Seaton Holme

seaton-holmeI am delighted to have been invited to say a few words and to congratulate Eileen Hopper on the completion of her third book – this is a wonderful history of East Durham, Easington and Seaton Holme.

I think we should also take the opportunity to thank Eileen for her services to the local community.

I understand that as one of the remaining founding members of Easington Village Parish Council, Eileen will be standing down in May after 34 years of service.

The fact we are here today is testament to the hard work of Easington Village Parish Council, and all of those within this community who came together to preserve this wonderful building.

I am fond of saying that we take so much for granted.

This is true today.

It would be difficult to conceive of this book on Seaton Holme, had this building been lost to history.

The mental pictures I have of Seaton Holme as a crumbling structure, struts holding up the building, floors, walls and rooves in a state of dereliction.

I think Eileen was right to describe the task of restoration as “an impossible dream”

There was nothing inevitable about the transformation of Seaton Holme.

As reported by the Daily Telegraph a newspaper I am not often found quoting:

“A parish council whose main task is the upkeep of a village green and playing fields is buying one of England’s most historic houses. This is a major triumph for the nine-member Easington Village Parish Council that have already raised £250,000 towards the cost of repairs.”

The fortunes of Seaton Holme have ebbed and flowed with those of Easington, but its past, and future has been determined and safeguarded by those who care about our community.

We should not underestimate the foresight and scale of ambition that resulted in the restoration of Seaton Holme, and Eileen was right to describe it as “the jewel in the crown of East Durham”.

The book is fascinating, showing how Seaton Holme has served our community from time immemorial.

However, I am delighted that I have the opportunity to thank those here today who have ensured that Seaton Holme will continue to serve the community for many years to come as a well-known structural landmark of unique historic importance not just to Easington and East Durham but to the North of England.

UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls

Today marks the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.

img_5364Women’s activists have marked November 25th as a day against violence since 1981, in memory of the assassination in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic.

I am proud to join millions of activists around the world campaigning to end the terrible epidemic of gender-based violence.

Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner. Worldwide, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence — mostly perpetrated by an intimate partner. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and 8% will suffer domestic violence in any given year.

The vast majority of women and girls subject to these crimes do not report them to the police. In rape for example, it is estimated that perhaps only around 15% of rapes are ever reported to the police.

This is reality for women and girls that shames us all.

vawg-infographic-1But violence against women and girls is not inevitable. We must challenge deep-rooted social norms and attitudes that lead to gender-based violence. Evidence shows that investing in women’s rights organisations is crucial to the prevention of gender based violence worldwide. Sadly, women’s services have seen their funding shrink rapidly since 2010 – a third of local authority funding to domestic and sexual violence services was already cut by 2012.

The best possible prevention to violence against women and girls is education. 

The CPS Violence Against Women and Girls Crime Report 2015-16 showed that violence is being perpetrated through social media. A study for the NSPCC found that sexting is often coercive and girls are most adversely affected. We are not preparing children with the resilience or knowledge they need to recognise abusive or exploitative behaviour. Currently, 53 per cent of children in schools have not learned how to recognise grooming or sexual exploitation.

The government must introduce statutory, age-appropriate sex and relationships education in primary and high schools to ensure every child learns about healthy, respectful friendships and relationships from the earliest possible age.

At present, sex and relationships education (SRE) is not universally taught in schools across the UK. In England it is only compulsory in maintained secondary schools, which account for 35 per cent of secondary schools). Primary schools, academies, free schools, independent schools and home schools in England do not have to teach SRE.

The Department for Education does provide guidance on what should be included in the non-compulsory sections of SRE, but this was last updated almost 17 years ago, in 2000, well before the Internet and social media became so universal.

img_5363-2This Government should do what countless charities, professionals, academics, five select committees and Members from across the House are asking for; introduce statutory resilience and relationships education in schools from primary school age. 

Women and girls across the world must be able to exercise their human rights free from the fear of violence, coercion and intimidation. The Government have made some important progress in working to address this global challenge. But as the Independent Commission on Aid Impact recently warned, DfID’ s work in this area remains small when compared to the scale of the challenge. DFID will need to scale up its work and integrate VAWG into other programming areas if it is to achieve transformative impact. 

More information on Labour’s success on tackling VAWG in Government can be found here.

Support the Disability Equality Training Bill



Today I will be supporting the second reading of the Disability Equality Training (Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers) Bill. This campaign aims to stop guide dogs and other assistance dog owners being illegally refused access from taxis and minicabs.

