Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Tier 4- what does it mean for Northumberland?

Following the Secretary of State for Health’s announcement earlier today, it has now been confirmed that Northumberland will enter Tier 4 restrictions from midnight tonight. Due to the rapidly rising infection rates in the west of the county, additional restrictions will now apply to residents and businesses in Northumberland in order to reduce physical contact and slow down the spread of the coronavirus.


The following restrictions now apply in Northumberland:


Meeting friends and family- You cannot mix with other households, unless you are part of a support bubble. Two people from separate households can meet outdoors in a public space.


Retail- Essential shops can remain open, however non-essential retail must close, except for click-and-collect and delivery services.


Bars, pubs and restaurants- Hospitality will remain closed, although takeaway and delivery sales are permitted.


Work and business- If you can work from home, you must do so.


Education- Early years settings, schools, colleges and universities will remain open. Registered childcare, supervised activities for childcare purposes and childcare bubbles are permitted.


Indoor leisure- closed.

Personal care- closed.

Accommodation- closed (with limited exceptions).


Overnight stays- You must not stay overnight away from home (limited exceptions apply).


Weddings and funerals- Weddings of up to 6 people can take place in exceptional circumstances. Funerals of up to 30 people are permitted, and wakes and other linked ceremonial events can continue in groups of up to 6.


Entertainment- Indoor entertainment must close, but some outdoor attractions may remain open.


Places of worship- Places of worship remain open for private prayer and communal worship, but you cannot interact with anyone outside your household or support bubble.


Exercise- You can leave your home to exercise by yourself, with your household or support bubble, or with one person from another household. Outdoor sport is allowed but gathering limits apply except for youth and disabled sport.


Travelling- You must only travel for work, education or other legally permitted reasons. If you must travel, you should stay local and reduce the number of journeys you make. You must not leave a Tier 4 area or stay overnight away from home. Residents in Tiers 1-3 should not enter Tier 4 areas. Do not travel abroad unless an exemption applies.


Residential care- You can visit relatives in care homes with COVID-secure arrangements.


Clinically Extremely Vulnerable- If you are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, you are advised to stay at home as much as possible, except to go outdoors for exercise or to attend health appointments.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Hexham Old Gaol awarded Art Fund grant

The Hexham Old Gaol is one of Hexham’s most impressive and historic landmarks. and the museum has always been popular with visitors both locally and from further afield. 

I am therefore delighted by the news that the Hexham Old Gaol has been awarded a Respond and Reimagine grant from Art Fund, the national charity for art.

The Respond and Reimagine grant is part of Art Fund’s dedicated Covid-19 support fund for museums and galleries and is designed to help some of the country’s best and most imaginative museums and galleries to adapt to the challenges of Covid-19. Art Fund has made over £3 million of funding available to help museums reimagine future ways of working.


Museums and galleries are such important aspects of our communities and economies, and I know how challenging this year has been for our local museums. Congratulations to Hexham Old Gaol on being awarded this funding- it is fantastic news for one of Hexham’s best-loved museums. 

Thursday, 24 December 2020

🇬🇧 Trade deal secured with the EU!

Very good news this evening as the Prime Minister announced we have secured a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union after months of tough negotiations. 

Huge credit should go to the PM, Michael Gove and the UK's Chief Negotiator, David Frost for securing a deal in record time. 

This is the biggest bilateral trade deal ever signed, worth over £600bn. It means a new relationship with our friends and allies in the European Union. 

It means:
  • No role for the European Court of Justice and no requirement to follow EU law
  • A zero tariff and zero quota arrangement
  • Recognition of the UK’s sovereignty over our fishing waters
  • Britain outside the Single Market and Customs Union
  • Co-operation on law enforcement and emerging security challenges
  • Protections for the UK’s internal market and Northern Ireland's place within it
Now it is time for us all to move forward. Together. You can read the PM's full statement here.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Introducing my 2020 Christmas Card!

This Christmas, I asked Year 3 pupils across the Hexham constituency to wow me with their creative designs to feature on the front of my 2020 Christmas card. I was delighted to receive more than 100 entries and was so impressed with their incredible efforts!

Choosing a winner was extremely difficult, but I am pleased to announce that Sofia Robson, a Year 3 pupil at Heddon-on-the-Wall St Andrew's Primary School, is the winner of my 2020 Christmas Card competition. Sofia's fantastic snowman design really stood out for its colourful, festive design! Well done Sofia!

The winning design will be featured on the front of my Christmas card which will be sent all around the constituency, as well as to the Prime Minister.

