The Price of Coal Gasification

CoalThe Government has recently granted 26 conditional licences nationwide for companies to explore whether a process called ‘Underground Coal Gasification’ is viable, two of which are off the coast of Hartlepool and Easington.

Coal remains the world’s main source of power and it will remain so for many years to come. Increasing economic pressures and a desire to be more energy independent, has prompted the UK Government to experiment with Underground Coal Gasification, a process which involves drilling wells to set fire to coal underground and extracting the gas by-products.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has estimated that the UK has 300 years of on-shore coal reserves suitable for UCG and geologists estimate a further 1000 years of near-shore coal reserves are available.

Easington’s history is steeped in coal, it was once the lifeblood of our communities, and it is because of our abundance of coal that we  have been targeted as an area for potential UCG production. While I welcome investment, I do have reservations about the benefits of UCG, as well as having concerns over the associated risks.

Underground Coal Gasification is an unproven technology. Previous trials in India, Australia and America have been cancelled due to safety concerns, such as explosions or groundwater contamination caused by carcinogenic chemicals. Currently not one of the companies competing for UCG has any previous experience.

The Government has previously stated that UCG is “clean coal”, yet most of the newly created UCG companies intend to create diesel from the gas produced. Due to a Government loophole which means companies don’t need to store CO2 if they intend to make diesel from the gas, they are incentivised to avoid the expensive capturing of the carbon they create, thereby polluting the environment in the name of greater profits.

The Government has given academics at Newcastle University £15million of taxpayers’ money to set up their own private UCG company. In addition to this funding, George Osborne announced that he will guarantee £1billion to build a gas plant in the North East of England for the private equity company Five Quarter Energy if they cannot attract enough private investment.

The industry’s development has been financed by the taxpayer, yet it will be private, not publicly owned companies who stand to profit. To my mind, if it is the public that make the investment and take the risk in developing the industry, it seems only fair that the public should have their fair share of the rewards.

The Durham Coalfield once employed hundreds of thousands and supported entire communities, but the UCG industry looks like it might only employ a limited number of people and the profits  of Easington’s natural resources will instead enrich a small number of private companies.

There are still many doubts surrounding Underground Coal Gasification, and the jury is still out on whether the technology will pose risks to our local environment or if our community and local economy will benefit from the potential investment. I have already written to Government Ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate Change seeking a clearer assessment of what the costs and consequences of UCG will be to Easington, making it clear that any investment in Easington needs to be to the benefit, not the detriment, of our entire community.

Royal Mail fire sale costs taxpayer £1.4 billion

Royal MailThe Royal Mail served the nation for over 500 years; however a Government fire sale not only privatised this prize asset but also short changed the public.

Last week, the National Audit Office (NAO) delivered a damning report showing that the Government’s rush to privatise the Royal Mail cost the taxpayer £1.4 billion.

In fact, following the first day spike in the share price, the NAO found the Government could have made an additional £750 million if it had priced the sale at the first day closing price of 445p rather than 330p.

Business Secretary Vince Cable dismissed the first day rise as “froth and speculation”, however, since then the share price rose to a peak of 618p in January, and today still remains 70% higher than the flotation price.

Royal Mail privatisation was a policy that nobody voted for, and all except those in the city wanted. A third of share went to 16 priority investors with an agreement they would be long term investors.

Prior to the flotation these priority investors warned they would not buy shares at any more than 330p, however, once the price range was set, city institutions scrambled for these shares, with the offer being 24 times oversubscribed, clearly showing the Government had undervalued the Royal Mail.

Throughout the privatisation process the Government repeatedly promised that the Royal Mail would be owned by long term share holders rather than hedge funds. However, within weeks, the “long term investors” broke their agreement selling almost half of the shares allocated to them, and within the first month seven had sold their entire allocation banking profits of between £10 and £36 million.

These profiteers are now being protected by the NAO and the Government who are refusing to name the companies that short changed the taxpayer, and allowed the Royal Mail to be left at the mercy of hedge funds that have significantly increased their holdings.

The taxpayer not only lost out on the sale price, stamp prices are due to rise with first and second-class stamps going up to 62p and 53p respectively, and 1300 job losses have also been announced. Fears remain that the universal delivery obligation will be threatened sooner or later.

Even if the Government had achieved the real value of the Royal Mail, privatisation would have still been wrong.

