Saturday, 30 July 2016

Lynx in Kielder Forest? What are your views? Local consultation meet August 11

There is a proposal to reintroduce lynx to Kielder forest and an engagement / consultation event with locals on the 11th August.
If you want me to make your representations through me then get in contact in the usual way 

Friday, 29 July 2016

Taste Tynedale this weekend - all day Saturday + Sunday - do not miss it!

The ultimate family day out with all the best food and drink, entertainment for all the family, demonstrations and so much more. There will be over 40 traders selling, a beer tent, produce market and great local acts performing.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

It is National Parks week - have you explored Northumberland = the nations best national park?

Still many opportunities to embrace the outdoors, appreciate Hadrians Wall or Vindolanda, or simply bike or hike across the greatest of all landscapes. Get out there this weekend!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Amazing speech by Michelle Obama to the DNC yesterday - worth a read
I, for one, will be supporting Hillary. You have to will the change you want and a world with Trump as President of the USA is not something I want.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Cycling the London Ride 100 for Two Great Charities

On the 31st July, I will be taking part in the Prudential Ride 100.  The ride, set up to celebrate the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games, starts in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, then follows a 100-mile route on closed roads through the capital and into Surrey’s stunning countryside.
This year I’m riding in aid of two incredible charities; Brain Tumour Research, and the Brain Tumour Charity. Having suffered from a brain tumour myself I feel deeply indebted to both of these charities and have witnessed first-hand the incredible work they do. Brain Tumour Research strives to fund seven dedicated research centres while Brain Tumour Charity provides unparalleled support and information to anyone effected by a brain tumour. Both charities fund treatments and, essentially, raise awareness of the disease which now kills around 5,000 in the UK each year.
Any donations would be gratefully accepted, no matter how big or small – even a little can go a long way. I have set up a Virgin Money Giving page which can be found here:

Monday, 25 July 2016

Any assessment of Scottish education, or other key devolved public services show them getting worse under the SNP

Education used to be the marvel of Scotland. Not any more. A read of Tom Harris latest article is worthwhile:
Eventually more and more of the Scottish people will ask the question - how good are the SNP actually at running things? The evidence is not very good. Health and police are two services that appear to have got worse under their administration.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Congrats to Haveli! Fourth in the Tiffin Cup Final

Last Tuesday, 12th July, I had the pleasure of attending the Tiffin Cup Final in the kitchens of House of Commons. The Cup celebrates the best South Asian food that this country has to offer, and I was delighted to be supporting one of our own fantastic restaurants, Haveli, in the process.
The food was judged by celebrity chef Ainsley Harriot among other independent assessors on a blind tasting, and I must say that I also sampled a fair amount of the food, purely to make it a fair test! Haveli chose to produce their Goan Prawn Curry, which is probably my favourite dish on the whole menu. The dish was a hit with the judges, and ensured that Haveli secured a very respectable fourth-placed finish.
Haveli is one of the North East’s culinary high-points, and I was very pleased to see them do so well. Just to make it to the final was enough, but to come 4th out of the whole country is staggering. We should all be very proud of them.
Visit Haveli when you have the chance - it really does have great food.  

Saturday, 23 July 2016

1 month on from EU Referendum + our new PM very much in charge

"Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it" - so said our new Prime Minister on several occasions last week and I have no doubt she will. Her commitment to enacting the will of the British people is not in doubt. I wanted to remain, but the country has spoken, and we need to make this 2 1/2 year process of leaving happen - and do it in the best interests and outcome for Britain. 
Anyone who underestimates our new Prime Minister is unwise. She has rightly chosen a strong team of Leave campaigners to conduct the renegotiation and carve out our new role on the European and World stage. 
In addition, she has created her own government to address the issues she considers most important - the Union of the U.K., life chances, a better balanced economy and a more equal society. Our country is on a new journey, but we are being led by the right woman at the right time. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The new PM is already seen in the Commons as seriously impressive - the columnists + pollsters views are also interesting to read

