Sunday, 29 March 2015

We had 80 helpers last weekend but more always needed -40 days of the campaign to go

For the next 40 days I will be campaigning for re-election as your local MP.

Our team of volunteers are at the heart of the campaign to secure a better future for Northumberland – and I want you to be part of it. 

If you can help me by delivering 100 or so leaflets in your patch, and haven't already signed up, I would really appreciate it: email me at: teamoppy@gmail.com



Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Feathers Inn and the Battlesteads Inn lead the way with events this Easter

I popped in to the Battlesteads Inn two Saturdays ago and was shown around their new observatory. It is a brilliant pub and has gone to great efforts to make itself a destination in its own right. Here is the report by the Courant: http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk/home/sky-s-the-limit-for-new-observatory-1.1202156
The award winning Feathers Inn is showcasing so much this Easter that their festival runs for many days. If you have not been I urge you to go - it's won awards for its food and has a great community atmosphere: http://thefeathers.net/news/2014/12/bed-and-breakfast-special-offer/
Last year I handicapped two locals in the Easter Sunday quiz, which is punctuated by great food, and a lot of banter. My failure to remember that Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize for literature was the thin end of the wedge for our teams prospects. Sadly I do not think I can make this years event, but do go along, as it is also using the quiz proceeds to help raise money for Syria. Toby sets a mean quiz and it is a good night.

Broadband Update - Phase 1 Roll Out continues as Northumberland gains greater broadband coverage & enhanced per house subsidy

Over the last 4 and a half years we have sunk millions of pounds of government cash into the roll out of broadband. Slowly but surely England's most rural county is getting better and more broadband coverage. This last few months the Northumberland County Council tell me they have done the following:


"Further cabinets have gone live in Corbridge, Wylam and Hexham meaning that all cabinets are now live and accepting orders for fibre in these three communities.


A further cabinet is live in Ponteland. This builds on the following areas that have been live for at least a month":
  • Greenhead
  • Gilsland
  • Allendale
  • Bardon Mill
  • Great Whittington
  • Haydon Bridge
  • Haltwhistle
  • Most of Ponteland
  • Most of Prudhoe
  • Riding mill
  • Slaley
  • Stamfordham
  • Albemarle
  • Stocksfield
  • Wark
  • Heddon on the Wall
    I have held specific meetings on the problems in Matfen, which I am ensuring is in Phase 2 of the roll out. For phase 2 we have managed to lift the permitted government subsidy per property from £1700 per property to £2500. As I have said to many constituents who have contacted me - I am aware that there are other hamlets, and outlying areas, that we are getting BT and the NCC to address.
    NCC expect the following communities to be connected by the end of 2015:
    -          Horsley
    -          Blanchland
    -          Whitley Chapel
    -          Allenheads
    -          Bellingham
    -          Greenhaugh
    -          Kielder
    -          West Woodburn
    -          Otterburn
    -          Rochester
    -          Byrness
    -          Elsdon
    -          Belsay
    -          Kirkharle
    -          Capheaton
    -          Kirkwhelpington
    -          Scots Gap
    -          Whalton
    -          Bingfield
    -          Hallington
    I was able to speak in last months broadband debate and my speech is here:

Friday, 27 March 2015

Modern Day Slavery received royal assent yesterday - much needed law change to prevent trafficking


I welcome the Modern Slavery Act 2015 as the Bill receives Royal Assent yesterday. While no Act can cover everything in the serious criminal activity of human trafficking and modern slavery, which abuses vulnerable people, the enhanced support and protection for victims is particularly to be welcomed; the crime of trafficking and modern slavery is a crime against humanity.

This from Cardinal Nichols: “I echo the Home Secretary’s words today when she describes the presence of modern slavery in today’s society as an affront to the dignity and humanity of every one of us. It is also important to recognise the vital role of Theresa May in ensuring the passage of this legislation. I pay tribute to her personal commitment to rid our society of this scourge and the support she has given to all those who seek to combat the traffickers and to care for the victims of trafficking.”
I certainly agree - my boss, the Home Secretary, has done great work to bring in this much needed change in the law.  


