Thursday, 30 June 2016

Policy North Conference - This Friday 10-3.30 - with James Wharton, Northern Powerhouse Minister

In what has been a busy week for the country as a whole, we all need to think about the next steps we can take individually and collectively to make our futures as prosperous as possible.

Accordingly, there's still chance to secure your place at Friday's Policy North event in Newcastle. The day will question what is on the horizon for the Northern Powerhouse, and how local businesses can thrive.

Some of the North East's leading business figures will provide an engaging array of talks, panel discussions, and questions and answers. More so, James Wharton MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, will be providing us with a keynote speech detailing how the area will adapt in these uncertain post-'Brexit' times.

I've attached the poster below - if you would like to know more about the work Policy North does as a Think Tank, then they can be found here -

Equally, if you have any more questions, or would like to come along, then please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Why this MP has not decided who should be our next leader

Let me start with our Prime Minister David Cameron. In the febrile atmosphere of “The King is dead, long live the King” I do want to pause first, and write a few words about the man who I have been proud to serve for six years.

David is a great man and has been a great Prime Minister. I am genuinely very upset that he will not be our country’s leader going forward. His departure is only just beginning to sink in and I think many will come to miss his pragmatic leadership. No one in the House of Commons doubts that he is a decent man, who has done an almost impossible job incredibly well. He has practiced the fiscal robustness and social liberalism that I wholeheartedly endorse. Under his watch, we have recovered from a recession: we have more jobs, apprenticeships and new businesses than our competitors, and generally have slowly turned this country around. He has reformed welfare, schooling and apprenticeships, but also addressed social justice in so many ways: as he put it when he spoke in the Commons on Monday, he is very proud of-
“keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world, increasing people's life chances, building a bigger and stronger society, and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality.”
In an abnormal world, he is a PM that remains very normal, and very human. He is a family man and has real empathy. I cannot tell you how many Labour MPs have made clear their individual sadness at his departure. Whatever your politics, in the House of Commons we all get behind our Prime Minister.
I serve in the government Whips Office and, until his departure, I continue to serve the PM; I will also get behind and support 110% whoever is our new Prime Minister. 
A decision has been made

I fought very hard to get the country to Remain in the EU, both in Hexham, and the wider the North. But the country decided differently, and by a decisive margin. I respect that decision and do not support a re-run. You cannot pick and choose your democratic decisions on the basis of whether you won or lost. But, as a result, we need to make momentous decisions in parliament about the way ahead for Great Britain’s future in the world.
The PM has put his approach to this dilemma in detail, as set out on my blog here:
I myself saw the issue of immigration as a key driver of why the campaign to Remain failed in the North East of England. And the PM addressed that on Monday, when he said:
"As I have said, I think that one of the most difficult decisions for a future Government will be how to balance access to the single market—the best we can get—with decisions about immigration. I do not know what exact answer can be found. The answer I found was welfare reform, which was bold and brave because it meant reducing welfare payments to newly arrived migrants. Those changes will now not go ahead, so that extra draw will continue for the next couple of years, but we have to find an answer to that problem. In a way, that is the puzzle we have now been set by the British people, which is, “We want access to the single market and we recognise the economic argument, but you’ve got to do better when it comes to immigration.”  
But the PM has set out his intention to go, so we must look to the future.
I stress that I have not decided who to support, but it is right that I set out my views in outline, along with the issues I will be raising in the next week or so. 

Selection procedure
Candidates must now put their names forward to Conservative MPs and they will be gradually whittled down over the next ten days to just two. The final decision then rests with Conservative Party members to choose a new leader by 9th September.

A strong field of experienced candidates
At this point we do not know who are going to be official candidates, but my understanding is that the following are likely to put their names into the ring when nominations close this Thursday; in alphabetical order:
John Baron, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Nicky Morgan. There may yet be others, but not that I am aware of.
All the candidates I know well, some of who I have worked with closely.
At this point I think it is fair to say the main contenders are Theresa May, Stephen Crabb and Boris Johnson. I think it is a very positive reflection on our party that we have such strong candidates.
Theresa May is the longest serving Home Secretary in 100 years. I worked for her as a PPS in the Home Office from 2012-2015. She has done a very tough job as Home Secretary very well. No one works harder, and no one is more dedicated. She is, unquestionably, a serious politician. When I became seriously ill in 2011 she was unbelievably kind to me, and she was a delight to work for, albeit a hard taskmaster. In addition, I worked with her at length as Chairman of Women2Win from 2013-2015, an organisation that Theresa can be proud to have founded.

