Monday, 31 October 2011

Huge Jobs Boost

Great news today that the Government's Regional Growth Fund will lead to more than 25,000 jobs for the North East.

With bids now approved from the £1bn Regional Growth Fund expectations are that this will see over 8,500 jobs directly created and a further 17,000 indirect jobs in supply chains across the region.

The North East has done especially well from the Growth fund with 50 of the 119 successful bids from the Fund coming from the region.

"This is fantastic news for us here in the North East. This is real investment in our region, bringing jobs and growth as well as helping to rebalance our economy away from London and the South East.

To see a third of the bids come from the North East is a cast iron example of this Government's commitment to our region and to helping to build up our private sector."

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said: “What we’re trying to do is invest public money, taxpayers’ money, into companies which can create jobs that last, and for every pound that will be invested from the Regional Growth Fund we estimate about £6 will be matched from the private sector.

“We are trying to rewire the British economy so we are less reliant on the city of London and financial services and we’re giving more backing to manufacturing and to parts of the country which for too long were basically reliant on handouts from Whitehall.”

The Government's Regional Growth Fund will invest £1.4billion into businesses overall with 200,000 jobs created or safeguard in this second round. The aim of the Growth Fund is to help private sector businesses expand their operations, create new jobs and attract further private investment. The Government investment is expected to support nearly £6 billion of private investment in the successful projects.

You can listen to the Deputy Prime Minster discuss the Regional Growth Fund on Radio 4 this morning by clicking here

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Arch Cru Compensation

Pleased to say that, along with Tom Greatrex and Alun Cairns, and with all party support, we have formed a Parliamentary Committee on the issue of Arch Cru. I should stress that they are the chairs and the leaders as it is these two members - one a Scottish labour MP and one a welsh conservative MP, who have done most to champion the cause of the savers and pensioners who lost out due to Capita's incompetence.
We have a meeting with the FSA, who have been asked to come and see the group in Westminster at the House of Commons in 3 weeks time
Good to see the Mail on Sunday keeping up the pressure on Capita.
You can see their reports from this weeks edition of the paper. To the papers credit they have 3 separate pieces on this scandal, including one from the Finance Editor, Jeff Prestridge:

I have never before been described as "swashbuckling".....

Jockeys Delegation coming to Parliament

Riding the great horse Lowlander, when I was bit thinner!
Looking forward to welcoming a group of jockeys to parliament on Tuesday for an hour long meeting. As the only qualified jockey, who can also ride against professionals, of the MPs in the House of Commons, I have great sympathy with their upset at the way the new whip rules have been brought in.
Will also be interested to get their views and opinions on how the great sport of horse racing is being run.
I am back in training, and running regularly, and hope to be fit enough and light enough to be racing on the odd weekend next year.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Haydon Bridge School in Westminster

2 Haydon Bridge High School Meetings in westminster this week:
- Met with the State Boarding High Schools Association in Westminster midweek, when they had one of their regular meetings with Nick Gibb, MP, the schools Minister. Also met one of the HBHS teachers, who had come to discuss the NASUWT pensions dispute, and much more besides. Have also been asked to come back and talk to the Haydon Bridge sixth form and do a Q & A session with them. I did this before the election in 2010 and am looking forward to doing that again.
Last time I did a Q&A with the 6th form I was really pleased that several of the students took up my offer of coming into the Hexham office to see what we do on their behalf, and also get some work experience in the summer.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Don't Forget to Back the Bid!

Don't forget to show your support for our campaign to get Prudhoe Community High School a brand new school building. If successful the bid would also free up extra cash for the maintenance capital programme which could also see repairs to Haydon Bridge, QEHS and Ponteland High.

You can support the campaign simply by clicking here to like it on facebook and you can vote here to let us know if you support the campaign.

Local Radio or Kylie Minogue?

Protecting local BBC Radio or splashing out £1million on Kylie Minogue?

Listen to my chat with Jon and Anne about BBC cuts here at 1hr 16m in.

Don't forget you can also follow me on twitter HERE or on facebook HERE.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Open Manifesto Event

Last Saturday, almost 100 local people attended our Open Manifesto meeting, which I hosted with Coun. Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland Conservatives.

The day meant that residents of the Hexham constituency have had direct input into the Conservative manifesto for the next local elections to Northumberland County Council.

We decided to throw our manifesto for the next local elections open to local people. I am personally delighted that so many people have given up their Saturday to discuss new ideas for how our council can better serve local people.

I am always keen to see innovation in the way we do politics and crowdsourcing our manifesto was a good experiment in opening up politics to local people.

