The Economy and Welfare Reform
Barbara Keeley (Worsley, Labour)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate, and I congratulate Mrs. Dorries on an excellent maiden speech. I also wish to express my gratitude to established Members of Parliament of all parties and to the staff of the House, whose advice and kindness is helping me and other new Members to find our feet.
The constituency of Worsley contains wards in both Salford and Wigan metropolitan boroughs. Although covering two local authority areas is a complex matter, I am grateful for the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends in neighbouring constituencies in those two boroughs—I want to represent the people of Worsley as well as I know that they represent their constituents.
I pay tribute to the 22 years of service in this House of my predecessor Terry Lewis. Many hon. Members have told me that they liked and respected Terry, and I understand that a typical picture is of him sitting on the Benches below the Gangway vying with his hon. Friends to intervene during debates with Conservatives. I wish Terry well in his retirement after so many years as Worsley's Member of Parliament.
Manufacturing, mining, cotton and weaving were historically Worsley's key industries. That industrial heritage is still evident in our canals and landmark buildings. An important event in Worsley's history was the building of the Bridgewater canal in the 18th century by the third Duke of Bridgewater—the famous canal duke. It was built to take coal from Worsley to Manchester and was later extended to the River Mersey at Runcorn, linking Manchester and Liverpool by waterway. The canal was regarded as an 18th century masterpiece. Nowadays it is an attraction for visitors, particularly the canal basin with its distinctive orange-coloured water.
Coal mining started in the Worsley area in the 14th century, initially from open-cast mines. Deep mining of coal developed in a number of local pits, but production ceased more than 30 years ago. At Astley Green, the pit winding gear acts as a local landmark—the only surviving pithead in Lancashire. It is being developed by volunteers as a museum and heritage centre. However, mining is in Worsley's future as well as its past. UK Coal has plans for new open-cast mining at the Cutacre site. Having researched the effects of open-cast mining on local communities in Yorkshire and Scotland, I have many concerns about that development, and I will campaign to ensure that people in Little Hulton, Walkden, Shakerley and Tyldesley do not suffer unduly from mining activity over the next few years.
Worsley has always played a key part in providing important transport links between the region's cities and towns, including the Roman road that linked the forts at Manchester and Wigan, the Bridgewater canal, Stephenson's Manchester to Liverpool railway, and now the M60 and the east Lancashire road. Such transport links are vital, but my constituents suffer traffic congestion and noise pollution from them. Indeed, traffic congestion at the Worsley interchange is so bad that there are daily traffic reports about it on local radio. The accident rate on the east Lancashire road also causes concern. Therefore, I pledge to make highway safety, traffic congestion and the need for improved public transport some of the key priorities on which I will campaign for change.
Worsley is a constituency of great contrasts. Although the Worsley ward has many properties selling at over a million pounds, a few miles away, Little Hulton ward is the second most deprived ward in Salford, and the 138th most deprived in the UK. The ward suffered greatly under 18 Tory years, and measures by the Labour Government of the past eight years are at last starting to make a difference. I hope that my career experience will help me to represent such a diverse area.
Worsley no longer has the mining jobs or a large number of the manufacturing jobs that it had in earlier decades. However, we have a large number of public sector staff, because the national health service and the two local authorities are the biggest local employers. We also have many jobs in service industries and small businesses. My background in some ways mirrors that mix. In my early career, I worked in the IT industry as a systems engineering manager working with the type of small businesses that we have in Worsley, and which I am sure will be assisted by the extra help for small businesses mentioned earlier by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I decided that my heart was more with the values of the public and voluntary sectors, and I became a self-employed adviser working on community regeneration projects. I learned a great deal about the need for partnership working and how to listen to people from community organisations.
I hope to use that experience to support community regeneration initiatives in my constituency, for example, in communities such as Higher Folds, where the community centre and the tenants' and residents' association have an understanding of what local people need. Government funding channelled through the Coalfields Regeneration Trust can help to develop that former coalfield community, but people such as Jackie Farrington and Eileen Waldron from such local organisations can point to what the community needs.
I also want new sport and leisure facilities to develop, particularly for young people. However, even the best facilities need the commitment of people such as Mavis Bent and Gwyn Pierce, who run the Tyldesley swimming and water polo club, which was established in 1876 and now has scores of volunteer coaches and 400 young members. Such voluntary organisations are vital because our communities need to be brought together. I want the towns and estates in Worsley to have the best shared community life we can develop, as well as improved services and facilities.
Since 2001, I have worked nationally on policy issues related to carers. Although my work commitments have changed, carers' issues will always remain important to me. There are many thousands of unpaid carers in my constituency, including some 2,000 people who care for more than 50 hours a week. Our health and social care services benefit greatly from the work of those unpaid carers. I hope that understanding the national policy issues for carers will help me to improve support for carers in my constituency. Carers week starts on
As we heard earlier, most new Members' speeches have touched on the success or strengths of a local sports team, but doing that would be hazardous for me. Some of my constituents support Manchester United, others support Bolton Wanderers, while some even support Manchester City, including my hon. Friend Paul Goggins. Many people support Salford City Reds or Leigh or Wigan's rugby league teams. However, rather than siding with any one local club, I wish all the very best to the England women's football squad, which will soon embark on the UEFA European women's championship, which kicks off in Manchester on
I am exceedingly proud to be the first woman MP to represent Worsley constituency and part of the Wigan borough. I thank the people of Worsley for the trust that they have shown in me, and I also thank the House for listening to me today.