Maiden Speech

I made my Maiden Speech in the House of Commons on 8 June 2010 at 20:43.

Every MP makes a maiden speech as their first speech in the House.  It is a tradition that goes back centuries.  The format is to talk about your constituency, your predecessors and you as a person.  it is to be light hearted, to be done without interruption and marks the official commencement of your parliamentary career.

"Congratulations on your tenure in your post, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I also congratulate Steve Baker on his lesson; I am sure that those in the financial services across the world will read Hansard with interest tomorrow. I particularly congratulate Nick Boles. The equality issues that he raised at the end of his speech are ones on which the House is stronger when it works together, and I will welcome the opportunity to take those matters forward with him.

It is an honour and a privilege to stand in this great Chamber of democracy and represent the people of Edinburgh South. My constituents have placed tremendous faith in me, and I will certainly be putting their views, hopes and aspirations forcefully.

Edinburgh South is a diverse constituency stretching from the old mining villages of Gilmerton to the leafy suburbs of Morningside and beyond. Some literary geniuses that hon. Members may recognise live in the constituency-Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and, of course, J.K. Rowling lived but a stone's throw from each other in the heart of the constituency. Those literary geniuses are complemented by a large student population, people in academia, public service workers and people in the professions.

The southern part of what is called the Athens of the north was represented in this House for over 100 years by the Conservatives. The area has had many distinguished Conservative Members of Parliament, including Sir William Darling, the great-uncle of the shadow Chancellor. The seat was last held for the Conservatives by the right hon. former Member for Devizes, the Earl of Ancram, who, in 1979, defeated a certain Gordon Brown.

The Earl of Ancram lost Edinburgh South to my predecessor, Nigel Griffiths, and I am delighted to be given this opportunity to pay tribute to him. Nigel was without doubt one of the most hard-working constituency MPs in this House. His dedication to serving his constituents was second to none, and his mantra that everyone knew someone he had helped is certainly true. He leaves behind a long legacy of how a Member of this House should serve, and a couple of other things, too. If anyone has had the unenviable pleasure of campaigning with Nigel and his infamous megaphone, they will know legendary megaphone phrases such as, "Don't leave it to the folks next door," and "We are knocking on your door now," the latter said just as his finger reached the bell. Those are aspects of campaigning that I hope Nigel will continue to employ for many years to come. Nigel was also well known for championing the cause of the disabled and the most vulnerable, and I know he will continue to do that outside this House.

Edinburgh was one of the major centres of the enlightenment, led by world-famous institutions based in south Edinburgh. One of them was the university of Edinburgh, a research-led university with an international reputation. It has long held a principal place in science and engineering research, which is based in King's Buildings. It has world experts in biological science, chemistry, engineering, geosciences, informatics, mathematics and physics. The university of Edinburgh and the other fine academic institutions in Edinburgh hold much of the intellectual property for what could be a modern enlightenment in science, innovation and green technology, and that must be wholeheartedly supported by Government. The Chancellor's announcement that he will cut 10,000 university places as part of his £6 billion of so-called efficiencies will do nothing to help our universities to flourish and our economy to grow. There will be a significant knock-on effect for universities in my constituency.

The royal observatory in Edinburgh South houses the UK's national centre for the production of state-of-the- art astronomical technology. I recently visited it to see the people there making lenses for the most technologically advanced telescopes in the world. They are training them now on the Liberal Democrats to see if they can find anything left of the principles that they stood on in the election.

Edinburgh South also boasts the new Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, a state-of-the-art teaching hospital built by Labour, and now the centrepiece of plans for the largest biomedical park in Europe. For 150 years, the Royal hospital for sick children has been caring for children in Edinburgh and beyond.

This week is Erskine week. Erskine has provided nursing and medical care for former members of our armed forces for over 100 years, rebuilding shattered lives, restoring dignity and providing first-class care to ex-servicemen and women, both young and old. The Erskine facilities in my constituency are well worth a visit.

I am fortunate to have been elected Member of Parliament for a constituency that boasts some of the best state schools in the country, with the most dedicated and dynamic head teachers and staff. Added to that, there is a plethora of faith and charity groups, which contribute so much to our community.

My constituents are well informed by the wonderful Edinburgh Evening News, a bastion of all that is truth in the Edinburgh journalistic community since 1873. I know that because one of their journalists wrote this paragraph for me.

Many of my constituents work in financial services-banking has been part of Edinburgh's economic life for over 300 years. The devastation to the Edinburgh economy if our banks were left to collapse, as championed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be incalculable. Time after time, issue after issue on the economy, the Tories called it wrong, and put my constituents at risk. The intervention by the Labour Government, led by my right hon. Friend Mr Darling, laid the foundations for a worldwide economic turnaround that saved many thousands of jobs for people in my constituency while protecting their savings. The Conservatives have been in government only a matter of days, but we have seen a massive £6.2 billion cut-what they describe as efficiency savings.

Ultimately, this is not a real Tory-Lib Dem coalition; this is a personal relationship between the Prime Minister and his deputy. The coalition is held together by the unnatural empathy and their deep, deep comfort in each other's personalities, politics and background: two peas from the same pod. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher claimed that the Liberal Prime Minster William Gladstone would have felt very much at home with the dominant ideology of the Conservative party. I am convinced that the Deputy Prime Minister would fit in very well, too.

I would like to conclude by paying tribute to my mother, who taught me the values that I hold dear. I was born and brought up on the Wester Hailes council estate in Edinburgh. When my father died suddenly at the age of 39 from a brain haemorrhage, my mother was left with my 13-year-old brother and me, aged just nine. She was written off by the Conservative Government of the day. My mother and many others like her who lived around us were left to fend for themselves, through no fault of their own, when they needed their Government most. I saw first-hand communities ripped apart to the resonance of cheap political soundbites. The first few weeks of this Conservative Government show that they have not changed, and I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that the communities I represent in Edinburgh South do not suffer the excesses of Tory ideology again. I owe that to them, and I certainly owe it to my mother."