Friday, 3 July 2020

Let's enjoy summer safely - new guidance comes into force tomorrow

More than three months ago, Britain went into lockdown. It has undoubtedly been a long and difficult three months, but people have supported these rules overwhelmingly, and we are now past the peak, reporting regularly fewer than 1,000 new cases each day. Sage also assesses that the R rate (the average number of people each infected person passes the virus onto) - remains below 1. That means the virus is decreasing every day.

Thanks to this progress, the government has been able to slowly ease the national lockdown. Since the start of June, you have been able to meet up with up to 6 others outdoors, and non-essential shops began to re-open throughout June. From tomorrow - July 4th - a number of restrictions that are currently in place will be lifted, meaning more shops and businesses can re-open. This includes:
  • Pubs and restaurants. 
  • Hairdressers. 
  • Hotels, and other accommodation sites - such as camp sites.
  • Some of the arts and cultural sector, as well as some leisure facilities and tourist attractions can also re-open, provided they can do so safely. This includes outdoor gyms, playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres.
Unfortunately, there are still some businesses which are unable to re-open. Indoor gyms, nail bars, and swimming pools, and many other businesses, are still closed. However, next week the government will set out a timetable to re-open these businesses safely. 

All of these businesses will need to comply with the COVID-Secure guidelines, as set out by the government. This includes taking customer contact details, which can be passed to NHS Test and Trace in the event of an outbreak.

From tomorrow, you can also meet up with one other household indoors, provided you maintain social distancing with those from outside your household.

This is the biggest step yet on the road to recovery from coronavirus. But it is more important than ever that we do so safely. Where possible, you should continue to remain 2 meters apart from others outside your household. However, where it is not possible to stay two meters apart, guidance now allows people to keep 'one metre plus' distance. That means staying one metre apart, plus mitigations to reduce the risk of transmissions - such as face masks on public transport, or perspex screens in bars and restaurants. 

We also need to continue to remember the basics, such as washing your hands with soap and water more often and for at least 20 seconds, and if you have any symptoms of coronavirus (a new and continuous cough, a temperature, a loss of taste or smell), you should immediately self-isolate and get a test. You can apply for a test by clicking here. 

Whilst these relaxations will allow us to enjoy a much more normal way of life, it is vital that we all safely by following the guidelines and keeping your distance from others so we can keep the coronavirus under control.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Sadly, just over a week ago we lost our twin boys.
Teddy came and went from this world quickly and quietly. He passed peacefully. Our younger twin, Rafe, was not born until Tuesday 23, but died later that day in NeoNatal ICU. Baby loss, and coping with grief, is very hard. Nothing we could do. Just a horrible tragedy. We emerged from hospital a week ago shell shocked. We have taken some time out to recover. I am back at work part time, but bear with me. We will come through this, but will always miss our boys. Cards are fine, but pls no flowers.
The loss of our younger twin Rafe was particularly acute. He lived and died within a long day. But we treasure our time with him in Neonatal ICU. We were able to tell him of all our hopes and dreams for him, and our family; but he could not make it and died in Flora’s arms. 
We are grateful to the NHS doctors + nurses who tried to save our boys. We are engaging with Sands, who help families coping with the grief of baby loss. We will try and establish a small fund to support research that will prevent other families experiencing the same pain.

The Wave quote is a good description of this awful process, and an acceptance of life passing. You never regret trying to have children. Sometimes baby loss happens. We will never forget our boys. They will be with us always. Just sadly only in their spirit and their memory. 

Flora and I have now set up a donation fund for research that will hopefully assist the prevention of other families experiencing the same pain from #pprom and #babyloss that we went through with Teddy & Rafe. You can make a donation by clicking here.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Food standards and future trade deals

Many constituents have written to me in support of our farmers to ensure high food standards in the UK. The Secretary of State for Agriculture and the Trade Secretary have jointly addressed this issue in the letter below: 

In addition, you can find my detailed thoughts on the Agriculture Bill and the Ministers' full remarks addressing many issues here.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Changes to the lockdown restrictions over the coming days

It is now almost three months since the lockdown was first implemented. People have supported these rules overwhelmingly, and we are past the peak of this awful virus. This has been a very difficult time for our country, and many thousands of people have very sadly lost their lives.

As your local MP, I am here to help in any way I can. In March, I launched a Coronavirus website to provide up to date advice and support to individuals, businesses and employers. The site contains a huge amount of information, from the financial support available, to explaining how to apply for a test, and Frequently Asked Questions on what you can and can't do.

The government has already taken careful steps to start to ease the lockdown. You can now go for as much exercise as you like and drive to other places, visit a garden centre or outdoor market, and meet with up to six other people from another household outdoors - provided you maintain social distancing. Over the next few days, there will be further changes which I have set out below:

From tomorrow, Saturday 13th June: 

Adults living alone, or single parents with children under 18 can form a support bubble with one other household.

