Monday, 20 February 2017

The Independent is a left wing paper but it makes the case that #Copeland is a vote on Corbyn (and nuclear)

This is a good read and worth it - I have been repeatedly to Copeland and across west Cumbria Jeremy Corbyn is utterly toxic.

Westminster this coming week - plenty of debates from cultural property to Trump, and meetings galore

Westminster has over 10 debates this week, and I have multiple meetings with constituents, local businesses who are down in London, and will be returning home on Thursday. The Article 50 debate is in the house of lords this week.
The Westminster hall debate on whether we do or do not we allow President Trump to come to the uk (there are 2 separate petitions either way) is being heard today. It is not a question of whether you like him, or approve of his policies. America has elected him. I believe it is in this countries interests to have a meaningful relationship with America. We engage better with our allies by having dialogue with them, not by shutting them out.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Spectator fairly compares a Corbyn UK with Venezuela right now.

It's not a good prospect...

Hexham businessman shortlisted for Visit England's Tourism Superstar award

I am delighted that a constituent of mine, Kevin Robson, has been nominated for this year’s Tourism Superstar award, run by VisitEngland and supported by the Daily Mirror. The Tourism Superstar award, now in its fifth year, recognises and celebrates those in the tourism industry who go the extra mile to ensure tourists have an amazing and unforgettable visitor experience.

Kevin set up Wild Dog Outdoors in 2013 and is primarily a tour guide of Hadrian’s Wall, providing insightful and passionate tours on the Wall’s Roman and ancient history. He loves sharing tales of Northumberland’s place in Britain’s history and exploring the iconic sites within the county with visitors.  Anyone who goes on a tour with Kevin is treated to secret stories and anecdotes, usually the reserve of archaeologists and historians, which bring the locations to life. 

The public vote is now live on the Mirror’s website and will remain so until the end of March, with the winner to be announced during VisitEngland’s English Tourism Week (25 March-2 April).

I wish Kevin the very best of luck and throw my full support behind him, please spare a few moments of your time today to vote for him and show your appreciation for the work that he does to share our wonderful local history with others.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Employment figures show highest ever employment + youth unemployment lowest in 12 years

This weeks figures: #Employment 74.6% (highest ever), #Unemployment 4.8% (lowest in 11 years); #YouthUnemployment 12.6% (lowest in 12 years).
There remains ebbs and flows in the north east figures but the upward trend over the last 6 years is very positive. Much work to do but the direction of travel is clear.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Copeland has a star candidate in #TrudyHarrison - I will be there again to try and help persuade the good citizens of Copeland she will be a great local MP

On Fuel Poverty Awareness Day I am certain our energy booklet will save you money this winter!

Fuel Poverty is a real issue for residents across Tynedale. Increasing fuel prices are leaving homeowners feeling the pinch and residents are faced with a difficult choices. 

I have long been campaigning against fuel poverty. It was back in January 2011 that I first said families face the choice between ‘heating or eating’. For some time I have thought we should try and bring together all the key info, and the key local suppliers, in one available online and physical booklet.

Following on from the success of the Energy Booklet in the past four years, I am pleased to announce that a new and improved booklet is now out and online. I have organised for its delivery, at no cost to the taxpayer, to thousands of homes in the area, but I also wanted to provide details of it online.
I know many residents are concerned about energy costs and fuel, and hopefully this booklet will go some way to cut through the complexity, and provide some much needed simple answers. 

The main purpose of the guide is to help you make your home more energy efficient, and make you aware of what support is available. There is advice on how to get the best deal from your energy supplier and details about a range of schemes. Included is also information on financial assistance to which you may be entitled, as well as details of various organisations from the Citizens Advice Bureau to local Oil Buying Clubs whom you can contact. 

Finally, I have also provided information on the Tynedale Community Bank: a real alternative to the major multinationals. The TCB is a local bank, providing savings and loans for local people. 

I stress this booklet does not have all the answers, but I know it can help. Now is the time to start thinking about how you can stay warm and save money, this winter. You can download it here:

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Huge support from business leaders for the 3 Local Authorities embracing devolution

The journal carries a report of last weeks key meeting of the local authorities. It is worth a read. After the meeting, the FSB’s regional development manager Simon Hanson tweeted: “It is abundantly clear there are two competing visions in the North East Combined Authority area: one that is ambitious and wants to look outwards, the other that isn’t.”
And the Chamber’s head of policy Jonathan Walker said: “In a time of huge political change, ‘wait and see’ is not acceptable position for our region to take. We must grab opportunities open to us.”
The meeting reflects growing frustration within the business community that the decision of the four councils south of the Tyne to pull out of the devolution deal scuppered a once-in-a-generation chance for the North East to take more control of its own affairs.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Very positive job news in Prudhoe as 2Pure creates new jobs - good to visit and meet the team

It’s great to hear that 2Pure will be moving their headquarters to Prudhoe, creating ten new jobs for the area in the process. It is wonderful to see our small business having such a positive impact on the local community.

I had the pleasure of visiting their factory in Prudhoe last month to see their new products, I was particularly impressed that they are all environmentally friendly and non-irritant. I wish all the team at 2Pure the very best for the future and hope that they continue to grow as they have done in the past few months.

