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Britain in the World

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:52 pm on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Conservative, Delyn 8:52 pm, 13th January 2020

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure and an honour to follow such a distinguished and well-respected parliamentarian as Bob Blackman in making my first contribution in the House.

Let me begin by paying tribute to those who have gone before me in making their maiden speeches: Daisy Cooper, who I thought was outstanding, my hon. Friends the Members for Meon Valley (Mrs Drummond), for Stafford (Theo Clarke) and for Wakefield (Imran Ahmad Khan), and my hon. Friend Alicia Kearns, whose constituency apparently does a good line in pies. Let me also briefly congratulate Stewart Malcolm McDonald on his impending award from Ukraine, which I am sure is well deserved.

The theme of today’s debate is Britain’s place in the world. Notwithstanding the doom and gloom that we heard from Stewart Hosie—who, unfortunately, has left the Chamber—Britain’s place is assuredly more exciting, more prosperous and more forward-looking than it has been for a generation. Last Thursday, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill passed through this House, and made its way down the corridor to the other place as the next step in the process to respect the democratic mandate of the British people, not only in the 2016 referendum but in last month’s election.

However, having thought briefly about Britain’s place in the world, I have thought a little more widely about Wales’s place in Britain. It may have escaped your attention, Mr Deputy Speaker. but there are one or two more Welsh Conservative Members here than there were before. We have come a long way since the days of Owain Glyndŵr, when we used to burn down the houses of the English to drive them out of our fair country. In the 1390s, it was said that the Welsh were revolting! I have never heard such a thing. There is no chance of that description now. Apart from, potentially, my hon. Friend Craig Williams, we will never be described as revolting again. We are a happy and cheerful bunch of Welsh MPs, who are committed wholeheartedly to Wales and its rightful place in a strong, prosperous and, above all, unified United Kingdom.

In this maiden speech, I thought it might be helpful to point out for colleagues some of the features of Delyn, which was constructed as a parliamentary constituency in 1983 and represented in this place by a Conservative, Mr Keith Raffan. He supported the attempt to oust Mrs Thatcher by Anthony Meyer in 1989 and, indeed, the one by Lord Heseltine the following year. It is important to point out for the benefit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and those on the Front Bench that it will not be the policy of Delyn Conservative MPs to attempt to overthrow their leader. That having been said, it might have been welcome if my immediate predecessor had done us all a favour and attempted to overthrow his.

Speaking of my immediate predecessor, I must turn now to the right hon. David Hanson. As I have spoken to new colleagues in this place, the amount of people who have said the same things has been notable. They have expressed surprise at my being here in the first place, which I have not taken in a bad way, or as a slight on my abilities. It is more about the respect and admiration that people across the House had for David. It has been an interesting path. I have heard many people on these Benches tell me about the difficult times they had during the election and the animosity that was on display during the campaign, but I can honestly say that David Hanson conducted himself with the utmost respect and integrity throughout the whole process. I take my hat off to him.

Everyone on both sides of the House keeps telling me that David was one of our best. I bumped into Jess Phillips just before Christmas. She very kindly held open a door for me, and when I explained who I was, she was very welcoming. When I said that I was from Delyn, she said, “Oh, I liked David. He was one of our best.” I felt compelled to apologise, but she said, “No, not at all. It’s just politics. We all understand the risks.” Exactly the same words were used by David on that night one month ago.

I can honestly say that David’s departure from this place was not in any way down to any shortcoming on his part. On the doorstep during the campaign, I heard the same three messages over and over. The first was that we should get Brexit done, and we are making progress on that. The second was, “I’ve voted Labour all my life but never again, and certainly not with the current leadership.” I heard that a lot, and on that point, I am a big believer that strong government requires a strong Opposition, so I would urge Labour Members to pay heed to that particular point. The third point was, “David Hanson has been an excellent constituency MP.” People said it over and over again, and I can only hope that I am able, over time, to gain the same respect from my constituents that he had. I will certainly be giving it my best efforts. I am sure that every Member across the House will wish him every success in whatever he finds himself doing in the next chapter of his life.

I read through David’s maiden speech from 27 years ago, and it was a very interesting read. I picked up a couple of points. Most significant was the support that he received from his family during the process, and it is important to mention that I feel exactly the same way, despite my 15-year-old daughter being horrified when her school friends kept saying, “Your dad’s face is everywhere!” That was a huge embarrassment. She was mortified, so I consider that my work as a parent is done. I am sure I can speak for everyone across the House when I say that it would be significantly more difficult for us all to be in this place without supportive husbands, wives and partners. I pay tribute not only to mine but to all those who allow us the freedom to come to this magical place to try to improve the lives of our constituents. We are forever in their debt.

It is also interesting to note that in his maiden speech, David made reference to improvements that were required to the railway lines that run through my constituency. Such improvements are still needed 27 years down the line. I will be looking closely at the current situation in Delyn and seeking meetings with the relevant Ministers to see what we can do to improve the infrastructure and boost the local economy, as well as lobbying for our share of the love with the Beeching project.

Later on in his speech, David described how there were six Conservative MPs across the whole of Wales. What a difference three decades makes! Finally, the people of Wales are coming around to the realisation that if they want to effect real change for the better in their lives, if they want to be empowered, uplifted and thrive in society, this is the party for them. I urge everyone across my beautiful homeland to remember that when the elections for the Senedd take place next May. The Conservatives are the true party of the workers and, indeed, the party best placed to look after Wales’s interests.

When Mr Hanson’s speech concluded, he was followed by a sprightly young fellow who at the time was the Member of Parliament for Basildon. I looked very hard through his speech, but I could find no mention at all by Sir David Amess of Basildon being made a city. Basildon’s loss has undoubtedly been Southend’s gain.

To return to the present day, Delyn is made of the three main towns of Flint, Holywell and my hometown of Mold, along with more than 30 villages in a mainly rural society. Farming therefore plays a key part in constituency life, and I look forward to working with the local farming community to help them to continue to provide the lifeblood of our economic and, indeed, nutritional needs.

We also have significant factories and light industry locally, particularly Airbus, Kimberly-Clark and Kingspan. Some 1,500 of my constituents are also employed by Airbus in my neighbouring constituency of Alyn and Deeside. I look forward to working with it and other local organisations to make sure that Delyn is able to take full advantage of our excellent north Wales growth deal and the northern powerhouse plan being undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth. I put him on notice that a growing number of Welsh MPs will be beating a path to his door to make sure that our needs are properly looked after.

I could not be prouder to represent my home. I have lived there all my life. I attended school at Ysgol Maes Garmon in Mold, where I was proud to become the first person in my family to learn Welsh, a skill that I hold as one of my most valuable assets. Mi fyddaf felly yn gwneud cymaint ag y medraf i gynrychioli pobl Delyn hyd eithaf fy ngallu. Mae eu problemau nhw yr un fath â fy mhroblemau i. Dwi’n caru’r lle, a fy ngobaith mwyaf ydy bod fy ymdrechion yn ddigon i adael marc ac i wneud bywydau pobl Delyn yn well. I will do everything in my power to represent the people of Delyn to the very best of my ability, because I am one of them. Their issues are my issues. I love the place dearly, and it is my abiding hope that my efforts are enough to make a mark, to make life better for the constituents of Delyn and, through that work, to bring people together as we move forward to the next phase of our national story, as we truly do define Britain’s deserved place in the world.