Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Friendship Dogs- bringing smiles and melting hearts

I recently popped in to Acomb Court Care Home in Hexham where residents were being treated to one of their regular visits from two of WAG and Company's Friendship Dogs. Cassie and Tattie (and their owners Audrey and Judy) call in to Acomb Court every week with a view to offering comfort, laughter and to rekindle memories of times past for those who are no longer able to have a pet themselves. WAG aims to reduce loneliness in older dog lovers in the North East and to ensure that no older person misses friendship and the company of a dog.

WAG and Company North East Friendship Dogs was launched in May 2016 to enable volunteers and their dogs to visit older dog lovers in their own homes or in care and medical establishments across the North East. It is so moving to see the interaction between the residents and the dogs, and it is fantastic that Acomb Court hosts these wonderful visits which are having such a positive impact for older people in addressing feelings of loneliness and isolation. They have my full support.

WAG and Company is holding a fundraising sponsored walk at Kielder on 28th September 2019. If you would like to get involved you can find out more and register here-

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Kielder's osprey chicks are flying the flag for Northumberland

Locations around Northumberland have been given a great honour as the eleven new osprey chicks born this year at Kielder have been named after famous Northumberland places. The chicks’ names include Corbridge, Chesters, Cragside and Coquet. It is great to hear that the chicks are doing well and continuing to thrive!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Boris Johnson's first speech on the steps of Downing Street - positive, optimistic and aspirational

This afternoon, our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered Number 10. His first speech on steps of Downing Street was positive, optimistic and aspirational for all of the UK. Boris has my full support and I look forward to working with him.

You can read a full transcript of Boris' speech below, or watch the video.

Good afternoon.

I have just been to see Her Majesty the Queen who has invited me to form a government and I have accepted.

I pay tribute to the fortitude and patience of my predecessor and her deep sense of public service.

But in spite of all her efforts, it has become clear that there are pessimists at home and abroad who think that after three years of indecision, that this country has become a prisoner to the old arguments of 2016 and that in this home of democracy we are incapable of honouring a basic democratic mandate.

And so I am standing before you today to tell you, the British people, that those critics are wrong.

The doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters – they are going to get it wrong again.

The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts, because we are going to restore trust in our democracy and we are going to fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts.

And we will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximise the opportunities of Brexit while allowing us to develop a new and exciting partnership with the rest of Europe, based on free trade and mutual support.

I have every confidence that in 99 days' time we will have cracked it. But you know what - we aren't going to wait 99 days, because the British people have had enough of waiting.

The time has come to act, to take decisions, to give strong leadership and to change this country for the better.

And though the Queen has just honoured me with this extraordinary office of state my job is to serve you, the people.

Because if there is one point we politicians need to remember, it is that the people are our bosses.

My job is to make your streets safer - and we are going to begin with another 20,000 police on the streets and we start recruiting forthwith.

My job is to make sure you don't have to wait 3 weeks to see your GP - and we start work this week, with 20 new hospital upgrades, and ensuring that money for the NHS really does get to the front line.

My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care.

And so I am announcing now - on the steps of Downing Street - that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.

My job is to make sure your kids get a superb education, wherever they are in the country - and that's why we have already announced that we are going to level up per pupil funding in primary and secondary schools.

And that is the work that begins immediately behind that black door.

And though I am today building a great team of men and women, I will take personal responsibility for the change I want to see.

Never mind the backstop – the buck stops here.

And I will tell you something else about my job. It is to be prime minister of the whole United Kingdom.

And that means uniting our country, answering at last the plea of the forgotten people and the left-behind towns by physically and literally renewing the ties that bind us together.

So that with safer streets and better education and fantastic new road and rail infrastructure and full fibre broadband we level up across Britain with higher wages, and a higher living wage, and higher productivity.

We close the opportunity gap, giving millions of young people the chance to own their own homes and giving business the confidence to invest across the UK.

Because it is time we unleashed the productive power not just of London and the South East, but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The awesome foursome that are incarnated in that red, white, and blue flag - who together are so much more than the sum of their parts, and whose brand and political personality is admired and even loved around the world.

