Boris Johnson – 2017 Statement on Pakistan Independence Day

Below is the text of the statement made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, on 14 August 2017.

On behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I wish the people of Pakistan the very best on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of independence. Muhammad Jinnah’s founding vision of a progressive, inclusive Pakistan is still something worth cherishing and celebrating, and Pakistan should be rightly proud of its culture and history over the last 70 years.

The United Kingdom and Pakistan enjoy a close friendship thanks to the links between our people – particularly the 1.2 million British people who are of Pakistani origin. Whether on the cricket field, at Pakistani celebrations in the UK or though our strong education cooperation and support, the links between our two countries keep getting stronger. In 2017, the UK is celebrating these connections with a year-long programme of cultural events, exhibitions and visits.

As we celebrate our shared history together, and look forward to a future with more links, more trade and more cooperation between the UK and Pakistan, I wish the people of Pakistan Jashan e Azaadi Mubarak.

Matt Rodda – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the speech made by Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East, in the House of Commons on 20 July 2017.

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) and I welcome his support for both smoking cessation and human rights around the world. I also thank Madam Deputy Speaker for the opportunity to make my maiden speech this afternoon.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, Rob Wilson, who was our MP in Reading East for 12 years. He was the Minister for civil society and I thank him for his public service. I will also mention other former colleagues: Jane Griffiths, the Labour MP, who served before Rob; and Gerry Vaughan, the Conservative, who predated her. Other illustrious MPs from the Reading area include Martin Salter and Labour’s Ian Mikardo, who represented Reading in the post-war period. Going slightly further back in history, I am particularly proud to follow in the footsteps of the first Labour MP for Reading, the surgeon Somerville Hastings, who was elected in 1923, and whose ideas about the state funding of healthcare were an early forerunner of the NHS.

During its long history, Reading has changed beyond all recognition. Once home to one of the largest abbeys in England and the burial place of King Henry I, it later grew to become a light industrial town. Many years ago, our local economy consisted of brewing, biscuit-making and horticulture—the “three B’s”, as they were then known, with the word “bulbs” replacing “horticulture”.

While the terraced streets and Victorian town centre remain, in the late 20th century Reading became home to insurance firms, and more recently the IT industry. Several international IT and telecoms firms are based nearby and they play an important role, both in the local economy and in the economy of the UK as a whole.

We have a youthful population, with many young people and families moving to our area to make their home in the town. People come from across Britain, from across Europe and indeed from around the wider world.

Several issues loom large for our community, which is young and mobile: first and foremost, the need for properly funded public services; the desire to avoid a hard Brexit; and, as other Members have mentioned, the importance of affordable and safe housing.

Local people rely on and, indeed, expect high-quality provision of public services, and the general election was a resounding vote against austerity and poorly funded services—that was felt and heard very loudly in our part of the world. I remind the Government that parents were angered by the wave of school cuts, and parents in my area remain deeply concerned, despite the window-dressing offered by Ministers last week. Meanwhile, many other residents are fearful of the state of our local NHS, and they certainly have no time for the dementia tax.

Our town is proudly international in outlook, with significant numbers of residents from the EU and, indeed, from the Commonwealth. Reading voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, and many local people oppose a hard Brexit, including many who voted to leave. Our residents are not impressed by the Government’s cavalier approach to the negotiation with the EU, and they expect something much better, which I hope we will soon see.

Although it is well known that IT and science workers in the south of England command high salaries, house prices are also high and not all work in our area is well paid. In fact, many people exist on very modest earnings indeed. Reading, rather like London, regrettably suffers from considerable income inequality, which leads to even greater issues with housing affordability. As a result, there is a desperate need for more affordable housing: council houses, affordable homes to buy and, indeed, homes to rent. Our local renters particularly deserve a fair deal.

The Government’s record on housing is extremely poor. In recent times, George Osborne effectively stopped Reading’s Labour council building 1,000 new council houses, despite significant need in the area. More recently, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has allowed developers to reduce the proportion of affordable homes in new developments, which is an important point in an area with a lot of extra building going on. I am proud to say that Reading and, indeed, Conservative West Berkshire Council have taken legal action to oppose that reduction. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will note that, although I wish to work with the Housing Minister, the hon. Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma), I will be holding him to account for matters relating to housing, particularly the local situation in the Thames valley.

As some colleagues may know, I have been campaigning to save a much-loved local secondary school that was threatened with closure, and we have had some good news this week. Chiltern Edge School is in Oxfordshire but, as in many urban areas, many pupils cross our boundaries. Earlier this year, I was shocked to find out that Oxfordshire County Council was planning to shut the school, which would have affected 400 Reading children. I have always believed that its proposal was both irresponsible and misguided, and I cannot understand why any local authority in an area—such as the south of England—with rising school rolls would want to consider a school closure at this time. The only plausible explanation is that selling off the land would have allowed the council to deal with short-term financial pressures caused by austerity.

However, after a great deal of work by campaigners, supported by me and the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell), we have been successful and Oxfordshire County Council has now decided to shelve the plans. I am grateful for that decision, and I thank colleagues who signed my early-day motion opposing the closure and who have supported the “save our Edge” campaign. Although that is one small local campaign, I believe it shows something of great value: it underlines the importance of our public services; it shows how a well-fought local campaign can achieve results; and above all, it shows that real change is possible in our country.

I am honoured to represent my community, and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. I look forward to raising other matters of importance when the House returns in September. I wish all my colleagues a very happy recess.

Kirstene Hair – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Kirstene Hair, the Conservative MP for Angus, in the House of Commons on 17 July 2017.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. I am disappointed that time will not allow me to contribute to the debate on the intimidation of general election candidates. Nevertheless, I will contribute fully when the opportunity arises, drawing on my own experiences. I thank the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who is from a neighbouring constituency.

It is a great privilege to be here today, delivering my maiden speech and representing my home constituency of Angus. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Mike Weir, who served the people of Angus very well in his 16 years in the House. He was a prominent campaigner to save the local post offices in the constituency, and in the House he took on the role of Chief Whip for his party. I wish him all the very best in his future endeavours.

It would be remiss of me not to mention also the previous Conservative and Unionist MP for Angus, the late Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, as he was known after being ennobled in 1989. He was not just a great local voice for his area in this House, but had a remarkable legal career.

The diverse constituency of Angus, nestled north of Dundee and south of Aberdeenshire, incorporates the most beautiful, dramatic coastlines to the east and picturesque, tranquil glens to the north-west. The five main towns are Forfar, Kirriemuir, Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin, where I was born, brought up and educated. There are a number of villages and rural communities as well.

Unfortunately, it is the residents and businesses of those remote areas who have suffered most significantly from the lack of mobile and broadband coverage. With the current coverage roll-out being below the national average, it is unsurprising that this issue has emerged at every single constituency surgery I have held to date. I will use my voice here in Westminster to ensure that the Scottish Government deliver connectivity right across Angus, ensuring that residents and businesses are not left behind because of where they choose to reside and operate.

