Blog

I was invited to speak at the rally organised by local Labour Party activists outside James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough this afternoon.

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The terrific numbers of people from all walks of life who, despite the cold and rain, turned out for the rally at James Cook University Hospital, and all the members of the public who passed who showed their support, spoke volumes and it made crystal clear just how concerned everyone is about the state our precious NHS.

With 75,000 patients waiting in the back of ambulances, the thousands kept waiting in A&E and the tens of thousands who’ve had their operations cancelled or postponed and 40,000 nursing vacancies, we are facing the worst winter crisis on record in our NHS while the Prime Minister and her government sit on their hands.

Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely right to call for an emergency budget to rescue this sorry state of affairs.

We cannot go on expecting the overstressed and underpaid staff who soldier on regardless to care for us.

The rally at James Cook University Hospital along with others in London and elsewhere should not be necessary. The whole country knows the NHS is in crisis; that it is entirely preventable and has come about as the direct result of Tory policies. 

They say that they value the NHS, but their actions tell us that their real priority is the ever increasing privatisation of the NHS and a Labour Government will bring such naked profiteering to an end.

We need a Labour government that will properly fund the NHS, properly fund social care, and keep our key public services where they belong, in public hands.

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NHS crisis is a direct result of Tory policies

I was invited to speak at the rally organised by local Labour Party activists outside James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough this afternoon. The terrific numbers of people from all...

I'm delighted at the news that Syrian asylum seeker, Yousef Hasan, has been granted the right to stay in the UK.

I've been campaigning and making representation to the Home Office to seek refugee status for Yousef to allow him to stay with his family in their adopted home in Middlesbrough.

Yousef fled Syria in 2014 and travelled to the UK to join his family who has already been granted asylum. Since then, he and his family have had to endure an agonising wait.

Now, he has received correspondence from the Home Office granting him Leave to Remain for five years.

This is absolutely fabulous news for Yousef and his family and friends. They have all been through the most desperate of experiences fleeing war and torture in their troubled homeland of Syria.

I want to thank the Home Office and all the Ministers who have been involved in this heartbreaking case and I and sincerely grateful to them for listening to the representations we made to them. I also want to thank my MEP colleagues Jude Kirton Darling and Paul Brannen for their assistance and support throughout this process.

That Yousef can now get on with his life, and with his family, continue to make such a great contribution to our community, is a massive relief to all concerned.

Yousef Hasan granted right to stay in the UK

I'm delighted at the news that Syrian asylum seeker, Yousef Hasan, has been granted the right to stay in the UK. I've been campaigning and making representation to the Home...

Last Friday I visited the Carillion Construction Training School at Cargo Fleet in Middlesbrough.

I wrote a piece to the media about it and about what will now happen to the apprentices. The piece was sent to media outlets including the Gazette together with a photograph of me at the premises.

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I’d gone along to speak to the management to try and learn at first-hand what was happening to the 150 apprentices being trained there. I was and still am exceedingly anxious about the futures of these young people.

I am pursuing fresh lines of enquiry and will speaking further on the subject shortly.

Unfortunately, the staff at Carillion were not allowed to speak to me last Friday. The Gazette duly ran with the story of my visit but included these curious words; ‘He claims he visited the site on Friday only to find he was ‘unable to engage’ with staff’, followed by; ’It seems pretty clear that they are not permitted to speak about the situation, he claimed’.

Just in case there is any doubt, I want to assure those apprentices and all my constituents that I did indeed attend the premises as I described.

I am saddened that our local paper saw fit to cast doubt on my word. I’m at a loss to understand why they would qualify my remarks and very curious as to why they would go to the trouble of publishing a facsimile of the photograph I provided them with but my presence removed.

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I want to reassure my constituents that when I said I visited the Carillion premises that I did exactly that despite insinuations to the contrary.

I will continue to try and secure the best possible outcome for our apprentices.

ENDS

When I said I visited the Carillion premises, I did exactly that despite insinuations to the contrary

Last Friday I visited the Carillion Construction Training School at Cargo Fleet in Middlesbrough. I wrote a piece to the media about it and about what will now happen to...

IPPR report exposes Government attempt to massage figures on transport spending in the north. Five times more is spent in the south on top of investment being pulled from our region. Labour will put that right and invest in transport to ensure north can fulfil its economic potential.

My BBC Tees interview on 24th January 2018.

Government massages figures on transport spending in the North

IPPR report exposes Government attempt to massage figures on transport spending in the north. Five times more is spent in the south on top of investment being pulled from our...

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When architect William Peachy conceived Middlesbrough Railway Station and agreed the final design in 1873, he the Victorian engineers and their workforce were about to create a landmark building that was to become the first railway station in the North East to be built in the bold gothic style adopted in our capital and other major cities throughout the UK.

