Thursday, 28 January 2021

Landmark Supreme Court ruling on business interruption claims

 Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of small businesses receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies. 

This news will have been warmly received by many small businesses across Tynedale and Ponteland and provide a lifeline to many in the months ahead.  


Insurers included in the case are Hiscox, Arch, Argenta, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA- but around 60 other insurers sold similar products and will have to start paying out to their policy holders. These companies will have to pay out on many, but not all, policies. 

I would ask any constituent who had business interruption claims rejected at the advent of the pandemic to contact their insurance company to see how this ruling affects them.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

True Potential donates to support local students learn online

The past year has been difficult for school pupils, with school closures changing the way that our students learn. This month, many students have once again had to switch to home-learning, as due to the rapid increase in coronavirus cases seen across the country, schools are currently closed to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Remote learning has been particularly challenging for students who do not have access to technology devices and internet services. That is why financial technology business True Potential has purchased laptops and tablet devices for local primary schools and academies in Northumberland and Newcastle, with more still to follow.

As well as buying new laptops for our local schools, True Potential is also offering many of its unused laptops.

I am now supporting True Potential to distribute the devices among local schools so that we can get them to the families that need them most for remote learning.

I know how challenging remote learning can be for students and their families. It is so important that every student has access to the resources they need to continue their education from home, and I am incredibly grateful to True Potential for the wonderful work they are doing to support our local students.

If you do not have access to a laptop, tablet or the internet to assist with remote education, you should contact your child’s school.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Supporting students with remote learning

The past year has affected each and every one of us, but it has been particularly challenging for our children, with school closures and being apart from their friends making this a very difficult time. 

Although schools are physically closed to most students, teachers are still working extremely hard to provide remote learning programmes to their students, whether that is through providing resources or holding online video lessons. 

As families begin a new week of home learning, it is important to remember that help is out there to support young people to learn effectively and safely at home.

Learning resources - your child’s school will be providing learning programmes each week so that students can continue their curriculum-based work. However, there are many educational and fun learning resources online - here are just a few:

- BBC Bitesize has lessons and quizzes for children from Early Years to over 16s, which cover a wide range of subjects-

- The Oak National Academy was created in April 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The resources are created and delivered by teachers, and cover Reception to Year 11-

- There’s more to home learning than just English and Maths! The curriculum covers a variety of subjects, including art, music and PE. Joe Wicks’ online PE sessions are a great way to take a break and keep children moving-

Northumberland County Council has also provided a list of online learning resources (, including these brilliant slides which are packed full of fun home learning ideas-

Key Stages 1 and 2:

Key Stages 3 and 4:

Online safety - now we’re all working online more than ever before, it’s so important to ensure that children are able to access the Internet safely. Here are some useful resources to help you talk to your child about online safety: 

- Northumbria Police Safety Advice:

- NSPCC Online Safety Advice: 

Access to devices and the internet

If you do not have access to a laptop, tablet or the internet to assist with remote education, you should contact your child's school. 

The government has made a significant investment into remote learning to ensure children can continue their education through the pandemic. More than 560,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered for disadvantaged children. 

The Department for Education has also worked in partnership with mobile operators to help schools support disadvantaged pupils who rely on a mobile phone signal for internet. Schools can request a free uplift in data for most of the main mobile network providers. You can find out more here:

Mental health - many children will be understandably worried about the coronavirus and being away from their friends and school may have an impact on their mental health. Here are some resources designed to help children who are feeling anxious:

- This brilliant book is designed to help children understand the coronavirus and the effect it is having on their daily lives-

- The NSPCC has advice for parents on how to talk to their child if they are worried about the coronavirus-

For more resources and advice on remote learning, visit-

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Community Champion winners celebrate half a century

 One of the best parts of being an MP is getting the opportunity to celebrate with and congratulate people who are at the heart of their local community.

Before Christmas, I joined forces with County Councillor Gordon Stewart to present husband and wife team Anne and Steve Blakeburn with one of my Community Champion Awards. Anne and Steve own Balls of Prudhoe Fish & Chip Shop on Front Street, Prudhoe, and are celebrating an incredible fifty years of their family business.

They have even kept going through the COVID-19 pandemic, working hard to ensure that they can continue to cater for the local community.

My Community Champions Award Scheme recognises people, charities and businesses in Tynedale and Ponteland who make a difference in their local communities. After serving the people of Prudhoe with fantastic food and a friendly welcome for the last half century, Anne, Steve and their team truly are community champions!