From my agricultural roots, I understand the importance of this industry to Angus and to Scotland. With the area producing 25% of Scottish soft fruit and 30% of the country’s potatoes, agriculture remains a significant contributor to the local economy. Local farmers understand the increasing importance of diversification and Angus is home to many successful projects, ranging from renewables to the first potato-based vodka, Ogilvy vodka, which is distilled locally near the village of Glamis.​

Glamis itself incorporates the famous residence of Glamis castle, the childhood home of the late Queen Mother. I recently attended the annual Glamis prom, one of the many excellent events that are held in the grounds of the castle, attracting thousands of people from across Scotland.

Attractions across Angus entice tourists from far and wide, whether it is to visit the many historic houses and gardens, to try their hand at golf on some of the best known courses, or to get involved in a variety of outdoor pursuits. Montrose port will welcome its first cruise ship, which is due to dock next year—a further great boost for our local economy and tourism industry. Nevertheless, I am incredibly aware that there is a power of work to be done to further promote the area, to support the current offering and to ensure that no one slips north into Aberdeenshire without tasting a Forfar bridie en route.

The businesses throughout Angus range from the local to the global. We have engineering and manufacturing, oil and gas, textiles and a highly regarded food and drink offering. A host of global businesses operate across every corner of Angus in key sectors, including pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline; the Montrose textile manufacturer Wilkie in Kirriemuir; the marmalade, preserves and curds exporter Mackays in Arbroath; the textile innovator Don & Low in Forfar; and the design and engineering specialists Hydrus in Brechin. They are supported by a strong network of local businesses, which collectively are the lifeblood of our local economy, providing the jobs that Angus so desperately needs. As a Government, we must support them wherever possible, enabling both prosperity and longevity.

Angus has much to be proud of. However, like many places, it has concerns that my constituents have asked me to stand up and represent them on. The rate of unemployment, particularly among the youth, continues to lie above the national average due to several factors. The north-east oil and gas industry, which many residents in Angus rely on heavily, still has positivity, with new oil fields emerging, but the steady decline in recent years has had a large impact on the livelihoods of residents and on businesses throughout Angus. My north-east colleagues and I will work together with the industry wherever possible to support them.

As we face the challenge of Brexit, I am confident that the Scottish farming and fishing communities have the resilience to remain one of the key pillars of our economy. One of the greatest opportunities from Brexit is the chance to build a support system that works for Angus and for all areas of our United Kingdom.

The political landscape in Angus has demonstrated a clear shift in recent years. In the 2014 referendum on independence, we recorded an above average no vote. In the last three elections, there has been a considerable vote swing towards the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party. Those were strong messages to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP that the time for constitutional trouble-making was over. Make no mistake, I and my Scottish Conservative, Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democratic colleagues are as patriotic as my Scottish National party colleagues. We now need to ask them to remove the threat of uncertainty over Scotland’s economy and Scotland’s people. No ifs, no buts—a second divisive independence referendum should be taken off the table.​

I remain optimistic for the future of Angus and the extensive Tay cities deal, which will directly support those who live and work in Angus. The planned £1.8 billion investment will include key programmes specifically for Angus, such as the Hospitalfield future plan; the Dundeecom public-private partnership, which will create a major decommissioning centre in Scotland; and, of course, the ambitious investment corridor from Montrose to the A90 that will enable the delivery of much-needed infrastructure, stimulating major economic growth in north Angus. I look forward to working with the UK Government and all stakeholders to drive forward the Tay cities deal and ensure that it delivers for Angus.

As the Member of Parliament for Angus, my mission is to ensure that I am the strongest of local champions, representing my home turf with the greatest of integrity and never with complacency. As a staunch Unionist, I will continue to fight with every fibre of my being to keep Scotland as part of our wonderful United Kingdom. Quite simply, we are stronger together and weaker apart. I would also like to make it clear that I am here to help all my constituents, no matter how or, indeed, if they voted. I very much look forward to standing up for Angus and for Scotland in this Chamber on many more occasions to come.

Marsha De Cordova – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Marsha De Cordova, the Labour MP for Battersea, in the House of Commons on 17 July 2017.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech during this debate. It is an important debate, which goes straight to the heart of the kind of Parliament that we are going to be. Will it be a Parliament that stifles debate and scrutiny, or will it be a Parliament that is accountable to its Opposition and openly democratic? I know which Parliament my constituents would like.

When I was first selected as the candidate for Battersea, 11 weeks ago, many believed that I would not or could not win. That is why it fills me with great pleasure that the people of Battersea chose me to be their Member of Parliament. It is a huge honour for me, and I will serve my constituents to the best of my ability. My family played a vital role in supporting me during the campaign, and I will be forever grateful to them for the sacrifices that they made to help me to be elected.

Before I go on, let me pay tribute to my predecessor, Jane Ellison, for the work that she did in trying to halt the practice of female genital mutilation. I do not share Jane’s politics, but when it comes to this truly important cause, she leaves a proud legacy. We are both lucky women to have been given the privilege of representing Battersea, a vibrant and exciting part of south London with a long and proud history. Battersea is growing, and it has so much to offer. Our iconic Battersea power station, that symbol of municipal pride, is reawakening along the river. Our transport hub, Clapham Junction, has more trains passing through it than any other station in Europe. Our fantastic green spaces are well loved and used by many, from the kids in Battersea Park to the sunbathers of Clapham Common. But, of course, it is the people of Battersea themselves who make it such a wonderful place, and it is to them that I owe most thanks.

No one should be surprised that we in Battersea, one of the youngest, most diverse and most well-educated constituencies in the country, take our politics so seriously. Battersea, like much of London, is changing rapidly, and I want to ensure that those changes benefit everyone. ​In this last election, there was an increase not only in the number of young voters, but in the number of people turning out to vote for the first time, and with good reason. We are increasingly divided, not least on housing. Private rents have soared. Housing is insecure. Glistening new developments are rising up around us, but the cost of housing puts them way beyond reach. It is a scandal that people under 35 have simply been frozen out of home ownership. Too many people are confronted with housing pressures that are getting worse.

It does not have to be this way. Here in Battersea, we have some of the oldest council housing. The Shaftesbury Estate, built in the 1870s, sought to produce decent homes for working people. That spirit needs to be reignited, and we need to become pioneers again. As the Labour MP for Battersea, I know that I am standing on the shoulders of giants: politicians who were radical and way ahead of their time. It was in Battersea—Labour—in 1906 that the first working-class MP became a Government Minister, in the form of the ferocious John Burns. In 1913, we gave rise to London’s first black mayor, John Archer, whose father came from Barbados and whose mother was an Irishwoman.

In 1922 Battersea became the first constituency to elect an Asian Labour Member of Parliament, the Indian radical Shapurji Saklatvala. Of course, we also had the heroic Charlotte Despard, the Anglo-Irish suffragette who dedicated her life to championing the rights of the poorest in Battersea, and whose statue can be found in the central square of Doddington estate. In 1933, at the age of 89, her last public activity was to address the crowds at a big anti-fascist rally in Trafalgar Square. Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope that I have as much fire in me when I am that age.