There were so many great designs though, so I couldn't help but pick three runners-up as well! Congratulations to:

  • Daniel Steel, Adderlane Academy
  • Oliver Cape, Richard Coates C of E Primary School
  • Charles Amey, Whittonstall First School
A big thank you to all of the Hexham constituency's Year 3 pupils for their brilliant entries- I really enjoyed looking through your designs!

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

North East announced as the site of £2.6 billion gigaplant

The announcement that Britishvolt has chosen Blyth as the site of the UK's first ever battery gigaplant is incredibly positive news for our local area. The gigaplant will produce lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles and is expected to start manufacturing in 2023.

This investment is not only the largest in the North East since Nissan in 1984, but is actually one of the largest ever investments in the region. The project is expected to create 3000 local jobs, with up to 5000 more in the supply chain. 

By 2027, the plant is expected to produce 300,000 batteries a year as part of the UK's plans to move away from diesel and petrol cars in favour of electric vehicles.

I am delighted that Britishvolt has chosen the North East as the site for such an exciting project. This is a fantastic opportunity for our region and I have no doubt that this investment and the jobs it will create will be hugely positive for the Hexham constituency.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Small Business Saturday- celebrating our local small businesses

Today is Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to celebrating the brilliant small businesses in our local communities. And after what has been a challenging year for local businesses, this year's Small Business Saturday is especially significant.

This year, I have been running my Small Business Awards, and asked local residents across Tynedale and Ponteland to nominate local independent businesses that they felt deserve recognition for their hard-work, going above and beyond to serve their communities.

We received hundreds of nominations from across Tynedale and Ponteland, proving how valued and essential small businesses are to local residents. I am delighted to present those businesses with the most nominations with 'Highly Commended' certificates. These include:

  • Humble and Clark Legal
  • Balls Fish and Chips, Prudhoe
  • JA Stobo & Son, Wylam
  • North Acomb Farm Shop
  • Richard Skeet, Haltwhistle
  • Patricia J Arnold Chartered Accountants
In addition to the dozens of 'Highly Commended' businesses, we also have an overall winner. This year my Small Business Award winner is Billy Bell in Haltwhistle. Billy Bell is a hugely popular local business, and one of the oldest family-run businesses in Haltwhistle- a very worthy winner!

This has been a really tough year for our local businesses. The Coronavirus pandemic has hit them hard and they have had to work incredibly hard to adapt to new challenges, whilst also going the extra mile to support the most vulnerable in their communities. That's why it is more important than ever that we do our bit and shop local, because if we don't use our local businesses, we will lose them. 

The government has provided unprecedented financial support to help businesses through this tough time. Across Tynedale and Ponteland, this means:

  • 9,800 jobs furloughed throughout 2020, helping to protect people's jobs and incomes during this difficult time. 
  • More than £7 million in support for the self-employed
  • More than £14 million in discounted loans for local businesses.
  • Over £50 million in Bounce Back Loans
  • VAT cuts and business rates holidays for many small businesses, including those in the hospitality and retail sectors.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Vaccines – why you should take one

Yesterday’s news that the PfizerBiontech vaccine has been authorised by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is extremely welcome and gives us serious hope of the return to normality. 

An estimated 800,000 doses are due to be delivered into the UK next week with first inoculations on Tuesday 8th December. The UK has ordered 40 million of this particular vaccine – enough to vaccinate 20 million people. Each patient requires two doses, 21 days apart.

Vaccines save lives. According to the World Health Organisation Immunisation currently prevents 2-3 million deaths every year from polio, mumps, hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza, measles and now Covid. Please take the vaccine and don’t listen to anti – vaxxers.

Pfizer and Biontech have concluded all three stages of their clinical trials and have been providing their safety data to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency throughout.

This is why the regulator has been able to work at breakneck speed. The safety of patients has not been compromised by speed. The MHRA started their preparation to approve the vaccines in June and has been examining the data tirelessly.

The MHRA is a trusted regulator. They played a huge part in authorising the use of dexamethasone to treat Covid patients in hospital, which has led to an improving survival rate of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19. 

Vaccine hesitancy is a real issue. But it is important we address people’s reasonable and key questions to persuade them to take the vaccine. I would urge everyone to watch Iain Dale's show on vaccines. It is informative and answers many of the legitimate concerns people may have. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have set out a plan to deploy the vaccine. The Government will prioritise vaccines to those who are most vulnerable first:

The UK has invested millions into research and development and has secured 357 million vaccine doses, which is amongst the highest per capita in the world.

A huge thanks to the Vaccine Taskforce, Matt Hancock and all at the Department for Health and Social Care for their tireless work to get us to this stage.

