It is a pleasure to follow Alex Sobel and to make my maiden speech in this pertinent debate, given the recent extreme weather that we have endured across the country. I will speak about the Bill and its importance a little later on, but I will first talk about the constituency that I love and have the privilege of representing in this place.
I have listened with great interest to many of the maiden speeches in recent weeks, and to the reasons each new Member has given as to why their area is so important to them and, indeed, our country. However, there is no doubt that it is my constituency and home town of Burton that has for generations provided the real driving force behind this nation’s success—beer. Although my constituency’s history and culture is as rich as the water that infuses the beer we produce, it cannot be denied that it is brewing that has truly put Burton on the map. It is the sulphate-rich hard water of the Trent, combined with the industrious spirit of Burton’s people, that has led to the town’s setting the standard for high-quality pale ale. That has led brewers worldwide to “Burtonise” their water, in an attempt to mimic our great local tradition.
This proud heritage reverberates through all areas of my constituency, including the sporting one. It has given the mighty Burton Albion football club their nickname “the Brewers”. Here I must declare an interest. Before entering this place, I was fortunate enough to work for the club, although I cannot take all the credit for their hard-earned football league status, which came in 2009 following a victorious season in the Conference.
I have always felt that the name of my constituency is incomplete, and I sincerely hope that in any forthcoming boundary reviews, consideration is given to renaming it Burton and Uttoxeter. Uttoxeter is a beautiful market town, and it is the proud home of the world-leading construction equipment manufacturer, JCB. The company’s yellow diggers are instantly recognisable the world over, and it was at JCB that the Prime Minister famously bulldozed through the Brexit wall last December, emphatically signifying his commitment to break the parliamentary deadlock and foreshadowing his success in dismantling the so-called red wall on election day.
I pay tribute to one of my most admirable predecessors, Sir Ivan Lawrence, whose notable parliamentary achievements include a private Member’s Bill that led to the creation of the national lottery. He also gave the longest parliamentary speech of the 20th century, at 4 hours 23 minutes, on the matter of water fluoridation. I will watch the Government’s legislative agenda with interest, and I am prepared to swoop in with a speech of 4 hours 24 minutes, should an increase in fluoridation be proposed.
Aside from the preservation of water quality, I know that this Government are committed to dealing with some of the most pressing issues that my constituents face today. I am pleased with the renewed focus on infrastructure. In my constituency, we desperately need the safety issues on the A38 to be addressed. My predecessor, Sir Ivan Lawrence, raised that matter in the House some 55 years ago, and it is still a critical issue for my constituents today. As we meet the Government’s agenda for increased house building, we must ensure that that is matched with investment in critical routes, such as the A50 in Uttoxeter. I pledge that in this House I will do all I can to bring about that investment and those much-needed improvements.
We must also deliver for our town centres, which have faced increasing difficulty due to new technology and changing shopping habits. I have very fond memories of the bustling Burton High Street of my childhood. While the face of town centres will undoubtedly be different in this age of the internet, we must do all we can to ensure that they have a thriving future at the heart of our communities.
My constituents are hard-working, resilient people. Throughout our history, we have suffered and overcome adversity. In 1255—I am so sorry, I am going to have to have a quick drink.