Monday, 29 June 2015

My Week In Westminster

My visit to Armed Forces Academy.

There is a sense of order settling into the Commons now, with two Bills well under way and the Education & Adoption Bill now presented at second reading. 

I have been asked to be part of the team of MPs who will sit on the Committee working through the next stages of this Bill. I am not sure how the whips decide who gets onto Bill Committees (perhaps it was my confession to being a maths graduate passionate about getting more girls to study STEM), but I am honoured to be asked to contribute so soon, since educational inprovement has always been so important to me in the campaigning work I do.

It has been a week of new committees setting up, and I have become the vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Forestry, and co-chair with the excellent veteran Labour MP Barry Sheerman of the APPG on Maths & Numeracy. Having been elected to the Public Accounts Committee, I am now getting stuck into key areas of interest. 

A group of us with rural seats are also gathering some momentum to build a stronger voice for rural broadband, and my colleague Matt Warman MP secured an excellent Westminster Hall debate at which we raised many of our last 10/5% concerns with Minister for Broadband Ed Vaizey MP. There is also an APPG being set up on mobile & broadband, so we hope to make real progress for our most rural corners of Great Britain.

Thursday & Friday were spent at our national Defence Academy in Shrivenham, being briefed by chiefs from each of the armed forces commands on military matters. I have joined the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme as I feel that I know far too little about our armed forces, and I may one day be asked to send them to fight for us.  I am attached to the RAF for a year and will spend time with them at RAF Boulmer (& further afield) learning more about what they do to keep us save, and how their day-to-day lives are working with families on base.

As part of our two day briefing, we were asked to try out 7 different rifles used by our & other infantrymen across the globe, from British to US, German and Russian weapons. I don't think I would frighten too many with my success rate on the target, made worse when the instructor guffawed at me, that "Only an MP could go for the corner of a circle!" as I declared I was going to hit the right hand corner of the target.

The week has ended with a lovely thank you party for the hundreds of volunteers who helped deliver leaflets throughout the election & wider campaign.  But we are all a little overwhelmed by the ghastly and outrageous massacre on a Tunisian beach of innocent British (& other) citizens. The challenges ahead for the #longtermsecurityplan for our nation, the rule of law & protection of our values of freedom, democracy, equality for women and freedom of religion are enormous, but I know that David Cameron will be resolute and determined in the face of these atrocities.

If you have any issues you would like to raise with me, please email me anytime to or call the office on 0207 219 4437.

Monday, 22 June 2015

My Week in Westminster.. Midsummer!

We have made it to Midsummer's Day, and back home in Northumberland the weather resembles April showers... But in good Northumbrian style it hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of around 500 visitors to our village open day in support of the excellent Pegasus Centre for Riding for the Disabled in Morpeth.

Our showery weekend rounded off a busy week in Westminster, with:

- Fantastic news on the protection of our landscape & getting fairer energy bills for the poorest: we have fulfilled our first major election promise, that the onshore wind turbine subsidy will stop from April 2016 and local views will at last now have real weight in determining any future builds;

- the second reading of the EU referendum bill (a bit challenging around the clause relating to Purdah, on which I will be working with ministers to improve the Report Stage to ensure that the Referendum is as balanced as it can be within the challenges of supra-national forces from the EU who will do all they can to encourage an "In" vote);

- the second reading of the Scotland Bill: the SNP voices were lyrical and articulate, but continued to beat up Westminster over their urgency to run from our Union, demanding fiscal autonomy alongside keeping the benefits of the Barnett formula... but they don't seem to mind the hypocrisy of demanding that even if Britain voted out in the EU referendum, they would want Scotland to stay IN the EU... Leave one union but stay in another. Beyond my powers of logic!

Each week brings the opportunity to meet with charity & lobby groups, and this week has afforded me time to talk with:
-the fantastic Citizens Advice Bureau (pic of me & two Trustees, one our very own Councillor John Woodman from Bamburgh), an organisation I have watched at close proximity for years work miracles for people in need of guidance in Berwick & Alnwick.  They are doing some really interesting work on gathering data and deciding how can we use big datasets to improve government policy delivery;

- a delegation of constituents who came to London for the Climate Change Rally. It was great to catch up with friends from Berwick Green Party - I believe there is much we can do together on improving small scale renewables on our schools & on improving the carbon neutral positioning in house building.

I have also been able to meet with health ministers to discuss the ambulance provision challenge in the North East. The Secretary of State is keen to support any solutions we can offer for better service in rural areas. I hope to meet up with the new Chief Executive of NEAS before long to progress these discussions. We cannot continue with the day-to-day gaps in rural provision which are the reality today.