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Wonderful news as Riding Mill's Rev Alison White becomes Bishop of Hull - the first husband and wife Bishops

http://www.thejournal.co.uk/northumberland-priest-set-become-second-8916640
Alison and her husband Frank are both constituents and are very involved in day to day life in Northumberland. Alison will be an outstanding Bishop and the people of Hull are very lucky to have her as their new Bishop. There is no doubt in my mind that the changes brought in by the Church of England to allow the elevation of women Bishops is a force for good and a revitalising influence on the church. Clearly the proof will be in the pudding but all the evidence is that this is a sensible evolution not revolution.

CPI Inflation falls to zero as cost of living conditions improve


CPI inflation falls to zero
The positive impact on the cost of living is clear as this is more good news. CPI inflation has fallen to zero for the first time since the index was created in 1989. The background is:

- Rising employment
- mortgage rates at record lows
- consumer confidence growing


Full impact on why this good news for people up and down the country is set out in detail by the Spectator:  http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/03/what-cost-of-living-crisis-cpi-inflation-falls-to-zero-for-first-time-on-record/

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Last PMQs before the election today at midday

I am unlikely to be called but would make the point that
- unemployment has fallen in every seat in the North East
- apprenticeships have doubled
- small businesses are thriving
- more women in work than ever before
And that slowly but surely we are turning the country, and our region, around from the bankrupt disaster it was in 2010.

Iran holds the key to so much in the Middle East and good progress means a deal more likely than not

I am a big supporter of the huge effort being made to broker a deal between Iran and the UN leading 6 countries led by John Kerry, the American Secretary of State. These talks hold the key to so much in the Middle East, not least a de-escalation of tension, nuclear arms race, and a series of compromises for the greater good; there is no doubt in my mind that an integrated Iran will lead to progress in other countries in the Middle East. MY fuller thoughts are set out in the debate on Iran that took place late last year:  http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/iran-debatemy-speech-powerful-speeches.html
Fuller report of the negotiations and the objectives here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-31984423

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Egger Apprentice Open Day this Thursday 3.30-6.30: go along if you want to become an engineer

https://bdaily.co.uk/industrials/19-03-2015/mp-backs-apprenticeship-drive

North East Unemployment figures are more proof the Long Term Economic Plan is working

The latest stats on unemployment rates for the quarter Nov-Jan 2015 have just been released this week and they contain more excellent economic news for the North East. The headline stats are:
  • employment in the North East is now at its highest ever level
  • unemployment rate in the North East fell by 1.4% on the quarter, which is the largest percentage fall of any region/country in the UK
  • the fall in the unemployment rate in the North East was almost five times the national average percentage fall of 0.3%
  • unemployment in the North East was 123,000 a year ago and has now fallen to 99,000—a percentage fall on the year of 17.6%
  • Private Sector employment is up 60,000 in the North East since 2010
  • 47,000 more people in employment in the North east than in May 2010
  • 27,000 more businesses in the North East than in May 2010
  • 143,780 apprenticeships started in the North east since May 2010
  • 119,000 people out of income tax altogether since May 2010
  • Tax threshold up from £6500 to £10,600 from 2010= tax cut for every working for millions and especially the low paid.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The PMs interview with the BBC tonight

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32022484
I will leave others to judge what the boss had to say, but I think it is a very open and real assessment of the difficulties of the job, the pressures, and the motivation of public service.

I also see it as very frank and honest to say that he will only do one more term, and that the job of turning the country around is only half done. Prime Ministers should only do 2 terms.
This election is a simple choice:
 - does the voter feel that they want to entrust the economy to Miliband and Balls?
- Or do they feel that the Coalition's job is only half done and that we are best placed to fix the economy, grow the jobs, balance the books and bring competence rather than the chaos of the 2 Ed's

Flygrazing Bill passes through Commons and becomes law - end of a long NFU / Conservative MPs campaign

The Conservative MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy, deserves great credit for successfully getting the Control of Horses Bill through the Commons: following years of lobbying by groups including NFU and the CLA, it started life as a Private Members’ Bill championed by York Outer MP Julian Sturdy, which was then adopted by the Commons. This is a problem that has been highlighted and pressed on me by local constituents and one school in Tynedale. It gives greater powers and a much quicker timeframe.
The bill has now completed its successful passage through Parliament, meaning it will become law ahead of May’s General Election and giving people the ability to deal with what has been described as a “devastating” problem for landowners and farmers.
Full story here: http://www.thejournal.co.uk/business/business-news/rural-farming-groups-north-east-8876046