The Courant has a detailed piece on 2Pure and my visit to meet the team there who are creating local jobs. I am fully behind the work they are doing and am doing all I can to help the company.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Monday, 13 February 2017

LifeSavers Project a huge step forward for financial education in tynedale

I am thrilled to announce that next month I will be taking part in the North-East launch of the LifeSavers fund.
Lifesavers aims to help children manage money wisely- and supports the whole family to learn about money together. Through practical experience of handling money at the savings club, classroom teaching, and resources for assemblies about money, LifeSavers really is a ‘whole school’ programme of financial education.
We want to see a generation of children grow up with financial resilience and the skills to deal with their money, whatever life throws at them. With evidence suggesting that children develop lifelong money habits at the age of seven, starting a savings habit early is an amazing way to improve their chances of success.
School savings clubs, powered by the local Tynedale Community Bank will set our children and young people in good stead for the years as they learn that a little bit of saving, regularly can soon build up and they can reach their goals.

Lifesavers also acknowledges that children learn from both home and school, so they also support schools to help parents and carers too around money and how to help their children learn
The programme is currently running in 120 schools across the UK, with funding available to offer it FREE to a limited number of schools in Tynedale and Northumberland.  LifeSavers works in partnership with Tynedale Community Bank, and delivered by Young Enterprise, the UK’s leading financial and enterprise education school charity.Find out more, and access online teaching resources here:
Register your interest (with no commitment at this stage)here:

Saturday, 11 February 2017

I have no doubt that UK will soon resolve status of EU nationals in U.K., and U.K. Nationals in EU, but this requires pan European agreement

I very much wish to resolve the issue of the ongoing status of EU nationals. But at the same time this requires the agreement of the other 27 EU national states both as to the rights of their citizens and the rights of the UK nationals resident in mainland Europe. 

This was the Prime Minister in the House of Commons last week on this point:

'My honourable friend obviously raises an issue that is of concern to all members across this house, and of concern to many individuals outside this house who want reassurance about their future; and, as I’ve said, I want to be able to give that and expect to be able to give that reassurance, but I do want to see the same reassurance for UK citizens living in the EU.

“What I can say to my honourable friend is that when I trigger Article 50, I intend to make it clear that I want this to be a priority for an early stage of the negotiations so we can address this issue and give reassurance to people concerned.”

For myself, I am confident that this matter will be resolved speedily and with equal rights on all parts. But there are genuine reasons for the delay. Most significantly this requires an agreement between 28 countries. 
As the BBC have made clear this is not a simple issue on several levels: 

The Home Secretary spelt out the complexity of the issue in terms of agreement as follows this week:
"European citizens already resident in the UK make a vital contribution both to our economy and our society, and a number of colleagues have spoken to me recently seeking assurances about their immigration status when we leave the EU.
There is absolutely no question of treating EU citizens with anything other than the utmost respect, recognising the contribution they make not just to our economy, but also working in crucial public services like the NHS. Without them we would be poorer and our public services weaker. That’s why we will be making securing their status, as well as that of British nationals in the EU, a priority as soon as we trigger Article 50 and the negotiations begin.
I know some colleagues are concerned about how long this might take to resolve, but the Government remains committed to providing reassurance to EU nationals here and UK nationals in the EU as a priority once Article 50 has been triggered. The hold-up is less an issue of principle than one of timing with a few EU countries insisting there can be 'no negotiation before notification', and therefore that nothing can be settled until Article 50 is triggered. "

The issue on child refugees is whether we take the majority from the Syrian camps or from France or Italy

I support the position of the Home Secretary as set out in her statement: "The Government take the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children extremely seriously. That is why we have pledged more than £2.3 billion in aid in response to the Syria conflict—our largest ever humanitarian response to a single crisis. The UK has contributed significantly to the hosting, supporting and protection of the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis. In the year ending September 2016, we granted asylum or another form of leave to more than 8,000 children. About 50% of the 4,400 individuals who have been resettled through the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme so far are children. Within Europe, in 2016, we transferred more than 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to the UK, including more than 750 from France as part of the UK’s support for the Calais camp clearance. As Home Secretary, I am proud that the UK played such a key role in helping the French to close the camp safely and compassionately. The Government announced that, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, we would transfer the specified number of 350 children who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. That number includes more than 200 children who have already been transferred from France under section 67.
I must make it absolutely clear that the scheme is not closed. As required by the legislation, we consulted local authorities on their capacity to care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at the number. We are grateful for the way in which local authorities have stepped up to provide places for those arriving, and we will continue to work closely to address capacity needs. The Government have always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children. That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act.  The section 67 obligation was accepted on the basis that the measure would not act as a pull factor for children to travel to Europe and that it would be based on local authority capacity. The Government have a clear strategy and we believe this is the right approach.
Here in the UK, we have launched the national transfer scheme and we have also significantly increased funding for local authorities caring for unaccompanied asylum- seeking children by between 20% and 28%.
The Government have taken significant steps to improve an already comprehensive approach and we
are providing protection to thousands of children in this year. I am proud of this Government’s active approach to helping and sheltering the most vulnerable, and that is a position that will continue.
The scheme has not closed, as reported by some. We were obliged by the Immigration Act to put a specific number on how many children we would take based on a consultation with local authorities about their capacity. This is the number that we have published and we will now be working in Greece, Italy and France to transfer further children under the amendment. We’re clear that behind these numbers are children and it’s vital that we get the balance right between enabling eligible children to come to the UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host them and provide them with the support and care they will need.
We consulted extensively with local authorities over several months to reach this number, but if your local authority is contacting you suggesting they have extra capacity to take children then please encourage them to participate in the National Transfer Scheme. Each year we have around 3,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children arrive in Britain and currently a small number of councils are taking a disproportionate share of the burden in caring for these children.