We can now see light at the end of the tunnel. We can all play our part by following the basics of hands, face and space. Have the jab. Save your life. Save other people’s lives.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Investing in education at Haltwhistle Primary School

The Hexham constituency is home to so many incredible schools, and I was pleased to recently be able to visit a great local school that is looking forward to a bright future.

Haltwhistle Primary School is currently undergoing a full multi-million pound refurbishment and I was delighted to be given a tour of the school by Headteacher Susie Drake and local County Councillor Ian Hutchinson to see for myself how the work is coming together. 


The school is part of the group of WISE Academies and is expected to open in Spring 2021. 


It was fantastic to see the impact of this significant investment in the education of our local children from Northumberland County Council. The new and improved facilities will make a huge difference not only for pupils and staff, but for the wider local community as well. The refurbishment really is progressing brilliantly and I was so impressed by what I saw. 


I have no doubt that Haltwhistle Primary School is set for a positive future! 

Friday, 27 November 2020

Tier 3 explained for Northumberland

Since news emerged yesterday that Northumberland will enter Tier 3 restrictions as we leave National Restrictions, I wanted to take a moment to set out some of the data and explain why this is the case.

Tier 3 is far short of the full National Restrictions we have recently experienced, and means:

  • You can leave home for any reason, and meet with up to six people in outdoor public spaces, such as parks, beaches and public gardens.
  • All non-essential shops can re-open.
  • Indoor leisure – such as gyms – can re-open.
  • Personal care – including the hair and beauty sector – can re-open.
  • Places of worship can re-open. 
However, as a result of our increased infection rates in Northumberland, there are a number of additional restrictions in place, and some businesses will be unfortunately unable to re-open at this time.
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants will remain closed, with the exception of for takeaway and delivery.
  • Group activities cannot take place in indoor leisure.
  • Hotels and self-catered accommodation will remain closed, except for those travelling for work.
  • Wedding receptions cannot take place, though weddings are permitted.
  • Indoor entertainment venues will remain closed.
I know how tough this is going to be – especially for the hospitality industry. We have already faced additional restrictions in Northumberland since the middle of September, and nobody wanted to see these restrictions last this long.

Infection rates in Northumberland and the Tyne Valley

Over the last few days, many people have asked me why we are being ‘lumped in’ with Newcastle, and other urban areas such as Gateshead. Many people have also told me that cases in Northumberland are lower than elsewhere, or that it is cases in Blyth and Ashington are dragging us into Tier 3.

Across the County, our cases per 100,000 sit at 189.8. A significant number of wards within the Hexham Constituency have higher or similar rates to this, as you can see from the chart below.


Although infection rates have fallen in recent days, we do have to face the fact that cases in Northumberland continue to be extremely high. The sad reality is that Northumberland would be in Tier 3 on its own infection rates, and rates in much of the Tyne Valley are similar to the rest of Northumberland.

Some have argued they would like to see specific wards removed from the restrictions. This would, however, be unworkable. We all travel across the Tyne Valley on a regular basis for shopping, education, work – and indeed, to socialise. There would be little to stop somebody from a high infection area (where pubs would be closed), visiting pubs in a low infection area (where they would be open).

This would be unfair on local residents and would simply not work. We could not put additional restrictions in place in Prudhoe, but not Wylam, for example.

Clearly if there was to be a massive, sustained difference between rural and urban areas, and it is workable, we may be able to take a super-localised approach. However, when this was tried in Nottinghamshire, it simply did not work. We are all looking at finding a way to get out of Tier 3, but most of all this relies upon people looking after themselves.

The World Health Organisation assesses that once cases hit more than 50 per 100,000, action needs to be taken. Over 80% of wards in the Hexham Constituency have case rates higher than this.

In addition, during the summer, travellers returning from countries with a positivity rate of more than 20 cases per 100,000 were required to self-isolate on arrival. All parts of the Hexham Constituency now have rates higher than this.

Hospital Capacity

When taking decisions about which Tier to place local areas in, infection rates are not the only measure used. Hospital capacity is also crucial.

Our Northumberland hospitals in Hexham and Haltwhistle are doing a great job. However, the most seriously ill patients require care the Northumbria NHS Trust's hospital in Cramlington. That is why it is important to look at the county-wide picture.

The NHS cannot become a National Covid Service. It has to be able to treat others too. From heart attacks, to cancer patients. Every critical care bed occupied by a COVID patient is another bed that cannot be used to treat others. By keeping our COVID numbers down, we can ensure those beds are there for others.

Support to protect people’s jobs, businesses and incomes.