Stephen Crabb is the recently appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; having arrived into parliament in 2005. Stephen was formerly the Secretary of State for Wales. I have also worked with him, as the DWP whip these last few months. He is clearly very able, and is a thoughtful, intelligent man. He also talks a language, and has a background and empathy, that both really matter right now, and will need to be addressed over the long years ahead.

Boris Johnson is the former two-time Mayor of London. He returned to parliament in May 2015. As Mayor, he was a real moderniser and did a good job running one of the most important and complex capital cities in the world. I campaigned with him extensively on support for the Living Wage from 2012-2015, and there is no doubt that our efforts eventually saw a change in government policy.  He clearly has an ability to connect with voters in a way few other politicians can.

The big issues ahead
Whoever is our next Prime Minister, they have a number of fundamental challenges to tackle:
  • They have to articulate what Brexit looks like?  Crucially, they are going to have to spell out their approach to the single market and future immigration control. Does this mean qualified or full access to the single market? This is the key issue identified by Lord William Hague in his recent article this week: what is the relationship with Europe we are now aiming for?
As William puts it: “It will be difficult to cut any new advantageous deal with the EU, but if we don’t know what we want it will be totally impossible. Are we open to joining the European Economic Area, along with Norway and Iceland, which would mean ditching the commitment to control immigration – or are we putting migration controls first, and taking the economic consequences of that? The time for avoiding this question is over.”
  • They are going to have to bring our country together given that the voting majority voted out, but there are 48 per cent who voted remain. 
  • And finally, notwithstanding the pre-existing Conservative Party manifesto, what are going to be their wider priorities for the country moving forward?

As I said at the beginning, I must stress that I have not decided who I will support, and I will be seeking answers to these questions from all candidates. It will then be for members to decide on who is the right man or woman, to lead the Conservative Party as the next Prime Minister.

William Hague sets out the tests a future PM must address - well worth a read

A new prime minister will need to have a clear plan the day he or she is elected, and a decisive mandate for it from their party. The moment they arrive in the Cabinet Room, foreign leaders, major investors and most of the British people will want to know exactly what they are planning to do. The Conservative conference will be imminent. There will be no time to muddle through. This means each candidate should be expected to set out how he or she will deal with four dimensions of the immense questions facing the United Kingdom.
The first is to answer the question the Leave campaign most conspicuously refused to address: what is the relationship with Europe we are now aiming for? It will be difficult to cut any new advantageous deal with the EU, but if we don’t know what we want it will be totally impossible. Are we open to joining the European Economic Area, along with Norway and Iceland, which would mean ditching the commitment to control immigration – or are we putting migration controls first and taking the economic consequences of that? The time for avoiding this question is over.
The second is the related challenge of giving businesses confidence to invest in the UK, or to think again about relocating their operations abroad. Many of us argued that the disadvantages of leaving would outweigh the advantages, but now the decision is made, the worst of all worlds would be to suffer those disadvantages without exploiting all possible advantages. The candidates need to say how they would use “taking back control” to make Britain a good long-term bet. Show how taxes on enterprise can be cut steadily for a decade, pensions and saving simplified, and EU regulations abandoned where they are too burdensome or counter-productive. With the City in a quandary as to what to do, consider adopting US-style financial regulation instead of the EU model.