I would also like to pay tribute to my more recent Labour predecessors: the wonderful Lord Alf Dubs, whose fight on behalf of Syrian refugees has been an inspiration to us all; and Martin Linton, who has continued to champion the rights of the Palestinian people since leaving office.

As you can see, Mr Deputy Speaker, in Battersea we are outward-looking and internationalist. It is that outward-looking spirit that I will endeavour to bring to Parliament. With the decision to leave the European Union, we face serious challenges ahead of us. It was a decision that my constituents care deeply about and voted overwhelmingly against. I will be standing up for them, drawing on that outward-looking Battersea tradition, one that values openness, tolerance, social justice and co-operation.

As you are aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, I was born with nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eye, which has left me with a severe sight impairment. Living with my visual impairment, I have had to overcome many barriers, but I want to give a special thanks to my mum, who is here today. She made sure that I had a brilliant education—a brilliant state education. When I was at primary school, the headteacher thought that it would be better if I was sent to a special school, but my mother was having none of that and fought tooth and nail to keep me in mainstream education. I can safely say that I would not be the woman I am today, or an elected Member of Parliament, had it not been for her. Mum, I am truly grateful.​

I have been a disability rights campaigner for most of my life. I believe that people living with a disability, like myself, should have the right to participate in society equally. They should have the right to a good education, the right to travel and access public transport, and the right to work. An important issue that is dear to my heart is the employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Still today less than half of working-age disabled people are in employment, compared with 80% of the non-disabled population. That is just not good enough. We need to change that. Over the past seven years, policies on social security and social care have disproportionately affected disabled people. When we discuss all these matters in this House, it is important that we understand and empathise with the real people who will be affected by our decisions.

I am proud to be here in this Chamber, and I am proud to be representing the people of Battersea.

Andrew Lewer – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Andrew Lewer, the Conservative MP for Northampton South, in the House of Commons on 19 July 2017.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) for her speech. It was comprehensive, but rather different in its thrust from mine. I must not pass up the opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mrs Badenoch) on her excellent speech and to refer to the really great camaraderie that she and I and the rest of our intake have enjoyed. I am particularly fond of Saffron Walden as it is where my mother went to college. In fact, Rab Butler cut the ribbon at the opening of her college in 1965. I hope she does not get annoyed with me for mentioning the date.

I am truly honoured to have been chosen as the Member of Parliament for Northampton South. I have big boots to fill, in a town that is rich with an industrial history of manufacturing boots and shoes. There is not a place in the world where a British man or woman has not left their footprint with a Northampton boot or shoe, whether in a jungle or a desert, or on a mountain or a snow-laden plain. In 1830, there were 40 shoe and boot manufacturers in Northampton, and they employed a third of all the men in the town. That does not include the ancillary industries; they were employed in actually making the boots and shoes. The fortunes of the town’s shoe and boot industry have risen, fallen and risen again. Although we are now left with only a handful of shoe manufacturers, they produce some of the most exclusive and desirable handmade shoes in the world.

My upbringing, most particularly at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne, taught me the value of tradition. Thus—and staying with the metaphor of footprints—I would like to acknowledge the work of the former Member for Northampton South, Mr David Mackintosh. Although his tenure was short, his impact and the footprint of his public service to this House and to his constituents were significant. When I recently visited the Hope Centre, a local homelessness and anti-poverty charity in Northampton, I learned that he was held in high regard there for helping to push through the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and for his local work on combating homelessness.

The Northampton South seat was established in 1974, and those who represented the constituency are still making their footprints on public life to this day. Lord Naseby sits in the other place and still has an involvement in local public life through his work with Northamptonshire county cricket club. Mr Tony Clarke, who succeeded Lord Naseby in 1997, was a passionate public servant and continues to be so today by educating the young adults of the town in the local further education college. Then there was Mr Brian Binley, who is well known to many here and still centrally involved with the regeneration programme, Northampton Alive.

Charles Bradlaugh, whose bust I walked past today, was a particularly famous Northampton MP. He was a radical, and I came across him many years ago when I was doing postgraduate research—he and Charles Newdigate Newdegate had some enormous debates across the House about the difference between taking an oath and taking an affirmation. Previous Northampton MP Spencer Perceval is also well known in this Chamber. It is interesting that speeches made about him in previous years referred quite light-heartedly to his fate. In more recent years, of course, that has changed significantly. ​When we think of Spencer Perceval now, we think of much more recent and tragic events, and about the continuity of the risks that people run when they enter public service.

Francis Crick, who—with James Watson—co-discovered DNA, which is now the driving force of so many scientific breakthroughs and discoveries, was from Northampton, but there are also less well-known people, such as Walter Tull, who played for Northampton Town football club and then for Spurs. He was the British Army’s first black officer; he fought in the first world war but, after an incredible war record, alas he was killed in 1918. Margaret Bondfield, the first ever female Cabinet member, briefly served as MP for Northampton, so there are big shoes to fill indeed.

The constituency of Northampton South is the home of Cosworth, Travis Perkins, Barclaycard and Carlsberg. Those are prestigious brands and significant employers for the area, but I draw colleagues’ attention to another business. Under the shadow of the Carlsberg plant is the Phipps brewery, which was recently re-established after years of dormancy—and a welcome return it is. Pickering Phipps II served as the Member of Parliament for Northampton from 1874 to 1880. In many ways, his brewery and Northampton—because of the tannins involved in shoe manufacturing—was responsible for the revival of recipes that gave birth to the real ale movement, which has been going from strength to strength since the 1970s.

Northampton is one of the fastest-growing towns in the country, and has been for decades—I noticed that all my predecessors made reference to that fact in their maiden speeches. As I will, they referred to the pressures on public services, challenges for the high street and the major issue of housing. With the Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), I will be campaigning for new and better facilities for Northampton General Hospital to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding town. We need more housing, better transport infrastructure and a more focused regeneration effort. As championed by Northampton Borough Council and the county council, we need an emphasis on culture and heritage to bring new vitality to Northampton town centre.

I hope my time as a county council leader myself will be helpful for all that, but—and here is a link to the debate topic—just over a month ago I was a Member of the European Parliament in Brussels. I have been told—I keep saying it and no one has contradicted me yet—that I am the only person ever to have served as a council leader, a Member of the European Parliament and an MP. As an MEP, I specialised in culture, education and regional development and fought for things that matter to me, such as the possible continuation of the Erasmus+ programme, or the introduction of a home-grown successor if not.

As an MEP, I also spent quite a lot of time working on the revision of the audiovisual media services directive, making the case for avoiding the unnecessary burden of over-regulation while protecting freedom of speech. I was also particularly interested in religious freedom and highlighted the case of Asia Bibi, who lives under a death sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan. I hope in this place to continue the work I was involved in to try to save her from the terrible situation she is in.

I was a reluctant leaver, but I still believe it is the right choice for the UK. In many ways, the complexity of leaving, which we are discussing tonight, simply underlines how much of our sovereignty we had lost and reminds us all that our work here is about not only getting a good deal as we leave but being ready to innovate in policy areas that this House has not had the lead on, or even much of a say about, for many years. Trade, environment and agriculture are not just something on which we will get a deal, but something on which we will need to work and innovate for ourselves henceforth.

