Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Unity Rally - thoughts on last nights impromptu #IndyRef event

Trafalgar Square was packed last night as thousands of Londoners came together to make the case to the Scots that they should say "No Thanks" on Thursday. Dan Snow, Jenny Colgan, Bob Geldof, Eddie Izzard and Al Murray, not in the guise of the Pub Landlord, all spoke passionately of what it means to be British, and celebrated the Scots as part of being British. A Unity Rally full of flags and quiet passion it was. We heard Colgan's 30 things that make us British and heard both Auden's classic poem, the Night Mail, and then listened to Al Murray on How being British is a lovely umbrella, that allows all the individual countries to flourish together. Bob Geldof, an immigrant Irishman was the most impassioned, arguing that:
- before the USA or the UN there was a United Kingdom, and that we should be proud of this great achievement.

Izzard spoke eloquently of the progress that the taking down of borders has brought. He mentioned the first astronauts in space who reported back that when looking down at the earth they "could see no borders". He said "humanity is about human beings coming together otherwise we have no future."
I am glad I went. I write this on the train north and shall be in Scotland on Thursday, in particular, getting the unionist vote out. This matters too much. Action this day.

Hexham Abbey Music Festival starts this Friday 19th - until the 27th September

http://www.hexhamabbey.org.uk/festival/
There is an exciting programme of events, which has been made possible following the award of another generous grant from Arts Council England. There is amazing music and if you have never seen parkour - this is a visual spectacle that will blow your mind: 3Run are very very good I am told.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Wear It Pink - make sure you support the Breast Cancer Campaign on Friday October 24

Every year in the UK over 50,000 women and around 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, 12,000 women and 80 men die from this disease each year. This is why we need to support Breast Cancer Campaign’s fundraising efforts to support world-class breast cancer research that saves and improves lives, giving people quicker diagnoses and more effective treatments. I hope you’ll all join me by wearing it pink on Friday 24 October and showing your support for breast cancer research. For more information or to register for wear it pink and receive your fundraising pack visit www.wearitpink.org.
I got my photo done in Westminster last week - and chose a very robust pink tie - albeit the Breast Cancer Campaign girls who were in the Commons to promote the cause gave me the giggles by suggesting everything from a pink boa to a pink cloak. Not sure it was quite my style.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Scotland edges back from the brink - encouraging signs that momentum has swung back to a "No Thanks"

On many levels the campaign to save the Union is gaining ground:
Firstly the message is getting through that the Uk as a whole wants Scotland to stay
Second the economic arguments become more overwhelming every day as all the major employers say they would leave if the Scots go independent.
And why would not they do that when people like the SNP oddball Jim Sillars saying the following?
Speaking on the campaign trail yesterday Mr Sillars said oil giant BP would face nationalisation in an independent Scotland.
He said: "This referendum is about power, and when we get a 'Yes' majority we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks.
"The heads of these companies are rich men, in cahoots with a rich English Tory Prime Minister, to keep Scotland's poor poorer through lies and distortions. The power they have now to subvert our democracy will come to an end with a 'Yes'.
"BP, in an independent Scotland, will need to learn the meaning of nationalisation, in part or in whole, as it has in other countries who have not been as soft as we have been forced to be.
Mr Sillars added: "What kind of people do these companies think we are? They will find out."
It defies belief. The man is not only wrong, but would harm Scotland as all the job creators - like BP, RBS, and many other employers leave. This is mob rule and a passport to the third world.  Full story here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-29181989
Separately I am a massive fan of Inverness's Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator. His report makes a sad but sober read.
http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/09/how-scotlands-yes-side-mastered-the-art-of-mob-politics-2/

International Aid saves lives - historic Commons vote yesterday

The Turn Up and Save Lives campaign had a lot of competing interests yesterday.

I could have gone to Scotland, for obvious reasons: to anyone who reads the blog this matters desperately to me. But I decided to stay in London and support the International Aid Bill.
More about the campaign is set out here:http://www.turnupsavelives.org.uk

People sometimes ask - can we afford to give money to refugees, to the vaccine programmes, to help feed the starving?
There are three ways to answer this question.
Firstly, ask yourself - do you give money to charity? Because the reality is that we are looking to give £7 out of every thousand this country makes to a type of charity. That is 0.7%.

Secondly, we are a first world country with wealth beyond the wildest dreams of many. Slowly our country is turning its economy around and balancing our books, and although there have been significant hardships we have clean water, few diseases, a free and superb NHS, welfare for all who slip through the net, pensions for all, a fair judiciary, democracy, law and order, and so much more.
I think the wealthy should help support those in need. The difference this makes to so many is astounding. Examples of the help include:
  • Even in some of the most difficult places on earth, British aid is helping. The British public have dug deep to help children caught up in Syria’s civil war, and their generosity has been ‘match-funded’ by the British government, meaning that together we have reached more than one million children with blankets and other supplies.
  • We really are turning the tide. Since the year 2000 the number of children’s lives lost to malaria has halved. Since 1990 we’ve halved the rate of child mortality overall. There are now only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic. Amidst so much bad news about things we can’t change, it is time to celebrate the things we already have changed, together.
Thirdly, try and see the difference yourself. I wanted to be convinced the money was really reaching the refugees and not being squandered or filtered away in corruption. That may have happened before, but it is not now. Earlier this year, I went to visit the Syrian refugees stranded north of Aleppo, in a British government supported Aid camp. The experience moved me beyond words.  I have seen for myself that our aid helps save lives. The Journal covered the story as follows:
http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/hexham-mp-guy-opperman-calls-6521153

Friday, 12 September 2014

RIP Reverend Ian Paisley - from "Never" to Peace, and a long journey in between

The Reverend Ian Paisley is living proof that extreme views can change, sworn enemies can became friends and political opponents can then forge a peaceful way forward. Although many of his earlier views and pronouncements were unacceptable he clearly changed with time. And through his change, Northern Ireland changed.

