Took an earlier Monday morning train to London, on 22 January, to catch up with 3M leadership in London. Felt a little blessed as there were many trains disrupted due to the storms but mine was on time. Then it was into the Chamber for questions to the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities ministers where I was able to ask the Minister to meet me to see what we can do about the situation in Ferryhill. Ferryhill residents are seeing questionable landlords degrading the communities and we need to see how we can frustrate this. He agreed to meet as soon as possible.
On Tuesday I joined the team from Durham County Council on Teams updating on the exciting programme for the Stockton & Darlington Railway celebrations in 2025. Later I went to a drop in about geothermal energy and listened to the difference between air and ground source heat pumps as well as revisiting the opportunities for mine water heating solutions. I had a call with the Newton Aycliffe town centre manager and have scheduled a follow up early February. One thing we discussed was the car parking charges being introduced. I will look closely at the details when we meet but one thing that was stressed is that the charges are only on three smaller car parks (the first two hours remain free) with the bigger spaces remaining unmonitored. I had a drop in about the ‘Reach Out’ campaign which encourages anyone with mortgage issues to Reach Out for help. I also had a catch up with Gillian Keegan MP, Secretary of State for Education. Did you know that, in 2010, 67% of our schools were Good or Outstanding whereas now 91% are? I had my usual meeting with the Northern Research Group committee before joining a dinner hosted by Durham University. This was promoting the University and was for local MPs and/or alumni from Durham University, I qualified on both counts.
Wednesday started with a delegated legislation on Local Government Finance before the Transport Select Committee where we were challenging National Highways about their work and priorities. After PMQs I had catch ups with my team and then visitors from the USA that engage with Kromek in Sedgefield. I also popped into see the Youth Rocketery Challenge. This is where young people are challenged to build a rocket that will go to a specific height and then return to Earth in one piece. It is open to anyone and we have the details if any school, University Technical College, scout group or similar want to consider entering next year.
Thursday was a day where I wanted to be in two places at the same time. I had both the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme Strategic Command visit and Kromek holding their Kromek Futures event. The AFPS event was at Scale Space in White City in London and was all about how the Ministry of Defence are trying to engage better with SMEs. Kromek are one of those very SMEs that need more opportunities, hence my conflict of priorities, but I managed to get to the Kromek event in time to do the closing speech.
On Friday morning I went to Durham Cathedral for the Holocaust Memorial Service. I have been to many extraordinary events at the Cathedral, but this one was right up there with the best. The principal theme was about the Fragility of Freedom. We saw performances from many young people that were amazing as well as speeches from Rob Rinder, Bernie Graham and Simon Henig, amongst others. All spoke about their personal family connections to the holocaust, and it was this that delivered such gravitas to the occasion. Later I caught up with the Newton Aycliffe neighbourhood police team, they really are a committed bunch delivering for our community. Hopefully the team will see a few extras soon. I was really pleased to hear that they will be adding more focus to shoplifting, as our shopkeepers have a difficult enough time without thefts. When I met the Chief Constable, the previous week, I raised the importance of getting the police station in Aycliffe sorted and I know the team here look forward to that resolution too. Then it was a meeting with constituents where we discussed knife crime and the scourge this is on society and how important it is to steer our young people away from carrying knives. I will do all I can to support this.
Later there was a pop-up surgery in Sainsbury’s Sedgefield. Friday 2 February I will visit Neville Parade Community Centre in Aycliffe in the morning and Fishburn Community Centre in the afternoon.
Saturday started at The Arc in Aycliffe with Katie and the team litter picking. A short 30-minute visit before heading to Sedgefield for the Northern Cross Country Championships where The Mayor of Sedgefield, the Chairman of Durham County Council and I helped give out medals to the athletes. This was an amazing event with clubs from Derbyshire to Liverpool and Salford to the Scottish border. 175 clubs and 35,000 members are affiliated and could take part so a huge coup for Sedgefield to host.
Back to Westminster on 29 January, starting on Monday with the Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill and on Tuesday the Media Bill, amongst others. As always, if you want to catch up, either come along to a surgery, email: – or give us a call on Newton Aycliffe 01325 790580.