Category Archives: Blog

Parliament is coming to East Durham

The Parliamentary Education Service will be visiting six schools in East Durham during March as part of the Regional Education Outreach Programme.

Although some of these visits have been suspended due to recent events, they should be re-arranged for the next few weeks.

Children at Ribbon Academy, Cotsford Junior School, Westlea Primary, Shotton Hall Primary, Dene House Primary and Ropery Walk, will learn about how Parliament works by taking part in workshops and activities around debating and finding out about how elections work and legislation is passed.

Easington MP Grahame Morris said:

“The Outreach Programme is a fabulous scheme bringing Parliament closer to young people in East Durham who may not have the opportunity to visit the House of Commons like schools nearer to London.

The Parliamentary Education Service offers a multitude of materials and resources to cater for children of all ages and I would encourage schools in East Durham to make use of their services.

There are also schemes to subsidise transport costs for schools in East Durham who would like to visit parliament.”

If you would like more information regarding the Parliament Education Service please visit: www.parliament.uk/education

Brexit

Following the ruling by the Supreme Court I have received numerous emails, letters, and telephone calls asking me to vote for and against triggering Article 50.

I fully respect the strongly held views on both sides, however, the time to debate whether we should leave the European Union was during the referendum.

I accept the result of the referendum and I will not frustrate the Article 50 process, which once triggered will begin a two year process at the end of which the UK will exit the European Union.

Triggering Article 50 is the start, not the end of the process, and throughout the negotiations I will be calling on the Government to secure a deal that prioritises jobs, the economy and workers’ rights.

The Government cannot be given a blank cheque. I will oppose any attempts to rip up existing economic and social protections and the UK cannot participate in a race to the bottom, slashing corporation taxes and public spending at the expense of living standards and our public services.

I welcome the Government’s concessions and decision to publish a White Paper on their Brexit strategy. The White Paper cannot be a ‘cut and paste’ of the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House Speech and the Government must provide enough detail to allow Parliament to scrutinise the government’s plan and hold the Government to account.

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU is the most important issue our country has faced for a generation and we all must work to secure the best outcome possible.

Eulogy to John Cummings

John Cummings was one of an increasingly rare breed of Labour MPs, schooled in the trade union movement, in industry, in local government and whose deep roots propelled him into Parliament.

John Cummings was “real” Labour, no airs or graces or false pride. John was comfortable with senior politicians, Prime Ministers, statesmen but never lost the common touch.

Following in the footsteps of Sidney Webb, Ramsay MacDonald, Manny Shinwell and Jack Dormand, John Cummings represented this totemic mining constituency of Easington for 23 years from 1987 to 2010. On being elected to Parliament – and at the same time as another fellow former miner and great friend, Ronnie Campbell – the pair were memorably described by the late Andrew Roth – the biographer and political journalist – as “rough diamonds, set to shine”. John had come to prominence well before going to Westminster. The journalist John Pilger recognised and admired Cummings having interviewed John underground at Murton Colliery in between the convulsive strikes of the early 1970s, which succeeded in toppling Edward Heath’s Conservative Government.

Prior to being elected to Parliament, John had been both Chairman (1975/76) and Leader of Easington District Council between 1979 and 1987 following his friend, Charlie Short.

By the early 1980s, and with John as one of the leading lights in the S.E.A.M, (Save Easington Area Mines) campaign, the Thatcher government finally moved against the National Union of Mineworkers with its controversial pit closure programme. The Durham coalfield came out solidly for the strike in 1984, but as the year dragged on and conditions became ever more desperate for the miners and their families, a small trickle of men began to return to work. Some of the more brutal confrontations of that bitter year were played out as police effectively occupied villages such as Easington Colliery and went on the rampage in pursuit of fleeing pickets.

At this time, Cummings was often accompanied by his little dog“picket pup” “Grit”, a wiry haired Jack Russell terrier. He would later claim that he had especially trained the dog to “growl when Margaret Thatcher came on the television. Grit’s exertions and loyalty to the cause were to later earn him an obituary in Tribune.

Born on 6th July, 1943 in County Durham, John Cummings was a fifth generation miner son of George Scott Cummings and Mary (nee Cain). Educated at Murton Council Infants Junior and Senior Schools and Easington Technical College, he trained as a Colliery apprentice electrician between 1958 and 1963. His period spent in local government also included a stint as a member of the Northumbrian Water Authority and Peterlee and Aycliffe Development Corporation. He was a member of the Environment Select Committee in its various guises from 1990 until he was promoted to become an Opposition Whip by Tony Blair in 1995.

