Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Walk for Tynedale Hospice at Home

Congratulations to Kirk Barclay and Geoff Cant from Hexham who have walked 100 miles from Holy Island to Heavenfield, near Wark, for a wonderful cause. They have raised an incredible £3000 in aid of Tynedale Hospice at Home, which unlike a traditional hospice provides care to people in their own homes. The Tynedale Hospice at Home is a charity close to my heart, having raised money for it during my Hadrian’s Wall walk a few years ago. This was the first time they have completed such a challenge and it was a brilliant effort!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Wylam Summer Fair - a great community day out

Wylam Summer Fair is always a great success and I was pleased to be able to visit this year. The event is held annually to raise money for the Wylam Community Playing Fields Association to maintain and improve the sporting and leisure facilities on the Jubilee Field.full credit to all the organisers, and volunteers. 

As ever, the organisation was first class and Wylam put on a fantastic afternoon, with a bouncy castle, food stalls and a beer tent, as well as a tug of war competition and a men’s cake contest and stalls organised by many village groups. The entertainment, which included the Prudhoe Community Band, the Wylam Singers and Scottish Dancers, was enjoyed by all, and it was great to see people from all over the constituency get involved to make it a brilliant day.  Jam, herbs, plants and cakes were just a few of my purchases.

As always, it was great to meet and talk to so many members of the constituency whilst supporting a great community event.  

Friday, 23 June 2017

Armed Forces Day is tomorrow - a chance to show our support for all our troops

Armed Forces Day
Saturday 24th June is Armed Forces Day, and events will be taking place all over the country to celebrate and show our support for everyone in the Armed Forces community. The Armed Forces, including our own Albemarle Barracks, do an excellent job protecting us and Saturday will be a great chance to show them and their families how much we appreciate them.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

My demand for reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital

Below is a copy of my letter to Northumbria NHS Trust Chairman Alan Richardson, calling for the reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital, ahead of a meeting to discuss the matter later today.

"I wish to reiterate my case very strongly for the reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital.

As you know, I have had extensive meetings and discussions with NHS staff, managers and key Directors of the NHS Trust during several recent visits to the local hospital facilities at Hexham, and also at Cramlington.

However, I would like to make my case for the reopening of the overnight facility at Hexham General Hospital with 5 very specific reasons:

1. Firstly, maintaining an overnight walk-in facility is what the Trust, the Board and senior managers have made clear would happen on a repeated basis. When the Cramlington proposal was first suggested and consulted upon in 2008 I was not the MP. But, at that time, and on repeated occasions since, it has been guaranteed that a 24 hour facility would stay at Hexham. That assurance has been made to myself as the prospective candidate in 2009, before I was elected in 2010, and on several occasions since by Jim Mackey and other managers.

2. The exceptional circumstances that arose last Winter/Spring, which particularly caused the problems, have been addressed after a change of approach, not least with the improved admissions system and better working practices with the ambulance service. The situation has now changed dramatically in terms of the way the site is run, how ambulances are dealt with, and the evidence shows that admissions are clearly much faster and managed better.

3. I understand that, in addition to these measures, 65 additional nurses have been recruited at Cramlington to address the problem. From speaking to staff at Hexham Hospital last Friday morning it is now the case that nursing staff from Hexham no longer fill any overnight staffing gaps at Cramlington, and are only being used in the daytime.

4. The retention of the Hexham team and the overnight facility is little different to the cost of sending the same nurses to Cramlington. There may be a difference in the usage of their time at the two hospitals; however, there is no difference in cost, so this cannot be justified on any efficiency grounds. Furthermore, the cost to patients has to be borne in mind. Travelling late at night to Cramlington from rural Tynedale is a significant expense when compared to the cost of attending Hexham.

5. Fundamentally, there can be no doubt that this 6 month temporary closure of Hexham Hospital is also causing the Northumbria NHS Trust reputational damage - and this comes at a time when I know that, actually, both hospitals are doing very well. The creation and expansion of the Elderly Assessment and Ambulatory Care Unit at Hexham Hospital has been transformational in the numbers of elderly patients treated locally, rather than being treated in Cramlington. The success of the elective surgery and cancer treatment, for example, is rightly praised very highly and highly valued by residents. But these successes are being blighted by your temporary decision on overnight facilities.

