James Morris makes his Maiden Speech
26th May 2010
James Morris is one of the first new MPs to make his maiden speech in the House of Commons. As is tradition, he praises the work of retiring local MP and Deputy Speaker Sylvia Heal and other notable figures from the constituency.
James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) and other right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to this debate with much more expertise than I possess. As others have said, we are living in a time of great upheaval, not only in this country, but across the world. Those changes are having a direct impact on the people of the constituency for which I was recently elected-Halesowen and Rowley Regis in the west midlands-which lies at the heart of our country and has a proud history of manufacturing, steel working and business enterprise.
Indeed, my grandfather was a steel worker in Halesowen in the 1930s and 1940s. He had an industrial accident when working as a forger in 1947 that meant that he was unable to work in the same way again. My uncle was a print worker in Rowley Regis, another area of the constituency, for a firm in Cradley Heath, so I know the hard-working men and women who have striven, often against the odds, to look after their families and make a better life for themselves.
Talking of hard work, I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor as the Member of Parliament for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, Sylvia Heal, who was not only a very diligent public servant to the people of Halesowen and Rowley Regis for 13 years-she did a lot of work and was very popular among constituents-but was, as hon. Members will know, well respected by Members across the House in her post as Deputy Speaker. In particular, she did a lot of fine work in promoting democracy in developing countries, in her capacity as Deputy Speaker. I am proud, therefore, to take over from her, and I will work tirelessly to provide the same service and responsiveness to my constituents.
One of the most famous political radicals, who was born in my constituency, was Thomas Attwood. As a Conservative, I quote a Liberal now merely as a gesture towards our new-found friends in the coalition Government. Thomas Attwood was one of the early campaigners for the reform of the political system in the United Kingdom and was one of the prime movers around the Great Reform Act of 1832. I am not necessarily advocating the need for major constitutional reforms, but in the country today there is an urgency similar to the political and economic situation at that time, which demands that, with this new Parliament sitting and beginning to take decisions, we take responsibility for reviving the House and reconnecting it with the people who sent us here. We have major challenges internationally and domestically, and vital considerations that are relevant to my constituents in Halesowen and Rowley Regis.
The subjects that we are debating today might be taking place in other parts of the world, but they are having a direct impact on our country. In Halesowen and Rowley Regis, where we have had rising unemployment since 1997, there is an urgent need to create new jobs and provide skills for our young people. I have a further education college in my constituency-Halesowen college-that provides courses and training for up to 4,000 students. In Halesowen and Rowley Regis, we need to revive our town centres, including in Old Hill and Blackheath, and we need to concentrate on reviving the manufacturing base, which still exists in my constituency, by promoting exports and new technology.
Another famous gentleman born in my constituency, in the 18th century, was William Shenstone, who was a poet and landscape gardener, and who developed an area in Halesowen called the Leasowes, which has recently been restored to its former glory. William Shenstone was a big believer in the imagination as a source of potential change and good in society. At this moment in history, political leaders and those of us, like me, who are humbled to have been elected to this place need to use our imaginations to revive this place and how it operates, and how people perceive politics; forge new alliances at home and abroad; create innovation in our politics and economy; and forge new partnerships in the House for the good of the nation. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve things for this country, decentralise power from central Government to local government and communities, strengthen democratic institutions and restore trust, and, by doing that, to build a stronger nation that is able to continue to play a positive role in world affairs.