Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to address the House for the first time. Before I begin my speech, I would just like to say that all of us in Warrington North wish Mr Speaker—the son of Warrington North’s first MP, Doug Hoyle—every success in his new role; and you, Madam Deputy Speaker, in yours.
Let me turn to my own new role. Every Member of this House has a solemn duty to their constituents, and it is a duty that has rarely been so important, as we stand on the precipice of environmental catastrophe. I am proud that Labour-led Warrington Borough Council has declared a climate emergency, and I will be working with it to deliver a green industrial revolution that puts power, in its most literal sense, into the hands of our community. We have a long-standing science and engineering base in the town. Indeed, it is not uncommon to run into nuclear physicists at the pub. Warrington is strategically located to benefit from developments in the wider region in hydrogen gas and tidal power, among other sources of zero and low-carbon energy, so a real, green northern powerhouse is right at the top of my agenda, building on my work on a just transition with the trade union GMB prior to entering Parliament.
Of course, it is tradition in one’s maiden speech to make reference to those of our predecessors. Both Helen Jones and Doug Hoyle served the town with distinction over long careers, but I was struck by just how contemporary both speeches feel today. Indeed, it tickled me to read the maiden speech of the now Lord Hoyle from 1974, on the subject of the then European Economic Community, proving that some issues are perennial. Although there is a certain comfort to be taken from this as a new Member, I hope only that when the time comes for my successor to make their maiden speech in this place, we might have moved on from arguing about the EU. Out of respect for the convention that a maiden speech should not be overly controversial, I will not labour that point. But I do want to turn to another maiden speech convention, and that is to tell the House about the people and the place I stand here to represent.
Having been rather forgotten about for some time, northern towns seem to be the flavour of the month at the moment, whether it is memes about the Labour leadership contest or new Conservative proposals to pit us against each other for the chance to win investment that does not even begin to plug the gap in what has being taken away over the past decade.
I would suggest to anyone looking for a town of the year that they need look no further than Warrington. Warrington is a town whose local economy outperforms many cities. We are a prosperous town with a buoyant local economy, but there remain pockets of real deprivation and too many people struggling month to month. Our challenge, and my driving purpose, is to ensure that everyone shares in that prosperity. With my local food bank doubling in size last month to cope with increasing demand, the urgency here cannot be overstated. As the town has grown, and with further growth expected, it is also about ensuring that our infrastructure is fit for purpose, from housing to the roads, to public transport, to our hospital provision and social care for our communities’ most vulnerable residents.
There is a tired adage that we do not make anything in this country any more, but while Warrington has a proud industrial heritage that earned it its nickname “The Wire”, it is not about being nostalgic about some halcyon days past. Warrington has a proud industrial future too. We manufacture a fifth of the world’s gin in Warrington North at the G&J distillery, which has been going since 1761, and there is a really thriving local craft gin scene with local businesses like the 3 Pugs distillery started in Orford. But if gin is not your thing, don’t worry—we also have fantastic breweries like Burtonwood Brewery and the Coach House Brewing Company, and many fantastic pubs to enjoy their beers in. But it is not just about booze. According to Make UK, there are 255 manufacturers in Warrington North. The future of manufacturing in Britain depends on the cost and security of energy as we decarbonise, making today’s debate very important.
The constituency boundaries in Warrington remain a funny one, not least for the parts of Warrington South that are further north than parts of Warrington North, and vice versa. Warrington Wolves’ Halliwell Jones stadium is on the wrong side of Lythgoes Lane to fall within the Warrington North boundary—something that I am hoping the Boundary Commission will address to right this historic wrong. Warrington North can rightly claim, though, the world champions, Warrington Wolves physical disability rugby league team, as they train in Padgate—and we are very proud that they do. Gulliver’s World theme park also falls within both constituencies, although as it is predominantly the car park that is in Warrington South, I would say the real fun happens in Warrington North—true of most things. Among the many, many things that Warrington South can never take away from us in the north is our claim to Old Billy, the oldest horse who ever lived, who died at the age of 62—definitively Warrington North, and now in Hansard for the record.
I will finish on this note. I am proud to represent a town whose people have shown such resilience, good humour and kindness both to me and to each other. I am truly inspired by the people that I have met doing incredible things in our community in Warrington North, and I will work as hard as I can to earn the trust that you have put in me.