Opened in 1877, the generous proportions, sophisticated construction and elaborate detailing of the ‘new’ station made a clear statement about the rapidly growing ambitions and needs of the town as a destination and the industrial powerhouse dubbed ‘an infant Hercules’.

The station defies its age but has not been able to fully survive the damage inflicted by the air raid on August Bank Holiday Monday 1942. Although the station was repaired and various features such as the concourse and roof have been repaired or replaced over the past 60 years, the legacy of the bomb damage to the undercroft – the area under the main car park and the arches along Zetland Road – brought about the closure of the southern entrance in 2014.

Now a grade 2 listed building, repairs were going to be expensive and intricate. I have campaigned strongly for the necessary work to be planned and completed as quickly as possible so the station could be fully re-opened to commuters, visitors, students and business users. Last year, I was delighted at Network Rail’s announcement of £3m of investment to repair and restore the Grade II listed station roof and stonework.

Today, behind the scaffolding and netting is emerging a wonderful new façade. Network Rail’s Principal Contractor, engineers, technicians and craftsmen are engaged in undertaking the refurbishment that will be true to the principles and vision of their Victorian counterparts. They are to be congratulated for their commitment and expertise.

I was invited on 19th January 2018 to visit the work that is now well underway and see for myself both the scope and scale of the remedial work that has been undertaken and also the significant structural problems that still need to be addressed.

Much of this is out of sight of the public eye but, even to a lay person, the repairs to the slate and barrelled roofs, the masonry and other structural components demonstrates the exceptional care and workmanship that has used locally sourced materials and employed traditional skills in keeping with the status of this magnificent building as well as our town’s traditions.

When completed, we will witness a landmark restoration that both channels Middlesbrough’s heritage and re-states the town’s ambitions in much the same way as our forebears were keen to do 150 years ago.

We will be able to celebrate a symbol of the further revival of our town centre and the city scape that opens up from the station towards its newly restored gothic-styled twin, the Town Hall, as well as it being the entranceway to the exciting, state of the art developments in Middlehaven.

There is still much work to be done as solutions to the underpinning of the car park are resolved and I anticipate further reports on how the designers and engineers will accomplish that. I then look forward to a completion date being set when our station is fully operable and in readiness to receive the long-trains – the express trains that will link Middlesbrough once again to London in 2021.

We aspire to a great deal in Middlesbrough socially, commercially and economically. The railway station will be a beacon for those aspirations and, importantly, a modern transport hub at the heart of our modern and progressive sub-region.

ENDS

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Visit to see remedial works at Middlesbrough Railway Station

When architect William Peachy conceived Middlesbrough Railway Station and agreed the final design in 1873, he the Victorian engineers and their workforce were about to create a landmark building that...

Together with parliamentary colleagues Alex Cunningham and Mike Hill, I met with senior officers of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Mental Health Trust today at Roseberry Park Hospital to discuss and see at first hand some of the problems that continue to beset the regions flagship mental health facility.

I was completely dismayed at the failures to meet anything like acceptable construction standards. The list of defects in a brand new hospital from defective roofs to plumbing problems and much, much more besides is as long as your arm. The main construction contractor’s dreadful record reveals an almost cavalier attitude to proper construction standards and more worryingly to safety and security. It will cost a fortune to put this right.

Three Valleys Health is the PFI company that ultimately bears responsibility for the appalling work in the building of this key metal health facility. The company was formed for the sole purpose of building, delivering and then managing the hospital, but they have singularly failed in delivering what the contract demanded.

The building contractor Laing O’Rourke should be utterly ashamed of themselves for such shoddy workmanship, as should the facility management company Carillion. But how any of this work was ever passed as satisfactory is beyond me.

Fundamental remedial works are now necessary but the positives are the way in which the staff have responded going the extra mile, and many more besides, carrying on their work at Roseberry Park and moving to work in Hartlepool where some patients are being transferred to on a phased basis whilst remedial works are undertaken. They are totally professional and dedicated and they deserve our huge thanks and admiration.

Similarly when concerns were highlighted about fire safety, Cleveland Fire and Rescue Service have pulled out all the stops to ensure that patient safety isn’t compromised.

At the end of the day, the Trust contracted for a state of the art mental health facility. Whilst such a facility might have been designed, sadly that is not what was built.

The legal processes are underway to bring the PFI contract to an end and force Three Valleys to deliver what they promised, namely a fully functioning hospital fit for purpose.

This isn’t going to be resolved overnight but I am impressed at the way in which the Trust is trying to resolve this situation.  The costs that they have incurred, and continue to occur, are racking up and ultimately Three Valleys Health, and the banks that are behind them, have to make sure that our mental health trust is not out of pocket.

Some of the issues that have been revealed in the Roseberry Park fiasco have echoes in the interim Grenfell inquiry, not least being the way in which the whole issue of building regulation is implemented and policed.