Finally, let me go back to the tradition of describing one’s constituency as the most beautiful. Northampton certainly does have some beautiful buildings. It has a fascinating history, notably in the medieval period. It is my non-conformist and Methodist roots coming out when I say that much of its beauty lies in its industriousness, and that much of what makes the country as a whole great is to be found there. Much of what will challenge us as politicians in the years ahead can also be found there within its boundaries.

Mike Hill – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the speech made by Mike Hill, the Labour MP for Hartlepool, in the House of Commons on 19 July 2017.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech today. As the first person in my family to attend university—on a grant, a wing and a prayer—I know just how difficult it is to survive university, let alone be saddled with debts as a result of tuition fees.

I begin by paying tribute to those who elected me—the most wonderful, friendly, warm-hearted and welcoming people. It is an honour and a privilege to represent Hartlepudlians in this House. I should also like to pay tribute to the town’s previous MPs—Iain Wright, Peter Mandelson and Ted Leadbitter. Sadly, I did not know Ted, but I do know that he was a true and much respected constituency MP, and that is something that I aspire to emulate. I thank Peter Mandelson for his energy and efforts in helping to regenerate the town, for throwing his weight behind some wonderful projects such as our most beautiful world class marina, and for flying the flag for that little known northern delicacy, guacamole.​

As for my immediate predecessor Iain Wright, who could ever forget his true tenacity and ruthlessness as Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee as he exposed the disgraceful and completely unacceptable exploitation of workers at Sports Direct, or his dogged determination to stand up for British Home Stores workers when they lost their jobs in the blink of an eye and during the pension scandal that followed? Yes, we lost our BHS in Hartlepool too—and yes, Philip Green deserved to lose his knighthood over it.

At the turn of this century, I had the good fortune to land a new job with the trade union Unison. Of all the places where I could have lived in the wonderful region of the north-east, I chose Hartlepool. As I said earlier, the people are warm and welcoming—straight-talking and honest folk. But they were not the only attraction. Hartlepool is a real hidden gem, a beautiful coastal town steeped in history. From Greatham to the Fens, from Elwick village to Hart village, from the prehistoric petrified forest seen at low tide at Seaton Carew to the medieval St Hilda’s church on the Headland, there is history everywhere.

Robert de Bruce is famously connected with the town. It has sitting in a dry dock in its centre one of Nelson’s original flagships, HMS Trincomalee. We have recently welcomed to the town the new Royal Navy museum of the north. The Heugh battery on the Headland, a survivor of the first bombardment of British soil from the sea in the first world war, is a hidden treasure. Hartlepool truly has a wonderful tourist offer, and I am proud to be here to promote it today.

My constituents are no fools—they know their own minds and speak plainly. They voted massively for Brexit; 69.5% was the highest vote in the north-east. But that did not mean that they were converts to UKIP or the Tories, as UKIP found out when it lost its deposit in the general election and as the Tories found out when we increased our majority. I thank the Prime Minister for deciding to go to the polls early. The fact that Hartlepudlians voted in the local football mascot H’Angus the Monkey as their first ever elected Mayor shows their humour and ability to challenge the establishment when they need to.

Unlike the monkey Mayor, I did not get elected for promoting free bananas for every primary school pupil, but I did on the promise that I would fight for those kids, for their schools, for the NHS, for our hospital and for our public services—and against the Government hellbent on breaking them. I pay tribute to all those who supported me in getting elected to this strange place—particularly to my family, who are with us in the Gallery, and to my mother and father, who passed away in February this year. My dad, Mr Robert Hill, from the other monkey town of Heywood in Lancashire, was a true inspiration and he would be proud of me today. Yes, it is true—I moved from one monkey town to another and became its MP. You simply could not make that one up, could you?

My experience here so far has inspired me all the more to do what I promised to set out to do. Hartlepool is a wonderful place, yet it has some of the most deprived wards in the country. Life expectancy for women is the second lowest in the country, and unemployment is significantly higher than in any other ​town in the north-east. It is my job—my determination—to fight tooth and nail in this place against the constant attacks on our people and communities by the failed austerity agenda delivered by a Government who are disconnected and uncaring of our people and communities.

I want to champion and fight for mental health services—mental health is a growing issue emerging from austerity—and, as a former union official, for health workers, who themselves fall ill and often suffer a second-class service when it comes to their own treatment. I want also to champion and fight for the trade union movement and the co-operative movement. I am proud of my co-operative and union roots. I pay personal tribute to all my work colleagues and friends in Unison, particularly my secretary, Angela, and everyone at the Middlesbrough office, who are nothing short of family to me.

I also pay tribute to a true inspiration and giant of the trade union movement, Mr Rodney Bickerstaffe—my friend and the former general secretary of Unison. He is a brilliant man and working-class hero who is currently suffering from a terrible illness and is having an operation today; I wish him well.

I am unashamedly a trade unionist and my constituents know that. They also know that I am a tried and tested campaigner. I am privileged to have their support and to be able to do what I said I would do: fly the flag for Hartlepool, put the town on the map, and fight every inch of the way for the people who elected me.

Neil O’Brien – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Neil O’Brien, the Conservative MP for Harborough, in the House of Commons on 3 July 2017.

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant). Before he spoke, he promised me that he would make me look good. By speaking so powerfully, so poetically and so brilliantly, he has already broken his first political promise—so thanks a bunch for that.​
It is also a pleasure to follow my predecessor, Sir Edward Garnier. He was a brilliant constituency MP for 25 years. He is independent-minded and he is brave, but above all he is just an exceptionally nice man. He will be missed in all parts of this House, and he will be massively missed in our constituency.

It is an honour to represent the people of Harborough, Oadby and Wigston in this House, and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart for sending me here. There are four really striking things about my constituency. The first is the staggering amount of community and voluntary work, whether it is local charities such as Rainbows, LOROS, VAL or VASL; the award-winning work of Market Harborough in Bloom, which is visible all over the town and makes it beautiful; the strength of our local army, sea and air cadets, with whom I celebrated Armed Forces Week just the other day; or community campaigns such as the campaign to save the children’s heart unit at Glenfield hospital, which I support. The strength of our civic life is incredibly visible from the briefest look at The Harborough Mail or the Leicester Mercury, or by tuning into our community radio station, Harborough FM. A huge number of people in my constituency dedicate themselves to improving the lot of their fellow citizens, and it is absolutely inspiring.

The second striking thing about my constituency is the strong culture of enterprise. There are now nearly 4,500 businesses in the constituency—a quarter more than in 2010. There is simply nothing that the people in my constituency cannot do well. From milk floats to jet engines, we have made everything. Although we have heard speeches this evening about the invention of powered flight in Scotland, you will be relieved, Mr Speaker, to hear that we have never tried to combine the jet engine and the milk float, as that would lead to dangerous adventures, I think. My constituency is famous for farming and food, and also for textiles. One of its most famous family businesses, Symingtons, actually managed to combine both of those things, because one brother made soups which fattened us all up, and the other brother made corsets with which to constrain our bulging waistlines. You will agree, Mr Speaker, that that is a very cunning business model. Given the culture of small business, the have-a-go culture, and the culture of enterprise in my constituency, I will work to make sure that important initiatives such as the Midlands Engine and the new industrial strategy work for small business as well as big.

