Maiden Speech

Neil Parish makes his maiden speech in the House of Commons and uses it to thank retiring MP Angela Browning for her hard work for the area since she was elected in 1992. Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): It is a great pleasure to be called to make my maiden speech during this debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on her speech, and may I also say that it was a pleasure working with her in the European Parliament for 10 years, especially on animal welfare issues? The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson) has just left the Chamber, but I thank him for his comments on miners and for reminding us that so many are killed during mining operations. I also want to pay a quick tribute to my wife, who is sitting up in the Gallery; not only do I pay tribute to the fact that she has put up with me for almost 30 years, but I also thank her for helping me through my political career, and I hope that that will continue.It is a great pleasure to have the duty of thanking Angela Browning, the retiring Member for Tiverton and Honiton. Not only was she an Agriculture Minister between 1994 and 1997, but she was shadow Leader of the House for one year, from 2000 to 2001. She was also vice-president of the Alzheimer's Society and the National Autistic Society, and a patron of Research Autism.I have looked up her maiden speech, and I want to quote the end of it:\\As this is a maiden speech, I ask for the indulgence of the House in widening the debate and putting on record my interest in and my concern for a group of extremely vulnerable people, both urban and rural. I refer to people suffering from permanent disabilities-physical difficulties, learning difficulties and mental handicap. I hope that while I am Member of Parliament for the Tiverton constituency there will be an improvement in the quality of life enjoyed by that group of people and a clearer understanding of their needs and the difficulties that they face.\\-[ Official Report, 12 June 1992; Vol. 209, c. 608.]I can state very clearly that Angela Browning stood up for what she said in her maiden speech throughout the whole of her political career. When she was talking about this topic in the early '90s, it was not so easy to do so. I pay huge tribute to her for that great work, because what she said in her maiden speech 18 years ago she really lived up to. On a personal basis, may I say that it was a great pleasure to work with Angela? I know that many new Members say what a great pleasure it was to work with the retiring Member, but I can say with great genuine affection that she was a great supporter and a great help. If I can be half as good a Member of Parliament as she was over the previous 18 years, I shall do very well in this House. As I say, I pay great tribute to her.Tiverton and Honiton has new boundaries. The constituency is now 40 miles long, starting up in Bampton, on the borders of Exmoor, and stretching right down to the sea-the first time that it has reached the sea. It passes through the Blackdown hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Romans worked out what a wonderful constituency it is in the 1st century, because they landed at Seaton and proceeded inland; they obviously knew the value of Seaton. It is now a beautiful seaside town, but it suffers from having a proposed Tesco supermarket on its outskirts. We are rather fearful that that may dominate too much of Seaton and destroy some of our local shops. It is also about scale and development; much as we need regeneration in Seaton, particularly in some parts, we are worried about that. The constituency contains the excellent Colyton grammar school, which I look forward to supporting hugely during my period in office in Tiverton and Honiton. It will be a great pleasure to see that school progress, because it has a huge following and delivers a very good education.As we walk around the corridors of this House, we think of Axminster and its famous carpets, because many carpets in this House were manufactured there-in fact, replacement new carpets for the House are still manufactured in the town, and I have seen them being made, which is a great thing.Honiton is famous for its lace making. The Speaker used to wear the ceremonial robe-I shall not comment further on that matter-the lace for which was made there. The robes are now in the museum in Honiton, and I recommend that all hon. Members pay a visit, not only because mine is such a beautiful constituency, but because they can see the amazing spectacle of that lace.When the previous Conservative Government came out of power in 1997, the A30 and A303 were just about to be dualled. Unfortunately, because of what was said by the one great, honest man in the previous Labour Government, the outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury-he left the note saying \\There is no money left\\-I am not expecting that road to be dualled quickly. However, I assure the House that I shall persist with the matter to ensure that we get that road, because it is essential, as not only does the M5 run through the constituency, but so too do the A303 and A30 and they can create a bottleneck through Honiton.The constituency also contains market towns such as Collumpton, which contains many traditional shops but whose town centre is in much need of some help and regeneration, and junction 28 of the M5, which is in great need of repair. Tiverton is a very interesting town, because in 1815 the industrialist John Heathcoat bought an old woollen mill on the River Exe with a view to setting up a lace manufactory in the town. Following the destruction of his lace-making machinery in Loughborough by former Luddites in the pay of the lace-makers of Nottingham, he moved his entire operation to Tiverton. As hon. Members can see, Tiverton has had an illustrious past. I hope that it can have an illustrious future and, as I have said, we look forward to furthering the facilities in the hospitals in Tiverton and Honiton.The constituency contains a great mixture of market towns and small rural villages; it contains nearly 100 villages and lots of hamlets. I look forward to our rolling out broadband throughout the constituency and throughout rural areas. I also look forward to our building more affordable homes, because one of the problems in the constituency is that house prices are high and wages are not meeting those prices. I welcome the fact that we will put things right for people who invested in Equitable Life, because that was a huge travesty of justice under the previous Government. I look forward to that.I should probably declare an interest as a farmer, and hon. Members would expect me to talk a bit in the rural affairs debate about agriculture, food production and the need for food production. My view is that the rising world population means that we need food. We need food in areas where we can produce it. In Devon, we have the rolling hills, the beautiful water and the right climate to grow excellent grass and produce good milk, good beef and good lamb. We should make sure that the whole country eats it, not just Devon, because it is among the best and healthiest that can be found. We have to promote our food more. I look forward to the Government introducing a food ombudsman, because farmers have to get a fair price for their food. It is not just about the subsidy that might or might not come from the common agricultural policy and the European Union, but about farmers being able to make a decent living from what they produce and to look after the countryside at the same time. Farmers are not the problem for the countryside and the environment, but the solution. That is something that I am determined to speak up about in this House. In the west country, we have a particularly virulent disease at the moment, which is tuberculosis in cattle. I look forward to this Government ensuring that we not only have healthy cattle but healthy wildlife.My constituency is very much at the heart of what was Monmouth rebellion country. Ever since the Monmouth rebellion, we have thought that people should stand up and speak up for the area. I hope that the same does not happen to me as happened under Judge Jeffreys to many of those who would have been my constituents, but I look forward to standing up in this House-the one thing that I was taught in Young Farmers was to stand up, speak up and shut up-and to keep speaking up. I shall do so for the simple reason that my constituents in Tiverton and Honiton want a Member of Parliament to represent them, whether they are from the towns, the villages or the rural communities, and to ensure that we get a good deal for the west country and for Devon, whether it is on water rates and South West Water or on fairer funding for schools. All those things have to be put right. I am a great believer in the fact that throughout the constituency-it is a great constituency-we need to have support. I look forward very much to representing the constituency in future years.| Hansard