Paulette Hamilton – 2022 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

The speech made by Paulette Hamilton, the Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, in the House of Commons on 16 May 2022.

Today I stand, Madam Deputy Speaker, to thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech. It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price).

I can only say how proud I am to be a Brummie today. I am overwhelmed but privileged to be standing here today in this great institution. Being elected to Parliament is not a right, it is an honour, and it is an even greater honour knowing that your community voted for you to be here. When I was elected on 4 March, people found it difficult to understand that I was the first female to be elected for the Erdington constituency. They were even more shocked to learn that I was the first person of African and Caribbean descent to be elected as a Member of Parliament in Birmingham. I hope the constituency shares my pride in knowing that they have made history.

In saying that, I cannot go any further without talking about the late, great Jack Dromey MP. Jack was elected in May 2010 and worked relentlessly to serve our community. He said in Parliament, and often within the constituency, in his speeches:

“Erdington may be rich in talent, but it is one of the poorest constituencies in the country.”—[Official Report, 15 September 2021; Vol. 700, c. 984.]

Until his death he worked to support his constituency, in so many ways. Any job lost in the area was a personal blow to Jack. The many tributes that have been made to him in this place and in the community show how much he is deeply missed.

I grew up in Handsworth, in the neighbouring constituency of Perry Barr, but Erdington is a place I have called home for 35 years. Over 103,000 people live in the constituency, and we have a diverse community: 26% are BME people, and over 69% are under the age of 45. Some families, sadly, have not worked for three generations. It is important to get those people back to work. We need to invest, instil confidence, give opportunity and build aspirations into our young people.

I am looking forward to being involved in debates relating to people living with mental health issues. Serving as the mental health champion for Birmingham City Council, the first ever to be elected, I have seen at first hand the increase in the number of people living with mental health issues, and the massive increase, since the pandemic, in the number of young people living with severe and enduring mental illnesses. The funding in this area has been cut, and it does need to be increased, as mental health services are struggling to access adequate in-patient beds when they are needed.

In Erdington, the community has also seen an alarming increase in the number of houses in multiple occupation. We have the second highest number in the city. My constituency needs to see an urgent change in legislation to ensure that poor, unscrupulous landlords are punished, fined and removed from the market if they fail to comply with the rules that are designed to protect residents.

These are just some of the many issues that I will be raising on behalf of my constituency, as I heard about them time and time again while out campaigning.

My children were born in Erdington—some of them are up in the Public Gallery—and they went to Erdington schools, of which we have over 40 in my constituency. I have 40 schools to visit, and I promise I will be visiting all of them. I know I will feel at home when I do, because arriving in Parliament after a by-election has truly made me feel like the new girl at school.

My husband opened his first shop on the Slade Road in the late 1980s, in an area where the high street was dying, so as a family we were acutely aware of the difficulties that other small businesses were experiencing back then. At the same time, I trained as a nurse and worked at the local health centre in Warren Farm Road, Kingstanding, for several years. My career in the health service lasted for over 25 years, and it has truly shaped my political career.

As I have already noted, Erdington is a very diverse part of Birmingham, with a wonderful strong community and neighbourhood spirit, and people who work very hard and look out for each other. One day you could be celebrating Eid in Stockland Green, or Vaisakhi in the local gurdwara; on another, you could be working with our strong Irish or African-Caribbean community to celebrate the Good Friday walk along the high street. Our manufacturing history is well known, but sadly too many of our workplaces have closed. It is vital that new business comes into the constituency, so it is important that through the levelling-up fund we are given funding to develop our high streets, particularly Erdington High Street.

The Erdington constituency can look quite dark and lacking in green space when you drive through it. That is because of roads like the Gravelly Hill interchange, which I am sure everyone here knows as spaghetti junction. If you look more closely, however, under spaghetti junction—as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Gary Sambrook) will confirm—you can walk along some of the most beautiful canal walkways in the country. We are also fortunate to have many lovely parks such as Pype Hayes Park and Rookery Park, Short Heath Playing Fields, and the beautiful 13-acre site owned by Erdington Rugby Club. I would also like to mention the stunning bowling facility in the constituency run by the Erdington Court Bowls Club. The Brookvale lakes and Witton Lodge lakes, where residents take part in a duckling watch to ensure that we preserve the natural beauty of this area, are truly incredible. Alongside that is the amazing eco-hub run by an organisation called the Witton Lodge Community Association.

When I won this election, my husband looked on and said, “Well done. Now the work starts.” How right he was. After receiving more than 2,000 emails plus sacks of mail in my first month, I am under no illusions that the role of an MP is many things to many people. We are here to help, guide, advise, support and represent our constituents.

I want to thank the people of Birmingham, Erdington for putting their faith and trust in me. It is an amazing privilege to be here. My promise to you is that I will work tirelessly on your behalf, both in this place and in the community. Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.