Mr Paisley, who was 88 when he died, moved from the being the "Never Man" to become Northern Irelands First Minister in a power sharing arrangement with Sinn Fein.
This today from Marin McGuiness:
"Over a number of decades we were political opponents and held very different views on many, many issues but the one thing we were absolutely united on was the principle that our people were better able to govern themselves than any British government. I want to pay tribute to and comment on the work he did in the latter days of his political life in building agreement and leading unionism into a new accommodation with republicans and nationalists."

The lesson for all those in Gaza, Kashmir, and all the other conflicts around the world is that even the most difficult problems can be solved and that peace can be found, if there is a genuine will to forge a better way forward and a commitment to work together peacefully with former enemies.
The BBC reports on him as follows: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29173707

In 7 days Scotland will decide - what are you doing to help save the Union?

Next Thursday September 18th I shall be in Scotland helping to Get the Vote out. I will also be there earlier next week - although I have a variety of meetings in Prudhoe on Tuesday, and in Slaley and Stanley, County Durham on Wednesday morning, that I cannot avoid or change. I will certainly be travelling up to Scotland most evenings next week to campaign in the Borders.
I have been many times these last 18 months: some examples are here from two Saturdays ago: http://www.thejournal.co.uk/north-east-analysis/analysis-news/hexham-mp-guy-opperman-heads-7713615
and here: http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/better-together-embraces-all-parties-to.html
Sadly this weekend I cannot go to Scotland as I have a family wedding to attend. However, others can go and lend a hand:

The Better Together website is here: http://bettertogether.net/blog

Two contact details for Northumberland people of any political persuasion or inclination, who want to help, in the Borders, which is less than 80 minutes from Hexham:

John Lamont MSP - whose Hawick office is
25 High Street
Hawick
TD9 9BU
Telephone: 01450 375 948 [ask for Ross]
Or the Better Together team HQ in the borders
Flora McCaul
Contact Phone:07891103122
Location:
Better Together South of Scotland Office (Galashiels, Scottish Borders)
2 High St
Galashiels, Scottish Borders TD1 1SD
 
 

Stories behind Hadrian's Wall pioneers celebrated at Wall Face exhibition at Housesteads

It is largely thanks to pioneers like William Hutton, who raised awareness of the Wall and its importance, that the world heritage site monument is there today.
Hutton is among 11 individuals who recorded, protected and revealed the stories behind the Hadrian’s Wall frontier who are honoured for their roles in an exhibition which spans 150 Roman frontier miles
Wall Face opened last month and continues to November 9.
It features 11 prints and photographs from the National Portrait Gallery in London, each alongside the life story and achievements of the individual at a Wall site associated with their work.
The show is at Housesteads fort in Northumberland.
The exhibition has been organised through a partnership of heritage organisations across the Wall - Vindolanda Trust, English Heritage, National Trust, Senhouse Museum Trust, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust and the Hadrian’s Wall Trust. Full details here:
http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/stories-behind-hadrians-wall-pioneers-7636411

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Before building on the green belt we should bring derelict properties into use - what do local people think?

What would Northumbrians prefer, and can we learn from the example of Kent?
Homes on the green belt or action by the County Council to bring empty homes back into use?
I believe it is clearly important, and potentially better value for money, to bring derelict properties back into use rather than building from scratch on green belt land as the NCC are proposing to do in some places. It is also of aesthetic benefit, as well as being popular locally. For the present argument I have put to one side all the brown field land that is available to be built upon, such as the police site in Ponteland.

Some progress nationally is being made, and a recent study of Kent could provide a good guide. According to the Empty Homes Agency there were 324,733 long term empty homes in the private sector in November 2009. By November 2012 it was 259,842.
One explanation is that the New Homes Bonus applies not only for new homes but long term empty properties brought back into use:

As the DCLG Minister Baroness Hanham said::
"Under the new homes bonus, local authorities also earn a financial reward for bringing a long-term empty home back into use. To date this has provided an income to local authorities of £59 million for almost 51,000 homes brought back into use. Our reforms on council tax flexibilities and the new empty homes premium will also allow councils to remove the tax subsidies being given to empty homes and instead use the funding to keep the overall rate of council tax down and support frontline services."

I am pushing NCC on progress they have been making in bringing the number of long term empty properties in the county back into use.
There has been great success in some Counties such as Kent, with its "No Use Empty" campaign.

The Kent example is worth noting:
- Sometimes enforcement is used, where there is a real eyesore but the carrot is preferred to the stick.
- Mostly it is just advice – putting the owner in touch with a local auctioneers.
- Or there might some modest help – paying the auction fees or dealing with the admin. This is often useful for those who live outside the area.
- The county council also offers interest free loans to restore properties. These are paid back when the property is sold.
- So far 455 empty properties have been restored and sold due to these loans.
- Another 3,000 properties have been brought back with just a bit of nudging and some more modest help.

There is some cost to the Council Taxpayers of Kent. A couple of staff are employed to run the scheme. Also, if at any given time Kent County Council is borrowing money, and then lending it interest free, that is also a cost. However, the New Homes Bonus offsets that. It’s worth six years Council Tax for each new home. In Kent, the districts get 80 per cent and Kent County Council 20 per cent. Even so that is a significant sum. Then there is the impact on Business Rates to consider. Dealing with derelict properties is an effective way to regenerate an area. Councils now have an incentive to encourage economic growth.
Tackling the problem of derelict empty homes is also about fighting crime and improving the environment as well as providing more jobs and housing. It is something as Conservatives we should proud of. This is something where the Government is making a difference.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Live in Heathrow: huge pics selling the Great North East has gone live in T1-5

Millions of Heathrow passengers now see VisitBritain adverts of the North East on digital screens across all the 5 terminals, as a result of our region’s victory in the #YourGreatBritain competition back in July.

Heathrow airport is now officially promoting the North East. The five promotional images for the North East show the Newcastle Quayside, Bamburgh Castle, Durham Cathedral, Hadrian’s Wall and the Angel of the North. 

Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport, is the gateway to Britain and sees around 73 million passengers a year travel through the airport. With seven flights a day from Heathrow to Newcastle we hope that the three month advertising campaign worth £1million will inspire passengers to explore the beautiful North East during their visit to the UK.

If you could spare a brief moment, you could retweet, blog or let others know: http://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/update/2014-09-08/heathrow-adorned-with-north-east-beauty-spots/
Better Still: tell your friends to come and visit soon.
 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Good to see the Party Leaders making the case to the Scots that they are wanted

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are combining forces and heading to Scotland tomorrow to make the case for the UK. They have cancelled PMQs. Here’s their joint statement:
‘There is a lot that divides us – but there’s one thing on which we agree passionately: the United Kingdom is better together.
That’s why all of us are agreed the right place for us to be tomorrow is in Scotland, not at Prime Minister’s Questions in Westminster.
We want to be listening and talking to voters about the huge choice they face.
Our message to the Scottish people will be simple: “We want you to stay.”
The evidence from Canada's referendum 20 years ago when Quebec thought about leaving is that the rest of the country needs to be passionately making the case to the undecided nation that they want them to stay. I will be doing this myself in the days leading up to the Referendum next week. 

The Scottish Referendum just got closer but the positive case for the Union is still strong

I have made many trips north of the border these last 18 months debating the Scottish Referendum, urging the Scots to say "No thanks", and making the positive case both for the Union and the fact that we, who live in the Rest of The UK, want the Scots to stay. Most recently I was in Hawick [with a team of 14 like minded southern based locals keen to help make the case for the Union] but before that I was in everywhere from Aberdeen to Argyll, Dumfries to Perthshire and many places in between.
As always close to election people worry, but it was ever thus, and you just have to keep campaigning, keep making the case, and worry not too much about the media. I will be going back north of the border in the last few days to help Better Together team get out the vote. In reality, like all elections this will be a numbers game and turnout on the day is key. If any of my constituents south of the Border want to do more then they can contact me and I will direct them as to where we are helping or they can contact Better Together direct  - their website is here: http://bettertogether.net/blog/entry/no-borders-between-our-young-people-and-opportunity

The crucial day will be 17th and 18th September. Any locals wanting to help on the 18th should get mark it out in their diary.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Westminster this Week

Local Banks and Credit Unions are this weeks key meeting which is on Tuesday with Sir Hector Sants, the advisor to the Church of England on credit Unions - whose help I am seeking as we try and take forward our local banking and expanded credit union plans for Tynedale.
Later in the week I have the Association of Air Ambulance awards meeting - where we attempt to identify and assess who the winners of these annual awards will be.
Also on Wednesday parliament will be debating the conflicts and unrest in the Ukraine, Middle East and beyond from around 12.40 onwards.
I have multiple constituents coming to Westminster this week for meetings and some on tours, and we are working the full week once again in Westminster as Friday is another Private Members Bill day.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Weekend Read: Hexham Hospital Car Parking Charges debated in Parliament

The full debate, and my speech, is here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2014-09-01a.67.0&s=speaker%3A24962#g85.0
I believe the Northumbria NHS Trust are wrong not to reduce, or take away entirely, the car parking charges that are required of both patients and NHS staff.

The previous argument that this was required otherwise locals and tourists would use the Hospital car park if it was free, I entirely supported. However, the town centre is now free: the debate is well argued with several very interesting ideas and suggestions. In my speech I went out of my way to make it clear that I have nothing but respect for the managers at the NHS Trust. They, like the NHS staff are doing a great job. But the managers are in the wrong on this issue. Patients, their families who attend them, and the staff themselves, who are effectively having to pay to park close to their place of work deserve a better deal.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Church Steeplechase by bike, horse, car or foot coming soon! Where will u go?

Saturday 13 September sees the annual Northumberland Historic Churches Steeplechase. If you have not done this wonderful event I urge you to try. This is my report of last years steeplechase:
http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/visits-to-churches-in-wylam-hexham.html
The origin of horse racing in this country is steeple chasing - riding from church steeple to church steeple across country. These days you can do this across Tynedale by horse, foot, bike or even car.
You simply pick the churches you want to go to, plan a route and get a few sponsors. Last year I went everywhere of Wylam to Hexham to Whitfield and finished at the church of the Holy Paraclete in Kirkhaugh.
This year other commitments prevent me from taking part but I warmly recommend it. It is for a great cause and you get the chance to see some of the amazing churches we have here in Tynedale. If you can do it on a horse so much the better but a bike is still brilliant.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Report on the successful Puppies and Kittens debate in the Commons

The motion on the sale of puppies and kittens was carried by the House of Commons yesterday.
I managed to attend some of the debate and was able to speak briefly as follows:

Guy Opperman (Hexham, Conservative)
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I congratulate him on securing this debate and support the motion, on behalf of the many constituents who have contacted me. May I make a simple point? The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has gone through the process of traceability for cattle, sheep and other animals, so surely the way forward must ultimately be a register of and traceability for cats and dogs.

The Full debate, the opening statements, and the Minister’s response can be found here:
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2014-09-04a.449.1&s=puppy+farming#g493.2

Tynedale Cricket Match

We have had the final donation in this morning and so we have our total today for the Charity Cricket Match we held a few weeks ago on behalf of Tynedale Hospice at Home. The amount raised at this event is £747.75 which is a great achievement by all those who were involved.

Thank you for all the people who came along and supported Tynedale Hospice at Home. One of the top prizes was a very large amount of toilet roll from SCA - many thanks to them and also to Dipsticks who both sponsored the number of sixes hit in the game and also bought some of the toilet roll. After a great game Tynedale eased home by 23 runs. My thanks to all the players, Councillor Cath Homer, and Gary from Tynedale Cricket Club, in particular, who did so much of the organising.
If you have not booked your tickets for the next THAH event on the 14th October at the Queens Hall I urge you to do so. 