Everyone in the support bubble can act as if they live in the same household - meaning they can spend time together inside each other's homes and do not need to stay 2 meters apart. These support bubbles must be exclusive, meaning you should not switch the household you are in a bubble with, or connect with multiple households.

From Monday 15th June

From Monday, non-essential retail and department stores - including many businesses on Hexham's High Streets - can reopen. This includes book shops, electronic retailers, tailors, auction houses, photography studios, indoor markers and shops selling clothes, shoes and toys.

Businesses will need to make sure it has undertaken a COVID-19 risk assessment and shared the results with employees, make sure that regular handwashing and cleaning takes place, and maintain a 2m distance where possible. I know that Northumberland County Council are working with businesses and shops to give them the support they need to re-open safely.

Zoos and safari parks, and outdoor attractions such as drive-in cinemas can also re-open, as well as places of worship for individual prayer - in line with social distancing guidelines.

From Monday, it will also be mandatory to wear a face-covering on public transport, including the train. This is not the same as a surgical mask or respirator used by healthcare workers as part of PPE, but rather a cloth face covering. You can find out how to make one by clicking here. 

From July 4th

From early July, the government aims to re-open at least some of the remaining business premises that have been required to close. This will include hairdressers and beauty salons, restaurants, pubs, hotels and cinemas. These businesses - like retail - will need to follow COVID-19 Secure Guidelines.

All of these plans are dependent on the COVID-19 Alert Level and progress continuing to be made to reduce infection rates. We have made so much progress over the last few months, and we don't want to throw it away.

For more information on the specific support available, you can visit the links on my website below:

FAQ: What you can and can't do

Test and Trace 

Getting tested

Support for individuals

Support for businesses

Support for the self-employed

Support for farmers

As ever, please get in touch if you have any issues or concerns. My office is still physically closed - in line with government guidelines - but my small staff team are working from home. Email correspondence will be replied to in the usual way, post is being redirected and phone messages will be responded to.

The killing of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, Policing, Protests, Statues, Public Health Report, and Amnesty International

Before I was an MP, I spent 15 years as a barrister in hundreds of criminal trials; some of the time, I acted as a legal aid lawyer on behalf of the defendant. Most of the time I was prosecuting on behalf of the state, whether that was the Crown Prosecution Service generally, or the specialist Drugs and Fraud Prosecutors. I dealt repeatedly with the police and serious crime.

I have no doubt that the killing of George Floyd was unlawful. The footage of what happened in the lead up to his death in police-custody was horrific and distressing, and his dying words have awakened anger across the world. I understand that the police officer involved has now been charged with murder, and there will be a federal review. I will be monitoring the case closely in the following weeks and months. It will be for a jury to decide the officer’s guilt and a Judge to sentence him, but I welcome the enhanced prosecution of all officers involved.

Since then, much has happened, and I will try and address as many of the issues raised as are possible in this blog. I want to start by making one thing clear. Black lives matter. Racism is abhorrent and has no place in our society, and I will always support efforts made to end it. We celebrate the diversity of this wonderful country.

Many constituents who have contacted me have called for the publication of the Public Health England report on the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities. This was published last week; it is very detailed and runs to over 80 pages. You can read it here. The report was subsequently debated in Parliament in detail.

The statement of the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, the MP for Saffron Walden, and her answers to questions from Members of Parliament across the House of Commons can be read here.

We all have a part to play in tackling racism in the UK, and I have been heartened by the solidarity shown across the country. Whilst this awful killing took place in the United States, under another jurisdiction, it is incumbent on us all to use this moment to look with renewed vigour at how Black people are treated here in the UK. That is a point the Minister, Kemi Badenoch, strongly made to parliament and I agree: the key words from her opening statement representing the government are:

“As a Black woman, and the Equalities Minister, it would be odd if I did not comment on the recent events in the US and protests in London yesterday. Like all right-minded people, regardless of their race, I was profoundly disturbed by the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. During these moments of heightened racial tension, we must not pander to anyone who seeks to inflame those tensions. Instead, we must work together to improve the lives of people from Black and minority ethnic communities. It is in that spirit that we approach the assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minorities. If we want to resolve the disparities identified in the PHE report, it is critical that we accurately understand the causes, based on empirical analysis of the facts and not preconceived positions.

On Tuesday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care confirmed to the House that Public Health England has now completed its review of disparities in the risks and outcomes of COVID-19. The review confirms that COVID-19 has replicated, and in some cases increased, existing health inequalities related to risk factors including age, gender, ethnicity and geography, with higher diagnosis rates in deprived, densely populated urban areas. The review also confirmed that being Black or from a minority ethnic background is a risk factor. That racial disparity has been shown to hold even after accounting for the effect of age, deprivation, region and sex.

I thank Public Health England for undertaking this important work so quickly. I know that its findings will be a cause for concern across the House, as they are for individuals and families across the country. The Government share that concern, which is why they are now reviewing the impact and effectiveness of their actions to lessen disparities in infection and death rates of COVID-19, and to determine what further measures are necessary.

