A new member of the House of Lords has pledged to press for action against coastal erosion threatening Walney homes and natural resources.

Lord Walney warned in his maiden speech as a peer that the island could be “split in two” without further action.

The Barrow-based peer, who was granted the title by the Queen on being elevated to the peerage, pledged “a lifetime of service” to his fellow residents as he directly addressed them from the red benches of the upper chamber.

In Cumbria:

Speaking as peers debated a bill that will allow undercover police sources to be authorised to break the law in certain circumstances, the former Member of Parliament for Barrow and Furness said: “To my neighbours on Walney Island, which I am proud to take as my territorial designation, I say this: you kindly took in this off-comer; you elected me three times, and now I will give you a lifetime of service, raising the particular concerns of the island and the wider area.

“I will remain a firm advocate of the submarines constructed with your expertise, and I hope to make a contribution in due course on the issue of coastal erosion, which could literally split our wonderful island in two in future decades if left unchecked. That would be unconscionable to the near-11,000 residents of the island and would decimate its unique, cherished natural resources.”

In Cumbria:

Several measures have been taken to shield parts of Walney from erosion from the Irish sea over the last ten years, when Lord Walney was the area’s MP under his given name of John Woodcock.

But residents of West Shore Park and nature enthusiasts remain desperately worried that key parts of the island could be washed away. Campaigners led by Walney South Councillor Frank Cassidy have warned that the southern tip of the island could be permanently cut off if tides continue to advance.

Lord Walney also used the speech to try to draw a line under the political controversy over former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that led to him leaving the Labour party and urging local voters to back Conservative Simon Fell in last year’s general election.

In Cumbria:

He said: “I am proud of the small contribution that I made to stopping what would otherwise have been inflicted on the British people had the general election last year gone the other way. That has strained some lifelong friendships; indeed, it has led to one or two frosty encounters in the corridors of this place. I am happy now, however, to be given the opportunity to put party politics behind me and start a new chapter. Much of the past few years has been difficult, but it has underlined a central tenet of my faith: no one party and no one group within a party holds a monopoly of wisdom. We are all flawed human beings mostly trying to do our best in a complex and conflicted world. I will always endeavour to do my best in this place, and it is deeply humbling to be given that chance.”

Speaking next, Labour peer and former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West said: My Lords, I am honoured to follow that excellent and very moving maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Walney. He talked of Walney Island, and I know that area. What he did not mention was that it has an airport built at right angles to the prevailing wind and about as long as this Chamber, so if any noble Lords are thinking of visiting there, they will have a very fun arrival if they go by air.

In Cumbria:

I have known John, the noble Lord, Lord Walney, for more than 10 years. He is a highly principled man, and I was particularly impressed, first, by his confrontation of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, which he drove through with great vigour; and secondly by his passionate support for an issue very close to my heart and those of his ex-constituents, which noble Lords heard him mention—the UK’s independent deterrent and nuclear submarines. Neither issue made him popular with the last leader of the Labour Party, but he refused to compromise his beliefs. Rather like his namesake in the 17th century, he was martyred, although I doubt that—unlike his predecessor—he will be beatified by the Pope. The noble Lord, Lord Walney, will be of great value to this House. We already got that from what he said, and I look forward very much to working with him.”

In Cumbria:

And Baroness Williams, the Conservative minister closing the debate on the bill, said: “The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Walney, was absolutely wonderful. I want to put on the record that I think he is a brave and principled man. He stood up for his colleagues when others did not, and that is a great accolade. He has shown independence of character, spirit and strength through what he has suffered for probably far too long, but I think that he knows that in this House he is surrounded by friends on all sides. I look forward to hearing some of his views on nuclear submarines, coastal erosion and other things.”