Maiden Speech

Claire's Maiden Speech, 15 January 2020

Thank you Mr Speaker for the opportunity to make my maiden speech. I’m proud to be here representing the beautiful constituency of East Surrey.

I’d like to begin by paying tribute to my predecessor Sam Gyimah. We have more in common than representing East Surrey. We are both the children of immigrant doctors. I too, am 5 foot 4 and a half. And although we may have slightly different views on Brexit, I know that he was passionate about the prosperity of this country which our families now call home. I’m sure this House would agree with me that he made many important contributions in this place as Childcare Minister, Prisons Minister and as Universities Minister.

Sam was right when he said ‘in East Surrey we stand on the shoulders of giants.’ From Geoffrey Howe to Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston, the list is long and distinguished. I would like however to especially mention Peter Ainsworth. From his work as the Shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA, to his expert Chairmanship on the Environmental Audit Committee, to his work on the Board of the Environment Agency. I can safely say - I stand on the shoulders of a very, green giant indeed.

East Surrey is known for its local beauty. There are four Local Nature Reserves, eight sites of Special Scientific Interest and over a third of the area is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or of Great Landscape Value. If you walk through the North Downs or the High Weald, you will be met with chalk downs, rolling hillsides, lowland meadows and woodlands. Our vibrant village spirit is evident in the communities of Tatsfield, Warlingham, Woldingham, Lingfield, Felbridge and many more besides. I hope to be a champion in this House to preserve and protect this treasured way of life for the future.

In Outwood near Godstone, work began in 1665 on one of the oldest working British windmills. The owner is said to have watched the Great Fire of London rage 25 miles away from its roof. And I’m proud that what East Surrey helped to pioneer in the renewable energy sector in the 17th Century, has now become one of the most remarkable success stories in the UK today. Not only are we the world leader in offshore wind, seven out of ten of the biggest wind farms in Europe are right here in the UK.

I commend the ambitious Environment Bill put forward in Her Majesty’s Gracious speech to forward this work and I look forward to seeing the Green measures in the upcoming Budget which will undoubtedly build on this work further.

However, in order, for East Surrey to continue to fufill our role as the lungs of London, I hope to secure much needed investment in local infrastructure – for vital improvements to roads and tackling potholes which are crucial to local productivity. And in public transport, particularly rail. More than half the area’s working population commute out to places like London, Crawley and Gatwick and yet we have some of the most congested rail lines and roads in the UK. Making sure that people can get to work and public services successfully is not only good for the environment and the wellbeing of residents, but it ensures that our local towns Horley, Caterham, Oxted can continue to thrive.

I also have had the considerable pleasure of working with my Right Honourable Friend, the Member for Richmond, on the Spending Review 2019 which saw record investment in schools, in police and in the NHS. Now that I am on the other side of the table, I whole-heartedly and unreservedly welcome the increased funding - particularly where those funds might land in East Surrey! And I will be working hard to make sure that this initial groundwork of a national announcement makes a meaningful difference in classrooms, GP surgeries and to police officers on the ground.

I would like in this speech to mention my grandmother, who may be the single greatest emblem of Conservative values that I know. She was a teacher in India who in my memory took her fashion lead firmly from the Queen. She raised seven children with little resource but with a strong sense that with hard work and determination you can achieve the impossible.

Her children were doctors and teachers and Grade 8 musicians and are now scattered all across the globe. If she could see me here today - in  ‘the noblest Government in the world’ - she would, I’m sure, tell me to work hard, be determined and achieve the impossible.

Politicians today have a near impossible task. We live in world of changing technology, behaviour, demographics and indeed - as has been the subject of many excellent speeches today – environment.

I hope in this place to contribute in a small way to preparing this great country for the future to come.