Whichever side of the referendum the new PM was on, they need a lot of the people who voted Remain to be excited and inspired by the programme of a government that is now committed to Leave. A serious but radical economic programme should be at the heart of that.
The third dimension is scarcely less vital: having a plan for keeping the United Kingdom together. The immediate tactics of the Scottish nationalists, aimed at exacerbating divisions between London and Edinburgh, were foreshadowed in what I wrote last week. Those who led the Leave campaign showed an inexcusable complacency about the future integrity of the UK itself, ignoring all concerns about Scottish independence, the delicate position of Northern Ireland, and the exposed position of Gibraltar. The new prime minister must be someone who has shown they have a fighting chance of saving a Union that is now in critical danger.
The final dimension is a more partisan requirement, but still vital for all of us who want to see the gains this country has made in recent years safeguarded for the future. The next Tory leader has to be able to keep the Labour Party pushed to the fringes of politics, with a style of Conservatism that combines economic credibility with a modern social liberalism to dominate the centre ground of political debate.
The full article is here:

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Yesterday the PM came to parliament and answered Questions on the EU Ref result + the way ahead - worth a read

The full debate is here:

Some of the key responses by the PM are here:
"Let me set out for the House what this vote means, the steps we are taking immediately to stabilise the UK economy, the preparatory work for the negotiation to leave the EU, our plans for fully engaging the devolved Administrations, and the next steps at tomorrow's European Council.

The British people have voted to leave the European Union. It was not the result that I wanted, or the outcome that I believe is best for the country I love, but there can be no doubt about the result. Of course, I do not take back what I said about the risks. It is going to be difficult. We have already seen that there are going to be adjustments within our economy, complex constitutional issues, and a challenging new negotiation to undertake with Europe. However, I am clear—and the Cabinet agreed this morning—that the decision must be accepted, and the process of implementing the decision in the best possible way must now begin.

At the same time, we have a fundamental responsibility to bring our country together. In the past few days, we have seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre, and verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities. Let us remember that these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our country. We will not stand for hate crime or attacks of this kind. They must be stamped out.

We can reassure European citizens living here, and Brits living in European countries, that there will be no immediate changes in their circumstances; nor will there be any initial change in the way our people can travel, the way our goods can move, or the way our services can be sold. The deal we negotiated at the European Council in February will now be discarded and a new negotiation to leave the EU will begin under a new Prime Minister.

Turning to our economy, it is clear that markets are volatile and that some companies are considering their investments; we know that this is going to be far from plain sailing. However, we should take confidence from the fact that Britain is ready to confront what the future holds for us from a position of strength. As a result of our long-term plan, we have today one of the strongest major advanced economies in the world, and we are well placed to face the challenges ahead. We have low, stable inflation. The employment rate remains the highest it has ever been. The budget deficit is down from 11% of national income and forecast to be below 3% this year. The financial system is also substantially more resilient than it was six years ago, with capital requirements for the largest banks now 10 times higher than before the banking crisis.

The markets may not have been expecting the referendum result but, as the Chancellor set out this morning, the Treasury, the Bank of England and our other financial authorities have spent the last few months putting in place robust contingency plans. As the Governor of the Bank of England said on Friday, the Bank’s stress tests have shown that UK institutions have enough capital and liquidity reserves to withstand a scenario more severe than the one the country currently faces; and the Bank can make available £250 billion of additional funds if it needs to support banks and markets. In the coming days, the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority will continue to be in very close contact. They have contingency plans in place to maintain financial stability and they will not hesitate to take further measures if required.

Turning to preparations for negotiating our exit from the EU, the Cabinet met this morning and agreed the creation of a new EU unit in Whitehall. This will bring together officials and policy expertise from across the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Foreign Office and the Business Department. Clearly this will be most complex and most important task that the British civil service has undertaken in decades, so the new unit will sit at the heart of government and be led and staffed by the best and brightest from across our civil service. It will report to the whole Cabinet on delivering the outcome of the referendum, advising on transitional issues and objectively exploring options for our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world from outside the EU. It will also be responsible for ensuring that the new Prime Minister has the best possible advice from the moment of their arrival.

I know that colleagues on all sides of the House will want to contribute to how we prepare and execute the new negotiation to leave the EU, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin), will listen to all views and representations and make sure that they are fully put into this exercise. He will be playing no part in the leadership election.

