Amber Rudd gained Hastings and Rye from Labour at the general election and used her maiden speech yesterday to raise two issues of particular concern to her constituents: transport links and the Hastings fishing fleet:
"Like many towns, we suffer from the coastal problem of being at the end of the line. Looking at previous maiden speeches over the past 40 to 50 years, I see that there has been a recurring theme: transport. The A21 to Hastings needs renewing and improvement. Our survival and prosperity depend on access. There is no point having wonderful facilities if people cannot access them. It unquestionably puts off employers and tourists, both of whom we need, that it is so difficult to get to our part of the world. I am talking of a constituency where 43% of the work force are in the public sector. We are like an island. We know what way the tide is going; we need to attract the private sector to try to take up some of the unemployment. I fear that much of the money that has already been spent in my constituency will fail to improve the economy if we do not do something about that. For too long, we have been the underprivileged cousin of the south-east. Many of my constituents have suffered terribly from an economy that has simply left them behind.”
“I recognise the particular financial situation in which we find ourselves—there must be cuts; we have inherited a difficult legacy. However, I urge Government Front Benchers not to make them to vital infrastructure projects, on which everything else depends. In my constituency, they are: a link road to open up the area to more jobs and more employers; improvements to the A21, and better rail transport. We must be accessible to prosper. Conservatives understand above all the importance of enterprise and encouraging private sector growth so that families and communities can grow on their own."
"In Hastings, we have the largest beach-launched fishing fleet in Europe. In Rye, we have an important port and fishing fleet. They have been treated shamefully in the past 15 years. In the 1990s, there were 44 fishing vessels leaving Hastings, now there are 20, and the fishermen eke out a precarious living. Those men earn their living in a traditional, honest and environmentally friendly way, battling with the sea and the dangers of the deep. However, the common fisheries policy, as enforced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has made their lives impossible. In 2005, there were prosecutions of those fishermen. The role of Government must be to help people, not put them out of business. Their way of life needs bailing out. Our Fisheries Minister understands the issue and the urgency and has visited Hastings twice, but we cannot wait for a full renegotiation of the common fisheries policy. We need change now, with the cod season approaching and difficulties ahead of us. We need a Government who protect our fisheries and our fishermen. I urge particular consideration of coastal towns."