The Coalition Government is ideologically blinkered and they could not accept that Royal Mail could succeed in public hands. This is despite the Royal Mail trebling profits last year and returning £440 million to the taxpayer prior to privatisation.

The private is best mantra has failed to deliver results when it comes to our public services. The public are right to question how successful privatisation and competition have been when looking at rising energy prices, or commuters paying thousands of pounds a year to use the rail network. We now see the Royal Mail following a similar path.

Whether it is energy, rail or mail, these are vital public services that should be run in the best interests of public, not private profit.

Speech to BMA North East Regional Council

NHS BevanBMA Regional Council,
Thursday, 10th April

The creation of the NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement. More than anything else, it’s what binds us together as a nation.

Our National Health Service is facing the greatest challenges it has known since its inception. The principle of a national health service, free at the point of use, has huge popular support amongst the general public, and it is a sentiment shared by those in this room.

This support will be vital for the NHS to answer the questions that the 21st century is posing.

We are facing a huge sustainability challenge in an era where there’s less money around and these financial challenges will be exacerbated by an ageing society.

There are now 3 million people over 80 and this will nearly double by 2030.

There are increasing numbers with complex needs, mental health problems, or long-term conditions. The number with a long-term condition, such as diabetes and asthma, will rise from 15 million today to 18 million by 2025.

The NHS is on a knife edge. The previous Chief Executive of NHS England, Sir David Nicholson, recently warned that the service faced “oblivion” and that it could not survive if it had to remain in the straitjacket of austerity and keep on the same path it’s on for another parliament.

When the great post-war Labour government created the NHS, the health challenges of the time were very different to the challenges we face today.

Then the priority of the NHS was fighting infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and diphtheria, now 70% of all health and care spending is on treating long term conditions like cancer, heart disease or dementia, while large numbers of patients have multiple needs.

If we are to meet the challenges of providing excellent healthcare and ensuring that people live in dignity into old age without the entire system becoming financially unsustainable, then changes will have to be made.

In their current format, the structures and care pathways that are responsible for our health and wellbeing are unsustainable.

At the moment, we have 3 or 4 fragmented systems to deal with different aspects of health & social care: physical health in acute hospitals; mental health often in separate services on the fringes of the NHS; and social care in council-run services and primary and community services.

People are being passed from pillar to post by different professionals and different points of contact.

People are in hospitals or A&E with mental health problems, but in a system that is only treating their physical ailments.

A quarter of all patients admitted to hospital with a physical illness also have a mental health condition that, in most cases, is not treated while the patient is in hospital.

And people with mental health problems are having their physical health neglected. Those with serious mental health problems die on average 15 years earlier than everyone else.

It is a system that’s working for Whitehall, but not for the people. It’s wasting billions and we end up paying for failure, playing into the hands of the privateers.

People with physical illnesses are struggling with undiagnosed mental health problems. Untreated mental illness is costing the NHS around £10 billion each year.

Care services have been cut in the knowledge the NHS will pick up the pieces – even though it is far more expensive to treat someone in hospital, and it is ultimately damaging both the NHS to care services, and the individual.

People can’t be discharged from hospital because help is not there at home and it’s costing the NHS £4 million a week.

And we are paying for failure: we are paying for people coming through the hospital door, rather than paying to prevent them needing hospital treatment in the first place.

There is a tendency for our hospitals to only see the immediate problem – a broken hip or a stroke – not the whole person behind it.

We are treating a person’s needs through three or four disjointed services. This means not only that we are building up costs at an unsustainable rate, but that patients are falling through the gaps between services and aren’t receiving the care they need.

It’s the way that we have worked for 66 years, and, for the most part, it has served us well.

But in the 21st century when we are faced with increased funding pressures and changing demographics the old model is no longer tenable.

If we want to deliver what people deserve we cannot continue to pass patients around from service to service.

One person, three or four services is not the way forward.

What is needed is a holistic approach to each patient – a single service that cares for a person as a whole.

But this Government is delivering the reverse. Our services are becoming more fragmented, not less, and it is competition, not cooperation that is the driving force behind Tory-led health reforms.

Far from helping integrate services, the Tories’ marketisation is fragmenting the NHS. It’s hard to integrate care when many different providers are all competing for different parts of a patient’s care ‘pathway’.

