Ipswich MP Sandy Martin’s maiden speech raises drugs fears on the streets of the town

Sandy Martin making his maiden speech in the House of Commons. Picture: BBC

Sandy Martin making his maiden speech in the House of Commons. Picture: BBC - Credit: Archant

New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has made his maiden speech in the House of Commons following his victory in last month’s general election – and used it to praise his two most recent predecessors.

And speaking during a debate on government drugs’ policy, he also raised fears people in the town have about the rise of drug-related violence.

Maiden speeches are, by convention, non-political and are used by new MPs to talk about the finer points of their constituencies and praise the work of their predecessors.

Mr Martin maintained that during his speech, which came just two days before Parliament breaks up for the summer recess.

It is due to be prorogued (suspended) on Thursday and will return in September.


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He said: “Like many towns of its size, Ipswich would be seriously improved by a more effective way for society to deal with the scourge of hard drugs.

“Ipswich has a low level of crime for its size, but there is too much violent crime and that crime is rising. Much of the violence in our town has been carried out by drug dealers, or targeted against drug dealers, or motivated by arguments over drugs, or fuelled by drugs, or – in the case of the murders of sex workers in 2006 - targeting young people whose whole lives have been dominated by their need to get the money to pay for drugs.

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“One of my most passionate ambitions is to find ways to bring the marginalised in our town back into some sort of social life.”

He said Ben Gummer, whom he defeated last month, had done much to promote the town: “Ipswich has immense potential. To his credit, I believe my predecessor Ben Gummer could see that.”

He said Mr Gummer’s role in improving rail services to the town was particularly important for Ipswich.

He also praised Chris Mole for his work in promoting the university in the town: “Chris has been a good friend for over 20 years, and I was delighted when he was elected to represent Ipswich in a by-election in 2001.

“Much was built, or started, in Ipswich during his time as MP, and I know a lot of that was due to his championing of our town.

“When he was leader of the county council he had told me that his number one ambition was to achieve a University for Suffolk. “As MP for Ipswich he was able to steer that to completion.”

Sandy Martin’s maiden speech in full:

Thank you Mr Speaker – and I need to declare an interest as a Suffolk County Councillor.

Like many towns of its size, Ipswich would be seriously improved by a more effective way for society to deal with the scourge of hard drugs. Ipswich has a low level of crime for its size, but there is too much violent crime and that crime is rising. Much of the violence in our town has been carried out by drug dealers, or targeted against drug dealers, or motivated by arguments over drugs, or fuelled by drugs, or – in the case of the murders of the women in London Road in 2006 - targeting young people whose whole lives have been dominated by their need to get the money to pay for drugs.

One of my most passionate ambitions is to find ways to bring the marginalised in our town back into some sort of social life, to help them end their addictions, to support them to find housing and employment, and ultimately to give them the greatest gift of all – self-respect, so that they no longer need to feel dependent but can hold their heads up and say proudly that they are contributing to their town.

I am immensely proud to have been chosen by the people of Ipswich to represent them in this House, and at the same time humbled by the responsibility that that places upon me. Ipswich is an exciting, vibrant yet unpretentious town – although there was a pre-Roman settlement on the site, and it became a substantial town during the Saxon period, winning its Royal Charter in 1200, we do not dwell on our history.

Ipswich is what it is and where it is because it was the Borough that served the rural County around it. It started as a port, exporting agricultural produce. It grew rapidly in the 19th Century, building the ploughs and seed drills and reapers and other modern agricultural machinery of the time that transformed the productivity of our farms not just in Suffolk but throughout the UK and indeed the Empire. We developed artificial fertiliser on the back of our initial base as the centre of the coprolite industry – making a good living out of a load of old squit!