Turning to the devolved Administrations, we must ensure that the interests of all parts of our United Kingdom are protected and advanced, so as we prepare for a new negotiation with the European Union we will fully involve the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments. We will also consult Gibraltar, the Crown dependencies and overseas territories, and all regional centres of power including the London Assembly. I have spoken to the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, as well as the First and Deputy First Ministers in Northern Ireland and the Taoiseach, and our officials will be working intensively together over the coming weeks to bring our devolved Administrations into the process for determining the decisions that need to be taken. While all the key decisions will have to wait for the arrival of the new Prime Minister, there is a lot of work that can be started now. For instance, the British and Irish Governments begin meeting this week to work through the challenges relating to the common border area.

Tomorrow I will attend the European Council. In the last few days I have spoken to Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande and a number of other European leaders. We have discussed the need to prepare for the negotiations and in particular the fact that the British Government will not be triggering article 50 at this stage. Before we do that, we need to determine the kind of relationship we want with the EU, and that is rightly something for the next Prime Minister and their Cabinet to decide. I have also made this point to the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, and I will make it clear again at the European Council tomorrow. This is our sovereign decision and it will be for Britain, and Britain alone, to take.

Tomorrow will also provide an opportunity to make the point that although Britain is leaving the European Union, we must not turn our back on Europe or on the rest of the world. The nature of the relationship we secure with the EU will be determined by the next Government, but I think everyone is agreed that we will want the strongest possible economic links with our European neighbours, as well as with our close friends in North America and the Commonwealth and with important partners such as India and China. I am also sure that whatever the precise nature of our future relationship, we will want to continue with a great deal of our extensive security co-operation and to do all we can to influence decisions that will affect the prosperity and safety of our people here at home.

This negotiation will require strong, determined, and committed leadership. As I have said, I think the country requires a new Prime Minister and Cabinet to take it in this direction. This is not a decision I have taken lightly, but I am absolutely convinced that it is in the national interest. Although leaving the EU was not the path I recommended, I am the first to praise our incredible strengths as a country. As we proceed with implementing this decision and facing the challenges that it will undoubtedly bring, I believe we should hold fast to a vision of Britain that wants to be respected abroad, tolerant at home, engaged in the world and working with our international partners to advance the prosperity and security of our nation for generations to come. I have fought for these things every day of my political life and I will always do so.
He later added:

"As I have said, I think that one of the most difficult decisions for a future Government will be how to balance access to the single market—the best we can get—with decisions about immigration. I do not know what exact answer can be found. The answer I found was welfare reform, which was bold and brave because it meant reducing welfare payments to newly arrived migrants. Those changes will now not go ahead, so that extra draw will continue for the next couple of years, but we have to find an answer to that problem. In a way, that is the puzzle we have now been set by the British people, which is, “We want access to the single market and we recognise the economic argument, but you’ve got to do better when it comes to immigration.”

Monday, 27 June 2016

Back in Westminster - time to stabilise the ship. No 2nd EURef - government goes on

The chancellor has made a positive statement about the future this morning; like him I campaigned for us to remain, but the British people have spoken, and there was a decisive decision on Thursday. We will not be having a second referendum - you cannot pick and choose the bits of democracy you like or dislike. My fundamental job going forward is to ensure this change is managed well, that we bring the country together and make sure that Britain thrives going forward. That will mean working as a team, working with people who took a differing view to me on the EU referendum and being a public servant, and a representative for all the community I represent. In reality, nothing changes to my approach but clearly the issues that need to be addressed have certainly got more complex.
The BBC report is here
On the process of the UK's departure from the EU, the chancellor said: "Only the UK can trigger Article 50. And in my judgement, we should only do that when there is a clear view about what new arrangements we are seeking with our European neighbours. 
"In the meantime, during the negotiations that will follow, there will be no change to people's rights to travel and work and to the way our goods and services are traded or to the way our economy and financial system is regulated."

It was also good to see and read Boris being very positive and pro European this morning:

In other news the Labour Party is in meltdown. This is a bizarre world when 12 shadow cabinet members resign and a labour MP called Lady Nugee is their shadow foreign secretary.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Onwards and upwards - time to make the fresh start work

The people have spoken and we must accept the result. I wanted to remain in the EU, and campaigned hard locally, regionally and nationally on the issue, but fully accept the result. My job is to work day and night to make sure the country comes together, that the government gets on with the business of running the country, and we sort out the business of the renegotiation with the EU. This is going to take many years.
Locally, my job goes on and I have had a full Friday and Saturday of surgeries, attending the armed forces day, meeting with Wecan in Hexham, and attending the rural business conference at kirkley hall. Last night I went to a Conservative party event where the local members were coming together, sad for the loss of David Cameron as our Prime Minister, but ready to come together and make a fresh start. I will blog more on my time working for the PM in the fullness of time.

