Sunday, 28 May 2017

Friday, 26 May 2017

Ascension day service at #Beltingham - a chance for reflection, grief and remembrance

Last night I went to the small village of Beltingham for the Ascension day service, which was conducted by the local vicar, Benjamin Carter and The Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman. It was a very solemn but joyful evening in a very special church. All of us were conscious of the tragedy in Manchester, and listened to the Bishops sermon as she tried to give us guidance and succour in these difficult times.
After the service I wandered around the church and it's wonderful churchyard. The church has strong links to the Bowes Lyon family, and is a beautiful long rectangle in shape, with superb stained glass windows, created in thanks for the saving of a young Bowes Lyon girl from an accident over 100 years ago locally in bardon mill. 

But it is the churchyard itself that takes your breath away, 
The yew tree that dominates the churchyard on a small hill overlooking the south Tyne is over 1000 years old, and many were arguing last night that the old tree dated back nearly 2000 years. There is certainly good evidence of the 7th century Saxon cross and the presence of a place of worship dating back pre Roman times. It has perhaps seen the romans, the saxons, the first christians and some of our forefathers who worshipped pagan gods. The venerable old yew is reaching its elder days, and sits atop the prominotory, now supported with large metal supports to give it strength in its dotage. And the yew tree in pagan times was often planted so as to ward off evil spirits. This we know. 
Perhaps the best description is found here: 
Rev John Hodgson’s Northumberland - Newcastle Antiquarian Society, Part 2 Volume III, p 335, when he wrote :
“Could it be proved that in British days, there was a druidical grove here, the name might be derived from “bael tins” which in Irish, means fire of the sun, or the month of May in which large fires were made in honour of the sun’s return from the vernal solstice to regenerate the earth?”.
All I know is that last nights service was a special time. A time for prayer, for thoughts on the terrible events of the week past and a hope for better times. Visit and worship there if you can. It is a special place on so many levels.

Hexham Farmers Market tomorrow - #shoplocal + support your local Farmers and producers - use it or lose it!!

Use it or lose it! You will not get better, or fresher food. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

11am Minute Silence today, to pay our respects.

At the minutes silence at 11, We will remember all those who lost their lives and others who were affected by the callous attack on innocent life in Manchester.
There has been a 2 day period of mourning. But now we must prove to the terrorists that we are not afraid and that life, and democracy, must go on. Local campaigning in the election will begin this afternoon.
National campaigning will resume on Friday.
All parties have been anxious to balance the desire to respect the victims of the attack with a determination not to let terrorism derail the democratic process. The prime minister will travel to Brussels today to meet fellow Nato leaders, before going on to Taormina in Italy for a G7 summit.
As the Spectator put it:
"When campaigning does resume, we should all remember something: that one of our great civilisational achievements is that we argue about our differences in public and then casts our ballots in private to resolve these differences. That we do this is one of the great strengths of our society and even if the process sometimes isn’t pretty, it is something that we should cherish and protect."

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

PMs full statement as Campaigning remains suspended and terrorist threat level remains high

