Wednesday, 31 August 2016

William Hague reinforces the point that there will be no second referendum on the EU - we move onwards and upwards

I voted Remain in June, as I thought staying in the EU was best for the country. But the second best course, in my view, is to leave the EU with clarity, certainty and purpose. To embark on leaving with doubt, lack of confidence, and with attempts to undermine the decision that has been made would be the worst of all worlds. 
Full article is here:

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Plenty of shows + events on in Tynedale this weekend - with Bellingham the biggest but lots happening in South Tynedale too

There are opportunities for all this weekend - Bellingham is the biggest show with its usual agricultural base, but there are other events on in the south of the patch: Allendale School hosts the annual Horticultural and Industrial show today whilst on Monday the Blanchland and Hunstanworth Show is always good fun. I should also point out that there is the Snods Edge Arts Festival from Saturday to Monday

Friday, 26 August 2016

Broadband rollout to the villages goes on - slowly but surely we are getting there

Work on the ground in Matfen has started and will hopefully be finished by mid October, barring any problems encountered during build. Planning and survey work has all be completed. Coverage is confined to the village and some of the immediate local area. Mat fen is the largest village that has not yet had its broadband upgraded. 
Of the other areas included in phase 2 we expect the following to be live by the end of 2016: 
- Slaley Hall and Slaley Park
- Blagdon 
- Longbyre, near Greenhead 
- West End Town on the end of Bardon Mill
- Dilston
- Gunnerton 
- Melkridge
- Oakwood 
- Sandhoe
- Tranwell and Tranwell Woods
- Medburn
- Horsley
There are some truly outlying houses and settlements that will not be included in Phase 2 +our campaign to get them better broadband goes on, not least as the County Council are now looking at phase 3.
As always if there are any areas of difficulty, if BT are not getting back to you or if there are innovative solutions like that which has been successfully trialled in Whittonstall then let me know. We are always happy to help.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Labour Party under Corbyn now so "pure" no security company good enough for its conferences - so it might not go ahead.

You genuinely could not make it up: Labour will probably have to cancel their party conference because they cannot get any company to provide the security at the conference.
The journalist Tom Harris, a former Labour MP, has the story:
He describes how under Corbyn the ruling National Executive Council of Labour has
- "brought it's strategic genius to bear on security arrangements for this year’s gathering in Liverpool; it really showed how tuned in and efficient Labour is.
Harris adds:
"G4S has managed security at Labour conferences for 20 years, efficiently, without complaint and within budget. Until earlier this year, however, they also had extensive interests in Israel. Now, as it happens, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where political activists can freely espouse the kind of democratic socialism favoured by Labour. LGBT events can be celebrated in Tel Aviv and the free press there would even accurately report delegates’ objections to Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
In none of the surrounding Arab countries could such activity be pursued freely without the threat of violence, intimidation or arrest.
Nevertheless, the NEC, emboldened by Jeremy Corbyn’s accession to the party’s leadership two months earlier, decided to relieve G4S of their conference duties as punishment for their audacity in seeking business in a liberal parliamentary democracy.
This decision was “strongly supported” by Unite the Union, it should be noted.
It was at this point that Labour’s carefully crafted strategy started to unravel. After a number of other security firms politely declined the chance to bid for the work, only Showsec, remains in the field. But they are embroiled in an ongoing dispute with the GMB – one of Labour’s biggest donors – over its refusal to recognise the union.
Now Len McCluskey, the head of rival union Unite, has made it clear publicly that all the blame for this lies not with the dullards and oafs who sacked G4S, but with Iain McNicol, the party’s general secretary. McNicol is a sensible, clever and efficient apparatchik, and is therefore disliked by the current leadership, which includes McCluskey.
McCluskey’s criticism of McNicol was carefully leaked to the Guardian, and there can be little doubt that this represents a first step in the leadership’s campaign for a clear-out of “core hostile” opponents of Corbyn if, as expected, he is re-elected as party leader in September.
And in the meantime, almost incidental to this amateurish melodrama, no agreement has yet been reached on who should provide security for the conference. If this dispute between Showsec and the GMB can’t be resolved in the very near future, the nuclear option of cancellation may be required."
Like I said. You could not make it up. I leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions as to whether it is better not to hold any conference at all if it means dealing with professional companies who provide security.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Transport For The North Review + The Northern Powerhouse - the report worth a read

The bold plan to create a thriving Northern Powerhouse received some good news recently. An independent report, commissioned by Transport For The North, details a strategy which will allow the North to realise its fantastic potential.

