Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson can galvanise Labour and Lead a Grassroots Revolution.

Corbyn & Watson

How often do the public switch-off from politicians who they see as all the same.

It is a criticism frequently heard when out campaigning, when the mainstream parties are perceived as offering pale imitations of each other. The public have voted with their feet, political party membership has plummeted and election turnouts have steadily declined.

This Labour Leadership Election has offered something different. The new politics proposed by Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson has re-energised and galvanised the Labour Party attracting over 400,000 new members and supporters.

The democratic surge in the Labour Party should be embraced in what will be our first individual member-led election.

Tom Watson is a proven campaigner and is the only candidate for Deputy Leader who will continue the process of engaging and rebuilding grassroots politics within the Labour Party.

We face a difficult challenge. Tom recognises that any new leader will have to take us out of our comfort zone and broaden our appeal to win back key seats, as well as those we lost in the Midlands and Scotland at the last election.

Our Labour Party Members and supporters have a common belief in our shared values of social justice, fairness and equality are our greatest asset.

We have a rare opportunity to radically change our politics offering a new agenda of hope to those who have become disillusioned.

I believe the balanced ticket of Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson for Leader and Deputy Leader provides the best opportunity for an open democratic Labour Party that empowers party members and delivers the practical policies that will make a real difference to people’s everyday lives.

That is why I have set out my stall and am voting for Jeremy Corbyn for Leader and Tom Watson for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

Grahame Morris MP puts ending malaria on his to-do list

Make Malaria No MoreMarking World Mosquito Day today, Easington MP, Grahame Morris has joined the campaign to make malaria no more within a generation.

Malaria has claimed more lives than any other disease in human history. Today it claims the life of a child every minute, despite being preventable and costing less than a cup of tea to treat. It is also a major cause of poverty in Africa, costing an estimated £12 billion a year in lost productivity.

Defeating malaria is a huge task which will take serious commitment and today sees MPs from all parties coming together to raise awareness about their personal commitment to the cause and to rally support on social media for Malaria No More UK’s #malariatodolist campaign.

The malaria to-do list brings to life the key actions needed to defeat malaria over the next 15 years, including the need for doubling of current funding; cutting edge research; inspiring global leadership and improving access to life-saving medicines. Each to-do is illustrated with an engaging illustration, and is sharable on social media. Malaria No More UK also gives ideas for people in Easington to get involved and help save lives.

It was 118 years ago today that British Doctor, Sir Ronald Ross first discovered that female mosquitoes transmit malaria. Exceptional progress has followed – in the past 15 years alone global efforts have halved the rate of people dying from malaria. The next 15 years offer an unprecedented opportunity to reach near zero deaths if local and global support is maintained.

Commenting, Grahame Morris MP said:

“I’ve got some very important things to do this summer, from dealing with constituency casework to preparing for the new parliamentary term. But World Mosquito Day reminds us that there is one more important thing on our to-do list: making malaria no more. No one, anywhere should die from a mosquito bite. With the right levels of funding, political leadership and continued commitment, the UK can play a leading role in ending malaria deaths by 2030.

“Thanks to the huge progress of the last 15 years, 6.2million lives have been saved. But it’s still all to play for – without continued public, political and financial support we could see this progress reversed. That’s why I’m adding ‘make malaria no more’ to my to-do list today. Let’s get the job done.”

Reforming the House of Lords

House of LordsThe House of Lords is beyond redemption.

While recent scandals have brought this issue to the forefront of politics, the reality is that the Lords has been an outdated and defunct institution for over a century.

At the last election Labour proposed to replace the Lords with an elected Senate representing the regions and nations of the UK. However, calls to reform and indeed abolish the House of Lords have been proposed by the Labour Party since our foundation.

The Lords is a chamber of privilege and patronage. There remains the old guard of hereditary peers granted their position by accident of birth as well as the theocracy consisting of 26 bishops of the Church of England known as the Lords Spiritual. Alongside privilege sits patronage, with failed and retired politicians sitting beside party donors granted their position based upon their ability to sign a cheque.

The situation is likely to get worse. Despite a promise to cut the cost of politics David Cameron is getting ready to flood the Lords with another set of political cronies in order to tilt the balance further in favour of the present Tory Government.

Reform of the House of Lords usually focuses on replacing the undemocratic chamber with an elected assembly. While this would be a positive step forward in terms of democracy, there isn’t a great public zeal for creating more politicians.