‘I have just chaired another meeting of COBR, where we again discussed the callous and cowardly terrorist attack in Manchester last night, and the operational response from the security service, the police and other emergency services.
It remains the case that, other than the terrorist himself, 22 people were killed in the attack. 59 people remain injured, and many of them have life-threatening conditions.
As Greater Manchester Police confirmed earlier today, the perpetrator was Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old who was born and brought up in Britain.
And as the emergency services have confirmed throughout the day, his victims were innocent children, young people and their families.
Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.
I want to reiterate what I said this morning about the professionalism of the emergency services and the bravery of the people of Manchester. Through their actions, they proved that cowardice will always be defeated by bravery, that evil can be overcome by good, and that our values – the liberal, pluralistic values of Britain – will always prevail over the hateful ideology of the terrorists.
In my statement earlier today, I said that the police and security services needed to investigate whether or not Abedi was acting alone. Those investigations continue. But the work undertaken throughout the day has revealed that it is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack.
This morning, I said that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre – the independent organisation responsible for setting the threat level on the basis of the intelligence available – was keeping the threat level under constant review.
It has now concluded, on the basis of today’s investigations, that the threat level should be increased, for the time being, from SEVERE to CRITICAL. This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely, but that a further attack may be imminent.
The change in the threat level means that there will be additional resources and support made available to the police as they work to keep us all safe.
As a result of the JTAC’s decision, the police have asked for authorisation from the Secretary of State for Defence to deploy a number of armed military personnel in support of their armed officers. This request is part of a well-established plan, known as Operation TEMPERER, in which both the armed forces and the police officers involved are well-trained and well-prepared to work in this kind of environment. The Secretary of State for Defence has approved this request, and Operation TEMPERER is now in force.
This means that armed police officers responsible for duties such as guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed forces, which will allow the police to significantly increase the number of armed officers on patrol in key locations. You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events, such as concerts and sports matches, helping the police to keep the public safe. In all circumstances, members of the armed forces who are deployed in this way will be under the command of police officers.
Precisely how the military and armed police officers will be deployed is an operational decision for police commanders, and Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police will be making a statement giving further details at New Scotland Yard later this evening.
In the coming days and weeks, there will of course be many events hosted up and down the country. The police will work with the organisers and hosts of these events, to come to a judgement about how they can go ahead while making sure the people who attend them are safe and secure.
I do not want the public to feel unduly alarmed. We have faced a serious terrorist threat in our country for many years. And the operational response I have just outlined is a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face. I ask everybody to be vigilant, and to cooperate with and support the police as they go about their important work.
I want to end by repeating the important message I gave in my statement earlier today. We will take every measure available to us and provide every additional resource we can to the police and the security services as they work to protect the public.
And while we mourn the victims of last night’s appalling attack, we stand defiant. The spirit of Manchester – and the spirit of Britain – is far mightier than the sick plots of depraved terrorists. That is why the terrorists will never win, and we will prevail.’

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Campaign launch in Prudhoe this week

I was very proud to be joined by lmany of the local County Councillors from across the Hexham Constituency this week to launch my campaign for re-election in Prudhoe. 

When I was first selected as the Hexham candidate in 2008 I was told repeatedly the Conservatives couldn't win County Council seats in Prudhoe, and that as a former mining town it would always be Labour's heartland. Well since May this year we now two excellent Conservative County Councillors in Prudhoe and Labour don't have a single County Councillor - anywhere! 

I will be taking nothing for granted and I am proud of my record of action over the last seven years as Ponteland and Tynedale's local MP. I hope you will lend me your support on June 8th.

Friday, 19 May 2017

For an example of why Labour are losing votes read this article in the Spectator
I know the superb Andy Atkinson, our Wrexham candidate - he is a no nonsense window cleaner, a top bloke and will be a brilliant MP. Yes, Corbyn is costing labour votes but it is also the quality of our candidates that is making a local difference.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Details of the Conservative Party Manifesto: a mainstream leader for the mainstream

Theresa May and her team have today launched the Conservative Party’s manifesto, Forward Together: Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a More Prosperous Future
Full test here:

The next five years will be the most challenging our nation has faced in generations. 
Getting Brexit right is central to everything: our place in the world, our economic security and our future prosperity. So now more than ever, Britain needs strong, stable leadership under Theresa May to get the best Brexit deal for our country and its people.

