By Jonathan Isaby
During the adjournment debate before the Commons rose for the summer recess on Tuesday, the new MP for the Essex constituency of Witham, Priti Patel, took the opportunity to deliver her maiden speech.
In paying tribute to the MPs who had hitherto represented the patch, she made the following observation about some of the constituents she has inherited from John Whittingdale:
“I was at one stage considered to be somewhat to the right of the political centre-until, that is, I inherited some of my hon. Friend's local Conservative party activists! My hon. Friend is nothing short of a colossus locally, and his advice and opinions are greatly sought. He has represented the local areas that now fall into my constituency with great gusto, forthright views and conviction, which I look forward to emulating.”
She went on to concentrate her remarks on expressing support for small business and praised the policies of Margaret Thatcher for allowing her parents’s small business to thrive:
“Witham is also a constituency where small businesses, enterprise and traditional high streets matter. Local entrepreneurs and businesses support 83% of jobs in Witham, compared to the national average of 68%, and 25,000 people and their families depend on the prosperity of those businesses. In my view-and as they tell me-those businesses need a fair and flexible labour market and a competitive and low-tax framework to provide jobs and prosperity.
“My own deep and personal interest in what I call the economics of enterprise and small business stems from my family background. My parents arrived in Britain from Uganda with literally nothing, and, like the thousands of British Asians-and also the many Patels-who arrived in Britain in similar circumstances at that time, they relentlessly pursued the path of pure hard work in order to get on in life. By working long hours and by saving their hard-earned money, my parents were able to buy their first business-what else but a newsagent's? As a result, my youth was literally spent sleeping above the shop and playing directly under the till, while watching my family-thanks to the free-market policies of Margaret Thatcher-thrive and grow. Wherever my parents set up shop, they employed local people, contributed to the local community, and made a substantial contribution to the local economy.
“I speak from personal experience when I say that the impact of the last Government's policies on enterprise and small business was simply devastating. I saw at first hand the ever-growing burdens of the state encroach on our livelihood and sap our ability to function as a business, let alone support our local community by providing employment and much-valued local services. The excessive regulation from central Government stifled every ounce of the very entrepreneurial flair that once led Napoleon to describe our great country as a nation of shopkeepers.
“I should like to think that the Witham constituency was a hotbed of Patels, but alas, not yet. None the less, I am proud to represent a constituency of entrepreneurs whose businesses create jobs and prosperity throughout our high streets, villages and towns. The Witham constituency is a place where the unique and unyielding ingenuity of the British people to create opportunities and prosperity is found in abundance. Nowhere is our reputation as a nation of shopkeepers and free-market entrepreneurs more apparent than in Witham, and while I am a Member of this House I will stand by the businesses on which my constituents depend and which, of course, make my constituency such a dynamic place to represent.
“I believe that our country is at its strongest when it promotes the spirit of enterprise, the values of hope and aspiration, and the desire to get on in life. That is why I am certain that this Government's priority of lower corporation tax, providing incentives for small business, abolishing Labour's tax on jobs, and ending the over-zealous bureaucracy that has strangled our small businesses will enable this country to flourish again.”
> ToryRadio is carrying the speech in full as a podcast.