Some technical work is being undertaken which might affect service over the next couple of days I am told.

On Sunday 5 March, six pubs in the Hexham constituency are participating in a nationwide event: the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz. This is in support of PubAid, which last year raised over £130,000 for over 600 charities, thanks to more than 30,000 quizzers taking part in over 1,000 pubs.

The following local pubs are participating. They can choose any charity to support on the night. The pubs below are all raising money for charities - some of have yet to decide which. 

The Angel of Corbridge

The Golden Lion, Allendale – raising money for: Great North Air Ambulance

The Black Bull Inn, Matfen – raising money for: Heel and Toe

The Fox and Hounds, Prudhoe

The Plough Inn, Eachwick

Three Tuns, Heddon-on-the-Wall

I am hoping to be participating myself this year, subject to diaries. I hope that many of you will set aside some time on Sunday 5 March to go down to one of these fantastic local pubs and help to support this great cause.

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron says he wants London's talent to move to Paris post-Brexit. A decade ago, Nicolas Sarkozy made a similar pitch to French citizens in Britain. There's a reason they stayed here.

France isn't exactly in great shape economically. The unemployment rate in France right now is 10%, compared to 5% here. That figure rises to 26% among young people, as opposed to 12% in Britain.

Which is why many have left France to work here. Estimates suggest London is home to as many as 300,000 French citizens – and has been for years. It's no coincidence that Sarkozy campaigned here in 2007. France's loss of so many able people is our gain.

Britain has higher employment partly because our labour market is much more flexible. In France, not only is the working week legally limited to 35 hours, but it can also be impossible for employers to dismiss underperforming staff.

Increased protection for workers is great – if you already have a job, that is. Not if you don't. Because it's so hard to get rid of staff, employers are reluctant to hire them in the first place.

Brexit doesn't change the fact that the cost of employing people in France and elsewhere in the EU is often prohibitive. Far from relocating, as Macron might hope, British banks are already identifying Brexit opportunities.

Not for the first time, business is months ahead of politics.

But there's a more important point here.

Economic prosperity comes from flexibility. To thrive, economies need to adapt to changing conditions. Static economies decline.

Brexit allows our economy to become more dynamic – because we'll no longer be subject to single market overregulation. That's why economically – not just politically – we made the right choice on June 23rd.

Wrote an article at an hour's notice for the Guardian yesterday. Don't know whether it reached print. It's not the daily paper I normally read. The article is a summery of my last post about the President of the United States. Anyway, this is what I wrote;

"I support the impending state visit of Donald Trump to the United Kingdom. He has been elected to the position of President by the voters of the United States in a free and fair election. President Trump now leads a country which has long been a dependable partner and ally of Britain. It's crucial for our security and economic interest that this 'special relationship' with the United States continues into the future.

I accept that President Trump has made comments both before and after his election that I, and many other British people, find unacceptable. I accept he has sought to implement policies I consider objectionable. I find his style, his language and his denigration of the media to not be what I'd expect of a world leader. But he is doing pretty much what he said he was going to do in his election campaign, and he won. He was elected. If we are to respect democracy as a principle, we accept it when we do not much care for the result.

During the reign of Her Majesty our Queen,  over 100 state visits have been granted to a wide variety of national leaders, many of whom have been strangers to the idea of democracy. Many have been controversial. I have always thought it good politics to try to promote better government across the world by engaging with leaders, who have traits we disagree with.


Britain's Prime Minister has a difficult and sensitive path to tread. Central to her thinking must always be the national interest. She may well express disapproval and disagreement to President Trump, but in public she will be constructive and welcoming. This is the right approach. The State Visit must go ahead as planned.
The Group will gather oral and written evidence over the next six weeks to try and gain a deeper understanding of the scale of the problem, its impact on children’s mental, physical, and academic...