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Vaccines- your questions answered

Last week marked a milestone in Tynedale’s fight against the coronavirus, with the first vaccines delivered locally. Archie Tait from Barrasford celebrated his 88th birthday by receiving his first dose of the vaccine in Hexham! 

The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine across the Hexham constituency and beyond is a huge step forward in what is to be the largest vaccination programme in British history. Nationally, over 1.5 million doses have been given – more than the rest of Europe combined. 


I know that many people in the Hexham constituency have questions about the vaccination rollout and are anxious to receive news about when they can expect to receive their vaccine, so I have set out further information below. 


How many vaccinations have been administered so far?


In a sign of the rapid acceleration of the vaccine that we can expect over the coming weeks, very soon, hundreds of thousands of people will be being vaccinated per day. The government has a plan to vaccinate all of the four most vulnerable groups – 13.9 million people – with at least one dose by the middle of February. This includes all care home residents and their carers, frontline NHS staff, everybody over the age of 70, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding. 


The Army have also been brought in to aid the pace of the rollout, using their expert logistics skills to ensure we can vaccinate people as fast as possible, so we can ease restrictions at the earliest opportunity. 


How many vaccines have been approved for use in the UK?


To date, three vaccines have been approved in the UK- Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca and Moderna. The UK has ordered 367 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, including 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which was approved this week.


Every vaccine in use has been approved by the independent expert body, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, following a rigorous assessment by a team of scientists, and advice from the Commission on Human Medicines, which reviewed all data to ensure the vaccine meets the required standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. 


All three vaccines have only been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency because they are safe, effective and give very high protecting from severe illness. 


How effective are the vaccines?


No vaccine is 100% effective – the annual flu vaccination programme, for example, provides around 67% protection. All three vaccines approved in the UK have been shown to offer a high degree of protection from the virus. 


The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, while the recently approved Moderna vaccine offered nearly 95% protection from severe cases of the illness in trials.  


The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to be around 70% effective, and nobody who received this vaccine in trials developed severe COVID-19 or needed hospital treatment.


When will I get my second vaccine dose?


The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) authorisation of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine states that the vaccine should be administered in two doses. The second dose should be given between four and twelve weeks after the first. For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the second dose should be administered at least three weeks later.


Data shown to MRHA shows that both the Pfizer/BioNTeach and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines offer considerable protection against COVID-19 after a single dose. The Government has therefore asked GP practices to focus on giving the first vaccine dose to as many patients as possible, rather than vaccinating fewer people with two doses.


At this stage of the pandemic, it is important to prioritise the first doses of the vaccine for as many people as possible on the Government’s priority list. This will protect the greatest number of at risk people in the shortest possible time and will have the greatest impact on reducing mortality, severe disease and hospitalisations and in protecting the NHS. 


It is important to stress that everyone will still receive their second vaccination within 12 weeks of the first does, as this is important for longer term protection against COVID-19. 


Is the vaccine safe?


All three vaccines approved for use in the UK have been extensively trialled under a variety of conditions, before undergoing a robust and independent analysis process.


The MRHA is one of the most respected regulators in the world and has followed rigorous procedures to ensure that the vaccines meet the high standards of safety and efficacy. So far 1.5 million people have been given a COVID-19 vaccination and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. If you have concerns about your personal health in relation to receiving the coronavirus vaccine, I would certainly recommend that you first discuss this with your GP.


When will I receive my vaccine?


The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have set out guidance on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination. This priority list has been determined following consideration of evidence on the risk of exposure and mortality by age and occupation.


The vaccination programme is currently focused on vaccinating care home residents and staff, frontline health and social care workers, people over 70 years of age and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. The Prime Minister has stated that it is hoped that everyone who falls into one of these groups will have had a first dose of the vaccine by the middle of February. 


More than 1,000 GP centres, 223 hospitals and 200 vaccines will be giving vaccines by the end of the week, and once the above priority groups have been vaccinated, the government move to the next phase of the vaccination programme when the next priority groups will receive their vaccinations.


How will my vaccination be arranged?


Your GP practice will contact you when it is your turn to be vaccinated. I understand that many people are anxious to receive their vaccine but please be patient. Your GP practice will contact you in due course. 


In the meantime, make sure that you are registered with a GP practice and that they have up-to-date contact details for you or someone who they can speak to on your behalf.


The COVID-19 vaccine will always be free of charge and you will never be asked to share bank details to confirm your identity. The vaccination is only available through the NHS and it is not possible to pay to receive the vaccination privately.


I would really urge everybody who is offered the vaccination to take it. Vaccination is the best way of avoiding potential serious illness from the coronavirus and helping to ease the current restrictions and pressure on the NHS.