It’s been another busy week, both here and at Westminster.

At the end of last week, I was very glad to have the opportunity to present over £500 worth of gifts and parcels to St Mark’s Church as part of their Christmas appeal. St Mark’s do a remarkable job of supporting the community and bringing them together. At this time of year, it was lovely to do a little something for them and the communities that they so ably support.

On Tuesday evening, I was delighted to welcome Cath Corkill, who runs Dropzone, to Number 10 as part of a celebration of community champions. Cath and her colleagues work tirelessly on behalf of young people across Furness and it was good to offer a small acknowledgement - and very poor tour of Number 10 - as thanks for the incredible work that she and her colleagues do.

On Saturday night, alongside the Mayors of Barrow, Dalton, and Ulverston, Councillors, friends, supporters and local residents, I slept out at Barrow AFC as part of the ‘Forty Winks 4 Furness’ Initiative.  Every penny raised goes to Furness Homeless Support Group who help get people from our area back into permanent accommodation.  Many thanks to Councillor Paul Griffiths for all of his work in pulling this fantastic initiative together.

You can still donate here.

It was also a busy week for me at Westminster with four meetings relating to AUKUS, mostly with businesses from Australia, Britain and the USA about the work we are doing in Parliament through the AUKUS All-Party Parliamentary Group which I Chair. 

Pillar One of AUKUS is the submarine programme through which the shipyard in Barrow will help Australia to design, build and deliver its own next-generation attack submarines. As I have said before, it will be vital to ensure that the wider community benefits from this programme, not just those building the submarines.

#TeamBarrow, the working group which comprises senior national and local Government figures and is led by the Cabinet Secretary, is working hard to push forward and seize this huge opportunity. As the Cabinet Secretary said himself when he first visited Furness with a team of senior Civil Servants back in July: “We don’t have a choice.  We have to deliver across the board.”

I’ve also been working hard in my capacity as the Government’s Rural Connectivity Champion. Last week I brought some of the biggest players in the mobile phone world up to Grizebeck Village Hall to discuss mobile connectivity, to hear how it affects us locally, why having a decent mobile signal matters and to press for faster roll out.

Since then I have met with the Secretary of State with recommendations as to how important accelerated progress on this is to us and other rural communities, and how it might be achieved.

On Friday I met Netomnia, the company delivering full fibre ultrafast broadband in Barrow & Dalton, to stress how important it is to get this right, to understand what’s holding them back, and to help them find solutions too.

Finally, it’s lovely - despite the snow having melted last week - to see so many Christmas decorations up and events happening. I popped into Barrow to see the natural market on Saturday, and into Ulverston and Dalton on Sunday. Please do remember to support our local shops this Christmas.