And we also need strong, stable leadership to make the most of the challenges that lie beyond. Our nation faces five giant challenges in the years ahead and this manifesto addresses them head on:

1.     To make sure our economy stays strong and to bring prosperity to the whole of our country. 
2.     To emerge from Brexit a strong and united nation able to take a lead in the world to defend Britain’s interests.
3.     Overcome social divisions by giving people real opportunity and making Britain the world’s Great Meritocracy.
4.     To restore the contract between generations that provides security for older people while being fair to the young.
5.     To seize the opportunities of changing technology, while ensuring that our security and personal privacy – and the welfare of children and younger people – are still protected
So there is a clear choice: strong, stable leadership under Theresa May through Brexit and beyond – or the shambles of Jeremy Corbyn propped up by the other parties in a hung Parliament which everyone will pay for.

Key announcements – the difference that strong and stable leadership can make:

On Brexit:
Only the strong, stable leadership of Theresa May will deliver the Brexit deal that Britain needs to prosper in the years ahead. Jeremy Corbyn is a shambles and would make a complete mess of these negotiations –ordinary working families would pay the price with more debt, higher taxes, fewer jobs and a less secure future.

On our long-term plan for elderly care:
We are making a commitment to a long-term plan to make the social care system fundamentally fairer, better funded and more sustainable, helping to ensure elderly people receive the dignified and high quality care they deserve.

On NHS funding:
We value our NHS deeply and will increase spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years, delivering an increase in real funding per head of population for every year of the parliament.  Over the course of the next parliament, we will embark on the most ambitious programme of capital investment in buildings and technology the NHS has ever seen.

On pensions:
A decade ago, poverty blighted the retirement of many older people. That’s why we introduced the Triple Lock – where the State Pension rises by the highest of earnings, inflation, or 2.5 per cent. That has worked – increasing the State Pension by over £1,250 and reducing pensioner poverty to historically low levels.

We now need to make sure we continue to provide dignity to older people and fairness to working people. Our Double Lock will deliver that by ensuring pensions will rise in line with the earnings that pay for them, or in line with inflation – whichever is highest

On getting immigration down to sustainable levels – which means the tens of thousands:
We will establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union and continue to bear down on immigration from outside the EU. This is a choice between Theresa May, providing strong and stable leadership as leave the EU to bear down on immigration, or a shambolic Jeremy Corbyn who doesn’t even think we need to reduce immigration. 

On taxes:
The Conservatives will always be the party that keeps tax as low as possible and spends the proceeds responsibly. It is our firm intention to reduce taxes on Britain’s businesses and working families. Compare that to the shambles of Jeremy Corbyn whose spending promises don’t add up – and would have to raise taxes on families and small businesses across the country.

On the deficit:
We will continue to restore the public finances over the course of the next Parliament, which will guide us to a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade. We have worked hard since 2010 to get public spending under control and the deficit is now down by three quarters as a share of our economy.

On school funding:
We will increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion in real terms by 2022 and ensure that no school has its budget cut as a result of the new, fair funding formula.  

On fair energy markets:
We will cap energy prices to protect ordinary working families from unjustified rises in energy bills and help them have more control of their energy costs.

10 days until Northumberland Day on Sunday May 28th - lots of activities going on locally

Local churches and parish and community groups have planned many events for this Sunday. Check your parish notice board or the Hexham Courant for details. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Theresa May sets out workers manifesto to support workers both now and post Brexit

New rights | Theresa May's 11-point plan

  1. Guaranteeing that workers will enjoy the same rights after Brexit as they do under the EU.
  2. Increasing the National Living Wage in line with earnings until the end of parliament.
  3. Protections for "gig" economy workers, with a consultation on rights such as maternity leave.
  4. Worker representation on company boards.
  5. Giving workers the same right on information on their company's future as shareholders.
  6. New right to request leave for training.
  7. New right to care for sick relatives full-time.
  8. New rules to protect pensions from bosses' irresponsible behaviour.
  9. Extending the Equalities Act for those with mental health conditions.
  10. Right to child bereavement leave.
  11. "Returnships" for mothers going back to work after a baby.
  12. More details and the boss's interview here:

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Many congratulations to the amazing Great North Air Ambulance - one of our regions best charities and a lifesaver

