous service over 13 years?
Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I add congratulations and warm support from this side of the House. We are grateful to you for your many years of kind consideration for all Members of the House, Back Benchers and Front Benchers, and for your fairness over the years.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I add congratulations from the Liberal Democrat Benches on your service to this House? Perhaps your early education in my constituency contributed to your excellent and impartial service to the House.
Mr Deputy Speaker: I am extremely grateful for those very kind words and the way in which they were supported. It has been an exciting and privileged 13 years, certainly in my memory, and I hope that I can continue to serve the House in other ways.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I hope that the clock has not yet started, Mr Deputy Speaker; as the last person whom you will call to speak in your current role, I want to pay tribute to you. You have always been extraordinarily kind and generous to those on my party's Benches.
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