The Government’s decision to enforce competition law within the NHS will have a chilling effect on the behaviour of commissioners and providers who want to work together– the opposite of the cultural change we need to drive integration.

Last year, for the first time ever, the Competition Commission intervened in the NHS to block collaboration between two hospitals in Dorset and Poole looking to improve services.

Competition lawyers, not GPs are becoming the decision makers in our NHS

Our NHS is becoming bogged down in a morass of competition law.

Since April, CCGs have spent £5 million on external advice as services are forced out to tender.

This competition regime is a barrier to the service changes that the NHS needs survive in the 21st century.

It is sheer madness to say to hospitals that they can’t collaborate or work with GPs and social care to improve care for older people because it’s “anti-competitive”.

If we are to relieve the intense pressure on our services, and rise to the financial challenge, it is precisely this kind of collaboration that is needed, and the marketisation of the NHS must be reversed.

NHS professionals like GPs, doctors and nurses need to play a greater role in coordinating the provision of social care services, and joining them up with other health services.

But despite the rhetoric of Government ministers, the exact opposite is being delivered.

Far from delivering a de-centralised service that puts power in the hands of clinicians, which was the promise of this Government’s NHS reforms, Clause 119, or, as it’s aptly referred to in some circles, the “hospital closure clause”, has been pushed through parliament.

Jeremy Hunt has wrestled power away from GPs and local communities to further re-configure the NHS for non-clinical reasons.

The Trust Special Administrator regime has been distorted. It was never intended as a backdoor way to make unpopular re-configurations, but that is what it has become.

Clause 119 was designed to allow the Secretary of State to do what he failed to do in Lewisham—to close down thriving and financially sustainable hospitals without full and proper consultation.

Sometimes there is a strong argument to close and reconfigure services in a local health economy. In such cases there needs to be a sustained effort to persuade people about the benefits of a reconfiguration, and the arguments need to be clinically led.

It should not be done at the whim of a Secretary of State on the basis of a financial driver. Genuine public engagement is required, not unaccountable decisions decreed from Richmond House by Whitehall bureaucrats.

The Secretary of State’s increased power and Monitor’s expanding role directly contradict earlier Government promises that local commissioners would no longer be subject to central diktat, and represent a reversal of the vision of a decentralised health service that was presented during the passage of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Again, what is needed is more joined-up commissioning of health and care services at local level, with NHS and local-authority commissioners working in partnership.

But what we’ve seen is the worst year in A&Es in a decade. It is the consequence of a false economy.

We have seen savage cuts to local Government. Under this Government, almost £2 billion has been taken out of budgets for adult social care. Compared to a decade ago, half a million fewer older people are getting support to help them cope.

A quarter of Walk-In Centres have closed and NHS Direct has been dismantled. Labour’s 48 hour appointment guarantee with your GP has been scrapped.

A recent Care Quality Commission report found avoidable emergency admissions for pensioners topping half a million for the first time – and rising faster than the increase in the ageing population.

Terrible for older people, putting huge pressure on A&Es and costing around a billion pounds a year.

But other vulnerable people are suffering too. The Government is cutting mental health more deeply than the rest of the NHS.

Some mental health trusts are now reporting bed occupancy levels of over 100%. It’s no wonder we’ve heard growing evidence of highly vulnerable people being held in police cells or ending up in A&E because no crisis beds are available.

These are the types of practices that will make our health and care services unsustainable.

If we want to ensure better, more efficient care, especially for millions of older people and those with long-term care conditions who have multiple needs, we need to bring together services and shape them around the individual.

Labour’s whole person care is about putting the emphasis on preventing illness in the first place and preventing costly and unnecessary hospital visits.

Not paying for failure, but preventing people becoming ill and keeping them out of hospital. Not rewarding one part of the system for building up costs elsewhere.

People are often troubled by attempting to navigate themselves through the fragmented systems that take care of their health and wellbeing, so we want to focus on integrated, multi-disciplinary care teams who can work around the individual, rather than the individual working around them, to draw up personalised care plans.

And there should be a go-to person, an advocate or a point of contact, to help a person coordinate their care. People living with long term conditions need to be given more help to manage their conditions by themselves, preventing unnecessary trips to the hospital and delivering more independence to patients.

One of the key recommendations of the Oldham Commission was that annualised tariffs should replace the current payment by results tariff, shifting the incentive to prevention rather than just treatment when things have gone wrong.

What is needed is more joined-up commissioning of health and care services at local level, with NHS and local-authority commissioners working in partnership. And allowing local health and social care services pool to a single budget

Installing a grab rail in an older person’s home might prevent a fall, we could save people a great amount of distress and we will save the service money. If we want a sustainable service that delivers the best for the patient, then incentives need to change.

What the Oldham Commission has set out is a blueprint for how to deliver the changes needed for the NHS to succeed in the future.

And the answer is close the gaps between services that generate false economies and leave patients behind; to integrate services and have a parity between mental and physical health and social care; to work with people to help them stay empowered and independent into their old age and to shift the emphasis onto prevention.

It is crucial not only for people’s dignity, but to ensure that the NHS is equipped to survive and meet the challenges of the next century.

Nye Bevan said when the NHS was founded that it “will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.

We need to continue this fight to safeguard the NHS for future generations.


Happy Birthday Iain Duncan-Smith

GrahameMorrisDuncan-SmithBirthdayUNITEGrahame Morris MP wishes Iain Duncan-Smith a Happy Birthday, one year on from the start of the Bedroom Tax

Today Grahame Morris MP, for Easington marked the birthday of Iain Duncan-Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, which fell only 3 days after the first anniversary of Duncan-Smith’s implementation of the Bedroom Tax

Mr Morris commented “I’m sure on his birthday Mr Duncan-Smith doesn’t have to choose between eating or heating or paying the rent, I’m sure he will have a splendid time. But hundreds of thousands of people, the majority of whom are disabled, have to face these choices every day of their lives since this iniquitous tax was implemented by this government. I hope he spares a thought for these people when he is celebrating”

Hard evidence now demonstrates the abject failure of this policy. Only six per cent of those effected have been able to downsize in a desperate social housing market, and the cross-party House of Commons Work and Pensions committee confirmed that disabled people are suffering “severe financial hardship and distress” as a result of the ‘tax’


Grahame Morris thanks Easington for supporting UK action helping save 1600 lives every day from malaria

Malaria8th April 2014: Last night to mark World Health Day, Grahame Morris MP for Easington, got involved in Getting Malaria? This experiential event inspired, engaged and thanked supporters of all political parties for backing UK action to fight malaria. It gave Grahame an opportunity to find out more about the transformational difference being made to millions of people around the world thanks to UK leadership and increased global action to save lives from malaria, one of the world’s most deadly yet preventable diseases.

Grahame was one of over 30 MPs and Peers in attendance at the event, hosted by charity Malaria No More UK and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases at Portcullis House in Westminster in the build up to World Malaria Day on 25th April.

Grahame thanked his constituency and promoted the good news message that UK action against malaria has helped drive and outstanding global effort, now saving over 1600 lives every day from malaria.

The UK is a global leader in the malaria campaign through both its support for action on the ground and as a global pioneer of lifesaving solutions through leading research and development institutions and businesses. Strong UK support has helped drive record progress over the last decade.

Grahame reflected on the toll malaria takes on children and the inexpensive solutions available to save lives, saying “I hope people across Easington will join me in saying that no child anywhere should die from a preventable disease that costs less than a cup of tea to treat. It’s inspiring to know how much of a difference UK Aid has made, helping save and transform millions of lives since 2000”.

The UK’s support has helped underpin recent global success in the malaria campaign with child death rates from malaria halved since 2000 and over three million children’s lives saved – that’s more than the population of the entire West Midlands. But malaria can bounce back hard and fast if efforts to fight it are not maintained. The UK has a vital role to play in continuing to drive forward progress against malaria, helping to sustain international political will and financial commitments to save lives and protect against the threat of malaria resurgence.

Malaria No More UK Executive Director James Whiting, says: “We were delighted to welcome Grahame Morris. His support and the backing of people across Easington and beyond is making a tangible difference to millions of lives today. We passionately believe that no child anywhere should die from a preventable disease that costs less than a cup of tea to treat. I hope people across Easington will be inspired to join our campaign to be the generation to end deaths from malaria”.