Northumberland and Westminster plans for the week ahead

I have the first of several meetings today as part of National Autistic Society’s “I’m One” campaign. My morning begins early in Heddon, with this meeting, and I then follow it up with an event at Heddon on the Wall First School, and two more appointments locally in the North East. I am then on the late train south, and am in Westminster all week, as parliament finishes up. I have a variety of meetings and events, plus a series of votes, not least the Budget vote on Monday night, the last PMQs on Wednesday, and a crucial set of meetings to support the Northumberland forestry industry. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Haltwhistle Walking Festival - April 25 - May 4th - come hiking in Northumberland this spring

Not too late to book and come along to the Norths top walking festival. Marjorie Baillie and all the volunteers lay on an amazing spectacle. Having walked through Northumberland on the all of the Hadrians Wall, The Isaacs Tea Trail, and the Pennine Way I can assure you there is no place better in the spring to come, pull on the hiking boots, and fill you lungs in Englands Montana. We have great B and Bs, pubs and tea shops to keep you going!   
Full details here: http://www.haltwhistlewalkingfestival.org/page19.html

Packing Party today - Tynedale Cricket Club, 1,000s of letters to be stuffed

The Peoples Packing Army will be descending on Hexham today as we attempt to stuff thousands of letters which we are then going to be hand delivered to voters in the election. I have already had over 30 people sign up to the Packing Party today but there is always a need for more help and support. There will be a bar available if you flag!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Does your Church roof need repair? There is now treble the original Church Roof Fund available =£40 Million

Historic churches across Northumberland that are in need of roof repairs are being encouraged to apply for grant money that has been made available after the Chancellor’s Budget this week. The original £15 million fund was a tremendous success and support to churches countrywide.
This is now trebled in the budget to in excess of £40 million. The government has set aside money for urgent repairs, and is urging congregations to apply before the money disappears.
Grants are available from £10,000 to £100,000 to help meet the costs of urgent repairs to roofs and gutters on listed Church buildings.  To be eligible for the grant the Church must be listed and the work has to have been highlighted in an inspection.
The fund is administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) on behalf of the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). Precise details are still being worked through but I am certain this is very good news for our churches.

Keep Britain / Hexham tidy campaign & Church event and busy day in Hexham

I, and many locals, will be hard at work first thing this morning helping to spruce up Hexham on the first day of spring as part of the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. If you are free pop down. Also, if you are aware of any broken paving slabs, lights not working, or any other local problems, please let me know, and I will ensure it is sorted. Later on, I have the Middle East Church discussion in Hencotes, and then am meeting another group of voters in Hexham later in the afternoon.

Friday, 20 March 2015

First Day of Spring tomorrow: My Top places to go in Northumberland

The perfect Northumberland day would feature:
A good walk - you could go to Hadrians Wall http://www.visithadrianswall.co.uk/
ending at a good pub like the Twice Brewed Inn, or do a stretch of the Pennine Way, or take in the gentle wildness of the St Oswalds Way - best done on August 5th:
http://www.stoswaldsway.com/st-oswalds-way-short-walks/countryside-short-walks/short_walks_heavenfileld_pilgrimage.htm

Where to stay:
If you have to have the creature comforts then Matfen Hall is a top destination but
Hexham's Beaumont Hotel http://www.bw-beaumonthotel.co.uk/
is family run by Martin and Linda, and was good enough for Pippa Middleton when she came to stay last year!
We also have all manner of brilliant pubs and Bed and Breakfasts but if you want a good alternative then the Battlesteads Hotel in Wark http://www.battlesteads.com/ consistently wins prizes; the best Bed and Breakfast in the country was recently adjudged by Les Routiers guide to be The Black Cock Inn: http://www.blackcockinn.co.uk/

Where to eat:
If you want great pub food then I am a big fan of the Barrasford Arms,http://www.barrasfordarms.co.uk/
Tony is a brilliant chef, and the pub also has great beer and a bar where you will discuss everything from sheep prices to current affairs and who won the big race of the day. Great people and a top dining pub.
The Feathers in Hedley, and La Bouchon in Hexham are both prize winning and the destinations for fine dining but if you want a great south Asian experience then two restaurants will prove it is not just country fare up north
The Valley in Corbridge is the ultimate Railway lovers restaurant, producing great food in an old railway station: http://www.valleyrestaurants.co.uk/
Also very good is Hexham's Diwan E- Am: http://diwaneam.com/?page_id=58