It is also clear that more needs to be done to understand the key drivers of those disparities and the relationships between different risk factors. The Government will commission further data research and analytical work by the Equalities Hub to clarify the reasons for the gaps in evidence highlighted by the report. Taking action without taking the necessary time and effort to understand the root causes of those disparities only risks worsening the situation. That is why I am taking this work forward with the Race Disparity Unit in the Cabinet Office, and the Department of Health and Social Care, and I will keep the House updated.”

I now want to talk about Policing in the US and UK, and our rights as protesters. We police by consent in this country, and I am proud of that approach. It is very different from the police in the USA. We are not the United States, where “force” is the prevailing word in policing. Our officers are unarmed. I have worked with our UK police as a lawyer, community activist and campaigner, Councillor, Member of Parliament, in the Home Office as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Counter Terrorism, Security and Immigration Minister, and as a Pensions Minister. I do not pretend that every policeman or woman is perfect – I have seen enough as a lawyer, in particular, to know this. But I remain very proud of the UK police and I fully support the police officers of our Northumbria Police and the other officers of the country. However, I am grateful that the Chief Constables from our forces, and the Police representatives countrywide, have set out their thoughts as follows:

We “stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life. Justice and accountability should follow.” They go in say: “In the UK we have a long-established tradition of policing by consent, working in communities to prevent crime and solve problems. Officers are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary. We strive to continuously learn and improve. We will tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it.”

Other UK public institutions from the Army downwards have taken a similar approach, in light of what has happened - and I welcome that. I will be liaising with the Commanding Officer of our local barracks at Albemarle to ensure that we are addressing this locally. I don’t do a running commentary on social media of events, not least as I have been grappling with COVID-19 and its impacts on our community, businesses, health and so much more, but I remain particularly moved by the words of African American soldier, General Brown, whose are the best I have seen, and which I supported when I had the chance to listen to him. 

The UK has a proud tradition of peaceful protest and it is a right of all our citizens, subject to certain conditions agreed by successive parliaments. The police would have been quite within their rights to stop the protest last Saturday from happening at all. However, in this country, we police by consent.

I understand why so many people feel such a clear desire to make their voices heard – particularly after the death of George Floyd. However, it is important that – during the current pandemic – those who do protest observe social distancing, and do so peacefully and lawfully. The vast majority of the protesters around the world did this, and with due respect to COVID 19, its potential impact on BAME communities, and the officers who have to police any demonstration. 

Sadly, however, there is simply no justification for the violence we have seen towards the police, as well as the damage to memorials such as the Cenotaph from a small number of protesters. It is not acceptable. Add to this the defacing of Churchill’s statue on the anniversary of D-Day, together with the defacing of a statue of American President, Abraham Lincoln — the hero who emancipated American slaves — and I am at a loss with bewilderment at the insensitivity and ignorance. Such acts have nothing to do with the brutal act that took place in Wisconsin, USA. These were deliberately destructive acts of mindless violence.

I am not from Bristol and had never heard of Edward Colston before last Sunday. However, I am astonished there was a statue to such a man and can see why there was an overwhelming case for it to be removed. However, I do not agree with the approach taken. Where people want to see statues removed, we should have an open, democratic conversation about our past, and then take legally based democratic decisions. 

Criminality – no matter the justness of the cause – is wrong. In all cases, the process for change is democracy, and the legal system. I do not believe that a group of individuals pulling down statues is the right way forward. I am aware that there is now a movement to remove a variety of statues in this country. I have not studied this in detail, but my views have been asked. I do not want to see the statues of Churchill, or the statue of Gandhi, Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square, or Grey's Monument in Newcastle taken down; nor, for the avoidance of doubt, do I want to see the statue of Marx in London taken down. I consider it a very sad situation that today the Cenotaph – the memorial for our war dead - is having to be boarded up to protect it from damage. 

Several dozen constituents have also raised an Amnesty International campaign on a number of issues arising from these events, and much of what I have written above addresses this, but I will try and answer some of the specific questions here, albeit some of these issues I am still awaiting replies to Ministers on. 

On education: If we are to learn from our past, we need to know the good and bad – we cannot erase it. It is vital for young people to learn about Black history, and I am therefore pleased that all schools have the freedom to teach it from primary school age onwards, as part of the history curriculum. Schools, and individual headteachers, have flexibility over how they teach this subject, and which resources to use from a range of organisations and sources, including the Black Curriculum if they choose. The Department for Education guidance on the national curriculum covers a number of elements of Black history including significant public figures and also the slave trade. However, I have written to the Secretary of State for Education to see what more can be done. Individual constituents can also raise this directly with their local schools, headteachers and governors.

A number of constituents have contacted me about their concerns over exports. The government takes this incredibly seriously and successive governments since the Blair administration have operated one of the world’s most robust and transparent export control regimes. Each export licence application is considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. The Consolidated Criteria provide a thorough risk assessment framework, requiring the Government to think very carefully about the possible impact of providing equipment and its capabilities. My understanding is that the Government will not grant an export licence if doing so would be inconsistent with the criteria. I have ensured Ministers are aware of the points you make about these exports. Again, the assertion is made that British exports were used against US protesters. I have again written to the Minister in charge to try and find out if this is true and what can be done to address this issue. Again I will update you when I know more. 

