When I reflect on this year it will be with pride for our city and its achievements, against a backdrop of sadness and challenge.
We lost her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her association with our city was immense. She visited us for fleet reviews, civic events, homecomings, and ship commissioning, but also in transit to board her beloved Royal Yacht Britannia.
We remember her connection to and understanding of the tools of UK sea power, our sailors, our civilians, their families, our dockyard and our warships. For a time, that was her life, too: she had worn a uniform; she was a naval wife. She understood service and sacrifice and the burdens people carried. That empathy was evident in all that she did. Our sailors and citizens played a huge role in her funeral, in particular those who pulled her coffin on the gun carriage.
As always, we pulled together, we kept calm and carried on. We showed the ‘Pompey spirit’. Just as we have done many times before. Just as we did through COVID. Just as we do now as we recover from the pandemic and the legacy it has left on our public services and our economy.
As a city, we have continued to move forward. We fought for what we knew was right, winning our case against AQUIND’s interconnector scheme, and in helping Ukraine with its brave fight against Russian aggression. The kit and medical equipment appeal we ran jointly with The News is one of the highlights of the year for me. I was so moved at the response and kindness shown by so many from across the area. We have won new funds to rebuild more schools locally, regenerate our International passenger port, and to renovate the Hilsea Lido and the Hilsea Lines.
Our public servants have worked around the clock to cut backlogs and help those who missed out on so much during the pandemic. Our businesses have continued throughout these rough times, helped by government support during COVID and now to help pay energy bills. Some firms have really taken off, Yartys Cordials for example has signed a multi-million-pound deal with a German supermarket chain. On the successes of such businesses, everything depends. We must never forget that. We will shortly join the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, a huge £9 trillion market. This will be a massive boost to our city which sees the largest amount of export sales anywhere in the UK.
Next year will be an exciting one for the city. Our economy will get a boost. We will start to see the long-awaited developments at Tipner and elsewhere take shape. The Hilsea Lido refurb will commence. 1000s of new jobs will be created at the port and elsewhere. That growth will boost wages and opportunities.
Meantime I am determined to give families in my constituency every possible help. The Pantry schemes I have established have been part of that. In the first week, the new schemes in Baffins and Paulsgrove were used by about 40 families. They will help make households more resilient and provide new connections to make communities stronger.
I hope to bring shipbuilding opportunities to every yard in the UK by building- with private funds – three new disaster relief vessels that can provide new training platforms for mariner apprenticeships in partnership with Britannia Aid- based at Lakeside.
And, of course, there is the Coronation, an occasion I know our city will rise to.
This year especially I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped my work and supported me personally; through the accession council and the two bids to become your Prime Minister. I am so grateful for the kindness people have shown. I am optimistic for what lies ahead and wish everyone hope and happiness for the New Year.