Thursday, 30 June 2011

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Freeman Hospital and the Clinical drive for Safe and Sustainable Congenital Cardiac Services for Children

Regular readers will know that I have long championed the Freeman Hospital, which provides an outstanding service to the entire North East region. Our NHS Yes Campaign, the Petition, and the extensive campaigning will hopefully bear fruit when the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts make their decision.
Ten days ago the Journal covered our efforts

On Thursday 23/6/11, Stuart Andrew, my Conservative colleague from Pudsey, secured a debate in the House of Commons on this issue. I could not attend myself but I urge you to read the debate on Hansard or They Work For You as the debate was a real example of parliament working well together - with all parties and all politicians supporting the clinically based review and seeking an improvement in the services that the doctors have so clearly sought. Our fight has been to support the Freeman, but also support the need for improvement and specialisation.
All spoke well but if I had to pick one speech to recommend, it would be that of the Chairman of the Health Select Committee, Stephen Dorrell was particularly good.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Want to get into Parliament?

I have a position available in my busy Westminster office for an Internship. As with all the work experience opportunities we offer this is open to everyone. If London is too far away then you can also consider applying for our Hexham based Work Experience programme which has proved hugely popular.

Parliamentary Internship:

The successful candidate will help with the day to day running of Guy’s parliamentary office, acquiring experience in and an insight into: writing correspondence; meetings and briefings; drafting parliamentary questions; and Guy’s parliamentary and constituency campaigns.

Applicants should be: sympathetic to the Conservative Party cause, possess strong writing, verbal and analytical skills; have good organisational and IT skills; pay close attention to detail; and be able to work in a discreet and confidential manner.

An interest in Health and Prison Reform is useful, although not essential.

This is an ideal opportunity for someone either looking for a summer placement whilst at University or looking for a first step to working in Westminster

If your interested in either opportunity please drop me an email for more details

Friday, 24 June 2011

Government smashes apprenticeship targets

Great news for our Skills for Work Campaign as statistics published today showed the Government has exceeded its ambition of delivering 50,000 additional adult apprenticeships by actually delivering more than 103,000 additional adult apprenticeships than were projected under the previous government's plans.

Provisional data shows that a total of 257,000 adult apprenticeships have been delivered between April 2010 and March 2011.

By the end of this Parliament, the Coalition Government is committed to supporting an additional 250,000 apprenticeships, compared to the previous Labour Government's plans.

John Hayes MP, Minister for Skills, said:

'We have met our target for new apprenticeships in 2010-11 twice over. In only nine months, we are almost halfway towards achieving our aim of an extra 250,000 apprenticeships over this parliament. But there is no room for complacency. Apprenticeships are a vital tool for re-building the economy after the last government ran it into the ground.'

This government has created more new apprenticeships in one year than Labour managed in seven.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tourism and Heritage Minister in Hexham Constituency - 23rd June

Good news that John Penrose MP, the Minister for Tourism and Heritage, will be visiting Northumberland on this Thursday 23rd June 2011. After spending time at Vindolanda next to Hadrian's Wall, the Minister will be going to Newcastle and Gateshead mid afternoon for a brief tour of The Sage and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. He then goes on to the Newcastle / Gateshead Initiative’s offices in South Shore Road, Gateshead for discussions with leaders from the tourism industry across the region. John is being hosted by the Northern Tourism Alliance (NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Visit County Durham, Northumberland Tourism, Hadrian’s Wall Heritage and NE Hotels Association).
Sadly I cannot be there on Thursday but John's visit is timely and a good chance not only to visit key sites but also discuss the opportunities and issues facing tourism businesses and to hear any feedback on the Government’s recently launched Tourism Policy.
I met with John and representatives of Northumberland Tourism in the spring in parliament and he is a good man firmly committed to trying to bring the tourists in and maximise our assets. In Hexham the team has done a lot to promote tourism and our Vist Northumberland campaign is really kicking in

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Greek Tragedy that is the demise of the Euro

Cartoon courtesy of the great Matt

It is becoming ever clearer that the Greek economy is a busted flush. Ever larger bailouts are not working; however, the options are all bad. The Europeans can apply another sticking plaster to a terminal wound or let Greece go bankrupt - both would see the loss of much more IMF and Eurpoean cash. The only other alternative is to see Greece leave the Euro and return to the Drachma. This would be politically and econmoically disastrous but the least worst option.