Many people have also raised the tragic death of Belly Mujinga. It is clearly a heartbreaking loss of a mother, wife and key worker, and I am trying to find out if there is anything more the police can do to investigate this incident further. I understand that the original investigating authority, the British Transport Police, have said that they have “done everything to provide answers to the family of Mrs. Mujinga; but, I have joined with other colleagues across the House of Commons to see if any more can be done to either reopen or reappraise that investigation.

Many correspondents want the government to do more to tackle all forms of racism. Clearly, governments all around the world are looking at what they have done in the past and what more they can do going forward. The UK has made so much progress in tackling racism over recent decades, and I am proud to be a member of the most diverse government in the history of this country. At the same time, successive governments have brought forward the Race Disparity Audit to tackle racism. You can read more about this here. However, we must acknowledge there is more to do to tackle prejudice and create opportunity. Racism is abhorrent, it has no place in our communities and we all have to play our part in tackling it, so we can celebrate the wealth of diversity across our country.

On a practical level, there are some genuinely world-leading examples of local and national initiatives to tackle racially motivated discrimination, improving policing, and stamping out racist bullying. These follow the Hate Crime Action Plan, which you can read more about here. 

I want to finish by making these points: I believe and support equality for all, and I abhor discrimination. I remain committed to all efforts to end all racism. Today, I have joined my colleagues in pledging my support to the Conservatives Against Racism for Equality cause.

I will update this response when I know more from Ministers.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

76th Anniversary of the D-Day landings

Today marks the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landings - when 23,000 British and Allied troops landed on the coast of France, who fought and died so we can be free from the evils of fascism.

Clearly, official commemorations have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but today, let us remember them. We should always be grateful for their courage and remember their sacrifice.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Supporting jobs and incomes through Coronavirus

As we slowly start to emerge from this Coronavirus lockdown, I am delighted to see the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announce an extension to the massive economic support package made available by the government. 

This will provide flexibility, with gradual, tapered contributions to help firms restart cautiously and protect jobs, incomes, and the health of our nation. 

Self-Employed Income Support

I know lots of people have been waiting for news on the future of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme - so it is brilliant news that the scheme will be extended. 

Applications will open in August for a second final grant, paid out in a single monthly installment covering three months' worth of average monthly profits. To maintain fairness alongside the changes to the job retention scheme, the final grant will be 70%, up to a total of £6,570. 

If you are eligible and haven't done so already, you can continue to apply for the first taxable grant until 13th July. There are full details of the scheme and links to an eligibility calculator on my website, which you can see by clicking here. 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Chancellor also made key decisions on the future of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to support our economic recovery. The scheme has supported more than 8 million jobs from over a million businesses across the UK. Crucially - throughout the remainder of the scheme, individuals will continue to receive 80% of salary covering the time they are unable to work.

In July - a month earlier than planned - employers can start to use Flexible Furlough. This means you can bring employees back to work for any amount of time, and any shift pattern. Whilst at work, employees should be paid their normal wage, but employers can still claim grants for time spent furloughed. 

In the final three months of the scheme - employers will be asked to start making gradual tapered contributions. 
  • In August, the taxpayer contribution to people's wages will stay at 80%, with employers only being asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions. For the average claim, that accounts for just 5% of employment costs. 
  • In September, employers will be asked to start contributing 10% towards people's salaries - taxpayers will contribute the remaining 70%.
  • And in October, taxpayers will pay 60%, and employers will contribute 20%. 
Then, at the end of October - after eight months of this massive economic intervention of the government stepping in to pay wages - the scheme will close. In order to introduce the new flexible furlough scheme, the old scheme will close to new entrants on July 1st. Employers wanting to place new employees on the scheme will need to do so by June 10th to allow time to complete the minimum furlough period before then. 

Full details of all the support available is available on my Coronavirus website -, and as always, if you can't find the answer you need, please do not hesitate to get in touch.  

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Extended


Great news today from the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak - he has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended for an extra four months, until the end of October. By that point, eight months of support will have been provided to businesses.

There will be no changes to the scheme until the end of July, but from this point, employers who are currently using the scheme will be able to bring back furloughed workers part-time to allow for more flexibility as people get back to work in a measured way.

From August, employers will also be asked to start sharing the cost of wages with the government - however, employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 per month. 

The Job Retention Scheme is just one part of the huge package of support to help businesses and individuals get through this crisis. My website contains a comprehensive guide to the support available. Visit to find out more. My blog yesterday evening also sets out the key parts of the government's plan going forward. 

Monday, 11 May 2020

Stay alert, control the virus, save lives: the latest on coronavirus

Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson provided the latest update to the nation, and today the government has published a detailed 60-page document on the next steps as we face the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have summarised the key information below, but if you want to find out more, click here to download the government's 'Our Plan To Rebuild' document. 

