Westminster is in recess from 23rd July until 5th September, which means some people consider MPs to be on holiday. However, ‘Westminster is in Recess’ only means that no legislation is being processed. You will still see announcements from the various departments, most obvious of course will be those from Health and Transport as they are high profile re Covid. I will, like everyone, be taking a few days away but will spend most of this time in the Aycliffe office or out and about in the constituency.
It’s been quite a week which included a visit by Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Businesses, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He visited NETPark in Sedgefield on Wednesday afternoon where I was able to facilitate meetings with some of the extraordinary business on that park as well as the leaders of Durham County Council. The Secretary of State has just launched an Innovation strategy last week and we were able to show him that every aspect of it has foundations available here. These businesses have the potential to deliver some amazing career options for local people and I want him to see the potential so we can encourage the investment community to support these opportunities. I was also pleased that we had the Leader of Durham County Council, Amanda Hopgood, along with her deputy, Richard Bell, and several of the Councils business team in attendance to support our message. I have to say that he went away very impressed by what he saw.
I also spent time this week supporting Cleveland Bridge in Darlington, you may be aware that they entered administration last week, but you may not realise that they are in the Sedgefield Constituency. Along with Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, and Peter Gibson, MP for Darlington, we have reached into Government departments and talked to customers to help accelerate payments to assist in giving the administrators more time in which to try and save the business. We met several times with both the administrators and employee representatives to keep us all fully aware of progress. I really hope they can find a way to keep this iconic business going.
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the custody suite at Durham to get a better understanding of why the Police feel it is appropriate to invest in a new facility. Thankfully I have never seen inside a custody suite before, so this was particularly informative.
On a lighter note, I went to the meeting of the Sedgefield Rangers to hear about Girlguiding in general; to hear about issues that concerned them and answer questions about Parliament and politics generally. One of them was also a member of the Sedgefield 75 swimming club and asked me about the increasing costs of the pool from DCC. This is something I had previously challenged the old leadership about, in my former role as a County Councillor, and I undertook to raise it again with the new leadership. This theme continued when I joined the groups in Aycliffe Town Centre who were promoting themselves. From Karate to Axe Throwing, Dance to Gymnastics as well as Football, Cricket, Archery, Swimming, Water Polo and others, there are so many activities available. Don’t let anyone say there isn’t anything to do, with all of these groups and their fabulous volunteers. Thanks again to the amazing Aycliffe Radio team for organising and compering the many demonstration events.
We had a surgery at the Literary Institute in Dean Bank last week and this week we’re in Woodham Community Centre before I have a few days away and we will then restart surgeries at the beginning of September.
I said I would try and tell you more about some government departments whilst we are in recess, as Kwasi Kwarteng visited this week I thought I would start with BEIS. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is responsible for Business, Industrial Strategy, Science, Research and Innovation, Energy and Clean Growth and Climate Change. The team is led by The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and he is supported by The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change; Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for Business and Industry, currently leading on Vaccine deployment Amanda Solloway MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Lord Callanan, Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility and Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Kt who is Minister for Investment. As you can see there is quite a portfolio to be covered and it is a team I particularly enjoy engaging with.
Thankfully we continue to see the number of Covid infections falling from the peak of the third wave. This is happening due to the platform of vaccinations that mean the virus cannot get the hold it had, and it remains the message that if you have not yet had your vaccinations please get them done, it is the best way to help everyone else make the lockdown lifting irreversible.
Sorry to be repetitive, and maybe boring, but please follow common sense and the Hands Face Space and Fresh Air mantra that is best for all of us. Stay Safe.
Paul Howell
Member of Parliament for Sedgefield