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Parliament is now gripped by EU Referendum fever and is it’s likely to continue up to June 23rd.   The previous referendum was the last time I was too young to vote. I have never felt aggrieved at not voting but had I done so I would have voted to come out.  Now my view has changed and I will be voting to remain.  I’ve never been a Europhile, it’s hard to be one with the Common Fisheries Policy.  On balance however I believe our country is better off in than facing the uncertainty of being out.  It’s not about straight bananas, it’s about the founding principles which set up the Common Market then the European Union, first and foremost to avoid repeating two world wars when Europe tore itself apart. I’ve visited Nissan and seen jobs created by being able to access the single market. I’ve discussed with Hitachi Europe their reason for locating here, within the EU.  Europe is important to the Port of Tyne where a number of my constituents work. As a former Home Office Minister I worked with EU colleagues to tackle people trafficking and serious and organised crime. I’ve seen the importance of coordinating Europe’s approach to terrorism. As for pooling sovereignty to achieve more for Britain we do it all the time. So despite the talk of Europe and little else, the debate and the vote will be worth it in the end.

EU Referendum

Parliament is now gripped by EU Referendum fever and is it’s likely to continue up to June 23rd.   The previous referendum was the last time I was too young to...

This week, Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell has given up his column to Rebecca Moore, a member of the UK Youth Parliament representing North Tyneside.

Ten per cent – that is the proportion of young people who suffer from a mental health issue, 26 per cent is the percentage of young people in the UK who experience suicidal thoughts, and 70 per cent is the proportion of young people who suffer from mental health problems and don’t receive intervention at a sufficiently early age.

All young people deserve excellent quality mental health care and freedom from judgement and stigma.

The North Tyneside Young Person’s Health and Wellbeing group has been working for two years on a mental health education campaign, M!nd Your Head.

After presenting a report to the North Tyneside adult cabinet, schools and the youth select committee in parliament, we developed an education pack to teach young people about common mental health issues and how to support a friend experiencing them.

M!nd Your Head will be launched on Tuesday at the North Tyneside children and young people’s mental health strategy at the Langdale Centre.

We are so excited to finally share our work.

Education is key to breaking down walls between young people and the help they deserve, and we hope our campaign will contribute to a more accepting North Tyneside.



Campaign will educate on mental health

This week, Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell has given up his column to Rebecca Moore, a member of the UK Youth Parliament representing North Tyneside. Ten per cent – that is...

Constituents often ask me to support Ten Minute Rule Bills or Private Members’ Bills.

Ten Minute Rule Bills are where backbench MPs get ten minutes to propose a bill to change the law.

MP’s enter a ballot for Private Members’ Bills, but few have much chance of becoming law. They are debated on 13 Fridays a year when government backbenchers talk out or vote down the bill. The exception is a “handout” bill, which the government gives to a compliant backbencher, which then succeeds with government support. Few make it that far.

Last Friday neither Kerry McCarthy’s Food Waste Bill nor Mike Kane’s Mesothelioma Bill even got to be debated. Unsurprisingly, most MPs prefer working in their constituency to the frustration of Friday sittings.

The Procedure Committee is looking at ways of shifting the balance of power from the government towards MPs. It could make sure a vote happens at the end of the debate. Time for Private Members’ Bills could be found during the week when more MPs are around. The government could also lose the power to deny a money resolution, which most bills need and which was how the Affordable Homes Bill and second EU Referendum Bill were stopped.

The government’s business currently before the House is pretty thin. Maybe MPs could use the time more productively.



Frustrations of getting Bills made into law

Constituents often ask me to support Ten Minute Rule Bills or Private Members’ Bills. Ten Minute Rule Bills are where backbench MPs get ten minutes to propose a bill to...

Our local primary schools are amongst the best in the country with virtually all being assessed as good or outstanding. That’s a tribute to the efforts of staff, parents, governors and of course pupils themselves. But as pupils progress through their schooling there’s always been a tension between outcomes in terms of results and whether students at secondary school enjoy learning and have the opportunity to be creative.

The Government intends to introduce an English Baccalaureate as a measure which recognises where pupils have secured a C grade or better at GCSE in English, Maths, History or Geography, the sciences and a language. There is concern however that the proposal will squeeze out creative subjects and risks pushing art, drama, music and design out of schools. Already we’re seeing a drop in pupils taking music and drama to GCSE.