It is now almost two months since the lockdown was first implemented. People across Tynedale and Ponteland have supported these rules overwhelmingly, and as a result, we are now past the peak of the virus. There are no regions where the epidemic appears to be increasing, the number of people in hospital with coronavirus, and the number of critical care beds in use is down significantly on this time last month.

However, this is an extremely serious pandemic, many thousands of people have very sadly lost their lives, and every single death is a tragedy.

The last two months have been a very difficult time for our country. I particularly want to pay tribute to the heroic efforts and sacrifice of our NHS and other key workers.

It is important to remember that this is not a short-term crisis. It is likely that COVID-19 will circulate in the population - both in the UK and around the world - long-term, possibly causing periodic epidemics. The only feasible, long-term solution lies in a vaccine or highly effective drug treatment. A vaccine could be more than a year away, and in a worst-case scenario – a vaccine may never be found.

The current lockdown cannot continue indefinitely. That is why the government has set out a three-stage roadmap to lift restrictions step-by-step in the coming weeks and months.

This will only happen if we successfully control the spread of the virus. If enough progress is not being made, the lifting of restrictions may be delayed.

Now is not the time to end the lockdown, but the government can take the first careful steps - as set out below - to modify the measures.


Step One

Step One will take place from this Wednesday, 13th May.

When the lockdown was implemented on March 23rd, the government said that you should work from home, and only go to work if you must. It now must be stressed that anyone who can’t work from home, such as those in construction or manufacturing, should go to work.

To ensure that everybody is safe at work, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has established new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure. This has been developed with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive. Click here to find out more. 

Going outside more often

SAGE – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – has advised the government that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside. This means that as of Wednesday, there are a number of things that you will now be able to do that you could not do before:

• spend time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing.

• meet one other person from a different household outdoors - following social distancing guidelines.

• exercise outdoors as often as you wish - following social distancing guidelines.

• use outdoor sports courts or facilities, such as a tennis or basketball court, or golf course – with members of your household, or one other person while staying 2 metres apart.

• go to a garden centre.

It is important that if you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, you must stay at home.

Face coverings

As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people’s immediate household. This means that you should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social-distancing is not always possible, and you come into contact with others that you do not normally meet, such as on public transport. This can help reduce the risk of transmission.

It is important to note that a face covering is not the same as a facemask, such as surgical masks or respirators used as Personal Protective Equipment used by healthcare workers. The government has issued guidance on how to make and wear a face covering, which you can read by clicking here. 

Step 2

The second step will not take place earlier than June 1st. The government currently plans for the following changes in the second stage, depending on the latest data and COVID-19 Alert level:

A phased return for early years settings and schools

The government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back at school in smaller sizes from this point. This will ensure that the youngest children and those preparing for the transition to secondary school have the maximum amount of time with their teachers.

It is the government’s ambition that all primary school children should be able to return to school for a month before the summer, and for Year 10 and 12 pupils with important exams next year to have some time with their teachers too, in support of continued remote learning.

Opening non-essential retail
Subject to retailers being able to follow new COVID-19 Secure guidelines, the intention is that non-essential retail will open in phases from June 1st. Guidance on which businesses will be covered and when will be issued shortly.

Permitting cultural and sporting events for broadcast
These will take place behind closed doors to avoid the risk of large-scale social contact.

Social and family contact
I understand that for the isolated and vulnerable, these restrictions have been extremely disruptive. The government is considering a range of options to reduce the most harmful social effects and to make the measures more sustainable.

SAGE is examining whether, when and how it can safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group. However, at present, the advice remains the same - you should not meet others from outside your household.

Step 3

In Step 3, the government's aims to open at least some of the remaining business premises that have been required to close. This includes hairdressers and beauty salons, restaurants, pubs, hotels, places of worship and cinemas. These venues will have to follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

As per step 2, this will take place when the assessment of risk warrants further adjustments to the remaining measures. This will be no earlier than 4th July.

Some venues which are crowded by design, and where it may be difficult to enact social distancing may not be able to safely re-open at this point.

Monitoring Coronavirus Levels

In order to chart progress in the weeks and months ahead, the government has announced a new COVID-19 Alert Level. This will be monitored and set by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre.


The alert level will be primarily affected by two key factors:

1. The R – that’s the reproduction rate of infection. This number is the average number of people one infected person passes coronavirus on to. You can find out more about R by watching this video.

2. The number of coronavirus cases in the UK.

The lower the level, the fewer social distancing measures, but the higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be.


The alert levels are:

Level 1: COVID-19 is not known to be present in the UK.

Level 2: COVID-19 is present in the UK, but the number of cases and transmission is low.

Level 3: A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation.

Level 4: A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially.

Level 5: As level 4, and there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed.

Over the period of the lockdown, Britain has been in Level 4, but we are now in a position to begin to move into Level 3.