I have supported, raised money in Westminster for them and walked the walk for the GNAA. 
I have met the doctors and air crew and they are th ebest of the best. 
If you can support them please do. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Boycott of the Hexham Courant by Labour Northumberland County Council has been stopped by the new Conservative led group
Pleased to back the Your Right to Know campaign and see it through. The labour council boycott was malicious, and utterly wrong. Whether it was legal to fail to comply with the law to notify local communities of planning and other local events, as part of democracy, is highly questionable. On any interpretation it stank, and I am delighted it has been immediately overturned.
This from the Courant this week:
The Your Right To Know campaign, launched by the Courant to challenge the impact of the decision on the values of transparency, accountability and local democracy, included a 2,700-name petition and cross-party support from councillors, Hexham’s MP and even Secretary of State, Sajid Javid.
Hexham East’s Coun. Cath Homer said: “I’ve had sight of an email from Steven Mason which was issued straight after the meeting with Coun. Jackson.
“To have the notices back in the Courant is fantastic news for the people of Tynedale and it’s great that we have already been able to deliver on that promise.
“This area has been neglected for too long and it’s time people had a proper voice and got their fair share.”

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Ashington move of County Hall has been scrapped by the new Conservative run Local Authority

It is still very early days at County Hall in Morpeth, and everyone is still trying to assess what labour signed off before the voters kicked them out, but one decision has been made.
The mega million County Hall move from Morpeth to a state of the art design HQ in Ashington will not be going ahead.
This was raised on the doorstep during the local elections on a repeat basis.
We all understand these are difficult times. Why, if times are hard, would you knock down your own house and build another down the road at a massive cost? So many voters disapproved of this crazy plan.
Good first decision by the Conservative led administration.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Thoughts on the first week of the campaign and door knocking in Northumberland

The first week of a general election campaign is always a rush to get organised, fill in nomination papers, draft leaflets, set a campaign plan and try to get organised. In my case I also have ongoing commitments in the constituency, surgery cases I am still trying to help with and commitments as a regional MP to help other campaigns. 
But the impressions are relatively easy to assess. The Northumberland community likes Theresa May. The vast majority of labour minded voters don't support Corbyn, but would return to labour if they had a different leader, and many will still vote for him, notwithstanding their acceptance that he is a complete liability. Liberals under tim farron are not making the fight back that they hoped, but green voters are definitely popping up on the campaign trail. It is notable that the liberals did not field candidates in many of the local election seats, and only campaigned properly in one seat in Bywell. 
I have knocked on thousands of doors over the last three months, primarily as part of the local election campaign, but also in support of Theresa May and myself locally. I have lost track of the number of traditional labour voters who are deciding to vote for Theresa May for the first time. The change is marked. I will post more as the campaign progresses but I have already knocked doors all across the county from Greenhead to Ponteland, from Byrness to the Cumbrian borders. I will be doing a lot more door knocking as the campaign progresses. There will also be the usual church hustings in June. 

The Chronicle (a Trinity Mirror paper) comes out in support of Theresa May
Well worth a read: yes, the boss, is blessed by an opponent of staggering incompetence who is a danger to this country; but on the doorsteps there is no doubt people like the PM. They like her matter of fact calmness, her normality, and her commitment to getting on with the job. And they feel safe with her.
The same cannot be said about
- Dianne Abbott - a joke as a shadow Home Secretary
- John McDonnell - an avowed Marxist
Or Corbyn himself, who always seems more interested in the fate of other countries or causes (Cuba, Venezuaela or the causes like Hamas or the IRA) than his own.
I don't think even the Corbynistas could argue that the Chronicle is a mainstream media opposition vehicle, but when the Mirror / Chronicle goes against you there is a problem for labour. And they are right.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Northumberland Local Election results in detail in all wards - thank you to everyone who came out and voted

Full details here:
The end of a long campaign, and a time for real change locally. Everyone who stands deserves credit, because elections are a difficult thing: it takes courage to stand, to get out on the doorstep, to pound the streets, and occasionally meet people who disagree with you, sometimes robustly. But all candidates, of every persuasion are volunteers wanting to improve their patch. Credit to them all and I wish them a great weekend of recovery, sleep, time with families (who are very understanding) and enjoyment of the responsibility of public office. It is a special thing to be asked to represent people, including those who did not vote for you. I am proud of all our councillors. They will do well.