On a personal area of interest, I had the opportunity to speak in the Debate on Skills, and I raised with Nicky Morgan (Education Secretary) the challenge of understanding why more girls do not study maths to a higher level in the UK? I also confessed to a personal interest since I am a girl with a Maths degree!  My public announcement has led to my being asked to co-chair the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on Maths & Numeracy. You really can get involved in anything that interests you here in Westminster!

Local news:
The Alnwick Schools Partnership review took another step this week as the Scrutiny Committee at County Hall met to discuss what to do next. I have submitted my view of a sensible mixed-economy solution, with two tier in Alnwick town, and the rural mini-hubs of Seahouses, Belford & Wooler being able to run three tier schools. You can find the full letter at

Seton Hall Care Home: We have some potential progress with staff considering the prospect of turning it into a social enterprise. County Hall are offering technical help if staff decide to go down this route. I am still battling to get to the bottom of the 'over-supply' of care home provision which has appeared in the market in recent years. Do you know of anyone who is stuck in their home with carer visits, but who might be much better cared for & happier in Seton Hall?  Do email me.

If you have any issues please do not hesitate to contact me at or call on 0207 219 4437.

Please do forward this email to others who might wish to read it, or just press reply ( & give us their name & email address and we can add them to the email list.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

My Week in Westminster

It's been another whirlwind week in Westminster, as we held meetings with key national charities for Carers Week which included the wonderful Carers UK and the Guide Dogs Association.  The Labradors who came into the House of Commons were singularly unphased by the ancient & imposing buildings, preferring instead to be allowed a quick power nap while the humans had boring conversations around them!

There has been important constitutional legislation brought forwards this week, with the second reading of the Scotland Bill & of the EU Referendum Bill being debated in the Chamber.  I have put my name to the Conservatives for Britain group of MPs (a Labour counterpart now exists too) because I want to give the Prime Minister the support he needs to go and persuade all the other EU nations that we are serious about wanting to get our sovereignty back, returning controls of our borders and freeing us from too many restrictions so we can trade more easily globally. 

I know that the PM has a huge challenge, & I hope that he will succeed in getting major reforms for Great Britain.  But if a EU nations prevent him from getting the concessions we need, personally I will not be able to support an option which would leave us heading towards a federal Europe, and if necessary I would stand with the "No" campaign when the Referendum comes. 

I have raised the A1campaign with ministers this week, calling on Scottish MPs of all political hues to support the next stage of campaign building to complete the road.  This will take some time to build up, so we will be building that soon. My new Berwick office is now open, in the Workspace off Marygate - but no phone yet so drop by if you need to catch Tom on any matter during the week.

Friday in the constituency was jam-packed, with meetings at County Hall with several senior officers on Berwick regeneration, finding a place for a homeless shelter, and trying to resolve the coach park location. A series of meetings with constituents and then in the evening there was a big public meeting about the threatened closure of Seton Hall Residential Home.  I am working with different groups to see if there are any other options.  It makes no sense to me that with such a rapidly ageing population there just isn't the demand for beds in our well-loved care homes.  We continue to do all we can.

Today I had a long meeting with my wonderful campaign team and we have been planning for the future, with a business club & jobs fair to get up and running, alongside broadband summits across the patch.  More information to follow in due course.

In the meantime you can contact me on anytime or call 0207 219 4437; or Tom is available in the constituency all week, still on 01665 602106 until BT sort us out with a permanent new number!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

My Week in Westminster

This week, my fourth as the MP for Berwick upon Tweed, has started to look a little more "normal" in that we have been having debates all week in the Chamber and getting stuck into detailed discussions about some of the legislation coming forwards. I cast my first vote in the lobby on Thursday when we voted for the Queens Speech (Majority: 47).


I was pleased (& perhaps a little relieved!) to have the opportunity to make my Maiden Speech on Monday evening.  Obviously a little nerve wracking, as its the first time a member actually speaks in the Chamber: mine was made a little more challenging by a decision by the Deputy Speaker, who was in the chair, to limit speeches to 4 minutes rather than 6. However, he was being kind and more than a little flexible to my colleagues speaking before me.  I was then called, and stood up and began.


I looked up over my notes as I turned my first page, & noticed that the deputy speaker had become the Speaker (Mr Bercow) - so I had to remember to refer to him now- and that as the timer on the wall clocked down towards zero (yes, there really is a stop watch system to stop us all going on too long!) I saw (& felt) the hard stare of the Speaker to wind up.


