Peter Hain’s Valedictory speech in the Commons

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Peter Hain gave his valedictory speech, his last act as a Member of Parliament.

The veteran politician and campaigner reflected on almost a quarter of a century in Westminster politics, paying tribute to his friends and family for the love and support which sustained him as an MP.

Joining in with other retiring Labour former cabinet members such as Gordon Brown & Jack Straw, the valedictory speeches followed an unusual and emotional day in the Commons.

You can read the full extract of Peter’s speech below:

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Mr Speaker, having served for 24 years, may I commend your role as in my view the greatest reforming Speaker in memory, by making the Commons immensely more user and citizen-friendly, and especially for the way in which you have enhanced Back-Bench influence? I thank all the Commons staff, including our excellent Serjeant at Arms and especially the Doorkeepers, with whom I have had a specially close relationship since I invited them in to share a few bottles of wine—South African wine—in the Leader of the Commons’ office.

I thank my constituents in Neath and Neath constituency Labour party for their tremendous loyalty and support. I was a Pretoria boy, but I am proud to have become a Neath man. When I first arrived I was shown into a local primary school, Godre’r Graig school in the Swansea valley: “This is a very important person to meet you, class.” A little boy in the front row put up his hand and asked, “Do you play rugby for Neath?” Clearly, he had his priorities right.

I have been privileged and fortunate to have the very best friend anybody could have in Howard Davies of Seven Sisters, what he calls God’s own country, in the Dulais valley in Neath. I first met him in February 1990, a former miner who was lodge secretary at Blaenant colliery during the heart-rending year-long strike in 1984-85. My first agent and office manager, Howard has always been completely loyal and supportive, but privately frank and direct—priceless virtues which I commend to anyone in national politics.

Having come from a world of radical protest and activism, I never expected to be a Minister for 12 years. It began when Alastair Campbell unexpectedly called and said, “Tony wants to make an honest man of you.” Some former comrades on the left were disparaging, but my response was, “I’ve never been an all-or-nothing person. I’m an all-or-something person.” I am proud of many of the achievements of our last Labour Government, some of which I helped a little with, including bringing peace to Northern Ireland and devolution to Wales.

However, there was a tabloid columnist who described me as the “second most boring member of the Cabinet”. My right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling), the former Chancellor, came top. At least that was more civil than the editor of Sunday Express at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle, when I led campaigns to disrupt whites-only South African rugby and cricket tours. He said: “It would be a mercy for humanity if this unpleasant little creep were to fall into a sewage tank. Up to his ankles. Head first.” That was nothing compared with the letter bomb I received, fortunately with a technical fault in it, or being put on trial for conspiracy at the Old Bailey for disrupting South African sports tours, or being charged with a bank theft that I knew nothing about, which was later discovered to have been set up by South African agents.

Despite serving as an MP and Cabinet Minister, and remaining a Privy Councillor, I have not changed my belief that progressive change comes only through a combination of extra-parliamentary and parliamentary action. We know that from the struggles of the Chartists, the suffragettes, the early trade unionists, anti-apartheid protesters, the Anti-Nazi League and Unite Against Fascism activists confronting groups such as the National Front and the British National party, and Greenpeace activists inspiring fights against climate change.

If I am asked for advice by young people, who often ask me, “Can you tell me how to have a career in politics?” I say, “It’s not about a career; it’s about a mission.” We should never be in it for ourselves, but for our values. For me, these are equality, social justice, equal opportunities, liberty and democracy in a society based on mutual care and mutual support, not the selfishness and greed now so sadly disfiguring Britain. These values underpinned the anti-apartheid struggle and brought me into the Labour party nearly 40 years ago, but nothing I was able to achieve as an MP or a Minister was possible without the support of my family—my wife Elizabeth Haywood, a rock to me, my wonderful sister Sally, her daughter Connie, my sons Sam and Jake, and their mum, my former wife Pat.

Above all, I am grateful to my mother Adelaine and my father Walter, for their values, courage, integrity, morality and principle. My mum when in jail on her own listened to black prisoners screaming in pain. My dad was banned and then deprived of his job. They did extraordinary things, but as Nelson Mandela said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.”

After 50 years in politics some might say it is time to put my feet up, but I have been lucky to have the best father in the world, and he told me in the mid-1960s when I was a teenager living in apartheid South Africa, “If political change was easy, it would have happened a long time ago. Stick there for the long haul.” That is exactly what I will continue to do after leaving this House.

