This week I gave my maiden speech in the House of Commons during the debate on the Queen’s Speech. This is an important milestone, as I am now permitted to participate fully in all Government business.
It is traditional in maiden speeches to give an overview of the constituency, its history and its character, and to include some lighthearted comments. My maiden speech touched on the following themes.
St Austell and Newquay is a wonderfully unique, diverse and special part of Cornwall. It is one of only three constituencies in the UK that has two separate coastlines.
From the rugged beauty of the Atlantic coast in the north that draws thousands of tourists every year to Cornwall’s premier resort of Newquay, and creates the best surfing opportunities in Europe; to the picturesque south coast and the historic harbours of Fowey, from which we still export the world’s finest quality China Clay, and Mevagissey, now Cornwall’s 2nd busiest fishing port. Not forgetting the ancient World Heritage port of Charlestown, which has recently become renowned as the backdrop to many of the scenes in the BBC’s Poldark series.
There is no doubt that Poldark has been a huge boost for the Cornish tourist industry. But it has also produced a revival in a much loved Cornish tradition –Cakey Tea, a development that I very much welcome!
There has been a widely held view within Cornwall that we are often overlooked, ignored and neglected by successive governments in Westminster. This feeling dates back over 500 years to when Cornishmen marched on Westminster in protest.
I highlighted the fact that the issues facing Cornwall have not changed and have not been addressed for many people. I looked up the maiden speech for one of my predecessors, the late and fondly remembered David Penhaligon. Certainly he has been one of the biggest personalities in Cornish politics in my lifetime. He gave his maiden speech in 1974, 41 years ago. Its contents are striking. In his speech he raised the issues of low pay in Cornwall and that we were back then one of the poorest parts of the UK. He referred to our over reliance on tourism and the need for different types and better-paid jobs. He raised the issue of a creaking infrastructure and lack of investment in our roads, our schools and our health services. These are the big issues facing mid-Cornwall today.
However, I believe that times are changing. After decades of under investment the previous coalition government has begun to invest in Cornwall. We have seen investment in our main trunk road, the A30, support for Newquay airport, extra funding for our schools and health services.
I believe we have a unique opportunity. For the first time in our history Cornwall has six Conservative MPs in a Conservative Government. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have made it clear that this Government will not neglect or ignore Cornwall. I will be working alongside my Cornish colleagues in Parliament to make sure we deliver the investment Cornwall needs and deserves.