Thursday, 25 February 2021

Roadmap for easing restrictions

On Monday, the Prime Minister outlined his roadmap for cautiously easing the current lockdown restrictions in England. 

Thanks to the incredible ongoing success of the vaccine rollout, which has now vaccinated more than 18 million people across the UK, we are now in a position to start thinking about how we can gradually remove the current restrictions.

The roadmap sets out four stages for easing restrictions, with at least five weeks between each phase to allow the latest data to be examined. The data will be subjected to four key tests:

  • That the vaccine rollout continues successfully
  • That the evidence shows vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalisation and death
  • That infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations that would put the NHS under unsustainable pressure
  • That new variants of coronavirus do not cause additional concern
As the four tests are currently being met, the first stage of easing restrictions will begin on 8th March. On this date:
  • Schools and colleges will open for all students
  • Practical Higher Education courses can begin in-person learning
  • Exercise and recreation outdoors with your household or one other person can take place
  • Wraparound childcare, including sports activities, can resume for all children
  • Funerals can take place with up to 30 people attending, and weddings and wakes can take place with up to 6 guests
  • Care home residents will be able to name a visitor, who will be able to visit them regularly
Some further changes will also take place from 29th March, when schools go on Easter holidays:
  • The Rule of Six will return outdoors, including in private gardens
  • Organised outdoor sport (children and adults), all outdoor children's activities, outdoor sport and leisure facilities and outdoor parent and child groups (up to 15 people) can resume

Further easing of restrictions will take place in the coming weeks as long as the four tests continue to be met, with Stage 2 no earlier than 12th April, Stage 3 no earlier than 17th June, and Stage 4 no earlier than 21st June. 

I welcome the announcement of this roadmap, which means that after an incredibly difficult year, we can all now see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, please keep following the national restrictions that are still in place, in order to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the NHS.

Further details about the roadmap for easing restrictions can be found here-

Friday, 19 February 2021

Applications reopen for National Lottery Grants for Heritage

The last year has been incredibly challenging for many heritage organisations and projects across the Hexham constituency. 

It's therefore great news that the National Lottery Grants for Heritage scheme has reopened for applications. Organisations can apply for financial support for their heritage projects. 

When applying, heritage organisations are asked to focus on outcomes that will help drive the UK's wider recovery from Covid-19, by boosting local economies, encouraging and sustaining jobs and opportunities, supporting wellbeing and ensuring that heritage plays a central part in creating better places to live, work and visit.

Funding from the National Lottery has proved to be a lifeline to many heritage organisations this year, and I would strongly encourage our local heritage projects to apply. You can find out more about how to apply for a National Lottery Grant for Heritage here- 

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

George Stephenson's birthplace set to reopen its doors

I am delighted that following our long-running campaign George Stephenson's birthplace in Wylam will finally be back open for visitors. 

George Stephenson's birthplace was closed in 2017, however after long-term discussions with myself, local County Councillor Karen Quinn and Wylam Parish Council and the National Trust, it is great news that the National Trust have confirmed that the cottage will be open ten times between May and October. I am really pleased that the National Trust have listened and taken action, and I hope that visitor demand means that we can see the birthplace open even more throughout the coming years. 

George Stephenson is one of Wylam's most famous former residents and is known as the 'Father of Railways' because of his pioneering work on the railways and steam locomotives. He is such an important part of the history of Wylam and Northumberland as a whole, and I am so pleased that more people will now be able to share in this important piece of our heritage.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Nominate an unsung hero to be a Coronavirus Community Champion!

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged us all in ways we couldn't have imagined, and in an incredibly difficult time, one of the shining lights has been the extraordinary way in which communities have come together to support each other through the pandemic.

It's always brilliant to hear constituents tell me of their gratitude to a particular person, business or organisation that has gone the extra mile to help them through this difficult time. But most of these acts of kindness that are being carried out every day are largely going unrecognised.

That is why I am delighted to launch my Coronavirus Community Champion Awards, created specifically to recognise people who have gone above and beyond to help others during this pandemic.

I want to hear from you about the people who have gone out of their way to make your life a little bit easier, by nominating them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award.

This could be a teacher, delivery driver, care worker, shop worker or someone who has gone out of their way to help their vulnerable neighbours, to list just a few examples!

So if you would like to say thank you to an unsung hero of this pandemic, please nominate them for a Coronavirus Community Champion Award here- 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Over 70? Come forward for your vaccine now!

The vaccine rollout is continuing to pick up steam, with over 12.2 million people now having received a vaccine so far. 9 in 10 of those aged 75 and over in England have now received their first dose, and it is aimed that by May, everyone over 50 will have received a vaccine.

Until now, the advice has been that you should wait to be contacted by your GP or the NHS to book your vaccination. However from today, anyone 70 or over who has not been vaccinated should contact the NHS to arrange their appointment. This can be done by calling 119 or online at 

By making sure that you and your loved ones are booked in for a vaccine, you can help give those most at risk the protection they need as we continue to fight this disease together.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

10 million vaccines!

Yesterday we reached a significant milestone in the vaccine rollout- more than 10 million people have now received their first dose of the vaccine!

9 in 10 people aged over 75 have now received a first dose, and vaccines have been offered to all elderly care home residents and staff in England and Wales. We are well on the way to hitting the target of offering vaccines to the top four priority groups by mid-February.

My thanks to our NHS workers, volunteers and armed forces for their tireless efforts to deliver the largest vaccination programme in our history. Every single vaccine given makes us all a little bit safer.

Monday, 1 February 2021

LGBT History Month

February marks the start of LGBT History Month.

Thanks to the efforts of LGBT campaigners, attitudes around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people and their lives have changed dramatically in the last thirty years.

In 2013, I backed gay marriage- a measure that was controversial at the time, but I genuinely believe that almost every MP would now vote to introduce same-sex marriage.

However there is still so much more to do. Specifically, HIV and AIDS is still a significant issue for the LGBT  community, and unfortunately attitudes towards HIV/AIDS are still too often stuck in the past.

There is good news though- there are now effective HIV/AIDS treatments and the aim is that the rollout of PrEP will have ended new cases by 2030. It is so important to remember that those on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV, and so this is a really significant step forwards.

1st February also marks the start of HIV Testing Week. The Coronavirus pandemic has shown the importance of effective and accurate testing, and testing can help to beat HIV too. Testing can be done at home and in private- just visit