Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Parliamentary Maiden Speeches

Watching some speeches on the identity documents bill. Not yet seen much debate on on identity documents though. There have been a series of maiden speeches to a near empty house.

They appear to be all about vanity. Praising there predecessor, mentioning features and history of their constituency.

Susan Jones (L) spoke about wearing bow ties and Rosa Parks.

Mike Freer (C) spoke about how much he loved Thatcher, to lots of Tory cheers.

Kris Hopkins (C) spoke against men and women being seperated in Muslim gatherings.

Ian Mearns (L) spoke about house elfs.

Alec Shelbrook (L) spoke about the old kingdom of Elmet

Nigel Adams (C) spoke of his love of beer and Cricket. And more interestingly the origin of the flag of the USA in Selby Abbey. He spoke up for Drax coal power station (the largest single source of emissions in the UK).

Gloria De Piero (L) spoke about D H Lawrence. I dont think she even mentioned i.d. cards.

Julain Huppert (LD) did speak about it, paying tribute to no2id. He decribed the Government as 'liberal and progressive'!

Even Labour members do little to defend I.D. cards, rather some have made the case that they were always against them. David Winnick (L) argued that the Tories were for them in the 1980's.

Even Caroline Lucas followed convention, but did it well and still made remarks relevant to the debate:
Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)
I am grateful to you for calling me to speak today, Mr Deputy Speaker. As I am sure you know, the environment is a subject dear to my heart, and I shall return to it in a moment.

I think that anyone would find making their first speech in the Chamber daunting, given its history and traditions and the many momentous events that it has witnessed. However, I have an additional responsibility, which is to speak not only as the new Member of Parliament for Brighton, Pavilion, but as the first representative of the Green party to be elected to Westminster.

We must go back several decades, to the election of the first nationalist MPs in Scotland and Wales, to identify the last maiden speech made by a member of a new national political party. Perhaps a better comparison would be with the first socialist and independent Labour MPs, whose arrival over a century ago was seen as a sign of coming revolution. When Keir Hardie made his maiden speech after winning the seat of West Ham South in 1892, there was an outcry, because instead of a frock coat and top hat he wore a tweed suit and a deerstalker. It is hard to decide which of those options would seem more inappropriate today.

What Keir Hardie stood for, however, seems much more mainstream now: progressive taxation, votes for women, free schooling, pensions, and abolition of the House of Lords. Although the last of those is an urgent task that is still before us, the rest are now seen as essential to our society. What was once radical, even revolutionary, has become understood, accepted and even cherished.

I am helped today by the admirable tradition that in their first speech to the House, Members should refer to their constituency and to their predecessor. David Lepper, who stood down at the election after 13 years' service as Member of Parliament for Brighton, Pavilion, was an enormously hard-working and highly respected Member whose qualities transcended any difference of party, and I am delighted to have the chance to thank him for his work on behalf of the people of Brighton.

It is also a great pleasure to speak about Brighton itself, or Brighton and Hove as the city is rightly called. It is, I am sure, well known to many Members, if only in connection with party conference time. My own party has not yet grown to a size that would justify the use of the Brighton Centre-although I hope that that will change before long-but I can tell Members who are not familiar with it that it is one of the United Kingdom's premier conference venues. There are also the attractions of the shops and caf├ęs of the Lanes and North Laine, the pier, and, of course, the Royal Pavilion itself, which gives its name to the constituency. Beyond the immediate boundaries of the constituency and the city is the quietly beautiful countryside of the south downs and the Sussex Weald.

Brighton has always had a tradition of independence, of doing things differently. It has an entrepreneurial spirit, making the best of things whatever the circumstances, and enjoying being ahead of the curve. We see that in the number of small businesses and freelancers in the constituency, and in the way in which diversity is not just tolerated or respected, but positively welcomed and valued. You have to work quite hard to be a local character in Brighton.

We do not have a single dominant employer in the constituency. As well as tourism and hospitality, we have two universities, whose students make an important cultural as well as financial contribution to the city. A large number of charities, campaigning groups and institutes are also based there, some local, others with a national or international reach, such as the Institute of Development Studies. All those organisations do excellent work, and I look forward to supporting them during my time in this place.

Many of my constituents are employed in the public and voluntary sectors. They include doctors and teachers, nurses and police officers, and others from professions that do not always receive the same level of attention or support from the media or, indeed, politicians. But whatever role they play-as social workers, planning officers, highway engineers or Border Agency staff-we depend on them. I am sure that Members on both sides agree that all those who work for the state should be respected and their contribution valued. Particularly at a time of cuts, with offhand comments about bureaucrats and pencil-pushers, that becomes even more important.

