Gordon Birtwistle MP’s maiden speech

Back when Cix was the main way of talking to other Lib Dems online, a tradition emerged of posting Lib Dem MPs’ maiden speeches so that people could read them and respond – a tradition LDV would like to continue. The first new Lib Dem MP to speak in the 2010 Parliament was Gordon Birtwhistle.

Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley) (LD): I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech so early in the new Parliament. I pay tribute to those who made their maiden speeches before me—the hon. Members for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris), for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds). I know Stalybridge quite well because I am always delivering precision machine parts to a company based there.

It was a great privilege in the early hours of 7 May to be elected as Member of Parliament for Burnley. Burnley now has a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament—the first time that Labour has not held the seat since 1935, a period of 75 years. Burnley is a special place at the heart of Pennine Lancashire, with lovely countryside and friendly people. We have an abundance of waterways, canals, rivers and reservoirs, all of which played their part in our industrial heritage, which has sadly declined over the years. The old industries of cotton, textiles, coal and heavy engineering have now all but disappeared. The industries may have declined, but the industrious spirit of the north remains as strong as ever.

One of my main interests in this Parliament is to promote sustained growth in the high-tech, high-value manufacturing sector, both locally and nationally, that will deliver pride and prosperity for this nation. The sector is already well established in Burnley, whose businesses include Aircelle,manufacturer of thrust reversing systems for theRolls-Royce Trent engines used by airlines around the world; MB Aerospace, which manufactures launch canisters for the American Harpoon missile; Futaba Tenneco, which manufactures major body parts for the current range of Toyota vehicles, which are sold around the world; and many other small high-tech manufacturing companies that serve the aerospace, nuclear and automotive sectors.

We need to ensure that students are provided with the relevant education to prepare them to undertake these high-tech roles. By providing people with the skills that employers require, we will also be providing them with the ability to earn a good living wage. Burnley’s new sixth-form college and university campus,which is dedicated to advanced manufacturing, goes some way to delivering these opportunities in Burnley and must be replicated elsewhere across the country.

I give my heartfelt thanks to the constituents of Burnley for having faith in me and the courage to vote for change—change that I believe can be delivered by this new type of coalition Administration, harnessing the best policies of two fresh parties both committed to raising our country out of the current difficulties, which should not be underestimated.

At this point, it is customary to make reference to the contributions of predecessors. Kitty Ussher represented Burnley for five years, and in that time she gave birth to her two children, Lizzie and George. Kitty realised first hand the problems of combining being a mother and a Member of Parliament, and she began a campaign for family-friendly working hours. Kitty worked hard to help deliver the Building Schools for the Future programme in Burnley and she will be pleased to hear that the final two schools will be opened in time for the commencement of the new school year. Together with all the people of Burnley and Padiham, I wish Kitty success in her future career outside Westminster.

The people of Burnley and Padiham are good, decent and hard working. They are outspoken and direct, and unafraid of speaking their minds. Serving them as a local councillor and council leader for the past 28 years has given me a thorough, in-depth apprenticeship in how best to serve their needs in Parliament. I will always put the needs of the people of Burnley and Padiham first in my parliamentary activities, as I will never forget that their faith in me has brought me here today.

The most pressing current issue for the residents of Burnley and Padiham is the transfer of our accident and emergency unit, which was taken from us in 2008 and relocated 15 congested miles away at the Royal Blackburn hospital. Now, the threat of the transfer of our children’s ward to the same hospital, which for many people is accessible only with a great deal of difficulty, is considered to be a step too far. I am heartened to have received a statement from my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary outlining the new coalition Government’s vision for locally led NHSservice changes. That vision gives me hope that the transfer of the children’s ward will not now take place. I will continue to press for the full return of the accident and emergency facilities that are so vital to the 250,000 residents of Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.

Once again, I thank the people of Burnley for their courage and faith in me. I assure them all that I will always represent them to the best of my ability. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank the House for listening to my speech this evening.

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