Friday, 24 June 2016

Statement by the Prime Minister in full

"The country has just taken part in a giant democratic exercise, perhaps the biggest in our history.

Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, have all had their say.

We should be proud of the fact that in these islands, we trust the people with these big decisions.

We not only have a parliamentary democracy but on questions about the arrangements for how we are governed, there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves, and that is what we have done. 

The British people have voted to leave the European Union and there will must be respected.

I want to thank everyone who took part in the campaign on my side of the argument, including all those who put aside party differences to speak in what they believed was the national interest.

And let me congratulate all those who took part in the Leave campaign for the spirited and passionate case that they made.

The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered.

It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organisations about the significance of this decision so there can be no doubt about the result. 

Across the world, people have been watching the choice that Britain has made.

I would reassure those markets and investors that Britain’s economy is fundamentally strong and I would also reassure Brits living in European countries and European citizens living here that they will be no immediate changes in your circumstances.

There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.

We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union.

This will need to involve a full engagement of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that the interests of all parts of our UK are protected and advanced. 

But above all, this will require strong, determined and committed leadership.

I am very proud and honoured to have been Prime Minister of this country for six years.

I believe we have made great steps, with more people in work than ever before in our history, with reforms to welfare and education, increasing people's life chances, building a bigger and stronger society, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality.

But above all restoring Britain's economic strength.

And I’m grateful to everyone who has helped to make that happen.

I’ve also always believed that we have to confront big decisions, not duck them.

That is why we delivered the first Coalition Government in 70 years, to bring our economy back from the brink.

It’s why we delivered a fair, legal and decisive referendum in Scotland and it’s why I made the pledge to renegotiate Britain's position in the European Union and hold a referendum on our membership and have carried those things out.

I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel, head, heart and soul.

I held nothing back.

I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union.

And I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone.

Not the future of any single politician, including myself.

But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path.

And as such I think the country requires a fresh leadership, to take it in this direction.

I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination. 

This is not a decision I have taken lightly.

But I do believe it's in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.

There is no need for a precise timetable today, but in my view we should aim to have a new Prime Minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October. 

Delivering stability will be important and I will continue in post is Prime Minister, with my Cabinet, for the next three months.

The Cabinet will meet on Monday, the governor of the Bank of England is making a statement about the steps that the Bank and Treasury are taking to reassure financial markets. 

We will also continue taking forward the important legislation that we set before Parliament in the Queen's speech.

I have spoken to Her Majesty the Queen this morning and advised of the steps I am taking.

Negotiation with the European Union will need to begin under a new Prime Minister and I think it is right that this new Prime Minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU.

I will attend the European Council next week to explain the decision the British people had taken and my own decision.

The British people have made a choice.

That not only needs to be respected, but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work.

Britain is a special country.

We have so many great advantages.

A parliamentary democracy where we resolve issues about our future through peaceful debate.

A great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and creativity, respected the world over.

And while we are not perfect I do believe we can be a model of a multiracial, multi-faith democracy where people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their talent allows. 

Although leaving Europe was not the path I recommended, I’m the first to praise our incredible strengths.

I said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union and indeed that we could find a way.

Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way.

And I will do everything I can to help.

I love this country, and I feel honoured to have served it.

And I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.

Thank you very much."

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tomorrow is also the last day for the Ponteland school consultation

This ends midnight 23rd June 2016. I have met many of the local families, governors, teachers and headteachers involved in this process. Three Friday's ago I met a group who were very opposed.
NCC proposes to change the age ranges of all schools (apart from Ponteland Middle School which is now an Academy) to convert to a 2 tier structure. This is a decision which will have a huge impact on local education. Some are in favour. Some are against. But not to get respond would be a great shame - particularly if you oppose the present plan. It is more important now than ever for each parent/carer to give their views to the latest proposals. Fuller details from NCC can be found at

The present NCC proposal is here:

Egger highlights Brexit risks in letter to 500 employees

Directors at Hexham based Egger have written to the company’s 500 employees, highlighting risks to the business in the event of Britain leaving the EU.
The company - which supplies wood for furniture, worktops and flooring across Europe – has told staff a weakened pound would damage its position in the UK and at its bases on the continent.
In Hexham we are Stronger In.
Full Report Here:

We get the best of both worlds by Remaining in the EU. The economic consequences of leaving are huge - don't risk it

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Nissan, Welsh Steelmakers, Ford cars and even Clarkson + May want to remain #StrongerIn

Ford wrote to its 14,000 UK employees warning against leaving the EU.

‘We have deep concerns about the uncertainty and potential downsides for business that could arise if the UK votes to leave the European Union.