Tonight I head back to London for the start of the new week in Westminster, where the Westminster day job goes on. Again, I will blog more on next week in the next 24 hours but we have a full week in parliament.
Today I am in Prudhoe and Wylam knocking on doors with my friend Stuart Andrew MP. A week ago I wrote this article on today's events for conservative home:

Friday, 24 June 2016

Statement by the Prime Minister in full

"The country has just taken part in a giant democratic exercise, perhaps the biggest in our history.

Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, have all had their say.

We should be proud of the fact that in these islands, we trust the people with these big decisions.

We not only have a parliamentary democracy but on questions about the arrangements for how we are governed, there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves, and that is what we have done. 

The British people have voted to leave the European Union and there will must be respected.

I want to thank everyone who took part in the campaign on my side of the argument, including all those who put aside party differences to speak in what they believed was the national interest.

And let me congratulate all those who took part in the Leave campaign for the spirited and passionate case that they made.

The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered.

It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organisations about the significance of this decision so there can be no doubt about the result. 

Across the world, people have been watching the choice that Britain has made.

I would reassure those markets and investors that Britain’s economy is fundamentally strong and I would also reassure Brits living in European countries and European citizens living here that they will be no immediate changes in your circumstances.

There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.

We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union.

This will need to involve a full engagement of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that the interests of all parts of our UK are protected and advanced. 

But above all, this will require strong, determined and committed leadership.

I am very proud and honoured to have been Prime Minister of this country for six years.

I believe we have made great steps, with more people in work than ever before in our history, with reforms to welfare and education, increasing people's life chances, building a bigger and stronger society, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality.

But above all restoring Britain's economic strength.

And I’m grateful to everyone who has helped to make that happen.

I’ve also always believed that we have to confront big decisions, not duck them.

That is why we delivered the first Coalition Government in 70 years, to bring our economy back from the brink.

It’s why we delivered a fair, legal and decisive referendum in Scotland and it’s why I made the pledge to renegotiate Britain's position in the European Union and hold a referendum on our membership and have carried those things out.

I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel, head, heart and soul.

I held nothing back.

I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union.

And I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone.

Not the future of any single politician, including myself.

But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path.

And as such I think the country requires a fresh leadership, to take it in this direction.

I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination. 

This is not a decision I have taken lightly.

But I do believe it's in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.

There is no need for a precise timetable today, but in my view we should aim to have a new Prime Minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October. 

Delivering stability will be important and I will continue in post is Prime Minister, with my Cabinet, for the next three months.

The Cabinet will meet on Monday, the governor of the Bank of England is making a statement about the steps that the Bank and Treasury are taking to reassure financial markets. 

We will also continue taking forward the important legislation that we set before Parliament in the Queen's speech.

I have spoken to Her Majesty the Queen this morning and advised of the steps I am taking.

Negotiation with the European Union will need to begin under a new Prime Minister and I think it is right that this new Prime Minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU.

I will attend the European Council next week to explain the decision the British people had taken and my own decision.

The British people have made a choice.

That not only needs to be respected, but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work.

Britain is a special country.

We have so many great advantages.

A parliamentary democracy where we resolve issues about our future through peaceful debate.

A great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and creativity, respected the world over.

And while we are not perfect I do believe we can be a model of a multiracial, multi-faith democracy where people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their talent allows. 

Although leaving Europe was not the path I recommended, I’m the first to praise our incredible strengths.

I said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union and indeed that we could find a way.

Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way.

And I will do everything I can to help.

I love this country, and I feel honoured to have served it.

And I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.

Thank you very much."