Three things are clear:
- Greece is insolvent and technically bankrupt - their financial demise is a matter of when not if
- All of us will be affected if we lose a trading partner and have our finances affected again by the bankruptcy of such a country - it is no different to a business losing a long term customer who owes us money
- The Euro currency in its present form is toast

One final thought - well done to John Major, William Hague and others who fought hard to ensure that we never joined the Euro.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

National Lottery Awards - Humshaugh Village Shop

The National Lottery Awards are an annual search to find the UK's favourite Lottery-funded projects. Lottery players raise around £28 million each week for Good Causes. Thousands of great projects get the cash they need to make a real difference to people and their local communities across the UK. Public voting for the semi-finals of The National Lottery Awards is now open.

The three projects in each category with the most votes will progress to the final round of public voting, which will run from 5 September - 23 September. I urge everyone to support Humshaugh Village Shop.
I have long championed this fantastic community project and they have already come to Westminster where I welcomed them for the Countryside Alliance awards.

Please join me in voting for them by clicking here you can see their bid and the great story behind this true community project below...

Humshaugh Village ShopCategory: Best Voluntary/Charity project
Funding amount: £7,500
Website: Hexham
The story:
When the local post office in the small village of Humshaugh closed early in 2009, residents were concerned that the local shop, which shared the premises, would be next. “We were worried that without a shop, people would stop moving here and the village would become dormant,” recalls Humshaugh Community Ventures Limited Chairman Dick Moules. The community had already fought a tough but unsuccessful fight to stop the Post Office closure so the villagers decided the only thing to do was to band together again to save their shop.

Contributions from local supporters and a grant from the Lottery helped pay for the lease and refurbishment of the shop, and in November 2009, Humshaugh’s local store reopened as a shop run for the community, by the community. Eighteen months later, and it is thriving. It sells a range of products including lots of local produce and even surplus fruit, vegetables and plants that villagers have grown in their gardens – the popular ‘crop for the shop’ initiative. “We’ll stock anything that anyone asks for,” says Dick. Dick kindly came to the Big Society event in February in Hexham and helped explain to others how the community had done it. Other local villages are now looking at copying the Humshaugh initiative.

I have been there many times and can testify that the shop has become a real community hub, staffed entirely by volunteers. “Their enthusiasm and commitment means we don’t require a paid employee,” says Dick. With over 50 people giving up their time to work in the shop for a few hours a week, customers are flocking. “It’s a chance to have a good chat with people, get the local gossip and talk to the neighbours you might otherwise not engage wit.”
The shop is now trading with a profit every year, and this money is ploughed back into the community, with profits going to new windows in the village hall, equipment for pre-school and afterschool clubs and an environmental project to monitor swallows in the village. The committee behind the shop is currently looking into green projects like using biomass and hydro-electric power, and were also recently able to save the village pub from closure, taking over the tenancy for a few months until a new buyer was found. “Without the funding we could be a village with no pub or shop,” says Dick. “It’s amazing how one little project can spark so much more.”

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Locals doing well and good news on Housing

Still at home getting better every day and building up stamina but following local and national news with great interest.
I am so pleased to report yet another accolade for one of our local producers, Gilchester Organics: Andrew and Sybille Wilkinson have set up a business producing top quality, home grown, organic wheat flour and having used it I can only agree; so does the Saturday Telegraph that named them as one of the nations best
see: Gilchester Organics website and the report on

Separately there is good news on the housing front as reported in the papers and as announced by Housing Minister Grant Shapps in the House of Commons last week

The government is using unused state owned land to be developed to create social housing, starter homes for first time buyers and generally to address the housing crisis. The office in westminster have requested urgent details of the proposed projects in our constituency, however there are already plans afoot to develop the old hospital sites in Prudhoe and Stannington - details of which I am still chasing. I will update when I know more.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Kielder and Countryfile - 7pm tonight

Update: The Iplayer of Countryfile is on -

Julia was expertly shown around Kielder Forest by the Forestry Commission team, saw gosshawks, owls and tree felling on an industrial scale, and followed the Salmon with the Environment Agency, before finally trying to find some freshwater pearls in the Upper North Tyne. Well worth watching!