Mr Speaker: I thank the right hon. Gentleman.

Statement by Peter Hain MP on the Northern Ireland Select Committee Report into the On the Runs Letters

Statement by Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State May 2005-June 2007

 ‘Successive Attorney Generals, Labour and Conservative, have confirmed that the Scheme was lawful so contradicting the Committee’s different suggestion.  Although I flatly disagree with some of the Committee’s conclusions, it is welcome that they did not question either my integrity or that of other Labour Ministers or our civil servants intimately involved in successfully delivering peace and stablity to Northern Ireland.  We behaved throughout with one purpose in mind: to end the terror and horror and bring bitter old enemies to govern together, and in that we succeeded.  The truth is we would not have delivered this without implementing the Administrative Scheme to issue official letters to those Sinn Fein Members on whom the police believed at the time there was no basis to bring a prosecution.’

ISIL will only be defeated if the Middle East takes the lead

Peter Hain featured on yesterday’s Sunday Supplement to discuss the growth of Islamic State with host Vaughan Roderick.

Due to give a lecture at Swansea University later this week the veteran MP argued that growing sectarianism among Muslim communities within the Middle East could only be combated by the region’s political powers taking a leading role in fighting Islamic State.

You can listen to the full interview here.

New Music School Hits the Right Note

Peter Hain has hailed the introduction of a new music school to Neath as “a fantastic achievement” which will be “warmly welcomed by the community”.

The Neath MP recently visited the Neath Music Academy started by leading local businessman Adrian Bamford above his music shop located adjacent to Victoria Gardens in Neath Town centre.

Mr Bamford said: “The school started with the recession, our shop retail turnover has been hit hard, and this is our way of adapting with the times to survive.”

“I received help from the council to fund the small business initiative we had, we’re a small operation but throughout Neath Music we can keep about six people in work.”

The academy has since grown from its humble beginnings to employ three teachers currently teaching over sixty pupils.

Teachers Darren King, Luke Roberts & Dean Davies offer a variety of lessons, including one-to-one tuition on piano, violin, guitar amongst others with plans to expand in the near future.

Peter Hain said: “I’m hugely impressed by the facilities Neath Music have developed, the studio spaces are clearly done to a high specification and the team here have created a warm learning environment.”

“It’s vital in the age of austerity, that community leaders like Adrian step in where public services are unable to.”

“Arts funding has been slashed by this government, but Neath Music are making sure this does not deny children in Neath an opportunity to learn.”

Speaking of his optimism for the future Mr Bamford said: “The goal of the school is the survival business, to grow it into more than just a shop – we’ve been a business in this community for over thirty years and now we can evolve into a musical hub in the heart of Neath.”

Should you be interested in contacting the Neath Music Academy, please direct all enquiries to Adrian Bamford, 01639 631337, sales@neathmusic.com, Neath Music, Neath Music Ltd, 37 Water Street, Neath, SA11 3ET.

Former Pensions Secretary Blasts Prime Minister over Motability Failures

Peter Hain called on David Cameron to stop his government “acting callously and punitively” against a disabled constituent badly let down by glaring failures in the Motability regulations.

Standing in a heated session of Prime Ministers Questions, the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions stated: “The Motability car which my severely disabled constituent Mark Francis has had for 11 years is being taken from him in two weeks.”

“Born with Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, he cannot walk without leg braces and crutches and although he has worked all his life his physical health is now deteriorating by the week.”

The Neath MP went on to ask: “His case is being reconsidered – but that won’t happen for 3 months and meanwhile his car will be callously and punitively snatched by the DWP on 25th February.  Will the PM immediately rectify this disgraceful injustice?”

His constituent, Mr Mark Francis, suffers from a rare disorder known as Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia – this badly affects the muscles in his legs, making it difficult and painful for Mr Francis to walk, he must use crutches as a consequence.

Mr Francis began using a Motability car in 2004, however after recently being transferred from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments, he was shocked to discover that he was no longer considered eligible for the higher rate of Motability payment.

He received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions notifying him of its intention to take away his Motability car by the 25th of February.

Mr Hain said; “this is systematic of the DWP under this government, unable to fully think through its regulations. Mr Francis was badly let down during his PIP assessment, now he’s being unfairly penalised. Despite having launched an appeal against the decisions made against him, he’s still having his car taken away – badly hampering his quality of life.”