You will need a tea shop on your travels:
My friends say I am on a mission to try every tea shop in Tynedale but the county is justifiably famous: on your Pennine Way travels do not forget to stop at the Greenhead Tea Room: http://www.heartofhadrianswall.com/tea-rooms/60-greenhead-tea-rooms
Alison makes great cakes and scones.
Corbridge has more tea shops that any other but my favourite is Tea and Tipple, where you can while away an afternoon - they do great Northumberland Scones, including the normal cheese scone but also Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Scones: http://teaandtipple.blogspot.co.uk/
Their web site has a special "Sconage" section...

Beer: this is obviously essential. We have lots of brilliant brewers, but I have worked a lot with the Hadrian Border Brewery, who produce the deliciously summer ale which is Tyneside Blonde. But my favourite would be a pint of Golden Plover, made locally by the Allendale Brewery, and found in most of the pubs: http://www.allendaleale.com/index.htm

What to see; the beautiful eerie cry of the curlew is the harbinger of spring and summer and is worth the visit alone: http://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/understanding/wildlifehabitats/heathermoorland/curlews
But if you want 5 places to visit these would all make anyone's top spots:

- The Beach at Bamburgh - a great walk and a top castle
- Roman Vindolanda http://www.vindolanda.com/ = our best Roman and historical site
- Kielder Water and Forest Park: http://www.visitkielder.com/
They win awards all the time!!
http://www.visitkielder.com/news/2013/05/kielder-water-forest-park-officially-the-best-tourism-experience-in-engl-
- Alnwick Castle and its magnificent Gardens http://www.alnwickcastle.com/
But if you go to one for engineering / spring flowers then I would probably pick Cragside: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside/
-It is a stunning house with amazing engineering everywhere and beautiful gardens filled with 40 miles of walks, rare flowers and so much more. It is a special place.

What to Buy:
Whether you want to browse the independent shops of Hexham or Corbridge or purchase pottery in Bardon Mill or visit some of the amazing markets there is so much to do.

Visit a Show
We specialise in summer shows - which make southern fetes look like a childrens tea party :
  • Bank Holiday Monday at the end of May sees the biggest of them all = Northumberland County Show
  • Don't delay 

  • See you soon!!

    PM interview with the Journal provides tax and transport support for North East

    http://www.thejournal.co.uk/north-east-analysis/analysis-news/newcastle-airport-wont-suffer-cuts-8877327

    Success of Roots to Prosperity team bears fruit in Help for forestry in Budget & next Tuesdays conference

    I am speaking at the Confor conference next week on the need for support for forestry and wood panel groups like local businesses from Egger downwards.
    Building on the general good news from the Budget, and our long campaign to get support for commercial forestry, ie another Kielder, and the work of the Roots To Prosperity group, I was delighted to see this in Wednesday's Budget:


    "2.257 Fund for Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) supported forestry schemes – The industry led initiative ‘Roots to Prosperity’ has demonstrated the value of collaboration between the forestry industry, Local Authorities and LEPs. To encourage this further, the government will launch a nationwide £1 million fund to support schemes that will promote the growth of the forestry industry in their region and which have the support of their local LEP."
    Tuesdays conference will bring together all the key players in the Forestry world.

    Thursday, 19 March 2015

    North East Chamber of Commerce Debate on the budget and the economy tomorrow

    Venue: Raddison Blu Hotel, Durham

    Timings: 12:00-12:45 - registration and buffet lunch; 12:45 – welcome, Ross Smith, NECC Director of Policy, followed by panel debate and questions from the floor. 

    Participants: Chair, David Elliott, Partner – Tax, KPMG; Ross Smith, NECC; Julie Elliot, Labour MP; Ian Swales, Lib Dem MP Redcar; Myself. The audience will be NECC members - big and small businesses.

    Thursday 11th September - The Tour of Britain Cycle Race goes from Prudhoe west through Northumberland

    Pencil the date in and get Involved!