The third really important thing about my constituency is the open and welcoming nature of the people. Perhaps that is because we have been plugged into the global economy ever since the Romans came and built the road that now forms the eastern boundary of the constituency. I have to tell you, Mr Speaker, that not all of that road is now passable by car due to several centuries of disgraceful underinvestment by the Vikings, Normans and Saxons, but none the less, later on the canals came and put the constituency back on the map. The fantastic staircase of locks at Foxton Locks is a testament to the time when it was the spaghetti junction on the M1 of its day. In more recent decades, the constituency has welcomed people from all over the world. Sometimes they have come with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs, particularly the Ugandan ​Asians who came and settled there when they were fleeing from Idi Amin. Wherever they have come from, they have often started brilliant businesses and powered our economy forward. In our constituency, we have very good relations between all the different communities, and I will work to keep it that way.

The fourth and final thing, Mr Speaker—you will perhaps see this coming—is of course that my constituency is strikingly beautiful, from the well-kept gardens of Oadby, Wigston and Market Harborough to the gently rolling countryside, it is a lovely place to be. When we are walking near our home—me, my wife Jemma, and our little daughter Florence—tramping through the tall buttercups and the nice pink clover flowers under the big Leicestershire skies, that is about as close as it gets to heaven.

My constituency is a place of beauty, a place of opportunity, and a place with a strong community, and I want to keep it that way. To keep it beautiful, we have to start by reforming our broken planning system. We have made progress in recent years, and of course we must build more houses, but too often at the moment our planning system only builds resentment. It puts development in the wrong places and does not match new housing with the necessary infrastructure, and councillors and the community simply have too few powers relative to developers.

To extend opportunity we have to focus on education. I grew up in Huddersfield, went to a comprehensive, got to go to Oxford and have ended up in this House. I want young people in my constituency to have the same chances as I have had. It simply cannot be right that school pupils in Harborough, Oadby and Wigston get so much less funding than children in identical circumstances in other areas. The new national funding formula will start to address that injustice, and I hope that the Government will press on with it as soon as possible. I also want the forthcoming review of council funding to address the wider underfunding of Leicestershire.

To make the most of our community spirit, we have to make sure that everyone in it is included. We are an ageing society with more people living alone so loneliness is a growing problem. I commend the work of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and the fantastic work being done by mainly community groups in my constituency to address loneliness. I will get right behind them.

I am an optimist by nature. Yes, we are in a global economic race, but this country has better schools than ever before and a brilliant culture of enterprise. Yes, we are an ageing society, but I believe that, with more older people and time to volunteer, we have the conditions for a massive boom in our social and community life. Although this country faces some challenges, I for one believe that our best days still lie ahead.

Bill Grant – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Bill Grant, the Conservative MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, in the House of Commons on 3 July 2017.

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) on both his note-free speech and his choice of suit, which I have been admiring like other colleagues.

The Bill deals with ATOL and is relevant to people who choose to travel by air. Like my colleagues, I am minded to welcome and support it for three reasons: it is modernising; it is harmonising; and it provides good consumer protection.

May I begin my maiden speech by saying that I am indeed honoured and humbled to be in this Chamber today, having been elected by the people of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock? It is a privilege, and I will always remember that they trusted me with their vote. I value that and will do all that I can for the constituency of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock. May I share with hon. Members part of my life’s journey? It would be terribly boring if I gave them my whole life’s journey, but for the past 10 years I was an elected councillor in South Ayrshire. My ward was in the town of Ayr on the coast. There are many good things about Ayr, but I will touch on two. Ayr racecourse is one of the UK’s premier racecourses. I invite Members to come along and spend their money there—they might even make money that they can invest to make some more. Odds on, they may lose some money. In addition, we have hosted the Scottish international air show for the past three years. For the moment, it is a wonderful event. It is not a threat to Farnborough but, in years to come, one never knows.

My time on the council was preceded by 31 years in Strathclyde fire and rescue service. I served throughout Ayrshire and the central belt, was based in headquarters for 10 years as a member of the technical support team, and finally served as a senior officer covering Argyll and Bute, and the beautiful islands—I would name them, but there are too many. It was a complex and diverse fire service, with Glasgow sadly being remembered as a tinderbox city many years ago, and I was well aware of that. Given my background, it is particularly poignant for me to deliver my maiden speech so close in time to the tragic Grenfell Tower incident, which must surely have been a hell on earth for all concerned. I await with interest the outcome of what must be a thorough and effective public inquiry.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, Corri Wilson, for the good work she undertook in this Chamber and in the constituency during her period in office. I thank her and wish her well for the future. Some further thanks are due to my appointed buddy, Joanna Freeman, who is a tolerant and lovely woman. She guided me—a lost soul as one of the new MPs—through what I describe as the wonders of Westminster. I will also take a wee moment to thank my long-suffering wife, Agnes, our two daughters, Angela and Karen, and our family, ​who have been helpful in the journey that has brought me to this Chamber. Sandra Osborne, Phil Gallie and George Younger preceded Corri Wilson as MPs for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock. They were all excellent parliamentarians who may be remembered by some in this House.

Let me take Members back to the dark days of the second world war of 1939 to 1945, when the Labour MP for South Ayrshire was Alexander Sloan, better known locally as Sanny Sloan. A former miner and a workers’ champion, he served his community well, but regrettably, like so many miners, he was dogged by ill health and died in 1945, soon after his second victory in an election to this House. The commonality is that we were both born to mining families in the small Ayrshire mining village of Rankinston, albeit we were born some 72 years apart.

There are many proud British institutions, but I shall mention just two: this Parliament and the national health service. One wonders—dare I say it?—what the outcome would be if there were a referendum on which should be closed. I suspect that this Chamber would be empty. I thank the national health service, and Dr Nykerie and his team at the Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank near Glasgow, for the successful double bypass surgery that I successfully underwent in 2014. My family and I are eternally grateful to them. However, I must apologise to my constituents in Maybole, a town just south of Ayr. I waited three months for my bypass, but they have waited nearly 30 years for theirs. The town is severed by the A77, which is—excuse the pun—a main artery from the central belt of Scotland to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Jack) for the important ferry ports at Cairnryan that serve the ferry traffic to and from our neighbours in Ireland. It is an economic driver, so the A77 is an essential link. The punishment of the 30-tonners and 40-tonners taking that journey through the villages needs to be rectified, particularly at Maybole, and I am sure that it will be.

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock is a rural and coastal community that is, to some extent, the bread basket of Britain, with Ayrshire tatties, bacon and cheese, and Ayrshire cattle, not forgetting the—albeit smaller—fishing communities along our coast from Dunure to Maidens and Girvan, which is still an active port, and to Ballantrae in the southernmost part. The good food and eateries in the constituency are considerably more reasonably priced than those in London; they have wonderful prices. After consuming the lovely food of various eateries, visitors may wish to toast that good food with a fine whisky or a delicately distilled Hendrick’s gin from William Grant & Sons in Girvan. There is no connection. Although I am Bill Grant and they are William Grant, I do not have a distillery. Their product is wonderful. Hendrick’s gin and Grant’s whisky are global.