For our inventiveness, for our humour, for our universities, our scientists, our armed forces, our diplomacy for the equalities on which we insist - whether race or gender or LGBT or the right of every girl in the world to 12 years of quality education - and for the values we stand for around the world

Everyone knows the values that flag represents.

It stands for freedom and free speech and habeas corpus and the rule of law, and above all it stands for democracy.

And that is why we will come out of the EU on October 31.

Because in the end, Brexit was a fundamental decision by the British people that they wanted their laws made by people that they can elect and they can remove from office.

And we must now respect that decision, and create a new partnership with our European friends - as warm and as close and as affectionate as possible.

And the first step is to repeat unequivocally our guarantee to the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us, and I say directly to you - thank you for your contribution to our society.

Thank you for your patience, and I can assure you that under this government you will get the absolute certainty of the rights to live and remain.

And next I say to our friends in Ireland, and in Brussels and around the EU: I am convinced that we can do a deal without checks at the Irish border, because we refuse under any circumstances to have such checks and yet without that anti-democratic backstop.

And it is of course vital at the same time that we prepare for the remote possibility that Brussels refuses any further to negotiate, and we are forced to come out with no deal, not because we want that outcome – of course not – but because it is only common sense to prepare.

And let me stress that there is a vital sense in which those preparations cannot be wasted, and that is because under any circumstances we will need to get ready at some point in the near future to come out of the EU customs union and out of regulatory control, fully determined at last to take advantage of Brexit.

Because that is the course on which this country is now set.

With high hearts and growing confidence, we will now accelerate the work of getting ready.

And the ports will be ready and the banks will be ready, and the factories will be ready, and business will be ready, and the hospitals will be ready, and our amazing food and farming sector will be ready and waiting to continue selling ever more, not just here but around the world.

And don't forget that in the event of a no deal outcome, we will have the extra lubrication of the £39 billion, and whatever deal we do we will prepare this autumn for an economic package to boost British business and to lengthen this country's lead as the number one destination in this continent for overseas investment.

And to all those who continue to prophesy disaster, I say yes - there will be difficulties, though I believe that with energy and application they will be far less serious than some have claimed.

But if there is one thing that has really sapped the confidence of business over the last three years, it is not the decisions we have taken - it is our refusal to take decisions.

And to all those who say we cannot be ready, I say do not underestimate this country.

Do not underestimate our powers of organisation and our determination, because we know the enormous strengths of this economy in life sciences, in tech, in academia, in music, the arts, culture, financial services.

It is here in Britain that we are using gene therapy, for the first time, to treat the most common form of blindness.

Here in Britain that we are leading the world in the battery technology that will help cut CO2 and tackle climate change and produce green jobs for the next generation.

And as we prepare for a post-Brexit future, it is time we looked not at the risks but at the opportunities that are upon us.

So let us begin work now to create free ports that will drive growth and thousands of high-skilled jobs in left-behind areas.

Let's start now to liberate the UK's extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules, and let's develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.

Let's get going now on our own position navigation and timing satellite and earth observation systems – UK assets orbiting in space, with all the long term strategic and commercial benefits for this country.

Let's change the tax rules to provide extra incentives to invest in capital and research.

And let's promote the welfare of animals that has always been so close to the hearts of the British people.

And yes, let's start now on those free trade deals – because it is free trade that has done more than anything else to lift billions out of poverty.

All this and more we can do now and only now, at this extraordinary moment in our history.

And after three years of unfounded self-doubt, it is time to change the record.

To recover our natural and historic role as an enterprising, outward-looking and truly global Britain, generous in temper and engaged with the world.

No one in the last few centuries has succeeded in betting against the pluck and nerve and ambition of this country.

They will not succeed today.

We in this government will work flat out to give this country the leadership it deserves, and that work begins now.

Thank you very much.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Boris Johnson is our new Conservative Party leader and will be our next Prime Minister

I congratulate Boris Johnson on being elected leader of the Conservative Party and on becoming our new Prime Minister - he has my full support and I look forward to working with him. Throughout the leadership campaign both candidates have demonstrated their qualities and strengths and I hope that Jeremy will continue to play a significant role in Government. I also congratulate Jo Swinson on her election.