As we are in Tier 3 restrictions, businesses will be eligible for additional financial support. Business properties forced to close will be eligible for cash grants of up to £3,000 per month based on their rateable value. Businesses adversely affected (such as B&B’s and hotels) will also be eligible for support.

The Furlough scheme will remain open until end the of March, paying 80% of people’s wages, up to £2,500 per month. A third grant for those who are self-employed will also open for applications from Monday.

Details of the all the financial support packages is available here.

How can we get out of Tier 3?

The question now is how can we get out of Tier 3 restrictions.

Infections are falling across Northumberland, and indeed across the country. The Tiered system will be reviewed every two weeks, with the first review taking place on December 16th.

I want us to return to Tier 2, but, put simply, that cannot happen unless our numbers fall. So we all need to play our part and follow the rules.

The future

There are reasons to be optimistic. Our cases in Northumberland have fallen by almost 20% in the last week. As a Tier 3 area, we will also now be eligible for mass Coronavirus testing.

This means that very soon, everybody locally will be tested, even if they don’t have coronavirus symptoms. This mass testing follows a successful trial in Liverpool, which has seen case numbers fall by 75% in the city. It is my hope that this scheme will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

There have been medical advancements too. From drugs like Dexamethasone – discovered by UK experts, to antibody cocktails – which begin clinical trials this weekend – which aim to protect those who may be unable to be given vaccines. We have three strong vaccine candidates in the pipeline – including a huge breakthrough this week from Oxford University - with a real potential for the first vaccinations to take place before the end of the year.

We will get through this, but we all need to work together. Remember the basics. Wash your hands, cover your face in enclosed spaces, and keep apart from others. And if you have symptoms, self-isolate immediately and get a test. The more we follow the rules, the quicker we can return to normal.


As ever, my small team of staff and I are here to help you in any way we can. My coronavirus website contains the latest information and support for businesses. I’ve included some useful links below.

Coronavirus Latest

Getting tested

Financial support

Foreign travel

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Test to Release

Passengers arriving into England will be able to reduce mandatory self-isolation by at least a week, as the government launches its new strategy for testing international arrivals.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today announced that from 15 December 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after 5 days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate.

The move will give passengers the confidence to book international trips in the knowledge that they can return home and isolate for a shorter period if they have received a negative test. With those opting in to the scheme having to book and pay for a coronavirus (COVID-19) test from a private provider on the GOV.UK list, to ensure the NHS Test and Trace testing capacity is protected.

Under the ‘Test to release for international travel’ strategy, passengers arriving into England by plane, ferry or train should book their test before they travel; must complete a passenger locator form; and will still need to self-isolate for 5 days before taking a test – rather than taking it at their port of arrival.

The ‘Test to Release’ scheme is announced as the government introduces new financial support for English airports and ground handlers serving them. This support, which will shore up jobs and reinforce local economies, will be available to commercial airports in England. The support will address fixed costs and be equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each business, capped at up to £8 million per site, and subject to certain conditions. This scheme will open in the new year.

This is welcome news for Newcastle Airport as we hope to see the sector take off again as we emerge from the pandemic. 

Monday, 23 November 2020

Covid-19 Winter Plan

The Prime Minister has updated the House of Commons on the Government's next steps of tackling the virus over the winter period. The current National Restrictions in place will end on Wednesday 2nd December.

This morning's announcement of positive stage 3 trials of the Oxford - Astra Zeneca vaccine is yet more news that science is delivering hope of normality resuming in the not so distant future. However, Coronavirus rates remain high in Northumberland so it is vital we follow the latest rules to continue stopping the virus from rising. SAGE estimates our current R is between 1.0-1.1, with infection rates remaining high in many areas across the North East.

The Prime Minister has set out a new strengthened 3 tier system, which will replace the National Restrictions on 2nd December. Due to Ministers closely scrutinising the latest data, the government will announce which areas each tier will apply to on Thursday this week. 

The following restrictions will apply from 2nd December:

Meeting friends and family




Bars, pubs and restaurants








Overnight stays and accommodation 




Work, businesses, education and places of worship 




Weddings and funerals








Indoor leisure and large events - Elite Sport, Live Performances & business



Stronger measures have been introduced to keep the virus under control.

  • In tier 1, the government will reinforce the importance of working from home wherever possible.
  • In tier 2, pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants, and hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals.
  • In tier 3, all hospitality will close except for delivery, takeaway and drive-through; hotels and other accommodation providers must close (except for specific exemptions, including people staying for work purposes or where they cannot return home); and indoor entertainment and tourist venues must also close.