I am not convinced either that a weak Senate, a poor and powerless replica of the House of Commons would enhance our democracy.

We need a radical alternative, and while the Commons chamber is the theatrical showpiece of Parliament, the real engine room of our democracy is the Committees.

Their work is often overlooked, however, at their best and as shown in the last parliament they have the capacity to hold powerful interests to account. From the Public Accounts Committee investigating tax avoidance by companies like Starbucks, Google and Amazon to the Culture, Media and Sports Committee holding Rupert Murdoch’s feet to the fire over phone hacking.

Through enhancing and empowering select committees we can create a powerful system of oversight and scrutiny. If we also allowed committees to amend and revise legislation there would be no need for a second chamber. The role of a backbench MP would be greatly strengthened with an ability to influence legislation in a way that is currently not available to them. Committee chairs would be an alternative option for independent minded MPs who are unlikely to be favoured by their political parties.

It would demand more from MPs and help end the scandal of MPs second jobbing and taking paid outside interests which conflict with their parliamentary duties as well as ridding us of over 700 unelected legislators in the Lords which is costing the taxpayer close to £100 million a year.

David Cameron is laying the foundations for the final demise of the Lords and his next wave of peers will delegitimise this archaic institution which has become nothing more than a holding pen for those willing to do political favours for the political elite.

The Assisted Dying Bill

HocWhen Parliament returns in September one of the first issues on the agenda will be the Private Members Bill being put forward by my Labour Party colleague Rob Marris MP on Assisted Dying.

As with many campaigns, I have received a lot of letters providing the views of a particular organisation or campaign group. However, unlike other campaigns, I have received a number of letters in which constituents have shared personal views and experiences which provide a unique insight into the Bill.
This is the most powerful and helpful correspondence when considering the way in which I will vote on this issue.

The issues surrounding end of life care and the law related to assisted dying are complex and emotive, with strongly held ethical and moral arguments on both sides.

I do not want assisted dying to be seen as an alternative to high quality, well-funded and accessible palliative care services which support the terminally ill with end of life decisions. We need to do more to honour the choices of the terminally ill particularly in relation to whether an individual wants to die at home, in hospital or in a hospice.

I am concerned about the manner in which assisted dying operates elsewhere in Europe, with criteria too widely drawn encompassing people with chronic and non-terminal conditions. In view of this I am pleased that the UK Assisted Dying Bill is narrower in its focus and contains a number of important safeguards.

It would allow a patient to self-administer medication to end their own life, as well as allowing a terminally ill patient of sound mind to seek assistance. The law would only apply to terminally ill patients. Many of those who have campaigned and brought right to die cases to the High Court were by people suffering from painful or life limiting conditions, but as they were not terminal, they would not be included in this legislation.

I can envisage that if successful, there would very quickly be calls to extend the Assisted Dying Bill, and I fear where this could end.

I am advised that opinion polls indicate that 82% of the public support a change in the law to permit assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. However, the correspondence I have received would indicate that views are mixed, with those for and against evenly split.

The current law is a mess but the Director of Public Prosecutions has done her best to outline the circumstances in which it would, or would not, be in the public interest to prosecute an assisted dying case. The UK Supreme Court has also stated that Parliament must provide clarity on the issue.
I support empowering people at all stages of life, and believe people should have control over their end of life decisions. This means no matter what the decision on Assisted Dying the government must provide more resources to improve palliative care and support services.

I am carefully considering all the issues prior to making my decision and would ask anyone with strong opinions on this Bill to share them with me at grahame.morris.mp@parliament.ukHoc

The Fight For Breath

NHS - 2012The mismanagement of the NHS is pushing the system to breaking point.

While Ministers claim that spending on the NHS has been protected, the realities of reorganisation are beginning to materialise with NHS Trusts falling further into the red.

Last year the total deficit for NHS Trusts in England was £822 million, compared with £115 million the previous year. Health Trusts are now spending £1.8 billion on contract and agency staff, more than double the amount planned.

This impacts patient care with waiting lists for routine operations at Foundation Trusts reaching 1.8 million, an 8.3% increase on 2013-14.

The NHS will have to change and nowhere more so than when it comes to preventative care. The opportunity to improve public health will not only improve the quality of life for patients but potentially have massive savings for the NHS.

New research by the British Lung Foundation suggests respiratory health could be a good starting point.