It is not right or fair to pick out any specific winners, as everyone did well, but I am particularly pleased that we have two new stars in our 2 Prudhoe Conservative County councillors. Ken Stow is well known in the town and has long campaigned for a better deal for Prudhoe; in his own words, he recently decided to stop talking, and get involved in the elections, put himself forward and see if he could make a difference.
And Gordon Stewart, who runs the Prudhoe matters Facebook site has been working for over a year making things happen in Prudhoe, even though he was not the councillor. I have spent a lot of the last 6 months meeting people in Prudhoe making he case that Gordon is the man who is going to help improve West Wylam. He will not let them down; he is a soft c conservative, and a man of great energy and commitment who gets things done. He will do a lot more now he is actually the councillor.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Northumberland County Council Election Day tomorrow - please get out and vote!

The elections for Northumberland County Council will decide the future of our area. And on Thursday 4th May there is a clear choice.
If elected to run Northumberland County Council we will implement our clear plan to improve life for all residents in our community by:
  1. Stopping the £80 million County Hall move.
  2. Giving more power to local people through Local Area Councils.
  3. Scrapping Arch, and replace it with a series of Local Investment Funds.
But in order to get our plan, you have to vote for it on Thursday 4th May.
With the opposition so divided and out of touch with what really matters to residents here in Northumberland, our area needs a strong team of Conservative councillors who can deliver for every resident. A vote for any other candidate will keep Labour in power.
Let’s work together to make Northumberland even better. Pledge to vote Conservative on Thursday 4th May.
Thank you for your support,
Northumberland Conservatives
PS: Remember, your polling station is open from 7am until 10pm on Thursday 4th May.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Local elections are 2 days away - get involved, get voting and have your say on whether you think the Labour County Council are doing a good job and deserve another 4 years in office

Firstly, a salute to all the candidates. It takes courage to stand, to knock on doors, and to put your hand up as someone willing to represent a community.
Clearly I would like you all to vote conservative, but most of all I want you to vote.
Get involved.
This local Election really matters, for Northumberland, and particularly for the local people of the Ponteland and Tynedale areas.
3 of the Local Conservative Council candidate policies are set out below

Parliament has dissolved +all MPs and parliamentary offices are locked up from midnight tonight.

In Westminster, we all cease to be MPs and be able to handle casework as an MP, from midnight tonight, which means warning constituents that our MP offices are closed, but my staff and I will continue to try and assist, albeit we have no access to parliament. It means working out how we can provide an ongoing service without the benefit of an office etc.
If you have ongoing concerns or issues please contact me on 
It also means marathon efforts to clear diaries, and I feel sorry for those who have organised important celebration or launch events in Parliament who are now told that their booking has been cancelled. As one contact e-mailed: “But I’ve just posted a hundred invitations!”

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Employment at the highest level since records began - worth a detailed analysis of ONS figures

Across the UK 31.84 million people are now in work, 74.6% of the working age population - a record high!
The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.7%, and 5.1% in young people.
The female employment rate is also at a near record high of 69.6%.
The Office of National Statistics has last week published another strong set of figures, with unemployment at a rate that has not been beaten since the 1970s, and more vacancies than ever before.

Since the Conservatives entered government, employment is up by over 2.8 million and there are 767,000 vacancies in the economy, a record high.

More people are finding full-time jobs and wages have grown yet again, with average weekly wages growing by 2.3% including bonuses over the last year. 

