Alberto Costa, MP for South Leicestershire gives his maiden speech to the House of Commons.
Thank you for calling me to give my maiden speech to the House, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a particular pleasure for a current Scottish solicitor to be called by a former Scottish solicitor.
I want to thank the voters of South Leicestershire for giving me the opportunity to represent them in this great House of Commons. I follow in a distinguished line of Conservative MPs who have served my wonderful constituency with such passion and dedication. My immediate predecessor, Andrew Robathan, has served our country for over 40 years. He began in the British Army serving in the Coldstream Guards, reaching the rank of major. He was elected in 1992 as MP for Blaby, as my constituency was then known, succeeding another distinguished Conservative MP, the former Chancellor the right hon. Nigel Lawson. Andrew served as Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence and, later, in the Northern Ireland Office. But he was also Opposition deputy Chief Whip and the skills gained in the British Army were put to excellent use in maintaining party discipline, earning him the nickname Robocop. We wish Andrew and his family every success for their future.
South Leicestershire is a truly delightful constituency, a semi-rural constituency, with much of the population in commuter towns and villages clustered close to Leicester itself, both in the suburb of Braunstone Town, including the large modern development of Thorpe Astley, and commuter villages such as Enderby, Narborough, Whetstone, Blaby, Glen Parva and Countesthorpe. The largest settlement to the south is the old market town of Lutterworth where Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, developed some of the world’s first jet engines. The engine for the UK’s first jet aeroplane, the Gloster E.28/39, was produced in Lutterworth and a statue of the plane stands in a roundabout south of the town as a memorial. Nearby is Magna Park, one of the largest distribution centres in Europe. As you travel west, Madam Deputy Speaker, you pass through wonderful villages such as Bitteswell, Ullesthorpe, Ashby Parva, Claybrooke Magna, Frolesworth and Leire. Further north, there are quintessential English villages such as Dunton Bassett, Broughton Astley, Sapcote, Stoney Stanton, Croft and Cosby.
To the east, there is Bruntingthorpe aerodrome, with one of the longest runways in the UK, where on Sunday 28 June, weather permitting, we hope to see one of the final flypasts of the British Vulcan bomber aircraft. The whole House is invited. Around Bruntingthorpe, there are more beautiful villages, such as Ashby Magna, Willoughby Waterleys, Peatling Magna, Peatling Parva, Arnesby, Shearsby, Walton, Gilmorton and Walcote. To the very south, we cannot forget Cotesbach and, where the M1 and the M6 meet, Swinford, Shawell and Catthorpe.
I would not be here today without the excellent assistance from my agent Ruth and my marvellous campaign manager Ann, who, along with members and supporters from my local Conservative team, led us to an increased majority. As well as Leicestershire County Council, South Leicestershire has two district councils. At the election, we succeeded in holding control of Blaby District Council, under the new leadership of Councillor Terry Richardson, as well as maintaining control of Harborough District Council, which covers the southern parts of my constituency, returning excellent councillors such as Neil Bannister. I will be supporting all three of my local authorities in calls for fairer funding.
Today, we are debating the Scotland Bill. It is perhaps worth noting my own background. As the son of Italian immigrants, I was born in England but raised in Scotland. As a dual qualified Scottish and English solicitor, I have worked across our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I am proud to call myself British.
Those on the Government Benches are honouring the so-called vow to the Scottish people made during the Scottish referendum. It is right that we do this. It is also right, however, that we remind the House of another promise given by a senior member of the yes campaign, the former First Minister, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond). During last year’s Scottish referendum, he said there would be no second referendum, stating:
“this is a once in a generation, perhaps even a once in a lifetime, opportunity”.
Alberto Costa, MP for South Leicestershire gives his maiden speech to the House of Commons.On this side of the House, we will ensure that that pledge—call it a vow, even—is honoured to the people of South Leicestershire and to the whole of our United Kingdom. The Scottish voters decided to remain part of the UK, and all British people are entitled to constitutional stability, at least for a lifetime.
As the Secretary of State said clearly and sincerely, the Scotland Bill is designed to implement the Smith commission agreement, the objective of which was to provide a durable but responsive constitutional settlement for the governance of Scotland. The Bill states:
“A Scottish Parliament is recognised as a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements.”
That is designed to ensure that the House accepts the permanence of the Scottish Parliament, while maintaining the ultimate sovereignty of the UK Parliament, of which the Scottish people voted to stay a part. However, having heard other hon. Members, particularly on the Government Benches, I think it is also right that we recognise the need to complement the Bill in due course with further changes in the House of Commons—if you like, English votes for English laws. It is a cry not for English nationalism, but for fairness to ensure that decisions affecting England can be taken only with the consent of a majority of MPs representing English constituencies.
Finally, those of us committed to keeping Britain intact —as one successful, secure, strong, sovereign country—will, I am confident, work towards a fair settlement, and in so doing, whichever party we happen to be members of, I am sure that together we can proudly maintain the integrity of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
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