The bill will make the completion of disability equality training a requirement for the licensing of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers in England and Wales; and for connected purposes.

Blind people with guide dogs have a legal right to access taxi services, but some drivers refuse to accept their custom, which can be confidence shattering.

To stop refusals happening, drivers need a full understanding of the rights of disabled people. The Bill will require all taxi and minicab drivers to undertake disability equality training as a condition of obtaining their licence.

Guide Dogs Campaigns Manager, Helen Honstvet, said:

“We are absolutely delighted that Andrew Gwynne MP is taking forward a Bill to ensure that all taxi and minicab drivers have disability equality training. Guide dog owners have told us that taxis and minicabs turn them away with shocking regularity because their dog isn’t welcome. This can crush people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for

“This Bill, if made law, will ensure that all taxi and minicab drivers understand their duties under the Equality Act and improve the experience of getting a taxi for many people living with a disability.”



Seaham High School – Memorial Dedication to the men of Seaham Colliery who gave their lives in the service of our country


I was honoured to be asked to speak at a very moving memorial dedication at the new Seaham High School built on the site of Seaham Colliery.

The inscription reads:

“Dedicated to the men of Seaham Colliery who made the ultimate sacrifice in work and in conflict, at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them”

This is the text of my speech

“The plaque recognises the unique sacrifice made by the community of Seaham, in conflict and at work, which has shaped not only our community but our country.

At its peak and on the eve of the war in 1914, Seaham Colliery employed over 3,000 men and boys, and alongside other pits in our area such as the Vane Tempest, Dawdon, and Murton, the mining industry created and sustained our communities for successive generations.

The principles and values forged within Seaham Colliery, and mines across our country – self-reliance, solidarity, and comradeship – were the same values we needed in our country’s darkest hours, during the First and Second World War.

This memorial is in a unique place of remembrance, steeped in our history and heritage, and is a link between our past, and our future.

We should not forgot the sacrifice that was made underneath the ground we stand on today.

We should remember William Knox, George Dixon, and John Brittle, aged just 10, 12 and 13, children from Seaham who lost their lives in this colliery.

They are not unique but their sacrifice and those of countless other children advanced the cause of compulsory education and the end of child labour.

The Durham Mining Museum list the names of nearly 400 people aged from 7 to 71, who lost their lives at Seaham Colliery, and it is through their sacrifice, life experiences, and activism that we live in the society we have today.

We take so much for granted – but all our rights, the right to go to school, to have a safe workplace, and to live in a free and democratic country – these rights were not given to us, but were hard won, and to protect and defend them people in our community, and across our country, have made the ultimate sacrifice.

We will remember that sacrifice on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month and on Remembrance Sunday.

We will remember all those who fought to create a better society at home, and then in 1914, and in 1939, fought to defend and protect our future.

It is our responsibility to honour that sacrifice, build on their work and use the opportunities we have available to us.

I am pleased that on the site of Seaham Colliery, we have our new school.

I hope you will be inspired by all those who have gone before us, and use your time at Seaham High School, to honour their sacrifice through remembrance and hard work.”

Realising Aspiration for All

realising-aspirations-for-allThere are over 100,000 people of working age who are deafblind and living in the UK. However, a new report from the disability charity Sense, has revealed that, although many of them are keen to enter the workforce, only a shocking 4% of 18 to 24-year-olds who are deafblind are actually in employment – a rate almost ten times lower than the employment rate of non-disabled young people – and the employment rate of deafblind people over the age of 24 is just 20% – almost four times lower than the national average.

More broadly, with 46% of disabled people out of work, the rate of employment of disabled people is 30% lower than that of non-disabled people. These striking statistics reveal how important it is that the right support structures are in put in place so that those who want to work, can.

With the Government now publishing their Green Paper on disability employment, and reaffirming their commitment to halving the disability employment gap, it is essential that all disabled people who want to work – especially those with more complex conditions such as deafblindness – benefit from the extra resources being put in to place. I share Sense’s belief that disabled people who want to work, fulfil their ambitions, and play active roles in their communities, should be supported to do so.

In their report, Sense undertook research with people who are deafblind of all ages and in differing employment situations, from actively seeking work to running their own business. The final report, Realising Aspirations For All, revealed the multitude of barriers faced by people who are deafblind, both to enter employment and to progress when in the work place.