In his entry in Who’s Who John’s list of clubs was far removed from those of a Tory grandee and included: Murton Victoria, The Democratic Club, Ex-Servicemen’s (Murton); Peterlee Labour and Thornley Catholic Club.

A founding member and National Vice-Chair of the Coalfield Communities Campaign which was instrumental in persuading the E.U. to establish RECHAR to provide regeneration funding dedicated for coalfield areas. He played an important part in persuading Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott to set up the Coalfield Regeneration Trust providing much needed practical support funding to coalfield areas and to approve the Dalton Park development. John campaigned unceasingly for miners who were victims of chest disease and industrial diseases, bringing a succession of Coal Ministers, including Peter Hain, to the area to press the case for justice for mineworkers including his late father, whose health had been destroyed by industrial disease.

John Cummings had a long interest and association with the Czech & Slovak Republics. He was Chairman of the All-Party Czech and Slovak Group between 1997 and 2010 and had many friends in the Czech Republic. He also had a long-time fascination with China and visited over a dozen times, to the extent that a succession of sometimes bewildered invited Chinese diplomats would find themselves downing pints of beer in Murton’s Colliery Inn (now ironically a Chinese Restaurant and wine bar) on the eve of the annual Durham Miner’s Gala. One – now a senior Minister in the Chinese Government – sent his heartfelt condolences on hearing that Cummings had passed away.

He loved people, he loved his family and valued his community.

John was never one dimensional, he had some great friends, Jack Hayton, Sam Lucas, Peter Bull, George Wilson, Graham Storey, Brian Duncan. He spent many happy times with Jack at the football, but he really went for the conversation “the crack” as we call it.

John and Jack had told Sammy Duran, who was landlord of Burton House where they go before the match that a new place was opening next to the Stadium of Light, 50p in and as much as you could drink all day. Sammy asked me if it was true Weatherspoons were opening a new establishment to which I replied No, it’s the new swimming baths.

Gordon Brown said.

‘John was a popular and a distinguished trade union leader, a great Labour spokesman, a committed socialist and more than that, a wonderful colleague and a great friend.

John was an MP who never ceased to remind us of our responsibilities to the people we represented and during all the years he was in parliament he never ceased to speak from the heart for his home communities that he loved.

His influence will live on and the whole Labour Movement stands as one in honouring John’s life and work.

Ambassador Ma Zhengang, who was in this very church for the wedding of John’s niece, Donna to Colin Forster, (Minister Zhang Zhijun, Ambassador Du Qiwen) said. “My thoughts are with you at the funeral service. I remember John Cummings as a great personal friend and a great friend of China who contributed markedly to the mutual understanding and friendship between our two countries and two peoples.

My visits to John’s constituency will always remain part of my fondest memories during which we were so warmly received.

I treasure the miner’s lamp he gave me. For me it stands for his working class tradition in the birthplace of the industrial revolution for which he fought all his life and in which he took so much pride.

Grahame Morris MP raises awareness of new funding pot for local charities

Easington MP Grahame Morris says 2017 could be the year for local charities to help get a special project off the ground by applying for a share of a £6 million funding pot, raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The funding will be allocated through three Trusts, which support different categories of projects. There will be two opportunities for groups to apply in 2017 (January and August) and £3 million will be available for each funding round.

The application process is simple. The first round – which opens from 23 January until 10 February 2017 – starts with organisations being encouraged to submit an ‘expression of interest’ form. Charities will then be shortlisted to complete a full application for funding.

In August, interested groups and organisations can apply or re-apply when a second pot of £3million will become available. The maximum a project can receive is £20,000.

Grahame Morris MP urged local charities to tap into this exciting funding stream, he said:

“2017 could be the year to get a special project off the ground to benefit the local community. This funding will be allocated to lots of different types of initiatives and it’s such a fantastic opportunity for local charities to get additional support. Don’t miss out, apply now.”

People’s Postcode Trust seeks applications for projects that focus on the prevention of poverty, promotion of human rights, equal rights and conflict resolution for some of society’s most vulnerable groups. Postcode Local Trust supports wildlife, sustainability and volunteering initiatives. Postcode Community Trust focuses on grass-roots sports, arts, recreation and healthy living programmes.

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:

£6million injected into grass-roots projects across Great Britain will have a tremendous impact in local communities. We encourage charities to put themselves forward for this funding and to have a look at the different Trusts to see where their project fits in.”

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have raised more than £168.4 million to date for over 2,800 good causes across Great Britain and internationally.

For more information on how to apply for funding, please visit the Trusts’ websites:

www.postcodetrust.org.uk

www.postcodelocaltrust.org.uk

www.postcodecommunitytrust.org.uk

School Funding Under Threat

Grahame Morris MP warns today that schools in Easington face significant cuts under plans recently announced by the Government.

