Our hon. member made her maiden speech yesterday, name-checking Goldie Lookin Chain in the process.
This will probably be the start of a long and distinguished parliamentary career and suchlike. We look forward to the South Wales Argus speculating on this point next week, or whenever it is they look us up on the internet.
Anyway, this is what the laydee herself said:
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this debate. I represent with great pride the constituency of Newport, East, and I would like to express my thanks to the people of the constituency who have sent me here. I have heard rumours that hon. Members sometimes have difficulty in paying tribute to their predecessors. I am sure that that is not true, but I have no such problem. Despite the fact that my immediate predecessor originally came to the House as a Tory, I know Alan Howarth very well and I know of his diligence and his ability. During the election campaign, the people of Newport, East told me time and again of his determination and effectiveness in tackling their problems. He was also, of course, a splendid Minister in several Departments who left a lasting legacy in the shape of his contribution to widening access to higher education, to the arts, to developing disabled people's rights and to building a national child care strategy.
I mentioned that Alan started out as a Tory—as the Conservative Member for Stratford-on-Avon. Political parties do not always react well to Floor-crossers, but it was a sense of duty and conviction that led Alan to cross the Floor in 1995. He was welcomed very warmly by the Labour party in Newport, East—no mean feat for a Conservative in south Wales. I assure hon. Members and my constituents that, although I aspire to be as good a constituency Member and parliamentarian as he, I can categorically state that I will never cross the Floor. I am so pleased that Parliament will not be losing his talent, and that I will not be losing his sage advice and experience.
I also pay tribute to Alan's predecessor, the late Lord Islwyn, who like me and Alan Howarth, made his maiden speech on Second Reading of the Finance Bill. He represented Newport for more than 30 years and, sadly, passed away in the last Parliament. I note in passing that that makes two Members for Newport, East in a row who have been elevated to the other place.
My constituency of Newport, East stands at the gateway to England and Wales—or the other way around, depending on how one looks at it. It stretches from the eastern banks of the mouth of the River Usk to the communities of Roggiett, Undy, Magor and Caldicot.
Newport has a very proud political history. It was the cradle of the Chartists and later home of the Chartist riots in 1839. The demands made by the Chartists are the principles that we now take for granted and, indeed, formed the basis of modern parliamentary democracy: universal suffrage, secret ballots, the abolition of the property qualification for Members and, of course, wages for MPs so that not only the wealthy could represent the people.
Born—surprisingly enough—as a port, Newport became in the 19th century one of the most important places in the country for coal export. Later, the steel industry made its home in Newport, at Llanwern in the Corus plant. In light of recent experience, Lord Islwyn spoke prophetically when he said in his maiden speech in 1966:
"it would . . . be tempting fate to rely so exclusively on this one form of trade."—[Official Report, 25 May 1966; Vol. 729, c. 503.]
When, in 2001, Corus announced the end of steel making and serious job losses at the Llanwern steelworks, many thought that the town would be devastated. Newport, East has fought back, though, because of the enduring quality of its greatest asset—the people of Newport, East, who have always shown their ability to bounce back from setbacks and difficulties, adapting and responding to changes in industry and society.
Four years is a very long time in politics and so much has changed. My constituency is now enjoying a renaissance. The word "renaissance" is easy to use; nearly every local government strategy document proclaims a local renaissance, and it might seem overly grandiose, suggesting a perfect image of 15th century Italy—a combination of economic and cultural revival—but in Newport's case, it is true. There is certainly an economic renaissance. Despite losing part of its core industries, the city is proving that it can re- establish itself as a centre of modern industry and commerce. New industry in the high-tech and financial services sector is being attracted to the constituency. That includes companies such as EADS Defence and Security Systems, which I visited during the campaign, and which is bidding for the new UK fire and rescue services communications system.
Thanks to the good relations and teamwork between the work force, management and unions, Corus reported record profits this year. Thanks to Labour teamwork in Westminster, the Assembly and on the excellent Newport council, the city is home to Wales's first regeneration company—Newport Unlimited, which is redeveloping the city centre with £30 million for jobs and development.
The renaissance is built on the strong foundation of a better skilled work force. The University of Wales in Newport, in neighbouring Newport, West, has had the largest increase in full-time undergraduate applications of any university in the United Kingdom and is one of the top UK universities for widening access to higher education for students from the state school sector. That is a signpost of bright things to come for Newport, East, but the future development that Newport needs must be as a result of commercial decisions dependent on the Government continuing to create the conditions to ensure a strong and vibrant economy in Wales. The measures in the Finance Bill, however complex and technical, will enable us to do that.
I am very proud that we have the best economic background in Wales for decades, helping a huge cross-section of people to share in the prosperity that a stable economy is providing. There are now more people in Wales in work than ever before, and unemployment in Newport, East has been halved. It is vital that we continue that growth.
Some might say that the renaissance in Newport is due to the popularity of the GLC—not the Greater London council but the Goldie Lookin' Chain, Newport's rap stars whose spiritual leader is my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn). What is certainly true is that Newport's renaissance is intimately associated with its cultural life. Thanks to the legendary club, TJ's, Newport is a cultural Mecca for the alternative music scene. It is a city with its own cultural and sporting heroes—Caldicot male voice choir, Newport Dragons rugby team, Newport County FC, the Welsh national velodrome and the sports village. Although it is just outside my patch, I am sure that my colleague in Newport, West will not mind my mentioning that I look forward to hosting the 2010 Ryder cup at the Celtic Manor. Newport was awarded city status in 2002. Some wag even suggested that with such a renaissance we should start to call Newport "new Newport", but that might be a little bit too new Labour for some.
I want to ensure that all my constituents get to share in Newport's growth. I am proud to represent a party that has done so much over the years to unlock human talent and to deliver social justice, but there is still much to do to improve people's day-to-day lives for the better. Child poverty still blights too many lives; too few people leave school without the skills and qualifications that they need to make their way in the world; there is too much antisocial behaviour, meaning that people cannot live in peace; and too many people rely on income replacement benefits. Working with my colleagues in this place and in Newport, that is what I want to help to change.