I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate, and deeply honoured and humbled to stand in this great Chamber. As a child refugee who arrived in Britain with her family 30 years ago, I could never have dreamed that I would have the privilege and responsibility to serve my adopted country as a Member of Parliament. I would like again to express my thanks to the people of Enfield North for putting their trust in me. I am steadfastly committed to being their voice and their champion.
I pay tribute to my predecessor Joan Ryan, who served Enfield North diligently from 1997, with only a brief gap. Joan was a dedicated public servant, committed to representing local issues, and a brave and outspoken advocate for causes close to her heart. We share a passion for local government, having both served as councillors and then as deputy leaders. We both have concerns over the cuts to our health service, and a determination to reduce the harmful impact on constituents in Enfield North. I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing Joan well in her future endeavours.
I am the first MP of Turkish Kurdish heritage to be elected to Parliament. I am also the first MP of the Alevi religion; although there are between 300,000 and half a million believers in the UK, they are underrepresented in public office. I also thought I might be arriving as the shortest MP but I am assured that, at 5 feet, I am a whole half inch taller than my hon. Friend Tulip Siddiq. I hope that we can be an inspiration to vertically challenged women everywhere.
My constituency is varied in every sense of the word. It is diverse in culture and privilege, and has contrasting landscapes. Enfield is a bustling market town with rural spots of natural beauty, and a place where people from across the world have found their home. We are proudly home to Forty Hall vineyard, which produces delicious, organic English wine, which I can wholeheartedly recommend to my colleagues who are so inclined. We host Enfield Town football club, which is fan-owned and an example to local football clubs across the UK. I am personally delighted to boast about having the Tottenham Hotspur academy in my constituency; it truly trains the cream of the football crop, as I am sure the whole House will agree.
I am extremely proud of the diverse population of Enfield North. Our diversity is our strength. I am committed to representing all the communities who live alongside each other in support and solidarity. Some 6.8% of my constituents hail from other parts of the EU, and they can be assured that I will stand up for them during every step of the Brexit process, fighting for their rights to be protected and for promises made to them to be kept.
There seems to be a tradition in the House of emphasising the contrasts in our constituencies, but Enfield North really is a tale of two cities. On the west side, we have the beautiful greenbelt land, numerous golf courses and the prosperous town centre. On the east of the borough, however, it is a different story. The A10 is the dividing line of wealth in my constituency. We all know that poverty has a knock-on effect on health, and when you cross the A10, you sadly find that the life expectancy there is significantly reduced. The rates of child poverty in the east of the borough are among the highest in the country, as are the levels of homelessness. The east is crying out for more investment, but Enfield Council’s budget has been cut by more than £100 million since 2010, leaving vital services wanting.
My constituency also faces significant challenges from crime. Cuts to youth service budgets and the loss of 240 police officers over the past 10 years have culminated in far too many tragedies of young lives being lost or ruined, to the extent that groups of parents are now taking it upon themselves to patrol the streets in the hope of keeping their children safe. How has it come to that? The Government have made much of their pledge to restore 20,000 police officers, and I will campaign for my borough to get its fair share.
By far the biggest issue for my constituents is the topic of this debate. Already my constituency has seen a steep decline in healthcare over the past 10 years, and the forecast is no brighter for the next. Some 10% of GP practices have been recorded as closing since 2013. GPs are desperately overworked, with the number of patients having risen by 23,000 since 2015, but with no rise in the number of GPs to treat them. Parts of my constituency, such as Enfield Chase ward, do not have a single GP surgery.
In 2010, Chase Farm Hospital was downgraded, leading to the loss of its A&E facility, maternity unit and other specialist departments. My constituents now have to go elsewhere for medical emergencies, leading to pressure on neighbouring hospitals in Barnet and on North Middlesex Hospital. Spending per head on healthcare in Enfield has reduced by 16% since 2015, which puts the symptoms of dereliction in our health service into context.
The last bastion of support locally is the urgent care centre in Chase Farm Hospital, but its survival is not certain. I hope the Minister can assure me that the urgent care centre in Chase Farm Hospital will not have its hours reduced, and that my constituents will not experience any further decline in healthcare.
I hope that I have managed to shed a small amount of light on my constituency in all of its glory and challenge. I am ambitious for Enfield, and I believe it has great things to come, but we need the support of our Government to see our young people flourish, our businesses thrive and our healthcare system repaired. I pledge to my constituents to be their persistent champion, and what I lack in height, I will make up for in voice.