The report highlighted the appalling situation that currently prevails, where support programmes and employment support providers are failing to provide the right level and type of support for disabled people to enter, and maintain, employment. The situation is exacerbated by some employers, who lack awareness of existing support schemes, run inaccessible recruitment processes, and harbour negative views about the abilities of disabled people in the work place.

To address these failures Sense is calling on the Government, employment support providers, and employers, to make targeted support available, to increase the accessibility of employment, and to give disabled people equal opportunities to realise their aspirations.

An important first step is for the introduction of specialist support models targeted at people who have more complex support needs and are not likely to benefit from the Work and Health Programme, and trials of innovative specialist support models using the Innovation Fund from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department of Health (DH).

These efforts should be complemented at a local level by a better understanding of the demands of the local labour market so employment support providers can proactively reach out to employers, encouraging applications from disabled people.

The impact of the correct support and guidance for disabled people to access work can make the world of difference. Sense highlights the case of Bethany, who is 23, born deaf and with deteriorating vision. Receiving support meant she could go from struggling to find employment, to growing in confidence and working towards starting her own business.

The new Green Paper provides an important opportunity to build a more inclusive, diverse and meaningful society that enables everyone to contribute. I join Sense in calling on the Government to do all it can to make this a reality.

Labour’s pledge for a real living wage

Grahame Morris - A fair economy

Labour believes in a full and proper wage for a working day. That’s why we are committing to introducing a statutory real Living Wage. The next Labour Government will ensure that everyone in Easington will earn enough to live on.

Failed Tory austerity has produced a low-wage, low-investment, high-debt economy in which productivity is stagnating. Instead, the next Labour Government will ensure that everyone in Easington will earn enough to live on through the introduction of a statutory real Living Wage – independent research has estimated that this is likely to mean a figure in excess of £10 per hour in 2020.

It is a disgrace that low pay has been allowed to flourish in the North-East under the Tories. The people of Easington deserve a wage they can live on and it is only a Labour Government that will deliver it.

Labour’s real Living Wage is just one aspect of our plan to tackle low pay and will be introduced in tandem with an industrial strategy to transform Britain into a high-skill, high-productivity, high-wage and sustainable modern economy by boosting investment and R&D, supporting manufacturing and foundation industries and nurturing the industries of the future.

“Decent pay is not just fundamentally right, it’s good for business, it’s good for employees, and it’s good for Britain. We need a new deal across our whole economy.”
-John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor, Labour Party Conference 2016.

Sugar Bill supported by Grahame Morris MP, Royal College of Physicians and Cancer Research  could save Britain £billions by revealing hidden sugar content to consumers

The Sugar Bill, to be published tomorrow has been supported by local MP Grahame Morris in Parliament and tackles the underlying causes of obesity.
The Bill is supported by the Royal College of Physicians and Cancer Research has been presented by Labour MP Geraint Davies.

Obesity is a big problem in my constituency of Easington. Across the UK it has a greater burden on the economy than armed violence, war and terrorism, costing us £47bn each year.

The UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe with 1 in 4 adults obese and nearly 2 in 3 adults overweight, and four million with type two diabetes.

Obesity costs the NHS £16 billion a year through diabetes, heart disease and cancer and costs the economy £47 billion. That’s why we must confront hidden sugar in processed food and drinks as it is a major cause of millions of deaths costing billions of pounds.

The World Health Organisation says sugar intake should not exceed 5% of energy – 9 teaspoons for men (a can of Coke) or 6 for women (a light yoghurt)- yet the average person in Britain consumes twice that amount and teenagers three times. Overconsumption of sugar is due to manufacturers secretly adding it to our processed food and accounts for our growing diabetes epidemic.  
The Sugar Bill therefore requires that added sugar is labelled in teaspoonfuls on processed foods so consumers are empowered to choose healthier options and manufacturers incentivised to compete to reduce added sugar instead of competing by adding sugar. 

Such labelling is allowed and encouraged to be introduced by national governments by EU legislation despite the Food manufacturers claiming otherwise.

