Saturday, 29 January 2011

weekend review

Just back from campaigning and doing a surgery in Haltwhistle with some of the team
- popped in to the local for drinks to discuss the electric car campaign with the pub

Tough week: spoke at length in the localism / big society debate, raised RHI and electric energy on thursday and answered a ton of correspondence.

Yesterday we went round Shotton Open Cast Mine, met with Northumberland National park and others

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Tackling Rural Fuel Poverty

Pleased to see plenty of coverage of our campaign to highlight rural poverty. I'll let the Morpeth Hearld take up part one...

MP’s horror at fuel poverty families

A NORTHUMBERLAND MP has spoken out over the horror of local families being forced into fuel poverty.

Figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change show that the North East has the second highest number of households living with this problem.

With more than 20 per cent of households suffering fuel poverty compared to less than ten per cent in the South East, Hexham MP Guy Opperman, whose constituency includes Ponteland and Stannington, says the issue can no longer be ignored.

“Fuel poverty has risen every year since 2003, estimated now to be around five million families suffering, and the problem is even more acute in rural areas with the rocketing costs of heating oil,” he said.

Mr Opperman has welcomed Government plans for a ‘Green Deal’ due to be fully available from October 2012, which will offer householders and businesses the chance to fund energy efficiency improvements through savings on their energy bills, but warned the time has also come for fuel companies to shoulder some responsibility.

He said: “These price hikes in fuel bills continue to hit households in our area, some that are already struggling to make ends meet...
CLICK HERE for full story

GUEST POST: The EMA debate

Guest Post from Kate Taylor, University of York graduate with BSc (Hons) in Psychology, currently working as an Associate Risk Consultant at Ernst & Young, London. Attended Prudhoe Community High School, in my constituency from 2002-2007.

For my final two years whilst studying at Prudhoe Community High School I received £30 per week Education Maintenance Allowance. I proceeded to secure a place at a top ten university and now work for one of the UK's big four accountancy firms. Did I need the money? Yes. Does everybody? That's what we need to find out.

My E.M.A paid for my petrol to get to school. However, E.M.A alone couldn't have supported that. For an average 17 year old, driving a 'typical' car, insurance is £1200, then there's the cost of the car itself. E.M.A at its maximum pays £1200 a year. I, therefore, had to buy the £250, L-reg Metro with money that I had earned from my part time jobs that I'd had since the day I turned 16, and paid for the insurance with Birthday and Christmas money. The bus is argued as an alternative option, but as we in the Northumbrian countryside are more that aware, it's not always feasible. Then there are the additional costs of lunches and books.

However, not everybody is as needy of the allowance as me. There were students who live next door to the school receiving the same £30 that I utilized to support travel costs, and worse, students whose self-employed parents were playing the system to give them £30 that they simply used for nights out. Many courses provide the course materials that students need, so the £30 for travel and books argument is simply invalid. So do we maintain or even worsen the current deficit that the Labour government has left us with by continuing to give out £30 a week to so many students, or do we save £500 million a year and leave certain students unable to get to school and college?

I support the view of the Coalition Government, in that the current system, which pays £30 a week to less well- off students, could be better targeted at genuinely poor students I think scrapping the allowance and putting money back into schools for a hardship fund for those truly in need is the right way forward.

Is it nice to have that extra £30? Of course it is. But we must focus that assistance on those that really need it.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Review of the week

It has been a packed programme this week in westminster:
Monday - debates all day, tried to get to speak in the Localism Bill and then had my parents to dinner in the house. Finished 10.30
Tuesday - Writing speeches, lunch with Richard Moss, [I paid my share]over to Downing Street for drinks - both DC and Sam there with lots of candidates. Finished at 10.30
Wednesday - Fuel Poverty debate in westminster Hall, PMQs, and then prep for speeches
Thursday - A great speech session - made a good speech in the chamber on the future of the Levy. Tried to speak in Frank Fields debate but too far down the list
Slept very well

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Student Politics

My young team of local volunteers spent this morning at the citizenship fair, hosted by the fantastic students at Ponteland High School. Sadly I was in the House and couldnt make it but they did a great job getting the students involved.

They spent the morning answering questions, signing up those interested in joining my volunteer internship scheme and raising awareness of what I do on their behalf.

They also trialled two fun projects which I hope to roll out across the rest of the constituency, through school and local events. These were “democracy direct”, where students had the opportunity to vote on which subject I focus on over the coming weeks. The winning topic with the students this morning with a landslide 48% of the vote was the topic of apprenticeships. I therefore look forward to getting stuck in to the issues of apprenticeships in the coming weeks on behalf of the students.

Our second initiative, called “Ask Guy”, collected written questions from the students, ranging from fish quotas in the North Sea, to questions about the digital economy bill, to which I am currently in the process of responding to.

