I hope you have all completed your festive preparations and are looking forward to the Christmas break.

It’s been a busy run in to the holiday for me with a trip to Latvia and Estonia on Monday to meet the leaders of Nordic and Baltic states to discuss the security of Northern Europe in the face of continued Russian aggression.

As well as announcing further defensive aid for Ukraine’s armed forces, I also had the opportunity to meet British troops deployed in Estonia and Poland as part of our joint efforts to return peace to Ukraine and the wider region.

They included members of the King’s Royal Hussars from Catterick Garrison. It was great to thank them personally for their service, particularly at this time of year. Christmas, after all, is a time for peace and I am very proud of the work they are doing to support our Ukrainian and European friends in pursuit of that peace.

Back home my family managed to fit in our annual trip to the pantomime at Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal – an essential part of the Sunak family Christmas.

We can report it is well up to the Georgian’s high standards. Pinnochio has all the usual madness – including flying Tunnock’s teacakes and knitted soft toys (2022 is the year of the fish, by the way). There’s a range of jokes suitable for all ages and, as ever, a number are at my expense!

Nick O’Connor as the Dame Mrs Gepetto has some stunning outfits and dance moves, Marcus Jones was a memorable rapping, hoodie-clad Pinocchio and Liam McGrath was fabulous as Mickity Crickety the insect.

The panto runs until January 8. I can highly recommend it.


Pinocchio at The Georgian Theatre Royal l to r Nick OConnor, Marcus Jones and Liam McGrath

Pinocchio at The Georgian Theatre Royal l to r Nick O'Connor, Marcus Jones and Liam McGrath

As this at times tumultuous and dramatic year draws to a close, I am particularly proud of two important local healthcare improvements I have championed and actively supported.

Earlier this month I saw that site clearance work to pave the way for the Friarage’s new £35.5m surgical hub has started. This work will see the demolition of the Mowbray building (which is more than 60 years old and reaching the end of its life) and clear the way for the planned construction work to start in March 2023 on the new and expanded operating theatres.

The development will see the Friarage’s six existing operating theatres replaced with a modern surgical hub that will include six main operating theatres, two minor operating theatres and a surgical admission and day hub – more than doubling the number of planned operations carried out at the hospital each year.

Similarly, work to prepare the site for Catterick Garrison’s new Integrated Care Campus is underway with a view to construction starting in the Spring of 2023.

The campus – developed jointly by the local NHS and the Ministry of Defence – will bring healthcare closer for many residents of Richmondshire district as well as increasing access to NHS services near to some of North Yorkshire’s more disadvantaged communities.

These are incredibly positive developments which will help transform local healthcare and I look forward to seeing them completed.

It just remains for me to wish you, your families and friends a very good Christmas and a happy New Year.