‘The UK is our largest sales market in Europe and home to significant Ford design, engineering and manufacturing options. The IMF, OECD, and Bank of England, among others, have warned that a leave vote could create economic instability and uncertainty. Although the full consequences of this are unknown,we estimate that the potential cost to our business could be hundreds of millions of dollars every year’ (Beth Rigby Twitter, 20 June 2016, link).

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) set out why the UK is stronger, safer and better off in the EU.

‘EU membership guarantees the right to do business in 27 other member states’

‘The UK helps shape EYU regulation by being inside the EU’

‘The UK insurance industry thrives as part of a successful UK economy in a prosperous EU’

‘Leaving the EU will not do away with red tape’

‘The UK benefits from the EU’s role in making international trade agreements’

(ABI, 20 June 2016, link).

Welsh steelmaker Celsa warned that a vote to leave would be a ‘significant threat’ to the UK steel industry.

‘Leaving the European Union will create this period of economic uncertainty and poses a significant threat to the steel industry, our business and the thousands of livelihoods that rely on CelsaOne hundred percent of Celsa UK’s exports go to the rest of Europe and our access to this market is crucial for our business’ (Wales Online, 20 June 2016, link).

Nissan announced it will take legal action against Vote Leave after the Japanese carmaker’s logo was misleadingly used on campaign literature.

The firm said it will issue legal proceedings against Vote Leave to ‘prevent them making any further false statements and misrepresentations concerning Nissan’.

But in February, Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s chairman and chief executive said: ‘Our preference as a business is, of course, that the UK stays within Europe – it makes the most sense for jobs, trade and costs. For us, a position of stability is more positive than a collection of unknowns’ (Guardian, 20 June 2016, link).

And finally .... Former Top Gear stars Jeremy Clarkson and James May released a video declaring their support for a Remain vote.

EU debate - worth considering what our American allies think? This from the Washington Post editorial

Countries usually don’t knowingly commit economic suicide, but in Britain, millions seem ready to give it a try. On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote to decide whether to quit the European Union, the 28-nation economic bloc with a population of 508 million and a gross domestic product of almost $17 trillion. Let’s not be coy: Leaving the E.U. would be an act of national insanity.
It would weaken the U.K. economy, one of Europe’s strongest. The E.U. absorbs 44 percent of Britain’s exports; these might suffer because trade barriers, now virtually nonexistent between the U.K. and other E.U. members, would probably rise. Meanwhile, Britain would become less attractive as a production platform for the rest of Europe, so that new foreign direct investment in the U.K. — now $1.5 trillion — would fall.
Also threatened would be London’s status as Europe’s major financial center, home (for example) to 78 percent of E.U. foreign exchange trading. With the U.K. out of the E.U., some banking activities might move to Frankfurt or other cities. This would be a big blow.
Losses could be considerable. A study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), after making assumptions about U.K. trade and investment, concluded that “Brexit” — shorthand for Britain’s “exit” from the E.U. — could “shave off” $3,200 from average British household income by 2020. No one really knows, but other studies reach similar conclusions.
Indeed, the adverse effects may be undercounted, argues OECD SecretaryGeneral Angel Gurría. Noting that U.K. economic growth in the first quarter of 2016 was the slowest since 2012, he says that uncertainty over Britain’s future is already causing businesses to delay hiring and investment decisions.
What would Britain get from all this? Good question.
There are three main complaints against the E.U., says Nile Gardiner, who was an aide to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and now works at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
First, the outpouring of regulations from Brussels — the seat of the E.U. — has compromised Britain’s sovereignty. On some issues, the European Court of Justice can overrule British courts.

Second, the E.U.’s liberal migration rules may expose Britain to terrorists or overburden its welfare system. (Once people become E.U. citizens, they are allowed to live or work anywhere in the bloc.)
Finally, the E.U. imposes costs on Britain — an annual contribution to the E.U. budget plus the costs of regulations.
The E.U. certainly isn’t immune to criticism. It is often an elitist institution that has centralized too much power in Brussels for a continent characterized by huge differences of national history and culture. It has also committed massive errors, the adoption of the euro probably being the largest. (One currency didn’t work well for all countries. Britain wisely decided not to join.)
Still, most complaints seem exaggerated. The U.K.’s net annual contribution to the E.U. budget is about 0.5 percent of Britain’s GDP. That’s hardly crushing. Some E.U. regulations may be overkill, but Britain’s labor and product markets are among the least regulated of advanced countries.
As for immigrants, studies “show that these workers pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits,” says Frances Burwell of the Atlantic Council. “They’ve come to work.”
What this debate is really about is Britain’s place in the world and its self-identity. Britain has long been of Europe but also apart from it. The British Empire was once the world’s largest. To be simply another member of a continental confederation, albeit an important member, offends this heritage. The nostalgic yearning is understandable, but it is not a policy.
Ironically, leaving the E.U. would confirm the U.K.’s reduced status. The U.K. would have to renegotiate its trading agreements with the E.U. and dozens of other countries. A deal with the E.U. is essential. For the U.K., the best outcome would be to retain much of its preferential access, which — as a practical matter — would mean continuing contributions to the E.U. budget and abiding by most E.U. regulations. The status quo would survive, except that the U.K. would have no influence over E.U. policies. Anything less than this would have the E.U. putting its own members at a competitive disadvantage.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Postponed #EUreferendum debate this Wednesday at Hexham Abbey at 7-I will be making the case we are #StrongerIn