Ministers are planning to introduce a new National Funding Formula for schools. They are not, however, putting in sufficient funding to implement this in a fair way. Campaigners say that 98% of schools across England will be worse off at a time when they face real terms cuts to their funding. The Government’s spending watchdog the National Audit Office has said schools will have to make cuts that amount to some £3 billion by 2020.

Figures released by organisations representing school staff, teachers and leaders – NUT, ATL, NAHT, UNISON, GMB and UNITE – show that overall school funding in Easington is projected to fall from £4,878.90 in 2015/16 to £4,558.92 in 2019/20. This equates to a £319.98 cut per pupil or a 7% average cut per school in Easington.
Grahame Morris MP is today calling on the Secretary of State for Education to make urgent representations to the Chancellor to deliver extra resources for schools in his Budget statement to Parliament on 8th March, saying:

“In Easington we are already seeing increased class sizes, subjects being dropped from the curriculum, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities losing vital support and teacher and school staff vacancies being left unfilled. Without additional resources this already desperate funding situation in schools will only get worse and education standards will be threatened. I am calling on the Government to invest in education and protect funding for children and young people in Easington.

I also encourage my constituents to visit the website www.schoolcuts.org.uk to see what the cuts could mean for schools in their neighbourhood. The site includes a petition to the Chancellor which I hope many of my constituents will take a few minutes to sign”.

MP demands further investment in North East transport infrastructure

This Government has let down Northern communities by neglecting to invest sufficiently into transport infrastructure.

All nine of the top funded transport schemes identified in the National Infrastructure Plan disproportionately fund projects outside of the North East. These include the Thameslink programme (estimated cost of £6.5 bn) and the High Speed 2 (42 bn). The nine schemes referred to in 2011 represent a £75 billion investment in the strategic infrastructure of the country, primarily the south. But despite large amounts of public money being spent on their planning they are yet to generate any direct benefit. Beginning their formal planning as far back as 2002, none of the 2011 schemes have yet been completed and five are yet to even start construction.

This is worrying as not only are the Government promising very little investment into the North, but they are not fulfilling their promises outside of the region.

The region’s leading business organisation, the North East England Chamber of Commerce, has compiled its latest Transport Survey Report from views of its sizeable membership, which says the region’s road network, the East Coast Mainline and access to ports and airports must all be overhauled if the economy is to reach its full potential.

The key priorities identified by the report include the swift completion of upgrades to the A1 and A19, as well improved access to Newcastle International Airport.

Running from Teesside to the south of the region through East Durham, Sunderland, South Tyneside and North Tyneside, the A19 is crucial for transporting people and goods through the region.

Despite that, the road is far from fit for purposes in places, with difficult junctions, congestion issues and high accident rates. It is abundantly clear the the North East’s roads are neglected when compared to the Government’s transportation spending in the South East of the country.

As I said to The Chronicle,  I don’t think we’re getting our fair share of resources. There is a great deal of work to be done. Yes the A19 needs to be improved, along with a lot of transport in the region, the North East is a backwater in terms of investment. Parts of the A19 that go through my constituency need vast improvements, there are safety concerns and issues with capacity.

We need a commitment, a cast iron commitment, for transport investment. 

 

TORY TURMOIL OVER THE NHS WINTER CRISIS

The current crisis our NHS faces is unprecedented. Our health service is on its knees with one third of hospitals having declared they need urgent help to deal with the number of patients coming through their doors.

A&E departments have turned patients away more than 143 times between 1 December 2016 and 1 January 2017. In one day last month 15 hospitals ran out of beds with elderly patients languishing on trolleys in corridors, sometimes for over 24 hours.

Instead of dealing with the crisis, on Monday Jeremy Hunt suggested that the four hour A&E target may be downgraded and no longer apply to minor injuries.

Easington MP Grahame Morris said:

“The crisis that we have seen unfold in our NHS over recent times is absolutely appalling. The Tories have consistently missed their own targets on A&E waiting times and instead of improving the service Jeremy Hunt is simply moving the goal posts.

“Labour is calling on the Government to bring forward the £700m of social care funding planned for 2019/20 now and to pledge a new funding settlement for health and social care in the Budget in March.

“Once again Jeremy Hunt is proving that you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS”

Tribute to John Cummings 6th July 1943 to 4th January 2017

john-cummings6Following the sad loss of John Cummings, the Member of Parliament for the Easington constituency from 1987 to 2010, Grahame Morris MP said

“John Cummings was a proud colliery mechanic, with a deeply felt affection for the mining communities he represented with tremendous grit and determination in his union, in local government and in Parliament for over half a century.

