Monday, 23 November 2015

My Week In Westminster- Voting to go to war?

It has always been the issue of greatest concern to me if I got elected: that I would become responsible for voting about whether we should send our troops into harms' way and take our great nation to war.

As I stood at the Remembrance services two weeks ago, I contemplated again that so many of our young people have gone to war to defend our nation & our values, and have made the ultimate sacrifice. That around the globe today, British armed forces are protecting our assets, saving lives through humanitarian programmes, and teaching other armies to build skills to defend their own nations.

As part of trying to become much better educated on this, in case I ever have to vote, I joined the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme and have been visiting bases around the UK, from HMS Faslane in Scotland, to RAF Boulmer in Northumberland, to detailed briefings at Shrivenham from Chiefs of Staff of all services and Joint Command.

I am now much reassured that all our Armed Forces personnel are extraordinarily well trained, committed and keen to put all that into action to protect their country and serve the Queen. 

So now the question remains, when is it right to take our nation to war, putting it at risk of reprisal, of attack, of threat to civilian lives at home?

And the answer comes back to me more clearly every day - if the values and freedoms we hold dear, that all those Great War and WW2 troops fought for, are put under threat, then it is the Government's first duty to protect our people, our interests & the future of our ideals.

MPs are likely to have to vote in the coming weeks on whether to join other nations already committed to the Syrian battlespace, to extend our commitment to beating the Daesh-ISIL terrorists who are trying to create a Caliphate across Iraq and Syria. These people want to eradicate modern Western ideals of freedom of thought, speech and action, of womens' rights. They want to return societies to a pre-Enlightement world where a repressive religious State controls every aspect of our lives.

This is not a vision which I could ever find acceptable, and therefore I am reaching the inevitable, but no less difficult, decision that the right thing to do would be to give my assent to our Government sending our armed forces to fight Daesh-ISIL, not only in Iraq as we are doing already, but wherever these terrorists are in the world, including Syria. Our RAF personnel are already deploying over Iraqi soil, but at the moment we stop "at the border" with Syria. 

Under an international UN-backed framework, nations who want to ensure our values, must fight together to eliminate those terrorist groups who threaten our modern world, intent on destroying freedom of thought & action which we have all built up - the victory of modern freedoms protected by long fought-for laws of equality for women & minorities, for all peaceful religious groups and for those of no faith at all. 

As that great Frenchman Francois-Marie Voltaire wrote in 1770:
"Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write."


If you want to catch up on earlier Weeks In Westminster, you can find them at

If you would like details of local surgeries or to speak to my team, please email or call 01665 517512

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on 0207 219 4437 or by email to

Monday, 9 November 2015

My Week In Westminster

An extended Indian summer turned to Autumn with a vengeance on Sunday as our towns & villages commemorated our war dead at services across the county. I was honoured to be laying wreaths in Berwick and Alnwick to remember all those from North Northumberland who have given their lives to ensure our freedom: so that we can sleep peacefully & securely in our beds at night.

I have always felt strongly about Remembrance, and as a new MP I am also acutely conscious of my responsibility in deciding whether to vote to send troops to war. What has struck me this year, as I meet many armed forces personnel, is that they are not too bothered by who their changing political masters are, because they fight for Queen & Country.

One former soldier said to me this weekend that, during his tours in Iraq & Afghanistan, he knew he was there for good reasons; not necessarily those given by the then  Prime Minister Mr Blair, but because he was putting his life at risk for his Queen, as he knew she would do for him.

And as we sang the second verse of the National Anthem at the Alnwick Memorial yesterday, those words reinforced that wise & reflective soldier's view:

May She defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart & voice,
God save the Queen.


Much of the rest of my week has been spent getting to grips with the threat to our Jus-Rol factory's future in Berwick, as their US owners consider whether to shut it. I battled with closed doors until eventually we got the head of General Mills UK's attention and he was gracious enough to come and meet with me at the House of Commons. We now have communications, and the Business Minister has been hugely helpful in getting her regional team into action quickly so that we can assess what options are available for the site & workforce.

I met with some of the employees on Friday and we will be hosting another employee meeting next Sunday afternoon at the Guildhall.
This is going to be a tough fight, but I will leave no stone unturned to try to find a going concern solution.


I was so pleased that, following a call for help from my constituent Sarah Pape, one of the UK's leading burns specialists, to get UK help to burns victims of the Romanian nightclub fire in Bucharest, I was able to ask a PMQ on Wednesday to that effect. (

I can report that last night a NATO flight landed with 9 patients who will receive world-leading treatment in several of our UK burns units. So proud of our humanitarian support which can be put into action so effectively in times of crisis like this. But even prouder of our very own Sarah who led by example and went to the disaster itself to offer her skills. 

