Archive for Culture

Tom to attend veteran miners’ session at Cleveland Ironstone Museum

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, will be dropping in at the East Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum in Skinningrove this coming Saturday (1st February 2014) to meet former local ironstone miners and to hear a talk on the history of North Skelton Mine  – the last Cleveland iron Mine which closed 50 years ago this month.

Tom was invited to attend the session by the Museum after he called on the Government to award the mine ‘National Status’ as a mark of respect for the 50th anniversary of the end of the Cleveland Ironstone Mining industry.

Tom said:
“I am delighted to be asked to attend and to meet the old miners, they are a living part of our local history and I know they will have many stories to tell. The North Skelton mine was one of the longest lived of the East Cleveland Pits as well as one of the most productive and the deepest. The mine and the community, has a story of human endeavour to tell too.

“I am also delighted to be supporting the work of the Museum – itself now a key part of East Cleveland’s tourist heritage. The museum has local support and I want to see it supported nationally too.”

Call for ‘National Museum of Ironstone Mining’ for East Cleveland to mark 50th anniversary of the closure of the last Cleveland mine

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (January 16th 2014) called on the floor of the House of Commons for the Skinningrove Mining Museum to be made a ‘National Museum for Ironstone Mining’ to mark the 50th anniversary of the last shift at North Skelton mine – the last of the Cleveland ironstone mines.

Tom said:
“I made this call on the eve of that closure which happened on the 17th January 1964. This was a significant date; in the words of one local paper “Its passing ended a way of life which brought industrial might to Teesside and moulded generations of men of iron”. Ironstone mining built Teesside’s industrial pre-eminence in Victorian years, and laid the foundation for today’s steel industry – still a crucial part of our economic base today.

“The mining villages built in East Cleveland are still alive and the memory of their mining heritage is part of the local consciousness.   The miners built up the social institutions – from the Co-op to the chapel – that still survive today.  Miners, their families and descendants – and I am one of those descendants – also became community leaders and representatives. Indeed, the first Labour MP in my present constituency, Billy Mansfield, was a checkweighman at the Grinkle Mine in Easington.

“The mining museum at Skinningrove is a valuable and unique repository of that industry, the pitmen and their communities and that is why I have asked the Leader of the House to mark this anniversary by designating the Skinningriove Museum a national museum, similar to the National Railway Museum in York and the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. This would allow for the museum trustees and committee to approach a far wider range of sponsors and funders based on a national status.”

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Tom backs crack down on bookies roulette machines

Tom Blenkinsop MP today (4th December 2013) backed calls for the Government’s recommendations on gaming machine stakes and prizes to include restrictions on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), the roulette machines in betting shops that have been described as ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’.

FOBTs are high-speed, high-stake casino gaming machines recently banned in Ireland due to concerns about their addictive characteristics. They are available in betting shops on every British high street with spins of £100 every 20 seconds. The addictive roulette machines have led to betting shops clustering on the high street.

There have been multiple reports of FOBTs causing crime, and last year, there were an average of 165 incidents a week in betting shops requiring police assistance.

Last week the Labour Party blocked the automatic passage of a Government consultation which would keep the highly contentious machines at £100 per spin maximum stake. Now a swell of support led by Labour MP, Tom Watson, has gathered to urge the Government to place sensible restrictions on FOBTs.

Tom said:
“The Government had the chance to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 and has once again tried to kick the issue into the long grass. They ignored the evidence available, choosing to maintain the £100 max stake and £500 max prize available on FOBTs.

“FOBTs are arguably in breach of all three licensing objectives of the 2005 Gambling Act: they are not fair and open, they are associated with crime and disorder and they harm young and vulnerable people.

“Our high street is not the place for high-speed, high-stakes casino gaming. These machines have been multiplying for over ten years with increasing concerns about their dangers. It can’t go on any longer and I will support any move that leads to the Government taking immediate action on this issue.”

‘Lack of leadership is a threat to the future of local libraries’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, responding today (6th November) to findings by the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee report into library closures warned that ‘Government cuts are borderline forcing Local Authorities to risk breaking the law’.

The report highlighted that many councils were unaware about what was expected of them and those who cut library services are at risk of failing in their legal duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” service.

Tom said:
“Libraries often act as the hub of a community so threats of closure often lead to a passionate community response – and rightly so. Therefore, this is an important cross-party report that clearly highlights Government failure to act and to provide guidance for under pressure local authorities. This is particularly evident on the subject of libraries under threat or being closed, and on what a “comprehensive and efficient” service should look like – and the legal requirements surrounding that.

“This vacuum of leadership from Government ministers is having a dramatic impact on local authorities being able to manage library services on a shoestring budget. This is clearly evident in my constituency where Hemlington Library is under threat due to budget cuts. We now see that there is a strong community campaign against the proposed closure and it would be a devastating loss for the area if it was to be lost.

“Unfortunately, Ministers seem unwilling to act. The only commitment they have given to dealing with library closures is a report by the end of 2014, which is frankly, a disgrace. Two more years of strained council budgets will have passed by then.  The Government needs to work alongside the Arts Council to develop ideas and structures for libraries to remain a practical and affordable service as well as a valuable community resource.”

‘Lib Dems will be letting Jeremy Hunt off the hook if they abstain’

Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has claimed that if Lib Dem MPs choose to abstain in a Commons vote calling for an investigation into whether the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, broke the ministerial code over his handling of the News Corporation BSkyB bid they will ‘effectively be letting him off the hook’.

Tom’s criticisms come following revelations that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had told fellow Lib Dem MPs “to stay away” from the vote. The motion, tabled by Labour, is demanding an investigation into whether the culture secretary breached the ministerial code by failing to give “accurate and truthful information to Parliament” over his dealings with News Corp at the time and by failing to “take responsibility” for his special adviser Adam Smith.