We will see this week that the media focus will quickly shift to the new PM in No.10, but I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Theresa May and acknowledge her outstanding public service as Prime Minister. Her tenure in Downing Street has coincided with one of the most tumultuous and complex periods in recent British political history and she has carried out her duties with great diligence and dignity, always seeking to do what is in the best interests of the country.

It remains my strong conviction that we must deliver on the Brexit referendum result - to bypass the largest single democratic event in my life time would be to trample on the foundations of our democracy.  Now is the time for the Conservative Party, and indeed Parliament, to unite in order to deliver a Brexit that is timely and workable and to support a settlement that offers our country a strong and positive platform on which to build our future relationship with the EU and the rest of world.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Hexham's cycling jersey champions!

Congratulations to our local winners of Northumberland County Council’s competition to design a Northumberland-themed cycling jersey for the upcoming Tour of Britain cycle race. 

It is fantastic to see some Hexham constituency schools featured in the list of winners- Broomhaugh C of E First School, Wylam First School, Hexham Middle School and Prudhoe Community High School all feature in the winners’ list. 

A special congratulations have to go to Broomhaugh First School Year 4 pupil Adam Symes, who’s Hadrian’s Wall under the stars design was named as the winner in the Reception to Year 4 category.

The Tour of Britain will be visiting Northumberland in September, starting in Berwick, heading along the Northumberland coast, before traveling into North Tyneside and finishing on Grey Street in Newcastle city centre. The race will be broadcast to 166 countries, and really will be an incredible opportunity to showcase our wonderful region.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Supporting more forestry in Northumberland!

L-R Sir William Worsley, David Rutley MP, Myself and John Paterson, Director of Forestry at EGGER
It was great to welcome Forestry Minister David Rutley to Egger in Hexham yesterday, along with the government's recently reappointed Tree Champion, Sir William Worsley who is driving forward a massive tree planting strategy.

Egger provides over 650 jobs Hexham. It is the largest private sector employer in Northumberland, and undoubtedly one of the best. Everyone who works at Egger is extremely proud of this family owned business.

Forestry Minister David Rutley was in Northumberland for a tour of Egger's factory, to meet many of the company's employers. He also convened a roundtable on forestry industry opportunities, challenges, an action plan for the way ahead and to discuss how DEFRA can work with us locally to get more trees planted. We need to get everyone, from the County Council to Northumberland National Park, the North of Tyne Combined Authority, and Forestry England to work together.

As Northumberland's biggest employer, Egger is vitally important to our community. But we need to continue planting more trees so they can continue to provide well paid jobs. At a time when we are facing a Climate Emergency, it's a win win.

Ranger School at The Sill!

The school holidays are here, and The Sill has a unique opportunity for 11-14 year olds this summer!

The Sill’s Ranger School is running from Tuesday 30th July- Friday 2nd August. Children will have the chance to work with Northumberland National Park Rangers on a variety of tasks, including conservation activities, mammal monitoring and navigation skills to find out what it takes to look after some of the UK’s most protected landscapes.

You can book a place at Ranger School now- if you book all four days an additional session on Monday 29th July is free!

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Net zero by 2050

Each and every one of us has a part to play in fighting climate change, so I am delighted to hear that one of the UK’s major energy suppliers, E.ON, is now providing its customers across Britain with a 100% renewable electricity supply at no extra cost.  

Last month the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels. We have already reduced emissions by 42% but there is still work to be done, and it is great to see major energy suppliers like E.ON leading the way in achieving net zero emissions. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Falstone Open Gardens

This Sunday the village of Falstone is coming together to raise money for some great causes. Falstone Open Gardens is taking place on Sunday 21st July from 1.30-5pm. Entry is £5 with under 5s going free. Meanwhile at Falstone Village Hall there will also be afternoon tea, a plant stall, a raffle and a quiz.

