Friday, 30 September 2011

A journey to Beirut

Just back from a short trip to the Lebanon city of Beirut. This was not a parliamentary or governement trip, but a personal visit, so partly holiday, partly fact finding.
Had the chance to travel widely in Beirut, which is trying to reestablish itself after the bitter wars that ended only a few years ago.
There is so much one could say but
- the Lebanese could not have been more friendly
- there is unbelievable amounts of construction going on. At every street corner a new building is going up
- the relative harmony between the religions, notably between Muslims and Christians [and all other religions] is good, certainly on the surface
- this is best exemplified by the Mosque and the Church of St George being barely 200 yards apart....although in the middle is an advertising sign that presently showcases the Avon Lady. This could only happen in Lebanon
- there is great concern by all people for what is happening in Syria - both now and what happens in the future when Assad is gone. I met noone who thinks Assad will survive.
I wish I could have stayed longer, but cycled into Westminster this morning before heading to Manchester this Sunday.
I will try and post some more on the people I met and the views of many on the situation in Syria. Not surprisingly the only things everyone talks about are the Arab Spring, the fate of Assad / Syria, and the Palestine application to the UN as well.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tweeting from Conference

Next week I will be tweeting from the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. You can access my twitter feed by clicking here and do look out for #cpc11 on twitter.

Northumbria Food and Wine festival October 7-9th

Corbridge is once again laying on the best that Northumbria has to offer - the North East's biggest wine and gastronomic event takes place in october and I will be there, although sadly just popping in:
There will be great cooking from Sachins and The Feathers Inn from Hedley on the Hill, whio have just won the The UK Gastropub and Great British Pub of the Year 2011.
The Festival is at the Tynedale Rugby Club, in in floored heated festival marquees, with live music, wine talks and tasting tours. There are artisan food and wine producers and pop-up restaurants. You should go!
LEARN MORE at
www.northumbriafoodandwinefestival.co.uk
If you have not been to the Feathers I recommend it. I am a fan of all the pubs in my patch but the Feathers is up there with such pubs as the Barrasford Arms, The Battlesteads, The Duke of Wellington and The Pheasant for great food. Best pub chat and best cricket pitch on the doorstep just about goes to the Wallace Arms in Featherstone.
All in all Northumberland has a great deal to offer and we need to support our local pubs

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Labour conference

This Labour conference reminds me of the train wreck of 1997 that I went to after the deserved loss of the General Election in 1997; my favourite moments of this Labour conference are twofold:
On Ed's big day, first there was Harriet Harman on Women’s Hour saying,“We are entirely focused on getting David … err … Ed … elected as PM at next election” and then the speech itself - where he attempted to describe himself as an outsider: as Tim Montgomerie put it:
"Hes an Oxford educated former special advisor [under the Blair goverment, and cabinet member under Gordon Brown]. Hes so far inside he can't see windows"
I am not sure if Ed has ever held a job outside of politics?

Is Ireland showing us the way?

Ireland is showing that you can cut debt and grow your economy. My favourite quote of the weekend was from the Guardian, spluttering into their porridge, as they grudgingly conceded that Ireland "despite brutal austerity cuts ...is a shining light in Europe"
That would have hurt Polly T and her gang to say that but the facts are unanswerable:
Last week the Irish Central Statisitcs Office reported that gross domestic product had jumped by 1.6% in the second quarter - that is serious growth and far exceeds our own and the rest of the European countries.

The question is why? They have tried to live within their means, and crucially cut their taxes on business. These are now lower than other places - this surely must be the lesson for us, as it is manufacturing and business that will grow us out of the recession.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Is this the last gift we give to Greece?

News that the banks are effecting a controlled default of Greece's debts, with 50% of their debts being written off, shows that finally the Eurozone and the banks are beginning to accept what every one else knew - Greece is bankrupt. It was never going to trade out of the amount of debts it had.
Maybe now they will start creating a two tier Eurozone where only those with economies strong enough to stay in the Euro will be allowed to stay.
We need them to sort this mess out soon - as their mess is hindering our own economy getting back into shape.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Allendale Community Housing Project



Peter Gavin, Chair of Four Housing Group, and I, welcome Sarah Massey and Matthew Robson and their son Matthew, the first residents of Allen Garden