So the Maiden Speech which I gave ( was a shorter version than the planned one which you can find .  I am definitely fully inducted into Chamber life, where the Speaker's word & decision is law.


Having made my Maiden Speech, I am now allowed to ask questions of Ministers and my first opportunity arose on Monday evening to new Minister & Cumbrian MP Rory Stewart, asking about Government support to our farmers if the voters decide we should leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum (


On Tuesday evening I was invited to participate in the annual Ladies House of Commons Tug of War team in aid of Macmillan Cancer  - a hugely worthy charity and the only reason why I was willing to publicly put myself into such a mad role!  We did well, winning one of three tugs ( a record apparently!) against a very well trained & honed Macmillan Ladies team.  A hilarious evening, and so glad I was part of the team.  Next year we might even practise first!


My second question was during the Health debate on Wednesday, asking Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt to review ambulance protocols where breaks stop paramedics being called to life-threatening 999 calls – this is a situation which worries me enormously for the safety of patients as well as the mental health of paramedics who want to be able to do their job in those life-threatening situations (


On a practical level, I now have an office & my team are just about all in post; we have our Berwick constituency base sorted out and Alnwick's shortly.


Locally, the challenge of getting longterm stability into the residential care home sector in North Northumberland is testing us all: with Seton Hall Care Home looking to leave the sector, and changes in plans from Abbeyfield Care Homes in Alnwick this week, there is work to do. We need to protect those in homes at present as well as make sure that those whose needs will have to be met through residential care (especially those with dementia).  If you have concerns for family or friends please contact me.


On the national scene, I have joined the Conservatives for Britain group of MPs who support 100%  the Prime Minister’s efforts to get a good renegotiation package for our nation with the EU: but we are a group of MPs who make it clear that if that cannot be achieved because European leaders refuse to engage with us, then we would campaign to leave the EU.  I am so pleased that having a majority Conservative Government means that we will be able – at last – to get the EU Referendum onto the statute book so that the British People will decide how we go forwards as a nation in Europe.


Please do email me anytime on ; call us on 0207 219 4437 or you can call Tom in Alnwick on 01665 692106, if you have issues of concern.



Sunday, 31 May 2015

My Week in Westminster - week 3.

Another jam-packed week has finished, with pomp & circumstance the order of the day on Wednesday as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened Parliament for the 62nd time by reading out her new Conservative Government's programme for the coming year.

We are kicking off proceedings with the EU Referendum Bill & the Scotland Bill, both of which I have strong views upon. It is now looking like the Referendum Bill will go through OK thanks to a late Damascene conversion by Harriet Harman of Labour. They will now support the bill, and once the Referendum starts they will support the "In" campaign.

If the deal, which our Prime Minister has started negotiations on this week, goes well, and the outcomes look like a trading relationship without the federalising & Napoleonic legal frameworks presently imposed on us, then I too will be supporting "In". However, if the Europeans really won't play ball to free us from their "one state" vision then I will be supporting "out". David Cameron has some challenging negotiations ahead of him, but I know him to be a man of considerable nerve & determination, so I watch with interest as he heads into that European jungle.

The Scotland Bill (which I was reading on the train home.... these documents are definitely a foreign language to those not trained as lawyers!) is so important to get right from the North East's perspective. I am all for Scotland getting more powers, but then they must also take more responsibility for their own finances. And if they decide to cut a tax such as Air Passenger Duty it is vital that our Chancellor can react quickly to vary English taxation so thar our regional airports are not negatively impacted.

I have met with the new Minister responsible for rolling out the new North Northumberland Enterprise Zone to discuss in detail how we make this happen quickly; the new Secretary of State for Communities to discuss my Social Housing Bond proposal, and discussed with the Chancellor & his team how we expedite A1 dualling progress and ongoing monitoring.

On Thursday I was invited onto ITV's Around The House with fellow new MPs Anna Turley (lab, Redcar) and Calum Kerr (SNP, Berwickshire) alongside old hand Tim Farron (Libdem, Westmoreland & Lonsdale). I reckon we were all quite nice to each other, but don't expect that to last - there are some enormous ideological differences between us. Politicians are definitely not all the same in this Parliament.
The link here:

Next week:
DEFRA & broadband, my maiden speech, the annual Macmillan House of Commons tug of war (yes, I'm in the line up!) & a train strike on Thursday which will force me to fly home.

It seems no two weeks will ever be the same.

We are progressing our new offices but in the meantime you can always reach me on or call my Chief of Staff Tom on 07791 565044.

