Tom Blenkinsop to vote for trident renewal for jobs and security

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has announced he will vote for the creation of a new generation of Trident submarines.

The vote, to endorse the renewal of the Trident system via replacing the current ‘Vanguard Class’ of submarines with a new ‘Successor Class’, will take place this evening.

The issue is highly controversial in the Labour Party as, although it is current Labour Party policy to endorse the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is strongly opposed to renewal.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

Today I will vote for Labour Party policy and support the plan to renew the UK’s at sea nuclear deterrent.

I believe Britain maintaining a nuclear capability is key to our security as a nation and therefore provides us with numerous direct and indirect benefits.

It is ridiculous that when there is a clear Labour policy on this issue no one is sure whether our Shadow Defence team and the leader of our party will vote for, against or abstain.

Not only is it policy but this is a policy which was decided by ordinary members at conference. If Jeremy actually believed in party democracy as he claims, and didn’t just support it when it suits him, then he’d be voting with me this evening.

If Jeremy were to join the Shadow Defence Secretary and abstain on one of the most important security votes of the decade it would be just another sorry example of the lack of leadership in the party at the moment.

Thousands of high skilled manufacturing jobs around the UK are reliant on keeping and renewing the system. This factor means that Mr Corbyn, if he were to vote against renewal, would be voting for a measure which would threaten union members’ jobs. This may be food for thought for influential union leaders, such as Unite the Union’s Len McCluskey, who thus far have supported Corbyn’s leadership of the party.

Tom said:

A failure to renew Trident would put thousands of Unite members’ jobs at risk.

Polling suggests union members don’t think Jeremy is the right man to lead Labour and now he is potentially voting for a policy which would make many of them unemployed!

This just shows people like Len McCluskey are so focused on keeping Corbyn they are blind to damage his policies would do to the working people and security of this country.

It is believed that with or without the Labour Leader’s vote the motion to endorse the £31 billion Trident renewal plan will pass and the new generation of nuclear submarines will be in service before 2030.

New official figures show rise in pensioner poverty in the North East  

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed the proportion of pensioners living in poverty in the North East has increased.

The latest official figures show that the increases in pensioners living in low income households are the highest of any region of England.

This confirmation followed a question to the minister from Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

“While the percentage increases we are talking about here are small, they represent thousands of individuals in the North East and many in my constituency.

“The overall national picture shows poverty amongst pensioners hasn’t changed, yet the North East has seen an increase. As with so many issues, it seems as though the Tories are neglecting our region.

“Pensioners are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and this data shows that this government’s policies are failing them in the North East and in my constituency.”

The figures, released at the end of June, measure poverty in terms of those living in low income households.

They show that the proportion of pensioners living in relative poverty has increased by 2 percentage points – the highest increase of any region in England. During the same period in some regions of England, like the East of England, the percentage actually fell. The same figures also show there was a 1 percentage point rise in the number of pensioners living in absolute poverty – the joint highest of any English region.

 

Tom Blenkinsop condemns John McDonnell’s ‘insult’ to MPs

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has condemned John McDonnell for his comments at a pro-Jeremy Corbyn rally in London last night.

Tom Blenkinsop MP

The Shadow Chancellor accused his fellow Labour MPs of ‘plotting and conniving’ to remove Jeremy as leader and said the only good thing about them was that ‘as plotters they are f***ing useless’.

Mr McDonnell has today stated that his comments were intended as a joke.

Tom Blenkinsop MP said:

“John McDonnell has said what he said last night was joke, if it was then it fits perfectly with Jeremy’s leadership. Unfortunately the Labour Party is the butt of that joke and everyone has stopped laughing.

“Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn have claimed to be in favour of straight talking and honest politics. Well, MPs have made an honest assessment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and have been straight in expressing their concerns.

“John McDonnell should not be using the language he did to talk about colleagues or imply they are motivated by anything other than an honest assessment of Jeremy’s leadership. The fact he did so shows the contempt with which he views the majority of elected Labour MPs. That is not the attitude of a person who could ever help unite this party and I hope that Labour members will vote in the fresh leadership we need.”