There is also a Brighton that is perhaps less familiar to hon. Members. The very popularity of the city puts pressure on transport, housing and the quality of life. Although there is prosperity, it is not shared equally. People are proud of Brighton but they believe it can be a better and fairer place to live and work. I pledge to do everything I can in this place to help achieve that, with a particular focus on creating more affordable and more sustainable housing. We have more than 11,000 people on the housing waiting list in the city and we need urgent action.

Brighton was once the seat of the economist Henry Fawcett, who was elected there in 1865. Shortly afterwards, he married Millicent Garrett, later the leader of the Suffragists, a movement he himself had encouraged and supported. He lent his name to the Fawcett Society, which is still campaigning for greater women's representation in politics. The task of ensuring that Parliament better reflects the people it represents remains work in progress. As the first woman elected in Brighton, Pavilion, this is work that I will do all I can to advance. I pay tribute to the wide range of organisations in Brighton and Hove that work with women, which do some fantastic work. They include Rise, which works with women who have been subject to domestic violence.

I said when I began that I found this occasion daunting and perhaps the most difficult task is to say a few words about the latest radical move that the people of Brighton have made in electing the first Green MP to Parliament. It has been a long journey. The Green party traces its origins back to 1973 and the issues highlighted in its first manifesto for a sustainable society, including security of energy supply, tackling pollution, raising standards of welfare and striving for steady state economics, are even more urgent today. I cannot help thinking that if our message had been heeded nearly 40 years ago, we would be much closer to the genuinely sustainable economy that we so urgently need than we currently are today.

We fielded 50 candidates in the 1979 general election as the Ecology party and began to win seats on local councils. Representation in the European Parliament and the London Assembly followed and now, after nearly four decades of the kind of work on doorsteps and in council chambers with which I know hon. Members are all too familiar, we have more candidates, more members and now our first MP. A long journey; too long, I would say.

Politics needs to renew itself and to allow new ideas and visions to emerge. Otherwise, debate is the poorer and more and more people feel that they are not represented. I hope that if and when other new political movements arise, they will not be excluded by the system of voting. Reform here, as in other areas, is long overdue. That chance must not be squandered. Most crucially, the people themselves must be given a choice about the way their representatives are elected and that means more than a referendum on the alternative vote. It means the choice of a genuinely proportional electoral system.

Both before the election and afterwards, I have been asked the question, "What can a single MP achieve?" I may not be alone in facing that question. Since arriving in this place and thinking about the contribution of other MPs and what they have done over the years, I am sure that the answer is very clear. A single MP can achieve a great deal. A single MP can contribute to debates, to legislation and to scrutiny, work that is valuable if not always appreciated outside. A single MP can speak up for their constituents and challenge the Executive. For example, I am pleased that the Government are to introduce legislation to revoke a number of restrictions on people's freedoms and liberties, such as identity cards. But many restrictions remain; for example, control orders are to stay in force. Who is to speak for those affected, or for the principle that people should not be held without charge even if it is in their own homes? House arrest is something we deplore in other countries and I hope that, through debate, we can conclude that it has no place here either.

A single MP can raise issues that cannot be raised elsewhere. Last year, hon. Members from both sides helped to shine a light on the actions of the international commodities trading group, Trafigura, and the shipping of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast. There was particular concern that the media in this country were prevented from reporting the issues fully and fairly. That remains the case, for new legal actions concerning Trafigura have been launched in the Dutch courts and are being reported widely in other countries but not here. Those are the kinds of issues I will hope to pursue.

Finally, I wish to touch on the subject of today's debate. I have worked on the causes and consequences of climate change for most of my working life, first with Oxfam, for the effects of climate change are already affecting millions of people in poorer countries around the world, and more recently for 10 years in the European Parliament. If we are to overcome this threat, we in this Chamber have a vital role to play. We must take the lead. We must act so the United Kingdom can meet its own responsibilities to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and the other gases that are changing our climate, and we need to encourage and support other countries to do the same.

This House has signed up to the 10:10 campaign- 10% emission reductions in 2010. That is very good news, but the truth is we need 10% emission cuts every year, year on year, until we reach a zero-carbon economy, and time is running very short. If we are to avoid irreversible climate change, the current Parliament must meet this historic task. That gives all of us in this Chamber an extraordinary responsibility, but also an extraordinary opportunity, because the good news is that the action we need to take to tackle climate change is action that can improve the quality of life for all of us: better, more affordable public transport; better insulated homes; the end of fuel poverty; stronger local communities and economies; and many more jobs. I look forward to working with Members of all parties to advance these issues.

And later
Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)
My right hon. Friend says that the challenge of climate change is so great that we need nuclear power as well as renewables and energy efficiency, but given that we have to reduce our emissions in the next eight to 10 years if we listen to the scientists, we need to consider what is the most cost-effective and the fastest way to do that. Is nuclear power not a massive distraction in that debate? Even if we doubled the amount of nuclear power, we would cut our emissions by only 8%. Putting money into renewables and efficiency is far more effective.

This house needs reform.

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