I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my maiden speech today and congratulate you on your election. I also congratulate all hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches in today’s debate, and I am pleased to follow Marcus Fysh.
The time constraint today means that we are short, but I hope we are also sweet. As a new Member, I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and all the parliamentary staff for welcoming me and helping me settle in. Without fail, everyone has been generous with their time and patience, and I am very grateful for that.
To represent the people of Cardiff Central is a great privilege and responsibility. When I moved to Cardiff Central 26 years ago, little did I know that all these years later, my fellow residents would elect me, and place their trust in me, to be their first female Labour MP and their strong voice in this place. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Jennifer Willott, who served Cardiff Central for 10 years as a Back Bencher, Government Whip and Minister. She became a visible advocate for working parents, and I wish Jenny and her young family well for the future.
I also pay tribute to the last Labour MP for Cardiff Central, Jon Owen Jones, who served the constituency for 13 years, including as a Minister, and still lives there. He has been a source of kind support and wise advice.
Cardiff Central is a special place. While we have six electoral communities— Adamsdown, Cathays, Cyncoed, Pentwyn, Penylan, and Plasnewydd—our community is rich in history, diversity and culture and has welcomed people from all over the world to learn, work and seek refuge. We are very proud of our vibrant cosmopolitan and inclusive community.
From humble beginnings as a small Roman settlement on the site of what is now Cardiff castle, Cardiff Central is at the heart of what is now a modern, European capital city. We have grand civic buildings in Cathays
Park, built by the Marquess of Bute, three universities, theatres, music venues and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, whose famous alumni include Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins and the legendary Ruth Jones, better known as Nessa from Gavin and Stacey. Alongside the world’s oldest record shop, Spillers, which opened in 1894, and our beautiful Victorian shopping arcades, we have a famous Caroline Street, where early and late-night city-centre revellers enjoy our special Welsh delicacy of chicken curry, arf’n’arf.
We also have the best sporting stadium in the world, the Millennium stadium, where we will welcome the world this autumn for the 2015 rugby world cup. I can assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that however nervous I felt just before starting this speech, my nerves are nothing like those I experience when watching my nation play in that stadium—a cauldron of noise and song—with 75,000 other rugby fans.
The subject of the debate today is the economy. In Cardiff Central, people have not felt an economic recovery. Many experience a recovery that is fragile because it is built on low-paid, insecure work. Many of my constituents work in the retail, care and hospitality sectors where insecure employment, zero-hours contracts and minimum wage work is the norm.
In order to build a strong economic recovery and to increase productivity, the answer does not lie in further weakening employment rights and protections. It certainly does not lie in exiting the European Union, a move that would threaten jobs, businesses and cutting-edge research in our universities. Indeed, it threatens the existence of many universities in Cardiff Central and beyond. The answer lies in making employment more secure, in boosting wages and productivity and in giving businesses and workers more certainty about their futures—and that includes a future in the European Union, so that they feel confident in investing, spending and job creation. That is best done in partnership with trade unions and their members across the UK. It is what responsible and successful businesses do, and it is what a responsible Government should do and promote, as the Labour Government in Wales have done.
Throughout the election, I campaigned on the need to tackle inequality head on—wealth inequality, social inequality and tax inequality. I will continue that campaign and be a strong voice for all the people of Cardiff Central. I look forward to working with colleagues here.