Thank you for the opportunity to give my maiden speech, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is an honour to follow Munira Wilson, who mentioned that her five-year-old daughter is in the Gallery. I would like to give a shout out to my four-week-old daughter who is also in the Gallery today—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
It seems right to make my maiden speech in the debate on health and social care. Those services—both our care and NHS services—have been part of my life and part of my career, and they are now part of how I intend to serve the people of Peterborough as their Member of Parliament. That is partly because Peterborough is a growing city. It is my city, and we need more resources for our local NHS. Now we finally have a majority Government, I am confident we will get them.
If someone had to pick one constituency to illustrate the political chaos before the general election, they might well choose mine. I am the fourth MP for Peterborough in less than three years. Local people were crying out for the same political stability that our country needed and, now they have elected me, I would like to modestly suggest that they can achieve this by returning the same MP for a considerable period of time—20 or 30 years perhaps.
Each of my three immediate predecessors left their mark, and each, to be fair, cared about our local NHS services. Although Fiona Onasanya will inevitably be remembered for the manner of her departure, our city should be proud that we elected our first black MP in 2017—as should she.
I stood in last year’s by-election with Lisa Forbes, so we have a shared experience. Lisa was gracious in victory and gracious in defeat. She did not have much time in this House, but I respect the way she conducted herself during that campaign, and I know that her commitment to Peterborough was sincere. She should also be congratulated on her campaign on affordable school uniforms.
Finally, but not least, I would like to pay tribute to Stewart Jackson. I have known Stewart since I was a teenager; I am increasingly aware that was some time ago. As many here will know, he was a great champion for Peterborough. He has been a great friend to me, and served my constituents with distinction for 12 years. If I can begin to match his dedication, I will not have gone far wrong.
Peterborough deserves that, because it is a special city—an ancient city with a proud history. We have one of finest Norman cathedrals in Europe, where Mary, Queen of Scots lay after her death, and where Catherine of Aragon is buried. The cathedral holds the Hedda stone—just one part of our Anglo-Saxon heritage—and its wooden ceiling dates back to 1250. Yet that was a relatively late part of our past, because recent excavations at Must farm mean that Peterborough museum now hosts a stupendous display of bronze age artefacts. The area has even been dubbed Britain’s answer to Pompeii. The former residents of Pompeii spent centuries huddled together in small groups, covered in ash. Having known Peterborough’s nightclubs before the smoking ban, I can confirm that our nightlife felt no different.
Although Peterborough’s history is special, our potential is yet more exciting. We can build on our status as a working city. We have world-class manufacturers at Perkins Engines and Peter Brotherhood. We can seize on our new trading opportunities to become a national centre of excellence in engineering and agritech. The plans for a specialist university are crucial, and I will be lobbying for the investment that this university needs.
Far too many people think negatively about my city, not helped by bogus surveys naming Peterborough as the worst place to live in the UK. Fake polling does not harm us, but a negative mindset does. I am unashamed to continually say that I am proud of Peterborough. We are a great city. We have fantastic transport links. The east coast mainline puts us just 45 minutes from London, while the A1 puts us on one of the north-south road arteries. The A47 connects us east to west, which it will do far better when the Government finally agree to dual it through my constituency. As a long-suffering York City football club fan, I can confidently claim that Peterborough has a successful football team.
We have a talented and hard-working population from across the world. Many Italians arrived after the second world war, and eastern Europeans more recently, joined in between by large parts of the Indian and Pakistani diaspora. Striving for peace and respect for the rights of my constituents’ families in Kashmir is one of my priorities in this House.
The future should be ours in Peterborough; it just takes a bit of help. I will be reminding Ministers that the characteristics of northern towns and cities are shared by my constituency. Like the north and like the midlands, Peterborough expects.
On the subject of this debate, care and the NHS, we must deliver. For me, this is personal, because it was the NHS that brought me to Peterborough as a five-year-old. My parents moved to the area to work in the city’s national health service. I should also declare another interest, and have literally done so in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, because until recently I owned a communications business specialising in health and social care. It is from this background that I intend to approach our NHS and social care system.
We need a service that focuses relentlessly on patient outcomes. There is an opportunity for the UK to lead the world in healthcare outcomes, healthcare research and jobs in the life sciences and health technology industry. I want to mention just three things that we should perhaps do about that: the first is to deliver on NHS capacity, the second is to maintain our ambition on life sciences research and manufacturing, and the third is to do what works—what the evidence shows makes a difference to patients. I understand that that is not always easy, and new technology is often expensive, but simple compliance with the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence guidelines on medicines and technology would make an enormous difference. With the £33 billion-a-year determination shown by this Government in the NHS long-term funding plan, I am confident for the future.