I have been many times to help in the Copeland By Election and Channel 4 Michael Crick is confirming what I have seen / been told by voters - the Cumbrians do not like Corbyn

Hexham Farmers Market today - #shoplocal + support your local Farmers and producers - use it or lose it!!

Friday, 10 February 2017

National Apprenticeship Week - what are you doing to support apprentices?

It’s wonderful to see National Apprenticeship Week enter its 10th Anniversary next month, running between 6 and 10 March. The week is coordinated by the National Apprenticeship service and is designed to celebrate the positive impact that apprenticeships have on businesses, individuals, and the wider economy.
The 10th National Apprenticeship Week will bring together employers and apprentices from across England to celebrate the successes of apprenticeships over the last decade and seek to encourage more people to choose apprenticeships as a fast-track to a great career. This is a great way to build momentum towards the ambition of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.
The theme for this week is ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ – an apprenticeship is a ladder of opportunity to gain higher skills and career progression. I am looking forward to getting involved in events around Northumberland during Apprenticeship week and throwing my full support behind this excellent initiative.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Great British Spring Clean Is Coming To Tynedale, 3-5 March

Last week I attended the Parliamentary launch of The Great British Spring Clean. The campaign is calling on schools, businesses and community groups to get outdoors, get active and help clear up our local communities.

The Great British Spring Clean follows on from last year’s very successful Clean for The Queen campaign and brings together many of the anti-litter organisations in the UK. Costa Coffee, McDonald’s and LIDL are just a few of the companies also supporting the initiative.

Community groups including parish councils, residents’ associations, Girl guides and brownies and Scout and Cub troops are encouraged to organise their own litter pick or event in the coming weeks or over the campaign’s big clean weekend over 3-5 March.
I wanted to help with The Great British Spring Clean as it is really important to encourage people to go out and clean up their communities. The initiative also provides a useful opportunity to raise awareness of the problems litter causes.
I am really keen that people in Tynedale get behind this campaign. It does not take much, and the impact is tremendous. I will be out litter picking, over the 3-5 March weekend, and hope to see as many people there as possible.

You can find more information of how you can get involved:

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

This is the Bill that the House of Commons has debated for 5 days - it passed the Commons committee stage tonight

Sunday Politics on IPlayer: Trump, Brexit, Copeland by-election, Darlington NHS+ Sunderland City of Culture

President Trump is clearly a polarising person; you do not have to like him, but you have to work with him. He is the democratically elected president of the United States, and it is clearly in our national interest to maintain a strong and positive relationship with the USA, both before and after Brexit.

The Article 50 vote was a resounding confirmation of the democratic will of the British people. I make no secret about campaigning strongly for the UK to remain in the European Union, but accept fully the result of the referendum. You do not get to pick and choose which bits of democracy you agree with. The government has rightly set-out a detailed 77 page White Paper on our position and aims in the Brexit negotiations, that will rightly be debated in Parliament. We are leaving the EU, and there is much cause for optimism and positivity, as we do so. 

Anyone that has not done so already, I strongly encourage to come out and meet our outstanding candidate Trudy Harrison, who is standing as the Conservative candidate in the Copeland by-election. She is absolutely clear that Sellafield is vital to local jobs and livelihoods, and only a Conservative government and local MP can ensure that nuclear remains a key part of our national energy mix. Having been to Copeland eight times already, I can say with a good deal of certainty that the reaction on the doorstep to Jeremy Corbyn's North London anti-nuclear credentials is extremely poor. Rightly, local residents want to see the survival of and investment in our national nuclear energy, and see that with a Conservative MP, Sellafield will continue to be a vital part of our national energy infrastructure. The NHS is getting more funds, and is undergoing real, transformational localisation of services. Local residents, doctors, and clinical experts are informing the decision on the ground that matter to local people; about service distribution and the right plan for local NHS provision moving forward. On the issue of Sunderland I am 100% behind the city of culture campaign

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

World Internet Safety Day - Tuesday 7 February

This Tuesday is World Internet Safety Day, which aims to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people. Social media in particular has become part of our day to day lives and I think it is crucial that we ensure young people are given the skills that they need to get a positive experience from this resource.
To highlight this, police officers will be visiting schools around Northumberland and hosting community drop-in events to give advice to both children and parents on how to stay safe online.
I am proud to support this initiative, and urge internet users of all ages to take full advantage of this opportunity. Internet safety is an issue which affects all of us.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Heathrow Airport progress for a third runway is very good news

The Government is publishing proposals for a third runway at Heathrow Airport, helping prepare Britain for leaving the EU.
This will be one of the UK’s most important infrastructure projects, helping to build a Global Britain that is ready to grasp the opportunities of Brexit and to forge a new role in the world.

Aviation expansion will boost our economy and jobs and promote the UK on the world stage. Last thursdays National Policy Statement will allow the public to have their say on the plans.

