Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Over the 16 years during which I have had the privilege of representing first the City and now most of the District of St Albans, I have been conscious of its history.

    At the turn of this millennium we can proudly look back over not just one, but two thousand years. Verulamium was a thriving Romano-British city when Jesus Christ was born. It was subsequently razed to the ground to revenge the rape of her sister by Boadicea ? that splendid forerunner of feminism and patriotism.

    Christianity reached here remarkably soon. We now know that St Alban was martyred for his Christian faith as early as 207/209 AD.

    It always seems to me that Alban should be a special inspiration for Christians of today. Then, as now, the world was largely pagan; the church was frail; the secular state was set on eradicating Christianity. That is why Alban was prepared to sacrifice his own life ? so that the priest could escape to pass on the Christian faith to the next generation.

    Looking forward to the next millennium, we too have a heritage under threat which will require heroic efforts to pass on to the next generation ? above all the Christian message of sacrifical love against the challenge of self-indulgent materialism. But there is also our environmental heritage. There are beautiful buildings to preserve and ugly ones we must replace if we can develop graceful new architectural styles.

    How long into the 21st century will our local countryside survive after the unprecedented violation of the sanctity of the Green Belt by the government?s plans to build 10,000 homes on Green Belt land in this constituency?

    And will we pass on intact our institutions which have evolved over 1,000 years or more, which incorporate the experience of generations and which made this island the crucible of liberty? After all, it was near St Albans that the first ?Parliament? incorporating representatives of the ?Commons? met. Now we see the Commons deliberately sidelined and the independent element of the Lords replaced by the government?s cronies.

    I am optimistic. I believe we can build a worthy future for generations to come in this area and for our country as a whole.

    But we will only do so if we build on the heritage of our past rather than repudiating it.