Mr McDonnell’s comments followed the decision by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to allow Jeremy Corbyn on the Labour leadership ballot without the requirement to secure the support of any MPs. His challengers, including Angela Eagle, will be required to gain the support of 50 MPs.

In the build up to the decision pro-Jeremy Corbyn activists were accused of engaging in harassment and threats against NEC members and MPs, including Angela Eagle who had a brick put through her constituency office window.

“Faith school transport controversy settled in Redcar and Cleveland – but there is still a need for Central Government to give support to school travel” says Tom Blenkinsop MP

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (5th July 2016) welcomed the news that a long running controversy on who funded school transport for students at Catholic schools in Redcar and Cleveland has ended – but argued that national Government have a duty to underpin school transport. Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has today passed plans to withdraw discretionary transport to faith schools, after working with the schools to find a solution.  The decision – which mainly affected Sacred Heart School in Redcar and St Joseph’s Primary School in Loftus – was taken due to the council having to face decisions imposed on it by central Government to cut its budget by £26.3 million by 2020.

Sacred Heart School has now agreed to continue with a similar arrangement via a coach provider and St Joseph’s Primary has agreed to add a second minibus to its fleet and the council has agreed to assist with the costs of a vehicle in the first year.

Tom said “this is an honourable end to an issue that has been rumbling on since a previous administration in Redcar and Cleveland felt that this service would be unable to be supported given the sheer scale of budget cuts to be made.  The new solution actually keeps the present levels of service broadly alive and is, in fact, more cost effective than the previous scheme.”

“Having said that, it isn’t a decision any council or school should have forced into making, and it had upset many parents who felt they could be left out on a limb in terms of their decision to pursue faith schooling for their children.”

“Given that the self-same issues have now come to the fore in neighbouring Middlesbrough, it is clear that this is not the actions of one vindictive council, but a reflection of the impact the cuts to local authority spending are having on local communities.  Put simply, if the government are sincere in saying that they want parents to choose the form of education they deem fit for their children, then they should be prepared to support this aim financially by helping both councils and schools run transport schemes that fit the needs of pupils and parents.  The fact that they don’t is evidence that for them a cuts agenda comes above else.”

 

“PROFOUND SADNESS” AT NEWS OF THE DEATH OF 95 YEAR OLD LABOUR PARTY VETERAN, HARRY TOUT

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, and members of the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party today (5th July 2016) paid tribute to the life of 95 year old party veteran and local organiser, Harry Tout, who died on Sunday.

Harry, who was born in February 1921, had been a member of the Labour Party since the dark days of the 1930’s slump when as a lad working “in service”” for members of wealthy landowning families in his native County of East Sussex, he rebelled at the huge and growing gap in wealth and opportunity between the “haves” and the “have nots”” in his boyhood town of Lewes.

He served with distinction in the Second World War, fighting Nazism in the Western Desert and later whilst slogging up hundreds of miles along the spine of Italy, in a campaign famous for its ferocity.  Harry often recalled how one incident in that campaign – the description of his Eight Army comrades by Tory MP, Nancy Astor as “D-Day Dodgers” – probably added 500,000 votes overnight for Labour in the 1945 General Election.

After the war Harry moved to Grangemouth in Scotland where he met his wife, Cissie.  Later he transferred from the Grangemouth chemical works to ICI at Wilton and moved to Guisborough where he lived, latterly as a civil servant with the then DHSS, until a recent move into a nursing home.

Tom said “Harry Tout embodied the soul and ethos in one man.  Born into depression, only to end up fighting Fascism and Nazism, he came back from the battle field to rebuild a new Britain.  It was the spirit of people like Harry that built the NHS, a welfare state and a fairer nation.  His work over the decades for the Labour Party in Guisborough and East Cleveland will be remembered by everyone who worked with him or met him.  The true sadness is that many of the social conditions that moulded his beliefs are now with us again afresh.  Harry, I know, would cheer on all those now battling these new social evils.”

