Vale of Clwyd was a newly created seat in 1997, and for 18 years it was represented by Mr Chris Ruane, a former primary school teacher at Ysgol Mair in Rhyl. An assiduous Member, Mr Ruane spent four years as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Peter Hain, but he will be best remembered as a popular and hard-working local MP. I pay tribute to his commitment to the area during all those years.
It is a great honour for me to represent in Parliament the area where I was born and brought up. I sincerely thank all those who put their trust in me, as well as my family, particularly my wife Nina and 19-month-old son Wilfred, who is already a veteran campaigner. My constituency is in an area which has been true blue for most of the past 100 years. It has been represented by such well known and somewhat controversial figures as Nigel Birch, later Baron Rhyl, and Sir Anthony Meyer, both of whom played a part in the overthrow of a Prime Minister. I assure the leadership that I have no plans to emulate them in every respect!
I chose in 2004 to return to the constituency from university to begin my junior doctor training at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan. At the same time, I was elected to represent my home town of Prestatyn on the town council and on Denbighshire county council. I subsequently became a general practitioner in the NHS, more recently with a special interest in dementia. I look forward to using my experiences as a GP and as a councillor in my new role as Member of Parliament.
The topic of debate today is health and social care, and the House will be only too aware of the concern about the performance of the NHS in Wales, particularly on my patch. Although health is devolved to the Welsh Assembly, it was perhaps the principal issue brought up on doorsteps during my campaigning. We await the outcome of a judicial review of a threatened downgrade of maternity and gynaecology services at Glan Clwyd hospital, and my support for the campaign against these dangerous and short-sighted proposals is resolute. Last week saw the release of a report on allegations of neglect on the Tawel Fan mental health ward in my constituency. That disturbing report confirmed significant failings in the function of the local health board, but ultimate responsibility must lie with the Labour Assembly Government.
Having worked in the NHS in both north Wales and north-west England, I have seen an increasingly obvious divide develop between NHS performance in Wales and in England, with Wales facing soaring waiting times for A&E, out-patient appointments and surgery, as well as cancelled surgery, queuing ambulances and abysmal hospital-acquired infection rates. Ongoing concern has also been expressed about mortality rates, with evidence coming from those on both sides of the political divide—indeed, Ann Clwyd has shown much interest in that important issue—yet the Assembly Government continue to refuse to consider a Keogh-style inquiry.
Many people have felt a deep sense of inequality, as their relatives have been unable in Wales to access cancer drugs that are available to people in England. All that has come on top of the closure of community hospitals and other services, often in a seemingly haphazard manner. It is no wonder that many patients are seeking healthcare arrangements in England, but of course this is not only inconvenient but impossible for many patients, and places unfunded burdens on services in border areas.
Many of those who supported me on
As a new MP, there could be no better area to fight for than the area I truly care about. I look forward to assisting with and helping to drive the regeneration of the seaside resort of Rhyl which, perhaps even more than some of the other great Victorian resorts, has struggled in recent times but still retains so much potential. Within days of my election I had the good fortune to speak to the Prime Minister on two occasions. On the first, I stressed my intention to make a difference in the town and he very kindly pledged his commitment to assist with this. On the second, he advised me that he had just referred to the town live on national television, so I and my constituents very much look forward to the progress our third meeting will bring!
I also relish helping to lead the continued revival of neighbouring Prestatyn and Meliden. In fact, much of the reason behind my standing for Parliament relates to the immense satisfaction I have gained through helping to turn around this, my home town, whether by supporting it in winning the coastal category in Britain in Bloom or by supporting and pushing forward many projects such as the new town centre shopping park, the Scala cinema and arts centre and the Nova centre redevelopment. Inland, the constituency includes the village of Dyserth, whose waterfall, as some hon. Members will no doubt recall, featured in the mystery tour in the 1973 comedy film “Holiday on the Buses”. A short distance away is the town of Rhuddlan, featuring an impressive castle, constructed by Edward I in 1277, and also St Asaph, the town of my birth, the site of Great Britain’s smallest ancient cathedral and home to a thriving optics sector. St Asaph was awarded city status by Her Majesty the Queen in 2012 to celebrate her diamond jubilee. At the southern end of the constituency is the historic market town of Denbigh and the nearby village of Henllan.
Linking many picturesque villages such as Cwm, Tremeirchion and Bodfari is the Offa’s Dyke national trail, which starts at our blue flag beach in Prestatyn. Tourism, whether coastal or rural, is a very important feature of the constituency. So too is farming, particularly in the fertile land around villages such as Trefnant, Rhewl and Llandyrnog, where there is a creamery—the fourth biggest cheese factory in the UK. One of its many customers is the Snowdonia Cheese Company in seaside Rhyl. I can certainly vouch for the quality of its Black Bomber! I encourage hon. Members to try it. There I will conclude my whistlestop tour of a very special constituency, which I look forward to serving to the very best of my ability.