There is good news for the North East, and for Tynedale and Ponteland too. Employment in the North East has risen by 10,000 to 1.2 million, a rate of 70.5%. Equally, unemployment  now stands at 83,000, a fall of 21,000 since last year.

In Tynedale and Ponteland our hard work has continued to pay off. Last month there was a total of 510 people unemployed, 35 down since last year and a 58% drop from 2010 when the number stood at 1,084. 

It is great news that more people in the area are finding full-time jobs and that their average wages are growing yet again, meaning more families have the security of a regular wage. However, there is always more to do. That’s why we’re creating even more jobs and a welfare system that rewards work through Universal Credit, which helps claimants keep more of the money they earn.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bank Holiday Strike Action Friday 28 April on Northern Rail - I do not agree with this RMT union strike action which will affect passengers

Tomorrow the RMT has asked conductors to strike across the Northern Rail franchise, a move I do not agree with or support.
Northern has provided reassurance that they are prepared to offer guarantees on jobs and pay for conductors as they modernise the railway by 2020. However, the arguments have continued and clearly this is a strike aimed at maximising difficulty for passengers, which is an extremely unwelcome development.

The service will be running at 40 per cent of the normal timetable, with more than 300 additional rail replacement buses.

All services are expected to be extremely busy, with industrial action taking place on the Friday before the bank holiday weekend, and the first day of the Tour de Yorkshire cycle event, so please give yourself extra time to travel and consider whether your journey is necessary.

You can get more information on your journey here:

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Westminster this week - "wash up" and a lot more in the last week of parliament before e election begins

We are presently resolving many of the last bills and pieces of legislation before parliament rises. We still have parliamentary questions, and PMQs but for a guide to wash up as it is known see below.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Hexham Courant reports the decision to call a General Election

THERESA May has called a General Election on June 8, with a plea to British voters to put their trust in her to deliver a good result from Brexit.
Making her shock announcement, the Prime Minister claimed divisions at Westminster risked jeopardising the negotiations to pull the UK out of the European Union.
Hexham's MP Guy Opperman has already confirmed he will be putting himself forward to stand in the hope of retaining the constituency seat. 
"This election will be a choice of leadership for the country," he told the Courant.
"Strong stable leadership under Theresa May or the unstable chaos of Jeremy Corbyn."
Having repeatedly ruled out calling a snap election in the past, Mrs May said she had "reluctantly" taken the decision to go to the country after seeing other parties "playing games" with the process of preparing for Brexit negotiations.
Her final decision was taken during a walking holiday in Snowdonia with husband Philip, and she told the Queen on Easter Monday before getting the full approval of Cabinet on Tuesday morning.
The Courant full article is here:

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Parliament votes by 522-13 for a general election on June 8 - supported by Conservatives and most of Labour MPs

Most of labour voted for the general election with the Conservative party, albeit 9 labour MPs like Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell voted against an early election. One lib dem, from southport, announced he would not be running again at this election, as Ken Clarke confirmed he would run again but George Osborne has decided to stand down. SNP abstained whilst seeking an alliance with labour and the liberals against Mrs May.
Three labour MPs from the north east, my neighbour Pat Glass, Tom Blenkinsopp in Middlesbrough, and Iain Wright from Hartlepool, have announced they are also standing down.
The bbc take on the election is here:
I have included the key Q+A

Who is allowed to vote?

Basically, if you're aged 18 or over on election day, registered to vote and a British citizen you can vote. Citizens of the Republic of Ireland resident in the UK and citizens of qualifying Commonwealth states resident in the UK can also vote if they are over 18 and registered to vote.

What if I live abroad?

British citizens living abroad can register online to vote as an "overseas voter" if they have been registered to vote in the UK in the past 15 years. 

How do I register to vote?