I hope these fun and innovative projects encourage students to get in touch and make their opinions count on key issues that matter to them.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Taking the right choices on NHS

The Coalition is determined to deliver better results for patients. To do so we must modernise our NHS and start now.

With ever-rising demands on services, survival rates for conditions such as cancer and stroke lagging behind our European counterparts and with administrative costs having spiralled over the past decade, there is no alternative.

We can't deliver better care without paying hospitals for the quality of the treatment they provide, without giving better information to patients and their families, and without improving accountability to local communities.

Under Labour, productivity in the NHS declined hugely, and the number of managers doubled.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The PM on Public Service Reform

For me, the key extract from the Prime Minister's speech today on reforming our Public Services..

"the scale of this coalition’s ambitions for Britain goes beyond simply fixing our economy. I want one of the great achievements of this Government to be the complete modernisation of our public services.

I want us to make our schools and hospitals among the best in the world.

To open them up and make them competitive, more local and more transparent.

To give more choice to those who use our public services and more freedom to the professionals who deliver them.

I don’t want anyone to doubt how important this is to me.

My passion about this is both personal and political.

Personal because I’ve experienced, first hand, how dedicated, how professional, how compassionate our best public servants are.

The doctors who cared for my eldest son, the maternity nurses who welcomed my youngest daughter into the world, the teachers who are currently inspiring my children all of them have touched my life, and the life of my family, in an extraordinary way and I want to do right by them.

And this is a political passion – and priority – of mine too.

I believe that Britain can be one of the great success stories of the new decade.

We have the creativity and the energy, the language and the global position, the relationships abroad and the stability at home, to make the most of the opportunities that globalisation is bringing.

One of the keys to success for countries like ours will be the performance of our public services.

We must champion excellence – and stop the slide against our competitors.

In Shanghai the average child is two years ahead of a child here.

In Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria and Poland you are less likely to die once admitted into hospital after a heart attack.

Put simply: we can’t be a modern success story unless we have modern, successful public services.

And this is not an alternative to dealing with our debts – it’s a key part of it."

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Prime Minister visits North East

The Prime Minister David Cameron came to the North East, making our region the first stop of his regional tour.

Mr Cameron said he was here “with one purpose – to do everything I can to help businesses in the North East create the jobs and growth on which the future of our economy depends”.

He visited a number of businesses as well as the Life centre which I have visted myself. The PM also took questions at a PM Direct at Greggs in Newcastle and a QandA with members in Gateshead.

Writing in the Journal the PM said: “Balancing the books is only the first test for growth. The second – and just as important – is whether we get behind British businesses and support the job creation we need.

These jobs won’t come from government. They will come from cutting edge businesses, like the high technology companies I’m meeting here in the North East today.”

Friday, 14 January 2011

Supporting Small Business

Small businesses are vital to growth and job creation. We want to see strong new enterprises start up that will help transform our economy and deliver many thousands of new jobs.

To help the Government is announcing plans to strengthen the growth of small business with a big expansion of the planned New Enterprise Allowance. It is hoped this will help to create up to 40,000 new businesses by 2013.

It is vital that we ensure businesses and those people starting up, have all the advice, support and mentoring they need.

Together we can make the years ahead some of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial in our history.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


The Pensions Bill is going to be published today. It sets out some really big changed non more so than to automatically enrol all employees into a retirement scheme for the first time.

The idea behind the auto-enrolment plan is that it will mean that millions of people with no pension provision will start a fund for their retirement - many for the first time.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

No more neighbours from hell

I'm very encouraged by the governments plans to speed up the time it takes to evict tenants engaging in serious anti-social behaviour.

Currently it can take more than a year to remove "neighbours from hell" - ruining the lives of good people around them and ruining the reputation of streets and estates.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps is taking forward these important steps to prevent anti-social behaviour forcing many hardowrking, good families to live in fear.

This comes on top of our review of the powers available to the police and councils to deal with anti-social behaviour.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

PM is right to focus on jobs.

The Prime Minister hosted a jobs summit this week with some of the countries top employers. Supermarkets led the way with Sainsbury's plans to create 20,000 jobs over the next three years, Morrisons plans to create 5,700 jobs, Tesco another 9,000and Asda 15,000 retail based apprenticeships.

I'm pleased to see this coalition being pro-business, pro-growth and most importantly pro-jobs.

These plans, come on top of the 300,000 jobs created in the private sector over the past six months.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Campaigning in Oldham and Saddleworth

I was back on the campaign trail on Sunday, not in Northmberland this time but down in Oldham and Saddleworth doing my bit to help the Conservative candidate Kashif Ali. About 8 of us spend the afternoon delivering leaflets including this one - my personal favourite...