This week I again am back in Westminster. I travelled down on Monday and this time by train. The train staff are working hard to keep people safe, including by having maximum 25% occupancy in each carriage, and indeed in my carriage there were only seven people.

As I said last week I had the opportunity to ask a question in PMQ’s. My question asked the Prime Minister to ensure that as we take action to revive the economy post COVID-19 that we also remember to focus on the need to “level up” the UK. I suggested he encourage broadband investment, particularly for rural communities, and that support for the housing market would benefit many workers and companies, making mention of our own PWS here in Aycliffe. I also proposed he considered Sedgefield Constituency as an option in relocating the Treasury and the acceleration of procurement of rail rolling stock, to help companies like Hitachi plan and provide job security during and post Coronavirus. I also championed the significant case for investment in a station at Ferryhill Station. His response included detail on government actions on all these agendas and specifically that he would consider my idea and “add to that an ambition to come and see Ferryhill Station launched with me”.

Since then I have had a large number of virtual meetings including with the Under Secretary of State for Industry, Nadhim Zahawi. This was to look specifically at supporting companies on Aycliffe Business Park and indeed I have arranged for two of them to speak with him directly. Whilst PMQ’s is high profile and gets recognition and mentions for our area it is these direct meetings that can really move the needle for specific agendas and I have been delighted by his support.

In the national news you will all be aware of the Black Lives Matter protests. I unequivocally support the need to recognise that black lives matter and that whilst the murder of George Floyd and subsequent original protests took place in a different country under a different administration it clearly resonated with people in the UK too. I believe we are in a better place than the US and a better place than where we have been in the past but it is also clear we still have a way to go. I have to say that whilst there is an absolute need to ensure we are doing everything we can to stamp out racism in all its forms there can be no sympathy for those that have hijacked this cause and attacked our police or vandalised public property, and equally none for those that have put themselves, loved ones and our NHS at a much higher risk of infection by deliberately ignoring social distancing.

Moving back to Parliamentary business and the BEIS select committee, last time we heard from businesses as to how the pandemic had affected them, our next session on 18th June sees us listening to representatives from the trade unions.

Further into the future we also have a session scheduled on 2nd July headed Net Zero where we are looking at the Committee on Climate Change Progress Report: progress in UK emissions reductions and principles for a green recovery. You may not be aware, but anyone can submit evidence to the committee for consideration and to help support questioning.

On the local front, we have had significant frustrations in attempting to progress our Constituency office base but we hope to have more news next week, in the meantime please contact us through the usual channels as below.

Paul Howell

MP for Sedgefield