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.

MP demands tougher action against dog fighting

Dog fighting was outlawed almost 200 years ago. Yet, shockingly, it is still happening today.

The BBC, working with the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA, have revealed that nearly 5,000 calls about organised dog fighting in England and Wales have been made to the RSPCA since 2006. 91 of these calls came from County Durham alone. 

Tougher sentencing and proper recording of these crimes are vital if we are to tackle dog fighting. It is one of the most horrific forms of animal cruelty, not only for the violence the dogs endure during the fight but also because of the trauma they suffer throughout their lives.

It’s cruel, unfair, and completely barbaric that people consider it acceptable to torture and harm these innocent animals.

As an owner of two dogs myself, this is particularly close to my heart. To abuse any animal is a terrible betrayal of our most faithful and much loved companions. Dogs forced into fighting suffer terrible injuries, both from the fights and at the hands of their vicious owners. Pets are stolen and used as bait in ordeals too horrible to describe. Those involved in this ‘sport’ are often involved in serious and even organised crime, and must be stopped.

In the United States dog fighting is recognised as a Grade A felony by the FBI. France applies a sentence of up to two years, and Germany and the Czech Republic apply a sentence of up to three years. Surely, the same strict sentencing laws should apply here too?

That’s why I’m supporting two important Private Members Bills that are coming up on the 24th February; Kevin Foster’s calling for tougher sentencing for dog fighting offences; and Anna Turley’s on sentencing for animal cruelty. Both aim to reflect the severity of the cruelty inflicted and the high level of public concern about animal welfare.    

 

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 supports Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

Easington MP Grahame Morris is supporting Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’s call for action to increase cervical screening uptake rates. Cervical screening uptake is now at a 19-year low, and more women each year are being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Commenting ahead of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, Grahame Morris MP said: “I am very concerned that over 1 million women in England did not attend cervical screening last year. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and is on the rise in women over 50. However, screening provides the best protection against the disease and can detect abnormal cells which if not treated or monitored, could develop in to cervical cancer.

“We need a step change in awareness about the importance of cervical screening and I am proud to support Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “We have one of the best cervical screening programmes in the world which saves approximately 5,000 lives a year. However, the number of women attending their screening is at a 19 year low. If we do not increase investment in prevention we will be faced with more women facing the physical and psychological cost of cervical cancer, increased burden on the NHS and state, and more lives lost.”

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.