The opinion polling done in the last week are clear that the country sees Mrs May as a serious politician for serious times.
1 in 3 labour voters - yes 33% of labour voters! - would vote for her rather than Mr Corbyn. This assessment from the left leaning Independent after recent polling:
The same can be said of the columnists: this from todays Telegraph is worth a read:

Monday, 18 July 2016

This is the Trident Motion I shall be voting in favour of tonight


That this House supports the Government’s assessment in the 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review that the UK’s independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent, based on a Continuous at Sea Deterrence posture, will remain essential to the UK's security today as it has for over 60 years, and for as long as the global security situation demands, to deter the most extreme threats to the UK's national security and way of life and that of the UK's allies; supports the decision to take the necessary steps required to maintain the current posture by replacing the current Vanguard Class submarines with four Successor submarines; recognises the importance of this programme to the UK’s defence industrial base and in supporting thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs; notes that the Government will continue to provide annual reports to Parliament on the programme; recognises that the UK remains committed to reducing its overall nuclear weapon stockpile by the mid-2020s; and supports the Government’s commitment to continue work towards a safer and more stable world, pressing for key steps towards multilateral disarmament.

Westminster this week - big debates on higher education + Trident + PMQs with a new PM

Today we have a vote on the renewal of Trident. I shall be voting in favour. I have been persuaded that our nuclear deterrent has kept us safe for a long time and that we should not abrogate the responsibility for our defence to others. For a fuller debate tune in at around 3:30-10pm today. The BBC take on the issue is here:

The Labour Party are split 3 ways on trident - in favour, against and abstain. The snp oppose, as they do everything. Not sure where the liberals are on this.
Tomorrow we have the debate on the higher education bill, with further debates later in the week. The highlight of the week will be PMQs with the new Prime Minister, Wednesday at 12.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Theresa May sets out her stall as our new Prime Minister - her first speech

I have just been to Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new government, and I accepted. In David Cameron, I follow in the footsteps of a great, modern Prime Minister. Under David’s leadership, the Government stabilised the economy, reduced the budget deficit, and helped more people into work than ever before. But David’s true legacy is not about the economy, but about social justice. From the introduction of same sex marriage, to taking people on low wages out of income tax altogether, David Cameron has led a one nation government, and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead. Because not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. And that word unionist is very important to me.
It means we believe in the union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it means something else that is just as important, it means we believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we are from. That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand. If you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home.
But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home but you worry about paying the mortgage. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school. If you’re one of those families, if you’re just managing, I want to address you directly. I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The Government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty, but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.
We are living through an important moment in our country’s history. Following the referendum, we face a time of great national change. And I know because we’re Great Britain that we will rise to the challenge. As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.
That will be the mission of the Government I lead. And together, we will build a better Britain.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Very proud to have served David Cameron - a superb Prime Minister

I entered parliament when David Cameron became PM. I was there in Committee Room 14 in the Commons days after the election in 2010 when we discussed the Coalition and whether to go into it with the liberals to help turn the country around from the boom and bust.
He is British to his fingertips, and is passionate about all the United Kingdom. He is a 1 Nation Conservative, proud of modernising the Conservative Party, leading it back into power in 2010 as the head of a coalition, after 13 years in the wilderness and winning an outright victory in the 2015 election, that many thought he would lose.
He is proud of restoring the country to economic stability after the 2008 crash and fighting for unpopular causes in the party, including gay marriage and international development.
He is a wonderful combination of a kind family man who is immensely decent, and the robust ruthless leader of a party he has successfully dragged into the 21st Century. He has addressed long term unemployment, apprenticeships, improvements in education, schooling and welfare very successfully. He is a great man and I have been proud to serve him.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Tiffin Cup final tonight in Westminster - pleased to be supportingHaveli Restaurant from Ponteland

Tonight is an event I've been looking forward to for a long time, as I'll be cheering on Pontelands very own Haveli Restaurant at the final of The Tiffin Cup. Chaired by Keith Vaz MP, the Tiffin Club celebrates the best South Asian food that England has to offer. This evening's final in the House of Commons will undoubtedly be a showcase of exceptional culinary talent. I was able to showcase the restaurant to Keith when he came to Northumberland in June and we are seen with the expert chef, whose success has helped to propel Haveli into the national final. 