I strongly support the pioneering research and trials to alleviate Mitochondrial Disease

Parliament debated this matter on Monday in a quite heated debate. Clearly there are many who object fundamentally on religious grounds. I believe they are mistaken, and misunderstand the nature of the research, the proposed changes, the safeguards and the reasons why this IVF replacement should go ahead to combat this terrible disease.

I can do no better than cite parts of the speech of the former Science Minister, David Willets MP, which sets out very eloquently why this ground breaking research, pioneered in Newcastle, and which will save lives, should be supported.

"I think that this is a great piece of British scientific advance. We should congratulate the scientists at Newcastle university who have been in the lead in the research. My view is that provided it meets stringent safety requirements this is something that should go ahead because it will alleviate the suffering of constituents whom we represent.

The evidence is pretty clear that this could alleviate human suffering, but I am not a simple-minded believer that the consequences justify whatever we do. Looking at my hon. Friends assembled in the Chamber today, many may say, “All right, this alleviates mitochondrial disease, but the price—the threat to human dignity or integrity—is too great.” I should like briefly to touch on those types of objection.
 
First, I do not agree with my hon. Friend Jacob Rees-Mogg that this somehow creates different people. We are not talking about the nuclear DNA that makes us who we are—the characteristics of our character or appearance. This is about a very distinctive part of DNA that has been called, for us laymen, a battery part of the cell, not the nuclear DNA, so it does not affect identity.
 
We are sometimes told, “Life is a vale of tears. There are sorrows and burdens that people have to bear, they should bear them with dignity, and this disease is part of that.” I have two responses to that argument. First, we have not run out of human frailties and problems yet. The problem facing our society is not yet that we have all started to lead lives of bland satisfaction.

It is also important to recognise that these scientific advances create a new problem. For the first time, a parent—a mother—could know that she could transmit this disease to her child. We have learned something that we did not know before. If we allow people to have this knowledge but do not permit a medical intervention that will tackle the problem, we have created a new source of human suffering that did not exist before this scientific understanding came about. Now that this knowledge is available, failing to permit families to act on it would be an unacceptable addition of a new cruelty to what is already a very distressing condition. Therefore, in terms of our respect for human integrity and dignity, it is right to intervene.
 
Then there is the argument that we are on a slippery slope. However, the framework set out in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 is very clear that we are not allowed to intervene in the nuclear DNA that shapes a child’s identity. That is recognised specifically as an exemption in the 2008 legislation.
 
This is a scientific advance that does not affect human identity, that is the opposite of eugenics, that enables people to escape a potential new cruelty if we do not act on this knowledge, and that is not a slippery slope. This is not just my view. We conducted a structured dialogue to consult members of the public on what they thought. When they understand that this is not to do with hereditary characteristics being affected by an arrogant intervention to create a designer baby, they support these interventions. If they support them, then so should we, in all parts of the House."
For those who want to read more, including my string intervention in support read more and the full debate is here:  http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2014-09-01a.93.0&s=speaker%3A24962#g95.1

Thursday, 4 September 2014

NATO Summit next 2 days in Wales is much needed

The agenda is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-5-priorities-for-the-nato-summit-wales-2014/our-5-priorities-for-the-nato-summit-wales-2014
The western worlds leaders have a lot to discuss over the next two days. The need for a reasoned discussion and then decision on Ukraine is obvious, but it is clearly very important that NATO shows that it is relevant and effective in a post Cold War era.

Transcript of last nights debate on Transport Infrastructure in Northumberland

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2014-09-03a.399.0&s=speaker%3A24962#g399.2

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

On BBC Radio Newcastle tomorrow morning 8.20 talking about transport issues

Will be live tomorrow morning discussing the debate we are having in the Commons tomorrow evening and the work we are doing on everything from the Gilsland Station Reopening Project, see here: http://www.gilsland-station.org.uk/ which I fully support.
Plus the campaigns on road safety and A69 improvements, the need for an integrated "Oyster" card style ticket in our region and the work I am doing in many ways on the Tyne Valley Line. All in the usual 5 minutes of radio time! Tune in if you can.

Puppy and Kitten Farming petition - Mass commercial production / sale of young pets is wrong and needs reform

I have been contacted by a large number of constituents concerning this Thursday’s Backbench debate in the Commons on the practice of Puppy and Kitten Farming. This debate will discuss the e-petition signed by over 110,000 people, relating to the breeding and sale of young puppies and kittens.

This petition states that puppies and kittens mass produced in horrific “puppy/kitten farms” are separated from their mothers too early, transported long distances, and then sold via pet shops, newspaper adverts, websites and private dealers.
I believe we must do what we can to prevent this. This practice leads to puppies and kittens suffering hardship. I do not support everything that the RSPCA do, but I do note that they assert that as many as 85,000 puppies bought via social media or over the internet die before they reach six months old. I have not studied the evidence in detail but man’s best friend should not be treated this way. Pets become an integral part of any family they belong to: it is terribly unfair to remove them from theirs before they are ready.
I welcome the Government’s commitment to look further at the issue of pet sales over the internet, as well as the guidance that is being provided to people looking to buy a puppy. I urge all my constituents who are interested in purchasing a young dog or cat to research thoroughly the breeders or pet shops beforehand. It is a good idea to choose a dog or cat through the Assured Breeder Scheme, or by adoption from legitimate rescue organisations. You should also be sure to ask ‘where’s the mum’ and check to see how the puppy interacts with the mother to make sure that they have not been separated.

I will try and attend the debate itself on Thursday, but am also juggling other commitments in Westminster; the debate is likely to be between 12 Noon and 2.30pm but Thursdays are always very flexible on timings in the Commons as Urgent Business or Statements have to take precedence. In the meantime I have written to the Minister concerned and will press the government to reform and change this practice.