The event was hosted by Sky News Anchor and malaria survivor Lukwesa Burak who encouraged guests to get involved in a series of malaria moments on offer.  Grahame Morris MP was given the opportunity to:

  • Test his appeal to live mosquitoes by placing his hand on the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Live Mosquito Box to see if the mosquitoes responded to his scent. This is a part of the London School’s research to deepen understanding about mosquitoes and how to prevent malaria.
  • Shape the future of the malaria fight at Malaria: The Future using Imperial College’s sophisticated modelling tools to show the effect that varying levels of global funding and their allocation could have on the malaria fight.
  • Compare the difference in test results between pre-screened safe blood and blood infected with malaria at the Malaria Testing Clinic.
  • Speak with health professionals at the Malaria Awareness Centre. An opportunity to hear essential travel advice about staying safe overseas. Last year over 1,300 Brits returned to the UK having contracted malaria.
  • Get involved and help fight poverty at the Malaria and Poverty area, by signing up to Live Below the Line – the innovative anti-poverty campaign whereby people get sponsored to live on £1 a day for all food and drink for 5 days (28 April – 2 May).  Malaria No More UK is one of the major charity partners highlighting malaria as a leading, avoidable cause of poverty in Africa.           
  • Learn about the History of Malaria, an area showcasing some of the key historic and global moments in the malaria fight, starting from 30 million years ago when the first traces of malaria were recorded.

Grahame Morris MP urges schools to visit Local Commonwealth War Graves

Grahame Morris 3Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, is urging local schools and constituents to visit their local Commonwealth war graves to gain a greater understanding of the scale and magnitude of the Great War and the impact that it has had on today’s society.

The call follows a national initiative spearheaded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the All-Party Parliamentary War Heritage Group and the ‘In From The Cold Project’ that maps over 300,000 Commonwealth war dead by each Parliamentary constituency.   The initiative is supported by Mr. Morris who will be visiting  Commonwealth war graves in his constituency.

“The Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War is a time, not just for reflection and commemoration but also an opportunity to educate a new generation of young people about the extraordinary events of a hundred years ago and to bring to life some of the personal stories from this remarkable time,” said Grahame   “Working with local groups and students gives us all an opportunity to explore how we would like to secure this legacy for generations to come.  Visiting the graves of the fallen is a simple but profoundly important way to commemorate the outbreak of the war.”

Deirdre Mills, CWGC’s Director of UK Area states that:  “The Centenary is an opportune time for us to re-engage and connect with local communities and young people, and explain how the people who are buried in our graves got to be there, who they were, and where they were from.  More than 300,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women are commemorated in the UK. Many died in military hospitals whilst being treated for their wounds or fell victim to the flu pandemic as the conflict drew to a close. Their graves reflect both the local impact of the war but also its wider historical significance.

To highlight some of the personal stories of those who are buried or commemorated in our graves, CWGC are installing over 100 visitor information panels throughout the UK during the Centenary.  The panels incorporate QR codes which, when scanned with the latest smartphone technology enable visitors to read these stories and understand the historical context.

In May the CWGC is launching  a Local War Graves Visits programme in six locations – Cambridge, Oxford, Cannock Chase, Southampton, Plymouth and  Cardiff – with plans to extend this to other parts of the UK later in the year.  Teachers will be able to take advantage of the CWGC’s network of vetted and fully trained volunteers to take them around CWGC sites and war graves, highlight key hotspots, and assist them with lesson planning.

Fair Pay Fortnight

Fair Pay Fortnight

We are now in the second week of the Fair Pay Fortnight which is raising awareness about Britain’s cost of living crisis.

Upon taking office in 2010, the Coalition Government promised to “make work pay”. However, those in work have seen an assault on their living standards, with full time UK workers earning on average £2,084 less a year than they were in 2010.

The TUC has organised the Fair Pay Fortnight to deliver one simple message – Britain needs a pay rise.

The UK has one of the highest shares of low paid workers in the developed world, with more than one in five working in low paid employment. The erosion of collective bargaining and the attack on Trade Union activities has led to a decline in wages.

In 1975 the proportion of national income going on wages was 65%, by 2011; this had fallen to 53.7%. In the meantime, the share of GDP going to shareholders has soared, with Will Hutton arguing that 5% to 7% of GDP has moved permanently from the workforce to shareholders. The last two decades has seen the wealthiest 0.1 percent incomes grow nearly four times faster than the least well off 90 percent of the population and recent research by Oxfam revealed that the UK’s richest five families have a greater combined wealth than the poorest twenty per cent, or 12.6 million people.