Stop Press!
Delighted to read that Northumberland's tourist attraction Kielder Water and the surrounding Forest are featuring on Countryfile tonight at 7pm BBC 1.
We welcome Julia Bradbury and the Countryfile team and look forward to welcoming the tourists who will follow; everyone at Kielder does and amazing job - it is a really diverse tourist attraction: but credit must go to Elizabeth and the team at the Kielder partnership, to volunteers of the Kielder Council, to the Northumbrian Water employees and all who make it such a special place. I am looking forward to returning there soon - and would particularly recommend the cycle ride around the lake = 26 miles of stunning countryside.

Northumberland News - Shows, fetes and good news for the Castlefields Estate in Prudhoe

One of the great parts of this job is seeing all the effort that people put in to help their local community; Northumberland is rightly famous for the County Show, which saw 26,000 people attend in Corbridge last Monday, and was apparently a great success; I was due to be a Judge there but sadly had to withdraw - similarly I was sad not to open the Humshaugh fete yesterday, but my place was ably taken by the local councillor Edward Heslop; Edward and I always exchange cricket stories [he once kept wicket in a league match to Courtney Walsh] and he has led the efforts in Council to get Wark bridge repaired.

Meanwhile good news for the residents of the Castlefields Estate in Prudhoe; they have had to suffer from inadequate sewerage and drainage, leading to inevitable and unsightly mess over the last few years; local people have put a lot of time and effort to get decisive action from Northumbrian Water and the company is now responding. They have agreed to upgrade the inadequate sewerage network in the Castlefields area.
The £409,000 project is being carried out in two phases, with the second to begin this Monday; it will finish in mid-September.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Rural Broadband - and a bizarre failure by the Lib Dem Council

I am passionate about expanding rural broadband. It is vital not just for small businesses, tourism and everyday life, but also crucial for us to create proper Sustainable Rural Communities in the future. Sadly the local Council do not see it the same way. My job is to ensure that the constituency gets a fair deal and that I am fighting Hexham's corner.

To that end the conservative councillors and I have publicised the shocking decision of the Lib Dem Council who did not bother to apply for the government money that is available for broadband improvements. To fail in a government funding bid is one thing. Not even to apply smacks of pure incompetence. It is not like they did not have time - this is the second time these bids could have been made!

Internet access for isolated communities is crucial - we have some areas with total blackspots like the Upper North Tyne, Heddon on the Wall, Ingoe and others with very limited access. The coalition Government has made £530m available, to roll out super-fast broadband connections across the country by 2015.

Last week it was announced that Wiltshire, Norfolk, Devon and Somerset would share about £50m to help improve their local broadband service. We are being left behind - and bear in mind we, in rural Northumberland, are probably the most deserving. It is very disappointing.

The Council's Lib Dem executive member, Roger Styring, has admitted that it was a conscious decision not to seek the funding. I have yet to understand how numerous other Council's were able to submit full and successful bids, yet according to Cllr Styring, Northumberland Council could only have managed 'putting in half a bid' so did nothing at all and did not bother applying. This is hardly rocket science.

Dave Black has written a good report of this latest Lib Dem disaster in The Journal:

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Health update and Monitoring the News

Have now been out of hospital for several weeks resting and recovering; progress is good and I have been back to Queens Square in London this week for testing; it was good to see the nurses who looked after me again - I took them a thank you card and a big box of chocolates - which always make you popular on a ward!
I have passed all the mental evaluation tests with flying colours and it is now just a long march back to the physical fitness and stamina required. I am liasing every day with Jon and the team in Hexham and Westminster, albeit I am still following doctors orders that I am not physically strong enough to return to parliament.

I have had plenty of time resting up to study the news and TV over the last few weeks and 3 events have particularly caught my eye:

1. The Queen in Ireland: she is simply amazing; the impact of her trip on Anglo Irish relations is impossible to underestimate. As one commentator put it - "The Queen's visit has allowed Ireland to forgive and move on."

2. Obama: an amazing speech in Westminster Hall and he is clearly not a bad table tennis player! I was particularly sad not to be at Westminster Hall because a lot of my friends in the House got to meet him afterwards.
If you have not read Obama's speech I urge you to do so - he is a great man doing an impossibly difficult job.
for a full transcript

3. Broadband: sadly I have just been informed that the Lib Dem run Northumberland County Council have failed to apply for the government funding for rural broadband. Their inaction is simply tragic and patently wrong. I have organised a press release on this issue as local people are and will be very upset at the Council and we need to put pressure on them to sort it out.

Finally thank you for your support, cards and messages. They mean a lot to me.