    The detailed route is kept secret until closer to the event, but the outline was announced yesterday.
    On Wed 10th Sep the race comes down across the Borders, past Alnwick, then down to a finish in Blyth.
    On Thur 11th the race starts in Prudhoe then heads west right along the Tyne Valley into Cumbria then looping back for a west to east climb up Hartside. Some of the logic for the route is getting a balance between variation for the racers, a dramatic backdrop, but also accessibility for onlookers. i.e. there might be some roads which would seem very pretty to hold the race, but when cordoned off would make it very hard for large numbers of people to reach.

    The race is clearly the pinnacle of speed and power, but the hope is it will help stimulate cycling across the full spectrum, in fact particularly those who can currently barely cycle. So encourage your local schools and community groups to plan activities leveraging the occurrence of the race.

    Wednesday, 18 March 2015

    What does the Budget mean for us? Outline details of the all the major measures.


    • The tax-free personal allowance to rise from £10,600 in 2015-6 to £10,800 in 2016-7 and £11,000 in 2017-8
    • Law to be changed to allow pensioners to access their annuities, with 55% tax charge abolished and tax applied at the marginal rate
    • Petrol duty frozen, beer duty cut 
    • £15m church repair roof fund to be trebled
    • extensive support for NE Oil and Gas sectors
    • Helping first time buyers with Help to Buy ISAs. In the North East, this could help over 50,000 people to buy their first home in the next 5 years by giving them a 25 per cent bonus of the amount they have saved to help with the cost of their first home. Couples getting the full £3,000 will be able to receive a Government bonus worth 28 per cent of their deposit.
       
    • Backing savers with the Personal Savings Allowance. In the North East, giving basic rate taxpayers a £1,000 Personal Savings Allowance and higher rate taxpayers a £500 Personal Savings Allowance could remove up to 690,000 people from savings tax liability.
       
    • Giving more choice to savers with New Flexible ISAs. ISA holders can benefit from being able to invest in a wider range of assets and cash ISA subscribers that could benefit from being able to take money out of their cash ISA and put it back later in the year without losing any of their tax-free entitlement.
       
    • Increasing the period over which self-employed farmers can average their profits for income tax purposes from two to five years. In the North East, this could benefit over 1000 individual farmers.
       
    • Delivering more homes by creating Housing Zones. A new Housing Zone has been announced in the Exemplar Neighbourhood in Gateshead that could deliver 1,000 new homes.
       
    • More funding for flood defences. As a result of decisions made in the Autumn Statement, an additional £4.1 million will be made available in the first four years of the flood and coastal erosion programme, enabling nine schemes to be delivered at least a year sooner than originally planned, and a further new scheme to be included.
       
    • Taking further steps to build a Northern Powerhouse with a Northern Transport Strategy. This will deliver transformed city-to-city rail connectivity and reduced journey times between the major urban centres of the North of England, both by bringing the benefits of HS2 to the North sooner and committing to develop the TransNorth rail vision. It will also commit to an integrated and smart ticket system to support our vision of a single economy across the North of England.
       
    • Improving roads by launching the Highways England Delivery Plan. The Delivery Plan sets out further detail on the roads investment programme from 2015-2020, setting out milestones for projects across the North East. It confirms that improvements to the A1 around Newcastle and Gateshead will be delivered by June 2017 and between Leeming and Barton by 2017. The improvements to the A19 in Tyne and Wear will have entered construction by 2019.
       
    • Continuing to rebalance the economy by supporting Enterprise Zones to create jobs and attract investment. The Tees Valley Enterprise Zone will be extended to the Prairie site with enhanced capital allowances. It will enable the Enterprise Zone to expand into the emerging North Sea oil and gas rig decommissioning market, estimated to be worth £1 billion a year between 2013 and 2018.
       
    • Investing in innovation. The Government will provide £1 million for the Centre for Process Innovation – a technology innovation centre based in the North East – through Innovate UK to support knowledge transfer in this sector.
       
    • Supporting small businesses with the Broadband Connection Voucher scheme. The scheme is open to all SMEs, charities, social enterprises and sole traders and provides up to £3,000 to support broadband connection. The scheme in Newcastle, which has already issued 272 vouchers, is being extended for 12 months to March 2016. The scheme will be available in Sunderland and Middlesbrough by 1 April.
       