We can and will control the virus if we all stay alert. That means staying at home as much as possible, working from home if you can, limiting contact with other people, keeping your distance when you go out, and washing your hands regularly.

For the small minority of people who do break the rules, bigger fines starting at £100 can now be handed out by the police.

As ever, for further information on the support available for business, individuals and employers, please visit my website -, and please get in touch with me in the usual way if you require assistance.

This Thursday at 6:30pm, I’ll be answering your questions on Coronavirus live on Facebook. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Britain will get through this. As a country, we have faced many tough challenges before. But we all have a responsibility to play our part and make this plan work. So remember, stay alert, so we can control the virus and save lives.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

An update on coronavirus going forward

I want to take this opportunity to update you on coronavirus.

This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out a comprehensive plan on how we can continue to suppress the coronavirus, whilst re-starting the economy, getting children back to school, and making travel to the work and the workplace safer.

Thanks to the vast majority of people staying at home, we have been able to shield the NHS and avoid an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic, where the reasonable worst case-scenario was 500,000 deaths.

We are now past the peak of the disease and are on the downward slope. But until a vaccine is developed, we will have to beat this disease by our growing resolve and ingenuity.

That is why this week, the government will set out a comprehensive plan on how we can continue to suppress the disease, and at the same time re-start the economy.

There are five key tests that must be satisfied before the government can put the comprehensive plan for phase two into action: 
  • We must protect the NHS’ ability to cope – we must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.
  • We need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.
  • We need to have reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.
  • We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.
  • We need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.
Even as we move beyond the peak of coronavirus, it is still absolutely vital that everybody stays at home.

However, for the most vulnerable in society - home may not be the safe haven that it should be.

That's why the government has made an extra £76 million available to support survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and modern slavery, as well as ensuing vulnerable children and young people continue to get the help they need. This builds upon the commitment in the governments' landmark Domestic Abuse Bill that gives ‘priority need’ status to victims of domestic abuse so that no-one has to make the unbearable choice between staying somewhere where they know is unsafe or becoming homeless.

As far as possible, people need to stay at home. This will help to protect the NHS and save lives. 

Stay at home

You must stay at home, only leaving for the following very limited purposes: 
  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day – for example, a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of your immediate household.
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Traveling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

Protect the NHS

You must stay at home to protect the NHS: 
  • The NHS only has a limited number of doctors, nurses and specialist equipment.
  • We are working around the clock to increase NHS capacity.
  • The more people who get sick, the harder it is for the NHS to cope.
  • We must slow the spread of the disease so that fewer people are sick at any one time.

Save lives

You must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. The police will have the powers to enforce the following restrictions: 
  • Dispersing gatherings of more than two people in public, excluding people you live with.
  • Issuing fines to anyone who does not comply with these rules.
  • Closing shops that are not essential, as well as playgrounds and places of worship.

The government has made available a huge package of support to help businesses and individuals get through this crisis. My website contains a comprehensive guide to the support available and is updated regularly. Visit to find out more. 

I have also set up a Coronavirus FAQ's section on my website, to answer as many questions as possible. You can find them at

You can find the most up to date medical advice at

Monday, 27 April 2020

Northumberland News Magazine: COVID-19

I'm really pleased that Northumberland County Council has published a COVID-19 version of the regular Northumberland News magazine, which will be delivered to every household over the coming days - and many will have already received it.

We are living in unprecedented times, and I know everyone at Northumberland County Council is working hard to deliver key frontline services, like protecting those who are being 'shielded', as well as providing financial support for businesses.

The magazine contains lots of helpful information, including:
  • Northumberland Communities Together - enhancing the work of local community and voluntary groups. 
  • Keeping yourself safe from scams.
  • Schools, and accessing free school meals. 
  • The difference between self-isolation and social distancing. 
  • How you can get help if you are being 'shielded'. 
  • Getting help if you are suffering from domestic abuse.
  • Financial help available from both the County Council and the government.
  • Important contact details for the council. 
You can read the magazine below: 

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Nine years ago today, the Budget nearly killed me.

Today’s date is etched on my memory, and it will be forever.

On Tuesday 26th April 2011, I was embarking on a normal day in the House of Commons. It was the first day back after the Easter recess, and I’d just spent the previous three weeks at home in Hexham. I had been an MP for 11 months and was starting to make a real difference. Over recess, I’d been campaigning across the North East, leading the regional ‘No to AV’ campaign and fighting the local elections.

Since being elected in May 2010, I had increasingly found myself exhausted, but I didn’t put it down to anything. Why should I? I was a newly elected MP doing dozens of visits every weekend across Northumberland. I was working from the early hours until late into the evening almost every night and had a 600-mile weekly commute between Hexham and London.

I simply put the tiredness down to the new job. I was young, and despite suffering a fall as a jockey at Stratford races a few years earlier, I would consider myself to be reasonably fit.

I started the day like any other, with a three-mile run through central London, before heading into Parliament. We were debating the Finance Bill, but through the day I began to feel progressively worse. I had a blinding headache, like something I could only describe as the worst hangover you could imagine. I often say that the Budget nearly killed me.