This consultation is a significant step in our plan to build a global, outward looking Britain, and an economy that works for everyone here at home.
It is a massive boost to the region as a whole:

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Busy week in Westminster as days 3-5 of the Article 50 debate dominate

Presently on the late train south to London with a packed week ahead dominated by multiple debates on Article 50. The 130 word bill was debated for 2 extended days last week, leading to a vote by 498-114 in favour. The BBC have reported the result here:
It is fair to say that there were some differing views - a fifth /  quarter of the liberal and labour MPs did not support the referendum result, whilst only Ken clarke voted with the labour and liberal opponents.
For my part I have made my position clear these last 6 months notably last week:

The key passage from my argument has always been a respect for democracy:
"The European referendum was a divisive process for the nation. It divided houses, let alone political parties. But the result was clear. A 4% win in a 2 horse race is a big win. But my view would not change if either side had won by a narrower margin. I respect the democratic process and I respect the result.
If I had lost the general election by a slim margin I would have reached across to my opponents, shaken their hand, wished them well with a difficult job, kissed my good lady, and definitely have gone to the pub. A quantity of beer would clearly have followed (preferably Northumbrian Ale - I definitely support my local brewers).
It is well known in the north east that I campaigned for Remain in the referendum; but I fully accept the result. In order to trigger the process the Prime Minister has to notify formally the EU that the process must commence using Article 50. Parliament has already voted on this once since June 23 2016 and I believe that the Prime Minister is quite right to make it very clear that she will respect the June 23 result.
But the opposition parties are taking a different line. The liberals seem to have forgotten the democrat  part of their name - and clearly therefore a liberal democrat does not respect democracy. I listen to their argument which goes "the people have voted but the people were wrong, and should be ignored."

I will be writing in detail to all locals who have written in to me by email or letter when this process is finished for now on Wednesday night. All emails and letters are read and considered. 
But this is democracy. There were many good speeches last week in the debate but I was particularly struck by the speech of  my friend and colleague Robert Jenrick
The salient parts of his speech are here:
After the storms of the referendum and its immediate aftermath, the country was understandably divided into leave and remain. It seems to me, having listened to 10 hours of this debate, that two new groups have emerged and become the real divide in Parliament. The first, and by far the larger, group consists of those who accept the mandate of the referendum and who want to implement it in full. As many have said tonight, that includes leaving the single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. However they voted in the referendum, they are primarily focused on how we can make a success of the life to come.
The second group consists of those who are not yet able to accept the mandate of the referendum, or who do so in word only and seek to diminish it in reality. They look back in anger, remorse and regret, and they are unable psychologically or intellectually to reorientate themselves to the new world and to ask the real question that is before us today: what comes next? In a free society, there is no obligation on anyone to change their views to conform with the majority but, as my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin said so eloquently, there is an obligation on all of us to act in the national interest. The path of the second group is not in the national interest.
I do not believe that the people of Newark sent me to Westminster at a time of such historic importance to point fingers—to say, “What about the £350 million for the NHS?” or, “What about the recession that you threatened, which never happened?” They want us to come together. They want us to recognise our moral obligation to make our exit from the European Union succeed. The task of every Member of this House must be to build up the positives of leaving the European Union and to mitigate the negatives. That is the test we must all apply in our lives. Voting against the Bill, or amending it to bind the hands of the Prime Minister in our negotiations, fails that test.
Change can be hard, and even more so if it is a course that we did not want to embark on. But we in this place have a special responsibility to give people the confidence and the courage to live with that change and make a success of it. We do that by accepting the mandate and setting out to find a vision of the future that works for everyone. We have to see this as what an economist—I know that some hon Members do not like economists—would call a non-zero-sum game. A zero-sum game is one in which one side wins at the expense of the other: leave won, and remain lost. A non-zero-sum game is one in which we try to find a way for everyone to win.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

On the Sunday Politics tomorrow on President Trump, Brexit, the Darlington NHS, and the Copeland by election. 11:30 in the north. My thoughts on Trump and his policies set out below.

On the issue of President Trump the PM has made the governments view very clear last week at Prime Ministers Questions:
"I have made it very clear that we believe that this policy is divisive and wrong, and that it is not a policy that we would introduce. I have also made it very clear when asked about this that this Government have a very different approach to these issues. On refugees, this Government have a proud record of the support that we have given to them, and long may it continue."
She added on Wednesday that 
"On the policy that President Trump has introduced, this Government are clear that it is wrong. We would not do it. In six years as Home Secretary, I never introduced such a policy. We believe it is divisive and wrong. If the right hon. Gentleman is asking me whether I had advance notice of the ban on refugees, the answer is no. If he is asking me if I had advance notice that the Executive order could affect British citizens, the answer is no. If he is asking if I had advance notice of the travel restrictions, the answer is, we all did, because President Trump said in his election campaign that he was going to do this. The question is how you respond. The job of Government is not to chase the headlines; the job of Government is not to take to the streets in protest; the job of Government is to protect the interests of British citizens, and that is exactly what we did."

For my part, I do not believe that it is in the UK interests to block out or ignore the new President. We do not influence him if we do not engage. We may not like his policies but he was elected by the USA in a democratic election. We have to work with him, both in our national interest, and as part of organisations like NATO, as we have to work with countries and other leaders. 

Today is World Cancer Day: Let's get together to help fight this awful disease

Today is World Cancer Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about a disease that touches us all, and the work we can do to fight it. 

I attended an event in Parliament this week to show support for this extremely important cause. I met with representatives from seven of the UK’s leading charities who have joined forces to unite the nation and help people affected by cancer.

Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care, Breast Cancer Now, CLIC Sargent, Anthony Nolan, Bowel Cancer UK and Marie Curie are calling on people across the country to support the good charities. 
By joining forces, the charities will make a bigger impact in transforming the lives of millions who are affected by cancer.

The Unity Bands are made of two parts, knotted together, to symbolise the power of what can be achieved when people join forces. The bands themselves are available from each charity on their websites, shops and other retail outlets for a suggested donation of £2. All money raised from the Unity Bands will go towards the charities individual work. You can find the bands here:

One in two people born in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime. I had a brain tumour so I know this disease. Whatever your motivation – to remember a loved one, celebrate people who have overcome the disease, or to rally in support of those going through treatment - World Cancer Day is a chance to get involved and transform the lives of millions of people who are affected by cancer.

