I was privileged to give my maiden speech in the House of Commons on 12th July.
Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is a privilege to make my maiden speech, but it is sobering to do so in today’s debate about Grenfell – which reminds us all of the seriousness, of our duties, as Members of this House.
I am very pleased to follow my honourable friend, the Member for Lewisham West and Penge who has also made her maiden speech today.
I would like to begin by paying tribute to my predecessor Michael Dugher. The son of a railway man, he has been true to his working class roots.
A strong campaigner for Barnsley East on issues like community pharmacies, Orgreave and Brass Bands.
For all of his achievements, he has been awarded the rare accolade of featuring on the wall of the Strangers Bar....better the wall Madam Deputy Speaker than the floor.
Music is his passion and now it is his job as chief executive of UK Music. I know family is important to him and wish him and Jo very well in their new adventure.
I would also like to mention his predecessor, Jeff Ennis, who has served as Leader of Barnsley council, MP for Barnsley East and now as the Mayor of Barnsley. A unique achievement.
Like Jeff, before entering this place I was a teacher.
Working in education, I saw the profound power of learning.
And I have learnt myself that it is incumbent on all of us to support the next generation.
I am particularly proud to be the first female MP for Barnsley East.
But I wouldn't be here, without the help and encouragement of a former female Member.
Madam Deputy Speaker, you will remember Sylvia Heal, who sat in your chair for many years.
I am delighted that she is here today, along with my parents.
I am the daughter of a midwife and a care worker and I owe them huge thanks for their support.
For the last four years, I have been proud to fight for working people as an officer of the GMB trade union.
As a Member of this House, I will continue that fight for working people – not least the many now trapped in jobs that are more precarious than ever before.
And today’s debate reminds us of what we have fought for over so many years and how the lessons of the past are still as relevant today.
That even now, not all communities are equal and the protection of human life requires our action in this House.
Many people will know about Barnsley’s history, and there is so much to be proud of.
But still, I have constituents waiting for justice for what happened to them at Orgreave in 84. We must ensure that the Grenfell victims do not wait as long.
In Barnsley East, our industrial and cultural heritage, runs alongside our history of working class struggle.
It is appropriate that the town is the home of both the National Union of Mineworkers and the famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
Our communities were built, on heavy industry - glass, steel and coal.
Mining was a way of life for entire communities. 30,000 people worked down the pits and the impact of their loss is still felt today.
Many of my Honourable Friends, will know my constituency from the film Brassed Off, which showed so powerfully the character, grit, humour, solidarity and struggle faced by honest, decent, hard working people.
No one who has seen the film can forget Danny's powerful speech where he says “nothing matters like people matter.”
It is traditional to talk about the great history of your constituency in a maiden speech, and I am proud to do so.
But, nothing matters like people matter.
It is above all the people of Barnsley East who make the constituency what it is.
People like the teaching assistant, her pay falling but her bills rising. She looks after our children. We should look after her.
People like the insecure worker at a warehouse, labouring on the minimum wage. She works hard for her family. We should work just as hard for her.
People like the veteran who served his country, yet is now homeless and jobless. He fought for us. We should fight for him.
In Barnsley East we can be proud of our industry and our history. All of it matters, but none of it matters, like people matter.
The NUM in Barnsley has a banner embroidered with the words: “the past we inherit, the future we build”.
I have spoken of our proud past. But the people of Barnsley East did not send me here to honour our history. They sent me here to build our future. And that is what I intend to do.
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