The Government has set out its Covid -19 Winter Plan in full. You can read this here

The Prime Minister also announced that Tier 3 areas will be supported with the roll out of mass testing to drive the virus down. This follows the successful pilot in Liverpool, where the virus has been rapidly in decline after 200,000 asymptomatic people being tested in the city to date. 

Additionally, to further prevent the risk of infections entering care homes, the Government is working with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the NHS to ensure everyone discharged to a care home has an up-to-date COVID-19 test result, and anyone testing positive will be discharged to a setting that has been assured by the CQC specifically for the purposes of providing safe care for COVID-19 positive residents. Moreover, two care home visitors per resident will be entitled to repeat rapid testing to allow vital care home visits to continue safely.  

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Nominate an outstanding local business for a Small Business Award

2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for small businesses across Tynedale and Ponteland. From adapting to become Covid-secure, to going the extra mile to support the most vulnerable in our local communities, I know how hard our small businesses have worked in this most challenging and unpredictable of years.

That’s why this year’s Small Business Saturday is more important than ever. The day is an annual celebration, designed to encourage customers to shop local and support the small businesses that are so often the backbone of their communities. 

This year’s event takes place on Saturday 5th December, and as the day draws ever nearer I would like to turn to you to nominate a stand-out small business, that has gone above and beyond this year, for one of my Small Business Awards. I have heard from countless constituents over the past year who have shared their stories of the tireless work being done by outstanding local small businesses, and these awards are an opportunity to celebrate them. 


So, if you too feel that your local small business deserves recognition for its hard-work and dedication, then please nominate them for a Small Business Award. 


Nominations can be made here:


For more information about Small Business Saturday, visit here:

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Business support to get us through this pandemic

I know that people are frustrated with the new restrictions that have been imposed on our lives, both over the last few weeks, and the new National Restrictions in place until 2nd December. 

In Northumberland, we have already faced further restrictions on our all lives since mid-September, so I know how difficult this will be. However, we do need to face the fact that infection rates across the country are high, and rising. SAGE now estimates that the R rate is between 1.1 and 1.3. That means on average, 10 people will infect between 11 and 13 others. The epidemic is growing between 2% and 4% per day.

Without the action the government has taken, there is a serious risk of our hospitals becoming overwhelmed. If we run out of NHS capacity, it means those who suffer from heart attacks, strokes, and who require cancer care won't get the treatment that they need.

The new National Restrictions mean, far as possible, you should stay at home, except for work, education, exercise or to provide care. Non-essential retail is closed, alongside pubs, bars and restaurants.

These closures will have a significant impact on the economy, and as such, the government has taken steps to introduce new economic support packages.

Extending the Furlough scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) scheme was first introduced in March to help businesses pay the wages of employees who could not work because of coronavirus. The scheme was due to last until June, but was extended until the end of October.

As a result of these new National Restrictions, the government has extended the scheme until the end of March, providing certainty over these winter months.

Employees who are furloughed will continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 per month. Employers will only need to cover pension and National Insurance contributions.

Flexible Furlough continues, so employees can continue to work part-time if necessary, with the government covering 80% of wages for the hours not worked.

Boosting support for the self-employed

The Self Employed Income Support scheme has offered support on the same level as that offered to employees in work. 

In order to reflect changes to the Furlough scheme, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will open for a further grant at the end of November, covering up to 80% of average trading profits, up to £7,500 per three month period. This is an increase from the previously announced amount of 55%. A fourth grant, covering February 2021 to April 2021 will also be paid, with further details to be set out in due course.

Mortgage Payment Holidays

In March, the government introduced mortgage payment holidays to help those affected by COVID-19. These have been extended.

If you have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday, you can apply for a six month holiday. If you already have a mortgage payment holiday, this can be extended up to six months without being recorded in your credit file.

Business Support Grants

In order to support business properties that are forced to close as a result of these new restrictions, the government is providing grants, based upon their rateable value. 

Business properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under will receive £1,334 per month

Business properties with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £50,999 will receive £2,000 per month. 

Business properties with a rateable value of £51,000 or over will receive £3,000 per month

Councils will also receive £20 per head (approx £6.3m) to support businesses more broadly, using targeted schemes. 

Bounce Back Loans

The government has also improved the Bounce Back Loan scheme. Businesses can now apply for loans until 31st January, and for businesses that have already had a loan, they can top up their existing loan to the maximum amount if required. 

As ever, my team and I are here to help. My Coronavirus website - - contains all the latest information and FAQ's, or you can get in touch by email - 

This is going to be tough, but we will get through this by working together and looking out for each other.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Protecting culture across the Tyne Valley

Our cultural institutions have been hit hard throughout this coronavirus pandemic, and protecting culture for the future is vitally important.