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tomorrow is also the last day for the Ponteland school consultation

This ends midnight 23rd June 2016. I have met many of the local families, governors, teachers and headteachers involved in this process. Three Friday's ago I met a group who were very opposed.
NCC proposes to change the age ranges of all schools (apart from Ponteland Middle School which is now an Academy) to convert to a 2 tier structure. This is a decision which will have a huge impact on local education. Some are in favour. Some are against. But not to get respond would be a great shame - particularly if you oppose the present plan. It is more important now than ever for each parent/carer to give their views to the latest proposals. Fuller details from NCC can be found at

The present NCC proposal is here:

Egger highlights Brexit risks in letter to 500 employees

Directors at Hexham based Egger have written to the company’s 500 employees, highlighting risks to the business in the event of Britain leaving the EU.
The company - which supplies wood for furniture, worktops and flooring across Europe – has told staff a weakened pound would damage its position in the UK and at its bases on the continent.
In Hexham we are Stronger In.
Full Report Here:

We get the best of both worlds by Remaining in the EU. The economic consequences of leaving are huge - don't risk it

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Nissan, Welsh Steelmakers, Ford cars and even Clarkson + May want to remain #StrongerIn

Ford wrote to its 14,000 UK employees warning against leaving the EU.

‘We have deep concerns about the uncertainty and potential downsides for business that could arise if the UK votes to leave the European Union.

‘The UK is our largest sales market in Europe and home to significant Ford design, engineering and manufacturing options. The IMF, OECD, and Bank of England, among others, have warned that a leave vote could create economic instability and uncertainty. Although the full consequences of this are unknown,we estimate that the potential cost to our business could be hundreds of millions of dollars every year’ (Beth Rigby Twitter, 20 June 2016, link).

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) set out why the UK is stronger, safer and better off in the EU.

‘EU membership guarantees the right to do business in 27 other member states’

‘The UK helps shape EYU regulation by being inside the EU’

‘The UK insurance industry thrives as part of a successful UK economy in a prosperous EU’

‘Leaving the EU will not do away with red tape’

‘The UK benefits from the EU’s role in making international trade agreements’

(ABI, 20 June 2016, link).

Welsh steelmaker Celsa warned that a vote to leave would be a ‘significant threat’ to the UK steel industry.

‘Leaving the European Union will create this period of economic uncertainty and poses a significant threat to the steel industry, our business and the thousands of livelihoods that rely on CelsaOne hundred percent of Celsa UK’s exports go to the rest of Europe and our access to this market is crucial for our business’ (Wales Online, 20 June 2016, link).

Nissan announced it will take legal action against Vote Leave after the Japanese carmaker’s logo was misleadingly used on campaign literature.

The firm said it will issue legal proceedings against Vote Leave to ‘prevent them making any further false statements and misrepresentations concerning Nissan’.

But in February, Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s chairman and chief executive said: ‘Our preference as a business is, of course, that the UK stays within Europe – it makes the most sense for jobs, trade and costs. For us, a position of stability is more positive than a collection of unknowns’ (Guardian, 20 June 2016, link).

And finally .... Former Top Gear stars Jeremy Clarkson and James May released a video declaring their support for a Remain vote.

EU debate - worth considering what our American allies think? This from the Washington Post editorial

Countries usually don’t knowingly commit economic suicide, but in Britain, millions seem ready to give it a try. On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote to decide whether to quit the European Union, the 28-nation economic bloc with a population of 508 million and a gross domestic product of almost $17 trillion. Let’s not be coy: Leaving the E.U. would be an act of national insanity.
It would weaken the U.K. economy, one of Europe’s strongest. The E.U. absorbs 44 percent of Britain’s exports; these might suffer because trade barriers, now virtually nonexistent between the U.K. and other E.U. members, would probably rise. Meanwhile, Britain would become less attractive as a production platform for the rest of Europe, so that new foreign direct investment in the U.K. — now $1.5 trillion — would fall.
Also threatened would be London’s status as Europe’s major financial center, home (for example) to 78 percent of E.U. foreign exchange trading. With the U.K. out of the E.U., some banking activities might move to Frankfurt or other cities. This would be a big blow.
Losses could be considerable. A study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), after making assumptions about U.K. trade and investment, concluded that “Brexit” — shorthand for Britain’s “exit” from the E.U. — could “shave off” $3,200 from average British household income by 2020. No one really knows, but other studies reach similar conclusions.
Indeed, the adverse effects may be undercounted, argues OECD SecretaryGeneral Angel GurrĂ­a. Noting that U.K. economic growth in the first quarter of 2016 was the slowest since 2012, he says that uncertainty over Britain’s future is already causing businesses to delay hiring and investment decisions.
What would Britain get from all this? Good question.
There are three main complaints against the E.U., says Nile Gardiner, who was an aide to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and now works at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
First, the outpouring of regulations from Brussels — the seat of the E.U. — has compromised Britain’s sovereignty. On some issues, the European Court of Justice can overrule British courts.