As an area, we have attracted many famous people. Post-war, President Eisenhower was gifted access to and the use of apartments at the beautiful Culzean castle. More recently, another President—President Trump, although he was known as Donald at the time—secured the Turnberry hotel and golf course. I thank his son Eric for the investment in this world-class facility and for securing its future and the associated employment.

We were home to Sir William Arrol, who resided at Seafield House in Ayr. More recently, that was a children’s hospital, where Dr John McClure MBE was the senior ​paediatrician for many years. Sir William Arrol was the engineer responsible for building the Forth rail bridge—I nearly said road bridge, but that is not the case—the gantries at Harland and Wolff in Belfast, where the infamous or famous ship, the Titanic, was built; and Tower bridge here in London.

This being an Ayrshire constituency, it would be remiss of me not to mention Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, who was born at Alloway—the ploughman poet, whose fondness for women is renowned. The women were far more fertile than the fields he ploughed, producing numerous offspring, and I am sure he would have faced immense challenges from the Child Support Agency.

But his passion went far beyond the fairer sex, and he penned many poems and songs, with lines such as

“Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon”.

From its source at Loch Doon, the River Doon gently winds its way past Dalmellington, Waterside, Patna, Polnessan, Dalrymple, Alloway and finally to the Firth of Clyde at the aptly named Doonfoot.

There is also “Afton Water”:

“Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes”.

The River Afton gently winds its way past New Cumnock, where I shall pause for a moment and mention the local football team, Glenafton Athletic, better known as The Glens, who, during the election campaign, won the Scottish junior cup by beating nearby rivals Auchinleck Talbot. To see New Cumnock bedecked in the team colours of red and white, with virtually every home displaying them, and with the lampposts adorned with bunting, was a credit to the strength and community spirit of New Cumnock, and I commend it for that and for the victory on the football park.

As we move onwards, we come to Cumnock, sometimes referred to as Old Cumnock, which plays host to Emergency One (UK), bespoke builders of fire appliances and emergency vehicles that are used throughout the United Kingdom. I commend them for their good work as they export—yes, I will use the word “export”—from Cumnock in Scotland all over the United Kingdom.

As we move on towards Ochiltree, I will stop for a moment at Dumfries House. May I give immense thanks to His Royal Highness Prince Charles for his involvement and, indeed, vision in not only saving Dumfries House for the nation but securing job opportunities in catering and tourism within and, indeed, beyond the constituency? Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock has a proud past. As the Member of Parliament for that constituency, I will endeavour to do my best to secure a promising future.

Finally, an extract from Robert Burns’s poem “To A Mouse”, which may be reflected on by many parliamentarians from all parties, whether past, present or future. It reads simply:

“The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!”

Ben Lake – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Ben Lake, the Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, in the House of Commons on 13 July 2017.

Diolch, Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you for affording me the opportunity to make my maiden speech this afternoon.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) and, in particular, the hon. Members for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) and for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin), who both made excellent maiden speeches. Indeed, they set an exacting standard. They spoke from the heart and I have no doubt that they will be a credit to their party, their constituencies and this House.

I welcome the opportunity to remember the third battle of Ypres in the House and to commemorate the first world war. As the years go by, it becomes increasingly important that we remember the conflict and especially the sacrifice of all those who lost their lives. We must ensure that we learn the lessons of the past and strive never again to subject people to such suffering and horror. While visiting one of the many Commonwealth war cemeteries that pepper the Flemish countryside, it was heartbreaking to stumble across seemingly never-ending rows of young lives cut short by the conflict.

As has already been mentioned this afternoon, perhaps the most famous of the casualties from Wales was Ellis Humphrey Evans, or Hedd Wyn, a son of Trawsfynydd, in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts). Hedd Wyn was a talented poet who, tragically, was killed before learning of his greatest literary triumph. Just a few weeks before winning the most prestigious prize for poetry at the National Eisteddfod, the bardic chair, he was killed at the battle of Passchendaele at the young age of 30.

A manuscript of the winning ode, “Yr Arwr”, or “The Hero”, in Hedd Wyn’s own hand, is one of the many precious treasures housed at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. This sentinel of our nation’s heritage is perched on Penglais hill, overlooking Cardigan bay, a jewel of the Welsh coast, which I now have the privilege of representing as the Member for Ceredigion. I am truly humbled that the people of this great constituency have put their faith in me to speak for them in this place. I am looking forward to working hard on their behalf and serving them well, and I will strive to be worthy of this trust.

My immediate predecessor, Mark Williams, was elected in 2005. He gained the respect of this House and the affection of the constituency, thanks to over 12 years of tireless service. Thousands of people from across the county have benefited from his advice and assistance, and I hope to continue with his good work. I wish him and his family the very best for the future.​
Ceredigion is my home. From the peak of Pen Pumlumon Fawr to the tranquillity of the Teifi estuary, its hills and valleys rarely fail to speak to its sons and daughters. It is no surprise that hiraeth should be such a common affliction of Cardis who find themselves absent from the county for too long. As the second most sparsely populated county in Wales, Ceredigion is largely a rural area. Agriculture is the backbone of many of our communities. Farming not only supports a significant proportion of the workforce, but also sustains a range of social activities and events that are the lifeblood of the county.

Ceredigion stretches from the banks of the Dyfi in the north to Cardigan Island in the south. It is bounded in the east by the magnificent hills of the Elenydd, and flanked to the west by spectacular coastline. Indeed, this year blue flags proudly fly above the pristine beaches at Aberporth, Aberystwyth, Borth, Llangrannog, New Quay and Tresaith. Tourism plays a vital economic role in the area, which is unsurprising given that Ceredigion is widely acknowledged to be the most beautiful constituency in Wales.

Ceredigion’s natural beauty is complemented by the diverse nature of her settlements, from the picturesque Georgian harbour town of Aberaeron to the historic mustering point of the drovers at Tregaron, which continues to hold a thriving livestock market to this day.

Although predominantly a rural constituency, we boast two university towns. The university at Aberystwyth was established in 1872, thanks to the pennies of the people—thousands of individual donations from across Wales; and Lampeter is home to the oldest degree-awarding institution in Wales, founded in 1822.

We can also justifiably claim to be the capital of Welsh culture. In addition to housing the National Library of Wales and two universities, Ceredigion has two thriving publishing houses in Talybont and Llandysul, and the recently restored castle in Cardigan played host to the first National Eisteddfod in 1176. The most famous of Welsh bard, Dafydd ap Gwilym, was born in Penrhyncoch, and my hometown of Lampeter is the birthplace of Welsh rugby, with the first recorded match being played there in 1866.

That rich mix of rural and urban defines Ceredigion—a tapestry of communities woven tightly by the emphatic landscape and the famous quick-witted humour of the Cardi.

