Ending the Tories Free School Chaos

Seaham AwardsI would like to start this week’s article by congratulating all the students in East Durham who have yet again delivered another year of fantastic GCSE results. Schools across East Durham broke their own records for the number of GCSE passes, including Maths and English, despite a national trend that saw a sharp fall in the number of GCSE English passes.


This may be my last opportunity to mention the offensive comments by former Education Secretary Michael Gove who said there was a smell of defeatism and a lack of ambition in East Durham Schools. I was appalled by these comments, and my anger is yet to subside, as he insulted all the parents, students and teachers in East Durham who are striving year after year to consistently achieve improved results, often in the most challenging circumstances. This is despite not only Michael Gove’s comments attacking the teaching profession, but a Government assault on the pensions, pay and conditions of teachers.


Improving educational standards will only occur while we continue to train and employ world class teachers. Unfortunately, even this statement which you might think is common sense has no place in this Government’s education policy which seeks to extend the number of non-qualified teachers in state schools.


While the vast majority of the teaching profession gave a huge sigh of relief when Michael Gove was moved out of the Department for Education, his successor Nicky Morgan has pledged to persist with the failing free school policy and there will be no respite from the attacks on the teaching profession.


Free Schools continue to divert much needed resources from state schools, with estimates suggesting as much as £400 million has been cut from school budgets to pay for new free schools. This has certainly affected East Durham as the Government ended the Building Schools for the Future Programme and cancelled the new build for Seaham School of Technology. It has been a four year fight, but Seaham School of Technology has been included in the Priority Schools Building Programme. Despite a number of delays, the Government have indicated that they expect all building programmes to be complete by 2017. However, the new school will not include a replacement swimming pool despite a huge lobbying effort and a petition signed by thousands of local residents.


While state schools are operating under strict budgets there seems to be endless money for Free School projects. The Durham Free School in our region has cost the taxpayer nearly £1 million in its first term, the equivalent of £25,000 per pupil. It has been reported the free school is set to triple in size, but at the start of the new school year, it will teach fewer than 100 pupils. While the Government enforces an age of austerity across the UK and nearly all Government Departments they allowed Michael Gove a £1 billion overspend for his Free School pet project.


The free market philosophy of Free Schools is causing chaos in education, and is failing to meet the needs of the school population. The Tories are now wedded to this failing policy. It is time for a real alternative, with a Government policy which focuses on supporting all our schools and not prioritising pupils attending Free Schools.


gazaCampaigners and MPs calling on the Government to send a Royal Navy medical ship and humanitarian aid to support the beleaguered citizens of Gaza have expressed dismay that the Prime Minister is allowing the UK Government to turn its back on people in desperate need.

For the past two weeks, a petition has gathered more than 70,000 signatures and cross party support to send medical aid – specifically the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus – to support the people of Gaza and offer relief to the medical and hospital services which have been overwhelmed by the casualties of the heavy Israeli bombing of the territory, and has demonstrated the strength of feeling across the UK.

However, the RFA Argus has recently left port in Falmouth sailing into the English Channel, but heading away from where it is needed. Instead sailing in the opposite direction to take part in a naval training exercise.

Leading the call in his party, Labour MP for Easington, Grahame Morris, has written to the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary, as well as the Labour frontbench urging them to support this public initiative, he commented:

The Prime Minister must not let other terrible events in the region be used as an excuse to turn away from the huge humanitarian need in Gaza, sending the RFA Argus would have a huge beneficial effect on the medical situation there, where many thousands were killed or injured and hundreds of thousands bombed out of their homes. The long running plight of the Palestinians has been central to events in the Middle East for the last 70 years.

The UK must use all it capabilities to help end the blockade of Gaza and involve itself fully in resolving this issue now, this conflict is integral to finding long-lasting peace in the Region, including Iraq.”

Campaigner and organiser, Veronica Vickery, said:

“We are outraged that the government could think that a training exercise off Studland beach, is a good use of tax-payer funded Argus at a time when children in Gaza are in desperate need of acute care medical facilities. Campaign supporters overwhelmingly feel that the Government has its priorities all wrong.”

At a briefing on his recent visit to Gaza leading a team from Medical Aid for Palestinians to assess medical needs, John Beavis, Orthopaedic and trauma surgeon, said Royal Naval medical ships and personnel were ‘terrific’ and it would be ‘wonderful’ if such a ship was sent to Gaza. Not only to address the obvious medical needs but also as it would show the thousands of innocent victims in the conflict they are not ‘isolated’ which ‘is hugely important.”