    • Building on the North of England’s strengths in health science with Health North. The Government is committing £20 million to Health North to enable better care for patients and to promote innovation through analysis of data on the effectiveness of different drugs, treatments and health pathways.
    • Promoting tourism links between Newcastle and Scandinavia. £300,000 of funding will be made available for a new advertising campaign to promote tourism links between Newcastle and Scandinavia in 2015.
    Fuller details from the BBC here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31928641

    Budget today - has the Journal got wind of good news for the North East?

    http://www.thejournal.co.uk/north-east-analysis/help-north-east-industry-chancellors-8860984

    Middle East discussion event this Saturday in Hexham - Syria, Israel, Palestine, Iran & more on the agenda

    I have tried to get to know the Middle East by traveling as part of holiday and work to the region over the last 6 years as a candidate, and then MP. As a result, I have been to Turkey, Jordan, greater Lebanon and Beirut, Israel, Egypt, and the edge of the Gaza Strip. I took my mid winter break in 2011 to Beirut, which was not everyone's idea of a holiday, and certainly was an interesting experience! I have not been able to visit Gaza itself. In January 2014 I helped out in a Syrian refugee camp on the Turkey / Syria border. I have spoken at length on the plight of Syrian refugees, the role of Iran, and the Middle East generally in the House of Commons. You can access my speeches on the website They Work For You and my blog for my experiences working with the Syrian refugees in the Nizip Camp.


    Syrian Refugees:
    The blog details my trip here: http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/international-aid-makes-difference-and.html
    The Journal article after the Nizip refugee camp trip is here:
    http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/hexham-mp-guy-opperman-calls-6521153
    and subsequent debates on UN Resolutions and the getting of aid into Syria in the House are here:
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2014-04-29b.237.0



    Israel /Palestine:

    should start by saying I am a strong supporter of the two state solution. I am not pro-Israel or pro-Palestine or anti-either. But I do support the continued existence of Israel. I may not always be in agreement with the actions of its Government, but that does not detract from the fact that Israel is the only true democracy in the region.
    At the same time, I am proud to be a friend of the Palestinian people. I look forward to the day where the Palestinian people can enjoy the security of a sovereign state upon the successful conclusion of a negotiated two-state solution. This will require difficult compromises from the leaders of both states, and a resolution of the problem of Hamas, but it remains achievable.



    The international community must restart its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers an independent Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel. The Government has reiterated its commitment to recognise a Palestinian state, albeit as part of as a two-state solution, brought about through negotiated agreement. Everyone agrees Palestine should be recognised as a state, the only issue is when, and on what basis. 

    The question is what is the best and most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of 
    statehood and Israeli hopes for safety and security to be met? Our strong focus must be on encouraging all groups to return to direct peace talks. Clearly the role of Iran and Hamas is key and I have put my effort into pushing for an improvement of relations with Iran – as without this I fear the two state peace process will struggle. My blog post my 2012 Israel trip is here:
    http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/iran-and-israel.html
    My recent 2014 speech here on the recent Iran debate in the Commons is here:
    http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/iran-debatemy-speech-powerful-speeches.html



    The UK Government’s position on the issue of settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve. Ministers consistently urge the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement building and to remove illegal outposts, as required under international law,and in fulfilment of Israel's obligations under the Roadmap.


    I have a shared debate on this, and many of the issues in the Middle East, in Hexham, this Saturday at 11-12. I stress it is not a hustings or a political meeting. It is a discussion. The desire for this meeting was at the request of several constituents who wanted to discuss the situation in Syria, and who wanted to know more of my experiences on the ground in the Nizip 2 Syrian refugee camp; the experience moved me tremendously, and it remains one of most rewarding experiences I have had as a Member of Parliament. I have spoken of this several times at other groups, and in other contexts, in London and across the country, not least in support of international aid, but never been asked to talk about these issues by the Hexham Debates or the Hexham churches, so I have readily accepted the invitation. However, because several locals, and the Northumbrian United Nations Association and supporters of the Kairos movement were keen to discuss the Israeli / Palestinian situation, and UN resolutions in both these countries and Syria, and we have widened the discussion. I have not previously come across the Kairos Britain movement, but will be coming to listen and learn and try and answer questions on the approach it espouses. In addition this blog is an expansion of the letter I have sent to various constituents who have written in asking for my views and wanting to know if I am pro Palestine or pro Israel or anti either. As I have hoped to show I am in favour of both Israel and Palestine and against neither. In short, Saturdays discussion is how we can move towards peace in the Middle East. Given that we only have an hour this will be difficult but it was agreed to press ahead on the basis that some discussion over an hour is better than none. I have the Hexham clean up from 9-11am on Saturday but will be there 11 sharp at the St Marys Church, Hencotes, and am looking forward to the discussion.