£225m black hole may stall the completion of giant Cumbria nuclear plant

The future of nuclear project Moorside has been thrown into doubt
It has emerged that £225 million is needed to fund its preparation over 2 years
The Cumbrian project was set to be approved at the end of next year
By Neil Craven for The Mail on Sunday
PUBLISHED: 19:29, 18 February 2017 | UPDATED: 19:29, 18 February 2017

The future of Moorside, one of Britain’s three big nuclear projects, was thrown into doubt last night after it emerged that cash-strapped Toshiba and its partner Engie needed to find £225 million in the next two years to fund its preparation.

The Cumbrian project was set to be approved at the end of next year, to join Hinkley Point C in Somerset and Wylfa in North Wales as the nuclear alternative to coal and gas.

But last week Toshiba, which owns 60 per cent of Moorside’s would-be builder NuGeneration, threw the project into doubt with its announcement it was pulling out of large nuclear power projects after revealing a £5 billion writedown.

The future of Moorside, one of Britain’s three big nuclear projects, was thrown into doubt last night over major funding issues (


Toshiba has said it will continue to fund the project, in Sellafield, to approval stage, leaving open the question of who will build the reactors.

But documents filed at Companies House reveal that a further £225 million is needed from Toshiba and Engie by the end of 2018 to gain Whitehall approval, potentially adding to the firm’s financial woes.


Toshiba and Engie have already invested £425 million.

This will fuel expectations that the Government needs to formalise Britain’s nuclear ambitions with taxpayers’ cash, as most projects are run by foreign firms.

An announcement could come as soon as this summer, amid growing concerns about the viability of big nuclear projects.


Toshiba confirmed the figures but added it ‘cannot comment on anything further at this time.’ Labour MP Paul Flynn, whose Newport West constituency overlooks Hinkley Point across the Bristol Channel, called for a reassessment of the power generation plans for the next 60 years. He said: ‘These are huge decisions and it’s important to get them right.

‘We need this to be done on an all-party basis with opinions based on science, not wishful thinking. There are problems both with Toshiba and EDF.’

He said a recent report had identified the ‘immense power’ of tidal and hydro schemes which were ‘eternal, entirely predictable and non-polluting’.

Read more: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-4237800/225m-black-hole-stall-Cumbria-nuclear-plant.html#ixzz4Z4jX5mZ4
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I am taking a close interest in the Penn School site and its future. Both the provision of education and the use of land are of the first importance in Wycombe. The administration of the failed Rayners Special Education Trust and the future use of the school site are matters of public interest. While I have no direct authority over either, I remain in correspondence with relevant bodies in the hope of ensuring a swift and satisfactory conclusion. Deloitte are the administrators: they […]
This week I was unable to get into the Israeli Settlements debate but here was my speech for interest. Posted because I receive quite a bit of interest on it. If you have comments to me personally, please email graham.jones.mp@parliament.uk *********In the final weeks of the previous American administration – John Kerry made a remarkably bold speech. It was a speech from a statesman at the

House of Bishops’ Report on Sexuality

For me, and indeed, I hope for everyone, there are a number of basic beliefs.

Firstly, each and every one of us is a child of God.

We are all created in God’s image, and all should be equally welcomed as members of the Church, in church, and at the Communion rail.

Our sexuality is part of our inherent identity.

Our sexuality is not some matter of “consumer choice”.

However, sexuality and sexual identity can clearly change over time.

So, one of my closest friends, when we were young, would I think have identified himself as being heterosexual; in mid-life, when he was married, I think he would have described himself as bi-sexual, and would now describe himself as gay.

I think we all have to recognise that there are many issues relating to sexuality and in particular same-sex relationships on which different people in the Church, and different groups of people have strongly held views. I don’t think it is a matter of trying to persuade people to “compromise” their views, rather, is it possible to find structures and practices which allow people with different views and different approaches to these issues to live and flourish within the Church and to feel welcomed and part of God’s family.

I think we should at the very least all seek to be as tolerant as possible about the use of language.

I am quite sure that many people would describe me as being “fat”, but that is not necessarily how I would choose to describe myself.