The afternoon is set to raise money for Maggie's Cancer Care and the Freeman Heart and Lung Transplant Association, two causes which provide vital care for local people. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon while raising money for a worthwhile cause.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Carnival Day in Haltwhistle

Today is Carnival Day in Haltwhistle, with the famous annual procession of floats departing Haltwhistle Fire Station at 12pm, led by the City of Newcastle Pipe Band. Meanwhile, there will be a ukulele band at the Market Place from noon, as well as live music from Diablo, a fancy dress competition, donkey rides, vintage vehicles, a fun fair, stalls, a beer tent, children's crafts and so much more!

The Haltwhistle Carnival is one of the highlights of the year in the town- don't miss out on the fun!

Friday, 12 July 2019

Support our fantastic local producers tomorrow!

Hexham's fantastic Farmers Market takes place tomorrow between 9:30am and 1:30pm. There are so many local producers, from the Northumberland Cheese Company based in Ponteland, to Muckle brewing based near Haltwhistle.

All producers come within a 50 mile range of Hexham and products use a high percentage of locally produced ingredients. The Hexham Farmers Market takes place every second and fourth Saturday of the month, with the next one taking place tomorrow. Make sure you pop down and support our fantastic local producers.

Find out more at

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Vote Northumberland!

Following last year's success at the British Travel Awards, where Northumberland was named 'Best UK Holiday Destination/County 2018', Northumberland is this year in the running to retain its title. We all know how lucky we are to live in such a stunning county, with castles, beaches, Hadrian's Wall and a National Park, and a second year of success at the British Travel Awards would give our region's tourism and economy a significant boost.

You can help Northumberland to retain its crown as the UK's best holiday destination/county by voting at

Monday, 8 July 2019

LOVE Northumberland

The LOVE Northumberland awards celebrate projects and initiatives which improve local areas and neighbourhoods for the benefit of the local community, and entries for the awards have now opened.

Entries can be made into a variety of categories; best children’s project, best young people’s project, best urban project, best coast or countryside project, best new project, best school recycling project, and an award for an outstanding individual. The awards will be presented by the Duchess of Northumberland at Alnwick Garden in September.

The closing date for entries is Friday 2nd August. To enter go to You can also email or phone o1670 622992. 

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Get designing for the Tour of Britain

The Tour of Britain is coming to Northumberland in September, and school children are being invited to take part in a competition to design a Northumberland-themed cycling jersey. A cycling jersey is a specially designed T-shirt which is made from synthetic material to keep the cyclist cool. The jersey might also include a design or colours which show which team the rider is a part of. The winning design will printed, framed and presented to the child’s school, and there are three age categories- Reception to Year 4, Year 5-8 and Year 9 onwards. A prize of £10,000 will be shared among the winning schools to be spent on sporting activities and school trips.   

The closing date for the competition is 15th July. For more information visit

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Fentimans- a company to inspire

I was delighted to hear that local Hexham business, Fentimans, has been included as one of the London Stock Exchange Group’s flagship ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’ 2019. The publication profiles the 1000 most dynamic and fastest growing SMEs across the UK. 

SMEs are such an important part of our economy, driving jobs and growth. Fentimans is just one example of the many brilliant businesses we are proud to be home to in the Hexham constituency, and I hope that their inclusion on this list will generate much positive publicity for Fentimans. 

To whom does our life belong? I believe that the law on assisted dying needs to change.

Later today, the House of Commons will debate assisted dying. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend due to long-standing commitments in Hexham.

However - I am clear that we need to change the law in favour of assisted dying. It is right that this is an unwhipped free vote. Many MP colleagues have legitimate reasons to oppose, and it is a matter that will divide the House of Commons. If you want to know my views on free vote issues, from gay marriage to stem cell research click here.

Many people will remember Geraldine McClelland - the former BBC TV producer and a founding member of Newcastle's Live theatre. After an unsuccessful battle with cancer, Geraldine took her life at Dignitas in Switzerland. Before her death, she made the case for change by saying: “I am not sad that I will die today. I am angry that I can't die in the country I was born in, in my own home."