For the past thirty years, there has been a persistent economic gap between the North and the national average. In 2015 the North generated an economic output of around £290bn in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA). Now this was around one fifth of the nation's total as a whole, but we have more to give.

Indeed, we need to bridge the gap between the North's economic potential and its current realities. This will of course be spurred on by private investment, something which will herald a greater number of highly skilled jobs for the people of the North.

'Business as usual' for the North would not mean zero growth or investment, but it would likely mean that the gap between the North and the rest of the country would continue to widen. The report therefore outlines a transformational approach to the Northern economy; one which capitalises on out key capabilities, but also seeks to improve our infrastructure.

The North is certainly more than capable. The report highlights our proficiency in advanced manufacturing, energy, health innovation and digital innovation. These will act as the cornerstone from which the Northern Powerhouse will undoubtedly thrive.

The report suggests that by 2050, a scheme of workable and sustained growth will result in the creation of 1.5 million jobs by 2050, a rise in our GVA and an increase in skilled work. These are all things that are obtainable.

If you would like to read about the report's overview in full, it can be found here -

What is palpably clear is that the North is growing. It's becoming more innovative and productive on a daily basis, and it is of the utmost importance that we continue these trends. We have all the tools at out disposal, so we now need strong leadership to bring these plans to fruition. I will endeavour to do all that I can to ensure that this is the case.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Former Labour MP Tom Harris on Labour Party travails in Scotland has lessons for the North East

If Scottish labour simply tries to imitate and be more left wing than the SNP, and does not want to defend the Union, what does it stand for and why should anyone vote for it? The article by former Scottish labour MP Tom Harris makes compelling reading. But I also see lessons for the Labour Party in the north east as the mayoral debate takes hold and the devolution deal of May 2017 comes ever closer.
Does the north east Labour Party actually want devolution?
How does the north east labour team compare to the labour teams in Greater Manchester who have so enthusiastically embraced devolution, the government deal and the greater powers on offer.
Does it welcome the chance to be the economic driver of the region?
What will it actually do with the powers?
Have a read of the article -all of us are going to have to change our views.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Working behind the bar on September 1st at the Black Bull in Matfen for charity

Make sure you come to the Black Bull in Matfen when are group of minor celebs - myself included as Z list - are working behind the bar pulling pints and pouring drinks, and asking you to make a small charitable donation with your drinks change. The beer is very good and the food excellent. It should be a fun night.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Judging the gardens of Slaggyford + Knarsdale - report of the 2015 garden odyssey way out west in the Northumberland

This is the report I wrote of my efforts to judge these beautiful gardens and my experiences meeting so many great characters in August 2015.

"On a sunny morning late last summer I travelled down to Slaggyford, nervous with anticipation at the responsibility of judging the gardens of the various houses around Knarsdale, Slaggyford and Eals. I would love to say that I am a prize winning gardener myself (I am not) and that I had spent some time preparing the evaluation of the relative merits of foxgloves and fuchsias, but this would be a lie. The garden competition was judged by an enthusiastic amateur gardener /Member of Parliament, aided by his local partner in crime, Miles, the chair of the local parish council. The decisions made were all mine and the mistakes made were all mine as well.

Our tour was random and occasionally interspersed by constituents rightfully upset at flooding, broadband, or generally wanting to raise issues local or national with their MP. We went to Eals first, and after noting both Tom's and Simon's beautiful gardens, we admired with wonder the amazing pear tree that towers above the 1760 holiday cottage of Stonecrop. Never have I seen a pear tree of such size. It is clearly well over a hundred years old, and possibly as old as the house. Go and see it.

Onwards to the Armstrongs we admired pots, the efforts of Holly, and huge prize winning leeks [pictured], and I was given the present of the most delicious lettuce I have tasted in my life. I promise this did not influence any award! At the Grahams we admired the amazing planted wheelbarrows, before seeing the huge effort that Chris Ashworth has put into transforming his garden. His neighbour Carol Grieves also has a beautiful small garden, packed with plants, and she it was who came up with the phrase of the day. Miles and I were admiring the garden and commenting on the forest of plants, when she explained by saying:
"I can't say no to them - I am an alcoholic - I mean a plantaholic!"