Grahame Morris MP further commented:

“It’s clear that medics in Gaza are doing an unbelievable job, but hospitals there are not safe from the Israeli military, Rafah hospital has been virtually flattened and the only rehabilitation hospital has been destroyed. Local medics are suffering from acute exhaustion and Israel continues to make it difficult for medics on humanitarian missions to get visas to enter Gaza,

The worsening power supply situation and that least 112 Palestinians have been killed in more than 350 Israeli air strikes across the territory since the truce collapsed on 19 August shows the need for a facility like Argus, a safe secure, well stocked vessel is still desperately needed, and will be essential if violence continues to escalate”

To sign the petition please visit change.org/hospitalship2gaza


Grahame Morris 3Grahame Morris MP is calling for constituents to get involved with comparethemarket.com’s latest Great British Switch campaign. This provides the chance to nominate a local charity to be awarded a £50,000 donation. The funds will be offered in recognition of a cause which brings local people and communities together.

From 26 August any regional registered charity from England, Scotland and Wales, can be nominated for the award. Members of the public, and charities, are invited to submit their nomination by tweeting the name of their favoured charity, and why they should win the award, using the #greatbritishswitch hashtag. Nominations can also be made by visiting www.metro.co.uk/greatbritishswitch

Nominations close at midday on Tuesday 2 September, at which point a panel of judges will select six charities to be revealed on 9 September. The public will then be able to show support for any one of the six charities during the Great British Switch, whilst getting a quote to see how much could be saved on home insurance.

Grahame Morris MP said; I’m calling on all constituents to take part in the #greatbritishswitch, a campaign which brings local charities across Easington into the limelight. The good work that local charities do in making our neighbourhoods stronger deserves to be recognised and I very much welcome this initiative which could help bring more funding”.

The Great British Switch is open to all UK residents and is a cost-free opportunity to see if participants can make savings by changing their home insurance provider as a part of the Great British Switch. However, there is no obligation to change providers in order to support a particular charity.

The charity with the most support at the end of the weekend will be awarded the £50,000 donation.

For more information about the Great British Switch visit www.comparethemarket.com/great-british-switch

March for the NHS

Jarrow MarchThe NHS is firmly on the Road to Privatisation.

The promise to protect the NHS and to halt any top down reorganisation lasted up until the point David Cameron became Prime Minister. Without any mandate David Cameron undertook the largest top down reorganisation since the foundation of the NHS, laying the framework for the whole scale marketisation of our health service.

A group of mums from Darlington concerned about the attacks on the NHS have decided to fight back, and wanting their voice to be heard are marching to Parliament following the famous path of the Jarrow Crusaders, who nearly 80 years previous marched against poverty and unemployment.

I was in Jarrow on Saturday to walk the first stage of the protest that will conclude on the 6th September in London after marching 300 miles and collecting information and evidence of the NHS break up from the 23 towns and cities they will visit on the way to Parliament.

They recognise that the NHS is currently in the process of being sold off piece by piece. The NHS Support Federation found that between April and December 2013 private firms won 70% of contracts for NHS services in England, covering everything from mental health services, out of hours services, and diagnostic services.

There are also plans in Staffordshire to privatise cancer care in what could be the biggest outsourcing deal in the NHS history, in a contract worth £1.2bn.

Prioritising private profits over patient care has hit frontline services. Access to GP services is becoming increasingly difficult, and deadly delays in ambulance response is risking lives. We have seen a near continuous A&E crisis, as patients with no alternatives present themselves at accident and emergency departments.

NHS England’s figures show that the number of people waiting more than 4 hours in A&Es has increased from a third of a million in 2009/2010 to almost a million after the Tories’ reorganisation.

However, despite these pressures frontline services have not been saved from cuts. One in ten A&E units have been closed or downgraded, including Hartlepool that serves part of the Easington constituency. Half of the 600 ambulance stations are earmarked for closure and one-third of NHS walk in centres have been closed.

East Durham has not been spared with GP services and walk in services under threat such as Healthworks in Easington, as well as those in Peterlee and Seaham, making it more likely patients will seek treatment from already over-stretched A&E units. In view of the high levels of deprivation and chronic local health problems we need more easily accessible healthcare services, not fewer.

The lines of responsibility and accountability have been blurred with the public unable to identify where decisions about local services are being made or how they can stop damaging cuts. The whole system is littered with conflicts of interest with GPs commissioning services from themselves with little accountability and elected representatives like myself denied access to meetings where commissioning decisions are discussed.