Although we must speak to our strengths, we cannot be blind to the reality that the uncertainty surrounding our departure from the European Union poses a daunting challenge to the very fabric of our community. During my time in this place, I will strive to ensure that the best interests of the rural economy and higher education are at the forefront of the minds of Government Ministers as they conduct Brexit negotiations.

Madam Deputy Speaker, we cannot allow ourselves to be forgotten. Decisions taken in London have long overlooked the rural economy, with public investment too often bypassing the hinterland. For too long, amenities considered essential to the urban economy are dismissed as mere luxuries in more rural areas.

Several of my predecessors in this House have pointed to the tragic irony that Ceredigion bestows upon its youth an unrivalled education, but offers them a paucity of job opportunities and affordable housing. For decades, ​our county has lost the potential and the vitality of her youth. Around half her young people leave the county by the time they reach 25 years of age.

Many of the young who have left are Welsh speakers, which has meant that in my lifetime—which, I am sure hon. and right hon. Members will agree, is not particularly long—the percentage of people living in Ceredigion that can speak the language has declined from around 60% to just 47%. This steady, silent haemorrhage saps the life of nearly every town and village the length and breadth of the county.

During my time in this place, I look forward to working with those across the political divide to refocus the Government’s attention on the challenges facing rural areas, and to encourage greater efforts at developing our economy.

Madam Deputy Speaker, we are a proud people in Ceredigion, and we possess an historic resolve to buck national trends. We are also of independent spirit—over the years we have seen fit to elect Members to this House from across the political spectrum. I am particularly proud to follow in the footsteps of my distinguished Plaid Cymru predecessors, Simon Thomas and Cynog Dafis. They worked tirelessly for Ceredigion and were passionate about guarding rural areas from the negligence of a remote Government. Twenty-five years after the election of the first Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, I am committed to building on this legacy. It is the greatest of honours to have been entrusted by the people of our county during this critical time. As we come together today to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives during the first world war, we can all be inspired by their deep sense of duty. It is that sense of duty and service that I will seek to embrace.

I would like to finish by quoting one of Ceredigion’s greatest sons and a founding member of Plaid Cymru, Prosser Rhys. He wrote:

“Deued a ddêl, rhaid imi mwy

Sefyll neu syrthio gyda hwy.”

Whether I am faced by opportunities or obstacles, the best interests of my county and my constituents will be at the very heart of all my endeavours. Diolch yn fawr.

Paul Sweeney – 2017 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Paul Sweeney, the Labour MP for Glasgow North East, in the House of Commons on 13 July 2017.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak. I also thank right hon. and hon. Members and distinguished strangers in the Gallery for their presence. I am grateful for this opportunity to deliver my maiden speech and to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin) who made a remarkable and inspirational maiden speech about his journey from new citizen to Member of this House and we welcome him with genuine hearts.

It is a great privilege to deliver my maiden speech in a debate about such a tumultuous event in our nation’s history. I congratulate the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) on his re-election as Chair of the Defence Committee and thank my friend, the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) for his kind introduction earlier today.

It is customary for a new Member to make some reference to his predecessors, and reflecting on the introductory remarks of Richard Buchanan in his 1964 maiden speech, I noted that he declared:

“If it were within my power to introduce a new tradition to this House, it would be that hon. Members who are making their maiden speeches should do so from the Dispatch Box so that they might lay their trembling hands upon it and give some support to their quaking knees”.

On rising to speak today, I can thoroughly attest to my sympathy for those sentiments. The only consolation is that I will not have long to wait for relief, as I will have the first opportunity to address this House from the Dispatch Box next week as shadow Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I can only hope that it will provide more ample support for my trembling limbs.

Dick Buchanan was the embodiment of the finest political traditions of my constituency: he was a proud railway worker, socialist and trade unionist. During his tenure as a councillor on the Glasgow Corporation, it was not unknown for him to turn up at the city chambers from the Cowlairs railway works in his boiler suit, before changing into the dapper pinstriped suit of the city treasurer. He also left an eminent legacy to future Members of this House as Chairman of the House of Commons Library Committee during its transition from an old-style, gentleman’s-club library to the expert modern research facility that is at the disposal of Members of Parliament today. I am sure that that facility has been particularly appreciated by those new Members preparing their maiden speeches.

The area of Glasgow that I represent has a remarkable and diverse history, and that is reflected in the diversity and vibrancy of the people who live there today. From its early origins at the northern frontier of the Roman Empire, it has subsequently been vital to Glasgow’s development, even though it was formally incorporated into the city only in 1891, when Glasgow’s territory was doubled in size. The Molendinar Burn, on the banks of which the founder of Glasgow, St. Mungo, established his cathedral and with it the surrounding town, flows from Hogganfield loch, the fresh waters of which also nourished what is the longest established business in the city of Glasgow—Tennent’s brewery. The brewery was founded at the Drygate in the 1550s and its amber nectar has slaked the thirst of many a Glaswegian over the centuries.

When I attempt to visualise the evolution of my part of Glasgow, Danny Boyle’s epic opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic games immediately springs to mind. What was once an area of sylvan beauty and rural charm, a landscape of farms and weavers’ cottages, was rapidly swept away as the first harbingers of the industrial age emerged—the first canals and, later, the first railways in Scotland which, traversed the district. By happy coincidence of its position on the approach to central Glasgow from Edinburgh and the Lanarkshire coalfields, Springburn found itself at the epicentre of this frenetic growth as railway manufacturing and associated industries coalesced there to form the largest centre of locomotive manufacture in the British empire. At its peak, it employed 8,000 people and had the capacity to build 600 steam locomotives a year, most of which were for export.

Other engineering innovations were pioneered there, too, most notably the Johnston Dogcart, which, in 1895, was the first motor car to be built in Britain by railway engineer George Johnston in Balgrayhill. The first road trials took place in the dead of night, with Johnston driving the car at a reckless 12 mph on a 20-mile journey around Glasgow. For this apparently reckless behaviour, he was charged with contravening the Locomotive Acts by driving his horseless carriage during prohibited hours along Buchanan Street—then, as now, the main shopping thoroughfare in Glasgow.

Today my constituency retains this fine automotive industry pedigree in the form of Allied Vehicles, the largest manufacturer of specialist taxis and mobility vehicles in the United Kingdom, which employs more than 650 highly skilled people in Possilpark. This high-value manufacturer is also ingrained in the community, supporting many excellent projects such as Possobilities, which supports disabled people in the local area, as well as the highly successful Glasgow Tigers speedway.

As my friend the hon. Member for Glasgow South mentioned earlier, our engineering prowess was also critical to supporting Britain’s war effort during the first world war. Springburn’s railway works gave themselves over to the production of munitions for the duration of the war. Throughout this period, they were responsible for producing war material such as the first tanks and aircraft. The works also produced the first modern artificial limbs for wounded servicemen.

The directors of the North British Locomotive Company even offered their headquarters building to the Red Cross, as existing hospitals were insufficient to cope with the war wounded. It opened on Christmas eve 1914. Wounded troops would be transported directly from the southern channel ports to the hospital on specially converted ambulance trains. By the end of the war, a total of 8,211 servicemen had been treated.