Coun. Peter Jackson said, “The idea behind our Open Manifesto is to bring local residents together to talk about what they want from their Council. The result has been lots of new, and often radical, ideas about how the council can deliver better services at a lower cost. The benefit of engaging directly with local people is that it generates new ideas from those who are most affected by the council’s performance. The whole event was a great success and everyone appreciated having their voices heard."

I am always keen to hear your ideas and thoughts , do email me at or let me know on facebook

BBC Radio Newcastle

If you've got five minutes you can click here to listen to my chat with Jonathan Miles on BBC Radio Newcastle, (about 1.18mins in) we were joined by the 'Angels of the North' Victoria and Iris to discuss if politicians are a turn off for northern women...

Good fun discussion!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

No.10 has been turned pink to recognise that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I recently spoke to the local Cancer group at Hexham Hospital and was inspired by their positive attitude.

For more information on Breast Cancer please click here

You can donate to Breast Cancer Care here

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Doctor in the House

Dr Phillip Lee, the Member of Parliament for Bracknell very kindly came up and spoke at our latest Conservative Party Event this weekend held at the fantastic Battlesteads pub up in Wark.

Lots of people turned out to hear Phillip speak, with a lively questions and answer session at the end. Phillip and I also turned our hands to pouring the perfect pint. I won't say who is the better barman!

If you would like to attend our regular events then do give the Hexham Office a call on 01434 603777 or take a look here to find out whats on

It's Time to End Fuel Poverty Campaign

Tackling Fuel Poverty is an issue I've been working on for almost a year now

I genuinely believe that this winter there will be choices between heating and eating for individual families up and down the country. The fuel poverty rate in the north-east is approximately 24%; we have the second highest rate in the country.

I took the opportunity last week to speak on the issue in the House of Commons. My constituency is the second biggest constituency in the country, at 1,150 square miles, and it does not just face problems of rural fuel poverty. The problem is in urban areas as well: one and a half million dwellings in the country are dependent on heating oil. On top of that, significant amounts of LPG are used. We are talking not about a small number of people but a very significant number who are greatly affected by this, which is an important problem throughout the north-east.

You can read my speech here

Next week on the blog I will be highlighting the issues around DCC Fuels.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Arch Cru Compensation

This is money have covered the campaign in Parliament to get compensation for those who lost out in the Arch Cru investment crisis...

JEFF PRESTRIDGE: I see the better side of MPs as they join forces over Arch Cru
They may still be pariahs in the eyes of the public, but last week I witnessed the good side of MPs when they put aside political allegiances to fight for constituents.

The occasion was a debate in Westminster Hall on the Arch Cru investment funds debacle that threatens to leave a permanent scar on the reputation of the financial services industry and its regulator unless Ministers sort it out.

As regular readers of Financial Mail will be aware, the failure of Arch Cru has left 20,000 investors facing losses of up to 40 per cent, potentially even more.

Allegiances aside: MPs in Westminster debated the Arch Cru investment funds debacle
This is despite a £54 million compensation scheme brokered by the Financial Services Authority and those parties that were meant (but failed) to safeguard investors’ financial interests in Arch Cru. Naturally, most of the investors feel badly done by.

They thought they were buying a cautious investment that would steer them through retirement. And they thought they were buying into a funds operation regulated by the FSA and scrutinised by three of the world’s bluest-chip companies – BNY Mellon, HSBC and Capita. But they were horribly wrong.
More...Arch Cru investment funds scandal: The fight for compensation

MPs from five different parties stood up last week to vent their anger over how Arch Cru customers who were also constituents had been hung out to dry by the regulator.

They also poured scorn on Capita, which as authorised corporate director must bear the brunt of the blame for failing to spot that Arch Cru was nothing more than an investment ruse.

Financial Mail has pulled together the most damning comments from MPs in a special online report. It’s worth reading, although it will shock and anger you.

To give you a flavour, this is what Guy Opperman, the splendidly pugnacious Conservative MP for Hexham, had to say on Capita’s failure to cover investors’ losses in full: ‘Capita needs to grasp that is has a simple choice in this Parliament. Either it provides 100 per cent compensation or it will find that it has few friends in this House.

‘The £54 million is, frankly, not sufficient. This is not like Equitable Life because this is not a situation in which a company has run out of money.

‘Capita has not gone bust. To quote one investor who wrote to me, “The current package is barely a pinprick on Capita’s little finger”.’

The Government must order the FSA to seek full compensation from Capita for losses suffered by Arch Cru investors. Nothing else will suffice.

Read more:

and here

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pride in Northumberland and support for Schools

Spent the day running our Open Mnaifesto event at the Beaumont Hotel in Hexham, where 80 locals came and gave us ideas for the County Council - with key new policies on education, young people, planning, Pride in Northumberland, greater transfer of powers to local parish councils, older people and health, and economic development.