The present Government have created a system which has failed everyone except those seeking to profit from the NHS. There will be one final opportunity before the election to reverse these changes through a Private Members Bill I am co-sponsoring with Labour MP Clive Efford to repeal the damaging competition rules.

I will be delighted to welcome the NHS Jarrow march into Parliament, as we try to convince Conservative and Lib Dem MPs to end the chaos they have created in our health service by repealing the Health and Social Care Act.

What future for Northern and Trans-Pennine Express franchises?

RAILWAYYesterday (Monday 18 August 2014) the government consultation for the Northern and Trans-Pennine Express rail franchises ended. The government organised a pitiful five “listening” events across the vast area covered by the franchises.  The plans put out to consultation include:

  • Axing guards with Driver Only Operation introduced on the Northern franchise
  • Reduced ticket office opening times
  • Cancelling stops at some stations threatening their closure
  • Axing entire routes
  • Increasing fares and axing off peak reductions
  • Cancelling first and last trains

The RMT Union revealed last week that the Government and Northern Rail are already colluding to axe off-peak fares in the name of private profit from next month in what the union described as “a kick in the teeth for the travelling public and a taste of what’s to come.” It was confirmed to the RMT that from the 8th September off-peak tickets can no longer be used during key times on weekday evenings. Northern Rail admitting it’s a pure cash-raising exercise driven directly by the Government.

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, County Durham said:

“It is clear to me this was not a proper consultation exercise. These plans will increase fares, reduce jobs and services on both franchises and that is unacceptable. The North-East has a tiny fraction of the money spent on transport investment compared to that spent in London and the South-East.

We will never improve the lives of people in the North through improved economic growth and jobs when Londoners receive £5,203 more per head on capital investment than people in the north-east. All Westminster cares about is its own backyard. I will be working closely with Unions and local groups to make sure that this time the voices of North-East families are not ignored.”   Earlier this month Chancellor George Osborne endorsed a plan to improve infrastructure in five northern cities. Yet he did not commit to any additional funding. Such empty words and promises continue to show the needs of the north will never be met by a Tory Government.

Easington MP Visits Horticultural Social Enterprise Set up to Help Jobseekers from Seaham Get Ready for Work


Today the Shaw Trust – a national employment, learning and skills charity operating in Seaham – welcomed Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, and a host of key figures in the local community, to the Seaham branch of its horticultural social enterprise project, called Shaw Trust Enterprises – North East. Mr. Morris visited the project to learn more about how its ground-breaking combination of horticultural services and employment support is helping disabled and unemployed people from Seaham get ready for work.

Joined by several local councillors, employers and organisations, as well as Shaw Trust chief executive, Roy O’Shaughnessy, MP Grahame Morris was given a tour of the Seaham horticultural project – based in Heathway, Parkside – meeting Shaw Trust beneficiaries from Seaham and the surrounding areas who have been helped by the horticultural project to improve their skills, gain invaluable work experience and find work.

The charity’s staff at the horticultural social enterprise used the visit to showcase the project’s services, highlighting the support, employment and training opportunities it offers unemployed, disabled and disadvantaged people from Seaham to get ready for work; while providing grounds maintenance services to local residents and businesses, and selling quality woodwork and plant products.

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, said: “Employment is about much more than just taking home a pay-packet. A job can mean independence, fulfilment and inclusion; three things that everybody has a right to but three things that disabled and disadvantaged people are too often excluded from. I’m proud of the wonderful work that Shaw Trust is doing in Seaham to ensure that disadvantaged and disabled people are both getting the skills and support they need and realising their potential to contribute towards business and the local community.”

Shaw Trust Chief Executive, Roy O’Shaughnessy, added: “We are wholeheartedly committed to helping people from all walks of life – regardless of ability or background; experience or barrier – to take full advantage of their talents and realise their potential. We believe everyone has the right to employment and independence – fundamentally, happiness. As a charity we are eager to pioneer and champion exciting new ways to help people attain this happiness, and we believe projects like Shaw Trust Enterprises – North East will do just that, giving disabled and unemployed people the chance to embark on fulfilling careers and take control of their lives.”

Shaw Trust Enterprises – North East gives gardening support to local households, schools, housing associations and hospitals, providing garden maintenance, clearances and landscaping. It also offers disadvantaged locals the chance to undertake a 12-week training programme towards a Level 1 City & Guilds Practical Horticultural Skills certification. Trainees are given the option of applying for six-month paid work experience placements after their training ends as stepping stones to careers in the horticultural industry.

