Well, unbelievably, two years have passed since I had the privilege of being elected your Member of Parliament. It’s been amazing and full of many things I expected but so many more that I didn’t anticipate. Despite all the issues we have had with Covid etc I still think I have a fantastic job and look forward to continuing to work for you all. We again see more Covid concerns to be dealt with and it’s hoped we can maintain the current freedoms through the winter risk period.
As regards the introduction of Plan B I have been asked how I will vote. I have to say I am with the Government on this. Having spoken with the ministerial team I concluded that the three issues were proportionate. I do not see an issue with increased mask wearing in shops and on transport, this is a minor, short-term inconvenience that is worth it; when it comes to the so-called vaccine passport then the approach of allowing a lateral flow test as an option for access to large events is an appropriate alternative to needing to be vaccinated. The change between isolation and daily testing is actually a relaxing of restrictions. Seeing these as a whole then I believe the inconvenience is worth the gain. Hopefully this gives us the extra help needed and this will be as far as we need to go and, as winter progresses, we can start to think of releasing again.
Another issue to close off from last week is the frustrations we all feel from the news that there may have been some parties in government buildings last year. I can certainly reassure you all that I did not personally see any. I can clearly also assure you that I did not attend any parties last Christmas and I condemn anyone who did attend them when we were in such a difficult place as a country.
Last week’s work had a number of highlights starting with my Ten Minute Rule Bill which was an opportunity to put into the system the desire for a community wealth fund from the next release of dormant assets, if you want further details my speech is on my website. I had another BEIS session, this time on the Energy National Policy statements and I was able to ask a pertinent supplementary question with regards to the variations in regional responses to Storm Arwen. I joined a reception with Lord Baker celebrating the success of University Technical Colleges which included two students from our own South Durham UTC and I would like to offer my hearty congratulations to them both.
Thursday was an amazing day, it started with a trip to Fishburn Primary School to thank them for designing my Christmas card, followed by joining an online seminar with the innovative businesses on NETPark before topping the day off at Hitachi. As I am sure you have all seen, Hitachi have been awarded the £2Billion rolling stock contract for HS2. This is an incredible boost for the facility and a huge vote of confidence in Newton Aycliffe.
I hope this is the start of more good news as we hopefully come out of Covid through 2022. So, to finish, please get your jab or booster, follow the rules and let’s hope for a better new year.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2022.
Paul Howell
Member of Parliament for Sedgefield