The debate that we agreed to adjourn as to whether we should be in or out will take place at the rearranged time of this Wednesday evening, with many locals at the Abbey. Details here:
On the panel:
Tony Webster, Chair of Panel
Guy Opperman, MP
Andrew Saunders, Chairman of Business for Britain, North East
Hugh Richardson, Wheelbirks
Simon Bainbridge, Bainbridge Farms
Josh Tiffin, Queen Elizabeth High School student
Michael Gennery, Queen Elizabeth High School student
Coming to the debate? Your existing questions still apply but you can do more. Send in your questions to with 'EU DEBATE' in the subject line. 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Thoughts on the last few days, on security, and the need to co exist with those we disagree with

The impact of the horrific loss of a colleague who was just starting to shine, after her first year in the House of Commons, is beginning to sink in. Tomorrow the Commons will remember Jo. Like all MPs, from whichever party, and like all the county councillors I know, she was motivated by a sense of public service, a desire to make a difference, and a great satisfaction when by their actions a constituents life was improved.
As one person put it-"Jo Cox MP achieved a remarkable amount in her 41 years of life and made a difference in all these spheres. She undoubtedly had a great future ahead of her and politics will be very much the poorer without her; her husband Brendan, in a statement shortly after she was murdered last Thursday, urged everyone to "fight against the hate that killed her" - how right he was."

On Friday I spent the day in the far west of Northumberland doing surgeries, appointments, having meetings and updating residents with the county councillor, Ian Hutchinson. The response was really encouraging.

Many will argue that by reason of Thursday's events we need greater security in order to do this job, but I will be resisting that. One of the great advantages of this job is your immediacy of access - I am constantly stopped in the street to be asked a question or have a chat; this happens at the supermarket, on the train or at an event, wherever; and that is how it should be. I do not think I need any specific greater protection to do this job, but I would make a few comments.
- When there are potentially tricky situations then we do need to take them seriously and the police must be able and willing to react quickly and robustly. To be fair the police are very good in direct ways.

- But there is no doubt that whilst the Internet is a wonderful thing it has changed people's behaviour. No one has ever been abusive to me to my face, however much they have disagreed with me.
But get these people on Twitter, Facebook, social media and the abuse, the trolls, and the terrible things that are said and done have to be seen and experienced to be believed. All MPs would agree that this has got much worse this last year since the election in May 2015. The vote last autumn on whether we should join the coalition of countries trying to stop the expansion of ISIS in Syria, seemed to prompt an outpouring of vitriol that had to be read, seen and experienced to be believed.
But it is not even this serious issue that creates abnormal online behaviour. This is becoming the norm I am afraid. The ability to reason, to make a case, to debate rationally and without rancour with those of a differing view is getting harder and harder. And it affects the County Councillor, the parish councillor, the public servants, the council employee, the policeman, the nurse, the paramedic just as much as it does the MP.
So next time you see or read such abuse please report it to the police, please do not tolerate it amongst your friends and family, and please let's all try and coexist. All of us, in my experience, are fundamentally good people living in a wonderful country. Let's make sure we remember that.

Friday, 17 June 2016

"Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life"

In a statement yesterday, Brendan Cox said: "Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo's friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

"Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

"She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisionous.

"Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full."

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Today will be at County Hall all day but EU Referendum debate at Hexham Abbey 7-9

Really busy day with multiple meetings at County Hall, but the last EU referendum debate is this evening at Hexham Abbey. I believe we are stronger in. The report of the last debate is here:

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Trains, stations, floods, roads and so much more on a packed transport agenda this week

The Intentions of Northern Rail, the changes when the Pacers are replaced on the Tyne Valley Line, the future prospects for Gilsland Station, safety improvements to the A69 at Henshaw, roads damaged by floods, culverts that damage houses, potholes, and a policy on ditch clearing and drain maintenance are just some of the issues that are occupying me this week. After a meeting in London with Northern Rail chief executive today I have a much better understanding of the way ahead for the Tyne Valley line, but I am on the train north now with 8 days of campaigning, surgeries and transport rated issues ahead. 
There is no doubt that Transport is occupying a major part of the next 48 hours as I have had a series of meetings in London, and across the county in the next two days. 

