VIDEO: Simon Fell makes Maiden Speech in House of Commons, pledging to fight for Furness
Simon Fell, the newly elected Member of Parliament for Barrow and Furness, today made his Maiden Speech in the House of Commons, pledging to fight for Furness.
Simon highlighted the need for dramatic improvements in our road infrastructure, for the rail franchise to be stripped from Northern, and for the renewal of our towns as key issues.
Simon welcomed the Government’s commitment to the Dreadnought programme and called for Morecambe Bay and the Cumbrian Coast to lead the UK in the green industrial revolution - highlighting our expertise and skills, and the existing network of renewable energy projects with offshore wind, and civil nuclear to name but two. He also called on the government to back exploration of a tidal barrage in Morecambe Bay.
Speaking outside the chamber, Mr Fell said: “I’m delighted and relieved to get the speech done - it was a nerve-wracking experience but, even more importantly, it now means that I can speak in debates in the Chamber and fight for Furness in there. I relish the opportunity to start doing just that.”
Simon’s speech is transcribed below:
Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker, and may I welcome you back to your rightful position in the Chair.
I am very grateful to make my maiden speech in this debate on the Green Industrial Revolution.
Although mine is the first Maiden Speech today, it is daunting to follow the excellent contributions by my colleagues from both sides of the House yesterday. It is, I believe, tradition to congratulate Members who have made their maiden speeches. But having listened to them, feeling increasingly queasy as I did so, I don’t believe they require any congratulations from me. Indeed, as their Ministerial careers blossom and flourish, I hope they will look kindly upon me.
I will also gladly comply with another tradition of the House and pay tribute to my predecessor as Member of Parliament for Barrow & Furness - John Woodcock. Despite hailing from the wrong side of the Pennines, John was a staunch and passionate defender of this beautiful but often neglected part of the world. He fought to secure the Dreadnought programme in the shipyard, and brought that same focus to the fight against anti-Semitism and injustice wherever he saw it, no matter the personal cost. John and I may have clashed in the past, but his resilience and drive are something I hope to replicate in the years ahead, and his affection for Furness shines through.
Barrow and Furness is hidden away, but it is a remarkable place.
Stretching almost - almost - from Coniston Old Man in the north all the way to Walney Island in the south, Barrow and Furness is beautiful, with an industrial town at its beating heart. We are home to the national endeavour of building our nation’s nuclear deterrent. With a proud history of shipbuilding, from ocean liners, to Royal Navy flagships and submarines. But it wasn’t always this way.
Furness is rich in mineral deposits - copper, nickel, cobalt and iron ore. Indeed, it was prospecting for iron ore in the 1830s that led to the creation of Barrow as we know it. A collection of sheep farms being transformed into a Victorian town of high standing, an iron-exporting giant, and then later a shipbuilding hub and a world leader in the production of submarines.
It is that work now on which many of my constituents rely - almost 1 in 5 of them either directly, or through our substantial supply chains. And I will be focussed in ensuring that my Party not only honours promises to sustain that work as we produce the next generation of nuclear deterrent, but that we seek to grow our capability in renewing the Astute class boats and seek wider opportunities too.
But Barrow and Furness is not just about submarines. Our market towns, from Ulverston to Dalton and Broughton-in-Furness are bustling and ideal - I would urge honourable members to note - for weekend breaks and the Easter holidays. You can watch the grey seals frolic in South Walney, with Piel Island - which used to protect the harbour from marauding Scots, and now welcomes their visits - on the horizon.
From local craft shops to the best pies in England, Furness’ real natural resource is its people. There is no place with a stronger sense of community.
Coming off a gruelling election campaign, you often find yourself reflecting on what might have been had you zigged rather than zagged and if life had led you down a different path. The joy of an election is meeting people - getting out to people’s doors and hearing what they want for their futures, their children and their community.
But that same joy also comes from the people you spend your election campaign with. I should at this point pay tribute to five people, without whom I would not be stood here now. My father, Peter, bounder of hedges, with no respect for gates. My wife, Pippa, my rock. My mother, Meriel, who kept me sane. And Ben and Brenda, who made my campaign a success, despite their candidate’s best efforts. I fear that if I listed everyone I should thank, Mr Deputy Speaker, I fear the orchestra would play me off. But they know who they are.
We also lost people this campaign, and I’d like to take this opportunity to remember Pam Whittam - the kindest and most determined stalwart of my local party that you might want to meet, whose cooking I still find myself idly thinking about. And Rory McClure, former Mayor of Barrow, former President of Furness Rotary, and a dedicated local councillor and friend. I’ll miss them both terribly.
I campaigned on a slogan of “Securing Furness’ Future”, and it’s not a pledge that I take lightly. Furness’ future is at stake.
It is hard not to argue that Furness is a left behind community. The A590 is dangerous and prone to flooding. The A595 runs through a farmyard. And when our rail franchise fails - as it all too often does - our people are left stranded.
And this is a point which I feel is especially appropriate to raise in this debate on the green industrial revolution - our current rail service is so poor that it is pushing people away from public transport and into their cars!
And that is why I look forward to working with my Rt Hon friends on the front bench to strip Northern of their franchise and deliver a reliable and improved rail service on the Furness Line.
But we also have a tremendous opportunity in Furness to be at the forefront of this green industrial revolution.
We vie with Hull as being host to the largest offshore wind farm in the world - a title which I very much hope we will regain shortly.
Up the coast in Copeland is Sellafield, where a number of my constituents make the daily journey through that same farm yard to work.
And opportunity sits literally on our doorstep.
Off our coastline are the ideal conditions for a tidal barrage, the development of which would cement the Cumbrian coast as a northern powerhouse in renewable energy, skills and capability.
The impact of having such a concentration of renewables businesses in Morecambe Bay and the Cumbrian Coast would be transformative. This remote and beautiful part of England could become the epicentre of the green industrial revolution. We have the people, we have the skills, we just need the chance. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the front bench in exploring the viability of this bold project.
On the doorstep, I was told time and again that people were lending me their votes. Well, I consider every vote to be lent. To earn them again, we must deliver on our promise to ‘level up’ communities like Barrow & Furness, to renew our town centre, finally tackle deep-set poverty, and invest in our NHS and schools. I shall pursue that with a single-minded focus.
It is an incredible honour to be here and I will work daily to earn the trust that the people of Barrow and Furness have put in me. I look forward to fighting for them in the years to come.