During Debate on Civil Aviation Bill
Seema Malhotra made her maiden speech in Parliament on 30th January, in which she discusses Hounslow, Heathrow, HS2 among other concerns of constituents.
I should like to begin by thanking hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House for their warm welcome since my election in December. Little can prepare people for stepping into the Chamber for the first time, and for the overwhelming sense of history that has unfolded on these green Benches.
I am proud to be able to represent an area where I grew up. Before moving to Bedfont, we lived above my parents’ shop in Osterley—a community shop that sold school uniforms along with imported crafts and jewellery from India. I attended Heston infants and junior school, where my mother was a teacher for nearly 20 years. The school has transformed now, being one of the 4,000 schools built or refurbished by Labour since 1997—investment that is still making a difference to the education of young people across the country.
I am the first member of my family to be active in politics. I remember taking part in my school elections at Heston junior school in 1983, when, as a 10-year-old, I pretended to be Michael Foot and argued for better pensions for the elderly. It would not surprise the House—with children often voting as their parents might—that in 1983, Labour came second in our school elections. However, we remained ambitious for our future.
My predecessor, Alan Keen, is a great loss to this House and to my constituency, where prior to becoming an MP he served as a councillor in Hounslow West. He was one of the first MPs I ever knew. The Guardian described him as “charming, amiable” and “kindly”. His passion and forte was sport, music, arts and leisure. The House will remember him as a long-standing member of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport and chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on football.
He was a scout for his favourite club, Middlesbrough, for almost 20 years, where, working with Jack Charlton, he spotted footballers including Graeme Souness. He remained friends with both throughout his life. An active football player and manager of the House of Commons football team, even at age of 73, he was an inspiration to all, so much so that the House of Commons chefs and catering staff have dedicated an annual football tournament in his name.
Many will be aware of how he bravely fought cancer. Members will remember how he carried on his duties as long as he could. Our thoughts go out to his family and to his wife Ann, whom many of us in this House know and know well, and who nursed Alan through his illness.
Before and during my campaign, I heard many personal stories from people Alan helped—stories that are still being shared in mail I receive I every week. It is an honour to continue his work for the people of Feltham and Heston. He was without doubt a committed constituency MP. Alan was loved, and on more than one side of this House.
I want to share a little about Feltham and Heston. My constituency is the gateway from Heathrow to London, and a powerful symbol of our nation’s diversity and of hope for the future. Hounslow has rivers, canals, nature reserves and open spaces including an urban farm near the hamlet of Hatton, by Heathrow, and the award winning Bedfont Lakes country park.
More than 140 languages are spoken in the borough of Hounslow, with a third of the population being from ethnic minorities. With our strong faith communities and inter-faith work, it is truly an example of where the global meets the local. Our multi-faith community has many active churches, temples, mosques and gurdwaras, but they are not just places of worship: the community work that volunteers lead on education, information and advice, and health and well-being, often in partnership with public agencies, is a major service to the whole community.
My constituency is supported by strong local media. The Hounslow Chronicle leads the way as the local newspaper, with ethnic minority media including Des Pardes newspaper, Maya News, Jang News, Janomot, Asian Voice, Eastern Eye—you have probably heard of them all, Mr Speaker—Sangat TV, ARY Digital, Midlands Asian Television, Channel S—
(Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab): The Irish Post?)
Seema Malhotra: Yes—and the Irish Post, plus radio stations such as Sunrise, Desi radio, Panjab radio and Kismat. All play their vital part in ensuring that we reach our diverse communities.
An overwhelming message from the election was that my constituents are concerned about their jobs, their cost of living and their public services. The youth claimant count last year in my constituency rose 25.2%. The long-term claimant count for the over-50s saw a rise of 48%. Both statistics are more than twice the UK average. Increased investment in Feltham and Heston and support for local businesses will be vital for the parents I met last week who are worried about the future for their children.
Like Alan in his maiden speech, and our predecessors as Feltham and Heston MPs, Russell Kerr and Patrick Ground, I want to talk about the vital contribution of
Heathrow to my constituency and to the nation. My constituency borders Heathrow and has a long history of contributing to aviation. London’s first airport was in my constituency, in what is now Hanworth air park. The world’s first air passenger terminal was at Heston aerodrome in Heston West ward—it is where Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arrived with his famous “Peace in our time” agreement from Hitler in 1938.
Today, Heathrow is the third busiest airport in the world, but it is more than just an airport. It is a hub for manufacturing for Britain and for the whole of Europe. Its success has been its proximity to London, to our motorway and rail networks and to the support that successive Governments have given to its development, acknowledging its continuing, core importance to our economy.
The operation of Heathrow airport supports well over 110,000 local jobs—approximately 22% of total local employment, and adds a gross value added of £5.3 billion. As the world’s entrance to the Olympics, it is set to be even busier this summer, with 13 August predicted to be the busiest day in its 66-year history. My constituents fly the planes, run the air traffic control, drive the trains and buses, feed the passengers, shift the air freight, police the UK border and produce and deliver British manufactured products all over the world, all from Heathrow airport. We have a huge and diverse skills base that has developed to serve the needs of the aviation industry.
Recently, there has been increasing talk of a new airport near the Thames estuary, with the vision as it stands threatening the future of Heathrow. Heathrow needs to continue to be an integral part of our future national transport strategy. A successful, thriving aviation sector is crucial for our economic competitiveness. I support the call to work together on a cross-party basis to agree a long-term strategy for aviation. Confusion about our aviation future will put jobs and growth at risk, with investors being unclear about whether to invest for the long term in Heathrow. Any strategy going forward must make the best use of existing runways and airports.
I look forward to the development of the High Speed 2 line to Heathrow. A direct link would transform accessibility from the midlands and the north, bringing Leeds and Manchester within 75 and 70 minutes respectively of Heathrow.
The Civil Aviation Bill we are debating today is designed to modernise the regulatory framework for civil aviation, which there is a pressing need to do. The Bill is welcome as it brings greater flexibility in how airports are regulated. However, there also needs to be greater clarity about how environmental impacts will be regulated. This is a key concern for my constituents and the wider west London population who are the most impacted by noise and emissions. It is important to ensure that the aviation industry is fully involved as plans for the new Civil Aviation Authority develop, to help provide greater understanding and certainty about how new regulations may be implemented.
My constituency is a place that is brimming with ambition—of families for themselves and the next generation, and of businesses for growth. It is a place where young people, such as the young men I met at
Feltham skills centre training to become mechanics and engineers, want the chance to prove what they can do and create a better life for themselves and their families; where the woman I met on Feltham high street wants the help to set up her own business; and where the graduate I met in Cranford wants a chance to do more than just short-term temporary contracts. It is a place where mums and dads such as those I met at Southville community and children’s centre want to know that streets are safe for their children to play on, and that they and their daughters can walk home safely at night. It is a place where older people want to play their part in the community too, as mentors and support for the new generation coming through, but with the confidence that their needs too will be supported.
My constituency is also a place where the community spirit is strong. I am proud to carry on Alan’s Co-operative and union relationships and to join the group of Labour and Co-operative Members of Parliament, especially in the UN international year of the co-operative.
After a 15-year career in professional services, working with industry and Government Departments, it is indeed a privilege and an honour to be elected as the new Member of Parliament for Feltham and Heston, and to follow my predecessor Alan Keen in fighting for fairness and progress for a place that has so long been my home, and that has given me so much.
February 2, 2012