As it happens, I was not invited to be part of the “Shared Conversation” from the Diocese of Oxford, so have not taken part in that process, but I find it somewhat depressing that some 42 Shared Conversations having taken place across the Church of England, that there still appears to be no general agreement as to what is appropriate language and terminology and I cannot believe that two Archbishops and 26 Diocesan bishops would have used a phrase such as “people of same sex attraction” if they thought that such a phrase was going to in any way cause offence.

I also think that everyone involved has to recognise that these are issues on which attitudes and beliefs can change over time.

I strongly suspect that during my nearly a third of a century’s membership of the House of Commons people’s approach to the LGBT community is an issue on which there has probably been one of the greatest societal changes – as evidenced by the passing with sizeable majorities in both Houses of Parliament by the legislation that now provides for same sex marriage.

For me, as a workaday politician, there are three practical issues that the Church and Synod have to consider.

Firstly, should the Church support same sex marriage?

The legislation approved by Parliament to enable same sex marriage also put in place statutory provision for the Church of England and other faith groups as to whether they would support same sex marriage and indeed, one of the reasons that Parliament approved the legislation was because the legislation included the specific provision that it would be a matter for individual faith groups collectively to decide whether or not they would support same sex marriage and thus in due course allow their church buildings, temples or mosques, to be places where same sex marriages could be celebrated.

My impression is that a very large number of members of the Church of England believe that “marriage” is the union of one man and one woman, or put another way, the union of one man and one woman is described as “marriage”, and I don’t consider there is any prospect in the foreseeable future of getting two-thirds majority in any house in General Synod, indeed, even a simple majority in any house, to support the introduction of same sex marriage within the Church of England . That is a position that the House of Bishops have fairly recognised in their report.

But if there are friends and colleagues who think the House of Bishops’ assessment on where the Church of England stands on this specific issue is incorrect, it might be sensible at some point to test the mind of Synod specifically on this issue.

Ever since the introduction of Civil Partnerships in law, it has been legally possible, and lawful, for everyone to enter into Civil Partnerships, including clergy.

There has, however, been a proviso that Church of England clergy who enter into Civil Partnerships are expected to be “celibate”.

I am not sure how one defines “celibate” and however one defines celibate, it has always struck me as being cruel to say that people could enter into a Civil Partnership but could not behave as a couple within that partnership and I think the House of Bishops’ Report by trying to ensure that Bishops are not obliged to build windows into the souls of clergy in questioning them over their sexuality, or questioning any particular group of clergy over their sexuality, are establishing conditions in which it is possible for clergy to be in Civil Partnerships, similar to anybody else who is in a Civil Partnership.

Critics say that this will lead to a “postcode lottery”. I suppose that one could argue that any discretion at any time by anyone in authority is a “postcode lottery”, but for many, many years, clergy for example, have had discretion as to whether or not they will bless, or now even conduct second marriages, and it is a matter of fact that some clergy have been more willing to bless second marriages than others, but I don’t think anyone ever suggested that that change in church practice should have been dismissed because by giving clergy discretion it meant that whether or not one could have a second marriage blessed was a “postcode lottery”.

Also, I think it is worth noting that when that discretion was first introduced a number of years ago, one would probably in each Deanery have only found a single priest who would have been willing to bless a second marriage, so it was the exception rather than the norm.

Today, I think it would be very hard to find a Church of England priest who would not bless the commitment of a second marriage, and so the preparedness and willingness of priests and churches to bless second marriages is now the norm and not the exception, which takes me to the third practical point, which is that it appears to me that the Bishops’ Report is making provision for clergy at their own discretion to bless the commitment of a same sex couple and I am not sure in practical terms how blessing the commitment of a same sex couple is that different from blessing the commitment of a couple in church who have remarried.

My wife and I, prior to our marrying, were both divorced.

As a consequence , we were unable to marry in church – we were obliged to have our actual marriage service in a Registry Office. But it was that commitment to each other which was then subsequently blessed in a church service and the House of Bishops’ Report makes provision that will enable this practice to evolve in respect of couples who have made a commitment as a same sex couple.

Moreover, in my judgement, the House of Bishops have sought to nudge changes in practice which do not require the specific approval of General Synod, and I would suggest the risk of those who are urging that Synod does not take note of the Bishops’ Report is that in those circumstances we simply get stuck with the status quo, with no guarantee of the House of Bishops or General Synod bringing forward any other proposals, and certainly no guarantee of the House of Bishops bringing forward any new proposals that would command the necessary support in General Synod.

So I, for one, will be “taking note” of the House of Bishops’ Report and as a workaday politician, would seek to take the concessions offered, move on and I am also confident that time will continue to change attitudes and that there are issues here which I am sure can and will be revisited in due course.

As a former Second Church Estates Commissioner, I have been asked by a number of people what I think would be Parliament’s position if General Synod failed to “take note” of the House of Bishops’ Report, or put another way, if General Synod rejected the House of Bishops’ Report.

I think we have in those circumstances, to be mindful of two things.

Firstly, ever since the Prayer Book debacle of the early 1920’s, it has been a firm principle of Parliament that matters of worship and doctrine are matters primarily for the Church of England and General Synod and not for Parliament, and more specifically we have to remember that the legislation that established the main provision for same sex marriage, also, so far as the Church of England is concerned, introduced the Triple Lock, and made it very clear that it was for individual faith groups collectively to decide their approach to same sex marriage and I am sure that the Government and Parliament would not wish to unpick or reverse the provisions of that recently passed legislation.

Rt. Hon. Sir Tony Baldry
February 2017

 

To download a copy of Sir Tony Baldry’s comments please click on the following link: House of Bishops Report on Sexuality February 2017.


One of my priorities is to try to correct some of the historic unfairness to Cornwall when it comes to various funding formulas.  This includes the Early Years National Funding Formula, and I want to make sure that early years providers are funded on a fair and sustainable basis.

I recently met with Caroline Dinenage MP, who is the minister responsible for early years at the Department for Education. It was a constructive and encouraging meeting. I had been concerned about the way in which Cornwall was to be funded under initial proposals, and wanted to ensure that we are treated fairly.

The Government’s response to the recent consultation includes assurances that the Government will provide supplementary funding of £55 million a year to local authorities for maintained nursery schools for the duration of this parliament. This will keep funding stable during the implementation of the national funding formula.

I am also pleased that all local authorities will receive a minimum funding rate of at least £4.30 per hour. The Government is also introducing a new national Disability Access Fund to support access for disabled children.

 I am always hugely impressed by the work done at schools such as Camborne Nursery School. Last year, the school received its fourth successive “outstanding” report. Ofsted inspectors were impressed by the quality of education provided to children, and their levels of confidence. The school has opened a dedicated classroom for two year olds to enable staff to prepare them for their school years.

The first three years of a child's life are the most formative and have a crucial impact on a child's life chances.  Many primary school head teachers tell me they have noticed a growing trend in the last twenty years of children arriving in reception class with language difficulties and, however much effort those schools put in, those children start at a disadvantage. This is why I will continue to support local nursery schools, and fight to ensure that Cornwall is funded fairly.
You can download the Essential Classics podcast here. 
Iraq - enough said. Europe - he agreed to the widening of the EU without any attempt to limit economic migration from the poorer areas of the EU to the richer areas. This failure to think about the impact on the living conditions of skilled workers is the main cause of the Brexit vote. Forced Adoption - this was another of his failures. This may not have been fully recognised yet, but I expect

My father died just over a year ago. I dreamt about him last night. Thinking about him, I’m reminded of two things today: first, that he loved me; and second, that he was – to put it mildly – puzzled by my choice of profession. He never saw the point of parliament, which he thought a ‘giant talking shop.’ […]

The post The Public Point of View appeared first on Rory Stewart.

This morning, first thing, I dropped by the Esher and Molesey Royal Mail delivery office. It's an opportunity to see first hand just how busy our local postmen and women get at this time of year.