If you want to catch up on earlier Weeks In Westminster, you can find them at

If you would like details of local surgeries or to speak to my team, please email or call 01665 517512

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on 0207 219 4437 or by email to

Monday, 2 November 2015

My Week in Westminster

My Week in Westminster
Key issues debated in the House of Commons last week included a cross party amendment calling for the scrapping of VAT on sanitary products, & in the House of Lords the rejection of the statutory instrument on tax credit reform, sending the Treasury team back to the drawing board on how to make savings in the welfare bill. 

The Labour amendment was asking for the Government to attempt to get a change in policy of VAT on sanitary products, which I wholeheartedly support and which is why I put my name to the amendment. These sorts of amendments are aimed at helping ministers progress on areas of policy, in this case the Finance Bill.

During the course of the debate, I and many others, male & female, from all sides of the House, raised with the Finance Minister David Gauke MP this key anomaly which British women believe should be changed.

The reality is that when British voters decided to join the EEC in 1975, Great Britain gave up control of its VAT rules, at which point sanitary products were listed as luxury goods under existing British sales tax laws.

The only way we could now both (a) reclassify sanitary products as essentials, rather than luxury goods, and (b) be able to zero-rate these products which are presently VAT-able, is for us to get a unanimous agreement from all 28 EU states to let us do those two things, via something called a derogation.

And I am pleased to say that the Minister listened to us all, and has agreed to go to the EU states and ask for their support to give us this freedom. Because he agreed to do this, the amendment was no longer needed- he had agreed to implement what we jad asked for.

I will be following closely how the Minister makes progress on this, and if he cannot get unanimous agreement I will call on the UK government to unilaterally alter this luxury goods listing to essential and zero rate it without EU approval. In reality this is one of so many issues over which we have given up sovereign control. It may well be that in the end, if other EU countries won't support us then we will have to Vote to Leave the EU and get back control over our taxes, borders & trade.


I have received a huge postbag on the tax credit reforms & I have had lots of concerned messages so thought I would set out where we are and my views on it all.

Firstly to explain that the Statutory Instrument which will change the level for working tax credits was voted through on 15th September, and I supported the Government. This week there was also a Labour motion which was a non-binding Labour Party motion to oppose all reform to Tax Credits. I absolutely do not support this view - we must sort out the tax credits system.

The reality is that when Gordon Brown started on his tax credit programme in 1999, designed to encourage a low wage economy & voter reliance on Government top-ups, the expectation was that this would cost the Treasury some £1.5bn per year. Last year they cost us £29.5bn. This is clearly both unsustainable and wrong - Brown's policy has left families limiting their working hours for fear of loss of tax credits, and employers paying low wages for a hard day's graft with the strange false limit at 16 hours per week limit for many.

This disruptive work subsidy has limited the ability of employees to work as they would like. Our tax credit reforms, as part of a wide package of reforms, will get our economy back onto a healthier footing.

Our reforms package includes:

The increase in free childcare to 30 hours per week will mean that parents can work more hours without additional costs;

The increase in the personal tax allowance to £12,500 by 2020 means people can earn more before having to start paying income tax;

The new Living Wage of £7.20 for over-25s from April 2016 will ensure employers are paying fair wages - the Living Wage will rise to £9 by 2020.

The challenges we will have as the reforms kick in through 2016 is real, and many Conservative colleagues & I have raised this with ministers. But my biggest worry is that the Labour Party are trying to create panic amongst those who presently receive various tax credits, and causing huge anxiety for many, without offering anything constructive at all.

As a practical person and accountant, I want tools to be able to support families who are concerned about these reforms.

I have therefore this week asked ministers & officials to set up an income calculator on the lines of the existing HMRC calculator to help me, as an MP, and others to work out what the changes in the round will mean to an individual set of circumstances, and indicate how many more hours a week one might need to find under the new framework to mitigate the reduction of working tax credits.

I will be chasing Ministers on this proposal until we have tools to understand the reforms person by person, business by business, and to stop Corbyn's scare campaign from creating unnecessary worry to many.

I am committed to working night and day for every one of my constituents, and helping make these reforms work for the taxpayer alongside mitigating the effects of these reforms where necessary. 

If you have personal anxieties please do get in touch directly with all your details.


Other events last week included more lobbying to get Government to consider first aid education in schools - a no-brainer as far as I am concerned, since prevention is always better than cure.