Earlier this week, the government confirmed over half a million pounds of funding for local cultural organisations across the Tyne Valley as part of the Cultural Recovery Fund - including for the Queen's Hall, and the amazing Hexham Book Festival. 

I am delighted that today, the government has confirmed a second round of funding, with £250,000 for the historic Vindolanda Trust, taking the total investment in culture across the Tyne Valley to almost £1 million. This will help to support local jobs, and will hopefully put some of our iconic cultural organisations on a sustainable footing for the future.

Culture is so important to our local Tyne Valley community, and making sure it is there for us after this pandemic is a top priority. This funding aims to ensure these crucial organisations can stay afloat whilst their doors are closed, so they can bounce back from the pandemic. 

Monday, 12 October 2020

New 'Tier' system to control local rates of coronavirus

The Prime Minister has announced a new tier system to control the rate of coronavirus. We are in a perilous position where rates of infections across the country and particularly the North East are rising. This has translated to a rise in Covid hospitalisations. Therefore, I welcome this announcement which simplifies restrictions to control the virus. 

The Tier system will range from 1 to 3:

Tier 1 (medium risk): The current national measures of the rule of 6 and 10pm curfew on pubs apply.

Tier 2 (high risk): All social mixing between households indoors is banned but mixing outdoors (including private gardens) will be allowed with the rule of 6 and maintaining social distancing.

Tier 3 (very high risk): Social mixing is prohibited in all settings, along with the full closure of pubs and bars. 

The whole Hexham constituency is placed at Tier 2, which is very similar to the restrictions that are already in place. 

This means you will not be able to mix with other households outside your support bubble indoors, including at hospitality venues. However, you will be able to meet others outdoors, including in private gardens with the rule of 6 and maintaining 2 metre distancing.

Expanded support for businesses required to close

The Chancellor has also announced targeted support for businesses who have to legally close because of coronavirus restrictions:

If businesses are required to legally close and employees cannot work at all for a week or more, the employer will pay two thirds of the salary, up to £2,100 a month. The Government will cover the cost.

Businesses who are only able to operate a collection and delivery service will be included.  

Additional grant support has also been announced for businesses legally required to close. The smallest businesses will be able to claim £1,300 per month, medium sized businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 - can claim £2,000 per month and large businesses can claim £3,000 per month. 

All these grants will be paid in fortnightly instalments 

These measures go alongside the existing Job Support Scheme – which is designed to support businesses that are facing low demand over the winter months – and the £1,000 Job Retention Bonus which encourages employees to keep staff on the payroll.  

The Job Support Scheme will open on 1st November and the scheme will be reviewed in January.  

Please remember to only get tested if you have symptoms, but if you have a new, continuous cough, a temperature, a loss or change of taste or smell, you should go to and book a test.

We should continue to remember the basics of hands, face and space.

Continue to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, and keep 2 meters apart from people you do not live with.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

A plan to support our economy this winter

Today, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out the next stage of the government's economic response to Coronavirus in the House of Commons. 

When we went into lockdown in March this year, the government announced a number of schemes to help support people's jobs and incomes as we worked to slow the spread of coronavirus. Most businesses had to close as we all stayed at home. 

As the economy has re-opened in recent months, the challenges we face have changed. The virus is still with us, and new restrictions will often mean reduced demand, particularly in the hospitality sector. 

Today, the government has set out a new package of measures to support our economy this winter. This includes: 

Coronavirus Job Support Scheme
The Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme helped to protect people's jobs and incomes during the lockdown, so that workers who couldn't work during the crisis continued to be paid. 

The new Job Support Scheme will support the wages of people who are in work, giving businesses who face reduced demand over the winter the option of keeping employees in a job on shorter hours, rather than making them redundant. 

The scheme aims to support viable jobs for the future, so employees must continue to work at least a third of their normal hours and be paid for that work by their employer. The government will then top-up people's wages, with a third of the pay they have lost from reduced hours being paid for by the government, and the other third being paid for by employees. In total, employees will receive at least 77% of their normal salary. 

The scheme will run from November to April. and all small and medium-sized businesses are eligible. Larger businesses can also apply, but only when their turnover has fallen. Workers employed as of yesterday are eligible, and any business can take part, even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme. 

Support for the self-employed
To support the self-employed throughout the winter, the existing Self-Employed Income Support Grant will be extended on similar terms and conditions to the new Job Support Scheme. 