At 10:30 pm, I was violently sick.

Thankfully, my good friend and colleague Nadhim Zahawi, the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon found me in Central Lobby and put out a call for a doctor. Another new MP, Dr Dan Poulter arrived in minutes.

Dan is a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, so I greeted him weakly by saying, ‘Dan, I am not pregnant, but I don’t feel very well!

With Nadhim and Dan in Central Lobby – they both played a crucial role in getting me the help I needed nine years ago today.
I wanted to go home and get some sleep, but Dan knew something was seriously wrong and insisted I went to hospital. An ambulance was urgently summoned to take me to St Thomas’ Hospital which overlooks the House of Commons. I was taken to the exact same hospital ward the Prime Minister was being treated for coronavirus.

After a series of scans, a young doctor, barely aged 30, and covering the busy night shift in A&E came over. He calmly said to me, ‘Mr Opperman, I am so sorry. I have had a look at the scan of your head. You have a tumour on the inside of your skull pushing down on the brain. You will need an operation to remove it’.

I was numb with fear and shock. I quite literally had nothing to say. Thinking back to that moment now still sends a shiver down my spine. I was shown the scan, and above my left ear was a 2-inch white lump. There was something alive inside my head.

Thankfully, the doctors told me it was treatable, but would require emergency surgery. I was told there was a 1% chance of death, a 1% chance of paralysis, a 1% chance of loss of sight, and a 1% chance of disability. I added these up and didn’t fancy my chances, but surgery was the only option – without it, I would die. 

My surgeon was the quite incredible Dr Neil Kitchen. Under his care, I had a variety of scans which showed I had a meningioma, a type of tumour that grows from the meninges, the layer of tissue that lies above the brain. Neil advised me that I needed both a cerebral angiogram, and an embolisation first before they removed the tumour by craniotomy.

I saw myself as relatively fit, still riding an amateur jockey. 
An embolization requires the femoral artery in your thigh to be opened and then a wire passed up through your body into your head, where they burn off the base of the tumour to prevent future bleeding. After being told the details, I thought it best not to think about the process.

Over the next two weeks, I received visits from friends, family and colleagues every day. When in hospital, you have a lot of time to think, and I had a lot of questions. What if the tumour is cancerous? What if the surgery goes wrong? What about my constituents who need my help? Would I have to call a by-election?

On Thursday 5th May I was operated on – I had been an MP for exactly one year. It was the day of the referendum on AV, and local elections across the United Kingdom. After the anaesthetist began his work, my last words were apparently ‘It’s the AV vote today – don’t forget to vote against it.’

A craniotomy is performed by shaving the hair, then cutting the skin with a scalpel to reveal the skull, which is then opened with the medical equivalent of a tiny circular saw. The surgeon then removes the tumour with an even smaller circular saw. Neil managed to remove my tumour without damaging the brain or causing any bleeding. I was very, very lucky.

As I came round that afternoon, Neil came to see me beaming ‘We got all of it out, Guy’. I was beaming too, and said ‘And I can talk, and move my arms and legs!’

Two days later came more good news. The test results came back showing my tumour was benign. Neil advised me that the tumour would not recur. In fact, he told me I would be even better than before.

I was then discharged and went home to my parents. It was odd to be back at home again in my 40’s, but my parents cared for me in a way that only parents can.

I slowly began to read the hundreds of amazing cards and letters I had received from colleagues, friends, constituents and even the Prime Minister. As a new MP, I was still getting used to Westminster. As an outsider, it is easy to think of the Commons as a permanently tribal place, but I received cards from right across the political spectrum. I even received the biggest bouquet of flowers I can genuinely say I have ever seen from a Labour MP.

Walking Hadrian's Wall in 2011
These messages of support helped sustain me through the long months on the road to recovery that followed. I needed extensive tests and lots of physiotherapy to get my limbs back into action.

I was able to return to work in August, less than four months after my diagnosis.

That summer, I decided to walk Hadrian’s Wall to raise money for the Tynedale Hospice in Hexham, and the National Neurological Hospital that saved my life, which helped fund a new Neuroimaging Analysis Centre for clinical research.

In early 2012, I presented a cheque to the National Neurological and Neurosurgery Hospital in London

In August of 2011, my Labour colleague Paul Bloomfield was also diagnosed with a brain tumour, one extremely similar to mine. Thankfully, he also made a full recovery, and in 2012 we walked the first section of the Pennine Way together to help raise money for Headway UK, a charity helping both adults and children recover from brain injuries, including tumours.

Labour MP Paul Bloomfield and I in Parliament before walking the Pennine Way together

More recently, I took part in the 100-mile Prudential charity bike ride through London and Surrey. Research is vital to improving life chances for those diagnosed, so I will never stop fundraising. Once Britain gets through this coronavirus pandemic, I am planning to take part in another sponsored walk along Hadrian’s Wall.

