I was in Westminster last week, for a couple of days, which just reminded me of the importance of being there physically. I was able to discuss so many different subjects with other colleagues. I had a question in Defence Orals to the Minister of State, Ben Wallace, where I pushed the need for smaller innovative companies to get a piece of the Defence spending. Later Ben attended the Northern Research Group where I also invited him to come and see some of our fabulous businesses. I also spoke with Michelle Donelan, the Minister for Universities, where I raised both Durham University and the importance of UTCs.
I would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete my recent survey on the town centre. It was great to see how much people really care about Newton Aycliffe and revitalising the town centre. The survey produced some very interesting results and there will be a review of these results in next week’s Newton News. If you haven’t had a chance to complete the survey, please do not hesitate to contact me and let me know what changes you think need to be made to our town centre.
I had a good virtual meeting with the owners of the town centre to discuss their engagement in any future proposals as well as one with those proposing the NHS incinerator project, where questions need to be answered, but also there is some inaccurate scaremongering on Facebook that is not helpful. Local people need good information and input to both of these projects and my team and I will do what we can to deliver.
Last week saw the ballot for Private Members Bills (PMBs). Most Bills that are brought to Parliament come from the Government but a small number are those are brought by individual members of Parliament. The PMBs are brought to the House on sitting Fridays and there are typically around 7 in a session of Parliament. Therefore it is only the first 7 in the ballot that are guaranteed to be debated and have the chance to become law, but they select 20 names in the ballot as for each sitting Friday there is always the potential for more than one to be heard. Around 400 of the 650 MPs put their names in this ballot and I was not successful this time. My colleague Peter Gibson in Darlington drew at number 9 which means he may have an opportunity depending on other Bills. This is a ballot open to all MPs regardless of party and it is always interesting to see what Bills they propose.
Later in the week I had a meeting with the Minister for Digital, Matt Warman, and expressed our concerns around broadband delivery, particularly to the villages in the west of my constituency. On Friday I had the pleasure of calling at the vaccination centre in Cobblers Hall to thank the Jubilee team there for their efforts and they asked me to remind everyone how important it is that everyone has their vaccinations. These are critical in helping the route out of lockdown to be irreversible. They also said to remind people that once they have booked a jab they need to turn up for it or cancel if you can’t make it. A DNA (Did Not Attend) is the worst case for them, this means they have a vaccine available but no patient so have to scramble to find others to be jabbed. Please don’t let this incredible team down and, once booked, make sure you attend.
I joined the meeting of Ferryhill Town Council on Thursday and met with both the Councillors and some fabulous community groups sharing their endeavours. I popped into Barclays to meet the team and discuss the branch closure, disappointing as this closure is, the way we are all using less cash makes it difficult to sustain branches but I am impressed with the way the team are trying to make sure their customers are helped. I finished the week with a visit to Lovesome Farm in Brafferton to see how they are developing a Rapeseed Oil manufacturing capability before joining Play Cafe on Saturday afternoon.
We continue the steps out of lockdown but, as always, can I please encourage you all to be sensible and not push the boundaries of what we are allowed. Slow and steady progress is much more sustainable.
Remember – Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air – Stay Safe
Paul Howell, Member of Parliament for Sedgefield