Pay As You Grow
Earlier this year, the government introduced Bounce Back Loans to provide quick, first-year interest-free loans to businesses. Today, the government is providing greater flexibility on the repayment of these loans by introducing Pay As You Grow. 

This means that loans can be extended from six to ten years, nearly halving the average monthly repayments. Businesses which are struggling can also choose to make interest-only payments, and any businesses in trouble can suspend repayments completely for six months. 

Government-Backed Loan Deadline
The deadline to apply for any of the government-backed loans has been extended until the end of the year, and a new successor loan programme will begin in January. 

VAT deferral scheme
Businesses were given the option to defer their VAT payments earlier this year. These payments are due in one lump sum in March, but businesses will now be given the option to spread their VAT bill over 11 repayments, with no interest to pay. 

Self-assessment tax deferral
Self-assessed income taxpayers can also extend their outstanding tax bill over 12 months from January.

VAT cut extended
Earlier this year the government cut VAT for the hospitality and tourism sectors from 20% to 5%. To help protect jobs throughout the winter, the cut will be extended until 31st March next year. 

These are very welcome measures and will go a long way to help support jobs, incomes and businesses in Northumberland over the coming weeks and months. If you are a constituent and need support, please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office, or visit my Coronavirus website to find out more - 

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

New rules to control Coronavirus this winter

In recent weeks, we have seen the levels of coronavirus infection in Northumberland and across the UK rise significantly. Now is the time to take action, and prevent more significant restrictions that would impact us all. 

Last week, the government implemented new restrictions for our region, meaning you cannot socialise with others you do not live with, and public venues must close by 10pm, and are limited to table service only. 

Today, the Prime Minister has announced new additional restrictions for the whole country. These will apply to Northumberland. This means:

  • Where possible, office workers who can work from home should do so.
  • Hospitality and leisure businesses must close by 10pm. 
  • COVID-Secure guidelines will become legal obligations, and businesses could be fined or closed if they breach these rules. Employers must also not knowingly  require or encourage somebody who is self-isolating to come to work. 
  • From Monday, a maximum of 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, but up to 30 can attend funerals, as is currently the case. 
  • The 'Rule of 6' will be extended to cover adult indoor team sports. 
There are also new rules regarding the use of face coverings, and the requirement to wear a face covering has been extended to: 
  • All staff working in retail. 
  • All users of taxis and private hire vehicles. 
  • Staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table. 
  • Guidance that states face coverings and visors should be worn in close contact services will become law. 
  • Businesses must also remind people to wear face coverings where mandated. 
We all need to continue to remember the basics: wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, cover your face in enclosed spaces where social distancing may be difficult, and stay 2 meters apart from others, or 1 metre with extra precautions. 

These are difficult times. But if we all stick to the rules, we can stay in control of this virus and save lives. 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

New local restrictions to control Coronavirus

In recent weeks, we have seen the Coronavirus infection rates across the North East increase significantly. 

Last week, local councils asked the government to implement new restrictions now, so that we can get on top of this recent spike and avoid going back to the days of the full lockdown we saw in March and April. 

From midnight tonight, new restrictions on social gatherings, hospitality and more will be introduced. That means:
  • You cannot socialise with others you do not live with, including close friends and family. Exemptions to this rule do apply if you are providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person. If you live alone and are in a support bubble, you can continue to visit your support bubble by staying overnight in each other's houses and visiting public places together. 
  • Pubs and restaurants will be limited to table service only, and leisure and hospitality must close between 10pm and 5am. 
  • Restrictions are being introduced on non-essential visits to care homes.
  • In schools, pupils in Year 7 and above, and staff, must wear face coverings when in corridors and moving around communal areas. 
I understand how difficult these restrictions will be, especially for people living in areas which currently have low levels of coronavirus cases, but it is my hope that by addressing this spike now, we can ensure these restrictions can be in place for as short a period as possible.

In order to assist with the local coronavirus response, new testing facilities are being set up across Northumberland. Please remember to only get tested if you have symptoms, but if you have a new, continuous cough, a temperature, a loss or change of taste or smell, you should go to and book a test.

Whilst these restrictions are in place, we should continue to remember the basics too – continue to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cover your face in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult, and keep 2 meters apart from people you do not live with.

I know this will be a difficult time, but if we all stick to the rules, we will get through this together.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Introducing the Rule of 6: New measures to control Coronavirus

Since the start of this year, our country has faced many tough challenges as we have fought the coronavirus pandemic. 

The lockdown was a very difficult time for our country, but through our great national effort, virus infections have reduced significantly from the peak, and we have been able to return to a more normal way of life as lockdown as eased. 

