Saturday, 29 April 2017

Employment at the highest level since records began - worth a detailed analysis of ONS figures

Across the UK 31.84 million people are now in work, 74.6% of the working age population - a record high!
The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.7%, and 5.1% in young people.
The female employment rate is also at a near record high of 69.6%.
The Office of National Statistics has last week published another strong set of figures, with unemployment at a rate that has not been beaten since the 1970s, and more vacancies than ever before.

Since the Conservatives entered government, employment is up by over 2.8 million and there are 767,000 vacancies in the economy, a record high.

More people are finding full-time jobs and wages have grown yet again, with average weekly wages growing by 2.3% including bonuses over the last year. 

There is good news for the North East, and for Tynedale and Ponteland too. Employment in the North East has risen by 10,000 to 1.2 million, a rate of 70.5%. Equally, unemployment  now stands at 83,000, a fall of 21,000 since last year.

In Tynedale and Ponteland our hard work has continued to pay off. Last month there was a total of 510 people unemployed, 35 down since last year and a 58% drop from 2010 when the number stood at 1,084. 

It is great news that more people in the area are finding full-time jobs and that their average wages are growing yet again, meaning more families have the security of a regular wage. However, there is always more to do. That’s why we’re creating even more jobs and a welfare system that rewards work through Universal Credit, which helps claimants keep more of the money they earn.


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.
http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/LIF-2017-0037

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.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Westminster this coming week dominated by the Prisons and Court Reform Bill

I am in bill committee Tuesday and Thursday of this week with line by line scrutiny of the bill that reforms prisons and modernises courts. The house has a packed week, and I am sure there will be detailed scrutiny of the deteriorating situation in both Syria and Korea.
I have a large number of constituents down in Westminster this week. My hope is to be on the last train north on Thursday night. Busy weekend of the county council elelections ahead.

Policy North industrial strategy finished and submitted as the government consultation closes this weekend

The government consultation on its proposed industrial strategy closed this weekend. This follows on from the highly successful event we held in newcastle in February with Margot James, MP, the small business minister. The team at policy north have worked really hard to produce a detailed document setting out some of the key aims and objectives. We will publish more info this week. Pictures from Margot's visit and meetings with business leaders a couple of months back.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter is a time for family, friendship, compassion + community

The PM has written and recorded a Easter message. In it Theresa May described Easter as “a moment to reflect and an important time for Christians and others to gather together with families and friends”.
She said: “I think of those values that we share – values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage. Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another. The PMs full article is here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/15/values-vicarage-can-bring-uk-together-brexit-theresa-may-says/

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Local elections are 3 weeks away - get involved, get voting and have your say on whether you think the Labour County Council are doing a good job and deserve another 4 years in office

Firstly, a salute to all the candidates. It takes courage to stand, to knock on doors, and to put your hand up as someone willing to represent a community.
Clearly I would like you all to vote conservative, but most of all I want you to vote.
Get involved.
This local Election really matters, for Northumberland, and particularly for the local people of the Ponteland and Tynedale areas.
3 of the Local Conservative Council candidate policies are set out below


Saturday, 8 April 2017

Still not booked a Easter break? Come to Northumberland. England's most beautiful County has much to offer

