Lord Jeremy Purvis’s maiden speech

It is a tradition for LDV to bring its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. On 28 November, Lord Purvis of Tweed made his maiden speech in the House of Lords during a debate on broadcast media and its role in the economy. His words are reproduced below.

Jeremy PurvisLord Purvis of Tweed (LD): My Lords, it is a daunting task to follow the noble Lord, Lord Birt, in this debate. However, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships’ House to make my maiden speech. In doing so, I will perhaps draw the House’s attention north from London and the south-east towards the north of England and Scotland.

I am conscious that many maiden speeches have been made in recent weeks, including in this debate. I, too, add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and to my noble friend Lady Grender; I associate myself with the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Birt, in paying rich tribute to her maiden speech. I have been a poor pupil of media training by my noble friend Lady Grender; participation in this House was perhaps not a topic on our agenda. However, there is a perverse pleasure in seeing her now having to tackle the tough questions on behalf of her party.

The noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, whose contribution I am greatly looking forward to, gave me a very kind gift of Welsh whisky this week. I am avoiding mentioning the topic of independence, which was raised in Questions earlier, but it is fair to say that, with my taste of a good Scottish lowland malt and with her kind gift of Welsh whisky, we are truly Wales and Scotland better together and less sociable apart.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to take part in this important debate and to speak for the positive impact that broadcasting has on the economy, culture, community and creativity of the borderland. The dedicated BBC office in Selkirk and the ITV franchise of Border Television may not have a national capacity, which has drawn the attention of many noble Lords in this debate today, but they have a fiercely loyal audience. Indeed, when considering share of audience for the early evening news bulletin, research in 2012 showed that Border News had a 38% share, higher than any other franchise across these islands. That is more than three times that of ITV in London, with its 12% share.

As a viewer of Border Television all my life, I know why. It is because the borderland area and its people, businesses, culture, history and communities are not easily represented by the large cities north or south of the border. Ofcom and ITV carried out research in advance of the renewal of the Channel 3 licence. In response to some, including the Scottish Government, who preferred an all-Scottish franchise, it concluded that news and coverage should,

cover events with Border Scotland viewers at the heart of our thinking and would be rooted in the experiences and lives of people living in the border region. The programming would not view Scottish matters through a ‘Central Belt’ prism but rather from the perspective of people living in southern Scotland.

I am glad that they made that decision. With further digital technological changes coming in January, we will look forward to a further enhancement of service.

Those of us who have had the very good fortune to have been born on the border, those wise enough to have made the borderland their home, or those, like my noble friend Lady Grender, canny enough to have married into it know that the border area is unique. I am sure that many noble Lords know it well and that they, as I, will appreciate north Northumberland and the Borders, with the crown of the Cheviot and Eildon Hills crossing the two kingdoms, adorned with jewels of towns. The silvery thread of the Tweed ties these two nations together, with many proud and distinct communities on its route. I was born at its mouth and had the honour to represent its source.

It has not always been easy to describe the intricacies of the names and places of our area. I was part of a delegation to Boston as the proud MSP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale. The Speaker of the Massachusetts State Assembly introduced me to that august body. He looked at my name and constituency, looked at me, looked at his colleagues and introduced me as “Jimmy Purve from Twiddle, Ettick and Louder”.

A former Member of your Lordships’ House and a fellow parliamentarian from the Borders had no such difficulty. Lord Tweedsmuir, known widely simply as John Buchan, gave perhaps the best description of the border folk. I am grateful to a good friend who gifted me his memoirs in advance of my taking my seat in your Lordships’ House. John Buchan described the men and women of the border as having the qualities that,

I most admired in human nature—realism coloured by poetry, a stalwart independence sweetened by courtesy, a shrewd kindly wisdom.

Border ballads in our turbulent history offer true witness to those qualities.

I reflect, given the topic of this debate, that when broadcasting is at its best, it also shows those characteristics. I join with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, in that regard and pay tribute to him as a former chairman of Border TV in its heyday and, indeed, to the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, who is present, as a former director. In fact, I am fortunate that my supporters in this place know the area well and have a deep affinity with it. I respect and admire the personal and professional mobility of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. It is a particular honour for me to call them “my noble friend” and “my noble and learned friend” respectively. My mum and dad and those from the Borders who attended my Introduction know, as do I, that we have much to contribute in this House. I will do no bad job if I follow their lead. Like me, they know that the vibrant broadcasting window in the border area has daily reporting of our news, trade, sport and culture through online and digital platforms. We report what we do in the borderland and reflect on why we do it.

I am conscious that I am the next-to-youngest Member of your Lordships’ House. Another good friend of mine suggested that I may not garner your Lordships’ favour if I presage my speeches in this place with the words, “In all my 39 years”. Indeed, on the day of my Introduction, a waiter in one of our restaurants, in checking my pass and making sure that I was, indeed, a Peer, said, “But you are just a baby Lord”. It is a badge of honour that I will wear with pride. I express my sincerest appreciation to all the staff, especially the professional, firm but kindly doorkeepers and security staff. They have made this baby most welcome.

John Buchan was not only rightly proud of the borderland but was also proud of our craft as politicians. I have no better way of concluding than with his words:

Public life is regarded as the crown of a career, and to young men

to that I add women.

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This entry was posted in News, Parliament and Speeches.


  • I have to admit I did not know the name Jeremy Purvis before reading this.

    But I was intrigued that someone had been appointed to the Lords at the age of 39.
    I am in favour of young people being in the legislature – although I do have a strong preference for them being elected not plucked out of the leader”s hat. It is not clear what criteria the present party leader uses to determine who he slots into the place that makes the laws that rule our lives. So I tried to google around and find out more about Jeremy.

    Whilst I am none the wiser about any particular special qualities that might mark him out from other 39 year olds in the party I did discover the following in Wiki –

    He was born in Berwick-upon-Tweed, where he went to school.
    He studied Politics and Modern History at university in London, graduating in 1996.
    He worked for ELDR and Liberal International.
    He worked for David Steel in the Commons and Lords.
    In 1998 he moved to Edinburgh to work as a lobbyist.
    He was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2003, aged 29.
    He was re-elected in 2007 just ahead of the SNP’s Christine Grahame.

    He wrote the Scottish Liberal Democrats 2011 Election Manifesto.
    He was defeated by Grahame in the 2011 election.

    I guess it would be fair to call him a “career politician”. Not sure what happens to him if Scotland go for independence.

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Dec '13 - 9:04am

    Having read Olly Grender’s speech and now this one, I do find all the language, ‘ my noble friend’ etc., quite ridiculous . It may be convention, but what century are we living in?

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