The speech is found near to 04.33.00 on the film from Hansards.
“I am pleased to have this opportunity to deliver my maiden speech in an extremely important debate. Tackling the long-term culture of welfare dependency is probably the single most important ingredient in really sorting out and fixing our broken economy.
“I have the great honour to represent the constituency of Thurrock, which, for Members who do not know, is in Essex, on the borders of London. I am the sixth Member for Thurrock since the constituency was created in 1945. I am extremely honoured to follow in the footsteps of Andrew Mackinlay, who served the people of Thurrock in this place for 18 years. I say that with real sincerity. He was much loved and respected on both sides of the House. He was a committed parliamentarian and a stout and outspoken defender of civil liberties. He will be missed here and in Thurrock where he is held in considerable warmth.
My constituency is a collection of towns and communities. At its heart is the town of Grays and it extends to the west to Aveley, Purfleet and South Ockendon and to the east to Tilbury and Chadwell St Mary. One of our jewels is the port at Tilbury, which even today supports 10,000 jobs. It is one of the traditional industries that have been much neglected in recent years, and although it goes from strength to strength it needs further support.
Thurrock’s communications are one of its biggest strengths. Its proximity to the M25 and to London, and its location on the River Thames all make it an attractive location for business and a key logistics hub. We also have the Dartford crossing, which I am sure is the scourge of many a motorist-including Members-as they queue to pay the toll. I remind the House that when the crossing was constructed it was envisaged that the tolls would be lifted once the construction costs had been met. That time has been and gone, and instead of scrapping the tolls the last Government increased them. Since the tolls were increased the queues have become more problematic and no doubt cause significant costs to business users of the crossing when they find themselves stuck in congestion. We need to think again about the continued existence of the tolls, about future capacity needs on the M25 and crossings on the River Thames and the prospects for additional crossings to the west and the east. The review announced in the Budget must consider all the options thoroughly so that we have a transport system along the M25 fit for the future.
In recent years, Thurrock has become a major retail centre, with the development of the Lakeside shopping centre and retail park. There are signs that the retail offering is likely to expand still further, which is why this is a particularly exciting time to represent Thurrock. I have mentioned its strategic location and although there is much to celebrate, the area can do so much better.
The Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation has been charged with delivering inward investment and has made some progress. I very much hope it will be given the opportunity to deliver its plans, notwithstanding plans to fold it up into the Homes and Communities Agency.
In Thurrock, we are all excited about the potential for the development of creative industries following the major investment made by the Royal Opera House. We need to establish the national skills academy to support Thurrock as a creative industries cluster. I firmly believe that we have a once in a generation opportunity to secure the future development of Thurrock and it should not be squandered. I look forward to playing my part in building a better future for the constituency.
Having indulged the House by describing everything that is great about Thurrock, I turn to the business under discussion. The need for welfare reform was the main issue that brought me into politics as a teenager. In those days, I was living on a council estate in Sheffield. It seemed to me a real injustice that hard-working families-people working every hour to put food on the table-had no better standard of living than many households where no one was in work. The frequent lament at the working men’s club was, “Why do we bother?”
Over time, that injustice seems to have become more and more entrenched. The way that tax and benefits interact today means that work simply does not pay for far too many households. The result is that we have a society where too many individuals do not have the self-respect or discipline that comes from work and individual responsibility, the rest of society is burdened by an ever-higher tax bill and we as a country are dependent on migrant labour to fill those jobs that simply do not pay for our workers to do. We cannot go on like this.
I hope that the Budget really marks the beginning of our quest truly to reform the dependency culture that exists in Britain today and to give everyone the opportunity and incentive to work. In so doing, we will not only reduce welfare bills, but increase tax receipts to the Exchequer, so that the entire nation will become better off and future Budgets will be a lot less painful than this one.