It is both exhilarating and humbling to speak for the first time in the House of Commons. The magnitude of the occasion and the tremendous honour of representing my home in such a historic chamber is something that I will treasure forever.
Aside from all of the pomp and ceremony for me, first and foremost Parliament is a place of work, and the job that needs doing is an important one.
That is why when I rose to make my maiden speech earlier this month I decided to devote it to our local and regional economy. I was quite surprised by how few Conservative members were in the chamber for such an important economic debate, especially considering how vociferous some of them are about Labour taking the economy seriously.
Well, I take our economy seriously.
The so called “Northern Powerhouse” was announced by the Government with much fanfare but little detail. Get beyond the mildly patronising language and you have what could easily be a good idea. But that’s all it is, an idea. And a big concern is that this is actually all about Manchester and not the north at all.
Addressing the north-south divide and its economic and social differences is essential for businesses and families in Yorkshire. But that divide must be bridged, not simply redrawn. The north as a whole must benefit not just one city. More importantly, for Batley and Spen this agenda has to have at its centre a commitment to connect towns and villages in constituencies like this one to thriving city hubs like Leeds, and to deliver a financial offer in the forthcoming Budget that gives us a real chance of success.
We’re not fools: talk about devolving power to cities and regions, while simultaneously stripping them of the resources to deliver and subjecting northern councils like Kirklees to the harshest of cuts, is not compatible with a worthy commitment to building a northern powerhouse to drive growth and prosperity.
During the election, and more so since, I have spoken with many local businesses from every corner of the constituency and they were clear that confidence is key. Confidence to expand, to borrow, to grow; and the confidence to fuel a real economic recovery that benefits everybody, offering decent jobs, paying decent wages and bridging the skills gap.
Local businesses want the skills mismatch that leaves employers with staff shortages and young people without jobs addressed. They want access to reliable sources of finance and to connect to a regional infrastructure that works.
Any benefits must also filter down to our town centres, their prosperity is crucial to our local economy. This is why I am working with traders in Batley and Heckmondwike to put together a vision for each and why I plan to hold further talks with traders in Cleckheaton and Birstall.
As I told Parliament in my maiden speech, Batley and Spen has more manufacturing jobs than the national average. We make things and I am proud of that. I want Britain and the world to be just as proud as I am of the things we make in Yorkshire.
This column was written before the Government announced plans to shelve its pre-election promise to electrify the Transpennine rail route. Click here for more.