My Week in Westminster

My Week in Westminster
I have now been in post as your MP, the new Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, for nearly a fortnight. It has been a rollercoaster of activity from the word go, with the wonderful VE Day commemoration at Belford Middle School an hour after the result was declared, then a media frenzy as the evening news declared a majority Government elected. My first week in Westminster brought lectures in protocol, legislative procedure, and detailed study of regulatory requirements- but no map to stop me getting lost (twice!) whilst attempting to get to the library. It all felt a bit like Freshers Week at university, with helpful old hands pointing us newbies in the right direction.

The North East is firmly on the map, & I commend the Prime Minister for making his first out-of-London visit to our region. He is focused on driving forwards a full policy agenda which for us needs to incorporate aggressive & speedy implementation of the Roads Strategy funding, such as dualling of the A1 towards the Scottish Border; getting into place the Enterprise Zone for North Northumberland, so that business leaders looking to set up new factories have a clear framework within which to make investment decisions; and keep driving the apprenticeship programme so that every company can take on and train more of our energetic young school leavers to give them a strong future career. 

I will be speaking up on the need to build on our Military Covenant commitment to support so many returning armed forces personnel to the North East. Many can get straight into civilian work, some may set up their own business with help from organisations like X-Forces, but others have complex health needs for which our civilian NHS is not adequately prepared. This is going to be a particular focus for me as so many military heroes return to their homes & family in Northumberland. I have met this week with the new Armed Forces Minister to highlight this already.

As an MP with one of the largest rural constituencies, with sparsely populated communities, it is imperative that this new Government resolves the challenges involved to ensure that decent broadband can reach every single property, by investing in longterm solutions which will sustain our villages into the digital 21st century.
I have met with the new DEFRA minister Rory Stewart MP to highlight the urgency of finding a viable answer.

In a quirk which I believe may be unique to our constituency, I am calling on our new Government to provide mains electricity to several communities which are still off the grid. I have been campaigning alongside those families, the Northumberland National Park & MOD at Otterburn to provide a practical solution and I will be calling on Ministers to help us solve this once & for all. And I will be monitoring closely the bill to be in the Queens Speech which will remove subsidies from onshore wind turbines, leaving local communities in the driving seat on whether these industrial giants are right for their area.

I want this new Conservative Government to drive innovation at every level, giving us the tools to succeed as individuals, families & businesses wherever we are in the UK. It is such an honour, and a responsibility, to be the voice of North Northumberland, and I will be doing my best to make full use of the tools provided to me.

You can contact me anytime on or by phone in 0207 219 4437 in London.
In the constituency, Tom my chief of staff can be reached on for now, or by phone at the old offices in Alnwick on 01665 602106 until our new premises are finalised.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Z is for Zebras in Berwick !

Who would have thought it? Zebras in Berwick? Our visit to many small traders on Bridge street with William Hague brought us to the window of the Bazaar, where, in honour of the Annual Riding of the bounds! the window was dressed in horses supporting Newcastle a United (as my son once described them!!)

It is encouraging to see the growth of small businesses in town, and I will continue to push for more involvement from County Hall's redevelopment team to find practical, job creating uses for the derelict buildings which scar our beautiful ancient town. 900 years old this year officially!

Z is for zoology

We have a great deal of extraordinary wildlife across this constituency, from birds like curlew on our moors to dolphins, puffins, arctic terns and many more around our unique Farne Islands off the coast at Seahouses.  This National Trust owned archipelago of Islands is invaded every spring by thousands of birds who breed here.  The boats of Billy Shiel & others can take you from the Seahouses Harbour out to see this wildlife - but just remember to take an umbrella, so that when the birds decide to dive bomb your boat, your head is protected! It's an unmissable experience.

Z is for Zooming About

The Chancellor started his final tour of the country before Election Day in our patch, meeting with local business leaders in Alnwick to hear how their businesses are doing.  Good stories abound, from housebuilding growth to renewable energy installations. There is work to do on the Business Rates Review to ensure that out-of-town stores pay their dues as they are now the "prime" sites with easy parking.  The old market town centre sites are not prime sites since access and parking are much more restricted into the modern age, and taxation should reflect that accordingly.  If I am elected, this Review, and our input into it, is high on my agenda.

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzz...
As Election Day looms into view, I will now leave you all to your own private thoughts on casting your vote. The most important thing is that you do vote, for whichever party offers what you are looking for, and that you encourage any recalcitrants to join you.  I continue to be amazed at the number of people who "don't think they will bother".  We only have to watch the queues of people in new democracies lining up to cast their first vote how valuable living in a real democracy is.  I will continue to try to find way to engage with a positive message to those voters who feel separated from our systems of government.