I had a variety of meetings with mental health organisations as well as continuing to build on plans to get a firm & equal footing for palliative care funding within the NHS.

The news of General Mills' plan to shut the Jus-Rol factory hit on Friday and I have been starting to get every potential supporter and advisor on board over the weekend.

I will keep you updated on this as the coming week progresses.

If you want to catch up on earlier Weeks In Westminster, you can find them at

If you would like details of local surgeries or to speak to my team, please email or call 01665 517512

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on 0207 219 4437 or by email to
Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP 21a Hotspur Bondgate Without Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1PR United Kingdom 

Friday, 30 October 2015

My Week In Westminster

Last week had sadness hanging over it for me, as I went to young Adam Donaldson's funeral on Friday, the young man who died in an industrial accident so tragically at the Biddlestone Quarry. 

I also met with the chief executive of our North East Ambulance Service to discuss how progress on recruitment is going, and to ensure that, following my campaigning, the Secretary of State for Health's instructions to solve the anomalies of meal breaks and calling out paramedics to life threatening calls are being implemented. I started trying to get change on this after the tragic death of young Kyle Lowes in Berwick earlier this year. I am so pleased that it really is possible to make progress on big issues like this by continually pushing on the door. Let us hope that better protocols across the country will reduce uneccessary deaths.

There was a lot of debate this week about the Steel Industry's problems, and with the Chinese State Visit going on at the same time, the challenges of not being able to control how we manage our strategic industries because decisions are made at an EU level have been brought into sharp focus.

In the Public Accounts Committee we challenged Network Rail on their very slow progress in getting electrification underway for several big projects - I neve cease to be amazed, as I meet more & more Permanent Secretaries, of their ability to ignore what looks blindingly obvious to a layman- that budgeting correctly in the first place should be a no-brainer, rather than not preparing and assessing first, but simply discovering that works are going to be much more costly than they thought. Which means that we, the taxpayer, have to find twice, or even thrice the amount originally budgeted. To say I am shocked on a weekly basis is starting to be an under-statement.

On Friday The Chancellor George Osborne MP was in the North East signing the devolution agreement to set in motion the process for us to elect a North East Mayor, our very own Geordie Boris, who will have £30m per year for 30 years of funds which we believe we can spend better than Whitehall does at the moment on stuff like integrated transport, joined up health and social care, and much more. We expect the first Mayoral election in 2017.

Back in the constituency, I had an excellent visit to St Michaels CE First school to launch their JETS after school club, and was given a wonderful description of my job by one 7-year old... "Our MP looks after us and our country". I will continue to do my very best to meet her clear and correct description.

If you want to catch up on earlier Weeks In Westminster, you can find them at

If you would like details of local surgeries or to speak to my team, please email or call 01665 517512

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on 0207 219 4437 or by email to

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

My Week In Westminster

As the regular Westminster schedule got back into its stride last week, we were voting on the Immigration Bill, Local Government Devolution & the Charter for Fiscal Responsibility. I held my first debate in Westminster Hall on the locally important issue of safety in HMP Northumberland, our local prison in Acklington. You can watch the full debate at

My week also had quite a military feel to it with the second reading of the Armed Forces Bill & my intervention during a mental health debate on the need for better provision for ex-servicemen who need support in the north east; and the visit to the Houses of Parliament of a team of RAF military from RAF Boulmer to experience the "new politics" of PMQs with Jeremy Corbyn.

Some of my key campaign battles took small steps forwards with an excellent meeting with the Highways England team rolling out our A1 Dualling in Northumberland- for which your help on key junctions data gathering would be much appreciated. The short survey is at

And I also met with an interesting business, Actual Experience, who run the BbFix tool which I hope is going to help us see how we can most effectively improve our broadband across Northumberland. 

My work on the Public Accounts Committee continues apace - we tackled Care Act progress & military financial management at the MOD. We base our reviews on National Audit Office reports which highlight failings on getting value for money for the taxpayer. Some hearings have been quite shocking to me already, in the way that civil servants seem able to avoid taking responsibility for success (or otherwise) of policy implementation. Every permanent secretary we grill makes me more convinced of the accuracy of Yes Minister!

If you want to catch up on earlier Weeks In Westminster, you can find them at

If you would like details of local surgeries or to speak to my team, please email or call 01665 517512

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on 0207 219 4437 or by email to

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

My Week in Westminster - the party conferences

The last week of recess before heading back to the Westminster routine was full of action- the first half of which I spent in Manchester at the Conservative Party Conference.

