Today I delivered my Maiden Speech in the House of Commons. I stressed the honour that I feel to represent the Chippenham constituency and took other members of Parliament on a brief tour, highlighting some of our key issues.
I pledged to create more opportunities for local people and make our education system proactive and productive to create the workforce, entrepreneurs and volunteers that our country needs.
Click HERE to watch my Maiden Speech and see below for a copy of the text.
“Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the privilege of making my maiden speech today. It is a pleasure to speak in the debate on a Budget that seeks to enable people to work hard, get on and aspire. That is what I want for the people of Chippenham, and I am honoured to be their MP.
My constituency of Chippenham, contrary to the name, contains four towns and lots of beautiful villages. It is quite something: a varied area dripping in history and charm. Our pocket of Wiltshire is a place that residents, including myself, do not just live in, but are proud to call home. Perhaps its greatest asset, however, is its residents, who are welcoming, generous and kind.
The gateway to the south-west, my constituency is home to Chippenham town, traditionally a cattle market town based around Westinghouse, now Siemens. It also contains Melksham, a market and manufacturing town where some of the largest companies remain: Avon Rubber and Cooper Tyres. Now, however, most residents in Melksham, Chippenham, Corsham and Bradford-on-Avon have to commute out of the area for work; we simply do not have enough local jobs for local people. I will not beat about the bush: my mission as their Member of Parliament is to help make our town centres hubs once again and to support local businesses, so that my constituents can live in their constituency and work there.
Corsham is famous for its idyllic high street, featured in BBC’s “Poldark”, but it is now an emerging digital hub, with the Corsham Institute. The town desperately needs the railway station to be re-opened, in order to support the high street and tourism, and to improve the quality of life of local residents, and I will continue to fight for that. It would be remiss of me not to stress the beauty and historic wonder one is filled with when visiting Bradford-on-Avon, a town buzzing with community spirit and passion. But our medieval town struggles from a severe traffic issue; it was built for the horse and cart and not the modern motor car. That is another issue that will remain at the top of my agenda. Our villages spread across the constituency, each with its own unique offering, with perhaps the most famous being the National Trust village of Lacock, home to Lacock abbey—or as you might know it, Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.
I am privileged to follow in the footsteps of Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the modern police force and, more recently, those of the irrepressible and impressive Sir Richard Needham, the longest serving Northern Ireland Minister. I plan to serve the constituency with the same determination and passion as he did. My most recent predecessor, Duncan Hames, focused his efforts on the environment and mental health services, an issue close to my own heart. I commend his support of the community-led projects that he backed.
I hope to add to the dynamic and representative nature of the House—after all, I do come from a career in wrestling, but as a marketer, I might add! So why am I actually here? I am here as a doorman, but not in the conventional sense—let me explain. My father and my grandfather taught me the values of hard work and ambition, and I believe in a Britain where everyone can achieve and get on in life. I really do not think it should matter where you began; it should matter where you are going. To me, therefore, the role of an MP is to open doors for others along the way. Hard work and ambition are vital for success, but a good education can make the real difference—perhaps it is the most important door of all. Excellent teachers make excellent schools and every child is different, but all need inspiration, encouragement and support. School funding is vital, though, and we must move to a national funding formula as soon as possible—Wiltshire is one of the lowest-funded authorities in the entire country. Now is also a time for stability in education, but we must ensure that our education system meets the needs of our economy, our pupils and our teachers, and of the future of this country.
Vocational training needs to be pushed and promoted, with the stigma challenged. We need to continue to work towards reforming our career education, so that we actually promote the jobs that the economy needs. Expansion of the apprenticeships programme is a good first step but, above all, we need to modernise our education system, incorporating more taster business skills. We just cannot wait any more for entrepreneurs to be born. We need to help foster and develop a “can do, will do” attitude. Education in the UK needs to be more proactive and we must further enhance the link between business and charities, creating the workforce, the entrepreneurs and the volunteers we need. The answer therefore lies in a long-term education plan.
Creating opportunities covers many areas, and I will work hard during my time in this House to create a society in which everyone can achieve their dreams. As I have said, what matters is not where we come from, but where we are going. My dream was never just to get here, but to get others where they want to be. I hope that, through this role, I will open door after door for the residents of the Chippenham constituency.”