To vote in a general election you must be registered to vote. Registration is open throughout the year, although there will be a deadline for registering to vote at this general election once the date has officially been confirmed by Parliament. 
Voters can check if they are already registered by contacting their local electoral registration office using the Electoral Commission's website
People in England, Wales and Scotland can register to vote online, or download the forms to register by post, from the government's website. Voters in Northern Ireland use a different form that is returned to their local Area Electoral Office.

When is the deadline to register to vote?

Assuming you are eligible, you can register any time but be aware that there will be a deadline. The deadline to register for the last general election was 12 working days before people went to the polls. Assuming we follow the same timetable, the deadline would be 22 May.
You can even get yourself on the register if you are 16 or 17 but you will have to have turned 18 before 8 June to actually be eligible to vote.

What if I'm on holiday?

You can vote either by post or by proxy - that is appoint someone else to register your vote on your behalf. To do that you can download the form here. Whoever you nominate must be eligible to vote in the election themselves.
If you want to post it, you need to apply 11 working days before the election - in this case 24 May.

Are there going to be any boundary changes in this election?

No. They were not due to be introduced until 2020. A public consultation is under way with final proposals set to made in 2018.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Westminster this coming week dominated by the Prisons and Court Reform Bill

I am in bill committee Tuesday and Thursday of this week with line by line scrutiny of the bill that reforms prisons and modernises courts. The house has a packed week, and I am sure there will be detailed scrutiny of the deteriorating situation in both Syria and Korea.
I have a large number of constituents down in Westminster this week. My hope is to be on the last train north on Thursday night. Busy weekend of the county council elelections ahead.

Policy North industrial strategy finished and submitted as the government consultation closes this weekend

The government consultation on its proposed industrial strategy closed this weekend. This follows on from the highly successful event we held in newcastle in February with Margot James, MP, the small business minister. The team at policy north have worked really hard to produce a detailed document setting out some of the key aims and objectives. We will publish more info this week. Pictures from Margot's visit and meetings with business leaders a couple of months back.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter is a time for family, friendship, compassion + community

The PM has written and recorded a Easter message. In it Theresa May described Easter as “a moment to reflect and an important time for Christians and others to gather together with families and friends”.
She said: “I think of those values that we share – values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage. Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another. The PMs full article is here:

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Still not booked a Easter break? Come to Northumberland. England's most beautiful County has much to offer

The perfect Northumberland day would feature:
A good walk - you could go to Hadrian's Wall
ending at a good pub like the Twice Brewed Inn, or do a stretch of the Pennine Way, or take in the gentle wildness of the St Oswalds Way.

Where to stay:
If you have to have the creature comforts then Matfen Hall is a top destination but
Hexham's Beaumont Hotel
is family run and was good enough for Pippa Middleton when she came to stay a year back!
We also have all manner of brilliant pubs and Bed and Breakfasts but if you want a good alternative then the Battlesteads Hotel in Wark consistently wins prizes; the best Bed and Breakfast in the country was recently adjudged by Les Routiers guide to be The Black Cock Inn:
Where to eat:
If you want great pub food then I am a big fan of the Barrasford Arms,
and the pub also has great beer and a bar where you will discuss everything from sheep prices to current affairs and who won the big race of the day. Great people and a top dining pub.
The Feathers in Hedley, and La Bouchon in Hexham are both prize winning and the destinations for fine dining along with the Rat which has won recent awards.
You will need a tea shop on your travels:
My friends say I am on a mission to try every tea shop in Tynedale but the county is justifiably famous: on your Pennine Way travels do not forget to stop at the Greenhead Tea Room:
Alison makes great cakes and scones.
Corbridge has more tea shops that any other but my favourite is Tea and Tipple, where you can while away an afternoon - they do great Northumberland Scones, including the normal cheese scone but also Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Scones:
Their web site has a special "Sconage" section...
Beer: this is obviously essential. We have lots of brilliant brewers, but I have worked a lot with the Hadrian Border Brewery, who produce the deliciously summer ale which is Tyneside Blonde. But my favourite would be a pint of Golden Plover, made locally by the Allendale Brewery, and found in most of the pubs:

