Angie's Maiden Speech

The MP for Ealing Central and Acton addresses Parliament

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Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con):

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to address the House for the first time and to take part in what is turning out to be a fascinating debate with some excellent contributions. I congratulate the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) on an excellent and heartfelt maiden speech.

I start by paying tribute to some of my predecessors. Ealing Central and Acton is a new seat and for the past five years it has been well represented by the now hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter), who drew on many years of local government experience and his legal background to offer wise advice and counsel. We locked horns on occasions, but on at least two, we were on the same side. The first was to oppose the attempt to impose the infamous west London tram and the second, more recently, was the opposition to any further expansion of Heathrow airport. I respect the fact that the hon. Gentleman put his principles before his career when he stood down from his Government position to pursue that campaign. I hope that he is as pleased as I am with the new coalition Government's early announcement that there will be no third runway at Heathrow. It also seems that the British Airports Authority has finally got the message.

I would also like to mention the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound), whom I have got to know rather well in the past year or so. His boundaries were changed alongside mine and, as he put it to me rather graphically, "You got your best bits from me and I got my best bits from you." So I say to him, thank you for that. I do not need to tell the House what a larger-than-life character he is. He is much loved for his work in the House and his commitment to his constituents. I hope that, in years to come, I can go about my job with the same good humour with which he goes about his.

However, the person I see as my closest predecessor is, of course, my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young). He represented the old Ealing, Acton seat for 23 years and, regardless of people's political allegiance, he is remembered with warmth and affection throughout the constituency. He was the first famous bicycling politician-the bicycling baronet. In Ealing, we still have many photographs of him with his bicycle-and his bicycle clips. He deservedly has a towering reputation in Ealing and Acton. He is always welcome there and I am very aware that I have large shoes to fill-literally, as well as metaphorically.

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Ealing Central and Acton is one of the most diverse constituencies one can imagine. The boundary changes have deepened that diversity-the constituency is truly a rich tapestry. We have a long-standing Polish community, an Asian community, an Arab community, a Japanese community and an African community, including a growing Somali community. I want to mention the brilliant work of the Tallo centre in south Acton, which operates on little funding and eases the path of Somalis who come to this country and into our community. When I called there recently during the election campaign, I found two of the staff embarking on their new campaign against female circumcision in the Somali community. That is perhaps a useful reminder to us all that not everyone who comes here to live a better life can leave all their torment behind them. As the local MP, I look forward with all my heart to supporting the work of organisations such as the Tallo centre.

Both Ealing and Acton have long histories. Acton was originally a Saxon village and the name comes from the word meaning "oak tree." It was transformed by the industrial revolution and quickly developed a great reputation for its washing and laundry industry. Indeed, some of the names in Acton still reflect that history-for example, Bollo lane.

Of course, Ealing, too, has an illustrious history. Its icon is an oak tree, which links it neatly with Acton, but I suspect it also represents the famous oak trees on Ealing common and so many of our other wonderful green spaces, of which we are truly very proud. Ealing has for long years been known as "The Queen of the Suburbs", and if any hon. Members would like to take a stroll with me through some of the streets, they will see exactly why it still is.

The earliest surviving census in this country comes from Ealing-from 1599-and John Quincy Adams chose Ealing as his place of residence in 1815 when he came to this country to serve as the American Minister. In 1901, Ealing adopted a coat of arms and a motto-"Respice Prospice"-which means, "Look backwards, look forwards." The good voters of Ealing and Acton may have taken that rather literally when, as it transpired on election night, they voted for me as the MP but also for a Labour council. I will leave others to decide which is which.

There can be no discussion of Ealing without mention of the famous film studios, which are the longest continuously working film studios in the world. They bring great lustre to the borough and have played a significant role in putting the UK at the heart of the international film industry. Who can possibly not have heard of such titles as "The Lavender Hill Mob", "Passport to Pimlico" and "Hue and Cry"? The studios are also just about to do a remake of their "Doctor at Large" series.

On a more serious note, it will be imperative to keep all that history in mind when considering plans to regenerate Ealing and Acton town centres, for regenerated I believe they must be if they are to stride confidently through the 21st century. Crossrail will help. There must be development, but it must be done sensitively in order not to trample on the history and character of the place. I hope to work closely with the local council and other agencies to ensure that we get things as right as we possibly can.

I look forward to continuing some of the campaigns that I started as a candidate. I have a local transport committee, which meets regularly to discuss Ealing Broadway and Acton main line stations, and I shall continue to campaign-for as long as it takes-to ensure that we keep our A and E departments at both Central Middlesex and Ealing hospitals.

There is much in what we are discussing this afternoon for me to recommend to my constituents. Protecting the environment for future generations and finding ways to make our economy more environmentally sustainable are things that I know the people of Ealing and Acton care passionately about, and that I can support. I should like to put on record at this stage that I am proud of the Conservative record on environmental matters. After all, it was a Conservative Government who introduced the Clean Air Act 1956, which did so much to get rid of the smog in London, and another Conservative Government who introduced tax incentives to ensure that people switched to lead-free petrol. A Conservative council-Westminster city council-pioneered the low emission zone, and a Conservative Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, was probably the first Prime Minister to choose to make a major speech on the environment, as she did in the late 1980s. In that speech, she reminded us that we are not freeholders on this planet, but leaseholders, and that our duty is to ensure, like all good leaseholders, that we pass on this planet to future generations in the same if not better order than that in which we found it.

However, one issue that I wanted to touch on-it comes within the DEFRA remit-is dangerous dogs, which have become an increasing problem in Ealing and Acton. I was delighted to see that the coalition agreement goes into some detail about tackling that. I am a little disappointed that it is not an immediate priority-I hope it will be, and I am sure it needs to be. We have problems in the parks throughout Ealing and Acton, and I think it is unacceptable that in this day and age, people cannot enjoy their wonderful green spaces because of the blight of such dangerous dogs.

We need to look again at what we do to protect people while supporting the vast majority of responsible dog owners. Principally, this is an issue of enforcement. I am not sure that yet another form of licensing will make any difference, because after all, as we all know, the good guys buy their licences and the bad people do not bother. It is an issue of enforcement. I hope that the Government will look at that, introduce measures, and see how we can toughen penalties and crack down on people who consistently flout the law.

I fully support the measures set out by the Government to increase energy efficiency. In particular, the green deal will make a big contribution to reducing carbon emissions across the UK, but it will also bring direct benefits to householders. People have often raised with me on the doorstep their worries about fuel bills, and these proposals will pay for themselves through savings on energy bills in the future, so it really will provide a double bonus.

I am proud to stand here representing Ealing Central and Acton and I look forward to speaking out on behalf of my constituents whenever the occasion arises.


June 2, 2010