As I hope many of you are aware, Haveli certainly deserves its place at this top table! Having been on a few occasions now, I can attest to the quality of the service and the food itself - mine's the Goan King Prawn Curry, in case you were wondering. The fact that Haveli has made it onto the hugely competitive shortlist is both a testament to the restaurant itself and also to Hexham as a constituency.

If you haven't been already, then I highly recommend The Haveli restaurant.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Pleased that we can move on from who does / doesn't have children + onto who is the best person to be PM

Following Andreas apology I want to move on and assess who is the best of these two candidates to be the PM. I support Theresa but will also be setting out some of the case for Andrea.
Theresa May’s case to be a PM comes down to three things:

 ·      First, our country needs strong, proven leadership - to steer us through this time of economic and political uncertainty, and to negotiate the best deal for Britain as we leave the EU. 

·      Second, we need to unite our country. 

·      Third, we need a bold, new, positive vision for the future of our country - a vision of a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.
This morning this is the BBC take on Theresa speech:

Westminster this coming week - debates on the Chilcot Report, Wales Bill and more

Wednesday and Thursday sees a 2 day debate on the Chilcot Report. Monday we debate day two of the Wales Bill, which gives greater devolution to Wales. I have a key prison reform conference on Wednesday. I have several constituents coming to Westminster and will be heading north late Wednesday night.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

No quotas, no discrimination, just merit. Conservative Party picks another female Prime Minister

I worked for Women2Win between 2013-2015 helping a large group of amazing female candidates as they sought to become an MP. In 2015 there were some amazing female candidates who then became an MP. Too many to name all but have a look at Suella Fernandez, Seema Kennedy, Victoria Atkins, Dr. Tania Matthias, Maria Caulfield, Lucy Frazer, all of whom I helped by way of mentoring and training. This is not an exhaustive list - it is just some of the women who Women2Win helped in the lead up to May 2015, and who I had particular contact with. All will have stellar careers. The key message from this blog is that there are future female MPs, councillors, and leaders out there who should contact Women2Win and who should embrace the challenge of contributing to Public Office.
Details of women2win found here:
The selection of 2 women to go to the membership of the party, and to become a prime minister is a great thing. The question any female readers have to ask is why have I not applied? What can I do to serve? Is there someone I know who would be good? How can I mentor and assist someone?

Friday, 8 July 2016

Bringing Local Venues Back to Life - The Dyvels Inn &The County Hotel both provide a fresh start to the local pub / hotel scene

The North East, and our own constituency in particular, has always been blessed with great ales and fantastic pubs. That's why I was so pleased to re-launch two brilliant pubs recently, both of which have been through hard times not so long ago.

The Dyvels Inn in Corbridge was devastated by the floods of last winter, making business impossible. The renovations that Chris Baxter and his team had done only months before were wasted, as both features and decorations were ruined by the water. Thankfully, due to the enthusiasm of Chris, and with the help of the people at Punch Taverns, the pub is now ready for business again.

The pub boasts one of the nicest beer gardens in Northumberland, and is always a friendly and welcoming environment for everyone. Worth noting also is the County Hotel, which also re-launched recently. Once again supported by Punch Taverns, this fine establishment is back doing what it should be doing; selling beer and providing good food..

It was heartening to see both of these establishments finding their feet again, and I implore all of you to go and have a pint (or two) at both when you get the chance. These pubs are at the heart of their respective communities, so we should all do as much as we can to ensure that they continue to thrive.
The wider point is that both provide much needed beds for tourists, business visitors and for weddings and events. Tynedale needs this. But use them or lose them - its your community. I have had pints in both and the beer is good!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Today the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War is published and preliminary debates start in the Commons

The report is independent, massive in scope and content, and has taken years to produce. It will take a long time to read but the parliamentary debates start today and will continue with a fuller debate next Wednesday. For a contrary view about the background, which is not all Blair, Bush and generals have a read of the Telegraph piece here:

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

William Hague article on the brave new world where there are no leavers or remainers now

You don't pick and choose the bits of democracy you like or dislike. The reality is that the country voted and we must abide by that. We are not leave or remain anymore. We are all together going to make this new arrangement work:

Monday, 4 July 2016

I am backing Theresa May for Prime Minister

So much has happened these past few weeks it is difficult to know where to begin. The key priority for my constituents now is ensuring economic stability, and getting the best deal for Britain. 

