Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to make my maiden speech as the new Member of Parliament for Carshalton and Wallington. First, I wish to thank the people in my constituency who sent me to this, the mother of all Parliaments. I also thank all hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches today and throughout the week. They have set the bar incredibly high, but I will do my best.
Before I go on, I must pay tribute to the man who came before me and who represented Carshalton and Wallington for 22 years: Tom Brake. He had served in the House since 1997, holding many positions in his party and the coalition Government. Although we did not agree on everything, as an LGBT+ person, I will always be grateful to him for voting in favour of same-sex marriage in 2012.
To many people, Carshalton and Wallington seems nothing more than a suburban commuter town with not much history. However, hon. Members who like their history will be delighted to know that there is a tale to tell, and like all good TV dramas it involves power, intrigue, and even a royal fall-out. Carshalton itself was rumoured to have been called Ceashorton, or Caesar’s Town, in ancient times, because of the belief that the Roman Emperor once pitched up camp there. However, during an excavation of what is now the Beddington sewerage farm, it was discovered that instead of a hoard from Roman legions it was, rather, a Roman bath house that occupied the site.
If we fast-forward to the Tudor period—I know my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be very excited to hear this section—we find that Carshalton and Wallington was home to the Carew family. Carew Manor, the only grade 1 listed building in my constituency, remains on the site today. It was home to Sir Nicholas Carew, who was a favourite of Henry VIII until he was executed for treason in 1539. It was here that the then king spent time with Ann Boleyn while awaiting his first divorce. Their daughter walked the same trail—Sir Walter Raleigh is rumoured to have walked there with Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately, he was beheaded by James I in 1618. It is rumoured that his severed head was kept by his wife and, to this day, is buried somewhere under Beddington Park. However, hon. Members will be pleased to know that my favourite memory of our fabulously beautiful local park is when my other half, Jed, who is in the Public Gallery, asked me to marry him. I was reliably informed that I may have met the same fate as Sir Walter had I said anything but yes.
Turning back to the subject of today’s debate, I am delighted, as a former NHS worker, to be talking about health and social care. It is incredibly important to me and my constituents. Hon. Members were lucky to hear about our local hospital, St Helier, from a very early contribution in this debate, so they should know all about it. After decades of warnings about potential downgrading and even the threat of total closure, now, thanks to the Conservatives in government, we have the go-ahead for over £500 million of investment in St Helier and Epsom hospitals. That is half a billion pounds to shore up both hospitals, bring all usable parts back into use, and, most excitingly, build a third brand new hospital in our area to provide acute services. That is incredible news for local patients and something for which my hon. Friends the Members for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully), for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) and for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), and my right hon. Friend Chris Grayling, have been campaigning for a very long time.
However, the funding is not certain. The consultation on the site of the new hospital has just been launched, but unfortunately there is still a group locally who seem to think that the hospitals do not need any funding; that for some reason £500 million means the hospital will be closed and that actually all those services are going to go in the next couple of months. Madam Deputy Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing puts our hospitals more at risk than irresponsible scaremongering about our health service. I make the pledge to my constituents, and every constituency covered by our local NHS trust, that I will work with constituency neighbours, when they are willing, to ensure that the investment gets delivered and that we fight off the scaremongers to finally put to bed a political football that has been raging for over 50 years.
Health is about much more than just hospital buildings. As a former NHS worker, I know, and those of us in this Chamber who have backgrounds in the health service will know, that a person’s overall health and wellbeing is down to so much more than the quality of, and access to, an A&E hospital. It also depends on your housing, where you went to school, the work you have and the local environment. I am glad to see that, in the Queen’s Speech, the Government have recognised those factors. In other words, every single part of our lives affects our overall health and wellbeing in some way. Every single Government Department, I hope, will bear that in mind when they make decisions. Investing in the NHS is not just the right thing to do; it underpins the very ability of our country to reach its full potential. By looking after the health of our people, we are looking after the health of our nation and giving all of us the chance to prosper in the modern world.
St Helier is just one of many campaign issues on which I was elected to serve as the Member of Parliament for Carshalton and Wallington a few short weeks ago. Other issues include local train services, opposition to the council’s poor decision on parking, providing first-rate education and protecting air quality. I will get to work immediately to deliver on those promises to move our country forward. Madam Deputy Speaker, it is time to get to work.