Shaw Trust Enterprises – North East provides these services and is keen for more businesses and households to sign up to receive its services so it can help more local unemployed and disabled people into work, while providing gardening support across the region. The more people who sign up for its gardening services, the more people it can help.

To learn more about the services provided by Shaw Trust Enterprises – North East’s Seaham centre, please contact 0191 581 9274 or email gardening-northeast@shaw-trust.org.uk. Alternatively, you can visit http://www.shaw-trust.org.uk/shops-enterprises/social-enterprises/st-enterprises-north-east/ to find out more.

Voters in Battleground Seats Call on Cameron to Exclude the NHS from US Trade Deal

NHS Rally

An overwhelming majority of voters (68 per cent) in 13 battleground constituencies across the country want to see the NHS safeguarded from a new trade deal which threatens to make privatisation permanent.

The deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is being negotiated behind the closed doors of the European Commission, between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the United States. It is the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and threatens to make privatisation irreversible by giving the profits of corporations precedence over national lawmakers.

TTIP has been described as a deregulation agreement with a prime aim to cut regulation. There are fears that much of the regulation targeted is that which protects labour rights, the environment, health and safety and ultimately has the potential to transfer power from domestic governments to multinational corporates, resulting in governments having little or no jurisdiction over domestic policy, regulation and even fiscal decisions.

Worryingly, public services will also be put at risk, to the extent that it will become virtually impossible to re-nationalise services and multinationals will use the agreement to drive further privatisation, even against the wishes of domestic parliaments.

Grahame Morris Labour MP for Easington and member of the Health Select Committee says the government must listen to the concerns of voters over a new trade deal that unions and NGOs say threatens to make the privatisation of UK health services permanent.

Grahame Morris MP said:

“When the public learn about this trade deal, which could have major consequences for the NHS, they are right to be concerned.

I am not impressed by the failure of David Cameron and his government to give a crystal clear assurance that the NHS will be exempt from this trade deal.

Why is this government refusing to give a straight answer to a very simple but very important question, will this government ensure that the NHS is exempt from TTIP? I will be raising my concerns with my colleagues on the Health Select Committee because of the government’s refusal to be straight with people who care about the NHS.”

The poll, carried out by Survation, questioned over 2,600 voters across 13 marginal Conservative-held seats. Respondents were asked if the National Health Service should be excluded from the deal and if David Cameron should use Britain’s veto.

Across all constituencies 68 per cent said they opposed the inclusion of the NHS as part of the deal. While 64 per cent said David Cameron should seek to exclude the NHS from the trade agreement altogether and 54 per cent want the Prime Minister to veto the agreement if necessary in order to safeguard the NHS.

Petition: Tell David Cameron to Send RFA Argus to Gaza

RFA ArgusI am currently supporting a petition calling on the Government to send the Royal Navy hospital ship RFA Argus, currently based in Falmouth, to spearhead a humanitarian relief effort to Gaza.

Watching the events unfold in Gaza this last month, it is impossible not to be horrified. We are witnessing a massacre. Without regard for international law or human life, a powerful occupying nation is unleashing their full military might against the civilian population whom they occupy.

The recent conflict in Gaza has seen Israeli forces repeatedly target civilian infrastructure destroying hospitals, schools, power plants, homes and United Nations facilities housing refugees. 2,000 Palestinians have been killed and almost 10,000 injured, including 80% civilians. 450,000 people have been displaced and Israel’s attacks on Gaza’s sole power-plant has left most of the population without power or water and its hospitals are lacking the basic medical supplies needed to treat huge numbers or injured people.

Gaza has already suffered an illegal 7 yearlong blockade that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more and this latest assault has left Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants on the precipice of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israeli restrictions on the flow of essential medical supplies and humanitarian relief mean doctors are operating on floors, people are dying without treatment and there are severe shortages of staff and resources. 10 out of 26 hospitals, comprising 40% of beds in Gaza, have been shut. With nobody allowed in or out and effective relief being prevented from entering the Strip, Gaza’s medical infrastructure is on the brink of collapse.

Whatever your position regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, one thing is undeniable – hundreds of thousands of innocent Palestinians will suffer greatly unless the international community acts.

The response of the UK Government has, so far, been wholly inadequate. We have a proud standing in the world as a nation that provides assistance to people in times of need, something the Prime Minister frequently points out, and I want to see the Government’s rhetoric backed up with action.