Put very simply, a promise was made by the Trust that 24 hour care would continue at Hexham Hospital and that promise has to be honoured, especially given the clear changes in circumstances at Cramlington which now make that possible.

I have already explained my position and my approach on several occasions to key Trust representatives over the last 6 months, but agreed to produce a short letter for you and the NHS trust board, in writing. If you wish to discuss this further I am, as ever, more than happy to do so."

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A new Parliament, Queens Speech, and addressing votes of conscience

Today, Her Majesty the Queen opened Parliament with a host of proposed new laws. There are 27 Bills, with many of them designed to prepare the UK for a "smooth and orderly" exit from the EU.

Of the 27 bills, eight relate to Brexit. The other main non-Brexit proposals include:
  • a Civil Liability Bill, designed to address the "compensation culture" around motoring insurance claims
  • a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, establishing a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors and monitor the response of the authorities
  • a Tenant's Fees Bill, banning landlords from charging "letting fees"
  • a High-Speed Two Bill to authorise the second leg of the rail link from Birmingham to Crewe
  • A Data Protection Bill to strengthen individuals' rights and introduce a "right to be forgotten".
  • An Armed Forces Bill allowing people to serve on a part-time and flexible basis

A new Parliament also often brings a number of conscience issues; such matters are often decided by free votes. In addition, there were specific single issue free vote queries which were raised during the election campaign. I have set out below my views on some of these issues, many of which I have previously blogged about.

Same-sex Marriage - I campaigned for and voted for this legislation and always will support it. Click here to read my blog post from the day we passed the Bill in Parliament.

Abortion Laws - I would not support any changes to to the present law, to restrict abortion.

Mitochondrial Donation - I have campaigned for, and voted for, and remain supportive of Mitochondrial Donation. Click here to read more from the vote at the time.

Assisted Dying
- I am in favour of an Assisted Dying Bill, as a safe evolution of the law, with stringent safeguards. Click here to read my blogpost on the most recent attempt to pass a bill on this issue.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology: I am in favour, subject to suitable legislation.

Fox Hunting - I would not support a repeal of the Hunting Act.

The Paris Agreement - I support + voted for the Paris Agreement. I acknowledge man made climate exists and support action to tackle it. Click here to read my blog post discussing climate change with constituents. 

Stem cell research: I am in favour of stem cell research to cure the diseases / illnesses we face.

House of Lords: I am personally in favour of elected second chamber and supported the House of Lords reform bill when it came before parliament in the Coalition government's time.

Corbridge Midsummer’s Evening 5 till late this Thursday - shopping, stalls, music and history

Corbridge Midsummer’s Evening

On Thursday at 5pm Corbridge will be holding one of its biggest events of the year. The annual Corbridge Midsummer’s Evening is always a great success, with music, street food and a huge variety of market stalls. There will even be a chance to meet the Assistant Curator of Corbridge’s Roman Town to learn all about the Roman English Heritage site. It promises to be a brilliant evening! Get along there, enjoy what is on offer, and support your local businesses on Thursday evening and all year round.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Back in the old office in The House of Commons, Speaker chosen, and now sworn in. Computers unpacked and back to work

All MPs have to clear their offices when elections are called. Everything is packed away save what is on the walls, and the offices are shut down, computers surrendered, and with no access to MPs or for my 2 staff. The office is now fully reopened. My office is still between Keith Vaz and John Cruddas the 2 labour MPs in the old Norman Shaw building. Been in this office for several years. 

Monday, 12 June 2017

With the election over it's back to work in Westminster

There are only 2 MP's that can say they got married during their General Election campaign, and I suspect there are fewer still who can say they spent their honeymoon campaigning! I am in a select group of two with Clive Lewis, the labour MP for Norwich south.

General Elections in Hexham always require going the extra mile; knocking on thousands of doors, delivering leaflets, 3 hustings, and all across one of the biggest constituencies in the country. As any candidate will tell you, that comes along with early starts, lots of late nights, food on the go, and a car (and a house) that often finishes the campaign looking like a war zone.

Whilst all that goes on, the day to day of constituency casework and surgeries continue, and I want to thank my team, and the helpers, members, volunteers and Councillors who helped on the campaign.

Locally, I am pleased to have secured an increased percentage vote and the highest Conservative vote share since in Hexham since the 1950's.

