BORIS Johnson said the Conservatives are offering ‘a vision of change and hope’ to voters as he visited the North-East today.

The Prime Minister was in the region to support the Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer who is running in the Hartlepool by-election on May 6.

After visiting B&Q on Cleveland Retail Park, where he spoke to employees and apprentices, Mr Johnson travelled to Hartlepool for a tour of Hart Biologicals, a firm specialising in studying blood coagulation.

On the visit, Mr Johnson praised the company's vital work and said that the Conservatives are ‘investing massively’ in the North-East and aiding the 'rebirth' of the biosciences industry in the region.

The Northern Echo:

Addressing Government support for Hartlepool, Mr Johnson said: "We are investing in the road infrastructure which is very important for future jobs and prosperity, we are upgrading the station which has been needed for a long time, but most importantly of all, I think what we are offering is a vision of change and hope.”

Mr Johnson pointed to the recent Freeport status on Teeside and the emergence of the green energy sector as evidence of the Tory’s commitment to the North-East.

He said: “Hartlepool is part of this, it is part of the curtilage of the Freeport so I hope that Jill Mortimer will be able to work with Mayor Ben Houchen and really deliver change and progress.

“And you look at what is happening in Teesside, you have got two big things happening; the investment in wind technology and the potential, which I think is going to happen pretty soon, to actually make some of the turbines and make some of things that really drive jobs - and high quality jobs - for a long time.

The Northern Echo:

“But also, the rebirth of some of the biosciences stuff at a critical time for our country.

“You have got, here in Teesside, the manufacture of Novavax which is a vaccine that has multiple applications.

“We hope very much that it will be a vaccine that is very good against all variants of Covid and the substance is going to be made here; it already is being made in the bio-reactors in Fujifilm and then it is going to be filled and finished in Barnard Castle.

“So across the North-East you are seeing, I hope, real change and a new engagement and involvement from Government, with leadership from the Mayor, and Jill will be part of that.”

Boris Johnson acknowledged that Brexit was a big issue for North-East voters, with Hartlepool voting 69.5 per cent to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

The Prime Minister said that his party ‘got it done’ and pointed to the Teesside Freeport and the potential to direct steel-making contracts to British firms as examples of how Brexit is benefitting the region.

The Northern Echo:

He said: “We took back control of our money, our borders, of our laws and there is absolutely no question about it.

“And we achieved a flexibility in the way we can do things that is very important and very valuable for this country - I think that many people would say, when people look at the vaccine roll-out programme, the UK has been able to do things a little bit differently from some of our friends and that is one example of that.”