Details of the statement of the PM combating extremism and measures to prevent terrorism

The full statement is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-on-european-council-and-tackling-extremism

The Prime Minister confirmed key points:
  • Police will gain the power to seize passports at the border temporarily so that they can investigate an individual. This power will include safeguards and oversight arrangements.
  • Ministers will also draft legislation giving the authorities powers to stop British nationals who have travelled abroad to join jihad from returning to the UK. Existing powers do not apply to those who are solely British nationals; he said a ‘targeted discretionary power to allow us to exclude British nationals’ would redeveloped with agencies and on a cross-party basis.
  • Airlines will have to give the government details of passenger list and comply with security screening demands or their flights will not be able to land.
  • The government will start preparing legislation that it can introduce in case an ongoing legal challenge to the royal prerogative powers allowing the Home Office to seize passports succeeds. That primary legislation would be introduced immediately if necessary.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Westminster this week

PM is coming to the house today at 3.30 to update on the International Terrorism situation, and I have a variety of Home Office beforehand. In the evening we will be raising hospital parking charges and taking part in the mitochondrial replacement debate as well, provided the speaker allows us enough time to debate both matters as Mondays diary is a packed day in the Commons chamber, even allowing for the fact that we do not finish until 10pm.

Tuesday I have a Treasury question at 12.15 and will then be trying to take part in the Pensions Bill debate, which is a groundbreaking improvement on how we control our pension and retirement funds.
Wednesday is packed with meetings, PMQs and my Northumberland transport debate at the end of the day in the Commons chamber. There is a lot to raise but we are drafting the speech in the office at the moment.
Thursday I will try and go to the chamber for the puppy farming debate although I do have a series of meetings that day. We are here for Fridays debate as well, which is a recurring theme this coming winter as the Commons is sitting a lot of Fridays, making it difficult to get home for Friday surgeries. As always, if anyone has anyone complaints, problems or issues to raise then please get in touch by email, letter or phone or take them up locally with Pete, who is my roaming caseworker, holding surgeries in 6 different locations across the constituency.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Douglas Carswell's decision will only help the two Eds and lessen the chances of the EU Referendum

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/08/carswells-deflection-inflicts-damage-on-the-party-to-which-he-owes-his-career/
Fraser Nelson of the Spectator examines this decision and the fact that only a few months ago the MP was telling everyone to get behind the PM. Whether you want to get out of Europe or simply want a referendum to resolve the matter once and for all it is worth a read.

Rural crime must be taken seriously

According to insurer NFU Mutual, the cost of rural crime on the UK's rural economy is up 5.2 per cent on 2012's figures, reaching £44.5m last year in 2013. The NFU creates an annual rural crime report based on claims data and this year's report identified a rise in cattle rustling and the theft of high-value agricultural equipment.

My advice of course would be make sure everything is locked away and as secure as is possible. 
Farm insurer NFU Mutual’s rural crime survey says the most common items targeted by thieves in the North East over the last 12 months were quad bikes, metal, and horse transport and equipment. Rural crime is definitely becoming more sophisticated and Northumbria Police must ensure that tackling and preventing rural crime is a priority.

The cost of thefts from farms across Northumberland and County Durham rose by 12% in 2013, costing the regional economy an estimated £840,000, compared with £750,000 a year earlier.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Commons debate 3rd September on Transport infrastructure in Northumberland

On Wednesday September 3rd at 7pm I have the 30 minute Adjournment debate in the Commons; I applied in July to the Speaker and this debate was recently granted. The key issues I propose to raise I have been discussing with key local activists over the summer, including several members of the Tyne Valley Rail Users Group, and other activists concerned about the state of our roads in Northumberland. We also have a number of key bus issues to raise.
On trains I will be focusing on the rail infrastructure in Northumberland, focusing on the Tyne Valley Line between Newcastle and Carlisle, but I will also be addressing many other rail issues like the Gilsland and Bardon Mill stations.

Locals all know that with the Tyne Valley line:
- the rolling stock is old, there are issues on fares and and other issues and there is no Wi-Fi on the trains; we feel that the service is the poor relation of the Northern Train Network, notwithstanding a passenger increase; there are concerns as to the Northern Rail Franchise Consultation - noone wants to see lesser services.
I will be asking about the possible Designated Community Rail Service and what this means, in reality.
-  Gilsland Station rebuild: this is presently in the GRIP system but needs more Northumberland county council and network rail support. The old station was disbanded many years ago. Lots of the infrastructure remains and it would provide a massive boost to jobs, tourism and infrastructure if it were reopened. I am a big supporter.
- Rail crossing improvements – a Network Rail issue but we are looking to explore the future upgrades and improvements programme.
- I will also be raising the bridges controversy, notably the Bardon Mill proposed bridge, which I visited last week and spoke to residents and members of the Parish Council about.

Finally on trains I shall discuss the fact that the North East has no Oyster Card system for an integrated transport network system, as London and elsewhere does have and why this is the case.

On Roads I shall be raising A 69 Improvements west of Hexham leading to the Cumbrian Border. It is an accident black spot and I saw the Secretary of State for Transport on this issue last session; clearly money is tight but we want to know that we are in the queue for upgrades. Similar comments apply regarding the A696 safety improvements north of Ponteland. We will also be raising traffic safety elsewhere in Northumberland, and continuing to push for the A1 upgrades.

As always please get in touch with your comments, requests and suggestions. I have received many comments thus far over the last few weeks on many of these issues.  All thoughts very welcome.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Scotland awaits tomorrow

Greatly looking forward to taking our cross party Better Together team from all across the North East to The Borders tomorrow.

Post 16 Transport plans in chaos

The introduction of charges for Post 16 school travel has already reduced the number of students using the service and leaving others in limbo.

In a letter send to parents by the Council's Passenger Transport Operations Manager a Council officer informs parents "We have not so far received the same volume of applications for transport from Post 16 students that we would normally expect this time of year This is probably due to the recent changes regarding the provision of Post-16 transport." We warned the County Council that parents in rural areas could not afford their new £600 tax and already we have the evidence. The Council received dozens of letters from families in rural Northumberland warning they simply did not have the money for this new tax on school transport. It is very sad to see that already there are less applications. 