Big support for free schools - particularly the proposed school in Cramlington and all ideas to give Northumberland proper focus.

Also did a few surgeries and now home and with Strictly and the X Factor
Have to say that the girls behind the counter in my local Hexham supermarket are supporting Russell Grant in Strictly.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Busy week in the House

It's been a busy week in the House of Commons this week, I have given speeches on the Greenbelt, on the Arch Cru Compensation Scheme, Fuel Poverty and Energy Prices.

You can read extracts from my speeches by clicking here

I am up back in Northumberland for the weekend with a meeting with local NHS Health Chiefs this afternoon and a Supper Club tonight where the speaker will be the very impressive Dr Phillip Lee MP at the equally impressive Battlesteads in Wark.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Prudhoe High School - BACK THE BID!

This week I have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, to approve a bid for PFI funding to replace Prudhoe Community High School.

Earlier this year I arranged the first ever meeting between the Secretary of State and West Northumberland's Four High School Headteachers. I knew if I could get Michael up to the North East to hear first hand from our dedicated headteachers the case for repairing their schools we would be able to advance our case. We have already cleared the first hurdle by being allowed to submit the bid and this is a significant step in improving our school buildings.

In the letter, I have tried to spell out the case to the Secretary of State for approving the bid:

"Whilst of course there is due process to be followed, as the local MP for Prudhoe High, which is one three schools in the bid, I must highlight how deserving this particular school is of a rebuild. In total it needs £3 million spending on it to bring it up to modern standards, almost 60% of the cost of a new school. The school is not double glazed, and has inadequate roof insulation, and is also in need of total rewiring. A new school in Prudhoe would be a shining example of this governments commitment to Northumberland which has long been among the most poorly funded counties for education in the country. There was much public support when you acknowledged there had been serious under-investment in our local schools at our meeting and I do hope we can build on this."

If successful the bid would also free up extra cash for the maintenance capital programme which could also see repairs to Haydon Bridge, QEHS and Ponteland High. The money could pay for new heating, replace windows, repair wiring and many crucial improvements.

When we first launched the Save Our Schools campaign I and the many pupils who supported it hoped we could set the wheels in motion to see some significant repairs to our school infrastructure. It looks like we are now getting there. I'm pleased that we are making progress after years of no investment.. I will always robustly make the case for funding in our area, be it to Ministers or the County Council.
Following my letter and meetings with the schools minister this week I hope the department for Education approves our bid to rebuild Prudhoe High and free up funding for our other local schools.

Do you Back the Bid?
Click here to vote online
Click here to like the campaign on Facebook

Monday, 17 October 2011

Tynedale Hospice

Last week I was able to hand over a large cheque to the team at the Tynedale Hospice at Home, in Hexham. My thanks to all the people who donated for the Charity Walk - which we are going to do every year, but most especially the key companies who contibuted to this very special inaugural walk:
- Kilfrost in Haltwhistle
- Agma in Haltwhistle
- Egger in Hexham
- SCA in Prudhoe

The amazing thing about Tynedale is that everyone pulls together to help each other. Handing over the cheque made me one very proud MP indeed!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Prudhoe Community

With Yvonne Probert and Councillor Anne Dale outside the new Library building that will become the new heart of Prudhoe and a great community hub. These two ladies do so much for the town, but huge credit must go to everyone behind the Prudhoe Community Partnership, not least the Reverend Charles Hope, and the team. Prudhoe has a strong Town Council and a real sense of community spirit.

Prudhoe is a very exciting place to be at the moment, with lots happening, and with the prospect of a brand new High School things could soon be even better!

Friday, 14 October 2011

A Sporting Weekend ... on Saturday we will all be Welsh for 2 hours!

A massive weekend
i). Get up early Saturday and cheer on Wales to beat the French.
Remember your Celtic ancestors - we all have some, however far back we have to go. Mine is a wonderful Welsh grandmother - an NHS Matron and tough as teak. Any team that beats the French is a good team in my view.
ii). Sunday: Newcastle v Spurs - a big game. 4 pm - don't miss it.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Need for Buses

I was pleased to get the chance to speak in the House of Commons on the provision of bus services - which is a key issue in rural and urban Northumberland
As always my speeches are available on They Work For You at
We have been working hard on sorting out the provision of buses in Prudhoe, and supporting the Adapt Dial A Ride Scheme and I was delighted to applaud the work of the NCC Bus working group and the efforts of the Carr family and other public transport champions [even if the stenographer spelt their name wrong]

The importance of rural buses was also demonstrated [in the wrong way] by this story concerning the Kielder Marathon, which was organised so successfully last Sunday by Northumbria Water and Steve Cram.

