Opening Commons speech by new Berwick MP

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Berwick’s new MP used her maiden speech in the House of Commons to vow to fight for north Northumberland, saying: “I am certain that I represent the most beautiful and varied constituency in England.”

Concluding her address yesterday evening, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “I hope fervently, as do so many of my constituents up in the borderlands, that with the Scotland and EU Referendum Bills and English Votes for English Laws coming forward, we will be creating a new framework for our four nations to take charge of their day-to-day lives for the 21st century, while remaining firmly committed to a strong and united Great Britain, in charge of its own destiny.”

She also made reference to a number of her predecessors including Sir Alan Beith – ‘who was universally respected for his 41 years’ devoted service both to his constituents and to this House’, Sir William Beveridge, who paved the way for the modern welfare state, and Mabel Philipson, the constituency’s first and, until Mrs Trevelyan’s election, only, female MP.

Here is her speech in full:

It is an honour to be making my maiden speech today, as we debate the Queens Speech and tackle the vital issues of British sovereignty and the future of the countries within our borders.

As the new MP for Berwick upon Tweed, I am following in giant footsteps: Those of my immediate predecessor, Sir Alan Beith, who was universally respected for his 41 years’ devoted service both to his constituents and to this House, a man known as a committed Methodist, a speaker of five languages, and the long-serving Chairman of the Justice Select Committee; those of Sir William Beveridge, elected in 1944 as Berwick’s MP (though defeated only a year later by Conservative Robert Thorp) whose work on a social-security system which would eliminate the five Giant Evils of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness paved the way for our modern welfare state and health service which we all value and protect, regardless of changing political colours in Government; those of Sir Edward Grey, who first stood up to speak in this place in 1887 to challenge Government Ministers of the time on the Irish Question. He went on to become Foreign Secretary in Asquith’s Government in 1914 and spoke those now immortal words at the outbreak of the First World War: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our life-time” as our country headed into the Great War.

From the northernmost county of England, The Northumberland Fusiliers raised no fewer than 51 battalions for service in the Great War, the second largest after the London Regiment, taking a whole generation of young Northumbrian men to war, of which 17,500 never came home.

But perhaps the fact I feel most keenly is that I am only the second woman to be elected as the MP for Berwick, the first having been Mabel Philipson, elected in 1923, also as a Conservative. She was great-aunt to my honourable Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk;. She was only the third woman to enter this House as an elected representative, and I have no doubt would be pleased to see that following the recent elections we now have some 30 per cent representation by female MPs across the House.

Mabel was the mother of a disabled child and a vociferous champion for improved disability rights. An actress before she came to Parliament, I sometimes think that she had better training than I have had, as a chartered accountant, to tackle the theatrical nature of this Chamber and its tough audience, both without and within.

But I am encouraged by her success in her areas of interest, and am committed in my time here, be it short or long, to work tirelessly to ensure that all children, regardless of their start in life, whatever advantages or challenges their circumstances have thrust upon them, will be able to achieve their full potential.

I believe passionately that all children have great futures, but that adults around them too often limit their potential. There is always more to do to inspire, protect and encourage our next generation.

I have a unique advantage in my new post as the MP for North Northumberland - I am certain that I represent the most beautiful and varied constituency in England.

From the magnificent Cheviot hills in the west, and the River Tweed in the North, both of which act as the Border with Scotland, to 60 miles of coastline, with its ancient castles, endless beaches, and RAF Boulmer where our nations’ air defences are monitored from.

It should also be noted, that whilst being the last bastion of England, Berwick’s football team chooses to play in the Scottish Football League, because we are too far from other English teams for the team bus to get to many towns across England; this unique position is one which causes problems with funding and player transfers and I hope to help resolve with the Sports Minister in due course.

My constituency, more than one thousand square miles of it, boasts the important ancient market towns of Alnwick (these days of Harry Potter fame, but historically of Harry Hotspur) and of Berwick-upon-Tweed, a town which has changed hands between England and Scotland many times over the centuries. It has remained firmly English since 1492 and continues to prefer that position, in case Members opposite were experiencing any acquisitory impulses. And it is said that Berwick was left out of the peace treaty with Russia at the end of the Crimean War, reputedly leaving us still in a state of war with that country.

Our ports at Seahouses and Amble still bring in fish and lobster from the North Sea (despite decades of EU directives trying to kill off their trade), and our tiny villages are surrounded by traditional agricultural factories, diligently producing food in all weathers for our tables, abd barley malted by family business Simpsons Malts for over 150 years for Scottish whisky and Northumberland’s own Hepple gin.

Perhaps it was Northumberland’s harsh winters which prepared Admiral Collingwood, a great Northumbrian, whose firing prowess from our great ships at the Battle of Trafalgar is credited with Nelson and Britain’s victory against Napoleon; and whose belief in hard-won respect from his sailors meant that on his ships no corporal punishment was required.

His famous traits of hard work and determination to succeed are ones which I will be attempting to emulate in pursuit of road investment to join London to Edinburgh by that modern road we all dream of up in North Northumberland – a dualled A1 – a campaign upon which I hope fellow new arrivals, the honourable members from north of the border, will join me to complete the project.

The North East of England may seem a long way from London to many, but it has always been a region which could punch above its weight, with leading industrialists in shipping and mining across the centuries bringing wealth and technological development forwards.

We have a renaissance taking place right now, with internationally renowned centres for renewable energy, life sciences and technology, and we are proud of our newest minister, my honourable friend for Stockton South, as he helps bring the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse vision to life.

Right at the top of the North East, in Berwick-upon-Tweed, the most northerly English town of our nation, I am determined to help build a vibrant economy so that our young people can make Northumberland their family home, ensuring that a new Enterprise Zone across our main towns opens up investment and new jobs in these key technologies.

My predecessor gave his maiden speech back in 1973, and in it he bemoaned the fact that there was ‘no such thing as a district general hospital in the whole area of the new Northumberland Health Authority, and never likely to be... and that no one of the four hospital centres within Northumberland could be developed to the extent that it could satisfactorily serve the whole area’.

It is a great joy then to be able to share with the House today that the first A&E specialist hospital in the UK opens this month in Northumberland, leading the way in modern medecine to provide the very best 24/7 acute medical provision to patients with life-threatening illnesses.

What may seem unimaginable today for the future of our own communities and our nation should never be dismissed as impossible.

It was after all back in 634 AD that St Aidan came across to Lindisfarne, one of a handful of small islands within my constituency, more commonly known as Holy Island. This small island is cut off from the mainland at high tide and it was here that St Aidan established a monastery and started to build the early Christian faith across a challenging pagan landscape.

From the Kingdom of Northumbria, at the very centre of our nation, St Aidan began the community-building work of our evangelising early church, on which so much of what is good about our United Kingdom of four strong and independent-minded nations is based.

I hope fervently, as do so many of my constituents up in the borderlands, that with the Scotland and EU Referendum Bills and English Votes for English Laws coming forward, we will be creating a new framework for our four nations to take charge of their day-to-day lives for the 21st century, while remaining firmly committed to a strong and united Great Britain, in charge of its own destiny.