On Northern Rail today I met Alex Hynes, and discussed at length the Pacer replacement plans. I am happy to discuss in more detail with the Tyne Valley Rail Users Group but the short point is that he could not have been more adamant that we will be getting a dramatically improved quality of carriage in which to travel, including everything from wifi to disabled facilities, plus faster more comfortable trains. Some will say, and have said to me, that what the customer is getting is a refurbished train carriage, albeit one refurbished to a level that is effectively indistinguishable from new. This is true; some would argue that only brand new will do, but I would prefer to focus on the quality of the present, not how it is wrapped. The key thing I am absolutely 110% sure of is this: I am confident that local customers will see a dramatic difference, and the degree to which the DFT / government have helped made this replacement happen is to their credit. 

On Gilsland Station we now have the feasibility study from Network Rail, which I am going through with Northumberland County Council, COGS, network rail, northern rail reps, and key stakeholders in Morpeth tomorrow afternoon. The good news is that we have the report and can make some progress. The bad news is network rail's preliminary estimation of cost, which is definitely large. But, the reality is that as the poet said - "the longest journey starts with the shortest steps" - and we are many more steps down the journey, now we have this report. I will blog more after the meeting,but want to sit down with COGS and the team first, so we can undertake a detailed appraisal and assess the next steps. 

On Friday I start with a further meeting on efforts to get road safety improvements to the A69 at Henshaw before I am out west in Slaggyford and Eals meeting with the County Highways team and both inspecting road repairs, and discussing culverts that could stop some houses being flooded. Along the way at County Hall I will be raising road repairs, potholes, drain clearance and ditch clearance. 

Monday, 13 June 2016

Westminster this week

Today we debate the Policing and Crime Bill until late in the Commons, followed by various other debates later on Tuesday and Wednesday; there is a debate on the international aid budget in Westminster hall. I support this decision to give 0.7% of our GDP to projects like the Send my friend campaign, clean water and vaccinations, as well as all the other serious soft power this has on so many around the world.
I also have meetings this week with MOJ officials, constituents and public service providers this week. We have Stuart as our work experience helper in the Commons this week. The House will not be sitting Thursday and Friday and I am back in the constituency.

Excited to be speaking, listening and learning at #Dynamo16 conference at Northumbria University

In ten days time I will be at Northumbria Uni supporting the North East tech + IT businesses. The Minister Ed Vaizey will also be there. I firmly believe that the North East manufacturing future will feature both traditional engineering but also a massively growing tech based manufacturing. I went to the 2014 conference and this year is going to be so much bigger and better. Why would you go?

  • Get inspired by listening to leading regional and national IT industry figures
  • Grow your business by learning from industry success and collaborative projects
  • Build future success by getting involved in the region’s tech sector growth
  • Help address your skills challenges by joining the debate about growing IT talent in our region
  • Take part in shaping Dynamo’s workstreams and future direction
  • Share stories of innovation and find business partners to create more
  • Find business development opportunities by meeting some 350+ key executives from major tech firms
The full conference programme, how to register and more is here:

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Great to be part of #Sendmyfriend2016 Campaign - this is part of ourcommitment to International Aid

On Monday we debate international aid in the House of Commons: this commitment to 0.7% is one of the plethora of choices that individual politicians, parties, and governments need to make, and I support this. We do not have to do this, but we choose to do so because we are outward looking, we believe that soft power can make a difference both to the lives of others, and to the benefit of our country, and because we rightly lead in the world. I do not believe it is wrong for the uk to give 7 pence in every £10 we make in this way. International aid makes a massive difference. But life is about choices. As the year I spoke to at Richard Coates School know all too well - this is one of the plethora of choices that face us. Below are pictures of my trip to the Nizip refugee camp on the Turkish / Syrian border, a social action trip I volunteered for in January 2014. I followed the British taxpayers money from Whitehall to the camp where 17,000 refugees including 10,000 children were patiently waiting for the Syrian war to end so that they could go back home to their country.

I have seen first hand the impact it can have, whether this is at the Syria Turkish border, where I helped out in the Nizip camp, or in our vaccination campaigns, or in the send my friend to school campaign, which is so fully supported by Richard Coates Church of England Middle School in Ponteland. I have been there several times, at the request of their excellent teacher Miss Pearson, and the children who really take the campaign seriously.
So, although the actual day of action is July 1st we juggled diaries around so I could get in early to see the kids and talk to them about the campaign, what I do as an MP, and try and explain our 0.7% commitment to international aid.
There is no doubt that Richard Coates School takes the campaign seriously, I would urge all the parents of the children to ask them about the campaign, what it is we do wth taxpayers money, and get involved in the Send My Friend campaign. If you want to know more about the campaign, which culminates in a final action day on July 1st then look here:
This project has the two key supporters. The British government supports it as part of the international aid budget - of which more below - and this is a key part of the support given by the European Union, again partly with our UK contributions. Both of these issues are hotly debated right mow, which is why the visit was all the more worthwhile.