What to see; the wildlife the visit alone:
But if you want 5 places to visit these would all make anyone's top spots:

- The Beach at Bamburgh - a great walk and a top castle
- Roman Vindolanda = our best Roman and historical site
- Kielder Water and Forest Park:
They win awards all the time!!
- Alnwick Castle and its magnificent Gardens
But if you go to one for engineering / spring flowers then I would probably pick Cragside:
-It is a stunning house with amazing engineering everywhere and beautiful gardens filled with 40 miles of walks, rare flowers and so much more. It is a special place.

What to Buy:
Whether you want to browse the independent shops of Hexham or Corbridge or purchase pottery in Bardon Mill or visit some of the amazing markets there is so much to do.

Grand National - Cause of Causes will carry my hopes but Wonderful Charm a good outsider for Katie Walsh

I like the profile of Cause of Causes - an Irish National winning horse trained by Irish super trainer Gordon Elliott.
The top weight The Last Samuri is not big and has top weight but he loves the course, came second last year and will get into a rhythm and should again finish in the top four.
Highland Lodge is another to have won and been second on his last two visits to Aintree in the Becher Chase, loves the place and having not run since December is coming here fresh and yet trained to the minute. If you want an outsider then Wonderful Charm has also had the benefit of light season and finished like a steam train in the Foxhunters. His confidence is high and he could be the surprise package of the Paul Nicholls five.
If you want to see what the National is really like watch this video of Many Clouds winning. I was lucky to get to know the old boy several times at Oliver Sherwood's in Lambourn - see the picture of us below
This video of his win is amazing !!!!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Great to get behind the British Tourism Week with Kevin Robson of Wild Dog Outdoors

Kevin Robson, Tour Guide and Owner of Wild Dog Outdoors, is one of Northumberland Tourism champions.
Kevin set up Wild Dog Outdoors in 2013 and is primarily a tour guide of Hadrian’s Wall, providing insightful and passionate tours on the Wall’s Roman and ancient history. He delights in regaling visitors with tales of Northumberland’s place in Britain’s history and exploring the iconic sites within the county. Anyone who goes on a tour with Kevin is treated to secret stories and anecdotes, usually the reserve of archaeologists and historians, which bring the locations to life. I met with Kevin last week at the beautiful Hexham Abbey to discuss his efforts to bring the magic of Northumberland to locals and tourists. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Positive developments at Haydon Bridge High School with confirmation of the new leadership team
This is clearly very good news. The team of teachers are doing a great job in turning HBHS around, and they have my full support.  

Information on RMT strike this Saturday - there will still be services on the Tyne Valley line

You may be aware that RMT has announced its intention to hold a further strike day on Saturday 8 April. 

These are the services that will be running on Tyne Valley on Saturday:


The ongoing dispute is about Northern’s plans to modernise the region’s rail services and the changes they need to make to the role of their conductors – a move which will make staff more visible and available than ever before on trains and on stations.

Northern is at the start of a significant modernisation programme. This includes major investment in new trains, new technology, investments in our stations, and a new focus on customer service.
Both myself and Northern are disappointed that RMT has called another strike day, as Northern had only been in contact with RMT officials 24 hours before they announced the strike to organise meaningful discussions. Northern wants to talk again about RMT’s role in bringing their modernisation plans to life while maintaining a safe and reliable railway.

On Saturday 8 April Northern will be operating 822 services between 09.00 and 17.00. Their plan is to keep as many people as possible on the move during that day and they are asking customers to plan ahead and consider whether their journey is absolutely necessary.

Northern have expressed to me that they are really sorry that their customers’ travel plans will be disrupted by this second day of strike action, especially with so many significant sporting events happening across our network, including the Grand National and football fixtures.

A special page on Northern’s website gives specific information on the services we will be running and this is available here.