Maiden Speech

Maiden Speech, 21st June 2010:

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) made a light-hearted reference to her second maiden speech, but I am proud to tell the House that this is my first maiden speech. If the House will indulge me for a few moments, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor as a Member of Parliament for Fylde, the right hon. Michael Jack.

Michael was known to the House most recently as an incredibly capable MP who served as Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, and he was held in great esteem. But Michael also served this country as a Minister both in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and in the Treasury. More importantly for me, he served the people of Fylde with real class. When I look to someone as a model Member of Parliament, Michael Jack is such a person. Without the glare of publicity, he just got on and did the job. With that in mind, I hope to be able to serve in his footsteps. Michael Jack was also a great defender of the Typhoon Eurofighter, which I hope to talk about later in my speech.

The Fylde constituency is the jewel of the north-west. I am glad that it is you, Madam Deputy Speaker, not one of the other Deputy Speakers, who is in the Chair, because they might disagree with that comment. I am often asked by hon. Members where Fylde is, and whether it is next to Blackpool. It most certainly is not. Blackpool is in the Fylde, not the other way around. Fylde is famous for a great many things. It has world-class golf courses and will soon host the world open golf championship. It has some of the cleanest beaches anywhere in the United Kingdom and some of the finest agricultural land in the north-west. Lytham Green, with its iconic windmill, which this year hosted the local proms, is an example of a fine green space which is attractive to tourists.

My constituency does have its problems, however. The high street of Kirkham, a proud market town, like many high streets throughout the country, has many empty local shops. Councillor Elaine Silverwood runs a local bookshop there, but she also makes ice cream and has a tearoom. That spirit of entrepreneurialism gives me a lot of heart. It is not about sitting back and complaining about how things are; it is about encouraging people in the constituency to go out there and make a difference, to take over empty shops and really start to bring something new and different to the high street. I pay tribute to such people in my constituency.

Fylde is also a beautiful constituency. Wrea Green is a stereotypical English village. As someone who was born in Scotland, even I can fully appreciate it. Cricket is played there in the summer, and one can hear the sound of leather on willow. Until recently, like many villages in my constituency and towns throughout the country, Wrea Green was threatened by the Government’s regional spatial strategy. I thank the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for his swift action in abolishing the targets set by that strategy, giving hope once again to people who cherish green space.

I also congratulate Blackpool football club. I would not seek to claim credit for Blackpool’s elevation to the premier league, nor would I claim that the club is located in my constituency, but its training ground is, its very talented manager lives in my constituency, and what is more, most of the players do, too-so if I am going to take the glory for someone else’s hard work, this is the moment.

Fylde is also incredibly fortunate to be served by two very good local newspapers, The Gazette, which is printed six days a week, and the Lytham St Annes Express, which is a shining example of how a talented editor-Steve Singleton in this case-can do a lot in difficult times. However, if the sun ever fails to shine in Fylde, one can always jet off to warmer climes, because Blackpool airport is very much based in my constituency.

Let me turn to the substantive issues in today’s debate. Fylde is neither a twee constituency nor simply the beautiful rural jewel that I have described; there is much more to it than that. We make things in Fylde. It is the home of nuclear fuel, employing 2,000 people, and in a future debate I wish to expand on that point. It is home also to the military aircraft division of BAE Systems, employing more than 8,000 people directly. Indeed, it is not only the home of the Typhoon Eurofighter; Nimrod final fit-outs and all the developmental work on unmanned aerial vehicles takes place there. The Americans take the credit for many things, but one thing for which they cannot take credit is that technology. The United Kingdom is the world leader in that technology, and it is developed in my constituency.

On the defence review, I should like to make an appeal to the Minister. I know that budgets are tight and many Members from all parts with interests in defence procurement are making pitches, but we need Typhoon tranche 3b for a number of reasons. We live in an unpredictable world, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) said, we cannot tell what the future holds, other than that it will be unpredictable. At times Government Front Benchers talk about export potential, and British Aerospace is working very hard in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Japan to win exports. However, the aircraft’s cost model is built on the premise of a future RAF order, and Ministers must be aware that if a future order is not forthcoming the cost dynamics will change, and BAE might not be competitive with the United States and France in export markets.

Finally, on that subject, I pay tribute to Unite. I may be the only Conservative Member to do so, but there we have an example of the trade union working with BAE management and the Government to deliver what is important: a quality product, products coming off the production line and everyone pulling in the same direction. I really hope that Unite continues to work with the current Government and with BAE to deliver that.

Time is catching up, so I should quickly move away from BAE and mention my other defence interest, Weeton army barracks. The soldiers based there have just returned from Afghanistan, having served this country well, and I appeal to the Minister to ensure that we do nothing that puts Weeton’s strength in any doubt.

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