It is good to hear the Government Benches so united in their support for Scunthorpe. It is a real pleasure to follow Chris Bryant. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Nic Dakin, who represented Scunthorpe county between 2010 and 2019 with a great deal of dedication and a genuine desire to help our residents.
I am very glad to represent my home town as part of a varied and beautiful constituency, which includes not only Scunthorpe, but Messingham Bottesford, Yaddlethorpe, Kirton, Holme, East Butterwick, Redbourne, Scawby, Scawby Brook, Hibaldstow, Gainsthorpe, Cadney, Howsham, Cleatham, Manton and Greetwell. As a proud Scunthorpe lass, the granddaughter of a 30-year steelworking veteran, I am particularly proud to stand here today as the first MP for Scunthorpe county who was actually born in Scunthorpe Hospital.
Across the land and indeed the world, when people hear the word “Scunthorpe” they think of steel. We have had a very challenging time in Scunthorpe over the past months, and my thoughts are very much with our steelworkers today. But we are still living up to our heritage. We are still making steel, and we look forward to doing so for many years to come. Few who visit our industrial cathedral will ever forget the sight of red hot metal, and I was delighted to welcome the Business Secretary to Scunthorpe only a couple of weeks ago to feel the heat on his face, in our rod mill. We were very well looked after, and I was extremely proud to show him how hard we work in Scunthorpe. Unfortunately, when I suggested during the visit that I could go and watch the steel being tapped, as we had done as kids, I quickly discovered that health and safety has tightened up somewhat since the 1990s—a little extra training and a flame-proof suit is now required for that activity.
Scunthorpe emerged in the 19th century as an extraction point for ironstone and later as its own iron producer, eventually becoming our nation’s greatest steel hub. Our steel is known for its exceptional quality and durability. We have supported infrastructure projects throughout the nation’s history. Our works are truly powered not by coke, but by our steelworkers. They are strong, stoic people who have genuine pride in their work, and I know that the friendships forged there can last a lifetime. I am not saying all this purely because my granddad is watching at home but, because of him, my memories of our steelworks are of steel toe cap boots, a soot-covered donkey jacket and trips around the site on a train, and I am very excited to have been invited by the Appleby Frodingham Railway Preservation Society to relive some of those memories. I truly believe that Members of this House and people across the country will agree on the importance to our nation of keeping a truly integrated steelworks. Having home-produced, genuinely world-class steel not only serves various strategic interests for our nation; it is also integral to the Prime Minister’s mission to level up the north, and I thank the Government for the support that they have shown Scunthorpe over the past months.
Steel is our backbone, but it is by no means all there is to the Scunthorpe constituency. We are blessed with wonderful countryside, down-to-earth, generous and decent people, and a proud history of small businesses, many of which have expanded over generations to employ lots of people in our area. North Lincolnshire was described in a recent poll as the best place in the UK to bring up a family. As a mum and an aunty, I can attest to that. A few days after I was elected to this place, I was invited by Scunthorpe Cheerleading Academy to open a fantastic new cheerleading facility in Scunthorpe. I was lifted into the air to be a flyer in a pyramid, which is frankly not a sentence that I ever expected to say. My constituency has a vibrant selection of community groups —people who give their time freely. Volunteers truly make our area better, and I thank them for their work.
Now that we have got Brexit done, and having worked with the Government towards securing the future of our steelworks, I will work to see more funding for our schools. I will be fighting to widen the A15. It is a Roman road and, frankly, it is now time that it was widened. I will also be fighting to upgrade Scunthorpe Hospital, where I was born, and I thank the Health Secretary for agreeing to visit and to discuss the challenges we face. There will always be more to do, and I look forward to working with our council leader, Rob Waltham, on many future projects.
My thoughts today are very much with those affected by flooding. I am particularly aware of the efforts of my hon. Friend Andrew Percy as he seeks to help those in his constituency. I will be working with colleagues in a bid to secure a national flood resilience centre on a site in Scunthorpe. I thank colleagues on both sides of the House who have supported that project. It is an oven-ready scheme that would allow us to provide world-class training, planning and research to mitigate future flooding events.
I look forward to continuing to work with my constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole, who has been a huge help and support to me in my early weeks in this place. He knows that I see him very much as a father figure.