The petition, which has gained more than 60,000 signatures, is calling on the UK government to deploy RFA Argus, a hospital ship moored in Falmouth, to Gaza to provide vital humanitarian assistance. Sending NHS staff and equipment to Gaza is a step in the right direction, but more should be done. Considering the overwhelming strains on Gaza’s hospitals, many of which are severely damaged, and the number of injured people in need of treatment, small specialist teams will not be able to provide the substantial support desperately needed.

The United Kingdom, in having an asset like RFA Argus which is designed and equipped for the type of relief effort needed, is in a unique position to provide substantial humanitarian support to the Gaza Strip. The RFA Argus should be deployed as quickly as possible, spearheading a UK relief effort. I have already written to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to urge them to deploy Ministry of Defence equipment to aid Gaza because I believe that if we are in a unique position to provide vital humanitarian support to those who need it, we should do so. If you agree with me, sign the petition and tell David Cameron to send the RFA Argus to the aid of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip in their hour of need.


Individual Electoral Registration

IERThe way you register to vote has changed.

From the 10th June 2014, the Government have introduced Individual Electoral Registration. This means that each individual is responsible for registering to vote.


Government figures suggest that up to 9 million people could fall off the register. This is in addition to the 6 million eligible voters currently not on the register.


The groups most at risk of falling off the register are students, young people, BME community, and private renters.


You can now register to vote online, all you need is your national insurance number and to answer a few questions about yourself.


To register to vote please visit – www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.


Live in the Easington constituency? Want to register for a postal vote?


Postal Vote Application forms can be downloaded and printed here


Completed forms must be returned to:


Durham County Council

Electoral Services
Durham County Council
County Hall

Can you afford another five years of David Cameron?

Peterlee Community Life - ASDAI was delighted to kick-start the Summer recess in Peterlee with some of the 11,500 mums who have signed up to be part of the Asda Mumdex panel about the pressures families are facing.

In a wide ranging discussion with the local listening group a number of concerns were raised about the economy, household finances, engagement with voters, the impact of Government policies and social issues.

The cost of living remains the number one priority facing local families with Asda’s Mumsdex report finding that nearly three quarters of mums want the Government to focus on solving the cost of living crisis, with eight out of ten stating it will impact the way they vote.

As I mentioned in this column last week, I am very concerned about the impact of this government’s changes to Individual Electoral Registration, which it is estimated will see almost thirteen thousand mostly poorer people in East Durham disenfranchised. It is vital for our democracy that people register to vote and do not lose their right to have a say on policies that effect their everyday lives.

The Tories and Lib Dems claim they have fixed the economy but things are still tough with the benefits of economic growth not being felt by people and families in East Durham.

The Coalition Government have presided over the slowest recovery for 100 years, on average wages have declined by £1600 a year, while energy bills have increased by almost £300 since the election. The number of households in fuel poverty has risen to over 6000 households in East Durham alone. There is a growing fuel poverty gap, the difference between income and what people can afford to pay, which is approaching £500.

The Government have amassed a remarkable list of disastrous policies which are hurting communities in the North East and worsening inequalities.

Even more worrying the NHS has been put on the road to privatisation with waiting lists rising, access to treatment restricted and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see a GP. Royal Mail has been privatised resulting in huge profits for the city while the taxpayer was short changed by £1.4 billion. There has been tax cuts for the richest in society, while VAT was increased hitting the poorest in society, who have also seen cuts to Tax Credits helping families with children and on low incomes. Community services have been decimated with disproportionate cuts imposed by central government on local government that has cut Durham County Council’s budget by over forty percent.

The sick and disabled have been penalised through the bedroom tax, as well as thousands being wrongly found fit to work by Atos through the discredited Work Capability Assessment.

The Government continue to work with corporate giants like Serco and G4S, awarding them contracts worth billions, despite repeated failings and defrauding the taxpayer of tens of millions through overcharging on tagging contracts for prisoners who were back in prison, overseas, or dead. G4S is the same company that botched the Olympic security, but are to be allowed to take over privatised probation services.

It seems so long ago but it was this government that tripled tuition fees and abolished Educational Maintenance Allowance, which led to mass demonstrations.

Three years ago we saw the total breakdown of law and order with riots on the streets of London, and other UK cities, and while chaos reigned the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London were forced to return from holiday.

This is far from an exhaustive list but highlights how in the last four years the public have been attacked, ignored and treat with distain by a Government who seem to represent a very small and privileged minority.

The next election will be vitally important in shaping the future of our country, and I would ask you to consider a simple question – Can you afford another five years of David Cameron?

No Vote, No Voice – make sure you have your say at the next election. The way you register to vote has changed. To register online please visit: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote