Yesterday I spent the day with Northumbria Police to find out about their work on the ground. I started at Whickham Police station, went on to the control room at Ponteland, met the Safeguarding team based in Gateshead and visited the custody suite at Forth Banks and finished by going out on patrol with my local neighbourhood police team.
Thanks to all the officers and police civilian staff who took the time to show me policing on the ground.
The Government must give our police service the funding it needs to protect us. Our local police are doing a great job but are really stretched to do all that we ask them to do.
This afternoon I chaired a debate on the teaching of RE in schools.
Young people from across the country, including a group from Whickham School in my constituency, have come to Westminster to debate issues around religious literacy.
They have debated the right to withdraw from RE lessons, challenging extremism and whether there is still a place for the study of RE in a modern, secular society.
I’m pleased that MPs have joined us to listen to such an eloquent and stimulating debate.
Thanks to NATRE, RE Today and the RE Council for organising such an informative and challenging session.
I very much enjoyed visiting the children from Sacred Heart Primary School in Byermoor this afternoon.
During the visit I spoke to the children about the job of an MP, and it was great to see so many young people interested in politics. It is increasingly important for young people to know how politics affects them, and how they can get involved.
I previously met the children from Sacred Heart when they visited Parliament a few months ago, and they were particularly enthusiastic then, too. I do hope they continue their interest in politics!
For years the use of Blaydon Station has been hindered by the lack of a step free access to the Newcastle platform. To cross the line the footbridge with its many steps had to be negotiated, causing problems for the disabled, and families with prams and pushchairs.
The Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership came up with a scheme to provide level access to the platform via a surfaced pathway from the back of the platform to the adjacent Keelman’s Way, the riverside path. This has provided better links from the station for walkers and also for residents of the Stella Riverside housing development, with its 500 homes. The scheme was funded by Gateshead Council, Department of Transport, and ACoRP.
On Thursday 19 April 2018, on a beautiful spring morning, the new entrance was formally opened by Liz, who talked of the history of the railway and its importance to Blaydon. She was delighted to see the station was much more accessible. Since a timetable change five years ago the use of the station has grown steadily. Craig Harrop for Northern, thanked Gateshead Council for funding the ramp and hoped the new entrance would encourage more people to use the station. Liz then cut the ribbon and opened the new entrance.
Further good news is that the train service to Blaydon will be greatly increased with the introduction of the new railway timetable beginning on the 19 May this year with trains stopping every hour.
Yesterday Liz was delighted to Chair an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) aiming to raise the profile of the rare disease, Phenylketonuria (PKU).
PKU is a rare genetic metabolic disorder affecting around 1:10,000 people in the UK. People with PKU cannot metabolise phenylalanine, an amino acid found within protein foods. This disease can cause irreversible brain damage or impaired cognitive or neurological function if not correctly treated.
Currently, the only treatment funded in the UK is an extremely restricted dietary therapy in which almost all natural protein is removed from the diet. The majority of PKU patients in other European nations have access to the drug BH4 (Kuvan), which can increase a PKU person’s protein tolerance. The NHS does not currently commission Kuvan treatment.
We am hopeful the APPG will raise awareness of PKU and consider the need for improvements to access to treatment. The picture shows Liz with members of the NSPKU (National Society for Phenylketonuria).
Column – January 2018
So here we are in another New Year – 2018 already. I hope you had a good break over Christmas and the New Year. On Monday I’ll be returning to Westminster, but this week is a good chance for me to catch up on local issues and get a feel for what’s important to my constituents here locally as well as nationally, and to have a look forward to the coming year.
Labour has a positive message for the coming year. Jeremy’s new year message set out again our vision of a Britain offering opportunities for all, one where a Labour Government would implement the policies which so many people here in the north east welcomed in our election manifesto and which work for the many, not the few. Key to that message will be our concern for the NHS. Coming in the week that NHS chiefs announced that most pre-planned operations will be put on hold until the end of January, I think all of us would welcome the increased investment which Labour has promised for the NHS and Labour’s commitment to keeping the NHS public.
We have some excellent NHS services here in the north east and I know that, as we look forward to celebrating the 70th birthday of the NHS this year, my constituents are determined that our hospitals and other NHS services are delivered for the public good and not for private profit. We’ll be making sure that the Tories aren’t allowed to slip through massive changes to the NHS while Brexit dominates the agenda.
Tuesday of this week saw Shadow Rail Minister Rachel Maskell in Newcastle highlighting the Government’s shockingly poor rail policies for the north, services which sell our region short but which would unbelievably let Virgin East Coast off the hook of paying the payments they promised for running the franchise under the cloak of a reorganisation of rail services. All this at the same time we see passengers paying the price through a 3.4% hike in rail fares. We have experience up here of how a rail service can run successfully and make a profit under public ownership – which is exactly what East Coast mainline did! No wonder there’s a lot of support from my constituents for our policy of having directly run, modern and efficient train services.
So back in Westminster we’ll be challenging this shambolic Tory Government on their plans for the NHS, transport, funding for local government, and fire and rescue services; we know these and other issues are what make a difference to folk here in the North East.
Last month I had the chance to meet representatives of organ donor groups and NHS Blood and Transport to hear about how many more lives could be saved if more of us became organ donors. I was shocked to hear how many people are waiting for organ donation, many of them dying needlessly for lack of donors. Just before the Christmas break and following all-party support, the Government launched a consultation exercise on increasing the number of donors and asking whether we should look at an “opt out” donation system as they have in Wales.
Whatever your views on donation, please take part in the consultation and most of all, have the discussion about your own wishes with your family and friends. My friend Jon was fortunate to find a donor and have a successful heart transplant at our own Freeman Heart and Lung transplant unit and it has made an incredible difference to his life.
You can find the consultation online at https://engage.dh.gov.uk/organdonation.