Not-for-profit local organisation Allendale Community Housing (ACH) recently opened its completed Allen Garden development in the Northumberland village, which despeartely needs new housing.
The development was created in partnership with Durham-based housing association Four Housing Group, local developer Newman Developments and Northumberland County Council. The site will provide three high-quality, affordable homes available for social rent from this month.
Allen Garden was developed to help tackle the shortage of affordable housing in the area and received funding from Four Housing Group and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
I was deeply impressed by the innovative approach to solving the on-going problem of affordable housing in the village, in particular
- the fact that over 10 local people were involved in the building work
- the developers Newman were outstanding, as was the effort of the HCA
- the attention to detail in the design was very good
Most importantly, Matthew and Sarah love the place
Allendale Community Housing is a community-owned company run to Community Land Trust principles, with a board of directors from the area who donate their time free of charge. They work to identify opportunities for the development of affordable housing and workspaces in Allendale and the surrounding area in partnership with other local organisations.
The key players should speak for their views on this groundbreaking project [excuse the pun]:
David Stewart OBE is Chair of Allendale Community Housing. He said, “We think this is a great example of the Big Society in action, a community group identifying and meeting a local need with the help of housing professionals and local authority experts. The homes are built to extremely high environmental standards making them cheaper to live in, the work force has been mainly local craftsmen, and the tenants will all be local people - a win, win, win.”

The Allen Garden development has taken over 12 months to complete with one three-bedroom house and two flats uniquely designed to complement the local landscape. All of the homes meet Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, a nationally recognized benchmark for environmental building. Four Housing Group has brokered a management agreement with ISOS Housing, who will oversee the letting of the homes.

Lynda Peacock, Four Housing Group director of development and regeneration, said, “Four Housing Group is proud to have been able to offer advisory and financial support to Allendale Community Housing to assist in building these homes. We are dedicated to supporting both rural and urban sustainable development across the North East. This development fully embodies that principle, with local Allendale people dedicating their own time and energies in making this happen and in having an excellent local builder and workforce who has really got behind the plans.”

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Cameron at the UN

Good speech by David Cameron to the UN:
http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/pm-speech-to-unga/
In his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the UK PM urged the UN to be "united in action".

"To fail to act is to fail those who need our help," he told the Assembly in New York, saying the UN needed a "new way of working".
In his address, the prime minister said nations must be prepared to act and not just sign resolutions. He said the UN had played a vital role in Libya but it was only effective when nation states were prepared to enforce its wishes.

Mr Cameron said: "My argument today is that Libya and the Arab Spring shows the UN needs a new way of working.
"Because the Arab Spring is a massive opportunity to spread peace, prosperity, democracy and vitally security, but only if we really seize it."
He went on: "The UN has to show that we can be not just united in condemnation, but united in action, acting in a way that lives up to the UN's founding principles and meets the needs of the people.

"You can sign every human rights declaration in the world, but if you stand by and watch people being slaughtered in their own country, when you could act, then what are those signatures really worth."

Allen Valley Tourism

Great news on how South Tynedale is marketing itself as a number one tourist destination: it is an amazing spot for walking and fishing.
I have to put a plug in for the work of Roger Morris and the Heritage Centre, Allenheads who support and promote the local Isaacs Tea Trail walk:
http://www.northumberlandlife.org/teatrail

Similarly there is good news on fishing in the Allen Valley.
Funding has also been secured from Tyneside software company Sage, which will allow the new club to undertake significant conservation work on the river in the near future.
Fishing is for Salmon, Sea Trout and Brown Trout, and with the East Allen being a tributary of the South Tyne, it is, of course, a part of the best Salmon fishing river catchment in England! The club are now taking subscriptions for the 2012 season, which includes the right to fish the remainder of the 2011 season for free. Details on how to join, as well as loads more info (including prices of full membership, week and day tickets) can be found on the club website at
http://www.allenvalleyanglers.co.uk/

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Freshers Fair at Queen Elizabeth School Hexham



A great day at the Freshers Fair of the Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham. Good chats with lots of the students and teachers. We help lots of the local students with work experience throughout the year and two of last years helpers came along to explain the idea to the students.
Tried to float the idea of a debating competition between the 4 High Schools next spring with the winning team coming to the House of Commons - think it has a good chance of happening, which all agreed would be great.
Also had the chance to meet everyone from the amazing History Society, to my friends at the Hexham Community Partnership, Tynedale Hospice, the Abbey and the local Air Cadets.
Well done to the school for organising such a good day

Charity Cricket Game - and a chance to play with legends



The legendary Pakistani batsman Mohammad Yousuf, with two not so good cricketers, GO and John Redwood
As the cricket season draws to a close it is common knowledge that I missed most of the season - but I did get to play in September in the Lashings charity game, when John Redwood and I ran out the legend that is Mohammad Yousuf. He was pretty relaxed about getting out as he had just scored around 60 in 20 effortless balls. The man is a legend - he once scored 12 test centuries in a year!!! ...and it showed.
A very humbling day, only made more special when I pulled my first ball from Saqlain Mustaq into the crowd over square leg ...did not last long after that as the bowling suddenly got serious. A great day for a good cause.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Hexham weekend

