Traditionally, I use my last column of the year to review the past twelve months – nationally and locally.
This year, I could fill a whole newspaper after such a turbulent political year. That being said the events of 2016 will have a big impact rolling through what I am sure will be an eventful 2017.
The year began with an established Prime Minister, as members of the European Union (EU) and what seemed a predictable transition from an outgoing American President to his chosen successor.
How different the world looks now.
But while Brexit and Trump may be the showstoppers in most analyses of the political year I want to stray away from these areas and look to other events that form part of my picture of 2016.
In many ways 2016 was a year of sadness and hope.
The war in Syria continued fuelling a refugee crisis the like of which has not been seen since the Second World War. The enduring image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach close to a popular holiday destination is one that burnt itself onto the consciences of the world.
Locally that call was heard by community groups and our local councils who quickly agreed to contribute to the national effort to help Syrian refugees. The first Syrian families arrived here earlier this year and more are expected in 2017.
There is an impressive support team for the families which includes housing and English tuition. Amid the horrors of war, it is surely a reflection of the best of humanity that countries across Europe have rallied around in this way.
On June 16 I was attending constituency events when news started to come through that a Member of Parliament had been attacked.
It was about an hour later that I learnt that Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, had died after being shot and stabbed as she was to start a constituency surgery.
Jo’s murder was a tragedy for her family and for politics. In its wake I believe we saw the recognition that, despite our differences, we are better as a country when we work together for the common good.
These shocking moments have become submerged beneath Brexit and Trump. I wanted to play my part in helping us remember them.
Here in Harrogate and Knaresborough the generosity of local people once again came to the fore when I held my second annual Memory Walk. These sponsored walks raise funds for dementia research and to support those living with dementia. Working with the Alzheimers’ Society and local businesses we raised over £8,000.
Our area has the highest dementia prevalence in the north; that is why it is so important that we continue to raise funds and raise awareness of the issue.
With air pollution a major issue at Bond End and York Place in Knaresborough and at Woodlands corner in Harrogate I was pleased to announce in my role as a Transport Minister an additional £2.2m for our area dedicated to pollution-beating cleaner electric public transport.
There is investment going in to local health services with the announcement that Harrogate is to get a £16m state of the art mental health unit.
Poor mental health can often be overlooked because the symptoms are often less obvious than those for physical illness. This significant investment is therefore doubly welcome as it raises the profile of mental health and provides better local facilities.
As Member of Parliament I attend many acts of remembrance throughout the constituency. I wanted to end my review of the year with a very special act of remembrance that took place in Boroughbridge in October.
It was to commemorate the life of Captain Archie White VC. Captain White was born in Boroughbridge in 1890. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his skilful defence and counter-attack when under threat of being overwhelmed by enemy forces in the First World War.
Captain White’s gallantry reminded me about how valuable our freedom is and how costly it has been to previous generations to preserve that freedom for us. Whether we have supported or opposed the political choices made here and abroad during the year it is only because of the sacrifices made by our forebears that we have the freedom to make those choices.
May I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year.