Last week started with my time in Westminster, dominated by the Budget debates, as a Treasury Parliamentary Private Secretary I am required to spend time in the Chamber supporting the Treasury ministers in these debates. On Monday there was a reception hosted by the 1922 Committee, which consists of back bench Conservative MPs. They showed us the picture that has been taken of us all in the Chamber to celebrate the Committee’s centenary.
On Tuesday I had the privilege of inviting two of our amazing Head Teachers to a reception in No 10. They were the Heads of Ferryhill School and Deaf Hill Primary, Trimdon Station. They are representative of the many fabulous heads and teachers we have throughout the constituency. I was delighted, after they had been to No 10, to also take them for a look around the Palace of Westminster.
Wednesday, as usual, was the Transport Select Committee. This time we were looking at the future of transport and, in particular, how data use will drive change. It was then the usual Prime Minister’s Questions before calling across to the Jubilee Room. This is a room just off Westminster Hall (where the Queen lay in state) that is regularly used by visiting groups and exhibitors. This week though it was the turn of Durham food businesses, this included gin, beer, cheese, wine and food suppliers. From my constituency we had Lovesome Oil whose farm is in Brafferton. The businesses all seemed to have a good time and some also made some connections for new customers.
I met with Minister Stuart Andrew MP to talk about both the Community Wealth Fund I have championed, but I also asked him about funding options to support the plans for Heighington Station and the bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Stuart is setting me up to meet one of his colleagues to discuss this further.
I then went to an incredibly emotional event where we met some Israelis who had been hostages following the Hamas attack, but subsequently released. I cannot put into words how moving this was. They talked not only about the initial kidnapping and seeing friends around them dying, but their time in captivity and of those still in captivity. Not something I will ever forget!
I had a catch up with Local Trust who are the secretariat helping my Left Behind Neighbourhoods All-Party Parliamentary Group and later called to discuss future homes standards and innovation by universities. Thursday saw an early start to record “Around the House” the ITV Tyne Tees political programme that broadcasts on a Thursday evening, but is actually recorded at 8.30 on a Thursday morning. After that it was to the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme Strategic Command session to learn about Joint Operations Planning. I also took the time for a call with Durham County Council to discuss the Ferryhill Station and Leamside Line projects, I am pleased to say we are seeing good progress, helped by the £350,000 committed by Government last week to support the business cases. After the votes it was then a dash for the train north.
I needed to be back on Thursday night because Friday started with me hosting the Prime Minister in Newton Aycliffe. He came to call at Newton Press, see the team and congratulate them and the town for its 75 years. Rishi was intrigued by the old and new kit being used to produce the different products Newton Press deliver and I also had the pleasure of telling him about the fantastic community work they do too.
As usual, my Friday was full and the next visit was to Ferryhill to join the Strategic Regeneration Group looking to how they can improve Ferryhill, then back to the office where I had a call with Transport North East about our Rail and Bus improvement plans. Ferryhill Station and buses, like the X21, were our primary considerations. After this I joined the steering group looking to deliver the Aycliffe Community Hub.
Saturday, I called back to Ferryhill to discuss the Post Office Horizon and Infected Blood scandals with a constituent and then later I went to see the Sedgefield Players present ‘Calendar Girls’, which was a fantastic evening. Monday started with a constituent meeting before the train to London ready for the next stage of the Rwanda Bill as it returns from the Lords. I will be in Westminster until Thursday 21st March for Transport Questions.
As always, if you want to catch up with me or if we can offer any help, please call Aycliffe 790580 or email