Positive steps taken to increase the number of women in politics

The release of postcards encouraging women to sign up for a role in Parliament - or as a councillor - is a positive step forward in getting more women in Parliament and more women involved in politics.

It is a huge pleasure of mine to support the ‘Women2Win’ campaign, and I am very proud of their achievements so far; these postcards promote the parliament project. If you are interested you can also google women 2 win and get involved. Their website is here:
The postcards allow anyone to recommend a woman to a role in politics, with the options of Councillor, MSP, MP. There are also instructions on how to proceed, asking women to sign up to ‘The Parliament Project’.

The postcards are a simple and effective way to encourage women to get involved in parliamentary politics.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

On #TimetoTalk day have a conversation and address the future for mental health in our NHS

In early January, the government set out its plan for tackling mental health issues. On mental health this government has 1,400 more people accessing mental health services every day in comparison to 2010, with plans for 1 million more people with mental health conditions to access services by 2020. We have acknowledged the recommendations of Independent Taskforce on Mental Health which will consequently see mental health spending increase by £1 billion annually by 2020. We need to go further and there are detailed plans. In schools; every secondary school to train someone in mental health first aid. In the workplace; a new partnership with employers to support mental health. The government will also continue to invest £15 million in places of safety for those in crisis following the successful start to the programme in the last parliament; expansion of digital mental health provision and an updated comprehensive suicide prevention strategy. These policies are a great step forward in tackling mental health issues.
But most of all on time to talk day, have a conversation about mental health. It could change someone's life. 

Government published the White Paper on our exit and our new partnership with the EU

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Heritage Lottery Fund support for local remembrance project in #Stannington

It is a pleasure for me to use the blog to confirm the investment by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) over the years, allowing constituents to learn more about local heritage. This latest grant of £10,000 is based on the ‘Stannington Parish Centenary Festival of Remembrance’ project. This is a two year project, which will be researching and commemorating Stannington’s contribution to the First World War. This is a great opportunity for the people of Stannington and wider Northumberland to learn about their fallen war heroes. It is also a great pleasure that HFL have chosen to do funding in Northumberland, continuing their great work to protect Britain’s heritage. I look forward to seeing the positive results over the next two years. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

British economy grows fastest in G7 - strong progress but we still spend more than we earn

Britain grew at the fastest pace of all G7 leading nations last year and the economy did not skip a beat after the Brexit vote, official figures have confirmed. The gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.6 per cent in the final three months of 2016, the same rate of growth as in the previous two quarters, in stark contrast to the Treasury’s warning before the referendum that the country would slip into recession if it voted to leave the EU. Over the year as a whole, Britain grew by 2 per cent, down from 2.2 per cent in 2015 but better than estimates for growth in the rest of the G7, including the US. Britain has now topped the world’s leading economies for two of the past three years.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Derwentwater Memorial renovation gets my full support - Jacobite history returning to its full glory!

Another great investment in Northumberland is by the SUEZ Communities Trust, through the Landfill Communities Fund. I have been informed that the SUEZ Communities Trust have invested £105 million into over 3,700 projects. Now SUEZ Communities trust have invested £2,100 to help repair and restore the Derwentwater Memorial and Cross, located 500m north of Langley Castle in a wooded valley. This funding will greatly help towards the restoration and repair of the Derwentwater Memorial. The funding is most generous and helpful to the community.
If you don't know the tale of the cross have a read here as it is good stuff:

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Profound changes to homelessness brought about Fridays successful Homeless Reduction Bill

On Friday parliament debated and passed the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Government supported private members bill, which will make a real impact on this issue. The BBC description is here but it has received massive support from Crisis, St Mungos and the other key charities:

The Bill changes the point at which a person is classed as being threatened with homelessness from 28 days before a person is likely to be homeless, to 56 days.  A new duty - backed up by financial support - is placed on local housing authorities to take steps for 56 days to relieve that homelessness by helping any eligible homeless applicant to secure accommodation. Provision is also made for certain care leavers, to make it easier for them to show they have a local connection with both the area of the local authority responsible for them and the area in which they lived while in care if that was different.  I hope that this will really be a step change for those in priority need.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Trumps revised commitment to NATO is a massive step forward and worth the USA trip alone

Even the Guardian is complimentary:
"Theresa May has secured a commitment from Donald Trump that the US is fully behind Nato at a historic press conference with an uncharacteristically emollient president.
May’s wisdom in becoming the first foreign leader to visit Trump in the White House had been questioned, after a series of wayward comments from the president in the run-up to the much anticipated meeting on Friday. 
But she will hope to claim some credit for persuading him to reaffirm his country’s allegiance to the transatlantic alliance, which he has previously described as “obsolescent”.
Standing next to Trump, who nodded along, May said: “On defence and security cooperation, we’re united in our recognition of Nato as the bulwark of our collective defence and we reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance. We’re 100% behind Nato.
“I agreed to continue my efforts to persuade my fellow European leaders to deliver on their commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, so that the burden is more fairly shared.”