Bill Suthers, Chair of the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party, said “Harry had a special place in the hearts of local labour Party members and supporters.  That is why our Party HQ Building in Guisborough’s Wilson Street is called “Harry Tout House”.  Harry had since the 1950’s been a leading member of the local party.  A former Mayor of Guisborough and a town magistrate he embodied the civic virtues of his adopted town.  Throughout those years he worked tirelessly to keep the Labour Party banner flying high, acting as an unpaid Constituency Secretary for many years and as a branch officer in the Guisborough Ward Party.  The news of his passing will be met with sadness by a whole generation of Guisborough folk – regardless of party or vote.  Our job now is to live up to Harry’s history and Harry’s values.”

ENDS

Harry Tout 1 Harry Tout 2Note for Editors:  Two photographs of Harry Tout are attached

Tom Blenkinsop MP pledges his support for the Royal British Legion’s ‘Count Them In’ Campaign

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, declared his support for The Royal British Legion’s campaign after meeting with ex-service personnel on June 13.

 

RBL_TomBlenkinsop

 

The ‘Count Them In’ campaign’s aim is to improve information about the Armed Forces community in the UK by including Armed Forces related questions in the 2021 UK Census.

It is estimated that there are currently between 6.5 million and 6.7 million members of the Armed Forces community living in the UK. However, little is known about the exact numbers, location and needs of this significant group. Including new questions on the next census would provide public bodies, local authorities, and charities with valuable information to ensure they are able to deliver the best services they can for our Armed Forces community.

Following the meeting Tom said:

“It was an honour to meet with members of the Armed Forces community who, along with their families, make huge sacrifices for the freedoms we all enjoy.

“If we as a country and as politicians want to offer a better deal to our Armed Forces community we need to know more about them and their needs.  

“It cannot be right that our Servicemen and women, veterans and their families are effectively hidden from official statistics, and that’s why I’m backing the call for new questions to be added to the next UK Census. We count on them – let’s count them in.” 

Chris Simpkins, Director-General of The Royal British Legion, said:

 “As a nation we promise to provide lifelong care and support for those who serve our country. By adding questions to the 2021 UK Census, we can help public bodies and charities deliver the best services they can for our Armed Forces community, when and where it is needed most.

 “We thank Tom for adding his support to our campaign: together I’m confident that we can make the next census count for our Armed Forces community.”

You can find out more about the campaign by visiting the campaign website, www.britishlegion.org.uk/census, or by posting your own pledge of support on social media using the #CountThemIn hashtag.

 

Comments on incident at Boulby Potash Mine

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (17th June 2016) spoke of his alarm at the over the death of a worker at the East Cleveland Boulby Potash Mine in the early hours of this morning.

Tom said:  “The miner who died in the explosion was one of my constituents who lived in East Cleveland.

“My immediate thoughts – and I have no doubt the thoughts of the entire local community – are with his family and friends.

“We cannot allow this death to go unmarked.  Over the last decade and a half, the mine has been a safe working environment, certainly compared to years past where accidents were more frequent.  

“However, In the space of just a few months we have seen two tragic incidents. I am concerned that this must not become a pattern. Mines legislation requires a full investigation, and I need to be reassured that this will indeed happen.

“I would also want to be reassured that recent redundancies at the mine have not altered day to day working practices to the extent that risk may have been allowed to creep back in. In the near future I will want to meet with both the mine owners, ICL Ltd, and the mine unions on these issues.”

 

‘Recycling proposals and offering no new action’, Tom slams the Heseltine review

MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop criticised the Heseltine review in parliament today saying it would get ‘no marks for originality’ and fails to ‘call for the clear action needed’.

The report, he argued, recycles proposals from previous agreements and offers mostly vague aspirations for the area.

Where specific proposals are made the government seems hesitant to act on them. In response to questions from Tom Blenkinsop, Andrew Jones from the Department for Transport said the department would consider the electrification of the rail line between Northallerton and Teesport only after 2022 and would not include it in the current scheme as recommended. The Department for Education also failed to confirm whether it would act on the recommendation to prioritise the Tees Valley area in a national roll out of the National Teaching Service scheme.

In a debate on the subject in parliament Tom Blenkinsop said:

“This report is a missed opportunity. It fails to recommend action to save what’s left of the steel industry in Teesside, secure investment in the SSI site and back the Tees Valley’s businesses.

