Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Prudhoe Community Allotment- open!

Prudhoe Community Allotment is having its Open Day this month (Wednesday 15thAugust). A brilliant facility at the centre of the community, the Allotment is used by people of all gardening abilities, with beds and plots available to rent. I always enjoy visiting- it’s such a friendly and peaceful place- so why not go along and see what’s going on for yourself!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Preserving the past

War memorials are important and historic parts of so many local communities, especially as we mark the centenary of the end of the First World War this year. I was therefore so pleased to hear that Horsley’s war memorial has been restored, thanks to the efforts of members of the community. Funded by Horsley Parish Council and Northumbrian Water, with free sand and cement provided by Jewson Builders Merchants in Prudhoe, the area around the war memorial is no longer overgrown and the lettering has been restored to make it legible.

It is so important that we preserve the memory of those who sacrificed so much for us. Well done to everyone involved in the project- a real team effort and an example of what can be done when communities come together.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Welcoming Michael Gove to Northumberland

I was pleased to be able to welcome the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to the Hexham constituency earlier this week, following the Cabinet's meeting in Gateshead. Mr Gove visited Northumberland National Park's The Sill and Housesteads to mark the beginning of National Parks Week, which takes place throughout this week. The Secretary of State also took part in a discussion with local upland farmers and forestry experts on the positive future for the Borderlands.

I was delighted to be able to show Mr Gove the wonderful National Park that we have on our doorstep. His visit was a valuable opportunity for our forestry experts to make the case to DEFRA for the need for more forestry and timber to support rural jobs and future prosperity, and to stress once again the importance of farming and agriculture in the Hexham constituency.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Boost for local flood defences

Flooding can be devastating for families, businesses and farmers, as the damaging floods of 2015 showed. I therefore welcome the Environment Minister Therese Coffey’s announcement last week that thousands of properties across England will be better protected against the threat of flooding thanks to a multi-million pound investment by the government. 13 flood schemes across the country will benefit from £40 million of additional funding, including the Corbridge Flood Alleviation Scheme, which will receive £140,000. This is one of five flood schemes in the north of England that will receive nearly half of the funding in a boost to the Northern Powerhouse. This is great news, helping to protect communities and help them to grow and prosper.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Voice and Vote: Women's Place in Parliament

2018 marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 extended the right to vote to all men over 21 and the first women, and the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 allowed women to become MPs. It is also 90 years since the Equal Franchise Act 1928 gave all men and women over 21 the right to vote. To mark this, the ‘Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament’ exhibition is currently open to the public free of charge in Westminster Hall. The exhibition tells the story of women in Parliament over the last 200 years and the many brave people who fought for democratic equality. It also encourages people of all ages to get involved with politics today and have their say. 

In this very important year, I would encourage you to go and see this excellent exhibition. If you’re visiting London over the next few months, it is definitely worth a visit!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Fun for all the family at Kirkley Hall

There is plenty of fun to be had at Kirkley Hall this Sunday (29th July), with their Family Fun Day taking place from 10am-4pm. With local stalls, activities, crafts, live entertainment, fun fair rides and much more, there is guaranteed to be something for everyone. Highlights include free entry to Kirkley Hall’s zoo, den building in the woods, biscuit decorating, archery, storytelling and the chance to meet Pete, a 7ft walking T-Rex. You can buy your tickets on the day for what promises to be a brilliant, fun-filled family day out.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Let's celebrate National Parks Week

This week is National Parks Week, and with one of the UK’s most beautiful National Parks right here in the Hexham constituency, what better way to celebrate the week than by paying a visit? 

Events are taking place throughout this week designed to take in Northumberland National Park. With guided walks, bike rides and an opportunity to watch Friday’s lunar eclipse, there is something for everyone. Why not have a look at the link below to find out what’s on in the National Park this week?- it’s so important that we appreciate the beautiful scenery we have on our doorstep.

One of the UK’s 15 National Parks, Northumberland National Park is the northernmost in England and covers an area of more than 1000 square kilometres, stretching from the Scottish border to just south of Hadrian’s Wall and covering about a quarter of the county. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Jobs Fair 2018- get involved!