For me Theresa May stands head and shoulders above the others in being able to achieve that. Having worked first hand alongside Theresa I think she is the natural successor to lead our country through these difficult and uncertain times.

I worked for Theresa in the Home Office for nearly 3 years and I saw for myself, day in and day out, how hard she worked to keep our country safe and secure. No one gets up earlier. No one is a better master of her brief. Quite frankly, no one works harder. Everyday she has been working hard to keep our country safe.

Just look at her national security credentials - she has spent six years in charge at the Home Office running our police and security services and combating the threat from terror groups. Theresa clearly has the serious experience of high office to deliver the best deal in the EU negotiations. That kind of experience can not be underestimated.
Theresa also understands the challenges we face in the North East, having cut her political teeth fighting a Durham seat in the 1990's. She talked in her launch speech of understanding the concerns facing an ordinary, working-class family, setting out how life for many is much harder than many people in Westminster realise.
She talked about job security, the worry of rising mortgage rates, the cost of living and the quality of local schools. It was a speech about real issues, facing real people. Fundamentally she understands the issues that matter to the people of the North East.
Theresa understands that politics isn’t a game, it is serious, and has real consequences for people’s lives.
In truth, I thought long and hard about all of the candidates in the race, some of who are friends of mine, and are people I greatly admire. However I wanted to make a decision, not just on who I thought would be the best leader for the Conservative Party, but for the North East as a whole.

That is why I am supporting Theresa to become our next Prime Minister. 

I am backing Theresa because of her commitment to put the Government she will lead at the service of ordinary, working people and make Britain a country that works for everyone – regardless of who they are and regardless of where they’re from.

Theresa would make an excellent Prime Minister. She is the serious politician we need for these serious times.
Voting on the future Prime Minister will start Tuesday of this week. MPs will whittle down the list of candidates to two by the middle of next month. A ballot of the party’s 150,000 members will then follow, with a new leader named by September 2.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

If I was partisan Corbyn stays. This chart of the shadow ministerial team shows why he must go

This is the list of labour shadow ministers as of Thursday. There have been further resignations since. If I was partisan I would revel in a Labour Party utterly opposed to their leader, and a man who cannot lead. But the key point is that I as a government whip, and as an MP who wants to get stuff done openly acknowledge that the country needs a proper opposition, which acts as a critical friend of government policy and legislation, and works together for the common good. Hilary Benn is the obvious labour leader they should pick.

Westminster this coming week: hustings, votes, Chilcot Report, constituents in Westminster

A busy week ahead: the main parliamentary event is the publication and then assessment of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War. This has been a long time coming: more details here -
In other news there are hustings and then a vote on the future leader of the Conservative Party. I will be announcing my choice tomorrow morning, both in print, on the blog, and on BBC Radio Newcastle at 8.25.
I have constituents coming to Westminster this week both for the celebration of the Sill with Northumberland National Park, and some teachers from Hexham QEHS who are coming for the teachers institute reception. I am also meeting representatives of the Environment Agency, and regional business leaders in separate meetings.
There are clearly big issues happening this week but the day job goes on. We have multiple debates in the commons as well.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Policy North Northern Powerhouse conference today

Today is 100 years on from the Battle of the Somme - July 1st 2016 make sure you pause, reflect + say thank you to our forebears

My generation is lucky we have not to have had to fight a major conflict. The Somme saw the unprecedented loss of life of so many. It started today and saw tens of thousands of men die day by day. Pause a moment and reflect how lucky our generation has been not to have had to fight a major conflict.