“The reality is, this report guarantees no additional action or extra funding from central government. It is essentially Lord Heseltine repeating an old shopping list that has been ignored by government before.

“I hope the government will pay more attention to these local aspirations now they have been endorsed by the former deputy leader of the Conservative party.

“But when I have asked questions of ministers relating to specific proposals in the report on transport, education and additional funding for the Redcar site they have either delayed answering or indicted there will be no follow up on the recommendations.

“Put simply this report and the government’s response to it are not good enough. The report asks the government to “consider”, “make assessment for” and “take account of” all sort of things. But it does not call for clear action to keep our steel industry alive, regenerate the SSI site or make us a world leader again.”

In the debate Mr Blenkinsop rejected Lord Heseltine’s claim that employment has recovered following the closure of the SSI site in the Autumn last year. Instead, he highlighted the fact that unemployment was up by 23% in his constituency since the closure and by 43% in Redcar.

Tom welcomes opening of public consultation on the future for “iconic” Guisborough Town Hall building

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today welcomed the news that Redcar and Cleveland Council had formally launched the formal consultation on possible future use for Guisborough’s historic Town Hall building.

As part of this process Guisborough residents are being encouraged to have their say on the future of the Town Hall as Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council wants to hear what local people think, to that end drop in sessions will be taking place on Monday 20 June between 3pm and 7pm and Tuesday 21 June between 3pm and 6pm.

Both events will start at Guisborough Town Hall so local people can get a feel for the building and then a question and answer session will be held at Sunnyfield House, on the other side of Westgate.

Tom said “This is a welcome step.  This is an iconic listed building which dominates the Market Place, and has been sadly neglected by past owners. Conscious of local feeling it was finally purchased at auction by the council last year.

“It is important that whatever final use the building is, it is one that meets what the people of Guisborough and the wider East Cleveland area. I encourage everyone to get along to the meetings or to give their views to the council on-line at  www.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk/guisboroughtownhall “

Tom warns that the government buses bill could wreck Lord Heseltine’s plans for the Tees Valley

The government has announced that their long awaited buses bill could stop councils running bus services and new council run services will be scrapped all together, a move which could damage Lord Heseltine’s plans for the Tees Valley.

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop, has today (8th June 2016) warned that the reliable bus service is key to Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley could be jeopardised by the government’s new busses bill.

Tom said: “The bus industry across the UK is in crisis. Figures out today to accompany the launch of the bill show there has been a fall of 27 million passenger bus journeys taken in England since last year – and this follows falls in past years.

“This is a bill with one major flaw in it – it prevents councils running their own bus services in areas where they will be needed.”    

“Figures show that since 2005, the number of miles covered by English local authorities supported buses has decreased by a huge 55 million miles. The annual bus stats also shows that bus fares have increased with fares in England increasing by 61% on average between March 2005 and March 2015.

“We were promised that all this would be reversed by the new buses bill which has been launched today, but the reality seems to show that these promises were hollow. We were promised that areas like the Tees Valley with a combined authority and a mayor would get new powers to “franchise” services in their area, but it looks as if this will only occur if the big bus companies are prepared to co-operate.

“The big issue is that the bill effectively outlaws local councils from running bus operations despite a large existing network of local council bus operators who can easily demonstrate they can run proper services for their communities

“Local councils – including Redcar and Cleveland – run their own direct bus services to meet areas of need. In my constituency outlying estates in Guisborough benefit from a council run shopping and commuter service linking the town centre with the outlying estates. Council buses service outlying areas like Easington and provide the only bus link to the East Cleveland Hospital in Brotton.  And on an evening, the “Local Link” services connects the villages of East Cleveland long after the dominant commercial operator, Arriva, have put their buses to bed in the garage. These could be at risk if the bill is not altered.

“Ironically, in his report yesterday, Lord Heseltine talked about the commuter flows in the Tees valley and how people need to be simply able to get to the future jobs he talked about. It looks like even if some of these jobs appeared, no one will be able to get to them.”

“If this buses bill is passed, then these areas could all suffer. This bill – which I know has been subject to constant lobbying from the likes of Arriva and Stagecoach since it was first announced – will have to be stringently examined line by line in the Commons and possible downsides like the loss of council services must be combated.”