Aloks Maiden Speech

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my maiden speech. I start by congratulating my hon. Friends the Members for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips) and for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on their excellent and moving maiden speeches.

My constituency of Reading West was created in 1983 and was served from then until 1997 by a Conservative Member, Sir Anthony Durant, who previously represented the Reading North seat between 1974 and 1983. Sir Anthony was an excellent constituency MP, who served the people of Reading with great distinction. In recent months, Sir Anthony has not been in the best of health, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

My immediate predecessor was the Labour Member, Martin Salter, who represented Reading West for 13 years. No one who knows him could ever describe Martin as a shy and retiring individual. He always had and continues to have firm opinions on every political subject. Indeed, during his time as an MP, he sometimes held two opposing firm opinions on the same subject, both delivered with great conviction. A constituent of mine once compared Martin Salter to Marmite by saying, “You either loved him, or you wished that you had never opened the jar to let him out.” Despite our many political rows and differences during the four years that I was a candidate and he was the Member of Parliament, I grew to rather like Martin, but then I must also confess to liking Marmite.

Martin Salter announced last year that he would not be seeking re-election because he wanted to

“move on and do something else with my life while I’ve still got some energy left.”

Martin Salter certainly brought energy to his work on behalf of the people of Reading during his 25 years of public service-first, as a local councillor and then as the Member of Parliament for Reading West. Like Sir Anthony before him, he was a champion of local causes, a dedicated constituency MP, and he stood up for all the people of Reading West. I very much hope to continue in that fine tradition and serve each and every one my constituents to the best of my abilities.

I turn now to my wonderful constituency of Reading West, which stretches from the villages of Theale, Tidmarsh and Pangbourne in the west, to the more urban areas of Coley and Whitley towards the east. I grew up and went to school in Reading, and for me Reading is, quite simply, home. It is a confident and vibrant town full of aspirational and hard-working people. As a settlement, Reading was founded in the 8th century and was listed in the Domesday Book as a growing population centre-much as it is today. Reading abbey was built by Henry I in 1121, where he is also buried.

Although Reading has a long and honourable history, it is now very much a modern place. Originally famous for producing beer, biscuits and bulbs, Reading is now a high-tech and service industry hub and is home to many locally grown businesses, as well as international companies, such as Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco.

Reading also offers culture, with the internationally renowned Reading music festival being held every August. Hon. Members with a liking for contemporary music should know that a few tickets are still available for this year’s festival. The very fine Madejski football stadium is located in my constituency, and I am sure that, before too long, we will see Reading football club return to its rightful place in the premiership.

In their maiden speeches many Members have mentioned great historical figures who are connected with their constituency, but, as I said, Reading is a modern place, so I would like to mention just two of the recent renowned sons and daughters of our great town. Kate Winslet was born and grew up in Reading. Her parents are constituents of mine. We are very proud of Miss Winslet’s Oscar-winning achievements. Locally, Miss Winslet’s mother is also a winner. Last year she was awarded first prize in a local pub’s pickled onion-making competition. Who says Reading cannot match Hollywood’s glamour?

The comedian and actor Mr Ricky Gervais grew up in Whitley, not far from where my parents lived when they first moved to Reading. I do not know Mr Gervais personally, but it is entirely possible that we loitered in the same shopping precinct when we were youngsters. Of course, one of us has now gone on to great things-and the other has become a Member of Parliament.

I am very pleased to be making my maiden speech during this debate on emerging economies, one of the largest of which is India. I know a little of the country. My family hails from India originally; I have advised European companies on doing business there; and some months ago I visited India on a research project and interviewed a range of corporate leaders, civil servants and opinion formers to hear their views on India’s development and economic ambitions. What is absolutely clear is that over the past decade the relationship between emerging economies such as India and China on the one hand, and the industrialised nations in the west on the other, has developed from one of the emerging economies being junior partners to a relationship of equals, with real potential for the likes of China and India to emerge as first among economic equals.

The emerging economies present challenges for us. We have seen some British jobs offshored to low-cost locations. With increasing globalisation and cost pressures on corporates, a certain level of offshoring is here to stay, whether we like it or not. But emerging economies also present a huge opportunity for British companies and jobs in this country. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend Mr Browne, talked about statistics. Let me give the House a few on India. We have heard about annual growth rates of 7 to 9%. There is a middle class of around 400 million people and growing. Well over 60% of the population is aged below 35. India is looking to make significant investments in its infrastructure, in pharmaceuticals and health care, IT, green technologies, and food and agriculture, to name just a few sectors ripe for investment and growth. We in Britain have leading companies with significant expertise and know-how in many of these and other sectors.

In Reading, I have met home-grown technology companies that are exporting value-added products across the world. As a Government, we should be doing everything we can to help and encourage our companies to take advantage of the growth markets in the emerging economies. That will in turn help to create value-added and long-term jobs in the United Kingdom.

I was very pleased that the Gracious Speech made mention of developing an enhanced partnership with India. Because of our shared history and the mutual good will and affection between Britain and India, we already have a special relationship on an emotional level. We now need to make sure that we translate that good will and understanding into a special relationship based on trade and commerce to our mutual benefit. If we can do that in a timely manner, it will be to the advantage of British companies and will help safeguard and create jobs in our country which will be vital as we aim to grow and expand the British economy.

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Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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