Nearby Stobhill Hospital, the place where I first entered a more peaceful world some 75 years later, was also requisitioned by the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1914 and more than 1,000 patients were cared for there at any given time until the return of the hospital to civilian use in 1920. As an Army reservist, I have the sacrifice that my city made during the first world war impressed on me every year when I attend the Remembrance Day service in George Square. The stark enormity of the statement on the city’s cenotaph, that Glasgow raised over 200,000 troops—a fifth of its population—with 18,000 of that number losing their lives and a further 35,000 injured, never fails to move me with the sheer scale of the carnage that afflicted working people a century ago.

My constituency of Glasgow North East was created at the 2005 general election by the amalgamation of the Glasgow Springburn and Glasgow Maryhill seats. Both areas have previously enjoyed excellent representation from exemplary parliamentarians. Although my seat was once described as a Labour citadel, there were even two Conservative Members in the interwar period, though that was thankfully a brief dalliance. The metaphorically and physically towering legacy of my antecedents was brought into sharp focus when I recently had the opportunity to venture into the Speaker’s House and was confronted by a 14-foot-high oil painting of Lord Martin of Springburn and Port Dundas. If there was ever a more effective device to make his successors feel simultaneously inspired and inadequate I have yet to find one.

Michael Martin succeeded Dick Buchanan as the MP for Springburn from 1979 to 2009, which of course culminated in his election as Speaker of the House of Commons from 2000 onwards. His parliamentary career, spanning seven consecutive general elections, was selflessly committed to the service of others and epitomises the opportunity that the Labour movement has offered for the advancement of working-class people over the last century. He rose from being a Springburn sheet metal worker and shop steward to become the Speaker of this House. I was particularly gratified to meet Lord Martin just last week, and he told me of his delight that his seat was now back in “safe hands”, as he put it.

My first ever experience of party political campaigning was in the Glasgow North East by-election of 2009, after a telephone call from Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah drew me from my exam revision to help William Bain hold the seat for Labour. As someone who was also born and raised in the local area—we were both the first members of our respective families to benefit from a university education—William proved to be a dedicated, industrious and committed champion for our city and its communities during his time in the House, speaking vociferously in opposition to the coalition Government’s vicious and self- defeating austerity policies during his tenure as shadow Scotland Office Minister.

Before I had the opportunity to meet my immediate predecessor, Anne McLaughlin, I watched her maiden speech with great interest when she delivered it almost two years ago to the day, in July 2015. I was particularly impressed by her yearning passion for improving the lives of her constituents and restoring civic pride to our communities—a passion that I share deeply. Anne cited the example of the project to restore the historic Springburn winter gardens, the largest glasshouse in Scotland, as a totemic symbol of our mission to continue regenerating a community that is still contending with the challenge of urban dereliction. As one of the founders of the project, I was personally delighted that Anne made such a generous endorsement of our efforts in her maiden speech. I would also like to thank her for the friendly and good-natured election campaign we conducted in June and I look forward to working together in areas of mutual interest in the future.

All the maiden speeches of my predecessors reflect common challenges that have faced our constituents over the years. Though much progress has been made in certain areas, unfortunately many of the issues they identified decades ago remain all too stubbornly apparent today. Michael Martin referred to the urgent need to strengthen Government intervention in developing new industries to revitalise the local economy and alleviate the unemployment and despair caused by the collapse of locomotive manufacturing. That legacy of decline is something that my constituency has never fully recovered from. I felt that keenly from an early age, as I learned about Springburn’s past industrial glories from my grandparents. It is what inspired me to follow my grandfather and father into the Clyde shipbuilding industry, and later to move to Scottish Enterprise, burning with a zeal to rejuvenate the great Clyde-built industries that once gave pride and prosperity to our city.

Having recently been involved with the development of Labour’s new industrial strategy for Scotland, I am excited about the opportunity before us to unlock a new era of prosperity with the application of coherent, long-term thinking about the development of more high-value industries in our country, and I look forward to pursuing that vision with vigorous enthusiasm in this place.

Another recurring subject for my predecessors is housing, particularly exploitation by private landlords and the mass clearance of housing in areas such as Springburn. All Glasgow Labour MPs have stood firmly in the tradition of John Wheatley and his famous Housing Act of 1924, which provided state subsidies for house building to build a land fit for heroes. It led directly to the creation of Glasgow’s municipal housing system, and saw large-scale building of some 57,000 new homes in new districts such as Riddrie and Carntyne in my constituency between the wars.

Heroines such as Mary Barbour led the struggle against rapacious landlordism during the first world war; she led the women of the city in the 1915 rent strike that ultimately forced this House to legislate to control rents for the duration of the war. I am delighted that my predecessor Maria Fyfe, who represented Glasgow Maryhill for so many years, has successfully campaigned for a statue commemorating Mary Barbour and the Glasgow rent strikers—only the fourth statue of a woman to be erected in the city of Glasgow.

As a result of the efforts of my predecessor Michael and others, Glasgow pioneered the modern housing association movement that saved many of the traditional Victorian tenements in areas such as Dennistoun and Springburn. By writing off the city’s £1 billion housing debt, the last Labour Government enabled an unprecedented renewal of its housing stock, led by organisations such as ng homes; more than £100 million has been invested in improving housing standards in my constituency. These physical improvements are about not just the sandstone, glass and slate, but reinvigorating the very soul and character of our city, and what it means and feels like to be a Glaswegian from one generation to the next.

These efforts have, however, been frustrated by Conservative party policies that continue to undermine living standards in my constituency. Despite efforts to regenerate our communities, my constituents are still subject to the indignity of benefit sanctions, tax credit cuts and frozen wages. With unemployment and benefit claimant rates in my constituency double the national average, and child poverty at a disgraceful 36%, the continued onslaught of Tory cuts to living standards is too much to bear for many. When a constituent approaches me in the street to describe how she was forced to financially support her son and his partner, who was suffering from a terminal brain tumour, for nine months before his death, as he had been found fit to work and had had his benefits cut, it is clear to me that we have seen the creation of a new national minimum definition of dignity, under which anything short of starvation and anything above destitution is now seemingly acceptable —a definition that is apparently blind to any appeal to human compassion. That view was galvanised when I watched those on the Government Benches cheer with perverse triumph as our effort to remove the public sector pay cap was defeated last month, quite oblivious to the harm it causes to millions of people.

My duty as a Labour Member of Parliament has been crystallised by those observations. The people of Glasgow North East sent me here because they despair of the Tories and yearn for the vision of hope and prosperity that Labour has offered them under the inspirational leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn).

In 1948, this House, having witnessed the disastrous effects of two terrible world wars, was told that the welfare state had been established to remove the shame from need and to create a society with solidarity at its foundation. Today it is our solemn responsibility to do everything in our power to defeat this Government and restore that abiding principle in our society. That is why the people of Glasgow North East sent me here, and I will do my utmost to repay their faith in me through how I acquit myself in pursuit of that endeavour in this House.