The inspection system failed in Grenfell and it failed at Roseberry Park as well. Thankfully patients and staff at Roseberry Park are safe but these things should never have happened.

Together with my colleagues, I will continue to keep a very close eye on developments, but it would be good to receive an acknowledgement from Three Valleys and Laing O’Rourke that they bear the full financial responsibility here and they will do the right thing and do whatever it takes to put the job right.

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Dismay at construction and inspection failures at Roseberry Park Hospital

Together with parliamentary colleagues Alex Cunningham and Mike Hill, I met with senior officers of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Mental Health Trust today at Roseberry Park Hospital to...

Such huge job losses at the Boulby Potash Mine is shattering news.

The announcement by ICL that around 230 jobs are to go will impact massively in East Cleveland but will have consequences right across the Tees Valley. It is certainly not the kind of news workers and their families want at the start of the new year. My thoughts are with all of them and it is essential that those workers receive all the help they need.

They will be able to get help setting up their own businesses which is good news but many will want to re-train and I am therefore calling on the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to work quickly and closely with the Company, the Council and Trade Unions to make sure all those who need such training can access the full range of opportunities available should they need it.

ENDS

Such massive job losses at the Boulby Potash Mine is shattering news

Such huge job losses at the Boulby Potash Mine is shattering news. The announcement by ICL that around 230 jobs are to go will impact massively in East Cleveland but...

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On the last Friday before Christmas, I'm again visiting Middlesbrough Sorting Office to meet Post Office staff there.

It’s always a pleasure to meet staff in our local sorting office and I’m always amazed by the scope and scale of the operations there. We simply wouldn’t have Christmas without our posties!

Our postal workers do an incredible job handling the vast quantities of mail and parcels to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas. A post office is at the heart of every vibrant high street and rural community and this time of year shows just how much we depend on the service working well - which last year handled an incredible 138 million items.

It made no sense for the tory-led coalition in 2013 to sell off the Post Office, costing the taxpayer £1bn and the loss of 12000 jobs. Recent industrial action shows the overwhelming strength of feeling among postal workers and their Trade Union, the CWU, that they’ve had enough and that cutting jobs, wages and pensions is too high a cost in livelihoods for private shareholders to reap some £700m in dividends.

A future Labour Government will re-nationalise the Post Office and I will be telling the staff I meet tomorrow that I back their fight for fair pay and conditions and to bring an end the Scrooge-like mentality of their profit driven management.

I will also be wishing them all a very happy Christmas and thanking them for their hard work ensuring we all get our cards and presents in time for the big day.  

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Visiting Post Office staff at Middlesbrough Sorting Office

On the last Friday before Christmas, I'm again visiting Middlesbrough Sorting Office to meet Post Office staff there. It’s always a pleasure to meet staff in our local sorting office...

The government’s new rules on Council Tax are ‘devious’ and ‘underhand.’

It is this Government’s shameful failure to fund our public services appropriately that has left our Social Care system short of funds. That is a political choice by this Conservative government and this devious and underhand change to funding rules merely passes the buck for their failing austerity programme to local authorities.

Under the new funding rules local authorities will be able to increase council tax by 2.99% with a further 3% specifically to fund social care also available.

Local Councils like Middlesbrough are being asked to fund programmes which are the responsibility of the government in Westminster. People in my town and across the Britain are being taxed twice for the same thing. They pay their income tax to fund Public Services and then because the government chooses not to spend the requisite monies on those services they are asked to pay again in local council tax. More than ever we need a Labour government to end austerity and fund the public services we all rely on appropriately and not leave Local Councils to pick up the tab for the government’s abject failures.

ENDS

Government’s new rules on Council Tax devious and underhand

The government’s new rules on Council Tax are ‘devious’ and ‘underhand.’ It is this Government’s shameful failure to fund our public services appropriately that has left our Social Care system...

There are signs today that my call for pragmatism and to treat Peel Holdings as an ambitious investor in our local airport was justified.

The new business partnership with Super Break is a solid example of that ambition and flies (literally) in the face of those who have sought to criticise Peel’s commitment to the airport, passengers and to Teesside as a whole. May this be the first step towards an expanding programme of flights from our local airport.

It is also the time for the Tees Valley Mayor to give up his posturing commitment to buy Durham Tees Valley Airport and instead concentrate on negotiating with Peel ways the public sector can complement their vision for DTVA and look to integrate air transport links with other road, rail and public transport networks to boost our local economy and jobs.

I congratulate Super Break and Peel Holdings who have negotiated this deal and wish both parties well in making the programme of offers succeed.

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Super Break deal shows ambition for the future of our airport

There are signs today that my call for pragmatism and to treat Peel Holdings as an ambitious investor in our local airport was justified. The new business partnership with Super...

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