While I’m elected to represent our area in Westminster, voting on national legislation, I return to my home in North Northumberland for constituency surgeries almost every single week. Today, I thought sharing just two concrete examples of how my Ministerial work has been directly for your prosperity may be useful.
Did you know, here in our constituency, the 300 employees at Tweed Valley Maltings produce 200,000 tonnes of malt a year. That’s an amazing 1% of the world’s entire manufacturing of this whisky and beer ingredient, from barley grown by North Northumberland’s farmers and beyond. So, to help local jobs, as International Trade Secretary I got the 25% tariffs crippling whisky exports to the US removed, and worked to reduce the whisky tariffs to India from 150%!
Meanwhile, as Transport Secretary, I proudly introduced the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, now giving you the certainty and continuity you need. North Northumberland’s rurality makes our train services a lifeline. Whether to Edinburgh, Newcastle or beyond, visiting family, for days out, medical care or education, we face enough rail challenges I’m fighting to fix – poor service, frequent repairs, and more stops needed – that rolling rail strikes were the final straw.
On that note, again I know fair-minded readers will appreciate that those advocating that I should have abused my month as Transport Secretary and disregarded Ministerial Code rules requiring careful avoidance of conflicts of interest within Ministers’ own constituencies, and should have instead forced a rushed A1 planning decision through are being, sadly, disingenuous. I’m frustrated at the delay too, and fighting hard to show how strongly we need and want it dualled. I understand their challenge – it remains important to be honest that the Government gave two hundred million pounds to our North Northumberland constituency in pandemic support, and subsidised around half of typical households' energy bills last winter – but the A1 must still be dualled.