After the huge success of last year’s event, I am pleased to be able to confirm that my Tynedale Jobs Fair is back for 2018. Designed for people looking for work or a change of job, this year’s Jobs Fair will take place on Friday 7thSeptember 2018 from 10am-2.30pm at Wentworth Leisure Centre, Hexham. Planning is now well under way, but there is still space for more businesses to attend, so if your business is looking to hire and is interested in attending the Jobs Fair please get in touch by emailing- teamoppy@gmail.com 

Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Egger and Thompsons of Prudhoe are already confirmed to attend. It's hopefully going to be even bigger and better than last year- you’ll definitely want to be involved!

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Thirty years of service

I know from my travels around the constituency that there are so many people making incredible contributions to our community in the Tynedale area. The NSPCC Bellingham branch recently held a special reception to recognise Elizabeth Goodfellow and Sadie Robson, secretary and treasurer of the branch respectively, who are stepping down from their roles after thirty years of service. Elizabeth and Sadie will still remain active within the branch, and I would like to congratulate them both on their extraordinary contribution to such a worthwhile cause.

The NSPCC Bellingham branch is community funded and raises £5000 per year for the North Tyne rural area. They always welcome new members, so I would encourage you to get involved.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

We're all invited to the World's Biggest Coffee Morning

Macmillan’s annual ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ raises an incredible amount of money every year to support people facing cancer- last year the event raised over £27 million. The event has been running annually since 1990, and an amazing £200 million has been raised so far. On Friday 28th September, the Coffee Morning will be back, and people all over the UK are being invited to host their own Coffee Mornings, with guests donating the cost of their cup of tea, coffee and cakes to Macmillan. 

We all know someone who has been affected by cancer, so the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ is a fantastic opportunity for us all to help raise money for a wonderful cause. Whether you want to host your own Coffee Morning or go along to one yourself, the link below has all the information you need-

Friday, 20 July 2018

Totally unacceptable! New overnight closure at Hexham Hospital

This is not acceptable. It is not a funding issue, but one of planning. We funded and organised a further sixty nurses when this problem previously occurred.

I will be speaking urgently to the Chief Executive of the trust, Jim Mackey. I expect the trust to sort this out far more quickly than the proposed timeline. 

I spent nine months persuading the trust to change their mind and re-open overnight care at Hexham General Hospital. This is only a temporary setback which I know we will eventually resolve.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Welcome news for motorists

I am so pleased to hear the news that plans to improve the A69 between Newcastle and Carlisle have taken the next steps. The £30 million plans, funded by the Government and from a Highways England pot to reduce congestion, will upgrade, improve and ultimately fully dual the A69, cutting journey times and improve safety for motorists. Drivers will be able to skip two roundabouts on the route between Newcastle and Carlisle to create 18 miles of uninterrupted dual carriageway. Work is set to start in March 2019 and will be finished by March 2020. 

Two public drop-in events will be held next for local communities to find out more about the plans, and I would encourage you to go along if you have any questions about the work- 
·     Newton and Bywell Community Hall- 9am-7pm, 14th August
·     Acomb Village Hall, 9am-7pm, 15th August

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Countryside Safari- right on your doorstep!

The summer holidays are nearly here, and if you’re looking for something to do with the family, the National Farmers’ Union has just the thing for you. You can download your free Countryside Safari activity sheet, designed to get children out and about in your local area and to show just how much there is to find in the countryside around your home. The countryside is an incredibly important part life in Northumberland- what better way to spend time this summer than by exploring it!  

You can download your activity sheet here- https://www.countrysideonline.co.uk/assets/108870

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Operation ReCraft's big idea

It is always great to see young people taking the initiative to protect our planet, so I was delighted to welcome pupils from Corbridge Middle School to Parliament recently. Izzy, Christina, Calum, Henry and Alfie make up ‘Operation ReCraft’, and competed in the national finals of the Solutions for the Planet Big Ideas competition. The team’s idea to help the planet is to run a sculpture competition in schools using waste materials, something they have already done in their own school. They really impressed the judges, coming first in the regional final, and it was great to meet the team before the national final began.

