Richard Foord’s maiden speech in full (video and text)

You may be forgiven for not noticing that Richard Foord, our newest MP, made his maiden speech yesterday. But that’s exactly what he did at 5.20pm, when the rest of us were watching which Cabinet members were making their way into No 10.

Richard was speaking in the debate on the spending of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on the strategy for international development.

Richard Foord paid tribute to two of his predecessors, Neill Parish and Lord Palmerston. He cited Parish’s campaigning for schools and opposition to importing food produced to lower animal health standards. Foord promised to fight for school provision and the mid-Devon farming community.

Turning to Lord Palmerston, Foord noted he started out a Conservative but later became a Liberal.

I honestly think that is what we are hearing across the country: a groundswell of opinion from people who feel taken for granted.

On Ukraine, Foord said we should defend the country, not least because it voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons. He said Britain should show similar solidarity to our European neighbours.

Liberal democracy must be defended and preserved, regardless of who Palmerston’s latest successor might be.

The full speech

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak.

In the past, I worked with the conflict, stability and security fund, so I know how important it is that international development funding of the sort that we are discussing is used well by the UK.

I must admit that, in this new job of mine, I am still learning my way around the maze of corridors, anterooms and stairways—only once so far have I ended up in the scullery. The Tiverton and Honiton constituency, which I am fortunate to represent, is made up of several other significant towns—Axminster, Seaton, Cullompton and Colyton, which brands itself a rebel town—and nearly 100 villages. It stretches from the fringes of Exmoor at Bampton to the Jurassic coast at Branscombe. I look forward to hosting you, Mr Speaker, in Honiton, where we will get to go to Allhallows Museum and see the Honiton lace that your ceremonial robe is made of.

I pay tribute to two of my predecessors as MP for the part of Devon that I will do my very best to represent. One was an MP who took up office in 2010, and the other first came to this place as MP for Tiverton in 1835; they are Neil Parish and Lord Palmerston. In his maiden speech made over a decade ago, Neil Parish said that he wanted to see fairer funding for schools. I know that he tried in earnest to seek that additional schools funding, but we are still waiting for action on that. I think here specifically about Tiverton High School. After the by-election, I was pleased to see the former Secretary of State for Education tweet that he had heard local concerns about that school. Now that he is Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should know that my constituents are still looking for action rather than tweets.

Neil Parish was a strong voice for farmers not just in Devon, but across the country. He led a rebellion of Conservative MPs on the Government’s Agriculture Bill and aimed to prohibit the import of food produced to lower animal health standards and lower welfare standards than those that we use in the UK. Farmers in Devon and elsewhere are struggling to deal with the rising price of fuel, feed and fertiliser. I pledge to continue to work with bodies such as the National Farmers Union to stand up for farmers and ensure that they have a champion here in Westminster.

Every time I walk up the staircase to my office here, I find myself eyeballed by a bust of the former Foreign Secretary and former Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston. Palmerston was the MP for Tiverton for 30 years, and he went on a journey—one recently experienced by a few of my constituents at last month’s by-election. He started out a Conservative but later became a Liberal. I honestly think that is what we are hearing across the country: a groundswell of opinion from people who feel taken for granted. Just yesterday, we saw two senior members of the Cabinet quit, citing a lack of integrity, and I think that it is time for those remaining members of the Cabinet to heed the message from voters in Tiverton and Honiton at our by-election last month and show the Prime Minister the door.

Lord Palmerston was also Prime Minister, at the end of the Crimean war. He spoke about Russian foreign policy in this place 160 years ago:

“The policy and practice of the Russian Government in regard to Turkey and Persia has always been to push forward its encroachments as fast and as far as the apathy or want of firmness of other Governments would allow it to go but always to stop and retire when it has met with decided resistance.”

I am much less fatalistic about Russia’s expansionist ways. With a different leader at a different time, I do not suppose that Russia would be bound to invade its neighbour. But the UK is right to support Ukraine for many reasons. For me, the most important relates to the way Ukraine gave up its status as a country in possession of nuclear weapons, in part because of the assurances it received at the time from countries, including the UK, as part of the Budapest memorandum. Under the memorandum, we offered assurances to Ukraine in relation to its security. While they were not security guarantees, I see the support the UK is showing Ukraine as consistent with what we pledged back in 1994.

I suggest that the UK should show the same solidarity and ability to work with European neighbours that Britain showed during the Crimean war. Liberal democracy must be defended and preserved, regardless of who Palmerston’s latest successor might be.


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  • Mick Taylor 7th Jul '22 - 10:30am

    It is really great to hear from a LibDem MP who knows his history. Far too many people in our party have no idea about it. Well done Mr Foord.

  • David Evans 7th Jul '22 - 11:08am

    Indeed Mick.

    Of course the other bit of Liberal/Lib Dem history we all need to remember is that places like Tiverton have a substantial old school Liberal tradition of “personal responsibility and self reliance coupled with a strong commitment to the local community” – all of it. These are the people who were Liberal voters who when the party collapsed in the 1930s went the way of the National Liberals chose and ended up supporting the Conservatives. Ultimately they became the ‘One Nation Conservatives,’ but in truth many of them are fundamentally good sound liberals.

    As the Conservatives implode, that is the group we need to work on over the next two years, and if we do there are well over 100 seats that could be in play.

  • Nigel Jones 7th Jul '22 - 11:41am

    Thanks David for including personal responsibility and self-reliance in our Liberal values. It is essential to talk about human rights and freedoms and non-conformity, but that often gives people the wrong impression about what we stand for if we do not include these other two values. Another essential is that people need to be supported in ways that enable them to be self-reliant, hence our policies against gross inequality, which in practice make a degree of state intervention essential.

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Jul '22 - 2:22pm

    Good solid speech from a man with his feet planted firmly in the ground.

  • David Evans 7th Jul '22 - 3:19pm

    Absolutely Nigel. Essentially Liberalism is about enabling people as far as is possible to make the best of themselves.

    It is not about giving liberties to our friends and people like us (That is the extreme the Conservatives have subjected our Nation to for too long)

    Nor is it removing liberties from our opponents just because we don’t like them (That is the extreme end of the many self described Progressives in the Labour Left).

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