Stephen Doughty makes maiden speech in Parliament

Stephen Doughty MP
Photo: BBC News

Stephen Doughty has delivered his maiden speech in Parliament, during an Opposition debate on the millionaire tax cut.

He paid tribute to his predecessors, the constituency of Cardiff South and Penarth, and spoke of global and local challenges.

You can view the full speech below – or can watch it as it was delivered by clicking here.

Source Hansard (HC Deb, 28 November 2012, c265)

28 November 2012

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op):

Diolch yn fawr, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you very much for giving me the liberty to make my maiden speech in this important debate today.

I can certainly say that at a time of great economic hardship and uncertainty for many hard-working families across my constituency of Cardiff South and Penarth, the actions of this Government—whether in giving tax cuts to millionaires, failing to invest in jobs or growth, or cutting front-line police officers—appear increasingly disconnected from the daily challenges that my constituents are facing. This Government often attempt to rewrite the history books to place blame for the current economic difficulties on the last Government, who in fact took crucial action at the 11th hour to prevent the collapse of our banks and financial system. What the recent crisis truly reveals is the global and interconnected nature of our financial and economic systems, and that the global is now truly the local.

I will return to those issues in due course, but I would be grateful for the House’s indulgence if I use this opportunity to follow one of the conventions of this House by paying tribute to my distinguished predecessor, the right honourable Alun Michael, who I am truly delighted to say is continuing his service to the people of south Wales as our newly elected police and crime commissioner. I cannot think of a more fitting role for a public servant who has dedicated a significant part of his life, both before entering Parliament and during his time here, to tackling crime, the causes of crime and reoffending, and in particular building a justice system that works for young offenders. Alun always had a much deeper understanding of the nature of our systems of law and order and, in particular, the words of another former Member of this House, the distinguished former Home Secretary and Prime Minister, the right honourable Sir Robert Peel, who argued that:

“The police are the public and the public are the police”.

I am confident that, as commissioner, Alun will be putting that vision of co-operation into practice.

Alun was well known for his influential career as a senior Minister at the Home Office, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as Secretary of State for Wales, as the first First Minister of Wales, as an influential member of the Select Committees on Justice and on Home Affairs, and as a great parliamentarian, in this House and the National Assembly for Wales. However, I know that he would view with equal pride his work as a local councillor, magistrate and youth and community worker, making a difference at the grass roots for many young people experiencing complex and turbulent lives. My father Barry remembers with affection his time working with Alun in Llanrumney and St Mellons as part of the Army youth team in the late 1970s, and later in Ely. Both of them truly understood the importance of investing in, and engaging, with some of the hardest-to-reach young people in our society.

Alun, like me, is also a great lover of our natural environment and of the hills, mountains and coastlines of Wales. He was a strong supporter of our national parks, of right to roam legislation, of the Youth Hostels Association and of protecting our wildlife. I am sure that he will still be climbing the slopes of Pen y Fan for many years to come and that many a fox will raise a paw to thank him for escaping the cruelty of the hunt.

Alun also truly understood the diversity of the remarkable constituency that is Cardiff South and Penarth, whether in his hugely significant work with the people, Parliament and the Government of Somaliland—I wish the people there the very best in their local elections, which take place today—or in his ability to reach out to people of all faiths and of none to find common ground. He sets a truly high bar to follow. In Alun’s tradition, I am also proud to retain my constituency’s strong links with campaigning trade unions, such as the GMB, Unison and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, particularly as I have already made clear my strong opposition to this Government’s plans on regional pay and my support for equality in both life and the workplace, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability. I am also deeply proud to sit in this House not only as a member of the Labour party, but as a member of the Co-operative party, in our largest ever group of Members in this House. I pledge to play my part in pushing for an economy and society that needs more than ever the values of co-operation and mutualism.

In paying tribute to Alun, I am also particularly conscious of the honour afforded to me in serving a constituency that has been represented by only two Members of Parliament since the second world war. Hon. Members will no doubt be aware that Alun’s predecessor was the late right honourable Lord Callaghan, a remarkable figure in British politics of the 20th century, remaining the only MP to have held all four great offices of state. Lord Callaghan’s rise to the premiership is a story of inspiration. The son of a petty officer who had to rely on the Ministry of Pensions to pay his school fees and who left school at 17 to enter the civil service at the lowest level became our Prime Minister. “Gentleman Jim” or “Sunny Jim”, as he remains known by many, made an indelible impression on me as a child. When I was 10-years-old, my family and I were invited up for a tour of these remarkable buildings and of this House by the former Member for the Vale of Glamorgan, Mr John Smith. As we were shown around the other place, we encountered Lord Callaghan in one of the Lobbies, and were introduced. But rather than speaking only to my parents and ignoring my brother and me, Lord Callaghan spoke to us for some time, without a hint of being patronising, as an equal, and explained how he always believed that it was vital that politicians should listen to children and young people—a lesson as true today as it was then.

