All 1 Lord Woodley contributions to the National Security and Investment Bill 2019-21

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Thu 4th Feb 2021
National Security and Investment Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading

National Security and Investment Bill

Lord Woodley Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 4th February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate National Security and Investment Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 20 January 2021 - (large version) - (20 Jan 2021)
Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab) (Maiden Speech)
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My Lords, it is a great honour and privilege to join your Lordships’ House and speak in this debate today. Turning to the subject of the Bill, I believe that critical national infrastructures should be controlled and operated in the public interest, and certainly not run for private profit or sold off to corporate investors in a way that jeopardises jobs, safety and the security of the British people.

Before I continue, I thank noble Lords on all sides of the House, all officials and staff for their very warm and hospitable welcome. I also extend sincere thanks to my two distinguished supporters, my noble friends Lord Collins and Lady Blower. I also thank Jeremy Corbyn, for giving me the opportunity to enter this illustrious House, and Gordon Brown, for giving me the encouragement to accept a peerage.

I understand the privilege that I have been given; I also understand poverty. I was born in Wallasey on the Wirral and had a humble upbringing, with my parents fighting to put food on the table each day for me and my sisters in our two-up and two-down house, with no hot water and an outside toilet. They were often unable to pay the rent. Free school meals were a must in those days to feed us kids. Shamefully, as many in this House recognise, 60 years on, the need is as great today. On a lighter note, if I ever see prunes and custard again, I will give up the will to live.

As a merchant seaman at the age of 15, I travelled to most areas of the Far East and beyond, watching the exploitation, poverty and child abuse. The unfairness in our world, at home and abroad, had the most profound effect on me. It helped to create my moral compass and the progressive politics that have driven my life ever since. I became a workers’ representative at Vauxhall Motors in Ellesmere Port, a shop steward and convener, and the last general secretary of Britain’s most famous union, the Transport and General Workers’ Union and a creator of Unite the Union.

Personally negotiating and working with many of the world’s largest companies, CEOs and Ministers, particularly in the automotive and manufacturing industries, has been great. Yes, we had our disputes, but I spent more time working for and with companies for investment, protecting jobs and plants, than we ever did fighting each other. I have always said that I have known many good bosses, but I have never known a generous one.

While we have many good examples in the Bill we are debating, particularly those given by the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, privatisation and outsourcing have all too often become a blight of our lives, leading to the fragmentation of services, operational inefficiencies and the short-termism culture that puts the interest of shareholders before the interests of workers and the wider public. Privatisation has failed again and again. We recently witnessed this with the failure of the part privatisation at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, responsible for no less than the design, manufacture and support of warheads for the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons, which had to be brought back under direct control of the Ministry of Defence. Need I say more?

At least the Bill represents recognition from Ministers that there is an over-riding public interest in stopping essential assets from falling into the hands of nefarious interests. The general thrust of the Bill is to be welcomed, and I look forward to debating the details as it completes its passage.