Lung disease is one of the UK’s biggest killers responsible for nearly as many deaths and as many hospital admissions as cardiovascular disease and non-respiratory cancers. This equates to one person dying every five minutes in the UK from lung disease.

However, ill health and lung disease is not spread out evenly across the UK and is much more concentrated in the North East. The North East has the highest rate of hospital admissions for nearly all respiratory conditions, with admission rates for mesothelioma over 60% higher than the rest of the UK.

The British Lung Foundation has called for a number of strategies to tackle lung disease from the adoption of a targeted, evidence based lung cancer screening programme, stronger tobacco controls, as well as improving air quality. However, these efforts are being undermined with the Chancellor cutting £200 million from local authorities’ public health budgets which address issues like improving air quality and reducing health inequalities.

We need a proactive approach to lung disease, but also other preventable illnesses, where prevention, early diagnosis and cure are better than an acute emergency which reduces the life chances of the patients and incurs a significant cost to the NHS.

We also need to see the end to Departmental isolation, with the Government recognising that cuts in one department can have repercussions across others.

The Department for Health must work with Business, Innovation and Skills, to ensure incessant deregulation does not undermine health and safety in the workplace. The Home Office must ensure that those with addictions to drugs and alcohol receive health services to break the cycle of dependency to improve health and reduce crime. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport must rescue the Olympic legacy which has seen the number of people playing sport falling three years after the Olympics.

The Government may view cutting departments like Culture, Media and Sport as an easy option, but if the consequence is fewer people exercising we are not saving money but storing up a health debt that will be paid at a later date.

Austerity is leading to short-term, short-sighted cuts, without any consideration to the impact on our society or the wider community.

We need a real alternative, however, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones”. These words are as true today as they were when first spoken by economist John Maynard Keynes at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930’s.

I believe we must seize the opportunities for change when they present themselves, and break the austerity consensus which has taken hold in our country.

New National Lottery investment in First World War Centenary

Armed Forces Day 2014One year from the Battle of the Somme Centenary, Grahame Morris MP urges East Durham communities to apply for new £4m Heritage Lottery Fund money to explore the impact of the war  

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced new National Lottery money to help communities across the UK mark the Centenary of the First World War and Easington MP Grahame Morris is urging communities to apply.

Grahame Morris MP said: “The projects and stories that have already been shared as part of the First World War Centenary have been an inspiration.  It’s so important that we remember the impact of this war one hundred years on.    There is still time to apply for National Lottery money and I would urge anyone in East Durham with an idea for their own project to get in touch with the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

Following the phenomenal success of its community grants programme First World War: then and now, HLF has made an additional £4million available in 2015/16 for communities looking to explore, conserve and share local heritage of the First World War.  Grants are available between £3,000 to £10,000.

Thanks to National Lottery funding, thousands of young people and communities throughout the UK have already been involved in activities marking the Centenary such as: researching and recording local heritage; conserving and finding out more about war memorials; and using digital technology to share the fascinating stories they uncover.  This new money will help even more people get involved to explore a greater range of stories including those surrounding the Battle of the Somme.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the HLF, said: “The demand for National Lottery funding for First World War projects has been phenomenal, so much so we’ve decided to make extra money available. This will mean everyone, in particular more young people, can explore the momentous events of a war that shaped our nation, Europe and the world. Next year marks the centenary of the Battle of Somme and if groups want support for projects in 2016, they need to start thinking about applying now.”

The money was announced on 8th July 2015 at a House of Commons reception that showcased just a handful of over 1,000 First World War projects taking place across the UK, thanks to more than £70million of investment from HLF.

Projects on display showed the breadth and scale of First World War stories being explored and shared across the country:

  • Local people from Tottenham and Walthamstow in London showed how they have been exploring their family history to see if any of their relatives fought in the war;
  • Young people from North Tyneside demonstrated how they have been using social media to retell the stories of local soldiers; and
  • Young women in Birmingham shared what they have been uncovering about the experiences of women who worked in factories during the conflict in particularly the Birmingham Small Arms factory in Small Heath.

More information on how to apply for HLF funding is available at www.hlf.org.uk

New pharmacy, new health services – Local MP checks it out

WhitworthLocal MP Grahame Morris visited his local pharmacy, Whitworths Chemist in Murton, to see the range of services now offered following its grand reopening last week. Grahame met Mike and his team Friday afternoon to discuss their plans for closer working with other local healthcare professionals, and tried out one of their new health checks himself.

