Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Jane Hunt, the Conservative MP for Loughborough, in the House of Commons on 20 January 2020.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech during this debate. I thank the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) for his contribution, and all other colleagues for their fantastic contributions and maiden speeches.
I was hugely honoured to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Loughborough, and I am acutely aware that I have big shoes to fill. I worked alongside my predecessor, Baroness Morgan, for nine years as her senior caseworker, and during that time I saw at first hand her dedication to supporting her constituents. She was something of a trailblazer, being the first female to represent Loughborough, and the first female to chair the Treasury Committee. She was also the first MP to lead a general debate on mental health in the House of Commons. Her talents not only as an MP but as a Minister were recognised early on, and she quickly rose up the ranks, being appointed Education Secretary within four years of becoming an MP, and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last year. Her talents were recognised still further last week when she was introduced in the other place—now Members understand what I mean by big shoes!
Loughborough constituency is a great mixture of rural and urban, with the largest town, Loughborough, at its heart. The town has a rich history, with its almost 800-year-old market, and annual Loughborough fair. It is home to the John Taylor bell foundry, which is the largest in the world and responsible for making the country’s biggest bells. Most importantly for our local area, it crafted 47 bells for the Carillon tower, which is a memorial to local residents who selflessly gave their lives serving in both world wars.
The largest employer in Loughborough is its university, which attracts some of the best students from around the world. Loughborough University’s name is synonymous with sporting excellence, and it has trained many elite athletes. Indeed, if the university were a country, it would have finished 10th and 17th in the 2016 Paralympic and Olympic games respectively. It was also recently crowned British Universities & Colleges Sport champion for the 40th consecutive year. Athletes can benefit from the university’s altitude hotel, which simulates sleeping conditions at any altitude up to Everest, even though Loughborough is only 154 feet above sea level.
The university is home to one of the UK’s largest science and enterprise parks, which provides a research and development base for high-tech businesses of all sizes. The park is linked with nearby Charnwood Campus, which is the UK’s first ever life science opportunity zone. Both those facilities help the town to retain local talent—something I am keen to facilitate further, as it is key to driving inward investment in the constituency.
To the west of the town is the close-knit community of Shepshed, which originally grew as a centre for the wool trade. Today, it holds an annual Scaresheep festival, during which businesses, schools and organisations create their own sheep-themed scarecrows to raise money for local good causes. To the east of the town are the picturesque Wolds villages, at the centre of which are a number of welcoming pubs that are vital to their communities. I am therefore determined to support them, and will be closely following the Government’s business rates reforms, which I know is an area of concern for small retailers and publicans. I will also work to roll out gigabit broadband, which will be a great asset to our local businesses and those who work from home.
To the south-east are Quorn and Mountsorrel Castle, which I have had the privilege to represent as a Charnwood Borough councillor, and still do; I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Mountsorrel Castle is known for having the largest granite quarry in Europe, providing building materials to major projects across the country. Quorn is home to one of two Great Central Railway stations in my constituency. This railway is the UK’s only double track main line heritage railway. Nearby is Barrow upon Soar, which is famous for its marine dinosaur skeleton, a plesiosaur, known locally as the “Barrow Kipper”. There are also a number of beautiful countryside walks in the area, including the fossil sculpture trail.
In a constituency that is famed for sport, the people of Sileby outdo themselves with teams for cricket, football, rugby, bowls and even long lane skittles, which, if Members have not seen it, is both daring and adventurous—rather like the locals! Both Barrow and Sileby are large villages, but they turn into two islands when it floods. I am committed to addressing flood mitigation and regular maintenance of the waterways in the area, particularly around Slash Lane. To the north is the village of Hathern, which was home to Robert Bakewell, who revolutionised the way in which livestock are bred, reflecting the area’s important farming history.
All that being said, it is the generous nature of local residents that led me to make my family home in Loughborough in 1995, to raise my two children there, and to become involved in the local community, as everybody there does. It is clear from street names that, throughout the centuries, there have been a great many people who have contributed to the area either financially or by their actions to help to improve the lives of local residents. This still runs like a golden thread through our communities today. There are a great many street names, such as Griggs Road, Foden Close, Alan Moss Road, Herrick Road and Burton Street, from long ago. More recently, streets have been named after three people I knew. Terry Yardley Way is named after Terry Yardley, who was a Labour councillor and a lovely man. Then there are two of my absolute favourites who have both sadly passed away. Peter McCaig Way and Roy Brown Drive are named after Peter McCaig and the lovely Roy Brown of Sileby. I knew them all and I saw how much they did for their communities.
I am tremendously proud to be representing the Loughborough constituency. My social media tag is Team Loughborough and I feel very much part of a team. Other members of our team work tirelessly to ensure that our young people have the skills they need to succeed and get on in life; that our local businesses can thrive and continue to compete on an international scale; that those who are unwell or in need of assistance receive care and support; and that people of all nationalities and religious beliefs feel at home in our area. Everybody has a part to play in Team Loughborough and I look forward to playing my part.