Corbridge Middle School is doing really fantastic work to work together to protect our planet, recently winning ‘Most innovative school recycling project’ at the LOVE Northumberland Awards. Well done to everyone involved- they are a brilliant example to all of us.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Football's coming home to Haltwhistle

The World Cup is over but the football is only just getting started in Haltwhistle. The Haltwhistle Jubilee football club’s new home ground was officially opened recently, and I was pleased to be able to go along and see this fantastic new facility for myself. Work has been going on for years, with the pitch resurfaced and drainage improved on the site, while the pavilion and changing rooms have also been renovated. Northumberland County Council and local councillor Ian Hutchinson provided funding. The ground looks amazing and I have no doubt that the club will benefit hugely from this brilliant facility. I am delighted that after so many years of hard work and effort by Malcolm Hind, Cameron Bell, the late Vic Fleming and many others- not least Councillor Hutchinson- Haltwhistle has a football pitch and changing facilities that it can be proud of. Here’s to many more years of successful football in the town.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

A perfect Sunday afternoon

The beautiful weather continues, and what better way to make the most of the summer than by spending the day in a wonderful country garden. Next Sunday (22ndJuly) from 11am-4.30pm, Eland Green Farm is opening up its garden in aid of the British Red Cross. The two-acre garden includes lawns, herbaceous shrubs and trees, making it a glorious place to spend a Sunday afternoon, with a bookstall provided by Ponteland Lions and afternoon teas available as well. Entrance is £4 for adults and £1 for children. A great way to raise money for a brilliant charity- you can find out more here: 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

A Nation's Thank You- The People's Procession

This year marks the centenary of the Armistice to end World War One, and descendants, family members and the public are invited to apply to take part in ‘A Nation’s Thank You- The People’s Procession’. On Sunday 11thNovember 2018 ten thousand members of the public will be invited to march past the Cenotaph to mark the centenary of the Armistice, and the ballot has now been launched for members of the public to apply. For more information about the procession and how you can enter the ballot, visit here- https://armistice100.org.uk

The government, supported by the German government, is also inviting nations to participate in international bell ringing to replicate the national outpouring of relief that took place at the end of the war. As news of the Armistice spread, church bells, which had fallen silent across the UK during the First World War, rang out in celebration. 

The 11thNovember will be a very special opportunity to show our appreciation for the generation who gave so much to secure this hard fought victory. There will be so many events taking place to mark the centenary of the Armistice, and I would encourage everyone, whatever their connection to the War, to apply to participate in the People’s Procession and join in with the bell-ringing programme to help us mark this historic occasion.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Celebrate your local high street

The Great British High Street Awards celebrate the best high streets across the country and champion ‘Rising Stars’- the most ambitious high streets which are working to revive, adapt and diversify. The awards are run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and are sponsored by Visa, to recognise local achievements on our high streets and support the communities they serve. High streets are eligible to win up to £10,000 for their local community, and entries are now open to nominate your high street in the GBHS Awards. 

If you are a representative of one of the following, you can enter your high street here- https://thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk/high-street-of-the-year-awards/register
  • Business Improvement District
  • Local Authority
  • Parish Council
  • Town Team
  • Coastal Community Team
  • Town Centre Partnership
  • Community Interest Company
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Trading Association
 If you are a member of the public and would like to enter your high street into the awards, then get in touch with your local authority to encourage the council to enter on behalf of your community.
 Entries close at 23.59 on 22nd August 2018.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Produced locally, sold locally

One of Northumberland’s best Farmers’ Markets is taking place this weekend. Saturday 14th July sees the return of the Hexham Farmers’ Market, taking place in the town’s historic Market Place from 9am-3pm. Local farmers and producers will be there with a fantastic variety of high quality, locally produced products. The Market is a great opportunity to meet and support our local businesses and producers- it’s definitely worth a visit. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The thwack of ball on willow

