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May I add my congratulations to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your re-election to your position? I am most grateful to you for allowing me to make my first contribution in the House. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to follow Mr Marsden.
It is the greatest honour of my life to stand in the House, representing the people of St Austell and Newquay—a place that is not only where I was born and raised but where I have lived and worked my whole life and where I have raised my family. The constituency of St Austell and Newquay was a new one in 2010, and it was thought for a while that my predecessor, Stephen Gilbert, would be the only Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay, as our constituency would have been lost if the boundary changes had gone through. I suspect that I am probably one of only very few Conservative Members who was actually quite grateful that the changes did not go through because I would not have had a seat to contest at the election if they had.
I wish to pay tribute to Stephen Gilbert for the work that he did for our constituency during his five years in office. Many people have told me of the excellent work he did and help he gave to them personally on a wide range of issues. I wish to acknowledge his work in securing the previous Government’s support for the public sector obligation funding that secured our daily air link from Newquay Cornwall airport to Gatwick, which is absolutely essential to our local Cornish economy.
St Austell and Newquay is a wonderfully unique, diverse and special part of Cornwall. We are one of only three constituencies that have two separate coasts: from the rugged beauty of the Atlantic coast to the north, which draws thousands of tourists to Cornwall’s premier resort, Newquay, every summer and creates the best surfing opportunities in Europe, to the picturesque south coast and the historic harbours of Fowey, where we still export the finest quality china clay in the world, and to Mevagissey, which is now Cornwall’s second-busiest fishing port—not forgetting, of course, the ancient world heritage port of Charlestown, near my home town of St Austell, which has now become renowned as the backdrop to many scenes in the BBC’s recent “Poldark” series. There is no doubt that “Poldark” has been a huge boost to the local Cornish tourism industry, but it has also produced a revival of a much-loved Cornish tradition, that of cakey tea. I am told today by our local newspaper, the St Austell Voice, that cakey tea wars have broken out between Fowey and Mevagissey. Of course, as the newly elected Member of Parliament, I feel that it is only my duty to go and sample both and decide for myself which is the best.
We are debating devolution and growth across Britain. I particularly want to speak about growth across Britain. There has been a widely held view in Cornwall that we have often been overlooked, ignored and neglected by successive Governments. Dating back as far as 500 years, Cornishmen have marched on this place in protest because we have felt neglected. It is a sad fact that the issues that face Cornwall today have not changed or been addressed for many years. In fact, I looked up the maiden speech of one of my predecessors, the late and considered by many great David Penhaligon. He made his maiden speech in 1974, and its content is striking. In his speech, he raised issues of low pay in Cornwall and the fact that we are one of the poorest areas of the United Kingdom. He referred to our over-reliance on tourism and the need for us to create different types of better-paid jobs. He raised the issue of creaking infrastructure and the lack of investment in our roads, schools and health services. They are still the big issues that face Cornwall today, but times are changing.
The last Government started to address some of those issues and invested in our roads and increased the funding for our schools and health services. Clearly, we now have a new opportunity to create a better, more positive and more constructive relationship with the Westminster Government. For the first time in our history, we have six Conservative MPs in a Conservative-majority Government. I am delighted that both my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have made it clear that this Government will not neglect Cornwall and that we will deliver the investment that Cornwall needs.