Last week started with me joining a virtual MP drop in to discuss local child poverty data and I have made arrangements to get further information around this data and how it is both calculated and interpreted. It is important that when information like this is discussed it is interpreted and acted upon, not just politicised.
I followed with a meeting with the Minister for Employment to discuss the importance of localising supply chains and the benefits to local economies when this happens. I then caught up with the Policing Minister to discuss the need for increased focus on issues like anti social behaviour which are prevalent both in parts of Newton Aycliffe but also further afield in areas like Trimdon and Wingate. I also participated in the adjournment debate which was in support of allowing localised electricity supply and proposed things like enabling local organisations who created an excess of power through, for example, their solar or wind capability to have the opportunity to supply the local area.
The BEIS select committee was educational this week as we listened to both academics and business witnesses inform us about carbon trading opportunities. This was primarily around whether we should have a system aligned to Europe, independent of Europe, or whether, instead, a carbon tax should be employed. It was interesting that all parties came to the same conclusion that the best position is a trading position, rather than a tax, as they all felt it would deliver better results quicker.
Towards the end of the week I had a number of discussions with both local authorities and the Minister for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to discuss the statistics around coronavirus. Because Sedgefield crosses the boundaries I therefore had four separate meetings, one with Durham County Council, one with Darlington Borough Council, and one with the members of Parliament for the north-east seven authorities and another with the Tees Valley Combined authority MPs. The consensus for all of these was the necessity for the tiered approach, but that we needed to look to ensure that if at all possible areas with lower rates could be exited back to tier 1 at the earliest opportunity and indeed that should any area need to go to tier 3 that this also should be as focused as possible.
We had around 1100 emails last week with subjects ranging from the Animal Sentience Bill to the CHIS Bill (block the spy cops), we had many saying Covid restrictions are wrong and many saying Covid restrictions are not strong enough. We also received emails and correspondence on Planning, Road safety, Quad bikes, Super trawlers and many other subjects. One set of enquiries more local to Aycliffe is around fun fairs, with the proposals for one in the Town Centre. I have seen representations both ways on this and note that the operators in question have safely managed similar events in Frosterley with very good social distancing feedback. However, given our recent move into Tier 2 restrictions I understand the concerns being raised.
I was also able to do some socially distant visits this week. The first was a trip to the Amazon facility on the edge of Darlington, which sits just inside the Sedgefield constituency, where I was joined by the MP for Darlington, Peter Gibson, and members and officials from Darlington Borough Council. We were shown around the facility and saw what an outstanding operation they have. They employ over 1000 staff and it was good to see the effort they make in training and development. After this I called at County Durham Furniture Help Service based at Chilton to meet both the founder and his team. They provide an extraordinary service and I would encourage you all to support them in their efforts. You can visit www.CDFHS.org.uk for details online. I also went to Ferryhill to meet the Mayor and the team who have collected 3500 signatures on a petition supporting the reinstatement of the railway station in Ferryhill. I was also able to share that I had had yet another discussion with the rail minister to encourage him in supporting this initiative. The following day when I called at Ferryhill Recreation Centre to pay a bill I was shown the work being done by volunteers of the Ferryhill Remembers Group of the Ferryhill 2000 committee. Poppy nets have been created by hundreds of members of the community and will be displayed on Ferryhill Town Hall over this remembrance period. I was able to sew on a couple of poppies myself whilst there and I am looking forward to seeing the display in place. This was a nice way to finish the week before travelling back to Westminster.
Recent data seems to say that Covid in our area is at least slowing it’s rate of increase and possibly even starting to level off. The way to try and help this remains as I have said before.
HANDS – FACE – SPACE, Wash your Hands regularly, wear a mask on your Face where required and give people Space.
Stay safe and have a good week.
Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield