This is my second update to keep you informed about what I am doing in the constituency and in Parliament. Sharing information is something that I am totally committed to and if you would like to receive a regular email please go to the home page of the website (www.ianlevy.org.uk) and register, or alternatively send me your details (email@example.com). This bulletin covers issues from the last few weeks and also looks back to some of my early experiences as MP.
February was a month of two very significant moments as a new MP with my first question in the House of Commons, and my first question at Prime Minister's Questions. I also met the Chancellor and took the opportunity to stress the importance of restoring the passenger rail service from Blyth and Seaton Valley into Newcastle; a project I will come back to in this update. In the constituency, it was a pleasure to open the new headquarters of Quanta in Cramlington, and to hear about their work in the energy industry.
I delivered my maiden speech in the House of Commons in March. It was a fantastic opportunity to talk about the history of Blyth Valley and also to set out why I had stood for election last December. My political journey began relatively recently when I became increasingly fed up with how badly the area had been run for decades. I decided to challenge the previous dominance of one political party and just a few years later I am honoured and proud to be the MP for Blyth Valley.
A few days after my maiden speech, the Prime Minister announced the first of the lockdown measures, and my focus since then has been to do all that I can to help people in the constituency. This work is ongoing, and it has been a privilege to support groups across Blyth Valley. In the last update I mentioned organisations in Blyth, Cramlington and Holywell who are helping people that are self-isolating or are vulnerable by providing food parcels. The network has grown and now includes groups in Seaton Sluice, Old Hartley, Seaton Delaval and Seghill.
As part of the Blyth Valley Together initiative, I have been working with Morrisons in Blyth to make sure those groups are supplied weekly. This has also been made possible thanks to Fergusons Transport who loaned a van and the Port of Blyth that provided storage space. Lakes & Dales in Seaton Delaval has also kindly donated a significant sum of vouchers. I can’t thank enough those businesses and also the people that have willingly volunteered their time.
The Community Champions scheme is available for you to recognise some of those remarkable people. At the time of writing, six champions have been announced with the first being Maggie Martin from Cramlington –
Businesses in Blyth Valley are also playing their part through innovation and if you haven’t heard of ‘bump’ produced by Tharsus then it is certainly worth knowing about. It could make a real difference as more people begin to return to work -
I have maintained contact with businesses throughout the coronavirus pandemic including Renolit and Merit in Cramlington. I have also spoken regularly with the Chief Executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Sir James Mackay, who has kept me fully up to date with the brilliant work carried out locally by the National Health Service.
One of the main issues I campaigned on is the restoration of passenger rail services on the Northumberland Line with stations proposed at Blyth Bebside, Newsham and Seaton Delaval. This has taken a huge step forward with detailed on-track and off-track survey works underway including ground investigations. This is part of the £10m signed off by Conservative run Northumberland County Council for the design phase. I am also pushing for an improved rail service from Cramlington, particularly an earlier train into Newcastle.
Another impact of an ambitious and positive Conservative administration is confirmation of County Council financial support for the regeneration of Blyth Town Centre. This is part of a £40m Future High Streets Fund project that includes proposals for new development on the marketplace, a hotel and leisure facilities, and an Energy Campus that will provide education and training. A decision on the funding for the full scheme is expected in the autumn of this year.
A key part of what my team does is casework and much of this in recent weeks has related to coronavirus. Dealing with queries about the various schemes that individuals and businesses are eligible for has been the main area of work but there are also the more regular issues including housing and the environment. The team is always willing to do whatever they can to help.
In terms of Parliamentary business, I was back on the green benches of the Commons last week asking a question about the co-ordination of the international response to coronavirus. Remote voting has also taken place on:
- The Agricultural Bill which is the most important piece of legislation to come before Parliament for UK farming for many decades;
- The Immigration Bill which takes back control of the UK borders and paves the way for a new points-based immigration system;
- The Trade Bill which focuses on providing continuity by replacing trade agreements the UK had as an EU Member State.
I have attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia which is an illness that affects so many families. I heard from people affected by dementia about the challenges they have been facing during coronavirus and discussed the support that is needed as lockdown measures continue to be lifted.
Finally, I received a phone call from the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago who asked about how the constituency is coping during coronavirus. I was able to tell Boris Johnson that Blyth Valley has truly come together and that with continued hard work we will emerge stronger from the experience.