I am sure there is a joke there about how you run 20 miles of a marathon and then decide that Northumberlands buses are actually better but I will have to raise that at the next House of Commons Bus debate.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Boundary Changes - Make Your Voice Heard

I am asking local residents to get involved in the Boundary Commission's proposals, which could see huge changes to our local area. I am in favour in cutting the number of MPs - saving the public purse £12million when money is tight is a good thing.
However the draft proposals for our area don't seem very sensible.

Indeed the proposals have a dramatic effect on the existing Hexham Constituency, removing the divisions of South Tynedale, Haltwhistle and Ponteland East. Haltwhistle and South Tynedale would be would be placed into a newly created ‘Consett and Barnard Castle’ constituency stretching from Hadrians Wall to the Yorkshire Dales, whilst Ponteland East would be split literally in two and transferred into the Berwick upon Tweed constituency.

The proposed changes will be finalised in 2013 but will be taken into full effect in the next general election of 2015 if they are not challenged.

After consulting with local residents I am fighting the changes, and putting in alternative proposals. It would be a terrible idea to divide the town of Ponteland and to lump Haltwhistle and South Tynedale into a constituency which runs to the Yorkshire Border. Many residents have been in touch to criticise the proposals and I have to say I agree with them. I will do all I can to protect our constituency but I need your help.

There are three easy ways in which you can voice your views.

You can simply write a letter to express your views to: The Boundary Commission for England, 35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BQ.

Alternatively you can e-mail

or do it via the website HERE

The deadline for this is 5th December 2011. For most effect you should make specific objections.

I would urge anyone who cares about our community and the local ties we have to make their feelings known to the Commission.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Efforts to combat fuel poverty

With Mark Watson and Claire Batey from Carillion energy services; Claire lives in Haydon Bridge so she, in particular, really understands the local problems so many people are facing in south and west Northumberland. I met them in Manchester and got the hard facts as to what Carillion are doing in helping to combat fuel poverty.

Veterans in Action and MOD Mental Health campaign

Regular readers will know that I am a big supporter of the charity VIA = Veterans in Action. They fill a a big gap which exists between the actions of the MOD and the charity Combat Stress. VIA help members of the armed services reintegrate into society + assist ex sevicemen to come to terms with their traumas.
VIA can be found on their website:
If you are interested in heping our troops get in touch with VIA

To their credit the MOD are doing more to highlight the difficulties that so many of our troops suffer - often many many years after their discharge.
The MOD film can be seen on the BBC:

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Back to Westminster

After 5 days up in Northumberland I am heading back to Westminster for the return of the House of Commons. Really looking forward to getting back in action although there is a packed agenda and lots to do

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Grassroots North East - Social Action in Prudhoe

Taken at our recent social action day in Prudhoe, where a group of 8 volunteers gave up their time to help do up the Prudhoe Community Allotment. Our thanks to the amazing Joan Russell who allowed us to come along and help out.
Grassroots North East exists to promote, conserve and enhance the green spaces in our communities, by working with independent community groups, providing volunteers and skills. Uniquely Grassroots aims to bring together young people [and any other available volunteers] to deliver our programme of social action.

We first established Grassroots by organising members of Hexham Conservative Future to help out with small community projects. Now Grassroots has grown to develop and manage volunteers at three key projects across the North East.

Grassroots is a formally established volunteer group. If you would like to join and get involved please email me or call 01434 603777. If you have not been to the Prudhoe Allotment GO!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Women and Football - another own goal by the FA who do not believe in equality

Football at the Manchester United training ground = great BUT Tracey Crouch MP is both a member of parliament for Chatham and a woman. The Football Association has neolithic rules that say a woman cannot play alongside men and refused to be involved.
We ignored these rules and gladly had Tracey on the left wing. She plays very well. It is just sad that the FA is still in the 1860's

Steve Jobs RIP

Steve Jobs RIP. The man was a legend, an innovator, a modern industrialist and will be much missed. Truly a man who changed the world.
His speech to Stanford University gives you an idea of the humanity and empathy this great man had, watch it on youtube here.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Ponteland Supper Club

Just home tonight after a great evening in Ponteland where over 70 people came for dinner at the Golf Club and paid good money to eat Chef Alan's excellent food and hear me speak.
It was a great night. I spoke about many things not least the boundary changes that would split Ponteland in two [I will blog about the boundary changes in more detail in the next 2 days].
I was asked questions on everything from my recent trip to Beirut and the Syrian sanctions, to the Human Rights Act, to the economy, to defence cuts, to boundary changes, and bin clearance.
If John Prescott is reading the blog it is true that I told a couple of jokes at his expense...but it was done after making clear that we missed him as a character in politics.