Tom said:
“This latest act of cowardice is just another sign that the Lib Dems are nothing more than Tory puppets in this Coalition. Whilst they may claim that they are not supporting Jeremy Hunt, failing to even turn up to vote for Labour’s motion will ensure that his actions remain unchallenged and the sorry state of affairs continues.

“As with tuition fees and the NHS debacle voters won’t forget that, when it mattered most, ministerial cars meant more to them than representing their constituents. For the Lib Dems to gain any sense of credibility they need to show some moral backbone and vote for transparency on this issue.”

Second Court Victory for Pub Landlady on Showing Premier League Matches ‘ A Victory for a Free Media and Free Enjoyment’

The news that a Portsmouth pub landlady has again won a court case against Sky TV and the Premier League who were trying to block her from showing premier league matches from foreign satellite broadcasters was described as a victory for common justice and common enjoyment by Tom Blenkinsop, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

Tom said today (February 28th 2012) “Mrs Karen Murphy firstly took on the multi-millionaires in a David and Goliath European Court battle against the cash and the power of both Sky TV and the Premier League – and won. Now these powerful bodies tried to crush her in the High Court – only to lose again.

The law that was used to prosecute pub landlords and club stewards from showing these matches on non-Sky outlets, and instead forcing them to pay extortionate sums to Sky if they did want to show these matches, is dead.

This is a victory for common enjoyment and for the future of many pubs and clubs, for whom this will be a lifeline. The total Sky stranglehold was always unjust – the TV equivalent of saying you could only read a newspaper in a pub if it was one owned by Rupert Murdoch. That statement would be laughed out of court.

This ought also to stop the practice of Sky sending round paid snoopers to pubs and clubs on a Saturday afternoon, and then, on the evidence they found, taking licensees and club committees to court, where they – and there have been licensees hit by this in my constituency – have been fined thousands of pounds by magistrates upholding a supposed law protecting wealthy clubs and Sky TV.

This is a decisive victory for common sense. Mr Murdoch and the billionaire owners of Premier League clubs should now finally accept that they have lost and that simply because of technical advances like live broadband streaming, trying to prevent match access is futile. The Premier League should accept this, and try to come to a reasonable settlement with the licensed trade instead.”

Tom Blenkinsop Calls For Football Supporters To Be Given More Influence Over Their Clubs’ Future

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today spoke in a debate in Parliament on football governance and called for supporters to be given a more influential role in the running of their clubs. He also took the opportunity to praise the dedicated supporters’ clubs of Guisborough Town and Middlesbrough FC.

Tom said: “The DCMS Select Committee recently published a report on football governance and the Government responded. I took the opportunity in this debate to establish what progress has been made by the Government on these issues. One issue I was keen to raise was that the Government asserted in its response to the report that “every club should have a dedicated and mandatory supporter liaison officer” and that “every club should officially recognise the relevant supporters groups or trusts and keep an open dialogue with them” and that “these conditions should be an explicit condition of the football licensing model recommended by the Committee”. Football Clubs are, and should remain, part of the fabric of local communities and it is essential that their supporters have a role in influencing the future direction of the Club that they love.

“It is vital that the Government continues to push for greater fan involvement, and that real change and reform is implemented, rather than a half-hearted solution perhaps preferred by certain people with vested interests.

“Our local clubs, Middlesbrough and Guisborough Town, which I regularly watch have dedicated supporters clubs like the Middlesbrough FC Disabled Supporters Association, the Official Supporters’ Club and Middlesbrough Supporters South who keep Teessiders together in the South, and even arranged for parmos to be made for Boro fans in central London for last night’s Middlesbrough v Sunderland FA Cup replay.

“I am looking forward to talking to supporters from both clubs when they meet in the North Riding Senior Cup Semi-Final Wednesday 15th February.

Tom Blenkinsop MP urges Government to create “war memorial fund”

Tom Blenkinsop MP today (12 January 2012) tabled a written Parliamentary question asking Defence ministers to create a British War Memorial fund.

Tom said: “It is vital that we remember those who gave up their lives to fight for freedom and for our country. War memorials are a good way for us to honour those who sacrificed themselves for us, so it is imperative that they are maintained.

I know local councils clean war memorials every year, but doing so is a costly process, especially when they are very elaborate like at Saltburn, and when Teesside local authorities are facing such financial hardship.

I have listened to local Royal British Legion members’ concerns, alongside those of local councillors, and asked the Secretary of State for Defence to provide a dedicated fund for the maintenance of cenotaphs.

The Government has a duty to help Britons remember those who sadly lost their lives in wars, and I hope that they will commit the necessary funding for the establishment of such a fund.”

Divert Olympic Torch to honour Guisborough pioneer Olympian

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, is writing to sports ministers and the British Olympic Organising Committee to ask if the local route for the Olympic Torch relay could be altered so that a pioneer Guisborough Olympic athlete could be honoured.

Tom said today “I am asking for the torch relay in Redcar and Cleveland to be slightly altered to honour Willie Applegarth. Willie was a pioneer British athlete who was born and lived in Guisborough. In 1912 he was one of the British team at the Stockholm Olympics, winning a bronze medal in the 200 metre event, and winning Gold in the 4 X 100 relay. Later on he became a world record holder in the 200 metre distance race.”

“He was a man who helped build Britain’s base in world athletics and at the, then, new Olympics. Given that next year’s London Olympics will be the centenary year of his own Olympic triumph i feel it is only proper that the torch is borne through his home town.”

“I am writing to both Sports Ministers and the London Olympics Organising Committee to propose that on the local leg of the torch relay, the torch runs from Redcar to Guisborough and from there back to Marske on the original route. This will both honour Willie and make sure no town on the existing route loses out.”