Chloe Smith’s maiden speech in full

October 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

Chloe Smith, the new MP for Norwich North, made her maiden speech in the House on Wednesday 14 October, during an opposition day debate on higher education.

I am grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to take part in this Opposition day debate and make my maiden speech, Madam Deputy Speaker. I also thank the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel) for her comments.

As this is my first speech, I want to pay tribute to Dr. Ian Gibson, the previous Member for Norwich, North. He was a dedicated constituency Member whose tradition of independence and plain speaking I hope to emulate. He was known locally for his work on science, as I understand he was here in the House, and for sticking up for the people. Although I do not enter this place as a scientist, I certainly intend to stick up for all my constituents.

There has been a Norwich, North seat since 1950, but the city of Norwich has been represented in Parliament since 1298.

I am proud of Norwich, North, with its one foot in the city of Norwich and its other foot in surrounding parishes and beautiful Broadland. We have a history stretching back to Roman times, and colleagues in the House may already be familiar with Norwich’s trading prominence in the intervening centuries.

We are known for industries such as chocolate, mustard, wool, shoes, financial services and now modern technologies, including biotechnology and engineering. We have a high proportion of small and medium-sized firms, and I applaud all those in Norwich who choose to take a risk and build their own businesses.

Norwich also has cultural prominence. Underpinning our current vibrant arts scene, we can also claim the writing in English—or middle English, to be more specific for any other students of literature in the House—of the first book by a woman. On the political side, movements have often gathered on Mousehold heath in my constituency, including the Chartists 170 years ago and Robert Kett’s followers before that.

We are also known for the Canaries’ best efforts to stay up the leagues. Norwich City football club is currently prospering in division one. Given that the last full match that I saw in person resulted in Norwich losing 7-1 at home to Colchester—is the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) here?

No, he is not—I think that, in the interests of the club, it may be wise for me to stay away until promotion is fully secured. For any real aficionados of Norfolk’s footballing heritage, I draw hope from a reputed draw with Arsenal by the village football club of Thorpe St. Andrew, only as recently as 1894. It remains a shame to this day that the parish could not afford to pay the travel costs for the match replay in London.

In addition to its fine urban history, Thorpe St. Andrew is but one of the parishes that give present-day Norwich, North so much of its character and feeling. According to local sources, Sprowston is the largest parish in Norfolk—I look forward to receiving letters claiming otherwise, which I shall happily forward to the parish council. Old Catton can claim further cultural merit.

In Catton hall, it has the location of the first commission for landscaping by Humphrey Repton. Equally importantly, Old Catton’s history exemplifies the tradition of independence in the people of Norfolk, among whom I count myself. According to local historians, the parish had

    “a high proportion of freemen in the Domesday record which is typical of Norfolk”.

The Domesday Book also lists other parishes in Norwich, North, including Hellesdon and Taverham, where, in its Victorian heyday, a paper mill produced half of all the paper used to print The Times. Drayton, the final parish in Norwich, North, has another literary claim to fame. During the 15th century, the village was in the possession of Sir John Fastolf, a prominent soldier who, it is claimed, gave his name to Shakespeare’s character Falstaff.

In researching this speech, I found that some of the things that trouble the people of Norwich, North have not changed in decades. For example, although I was not sworn in as a new MP until this week, over the summer my postbag contained a wealth of letters complaining about a sewage farm located just in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon), but none the less pungent for that. I have found references to residents complaining bitterly about the very same sewage works from as early as 1933.

I sincerely hope that other problems that are raised with me will take less than 70 years to be resolved. For example, I look forward to working over the next nine months on NHS facilities, transport, housing and more. I am already working on behalf of those constituents who face problems with social housing.

My predecessor talked eloquently about Norwich’s housing during his maiden speech in 1997, but the problems have not diminished since then. It is a personal priority for me to focus on the improvement of the stock and service for local council tenants.

Finally, the backdrop to my first few months as the Member for Norwich, North is a bleak one for many of my constituents, for their jobs and for their businesses. My constituents are struggling in this recession. In this Opposition day debate on higher education, I must highlight the importance of the educational sector to the local economy in Norwich and Norfolk.

Not only as a local MP, but as a Norfolk girl who might be said to have made good, I look forward to addressing the graduation ceremony at City college, Norwich, on Saturday. I shall applaud the many young people who have gained qualifications—as does the motion before us today—and I shall praise the work of the tutors and others who enable their success.

However, I also sympathise greatly with the college for the deep confusion that it has experienced through the Learning and Skills Council’s capital crisis. Many of my constituents are already losing out in the chaos, and we may all lose further if the college cannot recoup the £3 million already sunk into plans encouraged by this Government.

Finishing on today’s higher education topic, I pay tribute to the university of East Anglia, which is the former home of my predecessor, although it is in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke).

It is notable for working with local partners, the city and the county. The Norwich research park is taking on today’s great environmental challenges, and Professor Tim O’Riordan of the school of environmental sciences is our fine city’s sheriff this year.

Local employers, many of which I have sought to meet since my election this summer, want to work with local institutions such as UEA and the City college to ensure that the education offered reflects the needs of people and businesses in Norwich and Norfolk.

That requires clarity and honesty on finance. I look forward to working with all involved back at home to realise higher education’s contribution to economic recovery and growth, as I look forward to working with colleagues in this House to see the many good ideas expressed in this debate brought to fruition for my constituents and theirs.


Entry filed under: Commons. Tags: , , , , , , .

Jacqui speaks up for Reddich Deaf Club Smith’s maiden speech charms MPs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Follow us on Twitter!

October 2009
« Sep   Feb »

%d bloggers like this: