Many commentators, stock market participants and surveyors have been warning us that housebuilding and the homes market will be badly damaged by the vote to leave the EU. We were told to expect an immediate shock to confidence, leading to falling purchases and plunging prices.

 

Yesterday a leading housebuilder, Persimmon, brought us up to date with their trading. In the first half year there was a 6% rise on the numbers of homes they sold, and a 6% rise in the average price of homes they sold, with good growth in revenue and profits.  Worries about the vote did not drag them down. Since the vote they tell us there has been a 20% increase in the number of visitors to their sites, and a 17% increase in reservations of homes by buyers. In other words, the very opposite of the gloomy forecasts has once again happened.

 

If this is the experience of one of the UK’s larger housebuilders, it is difficult to believe other housebuilders would have experienced the opposite. Persimmon are planning to increase the numbers of homes they build, as they foresee more demand ahead.

Would those who forecast the immediate shock and have said they think the housing market is falling like to comment? It is difficult to understand why the share market marked down housebuilders so savagely after the Brexit vote. They of course are busily revising their view and have marked housebuilding shares up again since.

Meanwhile we had another of those surveys which pessimists have welcomed to their cause. This one is a bit different. The CBI Industrial trends survey showed output expectations at a modest plus 11 compared to plus 6 in July. This implies rising industrial output over the third quarter of 2016.  Total orders were at -5 compared to -4 in July. These are often negative – they were at minus 18 in October last year for example, and negative for several other months long before the referendum became an influence.

The bold plan to create a thriving Northern Powerhouse received some good news recently. An independent report, commissioned by Transport For The North, details a strategy which will allow the North to realise its fantastic potential.

For the past thirty years, there has been a persistent economic gap between the North and the national average. In 2015 the North generated an economic output of around £290bn in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA). Now this was around one fifth of the nation's total as a whole, but we have more to give.

Indeed, we need to bridge the gap between the North's economic potential and its current realities. This will of course be spurred on by private investment, something which will herald a greater number of highly skilled jobs for the people of the North.

'Business as usual' for the North would not mean zero growth or investment, but it would likely mean that the gap between the North and the rest of the country would continue to widen. The report therefore outlines a transformational approach to the Northern economy; one which capitalises on out key capabilities, but also seeks to improve our infrastructure.

The North is certainly more than capable. The report highlights our proficiency in advanced manufacturing, energy, health innovation and digital innovation. These will act as the cornerstone from which the Northern Powerhouse will undoubtedly thrive.

The report suggests that by 2050, a scheme of workable and sustained growth will result in the creation of 1.5 million jobs by 2050, a rise in our GVA and an increase in skilled work. These are all things that are obtainable.

If you would like to read about the report's overview in full, it can be found here - http://www.transportforthenorth.com/pdfs/NP/Overview-NP-Independent-Economic-Review.pdf

What is palpably clear is that the North is growing. It's becoming more innovative and productive on a daily basis, and it is of the utmost importance that we continue these trends. We have all the tools at out disposal, so we now need strong leadership to bring these plans to fruition. I will endeavour to do all that I can to ensure that this is the case.

Is there a Welsh Labour Godwin’s Law?

Godwin's law is an Internet adage asserting that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler  — that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.

Promulgated by American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, Godwin's law originally referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions. It is now applied to any threaded online discussion, such as Internet forums, chat rooms, and comment threads, as well as to speeches, articles, and other rhetoric where Reductio ad Hitlerum occurs.

In Welsh Labour it's Reductio ad Bevanum. Sooner or later (usually sooner) every Welsh Labour politician’s speech will mention Aneurin Bevan. The NHS and Miners swiftly follow.

 

 

Frenetic activity by the Farmers’ Unions press people. I have had more e-mails from them post-Brexit than in the whole of the past 5 years. Daily they tell of their consultations with politicians at farm shows throughout Wales.  

Always the same message. Brexit is an opportunity for farmers to rejig the EU subsidies. Agreed. A great chance to introduce fairness and a jolt of reality that could be as beneficial to the prosperity of  UK farming as the ending of debilitating subsidies were in New Zealand in 1985.

There is a strong case for subsidies to small Welsh farms. They are at the custodians of the most ancient, precious culture of the Welsh nation. A re-jig should introduce a maximum subsidy in the same that welfare benefit payments were capped recently for the poor. A cap on benefits on millionaire farmers would liberate money to subsidies small farmers, the NHS and ailing Welsh industries.

Brexit is an opportunity that must be used to re-think a rotten system that delivers poor value and hand-outs to the super-rich.

Seize the day, farming unions!

 

Is the campaigning for the Labour Leadership over now the votes are being distributed?

A period of  omertà from both sides until September the 23rd would be appreciated.  There has been an excess of bile and wanton self-laceration of the party. Will both sides now concentrate on repairing the damage done to party unity?  Slagging other people off is easy.  Time now to get serious and work out strategies for the 24th of September. 

Whoever wins, the losers must re-dedicate themselves to bridging divisions and directing our venom on the awful Tory Government which is split down the middle on Brexit and surrenders every day to greedy lobbyists to the detriment of the nation's well-being.

Let's compete on attacking the real enemy!

I've always respected the right of members to choose who they vote for in our internal party elections for Leader.  And I've never, in the past, felt the need to intervene to urge members in Camberwell and Peckham to vote for any particular candidate.  But I'm writing to you today to urge you to vote for Owen Smith and not for Jeremy Corbyn because I feel it is fundamental for the prospect of a progressive future for our country.

I believe Owen Smith recognises what I believe to be the case.  That it is our duty to protect people from the unfairness and the reactionary policies of the Tories.  That it is only with a Labour government that we can do that and that only Labour will make the changes which challenge entrenched inequality, prejudice and discrimination.

The job of the leader of the party is to unite us and take us towards that.  It is clear that Jeremy Corbyn cannot unite the party.  The party has become deeply divided under his leadership. We have seen that both at national and at local level here in Camberwell and Peckham.   A leader cannot blame others for division.  The buck stops with the leader. 

I believe with Owen Smith for Leader we can get on track to put our progressive principles into practice.  I will be voting for him and I hope you will too.

In recent weeks, I have heard from a number of constituents urging a final decision on airport expansion in the UK. I have long supported Heathrow Hub for its potential to increase capacity cost-effectively while decreasing road traffic and aircraft noise. The Airports Commission’s final report was published in the Summer of 2015. It made a strong case for expansion in the South East. The Government has accepted the case for expansion and the Commission’s shortlist of options. It is vitally important […]

Earlier this week, Redditch MP Karen Lumley received confirmation from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) about Round 2 of their Skills and Opportunities Fund which opened last Friday (19 August 2016) and is a great funding opportunity for Redditch constituents.

This hugely successful funding is available for charities, social enterprises, community groups, state-funded schools and colleges based in Redditch.

RBS launched the fund in May last year as part of their ongoing commitment to making a difference in the communities that they serve and so far £1.25 million has been awarded to people in the UK and Ireland.

They have allocated a further £2.5 million for 2016 to support organisations that help people in disadvantaged communities develop, create or access the skills and opportunities they need to help themselves; enabling them to get into work or start a business, now or in the future.

RBS want to help support as many people and organisations as possible. This might include offering their skills and expertise to help you get your project off the ground in addition to a monetary grant.

Karen added: "This is a great opportunity for local organisations, social enterprises and even schools to access vital funding and support".

"I regularly work with lots of local charities and community groups in desperate need of financial support and guidance, so I strongly recommend that people take up the opportunity and apply before the closing date on 9 September 2016."

For further information, including application criteria, please visit their website at: http://skillsandopportunitiesfund.rbs.com/

"The economic risk of Brexit is over", says Moody's. "Now the risk is the US Presidential election." For two centuries, economic growth has been driven by technological innovation. Why do the economic 'experts' seem to think it's all about politics?

Technology is radically transforming the global economy right now.

Last week, the World Economic Forum published a report on how blockchain – the technology behind Bitcoin - is set to revolutionise financial services. It offers more transparency, greater trust, fewer middlemen – and less need for ratings agencies like Moody's.

Blockchain's potential goes beyond business. Two weeks ago, the government made a blockchain company an approved public-sector supplier. It hopes the technology could eliminate fraud and overpayment in the welfare system.

Another incredible innovation on the horizon is the driverless car. Uber is about to pilot driverless minicabs – which will ultimately enable it to cut fares even further than it has already.

Ten years ago, who would have predicted that either of these technologies would now be mainstream?

Innovation tends to take everyone by surprise. That's nothing new.

Two hundred years ago, Malthus predicted mass starvation because of overpopulation. Instead, because of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, not only did the world's population boom, but the standard of living unprecedentedly rose too.

The unpredictability of innovation is one of the reasons why economic 'experts' have such trouble foreseeing the future – and why the doomsayers are so often wrong.

Of course, politics can negatively affect economies. In fact, it usually does. The more politicians try and micromanage the economy, the more they hold it back.

But innovation is changing politics too. Thanks to the digital revolution, politics as we know it is giving way to iDemocracy.

Politicians love to think economic growth is all about them. No one else needs to play along with their fantasy.


I am pleased that the Chancellor has announced that the Treasury will ensure that all structural and investment fund projects signed before the Autumn Statement will be fully funded. Philip Hammond has also confirmed that agricultural funding will continue until at least 2020. Horizon research funding granted before leaving the EU will also be guaranteed by the Treasury after the UK leaves.  There will also be further announcements in the autumn statement about how the government intends to secure some continuity and consistency of the funding streams currently managed by the EU up until the point we actually leave.

This move will ensure stability and certainty in the run up to our exit from the EU. However, I believe that we now have a wonderful opportunity to design our own domestic policies to run regional policy, support businesses and sectors such as agriculture and science.

In terms of regional policy, in areas such as Cornwall, over the last couple of years the British government has operated a highly successful economic fund called the Local Growth Fund. This has funded the successful Devolution Deal for Cornwall and has had nothing to do with the EU. It is nationally funded, and is audited in a consistent and proportionate way by the National Audit Office. Following problems relating to procurement around EU funding and grants, Cornish businesses have increasingly questioned the risks of EU funding when they could instead benefit from a stable, national regeneration fund implemented property and consistently.

Research carried out in 2012 by the independent think tank Open Europe has shown that there are huge dead weight costs to sending money out to Brussels and then bringing it back again with lots of pointless bureaucracy and strings attached.  We now have a chance to do things differently and more effectively so that the money we spend really delivers jobs and growth.

For example, by expanding the existing Local Growth Fund, which would be properly managed by national government in conjunction with the Local Enterprise Partnership, we would be free to invest in projects that really deliver for Cornwall.

I am currently enjoying spending Summer Recess in the constituency. On 23rd August, I will be holding a pop-up surgery at Asda, South Quay, Hayle, between 2pm and 4pm.
There have been two stories related to secret imprisonment reported today. One by PA has been published in a number of outlets including This one. The other was in the Daily Mail. The cases have a number of common features. Someone is imprisoned "for their own good". There are all sorts of assessments as to their capacity. In the end they have run away and are not now in the English and
I don't now if there any lawyers versed in constitutional law who might read my blog posts. If there are maybe they can explain to me and help me understand why the High Court should be getting involved in the Labour leadership election. Surely this is a matter for the Labour Party. Surely it's a political matter that the High Court should keep its ermine-clad nose out of.