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

Where to stay:
If you have to have the creature comforts then Matfen Hall is a top destination but
Hexham's Beaumont Hotel http://www.bw-beaumonthotel.co.uk/
is family run and was good enough for Pippa Middleton when she came to stay a year back!
We also have all manner of brilliant pubs and Bed and Breakfasts but if you want a good alternative then the Battlesteads Hotel in Wark http://www.battlesteads.com/ consistently wins prizes; the best Bed and Breakfast in the country was recently adjudged by Les Routiers guide to be The Black Cock Inn: http://www.blackcockinn.co.uk/
Where to eat:
If you want great pub food then I am a big fan of the Barrasford Arms,http://www.barrasfordarms.co.uk/
and the pub also has great beer and a bar where you will discuss everything from sheep prices to current affairs and who won the big race of the day. Great people and a top dining pub.
The Feathers in Hedley, and La Bouchon in Hexham are both prize winning and the destinations for fine dining along with the Rat which has won recent awards.
You will need a tea shop on your travels:
My friends say I am on a mission to try every tea shop in Tynedale but the county is justifiably famous: on your Pennine Way travels do not forget to stop at the Greenhead Tea Room: http://www.heartofhadrianswall.com/tea-rooms/60-greenhead-tea-rooms
Alison makes great cakes and scones.
Corbridge has more tea shops that any other but my favourite is Tea and Tipple, where you can while away an afternoon - they do great Northumberland Scones, including the normal cheese scone but also Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Scones: http://teaandtipple.blogspot.co.uk/
Their web site has a special "Sconage" section...
Beer: this is obviously essential. We have lots of brilliant brewers, but I have worked a lot with the Hadrian Border Brewery, who produce the deliciously summer ale which is Tyneside Blonde. But my favourite would be a pint of Golden Plover, made locally by the Allendale Brewery, and found in most of the pubs: http://www.allendaleale.com/index.htm

What to see; the wildlife the visit alone: http://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/understanding/wildlifehabitats/heathermoorland/curlews
But if you want 5 places to visit these would all make anyone's top spots:

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

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

Grand National - Cause of Causes will carry my hopes but Wonderful Charm a good outsider for Katie Walsh

I like the profile of Cause of Causes - an Irish National winning horse trained by Irish super trainer Gordon Elliott.
The top weight The Last Samuri is not big and has top weight but he loves the course, came second last year and will get into a rhythm and should again finish in the top four.
Highland Lodge is another to have won and been second on his last two visits to Aintree in the Becher Chase, loves the place and having not run since December is coming here fresh and yet trained to the minute. If you want an outsider then Wonderful Charm has also had the benefit of light season and finished like a steam train in the Foxhunters. His confidence is high and he could be the surprise package of the Paul Nicholls five.
If you want to see what the National is really like watch this video of Many Clouds winning. I was lucky to get to know the old boy several times at Oliver Sherwood's in Lambourn - see the picture of us below
This video of his win is amazing !!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAVok2bNDWs

Friday, 7 April 2017

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


Great to get behind the British Tourism Week with Kevin Robson of Wild Dog Outdoors

Kevin Robson, Tour Guide and Owner of Wild Dog Outdoors, is one of Northumberland Tourism champions.
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 delights in regaling visitors with tales of Northumberland’s place in Britain’s history and exploring the iconic sites within the county. 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. I met with Kevin last week at the beautiful Hexham Abbey to discuss his efforts to bring the magic of Northumberland to locals and tourists. 


Thursday, 6 April 2017

Positive developments at Haydon Bridge High School with confirmation of the new leadership team

http://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/New-principal-installed-at-Haydon-Bridge-High-f7c7bf45-70d4-45cb-9d97-0b25e4bf264a-ds
This is clearly very good news. The team of teachers are doing a great job in turning HBHS around, and they have my full support.  

Information on RMT strike this Saturday - there will still be services on the Tyne Valley line

You may be aware that RMT has announced its intention to hold a further strike day on Saturday 8 April. 

These are the services that will be running on Tyne Valley on Saturday:

Carlisle
Newcastle
Newcastle
Carlisle
10:28
11:57
09:24
10:44
11:35
12:56
12:22
13:52
14:36
15:58
14:24
15:54
16:28
17:57
19:25
21:02
Newcastle
GMC
Metro
GMC
12:44
12:52
13:02
13:09
13:15
13:22
13:31
13:40
13:44
13:52
14:02
14:11
15:15
15:22
15:31
15:40
15:44
15:52
16:02
16:11
16:15
16:22
16:31
16:39
16:44
16:53
17:07
17:15
17:44
17:53
18:07
18:15

The ongoing dispute is about Northern’s plans to modernise the region’s rail services and the changes they need to make to the role of their conductors – a move which will make staff more visible and available than ever before on trains and on stations.