Being a new MP meant that I was on duty most of the time, and was on various panels discussing issues from "Food Banks & the Role
Of the Church" organised by the Trussell Trust, to a discussion on "Delivering Conservative Forestry Ambitions" in my role as the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Forrestry.

I spoke at a number of events on the urgency of getting a Universal Service Obligation for rural broadband, met with a number of charities with whom I am working on autism matters, on first aid in schools, on wider special needs and a variety of military charities with whom I continue to build networks to try to improve mental heath support for our military veterans.

And I also got to be "eye candy" (!!) as the Daily Mail described me when I was photographed walking with George Osborne as he headed to the conference hall to give his major speech. If being eye candy will afford me 15 minutes of conversation with the Chancellor- where I discussed the Universal Service Obligation issue - then I will subject myself to such ridiculous comments quite willingly.

The end of the week gave me the chance to join the students at Nunnykirk Specialist School for Dyslexia near Rothbury. I had a fantastic tour of the school, learned how to do times tables using my fingers, and got a proper PMQ style grilling from all the students. I hope that I acquitted myself adequately and actually answered their questions. My last appointment of the week was at Rothbury's parish church with the marvellous Reverend Boag, with whom I discussed many local plans, the challenge of the Harbottle surgery provision (for which we have a temporary solution to ensure services over the coming winter months) and exciting plans for the church organ restoration getting underway thanks to the Lottery Fund grant recently received.

Oh yes, and on Saturday I went to HMS Faslane on the Clyde to see a little of our armed forces exercise led by the RAF called Joint Warrior, a regular multi-nation training exercise. I met with many military personnel and even got to sit in a Hawk jet- it was very small in terms of pilot space, though maybe I am not quite as slim as a mega-fit pilot!

Back to Westminster commuting next week & the rough and tumble of front line politics.

If you would like details of local surgeries or to speak to my team, please email or call 01665 517512

If you want to catch up on earlier Weeks In Westminster, you can find them at

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on 0207 219 4437 or by email to

Sunday, 4 October 2015

My Week In Westminster: Summer Tour during Recess

Its been a gorgeous week touring all our little villages, from Capheaton in the south, to Elsdon in the West, Scremerston in the North and Craster on the coast. 

We have seen a resolution- albeit temporary setup for now- for Harbottle surgery provision, which is great news. Despite the frustrations all round, NHS England have found a way forwards which will ensure provision continues up the valley.

I have had a busy week on the schools front, meeting a large number of our head teachers and hearing about what works and what doesn't for them & their pupils. I have been able to visit Berwick's Middle School, Spittal First School & The Grove Special School this week to hear about all the great ways of learning which go on there. I loved watching the teacher challenging maths games in Spittal- those children were right on top of their tables!

I am supporting Branton & Embleton 1st schools as they live under the threat of closure at present caused by the Alnwick partnership review. I am hopeful that we will win a reprieve and new longterm solutions for both those excellent schools will be supported by County Hall. The small rural school isn't a luxury, its a necessity for all our most isolated children.

On Monday I had a full tour of Northumberland College in Ashington, where some of our children go to study engineering, beauty, construction and other specialisms. There is an amazing set up following the renovations & investment, and I am looking forward to visiting Kirkley Hall- the College's land based courses centre- before too long. I was particularly excited to hear about their new Military Academy which is a year long course teaching young people some of the skills they will need to be successful in applying to the Armed Forces.

A flying visit to our prison HMP Northumberland at Acklington on Friday proved very informative: I was able to talk with the director at length on the changes in staffing levels, and to the Prison Officer Association team about the level of drugs coming into prison & the new recording cameras which prison officers wear- as part of a national pilot which our officers say is making a tangible improvement in behaviour from young, energetic prisoners. If you are, or know of, anyone working in the prison, I am keen to hear from as many voices as possible before I lead on a debate on the subject in the House of Commons in mid-October.

The start of my party conference activities took place this morning with an interview on Radio 4's Broadcasting House. We discussed the forthcoming EU Referendum and despite the broadcaster's best efforts to try to create a divide, they were unsuccessful. Voters want to have their voice heard on their future EU membership, and this Government is putting the legislation into place to allow that to happen. How every voter decides to cast his vote will be for the campaigns for STAY and LEAVE to persuade, not the Government.

If you would like details of local surgeries or to speak to my team, please email or call 01665 517512

If you want to catch up on earlier Weeks In Westminster, you can find them at

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on 0207 219 4437 or by email to

Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP 21a Hotspur Bondgate Without Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1PR United Kingdom