A few days ago I took about two hours to write a post about the 'political' interference of the European Court of Justice in European Union matters. This court, more than any other body delivered the vote to leave the European Union. It took its decisions in support of the political objective of "Ever closer union." The people of the U.K. decided they'd had enough of this and voted to Leave. There is a proper place for courts to decide. And there are times when courts should decide not to decide. How the Labour Party chooses its leader is one of them. In my opinion (as a sheep farmer and gardener that is)!! 
The bombardment of sixth-formers with the idea that university is best in terms of income has to stop.
The announcement was made this morning, Monday 8th August, on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2, where I confirmed the news I would be participating in the new series live in the studio. You can listen to the interview again here. I’d like to say I’m just really excited about learning to […]
There has been no mention of George Osborne’s much trumpted 'Northern Powerhouse’ which appears to be sinking as fast his career. Not a muffle from Maggie May. Rumour has it our new prime Minster has hinted the Government's obsession with Manchester will come to an end. Good. Lancashire has received now’t from the divvy up devolution. Short changed in Osborne’s dogs breakfast of localism. Some
I have been told by South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group that the current contract holders at Studley Health Centre have given their 6 month notice to terminate their contract. SWCCG are now considering two options, either the GP services will continue with a new provider, or patients will be asked to register with another local practice. All patients at Studely Health Centre should have been contacted for their opinion, you can do this online by completing this survey. Alternatively you can contact them by email at contactus@southwarwickshireccg.nhs.uk or by post at the following address:  NHS South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Market Street, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 4DE There will also be a drop in session at Studley Village Hall, High Street, Studley, Warwickshire, B80 7HJ on Thursday 11th August between 4pm and 6pm The deadline for all comments is 5pm on Monday 22nd August 2016. Please take these opportunities to let SWCCG know your thoughts on what the future of this GP practice should be.  ...

Sir Tony Baldry is to receive a new Award from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Langton Award for Community Service.

The Award is named after Archbishop Stephen Langton, who was Archbishop at the time of the signing of Magna Carta.

The Award made from Fairtrade silver will be conferred on Sir Tony Baldry by the Archbishop of Canterbury during a ceremony at Lambeth Palace on 31st March.

For further information click here.

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.  ...
Read more »

Rory Stewart MP met with local producers in Penrith last week to discuss the upcoming ‘Cumbria Day’ in London, which he is organising along with fellow Cumbrian MP’s; John Stevenson, Sue Heyman, Jamie Reed and Tim Farron. It would be the second event of its kind, celebrating Cumbrian business, and in particular, it’s speciality food […]

The post RORY STEWART MP CHAMPIONS CUMBRIAN PRODUCERS appeared first on Rory Stewart.

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.

Hello. If you are reading this it might be because you want to sign up for my campaign to be deputy leader of the Labour Party. There is a separate site for this which can be found at this Tom for Deputy link.

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!

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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!
Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris has welcomed a campaign by representatives of the smaller fishing industry to win a fairer share of UK fishing quotas.

Speaking on the day that Greenpeace and NUTFA (the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association) launched their Manifesto For Fair Fisheries, Tom called on the government to take the lead in supporting small fishing communities. He said the case had now been made for a “radical overhaul” of the way fishing quotas are allocated within the UK.

Smaller “inland” fishing vessels make up three quarters of the UK’s fishing fleet and employ nearly two thirds of all full-time workers. But they are restricted from catching more than four per cent of the UK fishing quota, with 96 per cent being allocated to the larger industrial fleet.
 
Tom added: “Labour wants reform that tackles vested interests and rewards those who fish more sustainably and selectively, with less impact on the environment. It is unacceptable that fleets representing the smaller, sustainable end of the industry, and which employ nearly two thirds of full-time workers, should have to survive on just four per cent of the UK fishing quota.
 
“The Government should be taking a lead in supporting our small fishing communities that are the lifeblood of many coastal areas.

“The case has now been made for a radical overhaul of the way fishing quotas are allocated within the UK. The Government needs to issue a definitive list of who exactly owns the rights to UK quota, and begin urgent talks on significantly increasing the percentage quota allocated to the Under Ten fleet.”
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.