As her good friend Nick Ross, the former BBC 'Crimewatch' presenter said “Gerry had to abandon her home and be driven across Europe…to end her life in a light commercial estate in an impersonal Swiss suburb.”
The tragedy is that we effectively now have one law for the rich, and one for the poor. It cannot be right that those who need our support most, at the end of their lives, live in fear and uncertainty of how or where their last moments will be, and whether their loved ones will face prosecution after they are gone.

It seems to me manifestly wrong that individual members of the public do not have the choice and are prevented by law from doing something in this country that they are able to go and do legally at Dignitas in Switzerland. How can it be fair that wealth determines dignity in death? Where those rich enough are afforded a death in a manner they choose and yet those who are too poor to escape are locked in the system and have no rights over the ending of their own life?

Fundamentally, the heart of this debate centres on one question: to whom does a person's life belong. I suggest that a person's life belongs to the individual themselves. It should be for those who are not as lucky as I was to make their choices about how they live, and if required, how they end their own lives. This is a transfer of power from the state to the individual, who is then free to choose, subject to very strict safeguards.

Every patient has the right to life, but they also have the right to personal autonomy and dignity. When a patient’s condition has no cure, and death is a certainty, there must be a point where the individual has a right to end their own suffering.

One of the central arguments against assisted dying is that it would lead to a slippery slope.

However, assisted dying will not lead to more deaths, but to less suffering. Safeguards are essential and nobody disagrees with that. Those that argue safeguards do not work, or that it is not possible, should look to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. In place for 17 years, it enables someone who is terminally ill to request the option of an assisted death. There has been no evidence of abuse since its inception. Further to that, around 40% of dying people who meet the strict safeguards to obtain life-ending medication never use it, simply taking comfort from having the option.

This topic is personal to me. During the Budget debate in 2011, I collapsed in the Central Lobby of the House of Commons. It was not George Osborne's Budget that made me ill, but a tumour the size of a small fist in the left part of my brain. I was rushed to St Thomas's hospital in central London where an A&E doctor advised me that I required a craniotomy to remove the meningioma from my brain.

It was an extremely frighting experience. I was advised to the likelihood of death, paralysis, loss of speech, and so much more. I was one of the lucky ones who survived with few scars. However, many of my fellow patients who I met during my treatment were not so lucky. To deny a dignified death to those who are suffering during the last weeks of their life seems manifestly unfair to me.

I have no doubt that eventually the law will change in the UK - as it is changing elsewhere. I vividly remember walking through the voting lobby in the House of Commons with Ed Miliband, discussing how it requires leaders of medics, churches and our communities to see things differently.

Watch my speech from the House of Commons in 2012

I come back to a simple issue which, I suggest, is at the heart of the entire debate over assisted dying: to whom does a person’s life belong? I suggest that a person’s life belongs to the individual themselves. It is for those who are not as lucky as I was to make their choices about how they live their lives. That somebody cannot take those choices does not mean that MP's in Parliament should deny them of any choice. It upsets me tremendously that the state prescribes that it knows best. It cannot be right that individual members of the public are prevented from doing something in this country that they are able to go and do at Dignitas in Switzerland, where they can die in the manner of their choosing.

UPDATE: The debate in the House of Commons has now taken place. You can read a transcript of everything that was spoken here, and watch the debate in here.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Support our small businesses

Small businesses are at the heart of our local communities, and with campaigns such as ‘Independents Day’ taking place this 4th July, there has never been a better time to get out and support the small, independent businesses in your local area. 

Independent businesses account for around 65% of the approximately 290,000 retail outlets in the UK. Research shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium sized business, 63p is re-spent in the local area compared with 40p in every £1 spent with a larger business. Supporting local businesses helps job creation and job retention and retains diversity, choice and character in local communities, so please do continue to support our fantastic small businesses.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Brocksbushes Summer Fayre

It's never to early to start making plans for the weekend! The Brocksbushes Summer Fayre takes place this weekend (Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th July)- entry and parking is free. As well as gifts, crafts and children's activities, the Fayre will also give you the chance to taste and buy delicious food products and delicacies. It sounds like a perfect way to spend a weekend!