In the late nineteenth century Ipswich’s heavy engineering grew, almost all of which is now gone. The world’s first lawnmower was built in Ipswich in 1832 and Ransomes Jacobsen still build lawnmowers in Ipswich today. But we have not hung around or tried to revive dead businesses. In the 60s and 70s roads were reconfigured and areas cleared to enable the building of large office blocks to house the insurance industry, and that industry is still one of the major employers in our town. The BT Research and Development Headquarters just down the road is one of the most important local employers, and the East of England Development Agency invested significant sums in the first decade of this century providing the accommodation needed for the IT spin-off companies that have grown out from BT.

Ipswich has immense potential. To his credit, I believe my predecessor Ben Gummer could see that. We have higher unemployment than the rest of Suffolk, but many people with skills just waiting to be called upon. We have the space to expand and adapt, even in the very heart of the town. We have a beautiful and sophisticated focus on the Waterfront, and the affordable housing and commercial space for new people to move in. We are only just over an hour from the City of London by train, yet very much not simply a commuter town. Ben Gummer put a lot of effort into trying to improve the rail link with London, and also into the regeneration of the Waterfront, and I certainly intend to continue that work.

I also want to pay credit to the previous MP for Ipswich, Chris Mole, and to all that he achieved for Ipswich. Chris has been a good friend for over 20 years, and I was delighted when he was elected to represent Ipswich in a by-election in 2001. Much was built, or started, in Ipswich during his time as MP, and I know a lot of that was due to his championing of our town – a new A&E Department at the hospital, a new Sixth Form College on the outskirts of the town, a completely new set of buildings for the Further Education College, and a commitment from the government to build a complete flood defence system including a tidal barrier to protect the town from sea-level rise.

When he was Leader of the County Council he had told me that his number one ambition was to achieve a University for Suffolk, and he had already put in place the commitment from the pre-existing Further Education College, the County Council and the Borough Council necessary to achieve a united bid for a new University. As MP for Ipswich he was able to steer that to completion and I don’t believe he has ever had the full credit he deserves for that achievement. As a town with a brand new University as the fulcrum around which the Waterfront turns, Ipswich is, I believe, undergoing a change every bit as radical as the time in the 19th century when we started building machinery. We are entering a new and exciting phase of our development where the imagination and intellectual skills of our young people will be the building blocks of our prosperity. Thank you Chris.

Mr Speaker, Ipswich is of course a unique town, but many of the problems our residents have are national problems, shared with the citizens across the United Kingdom. I have contributed in my own small way to helping with the governance and the funding of voluntary organisations in Ipswich which work with people to help them to avoid marginalisation. Organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Disabled Advice Bureau, the Council for Racial Equality which is now also bidding to set up a Law Centre, and recently The Oak, an independent drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre which is taking people on that final step between renouncing an addiction and actually gaining the personal self-confidence and self- worth that is needed to WANT not to relapse. All of these organisations are struggling financially, Mr Speaker, because of reductions in Local Authority funding.

We need to decide what sort of society we want to live in. What possible sense can it make to increase the availability of prison places, at enormous cost, but not to reduce re-offending rates, not to support preventative measures such as personalised job-seeking for people at risk, not to fully fund drug rehabilitation programmes and alcohol dependency programmes and hostel provision. How can we expect people to take care of what they are doing to themselves if they are unable to get a job, or to feed themselves properly, or to get the psychiatric help or counselling they need, or even have somewhere safe and private to sleep the night.

It is shocking to see increasing numbers of people – women as well as men, young as well as old – sleeping in shop doorways or in underpasses or in cemeteries – in what is still the 5th largest economy in the world. How can society say to these people with a straight face “You must not take hard drugs” when we are not offering them any way to escape from the half-life they are leading.

Mr Speaker, we do need to clamp down on drug dealers. We need to ensure that the supply of hard drugs is curtailed. But ultimately, we are not going to build a better society, free from the scourge of hard drugs, unless we can build a society where everyone feels valued and able to contribute. Let’s make sure all our citizens can have the education they deserve, the counselling and psychiatric help they need when they need it, the employment which makes the best use of their talents, access to a full and vibrant social life, safe adequate and affordable housing, and a healthy environment – then people will have lives that they value and that they know others value, then they will not want to turn to hard drugs in order to escape from their lives.

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