Second, the E.U.’s liberal migration rules may expose Britain to terrorists or overburden its welfare system. (Once people become E.U. citizens, they are allowed to live or work anywhere in the bloc.)
Finally, the E.U. imposes costs on Britain — an annual contribution to the E.U. budget plus the costs of regulations.
The E.U. certainly isn’t immune to criticism. It is often an elitist institution that has centralized too much power in Brussels for a continent characterized by huge differences of national history and culture. It has also committed massive errors, the adoption of the euro probably being the largest. (One currency didn’t work well for all countries. Britain wisely decided not to join.)
Still, most complaints seem exaggerated. The U.K.’s net annual contribution to the E.U. budget is about 0.5 percent of Britain’s GDP. That’s hardly crushing. Some E.U. regulations may be overkill, but Britain’s labor and product markets are among the least regulated of advanced countries.
As for immigrants, studies “show that these workers pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits,” says Frances Burwell of the Atlantic Council. “They’ve come to work.”
What this debate is really about is Britain’s place in the world and its self-identity. Britain has long been of Europe but also apart from it. The British Empire was once the world’s largest. To be simply another member of a continental confederation, albeit an important member, offends this heritage. The nostalgic yearning is understandable, but it is not a policy.
Ironically, leaving the E.U. would confirm the U.K.’s reduced status. The U.K. would have to renegotiate its trading agreements with the E.U. and dozens of other countries. A deal with the E.U. is essential. For the U.K., the best outcome would be to retain much of its preferential access, which — as a practical matter — would mean continuing contributions to the E.U. budget and abiding by most E.U. regulations. The status quo would survive, except that the U.K. would have no influence over E.U. policies. Anything less than this would have the E.U. putting its own members at a competitive disadvantage.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Postponed #EUreferendum debate this Wednesday at Hexham Abbey at 7-I will be making the case we are #StrongerIn

The debate that we agreed to adjourn as to whether we should be in or out will take place at the rearranged time of this Wednesday evening, with many locals at the Abbey. Details here:
On the panel:
Tony Webster, Chair of Panel
Guy Opperman, MP
Andrew Saunders, Chairman of Business for Britain, North East
Hugh Richardson, Wheelbirks
Simon Bainbridge, Bainbridge Farms
Josh Tiffin, Queen Elizabeth High School student
Michael Gennery, Queen Elizabeth High School student
Coming to the debate? Your existing questions still apply but you can do more. Send in your questions to with 'EU DEBATE' in the subject line. 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Thoughts on the last few days, on security, and the need to co exist with those we disagree with

The impact of the horrific loss of a colleague who was just starting to shine, after her first year in the House of Commons, is beginning to sink in. Tomorrow the Commons will remember Jo. Like all MPs, from whichever party, and like all the county councillors I know, she was motivated by a sense of public service, a desire to make a difference, and a great satisfaction when by their actions a constituents life was improved.
As one person put it-"Jo Cox MP achieved a remarkable amount in her 41 years of life and made a difference in all these spheres. She undoubtedly had a great future ahead of her and politics will be very much the poorer without her; her husband Brendan, in a statement shortly after she was murdered last Thursday, urged everyone to "fight against the hate that killed her" - how right he was."

On Friday I spent the day in the far west of Northumberland doing surgeries, appointments, having meetings and updating residents with the county councillor, Ian Hutchinson. The response was really encouraging.