Parents have been told by the Council it was "not in a position to award your child a seat from 2nd September." - which is the start of term!

In the Council's rush to impose charges on rural families they have created chaos in their own system. We now have the ridiculous state of affairs where some parents do no even know if their child will be able to get the school bus. That situation is not acceptable.  

You can read the full story in the Journal:
http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/mp-guy-opperman-hits-out-7652785

Bellingham show this Saturday

8.30-5pm and so much to do for all the family. Come along and support the iconic show.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

France gets worse under a failed socialist - this is your Ed Miliband warning

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/27/france-vision-life-under-ed-miliband-warning-labour-leader
It makes sobering reading. But if you want a high tax, union controlled, job destroying, approach to an economy and a country then vote for the Two Eds.

MLK "I have a dream" speech 51 years ago today - 28/8/63 - well worth a read

There was no better orator than Martin Luther king. His speech in Washington calling for the end of discrimination and equal rights is a classic.

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

New £200 million fund to protect the Greenbelt

Our campaign to protect Northumberland’s greenbelt has received a major boost as the Government has announced a new fund to promote development on brownfield sites.

Councils across the country can now bid for government funding to build thousands of new homes on brownfield land. The £200 million fund will be shared between up to 10 new housing zones, all which must be outside of London. It is hoped the sites will deliver between 7,500 and 20,000 homes.

Since 2010 the government has taken a number of steps to make sure that brownfield land as possible is prioritised for new housing development. By 2015 100,000 new homes will have been constructed on previously developed state owned land. If we are to protect the greenbelt here in Northumberland we must see the Council
plan to develop more brownfield sites.

The Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, said “We need to build more homes in this country, but it’s also vital we protect the countryside that people rightly treasure. That’s why the government is offering councils a share of £200 million to prioritise development on brownfield land. The new dedicated housing zones will transform
disused and derelict land, and ensure the new homes are built quickly in a process that is more straightforward for councils and builders."

This is another valuable step to protect our greenbelt. I am delighted by this funding announcement which will
further help protect the greenbelt. I have written to Northumberland County Council to encourage them to prepare a bid for this project. Across the country the level of greenbelt development is at its lowest rate since records began in 1989. As it stands the Council’s draft housing policies are simply unsustainable. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Better Together Battlebus this Saturday. Last couple of places still available

Just spoken to the better together team in the Borders and we have been asked to spend the day in Hawick in the borders this Saturday. There will be opportunities to canvass or simply deliver leaflets. This campaign is apolitical, cross party and a with a simple message to the Scots - please stay! There is also a public meeting taking place in Hawick on Saturday of which more layer this week on the blog.
If you have not signed up and want to come at this late stage - we leave Hexham at 9.45 sharp Saturday but please let me know if you are coming - email me on guy.opperman.mp@parliament.uk


Social Mobility Foundation intern in the office in Westminster this week

Over the last 4 years I am proud as an MP that I have supported apprenticeships by hiring, training and then retaining an apprentice, working out of the Hexham office. We have also had over 150 work experience and interns in Hexham and occasionally in Westminster. At all stages we are trying to ensure that people are seeing what I do as an elective representative week in week out, and try and get an understanding of the everyday demands and duties of an MP.
This week I have a young student, Joshua Babajide, helping Dan in the Westminster office, and trying to learn more about politics and the office of an MP, albeit I am based in Hexham this week. 
Joshua comes to us via the Social Mobility Foundation, which is an excellent charity that aims to make a practical improvement to the lives of young people by helping them gain work experience in a range of professional environments. This is a charity that is doing so much to help young people get their first experiences of a number of different professions. Other students from the foundation go and experience what it is like to work in a variety of career sectors such as Accountancy, Media, Engineering and Law. It is nice to know that, out of all the possible fields, Joshua decided to learn more about politics. 

Hexham Bus station - early autumn will see the county council make a decision

I have long campaigned to get the present bus station retained and upgraded.
http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/what-next-for-hexham-bus-station-find.html
And here
http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk/news/2.2978/hexham-bus-station-options-remain-on-the-table-1.1147545
The consultation is now being considered by the council. All letters or emails to me these last few months are definitely part of the consultation. Ten days ago there was a march in Hexham - I could not go as I had long booked surgery appointments with 2 local businesses and had agreed to visit several local constituents at their homes in Heddon on the Wall. Sadly the diary has to be planned in detail and a fair way in advance, particularly in August, which makes the ability to change plan spontaneously quite difficult.
My understanding is that we will get a decision on the consultation soon: what "early Autumn" is I am trying to find out but this is the recent comment of the county council spokesman Cllr Ian Swithenbank, policy board member responsible for streetcare and environment at Northumberland County Council, who said: “We are very keen to engage with and gain comments and feedback from as many people as possible on the options for the bus station. No decision will be made until early autumn, and only after further consultation has been completed.”

Monday, 25 August 2014

Salmond v Darling debate tonight at 8.30 on BBC2

The broadcast will be split up into four sections....
SECTION ONE: Opening statements - Alex Salmond will go first, Alistair Darling second. (Salmond won the coin toss and elected to go first).
SECTION TWO: The issues - The two men will debate four topics titled;
  1. Economy
  2. Scotland at Home
  3. Scotland in the World
  4. What Happens after the Vote
SECTION THREE: Cross-examination - Alistair Darling will go first, Alex Salmond second. (Darling won the coin toss and elected to go first).
SECTION FOUR: Closing statements - Alex Salmond will go first, Alistair Darling second
line
Today's 90-minute event will be staged at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, in front of an audience of 200 people selected by polling and research consultancy ComRes.The debate is being presented by Glenn Campbell.
There are still a couple of places to be filled on our battlebus to Scotland this weekend.

Macmillan Coffee Morning soon - what are you going to do?