Prime Ministers speech in full on foreign policy, NATO, the UN, Iraq, trade and a lot more - worth a read

I would like to thank Congress and the Congressional Institute for the invitation to be here today. The opportunity to visit the United States is always special. And to be invited to be the first serving Head of Government to address this important conference is an honour indeed.
I defy any person to travel to this great country at any time and not to be inspired by its promise and its example.
For more than two centuries, the very idea of America – drawn from history and given written form in a small hall not far from here – has lit up the world.
That idea – that all are created equal and that all are born free – has never been surpassed in the long history of political thought.
And it is here – on the streets and in the halls of this great city of Philadelphia – that the founding fathers first set it down, that the textbook of freedom was written, and that this great nation that grew “from sea to shining sea” was born.
Since that day, it has been America’s destiny to bear the leadership of the free world and to carry that heavy responsibility on its shoulders. But my country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has been proud to share that burden and to walk alongside you at every stage.
For the past century, Britain and America – and the unique and special relationship that exists between us – have taken the idea conceived by those “fifty-six rank-and-file, ordinary citizens”, as President Reagan called them, forward. And because we have done so, time and again it is the relationship between us that has defined the modern world.
One hundred years ago this April, it was your intervention in the First World War that helped Britain, France, our friends in the Commonwealth and other allies to maintain freedom in Europe.
A little more than seventy-five years ago, you responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour by joining Britain in the Second World War and defeating fascism not just in the Pacific but in Africa and Europe too.
And later, in the aftermath of these wars, our two countries led the West through the Cold War, confronting communism and ultimately defeating it not just through military might, but by winning the war of ideas. And by proving that open, liberal, democratic societies will always defeat those that are closed, coercive and cruel.
But the leadership provided by our two countries through the Special Relationship has done more than win wars and overcome adversity. It made the modern world.
The institutions upon which that world relies were so often conceived or inspired by our two nations working together.
The United Nations – in need of reform, but vital still – has its foundations in the Special Relationship, from the original Declaration of St James’ Palace to the Declaration by United Nations, signed in Washington, and drafted themselves by Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, born in the post-war world at Bretton Woods, were conceived by our two nations working together.
And NATO – the cornerstone of the West’s defence – was established on the bonds of trust and mutual interests that exist between us.
Some of these organisations are in need of reform and renewal to make them relevant to our needs today. But we should be proud of the role our two nations – working in partnership – played in bringing them into being, and in bringing peace and prosperity to billions of people as a result.
Because it is through our actions over many years, working together to defeat evil or to open up the world, that we have been able to fulfil the promise of those who first spoke of the special nature of the relationship between us. The promise of freedom, liberty and the rights of man.
“We must never cease”, Churchill said, “to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law, find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence”.
So it is my honour and privilege to stand before you today in this great city of Philadelphia to proclaim them again, to join hands as we pick up that mantle of leadership once more, to renew our Special Relationship and to recommit ourselves to the responsibility of leadership in the modern world.
And it is my honour and privilege to do so at this time, as dawn breaks on a new era of American renewal. For I speak to you not just as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but as a fellow Conservative who believes in the same principles that underpin the agenda of your Party. The value of liberty. The dignity of work. The principles of nationhood, family, economic prudence, patriotism – and putting power in the hands of the people.
Principles instilled in me from a young age. Principles that my parents taught me in the vicarage in Southern England in which I was raised. I know that it is these principles that you have put at the heart of your plan for government.
And your victory in these elections gives you the opportunity to put them at the heart of this new era of American renewal too.
President Trump’s victory – achieved in defiance of all the pundits and the polls – and rooted not in the corridors of Washington, but in the hopes and aspirations of working men and women across this land. Your Party’s victory in both the Congress and the Senate where you swept all before you, secured with great effort, and achieved with an important message of national renewal.
And because of this – because of what you have done together, because of that great victory you have won – America can be stronger, greater, and more confident in the years ahead.
And a newly emboldened, confident America is good for the world.
An America that is strong and prosperous at home is a nation that can lead abroad. But you cannot – and should not – do so alone. You have said that it is time for others to step up. And I agree.
Sovereign countries cannot outsource their security and prosperity to America. And they should not undermine the alliances that keep us strong by failing to step up and play their part.
This is something Britain has always understood. It is why Britain is the only country in the G20 – other than yours – to meet its commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, and to invest 20% of that in upgrading equipment. It is why Britain is the only country in the G20 to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas development. It is why my first act as Prime Minister last year was to lead the debate in Parliament that ensured the renewal of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent. And it is why the Government I lead will increase spending on defence in every year of this Parliament.
It is why Britain is a leading member – alongside the United States – of the coalition working successfully to defeat Daesh; why we have agreed to send 800 troops to Estonia and Poland as part of NATO’s forward presence in eastern Europe; why we are increasing our troop contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support mission that defends the Afghan government from terrorism; and it is why we are reinforcing our commitment to peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, South Sudan and Somalia.
And it is why Britain is leading the way in pioneering international efforts to crack down on modern slavery – one of the great scourges of our world – wherever it is found. I hope you will join us in that cause – and I commend Senator Corker in particular for his work in this field. It is good to have met him here today.
As Americans know, the United Kingdom is by instinct and history a great, global nation that recognises its responsibilities to the world.
And as we end our membership of the European Union – as the British people voted with determination and quiet resolve to do last year – we have the opportunity to reassert our belief in a confident, sovereign and Global Britain, ready to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.
