Last Wednesday after writing the column I found out I had been elected to the BEIS select committee and I look forward to engaging in the scrutiny work. The week then continued with loads of interesting meetings. Many of them around the plans for railways in our area and beyond. I have been with the team who are taking over Northern Rail, those who are looking at reversing the Beeching cuts and then a session with the Prime Minister regarding HS2. I followed this up on Friday with meeting staff at Durham County Council on Friday to get more information and then met the Northern Powerhouse Rail team. This has then concluded with the announcement on Tuesday that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are to proceed. This is great news for capacity on the railways and of course for Hitachi in particular with the increased potential for future orders and I am pleased that the lobbying I and others have done has produced this result.

I was able to ask a question re climate change in the house on Tuesday 4th. Also on Friday I had a surgery in Sedgefield where I had over 2 hours of interesting conversations. We have also been able to determine where our constituency office will be, we are intending to move into the offices in Newton Aycliffe in early March.

I drew a question in Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday where I will ask about the funding of our local councils but I am writing this on Tuesday so cannot yet tell you his reply.

I was disappointed to read the criticism in last week’s Newton News of me for not immediately standing down as a councillor, I have tried to walk a fair line by not benefiting personally from having the multiple incomes by giving the councillors allowances to local charities.

To be clear I will be standing down from the councillor roles to match the elections in May for the PCVC and the Tees Valley Major to minimise the cost of the elections to the Councils. My judgement is that putting the money into local charities is more beneficial to the people I represent than not claiming the allowances and leaving it in the Durham County Council pot where it will dissipate over the county.

I hope you all have a good week.

Paul Howell MP

Member of Parliament

for Sedgefield