Past examples of successful support is here:
The visit in Friday was timely because on Monday we have a debate in Westminster hall on International Aid. It is fair to say that some people in the country and in all political parties do not support this. I do. I have seen the soft power influence it has. I have also been to the refugees camps on the Syrian Turkish border myself and seen the impact that our international aid can have. For more details and pictures of that trip to the Nizip refugee camp see below.

Worth a read. Measured approach of Justin Welby + his personal view that Remain is best

By Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Centerbury, for the Mail On Sunday 
At the heart of Britain’s Christian heritage are certain glorious principles. They are what make the best of our nation, whether we are Christians, of another faith or of no faith. They come from Jesus’s teaching, especially in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.
Among those principles is a vision of peace and reconciliation, of being builders of bridges, not barriers. We demonstrated it in the years after 1945. The vision of the founders of the European Union was also peace and reconciliation, and, alongside Nato and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), it worked and continues to work.
Peace and reconciliation exist in Western Europe today. It is the greatest cause for thankfulness that we can imagine. It is a blessing to be shared with the whole world.
The principles Jesus taught and which have so shaped us also include love for the poor, the alien and the stranger. The EU came together in a Europe broken beyond description by war, and has shaped a continent which until recently has contributed to more human flourishing, and more social care, than at any time in European history.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbour, and when questioned about what that meant gave the extraordinary story of the Good Samaritan. In that story the one who turns out to be a neighbour is the one who shows respect, mercy and love to the stranger, even to an enemy.
On June 6 we passed the 72nd anniversary of D-Day, the great invasion that was so significant in ending Nazi occupation of Western Europe. My father-in-law, Douglas Eaton, landed just after H-Hour.
He showed the family where he had fought, and we went to the cemetery where some of his unit were buried, a cemetery shared with German war dead. As he looked at the rows of graves of young men of both sides, it was one of the very few moments when I saw him struggle for composure. There was no hatred, just sadness at such losses. He was pleased that Germans and British were buried together.

At the end of June, just after the referendum on our membership of the EU, there will be an act of remembrance at Thiepval. It is a memorial to the roughly one million casualties on all sides in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, over 400,000 of them from Britain and the Commonwealth. To that million, of course, one must add even more who carried to the grave the mental and emotional scars.
When my father-in-law joined up, as a Territorial in 1938, it was, for him, something profound. He wanted to defend Britain, and on D-Day, he remembered feeling a sense that freeing Europe was the aim. Many at the Somme had similar feelings. How those who fought would vote in the referendum is unknowable, and likely to be as varied as how people today will vote. No one can conscript them to one side or the other.
June 23 is a date on which we, happily, do not literally have to fight for our freedom or future but we are going to make a choice that will change the lives of all of us, and the next generations, both in this country and indirectly for much of Europe. That choice should be made with the same ambition and vaulting idealism as those who gave so much in both wars.

Sacrifice, generosity, vision beyond self-interest, suffering for others, helping the helpless, these are some of the deeply Christian principles that have shaped us. They are principles that show us at our best, as an example to other countries, as a home of freedom and democracy, as a beacon of hope that shines around a dark world. They are forward-looking virtues. Those who fought in two world wars were not looking back but forward. Those who built the EU after the two wars, in which millions of Europeans had died, looked forward.
The vision for our future cannot be only about ourselves. We are most human when we exist for others.
This referendum seems to me to be so important because it is about our vision of what kind of country we are, for ourselves and for the world.
Both sides in the referendum have a vision for our nation, based in different ways on the principles I have written about. To be a country for the world is part of the calling of being British. Economics are massively important, so is migration, but they are not everything, although they are the signs of the values we have.
During the debates certain things seem to have emerged:
In terms of vision and ambition for human flourishing, the EU is no longer what it used to be. It needs renewed vision; major reforms.
It seems likely that the most probable economic effect of leaving would be negative in the short to medium term. Prosperity should not be the final aim for us, but the lack of it affects what we can do as a nation, how we are able to care for those in need here and elsewhere.
Immigration is a major concern for very many people. It must be addressed honestly but we must not succumb to our worst instincts.
The language in the campaign has been very blunt, but this is the question of a generation, and merits passionate campaigning. Personally, I have huge respect for politicians on both sides as they seek to put their case, a case in which they genuinely believe, and which they know matters hugely. Apart from anything else, those who pray should pray for them all, especially given the strain they face. There is no official Christian or Church line on which way to vote. Voting is a matter for each person’s conscience.
Two things are sure. Each of us should turn out and vote if we can. And after the referendum we must come together as one people to make the solution we choose work well.
Hard words (and I expect even this article may cause me to receive those) must not create enduring bitterness. Those who have led both sides have done so with courage and determination. Whatever the outcome, the Church of England will continue to love and support communities and nation as it always has done, and will seek the greatest human flourishing for all.
It would seem less than transparent, having written this, not to say where I stand. It is not said with the desire to tell others how to vote. In no sense do I have some divine hotline to the right answer.

