I  am proud to be a member of the House of Commons Petitions Committee because, quite frankly, while Brexit dominates practically everything in Parliament, Petitions Committee debates held every Monday in Westminster Hall reflect the ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, subjects which people care about and are passionate about right across the country.  And our work doesn’t go unnoticed, in fact it’s the opposite; Petitions Committee debates are the most watched by the nation on TV and the subject of our debates always makes it into the national media and are regular features on programmes like ‘The Victoria Derbyshire Show.’  Those that reach 100,000 signatories are more or less guaranteed a debate as was the case last Monday on the subject of knife crime.

I led that debate on behalf of the Committee and was proud to do so. Not only did it give me the opportunity to speak about things like the aftermath of the BBC film regarding police resources in Hartlepool; the crime prevention and intervention work going on here and across the Tees Valley, it also allowed me to pay respects to the family of Kelly Franklin who was murdered in the Oxford Road area on 3rd of August last year. While the petition itself focused on increasing prison tariffs for the possession and use of knives the wider debate focused on the so called ‘knife crime epidemic’ which has alarmed the country recently, resulting in 39 fatal stabbings so far this year primarily involving young people, and what can and needs to be done to tackle it.  The Committee always tries to undertake public engagement work ahead of the debates and this occasion was no exception.

A member of staff came to Hartlepool and together we held a discussion with Year 12 students at the English Martyrs School and Sixth Form. It was an extremely interesting and informative session looking at knife crime through the eyes of young people and while, thankfully, the Town and North East as a whole do not suffer from the levels of knife crime reflected in other parts of the country, listening to the concerns, views and opinions of the students certainly helped inform the debate.

After the meeting I gave the member of staff a lift to the train station. Having stayed at the Grand the night before and walked to the school, they hadn’t seen much of the Town so, in the little time we had, I showed her the Marina and the around the National Royal Navy Museum of the North. I am happy to report they were literally gobsmacked by what they saw and by what we had to offer to tourists in particular. They described what they saw as “simply beautiful” and took plenty of photos for the website. By coincidence this Saturday marks the beginning of English Tourism Week celebrating the value and quality of tourism across the country. The reaction of this member of House of Commons Staff to what we have here in Hartlepool is not uncommon and those who visit us come back time and time again. I have said it before and will say it again, our Town and the outlying villages are steeped in history and we are cram packed with interesting and wonderful places to visit. We need, as a whole community, to promote ‘Destination Hartlepool’ and tap into a potentially very lucrative tourism economy and the ‘Staycation’ trend.

With the Easter holidays looming, many folk will be searching for activities to entertain the kids. The Heugh Battery, St Hilda’s Church, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Seaton, the Headland and our beautiful parks are all amazing places to visit and are all on your doorstep. Why not enjoy our local attractions; support local businesses and show the next generation that Hartlepool truly is a great place to be?

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