Biggest Coffee Morning in the World! Friday 26th September!
Are you going to help, get involved, or host an event - or simply go along, meet your friends and neighgbours and raise money for a great cause? Last year I was in Heddon on the Wall Village Hall and a great time was had by the dozens of people who turned up. 
Full details are here: http://coffee.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx
I am unclear where I am going to go but I know that events are already organised locally in places as far apart as Ponteland and Humshaugh.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

6 days to our Scotland 2014 Referendum Road trip - Spectator explains how it's going

http://www.spectator.co.uk/arts/arts-feature/9292112/salmond-has-already-lost-if-the-edinburgh-festival-is-anything-to-go-by/

Pleased to support latest Guide Dogs campaign for AV Buses

I was pleased to support the Guide Dogs campaign to make travelling by bus easier for people with sight loss. The Guide Dogs’ campaign is to make sure all new buses have audio visual (AV) next stop announcements, which are vital for blind and partially sighted bus travellers. It is clear that announcements enable blind and partially sighted people to understand their location, and prevent them from missing their stops.
AV systems are only fitted to around one fifth of the bus fleet nationally, with the overwhelming majority of these buses operating in London.
Guide Dogs is calling for the Government to require all new buses be fitted with AV, as currently bus operators are under no obligation to include this technology when upgrading their fleet. I am pictured with puppy walker Vanessa and Ushka the puppy and Community Engagement Officer Sue Rowan and her guide dog, Layla.

Helping John Stevenson MP in Carlisle

On Tuesday I took the Hexham to Carlisle train to help campaign for my friend and colleague John Stevenson MP, and his local councillors.

John is hoping to be re-elected as Carlise's MP in a little over 8 months and it was wonderful to be able to help him out. He has been working in Carlisle, and a councillor in Carlisle, long before he became an MP, and knows the town inside out. He is a genuine hard working MP who cares passionately about the place he represents. In Westminster his work on skills, apprenticeships and supporting manufacturing and local jobs for Carlisle is well known. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Haltwhistle Walking Festival Autumn Programme now published - come along!

October 11th - 19th sees a packed programme of hikes for all ages and abilities. There is no festival like it - full details here: http://www.haltwhistlewalkingfestival.org/
Book now to avoid disappointment - I am going to try and go at some stage on the weekend of the 18-19th but diaries are always difficult, not least as the House is sitting.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Tourism in the North East goes from strength to strength as visitor numbers rise

Visitor numbers are up 6% and the good news is that Heathrow will be broadcasting the beauty of the north east and the star attractions from early September. Details of the top 20 sites both paid for and free are set out below.
http://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/story/2014-08-18/visitor-numbers-to-the-north-east-increase-by-6/

Ladbrokes visit and why Newcastle must win Saturday for charity

I visited the Hexham branch of Ladbrokes on Tuesday to meet the local staff, hear about their apprenticeship scheme and discuss efforts to promote responsible gambling.
Kindly the store offered me a charity bet. As a a former steeplechase jockey and tipster I would normally bet on horses but I am not a huge fan of the flat so I picked this Saturdays football game and backed:
- Newcastle to beat Aston Villa at odds of 7-4
- Newcastle to win 2-1 at odds of 10-1
2 good charity causes riding on this so no pressure lads! The game is at 12.45.

Hexham Fire Station Consultation - details of how to respond and my views

For over 5 years we have been looking to relocate Hexham Fire Station and I have held many meetings with Fire Officers including the Chief Fire Officer,Alex Bennett,and many other firemen who do such a good job across Northumberland. The station has to move for a variety of reasons, not least the fact that the present site is a flood risk.

The preferred new site is now to co-locate with the Hexham Hospital. I am fully behind this idea for a number of reasons, not least that all 3 emergency services know it is my strong view that we should have co-location of emergency services wherever possible. As they all know I would go further with far greater co-responding and interconnection between differing services in responding to events, led by the relevant expert. This particularly applies in truly rural areas.

The Hexham Hospital site is not perfect - no site ever is - but it is a massive improvement on the present site, it comes at a genuinely reasonable cost given the alternatives, and provides Hexham with a 21st Century Fire Station. It also allows the Northumberland County Council to reassess and use the present Hexham site, and the alternative Golf Course site that has lain idle for many years. Given all that my provisional view is to back this move wholeheartedly, although I want to see the product of the consultation and see what comments are made.
The Consultation is ongoing until 5th September so I urge any locals supportive or opposed to get involved. The email address is fireconsult@northumberland.gov.uk
or write to Headquarters at West Hartford Business Park, Cramlington NE23 3JP

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Help for genuine refugees is vital as we play our role in these difficult times

The Commons debated this issue before the House rose and my position is set out in brief in the speech I gave, the link to which is below.
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2014-07-22a.379.0&s=speaker%3A24962#g392.0
The key passage for me is this:
"To misquote Charles Dickens in 2014, these are the best of times and the worst of times. It is an age of wisdom and an age of foolishness. There is a season of light, there is a season of darkness. There is a spring of hope and there is a winter of despair.
To look at the worst of times, others have set out graphically the vast scale of the problem. There are 50 million refugees, and huge numbers of Syrians, for example, are fleeing that conflict zone—it is that country I particularly want to focus on. We debate the issue on 22 July with conflict in Gaza and Israel, with no cessation of rockets or hostilities, no durable ceasefire and no progress to a two-state solution. At the same time, Russia and Ukraine are in a separatist dispute that is producing ever more refugees, and there has been the horrifying loss of flight MH17.
One could say that the debate brought by my hon. Friend Pauline Latham MP is particularly timely because there is a risk that while all those atrocities are going on and being shown on the television, conflicts and refugee situations that have been going on for a considerable time have almost been forgotten. It is a fantastic aspect of the House of Commons first, that when we get this job we gain a greater understanding of the huge complexity of the problems faced around the world and secondly that, on a hot and steamy morning, Members from four different parties are here, making the case that we genuinely all care, on a cross-party basis, about the suffering of the individuals involved in these situations."
For more details on the debate and my speech click on the link above. 