We each have to make up our own minds. But for my part, based on what I have said and on what I have experienced I shall vote to remain.
I hope and pray that the result will be reached with the aim of a good Britain in a good Europe, whether as part of the EU or not. I pray that each person’s vote will be based on generosity, hope, confidence.
I pray that we will then reunite with immense determination to be a gift to the world of today and to future generations.

Read more:

Saturday, 11 June 2016

William Hague makes the economic case for Remain - I think my Hexham constituents are better off Remaining in the EU

"Playing with the jobs of millions of people is not a game. If we leave the European single market to which we export tens of thousands of cars, huge quantities of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the wings of Airbus planes and a myriad of financial services, without the foggiest idea what comes in its place, the problems caused will become worse every day and they won’t wear off with a stiff drink.
When they have discussed it in the past, some Leave campaigners have suggested that we could somehow stay in the single market but not have freedom of movement of people. This is beyond ridiculous: the rest of the EU is never going to give us a better arrangement than they have themselves. Others have said we could be like Norway and be in the European Economic Area, but Norwegians have to pay into the EU and accept higher immigration than we do while having no say over any of the rules.
Yet others have said we would be like Albania, but that country has an agreement based on ultimately joining the EU and the euro. Or like Canada, it has been said, before realising that the deal between the EU and Canada has already taken seven years to negotiate, still isn’t ratified and wouldn’t cover most of our economy. Well, then, we would just rely on the World Trade Organisation rules, like America and China, was, I think, the last option put forward by Leave campaigners.
Anyone with a job really needs to know what that means. It means a tariff of 10 per cent can be added to every car we make, or 20 per cent on our huge exports of whisky, or 36 per cent on a dairy product. British businesses would face all those extra costs, and yet if they still wanted to export to the rest of Europe they would have to comply with all the EU rules on their products, getting the worst of all worlds – the regulation on top of extra taxes, as well as customs to clear. "
The full article is here

Friday, 10 June 2016

Hexham Farmers Market, Roman Wall show, Humshaugh + Haydon Bridge Fairs - it's all happening tomorrow in Tynedale

Start off by shopping local at the Hexham Farmers Market. Then there are all manner of fairs and shows happening tomorrow. The best of them all is the iconic Roman Wall Show, which is a true agricultural show the likes of which you will not find many places else in the country.
There is also both the Humshaugh (at 1) and Haydon Bridge (at 2) Fairs tomorrow, Hexham Races starting at 2, and the Corbridge Steam Rally all weekend.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Fascinating interview with Justin Welby - well worth a read on many fronts

The Archbishop gives his thoughts on many issues - not just the EU debate but international trade, development + aid, refugees, and so much more.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

July 1st anniversary of the Battle of the Somme approaches - our generation very lucky not to be part of a major conflict

I have been to the battle fields of Northern France where so many lost their lives 100 years ago. It is a very sobering visit. I will be part of the national commemorations of the worst battle of WW1. Many locals in Tynedale lost their lives 100 years ago. The Courant did this excellent piece on those lost from Haydon Bridge and Hexham.
A wider piece on the Somme itself with amazing pictures is here:

Congratulations to Hillary Clinton - would urge all Americans to back her

BBC report of an historic moment in the USA, with the first ever woman to get to be the final choice for American President. I will be doing all I can to support her.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Update and good news on the roll-out of broadband across rural Northumberland

Last week I had a detailed meeting with BT, and received an update from Northumberland County Council, on the roll-out of broadband across Tynedale.

Access to broadband is a vital amenity for any household in the modern era, but especially so for those in the more rural parts of the UK. In this, rural Northumberland is a prime example. We are almost at the end of phase 1 of the roll out, which has seen all major towns and significant villages covered. There are some teething problems on phase one in villages like Byrness village, but having seen BT this week, I am assured they are being fixed, which is good. Certainly the Byrness village problems are being fixed.

On phase 2 I received welcome good news on the progress of the roll-out. 35 further areas are currently in line to be connected, as part of the second phase of broadband expansion. Matfen is the biggest outstanding village to be done and this is first in the queue, and should be up and running around September.
Specifically this phase 2 includes:
NB the location is the exchange, and then the bracketed location is the site of the improved / extended coverage:
Allendale (Catton Beacon),
Bardon Mill (next to the exchange, Westend Town, and Ridley),
 Corbridge (Dilston), Haydon Bridge (Langley), Humshaugh (Gunnerton, Wall, and Colwell),
Haltwhistle (Melkridge), Hexham (Warden, Bridge End, Oakwood, Sandhoe, and Acomb School), Newbrough (Allerwash Hall), Ponteland (600 metres south of the exchange, Medburn, South Medburn, Prestwick Park Business Centre, and Horton Grange), Slaley (Nr Slaley Hall / Park, Ordley, Wooley, and Whitley Chapel), Stamfordham (Matfen, and Hawkwell), Stocksfield (New Ridley, and Hedley on the Hill), West Allendale (Carrshield), West Woodburn (Nr the exchange, East Woodburn), and Wylam (Heddon-on-the-Wall, Horsley, North Dunslaw Holm).

