Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): As many Members here have said, it really has been a privilege to serve in this House. I think of myself as a nine-year-old boy moving to this country and merging two families when my mum, who is from the South Bronx and had four children, married my step-dad, who lived in a very large English country house and had four children, and they had two children between them. We became a sort of Anglo-American version of “The Brady Bunch”, with me as the eldest. I really never dreamed I would be in this House today, and I do feel almost teary that I am leaving, but it has been a privilege.
Mr Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): May I just say that I think it is a tragic waste that a guy of your ability is leaving this place, and it is our loss?
Mr Newmark: I thank my hon. Friend for his very kind comments, but I think that sometimes it is important that we put our families before ourselves, and that is a decision I have made.
My constituents have been amazing. Over the past 10 years, I have probably dealt with about 10,000 bits of correspondence. I particularly want to thank my constituents for their support over the past year, both to me and my family. My association has been fantastic. We fought some great campaigns. I particularly want to thank Jenny Jarvis, who was my first chairman, Roger Walters, Chris Siddall, who was my final chairman, and of course my agent Rikki Williams. We had some great times together, and I certainly enjoyed all my campaigns with them.
Unusually for an MP, I have not only got along with my association but actually got along with my councillors. I particularly want to thank Graham Butland, the leader of Braintree council, and David Finch, the leader of Essex county council. We have all worked very well as a team—my association and my district and county councillors. Finally, I would like to thank Paula Malone, my PA, for her support over the past 10 years.
It has been a long journey for me, from Bedford school in October 1973, when I joined the Young Conservatives, and Keith Joseph was my inspiration, to the Oxford Union, where my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) was my inspiration—I have known him for 35 years—to when I became chairman in Bermondsey, stood in Newcastle in ’97, and was finally selected, won and became the Member of Parliament for Braintree.
When we are selected, one of the things we all do is to get stuck into local campaigns. There are many campaigns that I have really got stuck into in Braintree, but I want to highlight just a few of them. For me, getting a community hospital there was one of the great success stories. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Alan Hurst, for the work that he did; I took on that mantle from him. Saving the postal depot at Halstead was a success. When we worked to build up the flood defences in Steeple Bumpstead, the village was torn as to where they should be, and working with both sides and pulling them together was something of an achievement. When there was the threat of 300 acres of solar panels in the north part of my patch, in Constable country, stopping those being built was a success story. I have had some not-success stories. I wanted to get the extension of the A120, which never happened, and a loop between Braintree and Witham, which also did not happen. But those are challenges for my successor, whoever he may be; I certainly hope it is a Conservative.
Supporting local community groups has also been important. I supported PARC—the play and resource centre—by running a marathon and raising £40,000 for it. I have worked with Braintree Rethink, the homeless charities Braintree Foyer and New Direction, and St Mary’s church in Bocking.
I served on the Science and Technology Committee for two years, on the Treasury Committee for four years, and in the Whips Office for five years, and I finally ended up as Minister for Civil Society.
Being an MP provides a great platform for things that you want to campaign on. One of the campaigns that I am most proud of is Women2Win. When I arrived here, we had only 17 female Members of Parliament. Exactly 10 years ago, with Baroness Jenkin, I founded Women2Win. At the last election we had 49 women MPs, and I certainly hope that at the next election we have more. I hope that next we can have a “50:50 by 2020” campaign whereby we get 50% women by 2020. I started the Million Jobs campaign to try to get more young people into work, and I thank the Chancellor for abolishing national insurance contributions for young people. I welcomed the seed enterprise investment scheme, which encourages venture capital, and I worked to protect the International Commission on Missing Persons, for which I got the support of the then Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks). I have also worked in Rwanda and Syria.
As I bring this chapter of public service to a close, I begin a new chapter of voluntary service. I shall work with Crisis, the homeless charity, and my own charity, A Partner in Education, doing primary education in Rwanda, and I shall spend time at Oxford.
I leave today a little sad. This has been an amazing experience. I have made many friends from all parties. I thank the staff and you, Mr Speaker, for the support you have given me, particularly over the past year. My constituents feel like a part of my family and it has been a privilege to serve them.
Finally, I thank my wife Lucy and my children Benjamin, Sam, Max, Lily and Zachary for the support they have given me over the years.