We will build a new partnership with our friends in Europe. We are not turning our back on them, or on the interests and the values that we share. It remains overwhelmingly in our interests – and in those of the wider world – that the EU should succeed. And for as long as we remain members we will continue to play our full part, just as we will continue to cooperate on security, foreign policy and trade once we have left.
But we have chosen a different future for our country.
A future that sees us restore our parliamentary sovereignty and national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.
A future that sees us take back control of the things that matter to us – things like our national borders and immigration policy, and the way we decide and interpret our own laws – so that we are able to shape a better, more prosperous future for the working men and women of Britain.
A future that sees us step up with confidence to a new, even more internationalist role, where we meet our responsibilities to our friends and allies, champion the international cooperation and partnerships that project our values around the world, and continue to act as one of the strongest and most forceful advocates for business, free markets and free trade anywhere around the globe.
This is a vision of a future that my country can unite around – and that I hope your country, as our closest friend and ally, can welcome and support.
So as we rediscover our confidence together – as you renew your nation just as we renew ours – we have the opportunity – indeed the responsibility – to renew the Special Relationship for this new age. We have the opportunity to lead, together, again.
Because the world is passing through a period of change – and in response to that change we can either be passive bystanders, or we can take the opportunity once more to lead. And to lead together.
I believe it is in our national interest to do so. Because the world is increasingly marked by instability and threats that risk undermining our way of life and the very things that we hold dear.
The end of the Cold War did not give rise to a New World Order. It did not herald the End of History. It did not lead to a new age of peace, prosperity and predictability in world affairs.
For some – the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe in particular – it brought new freedom.
But across the world, ancient ethnic, religious and national rivalries – rivalries that had been frozen through the decades of the Cold War – returned.
New enemies of the West and our values – in particular in the form of Radical Islamists – have emerged.
And countries with little tradition of democracy, liberty and human rights – notably China and Russia – have grown more assertive in world affairs.
The rise of the Asian economies – China yes, but democratic allies like India too – is hugely welcome. Billions are being lifted out of poverty and new markets for our industries are opening up.
But these events – coming as they have at the same time as the financial crisis and its fall out, as well as a loss of confidence in the West following 9/11, and difficult military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan – have led many to fear that, in this century, we will experience the eclipse of the West.
But there is nothing inevitable about that. Other countries may grow stronger. Big, populous countries may grow richer. And as they do so, they may start to embrace more fully our values of democracy and liberty.
But even if they do not, our interests will remain. Our values will endure. And the need to defend them and project them will be as important as ever.
So we – our two countries together – have a responsibility to lead. Because when others step up as we step back, it is bad for America, for Britain and the world.
It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.
This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over. But nor can we afford to stand idly by when the threat is real and when it is in our own interests to intervene. We must be strong, smart and hard-headed. And we must demonstrate the resolve necessary to stand up for our interests.
And whether it is the security of Israel in the Middle East or the Baltic states in Eastern Europe, we must always stand up for our friends and allies in democratic countries that find themselves in tough neighbourhoods too.
We each have different political traditions. We will sometimes pursue different domestic policies. And there may be occasions on which we disagree. But the common values and interests that bring us together are hugely powerful.
And – as your foremost friend and ally – we support many of the priorities your government has laid out for America’s engagement with the world.
It is why I join you in your determination to take on and defeat Daesh and the ideology of Islamist extremism that inspires them and many others terrorist groups in the world today. It is in both our national interests to do so. This will require us to use the intelligence provided by the finest security agencies in the world. And it will require the use of military might.
But it also demands a wider effort. Because one of the lessons of fighting terrorism in the last 15 years or so is yes, killing terrorists can save innocent lives. But until we kill the idea that drives them, the ideology, we will always have to live with this threat.
And as they are defeated on the ground, the terrorists are exploiting the internet and social media to spread this ideology that is preying on vulnerable citizens in our own countries, inspiring them to commit acts of terror in our own cities.
That is why the UK has led the world in developing a strategy for preventing violent extremism, and why the British and American governments are working together to take on and defeat the ideology of Islamist Extremism. I look forward to working with the President and his Administration to step up our efforts still further in order to defeat this evil ideology.
But of course, we should always be careful to distinguish between this extreme and hateful ideology, and the peaceful religion of Islam and the hundreds of millions of its adherents – including millions of our own citizens and those further afield who are so often the first victims of this ideology’s terror. And nor is it enough merely to focus on violent extremism. We need to address the whole spectrum of extremism, starting with the bigotry and hatred that can so often turn to violence.
Yet ultimately to defeat Daesh, we must employ all of the diplomatic means at our disposal. That means working internationally to secure a political solution in Syria and challenging the alliance between the Syrian regime and its backers in Tehran.
When it comes to Russia, as so often it is wise to turn to the example of President Reagan who – during his negotiations with his opposite number Mikhail Gorbachev – used to abide by the adage “trust but verify”. With President Putin, my advice is to “engage but beware”.
There is nothing inevitable about conflict between Russia and the West. And nothing unavoidable about retreating to the days of the Cold War. But we should engage with Russia from a position of strength. And we should build the relationships, systems and processes that make cooperation more likely than conflict – and that, particularly after the illegal annexation of Crimea, give assurance to Russia’s neighbouring states that their security is not in question. We should not jeopardise the freedoms that President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher brought to Eastern Europe by accepting President Putin’s claim that it is now in his sphere of influence.
And progress on this issue would also help to secure another of this nation’s priorities – to reduce Iran’s malign influence in the Middle East.
This is a priority for the UK too as we support our allies in the Gulf States to push back against Iran’s aggressive efforts to build an arc of influence from Tehran through to the Mediterranean.