It was announced this month that there will be a new nationwide NHS scheme to give free flu jabs to high risk groups, such as the elderly, this winter. This is the same as you get in a GP surgery, but it can now be booked at your convenience at any pharmacy. That’s not all the new services that are available; Grahame couldn’t say no to having his cholesterol checked during the visit.

Whitworth(2)During the visit organised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Grahame commented on how these new services along with the pharmacist’s expert advice would be crucial in reducing pressures on the NHS this winter.

“It was marvellous to see the enthusiasm the team has, and hearing their plans to helping the local people of this area live healthier, longer lives.”

“I’ve spoken to Mike many times about the potential pharmacy has, and I was delighted when I saw the national flu scheme, as well as the roll out of summary care records to pharmacies. These records will help prevent medicine errors, and make sure people get the most from their treatment.”

“I was disappointed that there was not a National Minor Ailments service agreed between NHS England and the pharmacy negotiator, but pharmacy’s potential and future is plain to see.”

Grahame Morris MP steps back in time at WaterAid’s Victorian street to support call for taps and toilets for all

Grahame Morris (Easington)Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, stepped back in time this week to take a walk down WaterAid’s Victorian street, experiencing the sights and smells of an era when open sewage ran through our roads and rivers, to mark 150 years of Britain’s modern sewers.

More than 100 parliamentarians met characters from Victorian times to discover what life was like during the Great Stink of 1858 to highlight WaterAid’s call for the UK Government to lead the way in ending the global water and sanitation crisis.

Mr Morris also met some of the 115,056 supporters who signed the charity’s ‘Make It Happen’ petition, who came from across the country to discuss the importance of ensuring everyone everywhere has clean water to drink and somewhere safe to go to the toilet.

Mr Morris said: “It has been an eye-opening day, seeing what life was like in Victorian Britain when people lacked access to safe water and there was no decent sewerage system. Investment in water and sanitation had a huge impact on our health and development, and that these are key to achieving a healthier and more prosperous world.
“I am proud that the UK Government has made a significant commitment to ending global poverty, investing 0.7% of our national income in international development. As we develop the Sustainable Development Goals for addressing global development, it is clear that water and sanitation must play a central role.”

Britain’s first life-saving sewerage system was created following the ‘Great Stink’, when the stench of the polluted Thames was so unbearable, it sent MPs running from the House of Commons clutching handkerchiefs to their faces and spurring them into action to clean up the city.

The opening of the first modern sewage pumping station in 150 years ago, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, helped prevent cholera outbreaks in London. The disease had had a devastating impact across the country since its arrival in 1831, similar to the effect of Ebola in West Africa today. This marked the start of Britain’s drive to protect public health through good sanitation with similar transformations following across the country.

This year also has a global significance, as the framework for the development priorities for the international community until 2030 is being agreed in September.

WaterAid’s Chief Executive Barbara Frost presented the ‘Make It Happen’ petition to Baroness Verma, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development. Barbara said: “Our own history shows how water and sanitation can transform a nation, helping to create a healthier and more prosperous society.

“Today, 650 million people across the world still lack access to clean water and 2.3 billion have nowhere safe to go to the toilet. Life in a densely populated slum bears far too close a resemblance to UK cities in the 1800s, representing a real and growing threat to global health and stability. Diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation is the second biggest killer of under-fives worldwide, claiming the lives of 1,400 children every single day.

“The stink may be a bit further from Westminster now; but that’s no reason not to act. With the right political will, we can solve the global water and sanitation crisis. This year we have a unique chance to right this wrong as world leaders agree the new Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate poverty over the next 15 years. Only with investment in sanitation can we achieve a safe and secure future for everyone everywhere.”

A recent survey, commissioned by WaterAid and conducted by ComRes in May, showed that people in Yorkshire believe most UK foreign aid goes to water, sanitation and hygiene and that this is rightfully the sector that should receive the greatest proportion of investment.

However, water, sanitation and hygiene currently receives a small fraction of UK aid funding – just 2%, compared to 20% for health and 13% for education.

WaterAid is calling for increased investment in water and sanitation in order to achieve improvements in health and other development areas, as having access to these simple services is the foundation to climbing out of poverty. For example, for every £1 invested in sanitation there’s a return of around £5 in increased productivity.

