Valerie responds in debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment

 On Thursday 13 February, I responded on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment. This debate was held before the house rose for February recess and provided MPs with an opportunity to discuss issues they would like to raise in Parliament. You can read my full speech below:

I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden). Let me also say to the House that I will not take as long as that! I do, however, want to acknowledge all those who have spoken, before focusing on the excellent speeches made by new Members.

I thank the hon. Member for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti), my hon. Friends the Members for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas), for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) and for Newport East (Jessica Morden), the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), and the hon. Members for Dudley South (Mike Wood), for Buckingham (Greg Smith) and for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis). I also thank the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), and I agree with her about Bovis. I would be happy to talk to her about that. I thank the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), and of course I have to make the bid on behalf of the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess): please can Southend become a city? We miss him.

I want to start with the hon. Member for Bosworth (Dr Evans). I do not know why he is here, rather than being a GP. From the way in which he has presented himself today, I am sure he must be an excellent GP. He made an excellent speech, and we are lucky to have his talents here as well. I am pleased to see that he is following David Tredinnick and carrying on the tradition of being a member of the Health Select Committee. I also served on that Committee for five years during one of the most difficult times, when the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was being introduced. It is interesting that Tuesday was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, so the fact that Ada Lovelace was taught in his constituency is excellent. A final word of warning to the hon. Gentleman: do not build any car parks in your constituency until you have let the archaeologists at it.

The hon. Member for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton)—amazing! The Labour candidate in Wrexham was also female, so in any event Wrexham would have been blessed with its first woman MP. I am delighted to hear that the hon. Lady served in the Army. That is an important voice that we need in the Chamber, not only for those who are currently serving but for those who have left the services, because they too need looking after. I know that she will ensure—whether it is in the St David’s day debate or a Welsh affairs debate—that the grant to the Welsh Government will not be cut by this Government.

The hon. Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson) was right about Anne Milton. She was a wise counsel to all of us, and it was lovely when we used to bump into her in the Members’ Lobby, because she always had a word of advice for all of us. We miss her wise counsel. She was a great servant to her party and she will be missed, but I am sure she will be a good source of information for the hon. Member. It is great to see that the hon. Member has already focused on the programme of work she wants to do here and that she wants to tackle homelessness. I am sure she will do that in her constituency, and perhaps she will work on a cross-party basis with all other Members so that we can tackle this terrible scourge in what is one of the richest countries in the world. The hon. Member has made a fantastic journey and I love the idea that her parents were watching from New Zealand, which is where women first got the vote. We can also celebrate the fact that it has a woman Prime Minister.

The hon. Member for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew) also made his maiden speech today. I was going to say that Keith Simpson was a towering figure in more senses than one, but I think the hon. Member has already been more successful than all his other predecessors, because he has managed to get something done about the A47. Norfolk is a fantastic place, and I hope that he is going to focus, as he said, on those wonderful country traditions such as the making of baskets using reeds, which is such a sustainable way of working. I agree with him about the accountability of quangos. That goes to the heart of the democratic deficit that we face. He, too, is a welcome voice here.

The hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson) —wonderful! I hope he has a good set of walking shoes, because we would all like to join him on his wonderful walks. He was right to remember those who have been affected by the floods; we must not forget them. It is terrible: some of them were without water, and some of them without anything. They were having to do the same thing over and over again. I know he will be a good voice for getting flood defences for his constituency. I do not know whether he is aware that Rory Stewart and lots of other hon. Members have had days on which they invite all hon. Members to the Jubilee Room. However, given that tourism is so important for his constituency, I think that Cumbria day should be held in his constituency so that we can all go up there. I think he is a great fit for his constituency. I also want to thank him for his beautiful tribute to his father. That was really difficult, but I just want to say that his father lives on in him and that he will hear his voice always.

The hon. Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie)—how wonderful! Neil Carmichael was a good friend, but so was David Drew, so we are kind of torn. Neil was very good at working on a cross-party basis. David was probably one of the most relaxed Members I have ever met. Nothing seemed to bother him. He had been a Minister, but he was absolutely wonderful. The hon. Lady has fantastic experience as a councillor and as a lawyer, and I know she will bring that experience to the House. This sounds familiar to me. She said that further education is important, and she will carry on Neil’s tradition in that respect. I liked her final line and the fact that she said she is going to get things done. I am sure she will. She has the energy and focus to do so.

Finally, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish you, all the House staff, our staff, and every single Member a good short break. Please do take a break, because this is quite a relentless place, and it has been that way since the election. I wish everyone a happy and peaceful time.