Monday 29th January started with a regular catch up with Hitachi before a trip to Teesside Airport to join the Prime Minister as he visited some apprentices at Willis, who are one of the numerous businesses investing in growth of the airport site. After this it was the usual train south in time for some delegated legislation on the Financial Services and Markets Act. Later I joined Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, at a round table discussing the transition to carbon for heavy duty vehicles where Cummins, from my constituency, were also present.
Tuesday was another piece of delegated legislation, before performing my duties as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in a Westminster Hall debate on the Capital Markets with the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, followed by the weekly meeting of the Treasury Ministers in No 11 where we were discussing the upcoming budget. If you want me to be sure the Chancellor has heard what you think is important, please get in touch using the usual details below. After this I popped into No 10 where they were launching the Laing Exhibition in residence at No 10. This includes iconic art showing the Tyne Bridge as well as classics from people like Norman Cornish (a coal miner turned art teacher and artist from Spennymoor) and is displayed in the corridors of 10 Downing Street. I then met Ian Palmer and Allan Oliver, from our Newton Aycliffe cricket and football clubs respectively, who I had the pleasure of inviting to No 10 to meet the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, at a reception for Community Sport Champions. It was my pleasure to take them for a tour round the Palace of Westminster before heading to Downing Street. After they had headed north, I then went to a discussion with Mel Stride, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, in conjunction with the Campaign for Social Justice.
On Wednesday, I joined other North East MPs meeting the Chancellor to share our important agendas before going into the chamber for Prime Minister’s Questions and later meeting with the Minister for Nuclear and Renewables, Andrew Bowie, to raise concerns about the scale of solar farm developments between Bishopton and Brafferton and the public consultation that has been done into it. Thursday saw me in the Chamber for questions to the Attorney General. I had not drawn a question but, by bobbing, I was selected by Mr Speaker. This enabled me to raise the case of Zoey McGill, where we are seeing social media posts from prison from some of those convicted of murdering her son Jack. The Attorney General agreed with my concerns about this wholly inappropriate activity and I will be working with Zoey to see how we can stop it. I had hoped to speak in the debate that afternoon on mining communities where my biggest focus was about the lack of bus services leaving these communities isolated, however, because of the urgent legislation to restart the Northern Ireland Assembly, Stormont, this debate has been postponed.
Back in the constituency on Friday and a Teams call with Transport for the North. I then called at the fabulous coffee morning at Neville Parade Community Centre. This takes place every Friday morning and is very well attended and having sampled the bacon sandwiches I think I can see why! It was good to get the chance to catchup with many residents and I hope to be back again on 16th February. I then finished the week, as I started, by meeting people from Hitachi. This time I called at the factory to meet Mark and Stacey who are Unite Union representatives and I was able to share with them the level of engagement I have with everyone from the Secretary of State, Mark Harper, to the rest of the Department for Transport and Hitachi management to support them and their colleagues, as I do for many businesses throughout the constituency. After this I went to Fishburn for an open surgery. This is a great opportunity to have conversations with residents to see what is important to them. The biggest issue in Fishburn is the lack of bus connections to places like Newton Aycliffe and Darlington, this is already high on my priorities, but this feedback just reinforces my intent. To finish the day, I had a catch up with the team working to deliver Fulwell73’s plans to create a North East studio and film making complex which would be a major boost to creative industries in our region.
On Saturday I had a 23-hour journey to Tokyo for my duties on the Transport Select Committee. This is a cross party visit as part of our ‘Future Transport’ enquiry. Whilst there, we will see the world leading transport in Japan and meet businesses like Nissan and Hitachi. I will share details in next week’s column. The following week will be a recess week from Westminster so I will be in the constituency all week. If you want to catch up, please email: or call Newton Aycliffe 01325 790580.