The charity is calling for the UK Government to:

• Increase the proportion of aid spent on water, sanitation and hygiene by at least 1% every year over the next parliament to enable the UK to become a leader by 2020.
• Maximise the impact of UK Aid investments by making sure that water, sanitation and hygiene services are in all health clinics, schools, maternal, newborn and child health strategies, and plans to tackle gender inequality.
• End Aid Dependency by working with developing country governments to deliver and sustain water, sanitation and hygiene services as part of sustainable national plans.
• Support the adoption and implementation of a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal for water and sanitation, with targets for universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030.

MP calls on authorities to seek more powers to tackle unauthorised events

Seaham TCThe Seaham Traveller Convention has highlighted the ineffectiveness of the police and local authority in managing unauthorised events.

There can only be two reasons for this – either they have the powers and are choosing not to enforce them or they do not have sufficient powers in which case they need to outline the tools and resources required to prevent events such as the Seaham Traveller Convention which took place without the consent or consultation with the local community.

The consequence of operating an unorganised event was clear to see after a 4×4 fell off the cliff edge. The incident was downplayed as a ‘genuine accident’ which understates the risk of injury and to life this incident posed for those using the beach below.

There are great benefits to be gained from large scale events in terms of tourism and promoting local business, however, these need to be well managed and organised and not involve hundreds of vehicles and thousands of people turning up unannounced without any consideration of the impact upon the local community.

As with other unauthorised events, the Police suggest the number of reported incidents is either declining or remains low, which contradicts the concerns and views which are drawn to my attention.

I understand the publics’ reluctance to report incidents, either because they believe there will be no action taken or because there is a fear of repercussions. This reluctance could be further compounded as despite the widespread concerns of local residents, the only reported action taken to date was of a resident being spoken to for ‘wasting police time’.

I do not believe it is too much to ask that event organisers contact the Police and Council prior to an event to discuss issues in relation to health and safety, highways, policing, clean-up and insurance.

Turning up unannounced shows a total lack of respect and consideration for the local community. I will ask the Police and Local Authority to tell me if they believe this situation is acceptable, and if not, they must outline what powers they need to prevent unauthorised events in the future.

Policing Priorities Will Be Driven By Cuts to the Service.

PoliceSensationalist headlines masked the important issues Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Ron Hogg tried to raise last week regarding police priorities and the criminalisation of cannabis users.

Whether you believe in legalisation or a much tougher approach that would see drug users sent to prison, few people believe our current drug laws work. Unfortunately, a real evidence led debate on this issue is unlikely under the current Government as they are more likely to stoke the mock outrage in papers like the Daily Mail and the Express, rather than confronting the real issues at hand.

More telling, the same politicians that voted through drastic cuts to the police in the last parliament and will drive through more cuts to the police in this Parliament were quickest to condemn Mr Hogg. There is also something ironic that the same people who politicised the police by creating Police Commissioners are now outraged when as a politian, a PCC makes a political statement

The critics show little contrition for their actions. The dramatic reduction in police resources has meant that forces across the country have had no option but to prioritise tackling certain crimes. Mr Hogg’s comments are a statement of fact about pragmatic policing imposed as a result of government cuts.

Faced with the same choice would you pursue personal drug users or would you tackle the organised crime gangs and target the drug dealers profiting from the harm and misery they cause in our communities?

It is a choice that must be made due to Government austerity. This situation was confirmed today by Sara Thornton, the new head of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). Speaking to the BBC Ms Thornton suggested that the police may no longer attend after crimes such as burglary and that there had to be a “conversation with the public” over priorities.

I expect there will also be outrage at these comments, but wrongly targeting senior police officers highlighting the problem rather than the government which has caused the problem.

In the last Parliament David Cameron cut the police establishment by 36,000, including over 17,000 police officers. The police force is now at their lowest level since September 2001. Worse still, the NPCC expect a further 35,000 police posts to be lost by 2020.

Community policing is being eroded. The number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSO), which make up the majority of neighbourhood police teams, have been cut by a quarter, with over a thousand PCSO’s lost every year since 2010.

The PCC aim is clear “Reducing harm. Harm to communities and harm to individuals. Everything I say or do about drugs is rooted in this aim.”

I believe this view is more commendable than the Tory MPs who condemned the PCC, refuse to debate the policy issues and will deliver deep cuts that will undermine policing in East Durham.