Of course there is a long way to go. Improved broadband speeds won't reach every corner of the UK overnight, but the direction of travel is clear. When we came to office as a coalition in 2010, only 45 per cent of the country had access to superfast broadband. Today, we have provided superfast broadband access to 90 per cent of the UK – some additional 4 million homes and businesses.

It is great to see some of this progress here in Northumberland, and moving forward I hope to be able to provide even more encouraging updates on the areas connected. I am acutely conscious that isolated farms, hamlets and smaller communities are still struggling in certain places. If you are one of those then please get in contact and I will see what I can do. There will be a phase 3 and the technology is improving all the time. But the cost of provision to truly outlying areas is also very significant, and there is not an unlimited taxpayers sum of money to pay for this upgrade to technology. The present limit is effectively £1700 per household of taxpayer subsidy but this is being reviewed.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Westminster this week -The last 2 days of debate over the Investigatory Powers Bill dominate

I am back in Westminster preparing for the week ahead. The Commons considers the revised IP Bill, following extensive negotiations with all political parties, individual MPs, civil liberty groups and charities. I will be on the bench in the commons on the late shift until 11 pm tomorrow, and 8 on Tuesday. Tuesday and Wednesday I have various constituent meetings in the House, and I am required to stay in the house only until Thursday this week. I will be traveling up late Thursday night. I have a busy weekend planned, but will definitely be in Haydon bridge on Saturday afternoon. This Sunday there are a multitude of celebrations for the Queens 90th birthday.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Report of today's packed Hexham Debate on the EU Referendum

Around 200 people attended the Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham for a 90 minute amicable but robust exchange of views. It is fair to say that the majority arrived with a preconceived view, but there were clearly some who arrived undecided, including our compère George Hepburn. 
Today's debate featured 2 North East MEPs, Jude Kirton Darling helping me on the Remain side, and Jonathan Arnott helping Andy Saunders on the leave side.

The format was 4 sets of 7 minute speeches at the start and the finish, with 35 minutes allowed in the middle for the many questions, statements or queries that were raised in over 20 great questions/ comments from the audience. 
Jude and I agreed to split the debate,and the responses, as a tag team so that: 
- I would address the economy, sovereignty and immigration, particularly in so far as they applied to Northumberland, in my opening, and then focus on the key Hexham Debate themes of Justice, Peace and Democracy in my closing.
- Jude would address her 5 reasons as to why the wider North East benefits from Europe; and then deal with the specific questions and queries as to the process of the EU, and also as part of her closing address accountability, the application of the WTO upon Brexit and the tariffs that would result, fishing, democratic process, and many other broader questions raised. Jude spoke strongly, and we definitely dovetailed as well as it is possible to do so in such a real time Q+A session. It is not for me to assess the merits of the arguments, delivery or impact of the 2 leave campaigners but I will comment on a couple of points at the end. 
I spoke first and last in the debate. I am conscious in my role as the local MP to try and set out in broad terms the nature of my arguments (as I always try and do so on the blog) - hence this detailed blog. As it is a Hexham Debate it is fair to address the points raised on their three key themes:

Justice: questioners wanted specific examples of how the EU has helped the Uk promote and support justice. 
-I explained that as a criminal prosecutor I had suffered years of problems with extradition claims that ran into many many years before you got the criminal back - if you ever did. But since the creation and implementation of the European Arrest Warrant this process was now a matter of weeks, as was seen in the examples of the 7/7 bomber who fled to Italy, only to be arrested and brought back in less than 50 days, with a trial within months. This EAW is a deliberate choice of the U.K. Government to give up some powers for the greater good which is a cross border legal agreement. 
- similarly the implementation of cross EU sanctions on countries like Iran had definitely had an impact in driving their hard line government to negotiate over their nuclear build up, leading to the groundbreaking 2015 Iran treaty in Geneva, a deal that changed middle eastern politics. I saw this first hand during the last 2010-2015 parliament, where we debated, and I spoke, several times on Iran. There is no way these 28 country sanctions would have had the same effect if all countries had been acting individually. 
These points were in specific answer to questions by TIm from Hexham and Jane from Acomb. 