Hexham Hospital Visit

Hexham Hospital is an amazing place - went there yesterday as Vera Lonsdale, a lovely lady of advanced years [I cannot tell her age, as she is a good friend of mine] was in ward 3 recovering from surgery to her left knee. I had a good chat with the nurses, who run a great ward [as do all the hospital staff] and took Vera a bunch of flowers. We all wish her well, and thank the Lord we have such a great hospital on our doorstep.
That having been said I have to congratulate the team behind the new Hospital that is being built at Cramlington for getting their plan approved by planning. The quality of the healthcare in Northumberland and Newcastle is outstanding.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

BBC Radio and Camerons speech

Up at 6am for a surgery locally and then did a live radio interview with BBC Radio Newcastle in a field, parked up by the side of a country road after a home visit - on my mobile phone - bizarre!
You can listen here, from about 2hrs 18mins in:

Then later fround time to listen to Cameron's speech. Full text here:

The key section for me was this:

"When a balanced economy needs workers with skills, we need to end the old snobbery about vocational education and training. We’ve provided funding for 250,000 extra apprenticeships – but not enough big companies are delivering.
So here’s a direct appeal: If you want skilled employees, we’ll provide the funding, we’ll cut the red tape. But you’ve got to show more leadership and give us the apprenticeships we need."


"you know, we’ve been told we were finished before.

They said when we lost an Empire that we couldn’t find a role. But we found a role, took on communism and helped bring down the Berlin Wall. They called our economy the sick man of Europe. But we came back and turned this country into a beacon of enterprise.

No, Britain never had the biggest population, the largest land mass, the richest resources, but we had the spirit. Remember: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Overcoming challenge, confounding the sceptics, reinventing ourselves, this is what we do. It’s called leadership.

Let’s turn this time of challenge into a time of opportunity. Not sitting around, watching things happen and wondering why. But standing up, making things happen and asking why not."

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tuesday in Manchester

Last night I spoke at events, notably at the UK Manufacturing Event, organised by many contributors including the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Barclays and Dodds, and also briefly spoke at the Woodland Trust event on Forestry, and met with Clive Aslet, Editor of Country Life,
I also had good meetings with:

1. Northumbrian Water
2. The Green Alliance, who have agreed that the Hexham constituency is to be a pilot project for the Green Deal, with a regional seminar in November with lots of the energy companies and the key environmental groups + interested parties coming along
3. The Local Northumberland NHS representatives, with whom we are working together more and more
4. Multiple MPs and the Gateshead Conservatives,
I also had meeting with the following specific organisations / People:
- Carillion re warm front and green deal
- The Patients Association
- Veterans International Representatives, who we are working with more and more
- Calor Gas re LPG
- James Ramsbotham, of NECC, Martin Callanan MEP, and Mayor Linda Arkley at the ANEC Fringe meeting
and too many more to name!
PS also played football at the Man United training ground for the House of Commons v the press - a great experience to play on the ground where Best, Keane, Beckham and others played

Monday, 3 October 2011

Monday in Manchester

Early start for a football match against the Press at the Man U training ground then a clean up before a packed day featuring:
Meeting with Association of North East Councils, followed by an NHS fringe meeting. Then off to listen to Jeremy Hunt on Broadband provision and speaking on fuel poverty and energy at another fringe event. Will try and take in the Woodland Trusts event on forestry before a working dinner in a chinese restaurant with various of the key players in the North East including Heidi Mottram, who runs Northumbria Water, and some of the key representatives of the NE NHS. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The state of Syria

I was unable to travel to Syria recently as the country is simply not open to westerners.
The army is slowly deserting, and there are reports of many murders there every day.
Syria's leading cartoonist was badly assaulted recently when he composed a cartoon showing President Assad hitching a lift out of town with Colonel Gaddafi. Mr Ali Farwat, a Damascus cartoonist, had his writing / drawing arm and several fingers broken in a fairly explicit message not to mess with the government.
Newspaper reports show widespread problems by reason of the oil embargo, and price rises for many goods, as unofficial sanctions kicked in. It remains to be seen whether the UN will authorise offical sanctions. The approach in Beirut was clearly one of passive engagement, as the Lebanese Prime minister stated that, "we are going to have to apply sanctions against Syria in case they are issued," but added, "I am not against Syria. I want to protect Lebanon."
More recently there were widespread reports of the US Ambassador being attacked in Syria.