Like Alun and I, Lord Callaghan also understood that our values and responsibilities did not end at our borders. Early on, as a Member of this House, it is written that

“he emphasised the fact that Britain’s African colonies belonged to the Africans”,

but also

“that Britain had a responsibility to those countries it had colonised, and could not simply walk away and leave the countries to sink or swim on their own”.

I believe firmly that it is not only our moral responsibility but in our common interest to tackle poverty and injustice and to promote sustainable economic development wherever it is needed—from the streets of Tremorfa and Stanwell to Lilongwe and Lashkar Gah.

The late Lord Callaghan and I had one other thing in common. After constituency business on Fridays and Saturdays, there could only be one other priority: popping down to Ninian Park to watch the Bluebirds fly. For the record, I remain as deeply attached to the traditional blue of my football team as I am to the red of the Labour rose.

It was particularly fascinating to read the maiden speech of the late Lord Callaghan, delivered as it was in this House after the 1945 general election but while conflict remained in the Pacific region. He urged hon. Members to

“lift their eyes for a few moments from the European scene to what is happening in Asia at the present time.”—[Official Report, 20 August 1945; Vol. 351, c. 413.]

Now, 67 years later, we would do well to heed that call, albeit in a very different context. While the House will no doubt enjoy further vigorous and important debates on the future of the European Union, and on our place in it over the months and years to come, I would contend that many of the vital stories that will drive the direction of humanity in the present and in the time to come are now being written on far shores, whether in China, India, Brazil or, indeed, Africa.

The challenges that I attempt to answer on the doorsteps of Cardiff South and Penarth are more intimately connected to global events and global dynamics than ever before. We live in a world where energy or food price hikes are being driven in part by the flaws in global energy and commodity markets and where the changing patterns of demand by the billions of new global citizens in China or India might affect the price of a loaf of bread on Splott road.

We live in a world where false myths of confrontation between peoples and religions has, sadly, drawn young men—thankfully only a few—from the streets of Cardiff towards false visions of how to change the world through conflict, rather than towards the university, although their communities have stepped up to challenge that situation head on. It is a world where rapidly shifting patterns of competitive advantage challenge us daily on how to best educate and equip our young women and men to be able to secure a job and make a difference, as the old employers of the Bute docks are replaced by the internet design studio or the green technology company in St Mellons.

The people of Cardiff and Penarth have coped well with dramatic changes before, and flourished. From a sleepy village, we became the largest coal-exporting port in the world at the turn of the last century. Welsh anthracite fired the ships, built in the yards of the Clyde, that took British manufactures to the far-flung reaches of the empire and beyond. The terraces of Splott expanded to serve the steelworks and industry flanking the busy port. Penarth was fondly known as the garden by the sea, with thousands of Victorians flocking to enjoy its beautiful views. In 1897, Marconi, the pioneer of global radio communication, sent the first wireless message over open sea, from Lavernock point near Sully across the Bristol channel to the island of Flat Holm.

People came from all over the world to our great Welsh capital, many working on those same ships and in those docks that were the lifeblood of our communities. They included Somalis from the former protectorate of British Somaliland, Yemenis and Irish, and, later still, Bengalis, Pakistanis, Ugandan Asians fleeing the horrors of Idi Amin, and many others. The prominence of the beautiful St. Augustine’s church is matched by the quiet reverence of the Alice Street mosque, one of Britain’s oldest. New estates were built in the east of the city, on the supposed lands of the infamous pirate Sir Henry Morgan, to support the families of the post-war generation. They underpin the strong communities that remain there today.

How have things changed? Thanks to the vision and energy of many local people, including my predecessor, Cardiff and Penarth are re-energising and re-visioning for our new world. Our sky and shoreline are now marked by few ship masts and furnace chimneys; instead, we see the hubs of energy and enterprise in the St Mellons business park, the wind turbine powering new green businesses in Rumney, the wave-lined roof of the new BBC Wales Drama Village, where we might just spot the Tardis or a “Holby City” ambulance, the transparency of our Senedd building where our colleagues in the National Assembly meet, and the imposing forms of the Millennium stadium and of the Cardiff City stadium, home to my beloved Bluebirds. Finally, sweeping round the corner of Penarth headland, we can see our beautiful historic Victorian pier being restored. Those are sights that mark new directions in our economy, democracy and society as well as connections to our past and our traditions.

In his maiden speech to the House, Alun Michael described our constituency as a

“microcosm from which the Government could learn many lessons.”—[Official Report, 2 July 1987; Vol. 118, c. 709.]

That sentiment remains as true today as it was 25 years ago. There is much to cherish, but there are huge challenges, too. We might have the Tardis and “Torchwood”, but we also have working families in Trowbridge struggling to get by, young people in Grangetown struggling to find a job, and older people such as those who attend the Moorland day centre in Splott, of which I am proud to be a trustee. We also have people who are finding it hard to get by in retirement, and hospital workers in Llandough fearing regional pay. This Government would do well to listen to the real experiences of the people living in my constituency. I strongly support the motion today, and I am confident that the people of Cardiff South and Penarth will join me in supporting it, too.

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