Northern is at the start of a significant modernisation programme. This includes major investment in new trains, new technology, investments in our stations, and a new focus on customer service.
Both myself and Northern are disappointed that RMT has called another strike day, as Northern had only been in contact with RMT officials 24 hours before they announced the strike to organise meaningful discussions. Northern wants to talk again about RMT’s role in bringing their modernisation plans to life while maintaining a safe and reliable railway.

On Saturday 8 April Northern will be operating 822 services between 09.00 and 17.00. Their plan is to keep as many people as possible on the move during that day and they are asking customers to plan ahead and consider whether their journey is absolutely necessary.

Northern have expressed to me that they are really sorry that their customers’ travel plans will be disrupted by this second day of strike action, especially with so many significant sporting events happening across our network, including the Grand National and football fixtures.

A special page on Northern’s website gives specific information on the services we will be running and this is available here.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Status of EU nationals in the UK - a top priority for the government going forward now Art 50 has been triggered

Last Friday, I met with a group of EU nationals residing in Hexham who are understandably concerned about their future status in the UK as a result of Brexit.
 
It goes without saying that EU nationals make an invaluable contribution to our economy, our society, and our daily lives. I assured them and all concerned that I will continue to represent them. Every Hexham resident deserves the best possible representation.
 
I am pleased that the Government has made it clear that securing the rights of EU nationals will be a genuine priority. I think it would be great if the EU resolved this speedily, as they have indicated, now that Article 50 has been triggered.
 
The discussions ahead that the Government has with the European Union to agree the arrangements for the UK’s exit will undoubtedly reflect the immense contribution made by EU citizens to our economy, our NHS, our schools, and in so many other ways too. However, I am aware that the discussions must also secure the interests of the 1.2 million British citizens who live and work elsewhere in the EU.
 
One thing is clear, however – that it is in the best interests of all for this issue to be sorted as quickly as possible. In the meantime, until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force.
 
Below, I have compiled a list of links that I hope you will find useful if you have any further questions on this matter:
 
Status of EU nationals in the UK
 
UK Visa information for European Nationals
 
Latest HoC briefing paper on EU nationals currently exercising their free-movement rights and living in the UK
 
My blog post from February on this topic
 
On 5 March 2017, the cross-party parliamentary House of Commons committee on Exiting the European Union published a report called The Government’s negotiating objectives: the rights of UK and EU citizens (https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmexeu/1071/1071.pdf), which outlined a series of recommendations as to how the rights of EU nationals living in the UK could be guaranteed as soon as possible. This is a promising first step.
 
Prime Minister Theresa May’s comments in the House of Commons
 
Home Sec’s Dear Colleague letter 6 Feb 17
 
Home Office response to a Written Question
 
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Letter to President of the European Council Donald Tusk
 
Brexit Timeline
 
Meanwhile, if you are a Brit living or travelling in the EU, then the website you’ll need is:
 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Week ahead in Westminster - multiple meetings, bill preparation and correspondence catch up

The Commons has risen for the Easter recess but I am staying in Westminster for a few days to try and finish off the outstanding correspondence and casework, ensure that nothing has been missed in the hundreds of emails that we receive every day, and then do further prep work on the Prisons and Court Reform Bill that I am piloting through the commons. I also have a number of meetings this week in Westminster but will be heading north later in the week.

Cabinet Minister Sajid Javid calls on Labour NCC to stop boycott of Hexham Courant over public notices

http://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/Secretary-of-State-Sajid-Javid-calls-on-council-to-reverse-decision-on-public-notices-05053e03-e6b0-42df-b65e-17af93af52da-ds

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The PM is right to resist SNP demands for 2nd referendum - and polls show SNP does not equate to scotlands view

The UK government’s argument that it isn’t fair to expect the Scottish electorate to vote until they know the details of the Brexit deal has logic and emotional and intellectual force to it. And the polls are against Sturgeon and the snp. Here is the spectators take on the issue. 
https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/03/scottish-parliament-votes-second-referendum-dont-expect-may-sway/