Mark Peters, the office manager, showed me round, how the systems work, and the kinds of challenges they have to grapple with - from rotweilers to bad handwriting on envelopes. I met a few of his team in the process. Good luck to all our postmen and women at this festive but hectic time!


Quietly and surreptitiously Osborne is marking out his pitch for the leadership,   The trouble is, it’s thoroughly bad pitch.   By denigrating opponents of privatisation he has set his face against the 70% of the population who earnestly want rail re-nationalised, a proportion so large that it must include nearly half who’re Tories.   … Continue reading Osborne stirs up more shit in which to bury himself in
With regards to today’s news from the High Court, my solicitors, Clifford Chance, have prepared this statement on my behalf: "This petition was part of Mr Ireland's continued campaign of harassment against our client. Our client believes that the p...
Between 2010 and 2015 I was the Minister of State for Pensions and continue to take an interest in pensions issues.  I tweet regularly (@stevewebb1) but occasionally 140 characters doesn't quite do justice to the wonderful world of pensions.   I have therefore relaunched this blog site as an occasional location for pensions thoughts.

The Haringey Indepedent asked me to outline reasons why people should vote for me… Here’s my response!

“Starting with the very basic – I am local! I grew up in Haringey, went to Highgate primary, and still live in the constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green today.

“It’s so important to know the area you want to represent.

“I also have a 20 year record of working with residents and campaign groups to protect and improve our local services.

“If I had to pick the single most important campaign – it would be saving the Whittington A&E from the previous Labour Government’s closure plans. The second I got wind, I posted the information on my website (where it remains today!) and kicked off a massive campaign.

“Joining forces with local residents and campaign groups – I marched, I petitioned, I secured a debate and asked questions in Parliament, and together we were successful and Gordon Brown’s Government backed down. If we hadn’t saved it – I don’t think we’d still have a hospital.

“Nationally, I’ve fought for policies that benefit our borough. The Lib Dems in parliament have taken the lowest paid workers out of paying tax, and introduced the Pupil Premium to get extra money to schools in more disadvantaged areas.

“These measures mean that thousands of low-paid Haringey workers have be taken out of paying income tax altogether, and £13 million extra has been given to our local schools, teachers and pupils.

“In Government, I’ve used my ministerial positions to push a progressive agenda. As Equalities minister, I was the originator and architect of equal marriage. I then moved to the Department for International Development, where I announced a £35 million programme to end FGM within a generation, and protected the aid budget.

“Finally, I would like you to vote for me because there is still more that needs to be done – for all the reasons I got into politics. We need stronger public services. We need to continue to promote fairness and equality. We need to fight for a community where we take care of those less able than ourselves. I’d like to be a part of that work for the next five years.”
Am I the only one who has found that the rise and rise of twitter (and to an extent) facebook has eaten their blog? Despite the best of my intentions, I have ended up posting minute by minute stuff on Facebook and Twitter. Does this say something about our ever diminishing attention-spans as a society? Or just about me not being very good at managing the blogger app on my iphone...?   Who knows.  But be warned - this blog may not be updated as much as it should be. A big blue bird came and ate it up.

Make sure you stay up to date with all of James’s news by liking his Facebook page!

jamestwitter2-e1403712392869

So, avid readers will notice that I've been a little absent in the blogging world over the past few months.  I've been busy, which isn't an excuse as we are all busy, I know, but writing a blog can't be top on the list of my priorities so posts on here have fallen by the wayside a little bit, sorry.

Summer recess, however, is a great opportunity to catch up, take stock, and get on top of things as best as possible, so here I am again with a new (Parliamentary) year resolution to get back to blogging.

