Read transcript of Hitchin MP Bim Afolami’s maiden speech in parliament as he sides with government on public sector pay cap vote

Bim Afolami gave his maiden speech in parliament yesterday. Picture Danny Loo

Bim Afolami gave his maiden speech in parliament yesterday. Picture Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Hitchin’s new MP Bim Afolami gave his maiden speech in the House of Commons this week. Read the transcript of it here.

Bim Afolami on election night flanked by Labour's John Hayes who ran him close. Picture: Layth Yousi

Bim Afolami on election night flanked by Labour's John Hayes who ran him close. Picture: Layth Yousif - Credit: Archant

Bim Afolami, the new Conservative MP Hitchin and Harpenden gave his maiden speech at Westminster on Wednesday.

Mr Afolami paid tribute to his predeccessor Peter Lilley saying his constituents held him in ‘genuine affection’.

He also praised his Hitchin and Harpenden constituents saying they are ‘kind, open, tolerant and challenging’, adding they ‘do like writing letters’.

Touching on his ‘immigrant’ background with ‘no gilded lineage’ he gave credit to his parents before going on to comment on a wide range of issues.


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For the full transcript of his speech read on.

Speaking shortly before 3pm yesterday, he said: “I wish to speak briefly on the Gracious Speech as my first modest contribution to the proceedings of this House. Before I go on, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Peter Lilley, who served in this House and served his nation for 34 years. Most Honourable Members on both sides of the House will be aware of his distinction in high office, serving under the premierships of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, of his huge intellect and of his knowledge on a range of subjects. But they may be less aware of the genuine affection in which he is held by the people of Hitchin and Harpenden, which I know from every single day of the general election campaign, and of how effective he was as a local constituency MP, in addition to all the offices he held. I am inspired by his example.

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“I thank the people of Hitchin and Harpenden for sending me to this House. Hitchin and Harpenden, and all of our villages in between, are not just physically beautiful and historic, with a landscape and character unique not just in Hertfordshire but in England and this great nation as a whole.

“The people are what really make a place special, and my constituents are special, in a very good way. They are kind, open, tolerant and sometimes challenging – they do like writing letters – and it is a great honour to represent them here in this House.

“I come to this House with no gilded lineage but as a child of immigrants.

“My mother, born in Britain but growing up in Nigeria, became a pharmacist. My father, born and bred in Nigeria, is now an NHS doctor.

“Both came to this country in the 1980s in search of a better life. In particular, they believe that a good-quality education is key, not just for giving a child — an individual — a decent start in life but as the foundation of the future health and prosperity of our society as a whole.

“They worked incredibly hard and sacrificed a lot — some might say too much — to pay for the best education that Britain could offer, and I was immensely fortunate in that. It was, indeed, an amazing start in life.

“And it is education that I believe to be at the heart of everything.

“I believe we can do better.

“During the election campaign there was a lot of debate in my constituency, and I know in many others, about whether school funding is adequate and about the excessive bureaucracy that teachers still have to put up with. I happen to think that we need more of the former and less of the latter, but the debate on education needs to be bigger than that, more fundamental.

“Are we truly preparing our children for the second industrial revolution we are living through, in which we do not know what jobs will be like in 10 years, let alone 20?

“Some Honourable Members, on both sides of the House, obsess about the type of school, whether it be comprehensive, grammar or private, but should we not focus more on outcomes than on the form? How do we significantly raise both the morale and the standards of teachers everywhere in every school?

“I promised my constituents that I will bring a relentless focus to that area, and I intend to do so every single day I am in this House, and it starts with fairer funding for every school. In many areas, yes, that will mean more resources.

“I enter this House at a time when we face serious challenges as a nation — not just Brexit or, indeed, health and social care but the challenge of creating the most dynamic, productive and technologically advanced economy in the world.

“Education is central to that challenge because it is our future. The world-class human capital produced by our education system needs to be combined with financial capital investment, with better infrastructure and with a more competitive, simpler tax system for individuals and businesses.

“That is what a 21st-century, new economy looks like.

“Although all Conservatives believe in world-class education and a dynamic, forward-thinking free market economy, we must also consider the type of society we are building together – a just society that, in the words of my right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister, works for everyone.

“That means zero tolerance of discrimination.

“That means making sure that our increasingly diverse society of all creeds and races is more cohesive.

“That means that the poorest among us deserve the right to live not just in decent and, yes, safe social housing but that they also have the right to aspire to own a home of their own.

“These are the challenges of our age. These are the challenges that we need to meet. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the House on meeting those challenges in our time.”

The speaker John Bercow replied: “Order. I very warmly congratulate Bim Afolami on a maiden speech that was both eloquent and self-assured.

“It was a contribution of the highest quality, and the reaction of colleagues bears testimony to the truth of what I have just said.

“In welcoming the Honourable Gentleman to the House, I wish him every success in the course of his parliamentary career.”

Mr Afolami’s first vote was to side with Theresa May’s government against the opposition amendment to scrap the pubic sector pay cap, with the government winning the vote 323-309.

It is unclear whether Mr Afolami was one of the Conservative MPs who cheered as the result was announced in the house yesterday afternoon.

You can see Mr Afolami’s speech for yourself on parliamentlive.tv at goo.gl/wTb3uN.

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