I have regular scans, and nine years on, I am still tumour free and still often return to the National Neurological and Neurosurgery Hospital to say hello and take a box of chocolates to the team.

Whilst Britain faces this Coronavirus pandemic, there is a serious point I want to get across - the NHS is still there for us all. If you are concerned about a health problem, please make sure you contact your GP. Other illnesses do not stop because of coronavirus and people will continue to get sick. Please make sure you seek medical attention if you need to.

I will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude to our amazing NHS. It literally saved my life. So let’s all make sure we work to protect the NHS front line staff helping to fight coronavirus by making sure we stay at home.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Important updates to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced important changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The scheme means that companies can 'furlough' staff if no work is available for them, or who would have been laid off during this crisis. The government will cover 80% of employees wages, up to £2,500 per month.

Today, the Chancellor has announced that the 'cut off' date for the Job Retention Scheme has been extended from 28th February, to 19th March. 

This means thousands of people who changed jobs between the end of February and the date the Job Retention Scheme was announced will now be eligible. 

As we face the challenges of coronavirus, this is clearly a very difficult time for our country. As your local MP, I am here to help in any way I can. My new coronavirus website is being updated almost daily with all the latest key information. You can find out more by visiting, or clicking the links below.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Coronavirus FAQ: Your questions answered!

Local residents across Tynedale and Ponteland have been contacting me with hundreds of questions about Coronavirus on everything from education to employment.

That's why I've launched my Coronavirus FAQ's website. It aims to answer as many of your burning questions as possible, with sections on staying at home, self-isolation, employment, housing, education and travel.

Click here to visit

There are dozens of questions on the site, with more being added regularly. The Coronavirus FAQ's is part of my comprehensive Coronavirus website, a detailed guide with lots of useful information. Of course, if you can't find the answers you need on the website please do not hesitate to get in touch, and I and my small team of staff (who are all working from home) will do our best to help. 

Monday, 13 April 2020

A message from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson

We've had very good news this weekend that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been discharged from hospital and is now recuperating. His experience shows that Coronavirus can affect anyone. That is why it is so important that we all stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.

As the Prime Minister sets out in the video below, our NHS workers across the country are doing an incredible job looking after those suffering from COVID-19. We should all be extremely grateful for what they are doing, and play our part by staying at home.

Friday, 10 April 2020

How you can keep supporting our local producers

The Hexham Farmers' Market is a regular and much-loved event on the Hexham calendar, but due to the measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, its organisers have taken the decision to suspend the Farmers' Market for now.

However, you can still support our local businesses, as many of the Hexham Farmers' Market producers sell their products direct over the phone or online, and either deliver or send out their products to your door. The link below contains a list of local businesses that are currently taking orders (minimum orders may apply).

It is vital that we continue to support our local businesses whenever we can during this challenging time, and this is a great and safe way to support them!

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Get well soon Boris!

A great picture from the Nason Ward team at George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust 
All our thoughts and prayers are with Boris Johnson and his family at the moment. I hope he gets well soon. We need him back in Downing Street to beat Coronavirus.

I know Guy's and St Thomas' hospital very well, having spent weeks in the Intensive Care Unit after collapsing with a brain tumour in 2011. I owe my life to the amazing team there.

Our PM is in good hands.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Support available as we face coronavirus

COVID-19 (coronavirus) - the latest | Healthier North-West London ...

Coronavirus is clearly a massive challenge for our country. It is a new illness, and the approach of the government is supported by opposition parties, and guided by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance. 

As your local MP, I am here to help in any way I can. That is why I have launched by Coronavirus website - It contains lots of information on the support made available, as well as a 'FAQ's' section to answer burning questions. 

You can access each of the pages by clicking the links below: 

Please get in touch if you have any issues or concerns. My office is physically closed, but my small staff team are working from home. Email correspondence sent to will be replied to in the usual way, post is being redirected and phone messages will be responded to. 

A moving address from Her Majesty The Queen

I was very moved by Her Majesty's address to the nation last night - "We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again."

Britain will get through this, but we all have to play our part. So please do your part, and stay at home. Doing so will slow the spread of coronavirus, so we can protect the NHS and save people's lives.

Watch the Queen's full address below, or read the transcript. 

I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time.

A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.

I want to thank everyone on the NHS frontline, as well as care workers and those carrying out essential roles, who selflessly continue their day-to-day duties outside the home in support of us all.

I am sure the nation will join me in assuring you that what you do is appreciated and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.

I also want to thank those of you who are staying at home, thereby helping to protect the vulnerable and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones.

Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.

I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.

And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.

That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country.

The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.

The moments when the United Kingdom has come together to applaud its care and essential workers will be remembered as an expression of our national spirit; and its symbol will be the rainbows drawn by children.

Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen heart-warming stories of people coming together to help others, be it through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours, or converting businesses to help the relief effort.

And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.

It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister.

We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety.

Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do.

While we have faced challenges before, this one is different.

This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal.

We will succeed - and that success will belong to every one of us.

We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.

But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all.