I hope I still have at least one reader left!
I recently organised a meeting with a number of local residents about the upkeep and maintenance of Kew Bridge Railway Station. I met with representatives from Strand on the Green Association, St George's, Kew Green, The Kew Bridge Society, Express Tavern, West Thames River Group, a disability interest group, Friends of Stile Hall Gardens, Brentford Community Council and Network Rail.
Prior to the meeting, I had already been in touch with Network Rail, to strongly urge them to deal with some of the key issues around the station. Network Rail confirmed at the meeting that, as a result of my request, they had immediate plans in place now to paint the station, address the rodent problem, board up unused windows and clear graffiti They had also requested additional litter bins from Hounslow Council. At the meeting, St George's highlighted the work they had been doing too to clear up graffiti in the local area.
I am very pleased that Network Rail responded so well and are giving Kew Bridge Station a 'facelift,' which will help local residents. It will make the station seem cleaner and safer and I welcome their efforts to improve it for passengers. As a group, we are also in discussion regarding the future of the station building at Kew Bridge. As it is a Listed Building, it is obviously of architectural importance. It would be excellent if it could be restored to its former glory and put to good use.
The group is going to meet again within the next month to review progress and discuss next steps.
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, has welcomed the Localism Bill published by the Government on 13 December. The Bill will give individuals, groups, and their local councils a much greater say in decisions affecting their local communities.

 

Maria said: “This new legislation will make a real difference to how local matters are decided. The Community Rights measures, for example, will give new rights to local community and voluntary groups to protect, improve and even run important frontline services that might otherwise close down, such as local shops, pubs and libraries,.”

 

Maria added: “This Bill offers great opportunities for Basingstoke. Among other things, it will radically reform the planning system so that local people have a greater say and influence over what Basingstoke looks like in the future. Giving local people the opportunity to shape the development of the communities in which they live is something that I have long campaigned for, and I am delighted to see it being enshrined in law.

 

“The Borough Council’s current consultation on the number of new homes needed in Basingstoke is part of this process of taking local people’s views into consideration in developing a vision for the future. I would urge all residents to let the Council have their views on this before the end of the consultation on 14 January.”

 

Starting with a Bang

The long parliamentary recess has started - weeks without time being spent in the weekly grindingly boring train ride to London and back. Mind you its a hectic pace back at Southport but you can control your agenda better.

Yesterday I found a little time for light exercise the odd game of table tennis and a workout with heavy weights.
I've done the latter all my adult life and it has a slight addictive quality. If you don't do it for a while you actually feel muscle cramps only relieved by putting the old system under pressure.
Constraints of time often mean I forego all the warm ups and warm downs etc. So there I was on Tuesday doing a few front squats in excess of 300lb. I finished, replacing the barbell on the shoulder-high squat stand or so I thought. The stand was not aligned right .It tilted sideways as I released the weight and as the weight crashed to the floor the stand was pulled rapidly down by it pausing on its way to hit the stooping me on the head and catching me on the hand.
If you wanted to dramatise it , it might be compared to being hit on the head by a 20 stone man with an iron bar from a short distance. I thought I'd better take a break. We've had enough by- elections recently
When the family saw me with a lump as though a tennis ball had been buried in my scalp I was advised to pop into A&E. So clutching a plastic bag filled with ice cubes to my temple and bleeding from my finger I was run there and tested by some very nice jolly staff who established so far as we could tell that there was no skull or brain damage.At any rate I could still recall who the Prime Minister and reigning monarch was. I left a wiser man with a determination to avoid photo opportunities for a few days.
Desperate to prove they are doing something about the rising toll of deaths from guns and knives the government have resorted to the old idea of an "amnesty." This will enable a few aging war veterans who collected a "souvenir" and some farmers who forgot to renew their shotgun licenses to hand over guns that would never have been used for any kind of crime. Some of the younger "wannabe" gansters may also find that their weapons, usually replicas, are handed in by angry mothers.

This will be enough for the amnesty to achieve its real objective - photos of a smiling Minister in front of an impressive looking array of guns claiming that the government have "taken action".

But make no mistake the serious criminals will continue to roam the streets without any fear of being stopped and searched, (human rights) and knowing that even if by some chance they are found in poossession of a gun or knife the sentence will be minimal.

The toll of death will continue to rise.