On Monday 6th December, Mary was informed by local Labour Councillor David Hall, that people who had their power restored in some areas were now struggling with no internet as a result of the damage brought about by Storm Arwen.
Mary was concerned by reports of people being left without internet by Openreach meaning that people couldn’t work from home, operate their businesses, or fully care for disabled relatives.
Mary therefore took the first opportunity to raise this issue with the Energy Minister, Greg Hands, in the Chamber of the House of Commons.
Asking the Minister about the loss of internet following the power outage, Mary said:
While power is slowly being restored to many of the villages in Durham, we face further disruption from Storm Barra and constituents in villages such as Croxdale are now experiencing problems with internet access, badly affecting their ability to work from home and to support disabled family members.
Can the Minister promise my constituents that increased government support will arrive immediately if Storm Barra causes further damage and that he will also be doing everything in his power to work with Openreach and providers to get internet access restored to my constituents as soon as possible?
In response to the questions, the Minister chose not to acknowledge the part of the question regarding internet, only addressing the preparedness issue.
Of course we will be working, particularly with local resilience fora. The secretary of state has had a series of meetings and calls with local resilience fora through last week, learning and assessing first hand what those needs are. If Storm Barra is of a similar magnitude, or even anywhere close Mr Speaker, I would expect that process to continue, as indeed we can expect Mr Speaker, with climate change, these kind of events to increase in their frequency. We need to make sure the local resilience fora are also ready to meet those challenges.
Mary reacted to this in a post on Facebook where she said:
Today, I was contacted by constituents and local councillors who flagged a loss of internet as a result of Storm Arwen, and how this was impacting on their ability to work. I immediately raised this with the Energy Minister in Parliament.Sadly, during his response I was struck by his seeming disinterest in what is a serious situation for my constituents, such as those in Croxdale. This was the same minister who, when visiting the North East to survey the impact of the storm, took the train to Durham Station, passed through our constituency, and paid a carefully stayed visit to a Conservative constituency. I’m trying to get support for my constituents yet all ministers seem to be interested in is photo opportunities.