We all laughed. Anyone who has seen the profusion of plants and pots at Carols will understand. She is a worthy winner of best small garden, and phrase of the day!
We ventured on around the houses on or near the village green in Slaggyford itself and were able to solve the mystery of the rabbit that broke into Albert Ridleys garden. Without our forensic Sherlock Holmes examination I fear it would remain a mystery how Watership Down invaded. Albert was pipped on best large garden by the Aynsleys, whose back garden [pictured] beside the burn, sandwiched between wild meadowsweet, and delicate plants and fragrant honeysuckle, is a beautiful and wild garden that constantly surprises.
Our journey lasted 3 hours and we constantly failed to identify our plants; but the pleasure was all mine. If you have not been way out west to these delightful hamlets then you are missing something.

Guy Opperman MP  (Definitely not auditioning for the Chelsea flower show)

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Falstone and Allendale Shows this Saturday - please try and go along to these special agricultural based shows if you are free

At opposite ends of the constituency the 2 shows this weekend are very special. Falstone also features a fell race and music from 3.30

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Interesting article by Alan Millburn - my constituent + chair of the Social Mobility Commission on the new zeal at the heart of the May Government

"The commission I chair has been warning for years that without a dramatic change in approach to how we tackle issues of poverty and mobility, Britain would become a divided nation.
Thankfully the new Prime Minister has recognised the risk. It is very welcome that she has made it her mission to heal the social and economic fissures the vote laid bare.
Theresa May’s pursuit of higher social mobility is what our country needs – but it will hard to achieve.
So a broader social reform agenda is needed, one that focuses on people who are not in extreme poverty, are in work and do the right thing but are struggling to progress. They are the majority in Britain. Their interests should be at the heart of a new government-wide drive to open up opportunities.
This is a far bigger and broader approach than previous governments have considered. It cannot all be done from Whitehall. It will need Mrs May to forge a new national coalition with employers, universities, colleges, schools, councils and communities with one core purpose: a more level playing field of opportunity in Britain.
Delivering higher social mobility – reducing the extent to which someone’s class or income is dependent on the class or income of their parents – can prove that modern capitalist economies like ours can create better, fairer and more inclusive societies. It should be the holy grail of public policy, the priority for government and the cause which unites the nation in action."
The full article is here: well worth a read -

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The new high school in Prudhoe is the end of 5 long years of campaigning - Prudhoe is on the up!

This is all part of the turnaround that is happening in Prudhoe, and at the high school. We are pictured on site this last winter with Deborah, the head teacher, and the site manager. Deborah tells me that the key handover is very soon, and the pupils start in September. It has been a long campaign to get the money for the new school and to turn Prudhoe High around but the children, parents and teachers are all really excited! 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Capability Brown 300th anniversary this month - come to Kirkharle in Northumberland to see his origins and inspiration

Born August 30th 1716 Brown was the fifth of six children and son of a yeoman farmer and houseservant. Brown went to school and church locally and then became the greatest landscape designer of his generation. He was baptised at St Wilfred's Church at Kirkharle. There are events a plenty coming up in the this the month of his 300th celebration, notably on the day itself 30/8

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Who will labour choose as their next leader? What does Hexham think of Corbyn?

Curious to see the views of the Hexham locals - notably the Labour + Momentum members. Are you Corbynites? Or are you persuaded by Owen Smith? It is clear from Westminster and locally to re elect Corbyn would be a big mistake but it does appear he is going to win.
This is a report from the Guardian of the recent Gateshead hustings:

Saturday, 13 August 2016

EU Regional Support and Funding for farmers and science guaranteed until 2020

I am delighted the government have made the long term decision to cover the funding for the regions, our farmers and scientists, notwithstanding the Brexit decision. This long term assurance is key.
Full story here:

Hexham Farmers Market - shop local and support your local farmers and producers 9-2pm

Friday, 12 August 2016

Fairs aplenty this weekend in Tynedale - Wark, Slaley, Horsley - lots for everyone to do + Bogstock!

