The new MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central has made her maiden speech in the House of Commons and says she's determined to focus on the economy and jobs.
Jo Gideon took the seat from Labour's Gareth Snell, the first time the Tories have held the seat since the 1930's.
She says Stoke-on-Trent is on the up, confident about Brexit, proud of our industrial heritage and committed to a manufacturing future.
"It is an incredible honour to represent the people of Stoke-on-Trent Central, and I thank them for sending me to this House. The city is, as my predecessor Gareth Snell rightly put it in his own maiden speech, “vibrant, welcoming and proud.”
"I pay tribute to him for his championing of the ceramics industry and its continued place at the heart of the Potteries economy – and Gareth was always protective of the industry in this House, at every stage of the process: from bringing the clay in by freight train, to getting the finished product out into the world so that plate turners everywhere could flip their tableware and see the uniquely reassuring backstamp Made in Stoke-on-Trent.
There will be no change there from me.
"Mr Deputy Speaker, Stoke-on-Trent is six historic market towns in one. Tunstall and Burslem are ably represented by my Hon Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North; Longton and Fenton by my Hon Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South. Stoke-on-Trent Central is made up of Stoke-upon-Trent, commonly known as Stoke Town or simply Stoke, and Hanley, which is often seen as the city centre – but not necessarily by everyone in Tunstall, Burslem, Longton, Fenton or Stoke.
"Our city is polycentric and rich with history, a fascinating place to visit and a wonderful place to live. You have to go back to the 1930s for the last time either Hanley or Stoke Town were in Conservative hands, and then only for one term.
"Mr Deputy Speaker, much as I am proud to follow in the footsteps of Harold Hayles and Ida Copeland in being a Conservative elected by the people of Stoke-on-Trent, I shall be looking to replicate the success of my Hon Friend the member for Stoke-on-Trent South in being re-elected by the people of Stoke-on-Trent.
"Mr Deputy Speaker, you may think this was a Brexit election – but it wasn’t just a Brexit election. It was a Brexit and… election, it was a Brexit so that… election. We are not just going to get Brexit done, we are going to invest in our NHS, schools, police, roads, and infrastructure.
"With the right support we can make Stoke-on-Trent an even better place to live, an even better place to visit. To do that, we must relentlessly improve education standards and skills and revolutionise public transport provision to cut congestion. Productivity is too low, exports do not match comparable cities like Coventry, and the city doesn’t quite do what it says on the tin: We need more Stoke and we need more Trent.
Stoke Town needs every penny of the Heritage High Streets money it has been promised, and it needs clearer and more direct pedestrian routes to Stoke-on-Trent railway station.
"I will work with anyone who can preserve our heritage while taking us forward. For too much of its course through the city, you would not know the River Trent was there. I will learn lessons from anywhere on how to improve public access to watercourses, and whilst I welcome the Government’s fund for new pocket parks, I will lobby relentlessly to get more funds into historic parks too.
"Our identity as a city is closely linked to the ceramics industry; and preserving the authentic Potteries landscape must be part of our tourism offer.
But the ceramics industry itself must always be allowed to move on into the newest processes, at the cutting-edge of technology. I want to see the successful Ceramics Valley Enterprise Zone expanded. I want to see the plan for an international research centre for advanced ceramics materialise in my constituency, to allow the expansion of world class innovation by companies like Lucideon, where I recently learnt about advanced sintering, a process which enables materials to handle the heat – something we know all about in this House. On Friday I saw some scintillating sintering in Stoke with the Secretary of State for International Trade. The research centre will also be supported by Staffordshire University, the world’s leading centre for Masters level ceramics, and the successor body to the Burslem and Hanley Schools of Art that gave the Potteries such pioneers as Susie Cooper, Edith Gater and Clarice Cliff. Still today, international ceramicists – who could base themselves anywhere in the world – choose to locate themselves in Stoke-on-Trent – because it is the authentic capital of ceramics, and it must remain so. Of course there are other industries that the city has embraced too. Increasingly Stoke-on-Trent is a centre for the logistics industry, for example, and over many years retail has been important to the six market towns. But the internet is threatening to harm our marketplaces and high streets even more than they have already been harmed by 1960s traffic schemes, and 1970s architects.
"We need radical reform of retail business rates, and we also need to make the high street a more relevant and attractive place to be, with more local residents living in town centres and more international tourists and buyers exploring our city. The entrepreneurial spirit that made the Potteries great must be unleashed again. Unleashed and nurtured. I set up and ran my own business from scratch. I didn’t have a business background, which probably helped me, because I didn’t worry about the unknown – rather like the feeling I had when I first set foot in this Place as the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central. Enterprise has no educational barriers, only barriers of self-belief. It must be the business of government to enable more people to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and we need to include enterprise in the school curriculum.
Ambition must be encouraged, supported and rewarded. And your background should never hold you back:
• Let us back those who have no family history of setting up a business.
• Let us nurture those in business who have never yet exported a product.
• Let us encourage those entrepreneurs who are yet to be employers to take on their first member of staff.
"For my part, I will gently encourage the Government, at every turn, to invest in the infrastructure and services of Stoke-on-Trent.
Most urgently, that means nothing short of a transport revolution across the city to cut congestion for private vehicles and speed up services for bus and rail users. Beeching didn’t so much swing an axe in Stoke-on-Trent as wield a chainsaw. Too many branch lines were lost, too many stations were closed and it got worse still: as late as 2005 the Strategic Railway Authority shut Etruria station, and dug it up completely in 2008.
"Stoke-on-Trent is crying out for better public transport and we need a big share of the Transforming Cities Fund, and the bus fund, and the reverse Beeching fund, and more to make up for the decades of under-investment in Stoke-on-Trent when we missed out on our fair share. I really hope that we will be a pilot area for the Superbus project – as our geography of six towns in one city can offer best practice lessons for many other places.
"Mr Deputy Speaker, the people of Stoke-on-Trent have spoken, and they need to know the Government is listening. I know that they are. And I look forward to doing everything I can to keep it that way, to keep Stoke-on-Trent on the up, with our economy flourishing, our manufacturers making, our job satisfaction high, our earnings good, our talent retained, and our opportunities increased. From Trent Vale to Baddeley Edge, and Etruria to Bentilee my constituency has so much to offer – and it deserves every bit of the attention that I will ensure it is going to get."