He showed great courage at the end having fought all of his life for the oppressed and disadvantaged and against injustice.

He was an old school solid trades unionist and Labour loyalist.

He was kind and generous to a fault and a good friend and mentor to me personally.

John Cummings will be sadly missed by all who knew him, his family and many friends in the mining communities and labour movement whose finest traditions he personified. ”

John’s funeral will be held at St Joseph’s RC Church, Church Lane, Murton on Friday 20th January at 11am. There will be a gathering of friends and family afterwards in the Glebe Centre. Family flowers only, donations in lieu to St Joseph’s RC Church.

 

 

England Cancer Strategy Debate

On Thursday 8th December, there will be a debate in the main chamber to discuss progress with the England Cancer Strategy.APPG on Cancer

The debate serves as a timely and important opportunity to discuss cancer services in the NHS today. Whilst progress has been made, there are areas where it is important to have more detail on implementation plans if the Cancer Strategy’s ambitious aim to save an additional 30,000 lives a year by 2020 is to be realised.

‘Achieving world-class cancer outcomes: a strategy for England 2015-2020.’ set out to “improve survival rates and save lives”. I welcome plans to improve diagnosis and pathways for cancer treatments but I remain concerned that the opportunity to maximise the role of prevention has been seriously overlooked, and with it the opportunity to reduce incidence rates, save the NHS costs and improve people’s quality of life.

By the end of this Parliament, around one in every two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. However, improvements in diagnosing and treating the disease mean that more people are surviving it, or living for longer with it, and consequently we have 2.5 million people living with or beyond cancer in the UK today.

Yet not all of these people are living well with many experiencing the physical, emotional and financial consequences of treatment. Around one in four people living with or beyond cancer face disability or poor health following their treatment and this can remain the case for many years after treatment has ended. It is vital they are abAPPGCle to access the best care that is right for them when they need it, and to ensure that the NHS is set up to meet the changing needs of cancer patients.

Not only would this increase the quality and experience of survival, it would ensure that resources invested in the disease are done in the most efficient way; this is key with Five Year Forward View projections indicating that expenditure on cancer services will need to grow by about 9% a year, reaching £13 billion by 2020/21.

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Alongside the physical and emotional impacts most commonly associated with cancer, it also brings with it a real risk of financial hardship. Four out of five people with cancer are impacted financially by their diagnosis, as extra costs rise whilst having to stop work or reduce hours. This leaves people, on average, £570 a month worse off  and every year 400,000 people in the UK with cancer struggle to pay their household bills as a result of their diagnosis.MacMillan

The Government must ensure people affected by cancer can access the support they need from the welfare system. I therefore welcome the Government’s commitment not to seek further welfare savings over the course of this Parliament: it is vital that people affected by cancer can access the support they need. However, despite this commitment, there are still proposed changes to the welfare system which we are concerned could leave people with cancer without crucial financial support at a time when they need it – such as proposals to devolve Attendance Allowance, a vital benefit for people aged 65 and over, to local authorities.

The consultation on the proposals closed on 26 September 2016, but the Government have not yet released their response to say whether they plan to go ahead with the plans. I am concerned that moves to devolve the benefit could make it harder for people living with cancer to access the financial support they need, and to ensure they can live independently.

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Breakthrough Breast Cancer2Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK; it effects 1 in 8 women and it is estimated that over 500,000 are now living with the disease. For diseases like breast cancer, where incidence rates are alarmingly high, prevention is an urgent priority. But ambitious action for prevention is not adequately reflected in the Cancer Strategy.

Whilst the Strategy includes a limited set of targets on lifestyle risk factors, such as alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity, it does not address other key risk factors, such as environmental pollution or exposure to harmful chemicals.

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NHS England has also said it will spend £130m upgrading or replacing radiotherapy machines to improve the survival chances of hundreds of thousands of patients.

The upgrade of at least 100 linear accelerator (Linac) machines across the country will ensure more patients get state-of-the-art treatment called intensity-modulated radiotherapy, which can target the tumour very precisely without damaging surrounding healthy tissue. New machines are more accurate and can deliver a higher dose to the cancer cells, which will reduce the amount of time a patient has to spend in radiotherapy and hopefully increase cure rates.

Radiotherapy is an important part of cancer treatment, after surgery to remove the tumour, and cures more people than cancer drugs. The Linac machines used to deliver it are supposed to be replaced after 10 years, but 20% of them in England are older than that. A third of all radiotherapy machines (aprox. 90) will need replacing by next year and I intend on making sure the Government commits to their promise to fund this on a national scale. 


Pancreatic Cancer UK 2015

 

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.