The stagnation of wages and the higher costs of living are pushing more people into the welfare system at a time of public spending restraint. The Government’s solution to higher welfare spending is to cut support for those in need, while doing nothing to address the underlying problems. We have seen benefit cuts, the disabled fined for having a spare bedroom, and now the welfare cap.

The Government seeks to divide the nation portraying their welfare changes as a fight between the strivers and skivers; however, this is a false division, the reality is that most people on benefits are in work, and it is working families that will be hit by the welfare cap, and the Government’s plan to cut a further £12 billion from social security.

Those in work should be paid a living wage that affords them decent housing and enough income to live independent of the welfare system. However, poverty pay and a lack of house building has left the taxpayer subsidising wages and paying benefits to landlords.

The UK is in crisis, and the system is failing, when two thirds of children in poverty live in working households, and when the vast majority of new housing benefit claims are made by households containing working adults.

The much vaunted economic recovery does not exist for the majority of people, and will not start until we get more money to working people. The only way to secure a strong and fair recovery is to ensure that the wealth creator, ordinary people working day in day out, are paid a living wage and can afford decent housing.

Britain needs a pay rise.

Speech to Peterlee Business Park Group

100dayPic1I would like to thank you, the members of the Peterlee Business Park Group, and the chairman of the Steering Group, Steve Metcalf, for inviting me to speak with you.

Today is another significant step forward in promoting Peterlee as a local, national, and international business hub. The new website, launched today, will assist in the efforts to create a new identity for Peterlee Business Park, and I am confident it will help attract new inward investment, businesses, and jobs to the region.

I hope the stronger business community that is being created under the banner of the Peterlee Business Park will act as a strong voice for all businesses in the area.

Far to often – politicians like to talk to business, but I am here to listen and represent your views, because the solutions that will work for businesses in Peterlee will come from you.

You have the expertise, knowledge and experience regarding how we can expand, grow, and promote East Durham as a place to do business – and I have read with great interest the Steering Group report and will raise the issues identified with Government.

I am immensely proud to represent the Easington constituency.

We have a rich industrial heritage which shaped our communities, and I believe we have a bright future in manufacturing and engineering that will help redefine East Durham.

East Durham was built on coal.

Many of the villages and towns which we have today can trace their roots back to the sinking of a mine. They were built up over time on the back of the jobs and communities that were created in the mine.

The pit provided jobs for all those who wanted to work, and the loss of the industry over 20 years ago left an indelible scar on our communities, and we still live with the legacy today.

Easington constituency still has some of the highest levels of worklessness in the UK.

One in five of the working age population are in receipt of an “out of work” benefit, over 10,000 people. Many have not worked since the pit closure of the late 80s and early 90’s, with the implicit acceptance of governments seeking to mask unemployment figures.

The Steering Group survey raised concerns about a 2nd generation unemployment, with young people living in workless households not receiving the basic life skills to make them work ready or to instil a work ethic.

This situation can only change through the creation of new jobs to break the cycle of worklessness. However, this can be difficult and it is not an easy time to be a school leaver in East Durham as we struggle to return to pre-recession levels of employment.

The number of NEETs with the Easington constituency, those Not in Education, Employment or Training, has risen by nearly 60% since 2010.

Long term youth unemployment has risen by an extraordinary 1167% over the same period, with 190 under 24’s now being out of work for more than 12 months.

Unemployment in general, remains too high, and has only recently returned to similar levels as 2010. However, we are a long way away from our pre-recess levels where unemployment was nearly half the current level.

It took many years to reverse the problems linked to mass job losses – rising unemployment, industrial decline, and the associated social problems. We made significant progress transforming the area since the early 90s, however, the economic crisis has questioned our resilience to cope with external shocks.

Built on coal, but our future success and local economy will be built upon new technologies, manufacturing, and engineering, the very work that is taking place at Peterlee Business Park.

We have got to ensure that our young people have the skills to seize these opportunities, and education, along with the input of   business will help to achieve this.

The schools and colleges in East Durham have been transformed over the past decade. Our schools were once neglected and left to fall into a state of disrepair, however, after a major investment by the previous Labour Government all but one of our schools have been rebuilt, and we now have excellent facilities and the modern teaching environments to help our children succeed.

And significant progress has been made.

Through a combination of excellent teaching, and modern facilities, once underperforming schools have been turned into centres of excellence, and we have seen a marked improvement in standards.

Analysis by the Local Schools Network has shown that if East Durham was a local education authority on its own, last year’s results would have made us the most improved area in the country.

These results are particularly remarkable given the high numbers of disadvantaged pupils, and all our schools exceed the Government’s GCSE bench mark of passing 52.9% with five A* to C including Maths and English.

In fact, our schools did more than exceed this bench mark, and we saw exceptional results at Easington Academy, passing 79%, Shotton Hall, 71% and Seaham School of Technology, 71%.

Wellfield Community School in the neighbouring constituency was listed as one of the 100 most improved secondary schools, Seaham School of Technology also received an Education Business Award for Outstanding Progress, and Education Minister David Laws wrote to Easington Academy as they ranked number one for achievement, when compared to schools facing similar challenges with disadvantaged pupils.

However, I fear that often the brightest young people in East Durham feel they have little opportunity but to move away from the area in order to progress their careers. And I also acknowledge your concerns that despite the improved GCSE results many young people are entering the workplace lacking the basic skills in literacy and numeracy to succeed.

There is also a lack of engineering and technical skills that are required for the local jobs market, which we need to address.

I believe there is an opportunity here for Peterlee Business Park to work with local schools and colleges, to advance those skills our young people require to succeed in the local jobs market.

I would be interested in exploring with businesses the possibility of offering work experience placements, whether this be through extending the current one week work experience, or offering summer placements, reaching out to those who want to pursue a career in engineering and manufacturing.

I hope as part of the agenda moving forward we will see greater collaboration between business and local schools. I am a strong believer in apprenticeships, and the benefits young people can gain from training and practical skills which are developed in a workplace environment. While apprentices gain invaluable experience, businesses are able to tailor a workforce to meet their specific needs, avoid skills gaps and increase competitiveness.

Figures released during National Apprenticeship Week, highlighted that every time a company in Easington takes on an apprentice, their bottom line gets an average boost of £2,048. Last year new apprentices in Easington gave local businesses a boost of £2.7 million.

In the North East, the total benefit to business last year was £125 million and across the UK apprentices boosted businesses by £1.8 billion. I think as a country we need to do more to promote the benefits of apprenticeships, and help those businesses that seek to create and train the workforce of the future.

I hope that we can work towards the creation of a Peterlee Business Park apprenticeship programme, that collaborates with local schools and East Durham College to provide the skills and training our young people need to excel in local engineering and manufacturing businesses.

Increasing and improving employment opportunities is my number one priority for East Durham. I am here to support you in this effort, whether that be through seeking to improve local infrastructure, supporting grant applicants, or raising issues of concern to Government.

The health and wealth of East Durham is directly linked to the growth and expansion of business and jobs, and I hope we can work together to create a successful future for Peterlee Business Park.

Thank you once again for inviting me to speak with you today.

It is great to see so many businesses working together, collaborating, promoting and sharing best practice.

I am here to listen and learn about your goals and aims, about what you require to drive the success of your businesses, and to give you my full backing and support.

I am your voice in parliament, and I am here to take your message to Government, that Peterlee has a thriving business community, and that we need to do more to get behind the companies that are creating the modern jobs and opportunities that will sustain our former mining communities and develop a new identity for our area in the 21st Century as the home of technology, engineering and manufacturing.

I hope East Durham will become renowned for the engineering and manufacturing taking place on Peterlee Business Park, in the same away as Washington is known for Nissan, and Newton Aycliffe will be associated with Hitachi.  At times it is a struggle to get Government Minister’s to recognise the diverse range of business the North East has to offer.

I already know we have world class companies in Peterlee, and I hope in the coming months we can do more to promote the success of Peterlee Business Park, and continue its growth and expansion; I will certainly endeavour to do my part in Parliament.

For more information about Peterlee Business Park, please visit


Labour MP Grahame Morris slams Carr Review as a Tory attack on unions

Commons ChamberGrahame Morris MP for Easington has attacked a Government review set up to look into industrial disputes as a party political attack against trade unions in the run up to the general election.

The move was announced last year by the Prime Minister following a dispute at the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland.

The review will be led by QC Bruce Carr – a lawyer who has made a career out of arguing against workers’ rights – and will look into allegations of “extreme tactics” during disputes.