Spent an action packed saturday that started with surgeries in the office, followed by the afternoon knocking on doors and meeting voters in Haltwhistle.
Concerns ranged from the need to build more local housing to worries over the single status project of the Northumberland County Council.
Finished up at a wonderful get together in Bywell [my thanks to everyone who helped make it such an amazing evening], followed by dinner in Corbridge. Off to the Hexham office tomorrow with surgeries in and out of the office - like a doctor we do home visits and I am off to Hackwood Park in the afternoon to call on one resident in her nineties.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Minerva Centre Opening

A busy day in the constituency - caught the early train to Newcastle, and after an event in the Sage, opened a very exciting local housing project in Allendale [more of that later] and then visited the Minerva Centre: this is now in their new building in Hexham. They are really good at inspiring and encouraging young and older people who have different learning abilities. A great effort by Frances Davies, Margaret and everyone who helps out there.
Now back in the office - sustained by coffee from my favourite Hexham cafe, Mucho Gusto, and prepping for surgeries tomorrow and trips to Haltwhistle in the afternoon and Bywell in the evening

Monday, 12 September 2011

Get Involved

Hexham Conservatives work hard to campaign all year round in all our local communities. From canvassing to public meetings you local Conservatives here in Hexham Constituency believe politics is about talking to voters and listening to their concerns. Please email hexham@tory.org if you would like to get involved.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Mail on Sunday Article - money raised for Tynedale Hospice and the National Hospital for Neurosurgery

The Mail on Sunday did a detailed article on the surgery, and the amazing work of all the doctors and nurses who looked after me, today:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2035955/MP-Guy-Opperman-recalls-owes-NHS-life-diagnosed-brain-tumour.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Spent Saturday at my brothers 30th birthday party, and then prepared for the coming week in Westminster. I managed to raise £2000 from the Mail for the article - which is going to the Tynedale Hospice in Northumberland and the National Brain Appeal, which supports the Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queens Square, London.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Dinner with the Prime Minister

Last night I, and some colleagues, were lucky enough to have dinner with the Prime Minister. He was on good form: he talked of all the serious things like Libya, the Eurozone economy, the riots and measures on social unrest and much more.
However, later on over dinner the Prime Minister was off duty and told of daily life living in Downing Street: my favourite story was of the mice in Number 10-11 Downing Street. When he arrived there in May 2010 the place was infested with mice. Pest control has been brought in but to little effect and the most effective Mouser is "Larry the Cat", who has caught a lot of mice! Meanwhile, there are rumours that Larry is in love with a tabby that lives in St James Park. You could not make it up.

Just to show that it is not all glam dinners with the PM I caught the bus in this morning and spent my time in the Committee on Environmental Protection, which had a session on the Storage of Carbon Dioxide [Access to Infrastructure] Regulations, before reading the report on the Baha Mousa Inquiry and listening in to the debate concerning his torture in Iraq in 2003

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

My return to the Commons


Today was my first chance to speak in the House since returning to Parliament fulltime. The I used the opportunity at PMQs to thank my thank my constituents for their support and understanding while I had been off ill.

I also used the question to praise the Doctors and Nurses who work in the NHS asking the Prime Minister if he agree that the NHS should be cherished and reformed to continue to meet the needs of the future.

The Prime Minister agreed saying the Government was determined to make sure the NHS was at it's best for future generations

Questioning the Prime Minster at PMQ's is always a bit nerve racking but I enjoyed getting back into the swing of things. I welcomed the assurances from the Prime Minister that the NHS, which is so close to my own heart, is safe in this Governments hands. I will continue to scrutinise the Health and Social Care Bill to make sure it delivers a better and stronger NHS for my constituents and the North East

You watch the question here at about 33minutes in.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Health and Social Care Bill and 38 Degrees

Today I spent the day in the Chamber listening to the Health and Social Care Bill.
I also conducted a detailed examination of the recent correspondence and legal opinions I have received from constituents as prompted by the organisation 38 Degrees. I regret to say that 38 Degrees have misled their members. My views on this matter are set out on this here

Stephen Phillips, MP QC has drawn similar conclusions here

Monday, 5 September 2011

Westminster returns

Very excited to be back at work with parliament sitting once again.
Every morning I arrive to work here I realise what a great honour it is to be an MP, particularly if you are lucky enough to be representing the beautiful constituency of Hexham.
I have been back working in Westminster since July, but this will be the first time I have been back when the house is sitting since I got ill in late April.

Friday, 2 September 2011

BBC Radio Newcastle

I had a discussion about the impact of the current economic climate on charities and the voluntary sector in the North East on BBC Radio Newcastle this morning. You can listen to the debate here, about 40minutes in.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00jspvd/Alfie_and_Charlie_at_Breakfast_02_09_2011/

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