Well, another interesting week last week with many things to talk about.
I am going to start by discussing communication and to give a couple of illustrations as to how difficult it can be to say the right thing. Firstly, I would like to refer to a letter last week from ‘Name and Address provided’. Whoever sent this letter in about the notice I had placed in the previous week, provides a clear example. The notice was there to remind everyone that our shop assistants and bus drivers were only following the law when they were asking people to wear masks and I was asking people to respect that it was not their choice, they were only doing their jobs. Although I have made it obvious that I believe people should be vaccinated and should follow the rules on mask wearing, this notice was merely trying to support some of our front-line workers who can experience wholly inappropriate abuse just for doing their jobs.
Secondly, I stood up in the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions to reiterate the need for a Community Wealth Fund (CWF) a catalyst to level up the most left-behind communities and that the Dormant Assets Bill (DAB) should include specific provision for a consultation on the scope, shape and nature of such a fund. DAB is working its way through the House and I can tell you that after my question I met with the minister managing the DAB and I am very optimistic we will see positive changes to the Bill to support the CWF.
However, before I began the question about a CWF, I criticised the opposition for using all their questions on ‘Partygate’ I received both supportive and negative messages but to be clear I never said that questions should not be asked about ‘Partygate’, I just didn’t think they should have used ALL their questions on one subject. We have the concerns in Ukraine; we have the small boats in the Channel; we have the changes to Covid restrictions, etc, etc. I felt at least some of their energy should have been spent on other things. I am sure that once Sue Gray produces her report there will be huge focus on its findings.
I had two other opportunities to speak in the House last week. On Thursday I was able to ask the International Trade team about tariff concerns for companies like Gestamp who have international supply chains and then on Friday I spoke in a debate about changes to the laws on hare coursing and its impact on rural communities in the constituency.
Last week I was also appointed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and had some training before the plenary session this week. PACE is the parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe and includes 324 members from 47 national parliaments and is dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law. With both Russia and Ukraine as members there could be some interesting engagements coming up. Ultimately, it’s hoped that there will be a solution for peace across Europe.
At a local level I had a meeting about projects at NETPark; a meeting with Durham County Council about working differently with regards to grass cutting and other issues that constituents have asked me to raise. I had a meeting with the local neighbourhood Police team as well as a briefing session with Co Durham and Darlington Police Senior Management team.
Last week we finally saw broadband improvements reaching Redworth. We continue to push hard for these improvements to reach more of our more rural constituents and to this end I met with Nadine Dorris, the Secretary of State for DCMS, as we are not seeing as much progress as I would like.
Back to Westminster again this week and I wonder what this week will bring…
Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield