It is a pleasure—and slightly daunting—to follow so many powerful and emotive maiden speeches. I thought that the hon. Members for Luton North (Sarah Owen), for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) and for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) made particularly moving speeches. It is an honour to give my maiden speech, and I am especially proud that my five-year-old daughter is in the Gallery to witness this moment. With a record number of female and BAME MPs elected in this Parliament, I hope that I and others will be an inspiration to girls like her and other young women as we strive towards a more diverse Parliament that truly reflects British society.
As the new Member of Parliament for Twickenham, I follow in the illustrious footsteps—or should I say dancing shoes—of the right hon. Sir Vincent Cable. After all, he did get a 10 from Len on “Strictly”! Vince earned the respect of Members of all parties in this House, not just for his economic prowess, but for his dry sense of humour. Who can forget his infamous “from Stalin to Mr Bean” put-down of Prime Minister Gordon Brown?
Vince served Twickenham assiduously for 20 years. I have always been struck by how many people have told me that they or someone close to them have been helped by Vince when they have had a problem, and this is the work of which I know he is rightly most proud. Among his many local achievements, I thought it apt today—while we are debating health and social care—to highlight his work with a local vicar in establishing Homelink in Whitton, which is a day respite care centre for dementia patients. He has also been a patron and champion, since its inception, of Shooting Star Children’s Hospice in Hampton and its work in palliative care. The National Physical Laboratory in Teddington employs some 1,000 scientists, engineers and skilled professionals. Vince was particularly proud of supporting the NPL to secure long-term funding and become a global leader in metrology. Both Vince and his Conservative predecessor, the late Toby Jessell, campaigned hard locally to try to protect the Royal Military School of Music. Kneller Hall, which was founded in 1857, is sadly being sold by the Ministry of Defence and is set to close later this year. It is a huge loss to the local community.
All my predecessors, including the former Conservative Member Tania Mathias, were united in opposing the expansion of Heathrow airport, and I will continue that fight. As Heathrow is the biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in this country, regularly breaching statutory air pollution limits, building a third runway would be an immensely regressive step in tackling the climate emergency, and would have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of local residents. I invite the Prime Minister to keep his promise to lie down in front of the bulldozers.
As well as planes, trains are a constant source of frustration for my constituents. The Hampton and Shepperton line via Strawberry Hill was built in 1864, and local residents may be forgiven for questioning whether the service has seen any improvement since then. It is the first service to be cut when there is any disruption. The South Western Railway franchise has been disastrous from the start, with constant cancellations and delays—my constituents suffered 27 days of strikes in December. With big question marks over its future viability, the Transport Secretary must urgently review the franchise.
We are extremely proud to have Teddington Memorial Hospital, which was opened in 1875, with just four beds, and which now provides important community services. The amazing League of Friends has raised tens of thousands of pounds to modernise parts of the hospital, and that jewel of a facility is rightly jealously guarded by local residents.
We have a moral obligation to ensure that every child and young person has the opportunity to flourish, but many have shared with me their frustration in accessing child and adolescent mental health services when they most need that support. Just last week, the mother of a 10-year-old with tier 3 needs in my constituency wrote to tell me how her child had been waiting four months for an appointment and would be waiting months more for treatment. My local mental health trust has seen demand explode fifty-fold in the space of four years for tier 3 treatment. Off the Record is an outstanding charity in my constituency working tirelessly with children and young people in this area. It provides a vital service under immense pressure, and I look forward to supporting its work.
My constituents are known for being an active bunch, and while Twickenham is the home of English rugby and Harlequins, it is also the home of Parkrun, founded in the stunning Bushy Park. I look forward to welcoming the officers and members of the Parkrun all-party parliamentary group to join me in Bushy Park one Saturday morning for a run.
I came into politics driven by a desire to tackle inequality, protect our environment and promote internationalist values. It is an immense privilege to have been granted the opportunity to serve both my local community and my country as a Member of Parliament, in order to champion those values. Twickenham, Teddington, Whitton, St Margarets and the Hamptons form a very special constituency, and I look forward, as Whitton’s woman in Westminster, to championing their interests first and foremost in this place.