Critics argue that by placing the curriculum in a straightjacket, rather than driving up standards the attainment gap between poorer children and their peers will widen. The parents of some pupils may be able to buy the experience for their children outside of school, for others it will be beyond reach. For employers there may be evidence of literacy or numeracy but not much about the wider person. Many people on our local community care passionately about education. If you want your voice to be heard you can give your views on the Department for Education consultation website before 29th January.

School plan may squeeze out creativity

Our local primary schools are amongst the best in the country with virtually all being assessed as good or outstanding. That’s a tribute to the efforts of staff, parents, governors...

The only safe New Year prediction is usually how unwise it is to make predictions.  The current line-up of party leaders could not have been predicted a year ago not least in David Cameron's role as a Conservative and not Coalition Prime Minister.

 

Each party leader will have set themselves a challenge for the New Year and as Parliament returns it's important to get off to a good start.

 

David Cameron will want people to recognise his efforts in getting EU reform and then recognise the importance of Britain remaining a member.  Jeremy Corbyn will be hoping that people recognise what his "new politics" means and to translate that into taking the fight to the Government.  New Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron will just be hoping to be recognised.

 

Inevitably leaders also have to focus internally on how best to take their party with them. The vindictive acts by the Government of cutting Short Money which opposition parties rely on and restricting trade union funding makes the Opposition's job harder.  But there's never been a more important time to reach out beyond parties to voters.  After all it's voters who are in charge.  People who work hard and pay their taxes.  The dedicated professionals who in our area give us some of the best schools and healthcare in the country and keep our borough one of the safest.  And those whose time is taken up caring for their family and for whom a happy new year depends upon their own efforts more than political discourse.  It is they who in 2016 will have their say probably in an EU Referendum, certainly in elections in Scotland, Wales and London, for Police and Crime Commissioners and for their local councils.  It's going to be a busy year and I hope for all my constituents a happy one.

Party leaders will be out to start 2016 well

The only safe New Year prediction is usually how unwise it is to make predictions.  The current line-up of party leaders could not have been predicted a year ago not...

Last week’s 17th North Shields Christmas Market kept its Dickensian links as did Parliament in the run up to Christmas with its Christmas tree and brass band carol concert in Westminster Hall.

So in the spirit of that Dickensian theme, in Parliament the Climate Change Agreement dominated matters, making Paris seem, after the recent terrorist atrocities, a tale of two cities. Then the Chancellor returned to the Commons to explain why he breached his welfare cap, blaming his being forced to abandon plans to cut tax credits.  Had they gone ahead they would have made hard times even harder for many working families. In the New Year all eyes will be on the EU negotiations of which it’s fair to say the eurosceptics have no great expectations and should they go wrong could leave Downing Street with a house to let.

In the meantime MP’s return home to their constituencies to be able to say thank you to all those who work hard over the holidays to keep us safe, well and fed over the festive period. Also in my case to start the Pudding Run – this year is the 30th anniversary – on the Links on Boxing Day morning in aid of Woodlawn School. Let me say thank you to all my constituents, not least for their enduring common sense and great sense of community and to wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Merry Christmas

Last week’s 17th North Shields Christmas Market kept its Dickensian links as did Parliament in the run up to Christmas with its Christmas tree and brass band carol concert in...

The House of Commons was in sombre mood as Ministers described the effects of recent flooding from Storm Desmond. Residents of Shiremoor, Monkseaton, Preston Village and elsewhere know only too well the damage flooding can cause. The word which crops up again and again to describe the rainfall is “unprecedented” and record water levels are broken with growing frequency.

 

The money being invested in flood defences, including local relief schemes, we are told is increasing. The Governments Emergency Committee – COBRA – meets frequently to reassure us that all which can be done is being done to rescue people and clear up the mess. I remain sceptical however that our frontline emergency services and local authorities will be able to respond as effectively if budgets go on being cut.

 

I am no scientist but there seems clear evidence of a link between climate change and changes in weather patterns.  Though too late to prevent recent floods, the Climate Change Summit in Paris has to take steps to reduce emissions and global warming. We were the first country to legislate through the Climate Change Act with its 80% reduction target by 2050. Paris must go further. Technology is cutting solar and wind energy prices and provided the cost of action does not fall on poorer countries or poorer people we need to see tougher targets. The question is less can we afford to act and more can we afford not to?

Costs should not fall on poor countries

The House of Commons was in sombre mood as Ministers described the effects of recent flooding from Storm Desmond. Residents of Shiremoor, Monkseaton, Preston Village and elsewhere know only too...

I have the privilege of working in one of the iconic buildings in London. The Houses of Parliament, along with perhaps St Paul's Cathedral, are the images most associated with the capital.  We set our time by Big Ben and parliament’s image even adorns sauce bottles.  Parliament is iconic, and the symbol of what it stands for, also make it a key target for terrorism. Increased security checks and the eerie quiet on public transport served as a reminder of the horrors of what happened in Paris.

 

Events such as the terror attacks in Paris change things utterly, at least for a time. In the aftermath important issues become critical. So the Government's plans for new Investigatory Powers to tackle extremism and criminality seem more urgent. The focus on taking the fight to ISIS, the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, makes extending the bombing to Syria the next big question.

 

But it also challenges the wisdom of plans to cut police budgets and police numbers still further. Neighbourhood policing is not just important to deter and catch criminals - and terrorists are criminals - but it helps to reassure local people and local communities. The right response to terrorists who seek to disrupt our way of life is ‘Business as Usual’ and balancing hard fought freedoms with security is part of that way of life. So too is having a local police service with the resources they need to do their job.

Attacks call into question cuts to policing

I have the privilege of working in one of the iconic buildings in London. The Houses of Parliament, along with perhaps St Paul's Cathedral, are the images most associated with...

At Hawkeys Lane War Memorial last Sunday the names of the fallen in 1915 were read out by Tynemouth World War One Project volunteers. The recently unveiled commemorative boards in the memorial garden at the Linskill Centre shows the effect of war on our community. Remembrance services last weekend were well attended, despite the inclement weather and the wearing and laying of wreaths of red poppies symbolised not the glorification of war but a mark of respect to those who gave their lives in the defence of our country.

 

I can respect other people’s views but for me defence is a deeply embedded principle. In our area many people have served in the Armed Forces or have family who have done so. Strong Labour areas like the North East have traditionally provided the staunchest defenders of our country. And the two local veterans awarded the Legion d'Honneur at a recent service I attended in Durham Cathedral demonstrates that defending our country can also mean defending others.

 

Over the next few months Parliament will face big decisions not least about a replacement for Trident and my party’s position remains in favour of multilateral not unilateral disarmament.  For us defence is not just about guns, ships, planes or even missiles, it is also about the pay and conditions of those who serve. We owe that to those who currently serve as much as we owe respect to those who have gone before.

 

We will remember them

At Hawkeys Lane War Memorial last Sunday the names of the fallen in 1915 were read out by Tynemouth World War One Project volunteers. The recently unveiled commemorative boards in...

The recent service for Lost Fishermen and Seafarers in North Shields was a timely reminder of just how dangerous the fishing industry is.  On average a fisherman dies each week, making fishing the UK’s most dangerous peacetime occupation.  Yet over the next few months local fishermen may be forced to go further for longer to make a living in fishing grounds under increasing pressure.

 

For most fishermen along the North East coast the nephrops fishery – prawns to you and I – is the staple catch, in a season which usually runs from October to April.  More than 60 boats depend on the prawn fishery, all under 18 metres, most under 10 metres, it’s a fishery which sustains stocks and around 1000 jobs in the industry.  Now that’s under threat from bigger, nomadic boats from Ireland and Scotland muscling in on the catch and threatening to overfish.

 

At this point Euro critics usually wag their finger at the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy.  But this is a home grown problem, needing a home grown solution.  As I warned in the last fisheries debate and again in a recent letter to the Minister, Ministers need to act to protect the nephrops fishery in the Farne Deeps, defend the local fleets or devolve the power Ministers have to our region to protect our own. Most MP’s aspire to be a Minister so when Ministers have the power why won’t they use it?

Fishing needs to be protected by Ministers

The recent service for Lost Fishermen and Seafarers in North Shields was a timely reminder of just how dangerous the fishing industry is.  On average a fisherman dies each week,...

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