On Peace I addressed the role that the EU had played in promoting peace these last 71 years since the end of the 2nd world war, following a great point made by Charles, from Riding Mill; he made the point that all of us in the room were the first for many many generations not to see major European conflicts. This lack of major conflict has been caused by many things, with a clear debt to NATO, but the benefits of economic cooperation, free trade, and prosperity by open markets, support for the new entrants, and so much more can be laid largely at the EUs door. 

The best example of recent times has been the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s, where a racial, religious and territorial conflict was stopped by largely NATO muscle, but the aftercare and support for Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and the bringing of them back into the fold can be seen by the EU in so many different ways; to go to the former Yugoslavian countries now is to see a group of countries light years away from the state of terror that existed in the 1990s. 
Finally on democracy I tried to address in two ways the tricky issue of sovereignty. All of us want greater control over our lives, and over the EU. I urged everyone to read the actual agreement the PM secured as a result of his renegotiation (you can find it in my February blog post here: But I also stressed the changes that are happening more widely by reason of the U.K. referendum, which are palpable. 

I had earlier addressed: 
The economic argument - for which there was no reply from the Leave campaign; it is patently clear we will be worse off locally and nationally if we choose to leave. Whether you ask 
- the 600 economists, 
- the various expert independent organisations we look to for financial guidance eg World Bank, IMF, OECD, Bank of England, IFS, LSE etc etc
- or our allies like the USA, Australia, India or our European neighbours.
We are going to be a lot poorer - probably about £4000 per person. 
Put bluntly, as the constituency MP for 62,000 people,  I do not want my charges getting poorer on my watch. This is not a decision that Nissan, Egger or PWC would support. Of that I am certain.
I could not support such an economic outcome for the Hexham constituency. And the longer this debate has gone on, and the more I have debated with the leave campaign, the more overwhelming has been the argument that we are going to be significantly worse off if we leave. But, to be fair, the flip side is that this might be a price worth paying? So it is worth examining as I did in my opening the issue of sovereignty and control. 
On sovereignty I made the point that sovereignty is not like pregnancy, where you either are or you are not. If you want pure sovereignty go toNorth Korea. We, in the UK, make all our own decisions in Westminster on tax, benefits, health spending, schools, local authorities, military engagements in Iraq or the Falklands, and so much much more; but we choose to pool power in areas like farming, with the CAP, justice and the single market. In any event, even If we were to leave the EU then this would not create the glorious isolation, and compete sovereignty, the advocates of Brexit desire.  Britain is subject to some 700 international treaties involving multi-lateral submissions to multilateral compromises. Its membership of the UN similarly infringes its self-determination, for it can be outvoted there just as it can in Brussels. Likewise the WTO, NATO, the COP climate talks, the IMF, the World Bank, nuclear test ban treaties and accords on energy, water, maritime law and air traffic all require Britain to tolerate the sort of trade-offs that Eurosceptic out campaigners find distasteful: influence in exchange for irksome standardisation, laws and rules set mostly by foreigners not elected by Britons (regulations that Britain would not apply, or would apply differently, if left to its own devices). Yet it submits to all of these knowing that, as with the EU, it is free to leave whenever it wants—but at a price not worth paying.

This is precisely why the two models for a Britain outside the EU often cited by Brexiteers, namely Norway and Switzerland, constitute such weak arguments for Brexit. Under the Leave view, these countries are quite dramatically more "sovereign" than Britain. But in practice their economies and societies are so intertwined with those of their neighbours that they must subject themselves to rules over which they have no say. This exposes a false choice: in an increasingly interdependent world, countries must often opt not between pure sovereignty and the pooled sort, but—however distasteful the choice may seem—between the pooled sort and none.

On immigration the point is fairly made that both these non EU countries have higher levels of immigration than the UK, and are required to accept immigration and freedom of movement by reason of a desire to have access to the single market. They get many of the perceived burdens but without having a say in the decisions. 

Finally I addressed the democratic entitlement to peace and resolution of our problems - trying to address the concerns of the youngest person in the room, a 17 year old Hexham QEHS student. 
I am certain that we are best addressing these problems not from splendid isolation but as a group of countries. 
We are Better Together. The similarities to the Scottish referendum debate are overwhelming - (Scotland would be wealthier, more Scottish, more independent etc etc if only we could get rid of Westminster). But we are better off when we do not regress behind high walls and a protectionist, isolationist approach. 

Three final comments:
- My thanks to the Hexham Debates for the event and all the organisation that this process entails - it is never easy and these things take a lot of work. But please can I one day be asked to speak outside of a referendum and a general election? Perhaps on apolitical matters like prisons, and justice, or local banking, or even on international matters?

- There are further opportunities for debates locally in Northumberland or the wider North East, but the notable one is Hexham Abbey on Thursday June 16 at 7.30

- And the longer this debate has gone on, and the more I have debated the issue, the more certain I am that I am on the right side of the argument. We are StrongerIn.