Many will argue that by reason of Thursday's events we need greater security in order to do this job, but I will be resisting that. One of the great advantages of this job is your immediacy of access - I am constantly stopped in the street to be asked a question or have a chat; this happens at the supermarket, on the train or at an event, wherever; and that is how it should be. I do not think I need any specific greater protection to do this job, but I would make a few comments.
- When there are potentially tricky situations then we do need to take them seriously and the police must be able and willing to react quickly and robustly. To be fair the police are very good in direct ways.

- But there is no doubt that whilst the Internet is a wonderful thing it has changed people's behaviour. No one has ever been abusive to me to my face, however much they have disagreed with me.
But get these people on Twitter, Facebook, social media and the abuse, the trolls, and the terrible things that are said and done have to be seen and experienced to be believed. All MPs would agree that this has got much worse this last year since the election in May 2015. The vote last autumn on whether we should join the coalition of countries trying to stop the expansion of ISIS in Syria, seemed to prompt an outpouring of vitriol that had to be read, seen and experienced to be believed.
But it is not even this serious issue that creates abnormal online behaviour. This is becoming the norm I am afraid. The ability to reason, to make a case, to debate rationally and without rancour with those of a differing view is getting harder and harder. And it affects the County Councillor, the parish councillor, the public servants, the council employee, the policeman, the nurse, the paramedic just as much as it does the MP.
So next time you see or read such abuse please report it to the police, please do not tolerate it amongst your friends and family, and please let's all try and coexist. All of us, in my experience, are fundamentally good people living in a wonderful country. Let's make sure we remember that.

Friday, 17 June 2016

"Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life"

In a statement yesterday, Brendan Cox said: "Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo's friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

"Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

"She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisionous.

"Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full."

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Today will be at County Hall all day but EU Referendum debate at Hexham Abbey 7-9

Really busy day with multiple meetings at County Hall, but the last EU referendum debate is this evening at Hexham Abbey. I believe we are stronger in. The report of the last debate is here:

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Trains, stations, floods, roads and so much more on a packed transport agenda this week

The Intentions of Northern Rail, the changes when the Pacers are replaced on the Tyne Valley Line, the future prospects for Gilsland Station, safety improvements to the A69 at Henshaw, roads damaged by floods, culverts that damage houses, potholes, and a policy on ditch clearing and drain maintenance are just some of the issues that are occupying me this week. After a meeting in London with Northern Rail chief executive today I have a much better understanding of the way ahead for the Tyne Valley line, but I am on the train north now with 8 days of campaigning, surgeries and transport rated issues ahead. 
There is no doubt that Transport is occupying a major part of the next 48 hours as I have had a series of meetings in London, and across the county in the next two days. 

On Northern Rail today I met Alex Hynes, and discussed at length the Pacer replacement plans. I am happy to discuss in more detail with the Tyne Valley Rail Users Group but the short point is that he could not have been more adamant that we will be getting a dramatically improved quality of carriage in which to travel, including everything from wifi to disabled facilities, plus faster more comfortable trains. Some will say, and have said to me, that what the customer is getting is a refurbished train carriage, albeit one refurbished to a level that is effectively indistinguishable from new. This is true; some would argue that only brand new will do, but I would prefer to focus on the quality of the present, not how it is wrapped. The key thing I am absolutely 110% sure of is this: I am confident that local customers will see a dramatic difference, and the degree to which the DFT / government have helped made this replacement happen is to their credit. 

On Gilsland Station we now have the feasibility study from Network Rail, which I am going through with Northumberland County Council, COGS, network rail, northern rail reps, and key stakeholders in Morpeth tomorrow afternoon. The good news is that we have the report and can make some progress. The bad news is network rail's preliminary estimation of cost, which is definitely large. But, the reality is that as the poet said - "the longest journey starts with the shortest steps" - and we are many more steps down the journey, now we have this report. I will blog more after the meeting,but want to sit down with COGS and the team first, so we can undertake a detailed appraisal and assess the next steps. 

On Friday I start with a further meeting on efforts to get road safety improvements to the A69 at Henshaw before I am out west in Slaggyford and Eals meeting with the County Highways team and both inspecting road repairs, and discussing culverts that could stop some houses being flooded. Along the way at County Hall I will be raising road repairs, potholes, drain clearance and ditch clearance.