Amongst many things happening this weekend the big event is the Slaley show but there is also a garden show at Horsley and jumble sale in Wark.
For those looking for a top ale or cider then look no further than Bogstcok at the Carts Bog in Langley this evening and tomorrow

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Prudhoe Community Allotments yesterday - great to support this amazing Prudhoe institution and pick up some veg!

I have 2 jobs: Member of Parliament, and president of the Prudhoe Community Allotments! It was a great privilege to go along and support the Allotments yesterday. This special oasis of gardening calm in the heart of south Prudhoe is beautiful, and a real credit to the community - and fully supported by an amazing lunch when you pop in to an open day and buy some veg as I did yesterday. My hope is to take this community spirit and organisation and harness it in the Walled Garden Project that I have been supporting for some time in the old hospital site. That has stalled a bit but I am still very hopeful that it will come to fruition; if it does we will have a truly special site. But for now, let us celebrate the success that has been achieved at the Prudhoe Allotments. If you are interested to know more then I suggest you go their website and consider joining. £3 a year is a small price to pay!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Meeting EA + Northumbria Water in Haydon Bridge as flood repair work has started

I was on site this last week to meet the team who are going to repair and improve the bank between the Anchor Hotel and the bridge, going along the bank to protect Rocksprings Crescent. The workmen contracted to do the job by the Environment Agency are staying in the Railway Hotel and have their diggers and machinery on site on the north side of the river for the work which will take some time. The plan is to extract the boulders and gravel from the centre of the river, put that gravel into gabions (these are steel cages of boulders and gravel), then encase the gabions in a steel protected wall where the old bank used to be. This will then be topped off with a stone and cement finish. The steel wall will go down into the river bed over 2 metres to ensure there is no wash away. This effect will reinstate the old bank, which had been eroding for years, change the nature and direction of the river flow, provide protection to the bridge and Rocksprings Crescent, and ensure the disaster of last winter does not reoccur. The centre of the river will look very different as well.
Why this is important and vitally urgent work is the potential compromising of the bridge, the properties on the south bank, and the sewer pipes that are beneath the surface in pipes on the river bank. Of all the works to be done on the river this is probably the key one.
In addition, Northumbria Water have cleared all the pipes, and sewers locally and are sorting some of the problems they have discovered.
In other parts of the village works are being done to protect the defences on the North Bank and there will be improvements to the path between Rocksprings and the sports fields and the walls around there. I have chased the County council about the state of the Langley Burn which remains very overgrown and blocked. On two occasions last week on Saturdays and Thursday I met with locals affected by the floods and went door to door addressing the issues but my door is always open / email is on, if anyone has any further questions. I am also shortly replying to the recent parish council letter I have received, although events have slightly taken over as the contractors are taking the boulders and gravel off the central river bed. Put simply we are getting there and my belief is that with a fair wind we shall see completed works sorted before the winter.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Guardian and many local voters praising the decision to get rid of annuities and allow early release of pensions

It’s not a line you’re likely to see often in the Guardian, but thank you George Osborne for the towering achievement of your reign as chancellor: you got rid of annuities and saved millions of pensioners-to-be from a spiral of catastrophically low payouts from their life savings. The full article is here:

Monday, 8 August 2016

Good evidence from fall in Job Seekers' Allowance & Universal credit Claims Down

The UK's economy is going from strength to strength. Full credit to the Job Centre Plus team, and a shout out to last years Jobs Fair.

People have more money in their back pockets, the unemployment rate is now 4.9% and in both Hexham and across the country, the number of JSA (Job Seekers' Allowance) and UC (Universal Credit) claimants has fallen.

In the UK as a whole, there have been 36,326 fewer JSA and UC claims in the year to June. According to a DWP report produced in July, this reflects a 4.7% drop nationally. But what is even more staggering is the 15.5% drop we've seen in our very own area. Times have been hard in the last few years, so it is heartening to see that Hexham, as well as the country as a whole, is bouncing back so exuberantly.