    Tuesday, 17 March 2015

    CBI North East discussion debate in the House of Commons today

    Over 50 Northern businessmen and women are coming into Westminster today to discuss the upcoming budget, the state of the economy and the future of the country and the North East,
    I will be debating on onstage with:
    Rt Hon Nick Brown (Lab), Roberta Blackman-Woods (Lab) Bridget Phillipson (Lab) and Ian Swales (Lib Dem)
    Looking forward to it. Everyone from Nissan to Newcastle Airport, several banks, colleges and business groups, plenty of the offshore and oil and gas businesses and local organisations like Nexus, Port of Tyne and others are coming in.

    The Budget, one NFU and two jobs / economy hustings & debates this week

    Friday sees me debating the Budget and the Conservative Party offer on jobs, business creation and the future economy with Labour and Liberal MPs at the NECC event in Durham. On Tuesday I have the pre budget debate with the CBI in London with various other MPs and business leaders.
    Separately I also have the local NFU hustings later this week.

    Monday, 16 March 2015

    Haltwhistle Hospital opening today shows NHS/ LA Integrated healthcare at its best

    I will be at the Hospital at 10.30 today celebrating the formal opening by the Duchess of Northumberland and, more importantly, the progress of integrated healthcare here in the north east. There is so much to be proud of. For too long under successive governments healthcare has existed in silos - this is now changing. If you want an example of an integrated hospital with NHS And LA care, on different floors of the same building, with local doctor involvement then Haltwhistle is the country's leading example. I am looking forward to chatting to the local nurses, doctors and GPs who will be there.
    more details on the long journey from a hospital knocked down and then rebuilt can be found here: http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk/news/haltwhistle-hospital-makes-progress-1.1104062

    But it does not end there. As last week the announcement was made about the Vanguard pilots. Again this is integration on a wider level.

    The NHS has chosen the first 29 ‘vanguard’ geographies across the UK that will take the national lead on transforming care for patients in towns, cities and counties across England. The only one leading the way In the north east is in Northumberland; groups of nurses, doctors and other health staff from across the country put forward their ideas for how they want to redesign care in their areas, and then helped choose the first 29 of the most innovative plans.

    Drawing on a new £200 million transformation fund and tailored national support, from April the vanguards will develop local health and care services to keep people well, and bring home care, mental health and community nursing, GP services and hospitals together for the first time since 1948.

    For patients, this will lead to a significant improve in their experience of health services. It is estimated more than five million patients will benefit, just from this first wave. For example, this could mean: fewer trips to hospitals as cancer and dementia specialists and GPs work in new teams; a single point of access for family doctors, community nurses, social and mental health services; and access to tests, dialysis or chemotherapy much closer to home.

    Sunday, 15 March 2015

    National Apprenticeship Week - record apprenticeship numbers in Hexham and the North East

    All week we have been backing and employers, apprentices and supporters during this weeks National Apprenticeship Week from 9 to 13 March 2015. This has involved meetings with Egger and Rolls Royce, other employers, schools, and new successful SMEs like the Pudding Parlour in Hexham.
    I have spent time promoting the wide range of local apprenticeships on offer and the positive impact that they have on businesses and young people.

    Latest figures that show apprenticeship starts have more than doubled in Northumberland from 2,100 in 2010 to over 4000; in the Hexham constituency, 670 young people started an apprenticeship last year compared to just 320 a decade ago in 2005/6. In the wider North East the apprenticeship numbers are going from strength to strength.

    Packages of financial support exist to support businesses to take on an apprentice to help provide traineeships or work experience for young people. These packages are worth over £1500 in grants, and the government have made it much easier to have an apprentice. 

    I am proud to have led the way by employing an apprentice throughout this parliament. 

    Saturday, 14 March 2015

    Sunday Times names Hexham as one of UK's top towns to live in

    http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/hexham-hailed-one-best-places-8833999
    Whether its the sprawling Northumberland countryside, the majestic abbey or the town’s cosy pubs, Hexham has charmed its way into the list.
    The accolade comes in part three of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide, which is published tomorrow.