Supported by Cancer Research and the RCP the Sugar in Food and Drinks Bill will:

·Require processed food and drink to have added sugar content labelled in teaspoons
·Restrict television advertising of high sugar foods until after the 9.00pm watershed
·Require the Government to publish targets for the total amount of sugar consumed in the UK 
If we’re serious about having a sustainable health service we should tackle the root cause of growing obesity – unrestricted added sugar in processed food and drinks – and give consumers the power to make healthy choices. 
The Bill, is supported by Cancer Research UK who report that 74% of the public back a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm.  
Professor Robert Lustig whose work has explained this link said “The food industry argues that a calorie is a calorie, a sugar is a sugar, and if you’re fat it’s your fault. But the science says that the excess sugar placed in our food is toxic and addictive. How can we exercise personal responsibility when the information is kept from us? Mr. Davies has introduced a rational proposal to limit this practice, to reduce the consumption of unnecessary sugar, and to educate the populace as to what they are consuming so that they can make informed choices”

Show racism the red card- wear red today!

img_5694On Friday 21st October, Show Racism the Red Card is encouraging individuals, schools and organisations to show their support and raise funds for the campaign by taking part in Wear Red Day 2016.
For 20 years Show Racism the Red Card has been educating young people about racism in schools with the help of role-models, including professional footballers, at special events at football clubs and through educational films.
Grahame said on his support for the charity: “I am delighted to continue supporting this wonderful organisation. From my work as an MP, the worrying rise in racism following the EU referendum has caused considerable need for charities like Show Racism the Red Card. I hope that this event on Friday can raise funds for a valuable and much needed charity.”
People are getting involved all over the UK and lots of trade unions have also pledged their support, with members of USDAW, The NUT, Unite the Union, PFA, GMB, Nautilus, Equity, Musicians Union, Prospect, BECTU, NUJ, TUC and PCS, set to wear red and donate.
And in Gateshead and Newcastle the famous Millennium bridge will be turned RED, to mark the support of Gateshead Council.
For every £5 raised, SRtRC can educate a young person for a whole school day. Show your support – Wear red and stand against racism this Friday. Donate now!



Support your local pharmacy


Visiting Whitworths Chemist in Murton

A petition supporting pharmacies was recently presented to 10 Downing Street containing two million signatures – the largest ever healthcare petition inthe UK (that’s 3500 concerned patients and citizens in every constituency in England). 

In September we heard the welcome announcement from Pharmacy Minister David Mowat MP that cuts to pharmacy funding in England and associated ‘efficiency’ measures would be put on hold and that he would have an ongoing dialogue with the sector. Yet, just days later it emerged that cuts could begin as early as December 1st.

The results would be very damaging in neighbourhoods across England, hitting communities like Easington. It has been predicted that many pharmacies would be forced to close, and in the more immediate term we can expect to see services cut back, access reduced and planned improvements shelved. Patients, perhaps especially housebound patients, will be the biggest losers.

I have written to the Minister and the Health Secretary urgently expressing concern about safeguarding vital services provided by pharmacies serving smaller villages and communities in Easington and throughout East Durham.

I will consistently work with my team to encourage Ministers and officials to get around the table with community pharmacy representatives as soon as possible to discuss an alternative way forward. The right approach should maximise patient choice, maintain local access to face-to-face professional advice, provide for the most vulnerable people and populations and make sure patients continue to get their medicines promptly. Overall, it should strengthen the NHS by taking pressure off the system and ensure that quality care is delivered consistently.

It is absolutely paramount that the Government are true to their commitment to take time to get things right for the sector, right for the NHS and right for patients and communities.


Keep the hunting ban!

img_1343The Hunting Act is one of Labour’s most popular and successful pieces of animal welfare legislation and we must protect it from being repealed by the Tories.

Fox hunting is barbaric, completely unnecessary and firmly belongs in the history books.

The 2015 Conservative election manifesto included giving MPs a free vote on scrapping the ban. However, last year instead of holding a vote the Government moved a series of amendments in an effort to weaken the Hunting Act, making it unenforceable. This was a cynical attempt to repeal the act via the back-door and thankfully due to opposition inside and outside of Parliament the Government were forced to postpone their motion rather than face defeat in the House of Commons.

The Government have made it clear that they only ‘postponed’ the vote and they remain wedded to their manifesto commitment aimed at repealing the Hunting Act.

An Ipsos MORI poll recently revealed the scale of support for maintaining the block. It showed 84% of voters do not want a return to fox hunting, while 65% would view an election candidate more favourably if they supported keeping hunting with dogs illegal.

Just nine per cent would view a candidate more favourably if they supported legalisation.

I am deeply concerned that Andrea Leadsom MP is now determined to repeal the hunting bill, which is not only against the broad public view but also makes very little sense politically.

I urge the Prime Minister to keep the hunting ban.

Labour Against Fox Hunting