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David Jones: A Conservative voice for north Wales

In his maiden speech to the House of Commons, Clwyd West MP David Jones said:

"I compliment the hon. Member for Hartlepool on his witty and thought-provoking contribution to this debate, and the hon. Members who have spoken for the first time today.

I am pleased to be called so early in this Parliament to make my maiden speech as Member of Parliament for Clwyd, West.

My predecessor, Gareth Thomas, who won the seat in 1997, was well regarded in the constituency as a conscientious and hard-working Member.

He and I are both lawyers and we are on excellent personal terms, despite the result on 5 May. He accepted his defeat with grace and magnanimity, and I wish him and his wife well in whatever the future holds for them.

Clwyd, West is possibly one of the most diverse constituencies in the country, certainly in Wales. It is situated in the very north of Wales, and consists essentially of two parts.

The northern, coastal portion is a virtually continuous conurbation stretching from Kinmel bay to Rhos-on-Sea, and there the most predominantly spoken language is English, often infused with the rich vowel sounds of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

The southern part of the constituency is very different in character. Agriculture is still the most important industry, and the language of most of its inhabitants is Welsh.

At the heart of this southern area lies the beautiful and historic town of Ruthin. It was there in 1400 that Owain Glyndwr raised his standard, starting a civil war that spread throughout Wales and lasted for the best part of a decade.

Glyndwr set fire to Ruthin and only two buildings survived, one of which, Nantclwyd house, is being restored by Denbighshire county council.

Another famous Ruthin building is Sir John Trevor house in Castle street, named after a former Speaker of this House, who in 1695 was accused of accepting a bribe from the City of London and was expelled from Parliament, although remarkably enough he retained his office as Master of the Rolls until his death in 1717, thus demonstrating that in those days at least, higher standards were expected of politicians than of the judiciary.

Ruthin is surrounded by the glorious Vale of Clwyd, dotted with villages, whose very names—Llanynys, Llanychan, Llanarmon yn Iâl, Clawddnewydd, Clocaenog and Cyffylliog—speak to the inherent poetry of the ancient Welsh language.

But lest it be thought that I represent some sort of latter-day Arcadia, I should add that my constituency has experienced some difficulties over recent years.

The foot and mouth episode caused devastation to the agricultural and tourist industries, and recovery has been slow. Farmers still wrestle with difficult rules on the disposal of fallen stock, which are impossible to administer in practice, and the six-day movement restriction is causing severe hardship.

Those are matters that will have to be addressed by the House. There are also local worries over proposals to close rural schools. The schools in Prion and Rhewl in particular are under threat. I propose to do everything that I can to ensure that those schools survive and thrive.

The largest town in the northern portion of my constituency is Colwyn Bay, which grew up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a retirement and holiday resort for people primarily from the north-west of England.

Colwyn Bay has fallen on hard times recently, although there are some signs of regeneration. Antisocial behaviour is particularly prevalent, and during the recent general election campaign that matter was constantly raised by residents, with many saying that they were concerned about going out after dark.

I consider it outrageous that people do not feel safe on the streets of their own towns, and something needs to be done urgently. The Gracious Speech carries proposals to clamp down on the possession of knives, but I note that we already have a plethora of legislation on the carrying of offensive weapons.

It would be more appropriate proactively to enforce the current legislation through high-visibility policing and more police.

Colwyn Bay also has a significant drug problem, which has increased in recent years. The local newspaper recently reported that a white van has been seen cruising about the town selling drugs, much in the manner of an ice cream van.

Not unreasonably, that report has caused severe concern to parents of children in the town. Many of my constituents and I believe that downgrading cannabis from class B to class C was ill advised.

The Government are examining that decision, and I hope that they have the courage to admit that they were wrong, and reverse the measure.

I also note that the Gracious Speech contains a commitment by the Government to 'creating safe and secure communities, and fostering a culture of respect', about which we have heard so much this afternoon and this evening.

That is all well and good, but respect is a process that should move in several directions—most particularly, it should move down from the top. Any Government should show respect to those whom they govern.

I have already mentioned that my constituency is diverse. It is not, perhaps, racially diverse, but it is certainly diverse in terms of culture, language, aspiration and lifestyle.

Teenage tearaways who make life unbearable for other people clearly deserve condemnation, but most young people are decent people, and they deserve our respect.

We could start showing them respect by recording crimes committed against those under the age of 16 in the British crime survey, because young people are most likely to be the victims of crime at the hands of street thugs.

Older people, perhaps more than any other section of our community, also deserve respect. Council tax rebanding in Wales has caused many of my constituents, who now dread their annual council tax bill, severe financial hardship.

More and more pensioners are being forced to resort to means tests, which they find demeaning, and more could be done to make means tests more respectful of those whom they serve.

People in the rural parts of my constituency have recently suffered not only as a result of the foot and mouth episode, which I have mentioned, but at the Government's hands through the ban on fox hunting.

Their lives are far removed from those of the Hampstead thinkers who regard fox hunting as anathema. The Burns report was commissioned and then ignored, which also showed a lack of respect.

It is time that the Government recognised that the lifestyles of those in rural areas are different, and that the countryside is a place in which people work and live, not simply a place of recreation for city dwellers.

Those who face large-scale developments such as the two wind farms planned for my constituency should also be shown respect. One of those wind farms, the Gwynt-y-Mor wind farm, would be one of the largest offshore wind farms in the world, while the construction of the other might well result in the felling of up to one fifth of Clocaenog forest, where it would be located.

The planning regime in this country is such that local residents' representations are largely irrelevant, and a respectful Government would take into account the views of those people whose lives would be fundamentally touched by such developments.

The legislative programme outlined in the Gracious Speech is extensive, and it affects Wales, and therefore my constituency, perhaps more than any other part of the United Kingdom.

Indeed, the Secretary of State for Wales announced with some delight that Wales had an unprecedented number of Bills in this Session, and I am sure that the people of Wales are delighted at the superabundance of legislation that is about to be bestowed upon them.

That programme must receive support where it deserves it; it must be challenged, where appropriate; and it must always be carefully and closely scrutinised.

I consider it a great privilege to be entrusted with those tasks by the electors of Clwyd West."

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