But unions will not be involved in the review, which will have a far narrower remit than originally planned. Nor will the review, as originally promised, consider employer behaviour such as blacklisting.

Mr. Morris said:

“The Carr Review is nothing more than a party political stunt seeking to grab headlines and curb the influence of trade unions in the run up to a General Election.”

“The Coalition is cynically trying to divert attention away from the cost-of-living-crisis and the shocking inequalities for which they are responsible.”

“The Government should be setting up reviews into rogue employers, the blacklisting of union members, job insecurity, poverty wages and zero hour contracts – all of which require strong trade unions in order to redress”

“Instead of tackling the real issues affecting millions of working people in the UK, the Coalition are dressing up a party-political campaign as an ‘independent review’ in an attempt to score cheap points in the build up to a General Election.”

“Such tactics come as no surprise from the Government that passed the Lobbying Bill in order to gag trade unions, charities and voluntary groups from exposing the reality of Coalition policies during an election year.“

“The Tories and the Lib Dems are desperate to turn unions into an election issue but they remain silent when it comes to exploitative employers. This review will do nothing to reverse the worsening pay and conditions of ordinary people, but it will benefit the Coalition’s friends in big business.”

“Plain and simple, the Carr Review is a Coalition electioneering exercise and a smokescreen for David Cameron’s race to the bottom. Once again ordinary people will pay the price for the vested interests of this Tory-led Government.”


100dayPic3The ‘100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge’ launches today [Monday 31 March] to encourage North East employers to take on more apprentices.

The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), working in partnership with The National Apprenticeship Service and 28 local colleges and training providers, is challenging local businesses to increase the number of apprenticeships in the North East over the next 100 days.

Apprenticeships have been going from strength to strength within the North East, with more than 35,000 people starting a qualification last year. However, it is hoped the 2014 challenge will see more businesses get involved, with apprentices vital to the region’s economy and to developing a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce within local firms.

Skills shortages and recruitment difficulties have been raised as concerns in NECC’s Quarterly Economic Survey as the recovery has gathered pace. Apprenticeships offer a route to the fresh talent businesses need, ensuring they have staff with the valuable skills and qualifications they require now and in the future.

NECC chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “With the recovery now accelerating, more firms need to grow their capacity to take advantage of new business opportunities and we can’t meet the demand for skilled staff from within the region’s labour force.

“It is great to see so many North East businesses responding to this by growing their investment in apprenticeships and our own training team is seeing more and more firms recognise the importance of doing so.

“As the economy grows, it is not only an opportune time to make this investment, it is becoming increasingly urgent to fulfil the potential among our region’s businesses and people.”

The 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge, which runs from Monday 31 March until 8 July 2014, encourages investment in training for new recruits and existing staff.

NECC member Caterpillar, based in Peterlee, is embarking on further investment in apprenticeships as the first business to pledge its support to the Challenge.

Caterpillar, which currently has 33 apprentices, will be recruiting more young people to roles across the organisation; from fabrication to paint and auto-electrical.

Caterpillar Peterlee is the only site in the world that manufactures Caterpillar trucks; which are exported from Peterlee to the US and across the globe. Chief executive Phil Handley, who began his career as an apprentice, said:

“Apprenticeships are critical to the sustainability of all of our futures.  At Caterpillar, we operate on a global scale – 95% of what we produce is exported overseas.  We need skills, knowledge and energy to compete and apprentices bring that.

“Investing in apprentices is a key part of our recruitment and development strategy and an ongoing focus for us. It’s a cycle that never ends.”

Anthony Knowles, Head of Employer Accounts for the National Apprenticeship Service, said:

“The support of local businesses is vital if we are going to grow the skills base of our regional economy.

“It will provide some much needed new opportunities for young people and by agreeing to take on an apprentice, employers are not only supporting their local community but they are also making a good business decision to grow their own talented workforce.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris, said

“I am delighted that Caterpillar has led the way and are the first business to sign up to this year’s Apprenticeship Challenge.

Apprenticeships provide immense benefits to trainees who gain invaluable training and experience, as well as to business who can tailor their workforce to meet their specific needs, fill skills gaps and increase competitiveness.

I hope more businesses in East Durham will get behind the Apprenticeship Challenge”

More information about the 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge can be found on the campaign website at