THIS week, 15 years ago, just 24 hours after a surprise visit to British troops in Iraq, Tony Blair carried out pre-Christmas engagements in his constituency.

The Prime Minister officially opened a high-tech centre at a science and technology park in Sedgefield.

He unveiled a plaque to commemorate the occasion at the NETPark Incubator building.

The centre housed some of the North-East’s most advanced technology companies, with links to Durham University, the county council and regional development agency One North-East.

Making a short speech to an audience of North-East businessmen, academics and local politicians, Mr Blair said embracing new ideas was critical to the future development of Britain’s economy.

He then met pupils from Hermitage School in Chester-le-Street, who were the winners of a local science and technology prize, presenting them with the 10 Downing Street Christmas card.