Building a High-Skilled Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:25 pm on 17th June 2010.

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Photo of Jason McCartney Jason McCartney Conservative, Colne Valley 3:25 pm, 17th June 2010

I welcome you to your position, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you very much for inviting me to make my maiden speech this afternoon. This is quite a nerve-racking occasion, but I feel a little more relaxed now that we have been talking about football, which I know a lot about. Like Steve Rotheram, who is a red through and through, I am a blue through and through: I am a fan of Huddersfield Town, who play in blue and white. There are some similarities between our clubs-for example, the great Bill Shankly began his managerial career at Huddersfield. I am not sure how many other similarities we will have over the years, but I look forward to talking to the hon. Gentleman about football for many years to come.

I should like to praise Conservative Members who made their maiden speeches earlier. Again, I will mention football, because my hon. Friend Iain Stewart is one of those Members, and I certainly enjoy travelling around Milton Keynes trying to find the football ground. My hon. Friend Caroline Nokes also spoke, and I wish Southampton football club good luck in the forthcoming season without the deficit of 10 points that it had last season.

I want to pay tribute to two of my predecessors. Speaking of football, it was at Millwall football club, three weeks ago, that I ran into Graham Riddick, who was the Member of Parliament for Colne Valley between 1987 and 1997. While I was cheering on the Terriers in the play-offs down at the New Den, I looked along the terracing and, lo and behold, there was Graham Riddick cheering them on too. It was great to catch up with him and he gave me many words of advice and encouragement, so I thank him for that.

I should also like to say a few kind words about my direct predecessor, Kali Mountford, who spent a lot of time helping me and my office manager by talking us through all the casework that she so pleasingly handed over to us; she looked very relieved as she did so. I praise Kali for her work with the Anthony Nolan bone marrow trust, which she has promoted in recent years. As a result of her hard work there, I have signed up to the trust and I encourage all hon. Members and members of the public to do so. That campaign was motivated by the death of a campaigning journalist from The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Adrian Sudbury, and I congratulate Kali on highlighting it. She has suffered from poor health in recent years and I wish her and her husband Ian the best of luck in the years to come.

Colne Valley is not the best name for a constituency, because those coming from south of Watford, for example, think that it is related to a town called Colne in Lancashire, but it is not. We are in West Yorkshire, and we are proud to be Yorkshire folk. The Colne valley itself is one of three main areas of the constituency. It has some lovely little mill towns on the River Colne, including Marsden, Slaithwaite, which we call "Slawit", and Linthwaite. I also have some of Huddersfield's suburbs, from leafy suburbs in Lindley to more densely populated areas such as that of my Kashmiri population at Thornton Lodge.

Then we get to the valley where I live-the Holme valley, which includes my village of Honley, as well as Brockholes and the big market town of Holmfirth. It really is a beautiful part of the world with lovely countryside, stone walls, lots of sheep and lots of traditional folk. That brings me to Cleggy, who has had a bad time in the past month. He has had an absolute nightmare- [ Interruption. ] No, not that Cleggy: I am talking about Cleggy from "Last of the Summer Wine", who, along with his pals Compo, Foggy and Nora Batty, is no more because the BBC has ditched the long-running television series that graced our screens on Sunday evenings on BBC1. That gentle comedy about Yorkshire folk, usually going downhill in a bathtub, was very much a mainstay of our television and it helped to promote tourism in my constituency. In Holmfirth, which is just a mile up the road from where I live, we have a Compo's caff and there is a Wrinkled Stocking café just two doors down from my new constituency office, so we will really miss that opportunity to promote tourism.

All that brings me to the subject of this debate: the high-skilled economy. Many people say to me-other Members of the House probably hear this too-that we do not make things any more, but I am proud to say that in my constituency we do. It is not on a large scale, but I have a number of enterprising, entrepreneurial and innovative businesses that have set up, sometimes in old mills, to create products that have a niche market and that are exporting around the world. I shall mention just a few. There are little engineering companies such as Dathan in Meltham, which produces specialist gear cutting equipment that is used in the Formula 1 motor racing industry. Allsops precision sheet metal work, which uses the latest laser-guided cutting tools, is taking on apprentices. It is not on a massive scale, but it has more than 100 employees and it is looking to expand.

I also have David Brown Gear Systems in Lockwood, which I visited with the then shadow Minister for Universities and Skills, my right hon. Friend Mr Willetts, before the election campaign. It has its own in-house training scheme called the Gear Academy and it is training some wonderful youngsters up to work on making gear equipment. Those gears are now being used not only in our submarines but in the wind turbine industry. I also have pharmaceuticals, with Thornton and Ross on the River Colne. I have an ice cream factory, Longleys Farm, which makes the most wonderful ice cream. It has just opened a new ice cream parlour in Holmfirth.

Talking of "Last of the Summer Wine", we even have a vineyard now-a real live Yorkshire vineyard. A wonderful enterprising young couple called Ian and Becky Sheveling gave up high-flying careers, bought a lovely plot of land and planted their vines. They have just produced their first bottles of rosé and have obtained planning permission for a tasting centre and an eco-lodge. That will help promote tourism and we shall have real bottles of wine from the area of "Last of the Summer Wine". That is fantastic.

It is these sorts of little enterprises that we, in a high-skilled economy, must try to promote. We have to cut the red tape; we should support them with lower taxes; we must give them the skills in the work force and the local infrastructure so that their workers can live and work locally. We have got to support local rural post offices. In my village of Honley, I have a most wonderful couple, Brenda and Duncan Bodenhem. The post office is not only their livelihood but their way of life. They organise the Christmas lights; they help all the old people come in and out; they do dry cleaning. They do not provide just the usual post office services.

Post offices, especially the rural ones, are struggling, and our post office network was decimated in the last decade. It is important that we support them, because once they are gone, they are gone. We also need to support things such as rural bus services, so that people can live in my rural communities and work there as well. We need to support the health centres and health services. I am trying to get full maternity services back in the area of Huddersfield. That is really important.

I am proud to have been elected the Member of Parliament for Colne Valley. It is a beautiful part of the world with some enterprising businesses and a fantastic football team in Huddersfield Town. We also have just down the road in Huddersfield the birthplace of rugby league, so I have to mention the Huddersfield Giants, who are striving hard this season. They are having a bit of a poor run at the moment, but I hope that they will turn the corner.

Before I sit down, I should like to say that many of us here in this House, especially the new Members, have been through a gruelling and hard-fought election campaign. I and all my family and friends went through a lot to get me here. I know that the Speaker himself had a bit of a tough election campaign. Steve Rotheram had a straightforward election campaign; his is the safest seat in the House. I would love to know what that feels like, having stood in a three-way marginal.

I was lucky to have my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visit my constituency-not so lucky to have the Deputy Prime Minister-during the election campaign. I finally pay tribute to my fantastic campaign team. John Travis was my campaign manager. I have a fantastic family. My parents live just up the valley from me. I pay tribute to them. My mum and dad have never walked so much in all their lives. It takes about an hour to deliver to just three cottages because they have such long walkways. It is a privilege to be here today, but I am itching to get back up to the constituency this evening. The office is up and running, and I am looking forward to being out in Holmfirth and through the valleys over the weekend, representing the people who sent me here. There is a lot to do and I hope that I can do it with vigour and vim-and cheer on Huddersfield Town to promotion next season.

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peter sykes
Posted on 8 Sep 2010 11:49 am (Report this annotation)

This is just the kind of information we need from Jason. There is also a Dixons ice cream shop he forgot to mention that sells wonderful ice cream and they are right next to the gears company already mentioned.. Yummy...