Austin Mitchell is a male dinosaur - female MPs make the Commons a better place

All political parties have dinosaurs who do not reflect the modern world and one of Labours worst is Austin Mitchell MP, the outgoing but far from shy MP for Grimsby. He has been spouting his views on female MPs in interviews on Newsnight and Radio 4; he argues that female MPs are "more leadable" and adds that
‘I think the problem is simply this, that parliament with more women is going to be more anxious to discuss issues relevant to the people, that is to say family issues, social issues. And less inclined to discuss big issues like should we invade Iraq.’
He is wrong on many issues and fortunately retiring at the next election. I think it is a very good thing that the commons is becoming more representative of the country, with many more female MPs at every election. I help lead Women to Win and have helped train such future Conservative stars as Nusrat Ghani, Lucy Frazer, Maria Caulfield and Vicky Atkins. All will be amazing MPs, and are presently excellent candidates in Wealden, Cambridgeshire, Lewes and Louth.
I could go on about certain MPs in all parties saying things they should not but this is not ageism. What annoys me about Austin is that we rarely see him in the commons chamber. There are some veterans who are there a lot - whether you agree or disagree with them Dennis Skinner, David Winnick, Richard Shepherd and sir Peter Tapsell all contribute a great deal. All are 70+.
So on this issue I am strongly against Austin and stand on the barricades with the female MPs who are rightly up in arms. Eventually the dinosaurs became extinct. I hope Austin's views will be extinct soon too.

Great Whittington makes the final of Britain in Bloom - decision in October

The 50th annual RHS Britain in Bloom UK Finals Awards Ceremony, will take place in Bristol on 16 October 2014. Only then will we know if Great Whittington has won best small village.
http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/britain-bloom-judges-visit-northumberland-7568872
If you have not visited it is a beautiful village - immaculately looked after. Full credit to all the locals who have put in so much effort.
The full list is here: https://www.rhs.org.uk/communities/pdf/bloom/Britain-in-Bloom-2014/finalists

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

August 25 for Round 2 of Darling v Salmond debate - live for all UK on BBC

Round 2 of the Darling v Salmond debate will take place on Monday August 25 – details still to be decided. The debate will be on BBC and available nationwide – and that means the UK not just Scotland: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-28722263

There is no doubt that Darling won the first debate, and that Salmond seems ever more desperate. His argument on the pound is unravelling. If he wants independence then he can have it – provided the Scottish people agree. But with independence comes a different currency. It is that simple. Last week’s suggestion by the SNP that Scotland is more predisposed towards ‘social justice’ than other parts of Britain is frankly absurd, and embarrassing. I hope to continue our campaign to maintain the Union and that ultimately Scotland will say “No thanks”.

Edinburgh Fringe - 5 jokes genuinely that will make you laugh out loud

Well worth sharing:
1) “I’ve decided to sell my hoover... well, it was just collecting dust.” 
Tim Vine
2) “I've written a joke about a fat badger, but I couldn't fit it into my set.”
Masai Graham
3) “Always leave them wanting more, my uncle used to say to me. Which is why he lost his job in disaster relief." Mark Watson
4) “Scotland had oil, but it's running out thanks to all that deep frying.” Scott Capurro
5) “This show is about perception and perspective. But it depends how you look at it.” 
Felicity Ward

St Mungo's Church, Simonburn this Sunday will say goodbye to Rev Michael Thompson

On Sunday August 24 at 11am at St Mungo's church in the beautiful village of Simonburn many will attend to celebrate the work and effort of Michael Thompson, who has been an outstanding local vicar in Humshaugh and the surrpounding villages. His retirement service is a Holy Communion. If you are free do go along to celebrate his work locally; it is also a lovely church.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Are you a Dementia Friend? If not, this is a must do, please

Last Friday I became a Dementia Friend. Along with dozens of locals we met at the Dyvels local pub in Corbridge for an assisted walk around Corbridge, discussion about the progress Corbridge is making to become the North East leading dementia friendly village and to receive training.

Many of us were trained by Councillor Melvyn Stone to become a Dementia Friend, as part of an Alzheimer’s Society initiative that aims to give people an improved awareness of the condition. 
In my view Dementia Friends is about giving people an understanding of dementia and the small things they can do that can make a difference to people living with dementia. From helping someone find the right bus to spreading the word about dementia, it can help make our local community a better place to live. Full credit and thanks to the Corbridge Town Council, Melvyn, the team from the Alzheimer's Society and Chrysalis and all the local businesses and volunteers who make this awareness, training and change in Corbridge possible. 
Fuller details and pictures here: 
http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/mp-joins-assisted-walk-corbridge-7621737

Is an independent Scotland entitled to keep the Pound as is?

If Salmond wants independence then he can have it – provided the Scottish people agree. But with independence comes a different type of currency. It is that simple. We debated this at length in the House of Commons – see the debate here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2014-02-12a.292.1&s=%28scottish+currency%29+speaker%3A24962#g302.2

The key section of the debate is as follows:
- "On what basis would Scotland get to keep the pound? Would it be used informally, just as some Latin American countries, Greece and Montenegro use other currencies?
- Why should the Bank of England take notice of Scotland in setting monetary policy?
- Why should the Governor travel to Edinburgh and be interrogated by Scottish MPs in such an event?
- After independence, surely the Governor would owe his appointment entirely to a rest-of-UK appointment system?
- At that stage, would the First Minister come to London seeking an audience to negotiate?
- when one goes through Mark Carney’s speech and looks at the currency options, it would seem that the SNP proposes to keep the pound as part of a formal sterling currency union agreed with the rest of the UK. However, the SNP seems not to have contemplated the fact that that would involve giving up huge amounts, as Mark Carney made very clear, as well as requiring the agreement of all other parties. The SNP seeks independence but would require and accept greater control by a third party."
Many more details on the debate in parliament at the link above.