There aren’t many better ways to spend a Sunday than with a game of cricket, and that’s exactly what I was able to do last weekend, after being invited to take part in the Newton Village Cricket Match in aid of the St James’ Church bell appeal, Chance to Shine, encouraging children to play cricket in schools, and Wecan, providing support for children and young people with disabilities, additional and complex needs. The match was between Newton Village Cricket Club and the Newton Village All-Stars, with the winning team awarded the Taylor Trophy, kindly sponsored by Bob Taylor. Unfortunately my team- the Newton Village All-Stars- didn’t win, but it was a really great day in the sunshine, with an amazing £328 raised from the raffle, as well as Bob's incredibly generous sponsorship. Well done to everyone who took part and made it such a successful day. 



Monday, 9 July 2018

Success at Tyne Green

After the devastation caused by the floods in December 2015 which affected so many people in the Hexham area, I was so pleased to be able to visit the completed flood defence at Tyne Green, recently completed to protect local homes from future flooding. Construction started last month on the project, which was funded by residents who pooled the individual grants they received following the 2015 floods. A thank you event is scheduled to take place later this summer. 

I am delighted that the campaign for flood prevention on Tyne Green has finally come to fruition, after many delays and struggles along the way. I would like to thank the Environment Agency, as well as Northumberland County Council, Northumbrian Water and Network Rail, who have all helped to make this happen. It is so important that residents have this reassurance that they are prepared for the next time we are faced with floods, and so well done to everyone who has been a part of this brilliant campaign.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The perfect finish to a memorable weekend

What a day yesterday was! I had a great time attending the launch of the Great Northumberland programme, and then I was of course delighted to see the England team progress to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Huge congratulations to Gareth Southgate and his team.

The weekend is not over yet though, so if you’re planning a day out in the sun today, why not go along to Newbrough Hall. From 2pm-6pm today they are holding an open garden event in aid of the British Red Cross. Admittance is £5, and as well as having the chance to look around the beautiful gardens, there will also be a plant stall and refreshments. A perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon- and all for a very good cause. 


Saturday, 7 July 2018

A fun-filled Saturday ahead!

The sun is already out and it looks like being another fantastic Saturday in the Hexham constituency- with England’s big game, the launch of Great Northumberland in Hexham, and a whole host of other events making the most of the great weather. 

I will be attending Great Northumberland’s launch later, as well as the Matfen Fete, which takes place from 1pm today. With music, a barbecue, attractions, Matfen’s famous duck race, and the football on in the Black Bull and the Village Hall, the ingredients are all there for a brilliant day in the sun. I look forward to seeing lots of you there.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Celebrating democracy

National Democracy Week is coming to an end, marking the 90thanniversary of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act, which gave women the same voting rights as men. The event is a week-long celebration of democracy in society, which aims to encourage democratic participation and emphasise the fact that every single voice matters, and events have been taking place around the country this week with this in mind. 

Involvement in our democracy goes beyond this week however, and I would encourage you to get involved, whether it is on a local level with your Parish Council, or nationally about issues you are passionate about. Every member of society should have the chance to participate in our democracy and to have their say, and this week is the perfect time to celebrate our democracy and get involved. 

Thursday, 5 July 2018

I owe our NHS an incredible debt, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to pay it back

As a steeplechase jockey, I was crushed by a falling horse at Stratford races. My entire left side was staved in, giving me 14 broken ribs, a kidney cut in half, a perforated spleen and a pneumothorax – when you pop a rib through your lungs. I was incredibly lucky to survive, and it is thanks to my consultant, Dr Mike Stellakis of Warwick Hospital, that I did. 

Once retired as a jockey, I was elected to be the Member of Parliament for Hexham in 2010. One year later, I was very busy, but 45, fit and in good health. I collapsed in the House of Commons and was taken to hospital for brain scan, where I was told I had a brain tumour the size of a woman’s fist. I had a meningioma – a slow growing tumour that starts just inside your skull and presses down upon the brain. 