Fewer people are unemployed. Fewer of us are only just able to pull together the money required to pay the bills because the Conservative governments Living Wage has seen millions get a pay rise.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The reason Labour MPs / Corbyns former economic advisers oppose Jeremy Corbyn is his ineptitude - in their own words

Two former economic advisors to Jeremy Corbyn have dealt a major blow to the Labour leader by backing his rival, Owen Smith, in the party’s leadership contest. David Blanchflower, who used to be a member of the Bank of England’s MPC, said Corbyn was ‘absolutely, completely unelectable’. Whilst Simon Wren-Lewis told the Guardian the current Labour leader wouldn’t ‘even come close’ to winning a 2020 general election. The labour MPs see this - both in the Commons and on the doorsteps. The unavoidable truth is that Twitter + rallies do not translate into persuasion of the vast majority of the electorate that Corbyn needs to persuade.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Positive Economic News for the UK - income tracker stats show positive signs

Just last week, the Asda Income Tracker, a service which charts wages, taxes and household spending, delivered some positive news for us all. Here's a grab from their latest press release:

'The latest figures revealed families across the UK welcomed another rise in spending power in June, with average discretionary income once again reaching £201 a week, enjoying an extra £12 a week (6.2%) on average compared to the same period last year. The increase marks the 20th consecutive month of double-digit growth in spending power, with total average discretionary income remaining at a record level since the Income Tracker began in 2008.
  • The average UK household had a weekly disposable income of £201 a week last month, an average of £12 more than in June 2015
  • Annual growth in spending power has remained above £10 a week for 20 consecutive months
  • Wage growth across the UK remained relatively flat (2.2%) but stayed well above the level of essential item inflation (-0.1%)
  • The rate of unemployment across the UK fell to its lowest level (4.9%) in 11 years
  • Across the nation, families in the North East and Wales saw the largest rise in discretionary income over the last quarter, while the West Midlands saw a fall in the rate of spending power growth'
What all of this is proving is that the economy is on the up. Unemployment is down to 4.9%. There is still a way to go, but this is very good news indeed.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Northern Powerhouse will go from strength to strength - the new government makes its commitment clear

The appointment of Andrew Percy and the efforts being made in Westminster to accommodate the Local Authorities of the North East is clear. I am certain that this devolution is good news for the North East. I am certain it is going to happen. More details of the progress here:

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Northumberland Tourism On The Up! Still time to book a staycation up north

We can all agree that Northumberland is a fantastic place to live and visit, and thankfully this is something that others are realising too. Visit Northumberland recently shared the area's tourism statistics for 2015, and there is some very positive news.
Last year we welcomed a total of 9.5 million visitors to Northumberland, an increase of 3% on 2014. These visitors spent 14.8m days with us, which is also up a healthy 4% from last year. What's more:
- 1.7m of our visitors stayed overnight, an increase of 2.8%
- Between them visitors spent a total of £816m, up by 5% on the previous year.
- 11,591 direct jobs were supported by tourism, also up by 4%.
What this all proves is that Northumberland is a county on the up, and one which welcomes visitors both old and new. Tourism is a vital part of the local economy, but should also be seen as a point of pride. Having so many people visit the area is heartening, and it merely reinforces what we already know: that Northumberland is the best county in the country!
For inspiration on where to take any friends or family who are up on a visit, then give the Visit Northumberland website a look - or send them this link, which really does showcase the stunning scenery on our doorstep -

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Thank you to so many for all your support during the #Ride100 #RideLondon

I cannot thank the organisers, staff, medics, the supporters, my sponsors and all my fellow cyclists who took part in the Ride 100 from the Olympic Oark in Stratford East London to Surrey and back down the Mall. A great experience. Climbed Box Hill. Got cheered down the Mall. Who could ask for more? There were delays due to accidents but medics did a great job in tricky circumstances. Was held up - but next to a barbecue in deepest Surrey and then next to the delicious deli in Dorking. Thanks to them for the delicious emergency sausage roll! My legs felt good throughout and I made it up all hills without stopping. Onwards and upwards to the next Sportive! You can still donate to the 2 Brain Tumour Research charities I supported by going here:

Monday, 1 August 2016

Working in Westminster this week before heading north

I have the task this week to review all correspondence from the 36,000 + letters and emails we get and ensure that everything has been responded to. I have a variety of other meetings in Westminster before I head north later in the week.