With the election over it's now time to get back to work for the Hexham Constituency as your local Member of Parliament.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bank Holiday Strike Action Friday 28 April on Northern Rail - I do not agree with this RMT union strike action which will affect passengers

Tomorrow the RMT has asked conductors to strike across the Northern Rail franchise, a move I do not agree with or support.
Northern has provided reassurance that they are prepared to offer guarantees on jobs and pay for conductors as they modernise the railway by 2020. However, the arguments have continued and clearly this is a strike aimed at maximising difficulty for passengers, which is an extremely unwelcome development.

The service will be running at 40 per cent of the normal timetable, with more than 300 additional rail replacement buses.

All services are expected to be extremely busy, with industrial action taking place on the Friday before the bank holiday weekend, and the first day of the Tour de Yorkshire cycle event, so please give yourself extra time to travel and consider whether your journey is necessary.

You can get more information on your journey here: journeycheck.com/

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Westminster this week - "wash up" and a lot more in the last week of parliament before e election begins

We are presently resolving many of the last bills and pieces of legislation before parliament rises. We still have parliamentary questions, and PMQs but for a guide to wash up as it is known see below.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Hexham Courant reports the decision to call a General Election

THERESA May has called a General Election on June 8, with a plea to British voters to put their trust in her to deliver a good result from Brexit.
Making her shock announcement, the Prime Minister claimed divisions at Westminster risked jeopardising the negotiations to pull the UK out of the European Union.
Hexham's MP Guy Opperman has already confirmed he will be putting himself forward to stand in the hope of retaining the constituency seat. 
"This election will be a choice of leadership for the country," he told the Courant.
"Strong stable leadership under Theresa May or the unstable chaos of Jeremy Corbyn."
Having repeatedly ruled out calling a snap election in the past, Mrs May said she had "reluctantly" taken the decision to go to the country after seeing other parties "playing games" with the process of preparing for Brexit negotiations.
Her final decision was taken during a walking holiday in Snowdonia with husband Philip, and she told the Queen on Easter Monday before getting the full approval of Cabinet on Tuesday morning.
The Courant full article is here: http://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/Theresa-May-calls-for-UK-General-Election-in-June-47744210-aaf5-46cd-9cb4-68cd9525896d-ds

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Parliament votes by 522-13 for a general election on June 8 - supported by Conservatives and most of Labour MPs

Most of labour voted for the general election with the Conservative party, albeit 9 labour MPs like Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell voted against an early election. One lib dem, from southport, announced he would not be running again at this election, as Ken Clarke confirmed he would run again but George Osborne has decided to stand down. SNP abstained whilst seeking an alliance with labour and the liberals against Mrs May.
Three labour MPs from the north east, my neighbour Pat Glass, Tom Blenkinsopp in Middlesbrough, and Iain Wright from Hartlepool, have announced they are also standing down.
The bbc take on the election is here:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39631768
I have included the key Q+A

Who is allowed to vote?

Basically, if you're aged 18 or over on election day, registered to vote and a British citizen you can vote. Citizens of the Republic of Ireland resident in the UK and citizens of qualifying Commonwealth states resident in the UK can also vote if they are over 18 and registered to vote.

What if I live abroad?

British citizens living abroad can register online to vote as an "overseas voter" if they have been registered to vote in the UK in the past 15 years. 

How do I register to vote?

To vote in a general election you must be registered to vote. Registration is open throughout the year, although there will be a deadline for registering to vote at this general election once the date has officially been confirmed by Parliament. 
Voters can check if they are already registered by contacting their local electoral registration office using the Electoral Commission's website
People in England, Wales and Scotland can register to vote online, or download the forms to register by post, from the government's website. Voters in Northern Ireland use a different form that is returned to their local Area Electoral Office.

When is the deadline to register to vote?

Assuming you are eligible, you can register any time but be aware that there will be a deadline. The deadline to register for the last general election was 12 working days before people went to the polls. Assuming we follow the same timetable, the deadline would be 22 May.
You can even get yourself on the register if you are 16 or 17 but you will have to have turned 18 before 8 June to actually be eligible to vote.

What if I'm on holiday?

You can vote either by post or by proxy - that is appoint someone else to register your vote on your behalf. To do that you can download the form here. Whoever you nominate must be eligible to vote in the election themselves.
If you want to post it, you need to apply 11 working days before the election - in this case 24 May.

Are there going to be any boundary changes in this election?

No. They were not due to be introduced until 2020. A public consultation is under way with final proposals set to made in 2018.