However, we have seen that as lockdowns have eased across Europe, case numbers have increased significantly. With cases on the rise in the UK, I wholeheartedly support the government in taking action to suppress the virus. 

We all need to remember the basics: hands, face, space, and if you have symptoms - get a test. 

You should continue to wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds, wear a face-covering indoors, when social distancing may be difficult, and stay 2 meters apart from others, or 1 meter plus with extra precautions. 

However, with cases on the rise, new rules are required in order to keep the virus under control. 

That's why the government is introducing the Rule of 6. 

From Monday 14th September, you cannot meet with other households socially in groups of more than 6. This applies both indoors and outdoors, including in private homes and gardens. This clarifies and simplifies the rules on social gatherings to make them easier to understand, and for the police to enforce. 

There are a limited number of exemptions to this rule. COVID-Secure venues, such as places of worship, restaurants, and hospitality venues, where the total number of people inside the venue can be more than 6, but people cannot mix in individual groups of more than 6. The rules also do not apply to individual households or support bubbles of more than 6 who will still be able to gather together. Education and work settings are also unaffected, as is organised team sport, and weddings and funerals of up to 30 people. 

From September 18th, it will also become mandatory for hospitality businesses to have a system in place to collect NHS Test and Trace data, which much be kept for 21 days. 

The government is working with local authorities and police forces to respond to breaches of the COVID-19 Secure guidelines, and a register of newly qualified and recently retired Environmental Health Officers will also be established so that local councils can recruit more quickly and fill any gaps. COVID-19 Secure Marshals will also be introduced to help local authorities support social distancing in town and city centres. 

In addition, the government is also taking steps to improve border requirements. The Passenger Locator Form, which is required for traveling into the UK, will be simplified, and measures will be introduced to ensure that passengers have completed their form before departure. Border Force will also step up and target enforcement efforts at the border to ensure arrivals into the UK are complying with the rules. 

In July, the government set out plans to pilot larger audiences in venues this month. These plans will now be reviewed, and pilots will be limited to smaller, safer numbers with strict conditions to ensure social distancing. These plans will be reviewed on October 1st. 

These are difficult measures, but nothing like the national lockdown imposed earlier this year. In order to control the virus, we all need to play our part by washing our hands, covering our faces indoor spaces, and keeping two meters apart from others. We will get through this, but we all need to work together. 

Monday, 10 August 2020

Eat Out to Help Out!

Today marks the start of another three days of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme - which takes place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout August. You can get 50% off food and soft drinks at participating restaurants, up to a maximum value of £10 per person. 

Over the last few weeks, I've been visiting so many of our local businesses taking part - from the Redesdale Arms, to the Twice Brewed Inn. They've all done great work to help make everything COVID-Secure, so we can enjoy summer safely. You can watch my video from the Twice Brewed Inn with Steve, the manager above. 

Across Tynedale and Ponteland, dozens of restaurants are taking part, the full list is below:  


King's Head


Rat Inn


The Bowes Hotel

Bardon Mill Village Store and Tea Room

Twice Brewed Inn


Barrasford Arms Hotel


The Cheviot

Fountain Cottage Cafe

Riverdale Hall Hotel

Boe Rigg


The Lord Crewe Arms


Blenkinsopp Castle Inn




Spokes Kitchen

Corbridge Larder


The Angel of Corbridge

The Wheatsheaf


The Robin Hood Inn


The Blackcock Inn

The Pheasant Inn, Stannersburn

Cafe on the Water, Tower Knowe


The Black Bull

Centre of Britain Hotel and Restaurant


General Havelock Inn

Langley Castle Hotel


Close House Golf Club

Three Tuns


The Feathers Inn


The Hextol Tans Coffee Shop and Vegetarian Restaurant

The Rising Cafe


Hexham Abbey

Small World Cafe

Bunters Coffee Shop

The Heart Of Northumberland

Danielle's Bistro

Vercelli Restaurant

The Wentworth Cafe

Bouchon Bistrot

The County Hotel

Cafe Enna

The Dipton Mill Inn


Lion & Lamb


Matfen Village Store and coffee shop


The Blue Bell Inn


Weavers Cafe


White Swan


Yolo Ponteland


Ponteland Tandoori


Chinese Harry


Caffe Ginevra Prudhoe


Adam and Eve

Miners Lamp Community Cafe and Hub

The Falcon

The Coffee Tree

Bradley Gardens


The Station Coffee House

Brocksbushes Tea Room


Redesdale Arms


Rose and Crown

Travellers Rest

Hollybush Nursery


Hadrian Hotel


Boatside Inn, Warden


Bay Horse Inn


The Ship Inn Wylam