The nuclear deal with Iran was controversial. But it has neutralised the possibility of the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons for more than a decade. It has seen Iran remove 13,000 centrifuges together with associated infrastructure and eliminate its stock of 20% enriched uranium. That was vitally important for regional security. But the agreement must now be very carefully and rigorously policed – and any breaches should be dealt with firmly and immediately.
To deal with the threats of the modern world, we need to rebuild confidence in the institutions upon which we all rely.
In part that means multinational institutions. Because we know that so many of the threats we face today – global terrorism, climate change, organised crime, unprecedented mass movements of people – do not respect national borders. So we must turn towards those multinational institutions like the UN and NATO that encourage international cooperation and partnership.
But those multinational institutions need to work for the countries that formed them, and to serve the needs and interests of the people of those nations. They have no democratic mandate of their own. So I share your reform agenda and believe that, by working together, we can make those institutions more relevant and purposeful than they are today.
I call on others, therefore, to join us in that effort and to ensure they step up and contribute as they should. That is why I have encouraged Antonio Guterres, the new UN Secretary General, to pursue an ambitious reform programme, focusing the United Nations on its core functions of peacekeeping, conflict prevention and resolution. And it is why I have already raised with my fellow European leaders the need to deliver on their commitments to spend 2% of their GDP on defence – and 20% of their defence budgets on equipment.
It is also why I have already raised with Jens Stoltenberg – the Secretary General of NATO – the need to make sure the Alliance is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyber warfare, as it is to fight more conventional forms of war.
America’s leadership role in NATO – supported by Britain – must be the central element around which the Alliance is built. But alongside this continued commitment, I am also clear that EU nations must similarly step up to ensure this institution that provides the cornerstone of the West’s defence continues to be as effective as it can be.
Yet the most important institution is – and should always be – the nation state. Strong nations form strong institutions. And they form the basis of the international partnerships and cooperation that bring stability to our world.
Nations, accountable to their populations – “deriving” as the Declaration of Independence puts it “their just powers from the consent of the governed” – can choose to join international organisations, or not. They can choose to cooperate with others, or not. Choose to trade with others, or not.
Which is why if the countries of the European Union wish to integrate further, my view is that they should be free to do so. Because that is what they choose.
But Britain – as a sovereign nation with the same values but a different political and cultural history – has chosen to take a different path.
Because our history and culture is profoundly internationalist.
We are a European country – and proud of our shared European heritage – but we are also a country that has always looked beyond Europe to the wider world. We have ties of family, kinship and history to countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and countries across Africa, the Pacific and Caribbean.
And of course, we have ties of kinship, language and culture to these United States too. As Churchill put it, we “speak the same language, kneel at the same altars and, to a very large extent, pursue the same ideals”.
And, today, increasingly we have strong economic, commercial, defence and political relationships as well.
So I am delighted that the new Administration has made a trade agreement between our countries one of its earliest priorities. A new trade deal between Britain and America must work for both sides and serve both of our national interests. It must help to grow our respective economies and to provide the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future for working people across America and across the UK.
And it must work for those who have too often felt left behind by the forces of globalisation. People, often those on modest incomes living in relatively rich countries like our own, who feel that the global system of free markets and free trade is simply not working for them in its current form.
Such a deal – allied to the reforms we are making to our own economy to ensure wealth and opportunity is spread across our land – can demonstrate to those who feel locked out and left behind that free markets, free economies and free trade can deliver the brighter future they need. And it can maintain – indeed it can build – support for the rules-based international system on which the stability of our world continues to rely.
The UK is already America’s fifth largest export destination, while your markets account for almost a fifth of global exports from our shores. Exports to the UK from this State of Pennsylvania alone account for more than $2 billion a year. The UK is the largest market in the EU – and the third largest market in the world – for exporters here.
America is the largest single destination for UK outward investment and the single largest investor in the UK. And your companies are investing or expanding in the UK at the rate of more than ten projects a week.
British companies employ people in every US state from Texas to Vermont. And the UK-US Defence relationship is the broadest, deepest and most advanced of any two countries, sharing military hardware and expertise. And of course, we have recently invested in the new F-35 strike aircraft for our new aircraft carriers that will secure our naval presence – and increase our ability to project our power around the world – for years to come.
Because of these strong economic and commercial links – and our shared history and the strength of our relationship – I look forward to pursuing talks with President Trump and his new Administration about a new UK/US Free Trade Agreement in the coming months. It will take detailed work, but we welcome your openness to those discussions and hope we can make progress so that the new, Global Britain that emerges after Brexit is even better equipped to take its place confidently in the world.
Such an agreement would see us taking that next step in the special relationship that exists between us. Cementing and affirming one of the greatest forces for progress this world has ever known.
Seventy years ago in 1946, Churchill proposed a new phase in this relationship – to win a Cold War that many had not even realised had started. He described how an iron curtain had fallen from the Baltic to the Adriatic, covering all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe: Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia and Bucharest.
Today those great cities – homes of great culture and heritage – live in freedom and peace. And they do so because of the leadership of Britain and America, and of Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan.
They do so – ultimately – because our ideas will always prevail.
And they do so because, when the world demands leadership, it is this alliance of values and interests – this Special Relationship between two countries – that, to borrow the words of another great American statesman, enters the arena, with our faces marred by dust and sweat and blood, to strive valiantly and know the triumph of high achievement.
As we renew the promise of our nations to make them stronger at home – in the words of President Reagan as the “sleeping giant stirs” – so let us renew the relationship that can lead the world towards the promise of freedom and prosperity marked out in parchment by those ordinary citizens 240 years ago.
So that we may not be counted with the “cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat”, but with those who “strive to do the deeds” that will lead us to a better world.
That better future is within reach. Together, we can build it.”