    Hexham Farmers Market today - make sure you shop local

    Friday, 13 March 2015

    Good luck to everyone taking part in Red Nose Day

    2 School visits, an apprenticeship discussion, a memorial service, several surgeries and a trip to the Pudding Parlour for me in Tynedale today. Am hoping to take in the Gold Cup in one of the betting shops at 3.20. Many Clouds remains my each way choice both on form, value and because Oliver Sherwood is a friend of mine, who I have ridden for. Good luck also to all the local schools, community organisations and other people doing something funny for money today. Not sure I can join in personally given the day I have got, but will donate.

    Thursday, 12 March 2015

    Taste Tarset this Saturday deep in the Upper North Tyne country

    Tarset village hall has a taste event / cakemaking extravaganza Saturday and I urge you to go. It is a fun event which I have been to before.
    http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/taste-tarset-puts-great-british-bake.html
    I have many events and surgeries across the county on Saturday but I am definitely going to be there for the start at 10.30.

    Wednesday, 11 March 2015

    Greek choice of "unworthy policy or dignity" misses the true question = Greece won't live within its means

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11458393/Eurozone-prepares-to-judge-Greek-reform-deal.html


    Dismayed to hear the Greek PM Alexis Tsipras tell Germany's Der Spiegel: “If we were to hold a referendum tomorrow with the question:"do you want your dignity or a continuation of this unworthy policy,’ then everyone would choose dignity regardless of difficulties that would accompany that decision.”
    Syriza campaigned to stay in the euro but renegotiate the austerity terms agreed by the previous Greek government. It is not doing well as the article makes clear.


    The difficulty is that the longer there is no resolution to the Greek debt crisis the slower will be the Euro recovery - and it could even stall / go backwards. This will affect us in the UK. Sadly Mr Tsipras is simply wrong. The unworthy policy is him not coming up with a way to accept that Greece spends way more than it earns and does not pay its taxes etc. One could go on. The alternative is he leaves the Euro. He knows that is way worse because Greece with the Euro countries support is in a far better state than in the short term than Greece without that support - albeit Greece would be better in the longer term with its own currency. The problem is - the Greek politicians do not think long term.

    Secretary of State for Transport overrules civil servants and Pacer trains gone by 2017

    http://www.thejournal.co.uk/new-trains-replacing-outdated-pacers-8809848

    Tuesday, 10 March 2015

    Cheltenham is the promised land for all jockeys, but only highlights / naps for me this week

    My tips for this week:
    - today: the champion hurdle is a race to watch, not bet upon, but Faugheen should win. I like Un de Sceaux in the Arkle, but he is no odds. Qewy is a good each way shot in the opening.

    - Gold Cup on Friday I have to plug Many Clouds from my friends Oliver Sherwood's yard. I saw him when I rode out in his yard a few weeks ago and he will definitely be in the frame. Lovely big strapping 3 mile chaser. Would prefer it softer but will give you a great run for your money and jumps superbly.
    - For tips, I like Any Currency in the cross country tomorrow, and Monetaire in the Plate on Thursday.

    If I could ride any horse other than Many Clouds this week it would be a revitalised Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase. Here's hoping I will be race riding next year!

    Defence spending debate forgets we still have largest defence budget in the EU / 2nd in NATO

    The UK has the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU. The Government is currently spending more than 2% of GDP on defence and is committed to spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence in 2015/16. There is a debate presently being discussed as to whether we should commit to spending this sum for sure in future years. 

    Over the next decade we are committed to spending well in excess of £100 billion on equipment and equipment support to keep Britain safe. That includes new strike fighters; type 26 frigates, more surveillance aircraft, hunter submarines, two aircraft carriers, and the most advanced armoured vehicles.

    Decisions on spending after the financial year 2015/16 are determined in the next spending review post election. The Prime Minister has said that he does not want to see our regular armed services reduced below the level that they are now and remains committed to growing the Reserves to 35,000.
    In addition the context to this is the desire to get other EU and NATO countries to pull their weight and contribute more to the defence of NATO, following last years agreement at the Newport summit. However, as always I would welcome constituents thoughts. 

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