My NHS surgeon was the amazing Dr Neil Kitchen. He performed 2 incredibly complex operations – a cerebral angiogram and embolization of the tumour, followed by a craniotomy, where he opened my skull with a circular saw – of the medical kind – and cut the tumour out. He then stapled my head back together. As a result, I have a big horseshoe shaped scar on my left side behind my hairline. 

I have to thank the doctors, nurses and physios who got me well and back to work as an MP. It is right that we recognise their enduring contribution to the quality of NHS care. And after a long campaign, I was delighted that this government was able to award wage rises of at least 6.5 percent for more than 1 million NHS workers in England earlier this year, and increase the NHS budget by £20 billion. 

Illness brings perspective, and having been seriously ill with a potentially life threatening brain tumour, I resolved to campaign and fundraise for the NHS locally, and nationally, from political activism to charity hikes. Happy Birthday NHS! 

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Supporting Farming in the Commons and debating Health and Harmony

I recently joined farmers and NGOs to celebrate sustainable farming across the UK at a Farmers’ Market event in parliament.

The event was really well attended with cross-party support from more than 60 MPs and Peers. It showcased nature-friendly UK farming produce, discussed the links to the environment and the future of farming - and demonstrated consensus on the need for a strong Agriculture Bill which enables us to use public money to help farmers, and at the same time to enhance and protect the environment. 

In February the Government announced a consultation on radical recommendations to change farming policy and make it more environmentally friendly and sustainable- including putting improving nature at the heart of farming subsidies. That consultation - Health and Harmony is found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/684003/future-farming-environment-consult-document.pdf
It is well worth a read. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Bowled over by Allendale's success

I am passionate about cricket, and as a member of Allendale Cricket Club it is brilliant to see the club going from strength to strength. Four years ago Allendale Cricket Club nearly folded, with its only team sitting at the bottom of the West Tyne League and the ground in a really bad state. Now, after a remarkable effort from everyone at the club, the first team are the current holders of both the League and the T20 Cup, junior talent from the local area is coming through, and they are one of only thirteen clubs in Northumberland to have entered a team in the Northumberland Women’s League. 

The Club is now focusing on its junior cricket, and have been working closely with local schools, sports and activity clubs and running taster sessions. They have also been running the Allendale All-stars course for 5-8 year olds, designed by the ECB to offer training to junior cricketers. 

It’s great to see so many people getting involved at Allendale, and that the hard work of everyone at the club is really paying off. If, like me, you are a cricket fan, why not get involved? 

Monday, 2 July 2018

Electric charging points- we're leading the way

The Department for Transport recently released data on electric car charging points in Northumberland, illustrating the number of charge points, when people charge vehicles and the most used charging points. The data shows that charging points in Northumberland are the most used in the country- more than 33,000 times. 

This is really positive news for Northumberland, showing that we are leading the way in the UK in the use of electric charging points. The full report is available below- 

The following website contains a list of charge points in the Hexham area-

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Great Exhibition... great events coming up

The Great Exhibition of the North is now well under way- here are just some of the things to see and do over the next couple of months:

Which Way North Exhibition- an exhibition of the North’s revolutionary past including the work of inventors, scientists, designers and artists, from Helen Sharman’s space suit to the last piano played by John Lennon. I went to a preview of the exhibition recently, and I certainly recommend a visit.

The Northern Design Quest- a design trail that takes you through the creative processes behind iconic Northern products- Joseph Swan’s lighbulb and Meccano to name just a few. The trail starts at the Great North Museum and takes place across several venues, including Newcastle City Library and the Northern Design Centre- and it’s completely free.

Idea of North- the Baltic’s exploration of northern identities through a series of pavilions, architectural constructions and guest-curated displays. A highlight is a collection representing women and girls in the North East from the 1970s to the present.

The Worker’s Maypole- Grey’s Monument has been transformed into a colourful maypole in celebration of the collective values of the North. 

The Rocket Reimagined- a particular highlight for me and many others, Robert Stephenson’s Rocket is at the Discovery Museum, and thanks to virtual reality you can go back to the early steam age and see the iconic locomotive in its birthplace.