Archive for Uncategorized

Tom’s comments on the approval of plans for 128 homes at Swans Corner

Commenting on the news that Redcar and Cleveland Regulatory Committee, which looks at planning applications, have approved plans for 128 homes at Swans Corner near Nunthorpe Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop said:

Today’s decision to grant planning permission for these new houses, taken together with the previous approval by Middlesbrough Borough Council for 138 houses at Gypsy Lane and the long standing barrier of trying to cross land in the ownership of the National Trust at Ormesby Hall, means the East Middlesbrough by-pass scheme is no longer likely to happen.

The government must take the blame, if there was a will to solve this problem they could find a way. After raising the by-pass in parliament, I had a meeting with Patrick McLoughlin MP, when he was still Transport Minister, pointing out the need for a solution to the traffic issues across South Middlesbrough.  If he had wished he could have called this application in and also queried the earlier Gypsy Lane application while plans for a by-pass were put forward. However, he did absolutely nothing.

The combination of a Tory Transport Minster refusing to call this application in for review, the casting vote of a Tory Chair of Planning and the lack of a local plan, which was voted down by the joint efforts of Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors, to strengthen planning regulations means that is likely that the bypass will never happen

“It is important to look for new ways of easing the congestion in the area, and that has to mean government cash and the will to find a solution.


Hemlington Medical Centre to Close after long fight

Hemlington Medical Centre has been forced to close after the Local NHS CCG could not find anyone to run it.

After looking at a number of options including a new provider for a like for like service, an extension to the existing contract and the option for an existing surgery to extend in to the area, South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group will end GP services at Hemlington Medical Centre on 30th September.

Local Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:

This is a sad end to a long fight to keep GP services in Hemlington. After securing an extension to the existing contract this is a hard blow to the thousands of Hemlington residents who use the centre.

Since 2010 the Conservative led governments have closed every new medical centre, in my constituency, that the previous Labour government opened. This is a massive step backwards for the NHS in our area.

This is just another victim of the GP recruitment crisis which this government has done nothing about. Time after time reports have said that the North East is the hardest place to recruit and maintain GP’s but nothing has been done to solve this crisis which will leave thousands of my constituents looking for a new GP.

I will be raising this issue in Parliament when it returns.

Liam Fox’s speech hints at ‘abandoning steel industry’ says Tom

The Secretary of State for the new Department for International Trade has said the government ‘must turn our back on…voices that tell us: it’s OK you can protect bits of your industry’ in a speech to the right wing Conservative Way Forward group.

The speech, leaked to the Times newspaper on Saturday, urged the government to be ‘unreconstructed, unapologetic free traders’. Such an approach would have serious consequences for the UK steel industry, which has suffered following a flood of cheap Chinese steel into the European and UK markets.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, who last week asked Mrs May to implement ‘trade defence measures’ on Chinese steel dumping, said the comments were worrying:

This government’s promise of a comprehensive Industrial Strategy gave many people employed in the steel industry hope that Theresa May’s government would actually take UK steel’s concerns seriously.

However, this speech suggests that Liam Fox is unwilling to help protect the industry from the dumping of Chinese steel. That steel is sold in Europe and elsewhere by Chinese state-owned companies at below cost price – something no one can compete with.

I believe that on a level playing field UK steel would be able to compete and could be a world leader. But we’re not on a level playing field and we never will be if the government listens to Liam Fox and abandons UK steel to the forces of this distorted market.

Liam Fox’s speech also drew controversy by referring to British businesses as ‘fat and lazy’. No. 10 has said that the Secretary of State for International Trade was merely ‘expressing private views’.

Read Tom’s letter to the PM asking her to help provide ‘certainty’ over Teesside’s future

Tom has written to the Prime Minister to ask her to provide ‘more certainty’ on Teesside’s future and to commit funds to the region.

160826 Letter to PM

The letter follows several media reports that Mrs May may be planning to block the introduction of city-region mayors, including the Mayor for the Tees Valley.

The elected mayor was intended to lead on various aspects of a regional strategy for Teesside economy, including those recommended by Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley Opportunity Unlimited report. In particular, the letter references the regeneration of the former SSI steelworks site at Redcar. The mayor was expected to lead a ‘Mayoral Development Corporation’ tasked with the regeneration of the site.

Tom said:

The Prime Minister has up until this point added to uncertainties over Teesside’s future. The reports that she is considering scrapping plans to introduce a Mayor for the Tees Valley means that the future of the development strategy for our region and regeneration of the former SSI site are in doubt.

As well as that, Theresa May’s mantra that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ hasn’t actually clarified what our future relationship with the EU will look like. Whether the UK will remain a part of the single market and comply with EU industry standards will have a massive knock-on effect for businesses in Teesside. We need certainty to attract investment and protect jobs in our region.

I worry that prolonged uncertainty about the mayor and Brexit will damage our economy here in the Tees Valley.

I have asked for the PM to commit to supplying the funding our region previously got from the EU, and to immediately clarify her position on the introduction of city-region mayors.

Change to Momentum rules ‘sinister’

Momentum, the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaigning organisation, has changed its code of conduct to remove its commitment to ‘non-violence’.

One of those who argued for the change is Jill Mountford, a member of the openly Trotskyite group ‘Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’ (AWL). Despite her membership of the AWL she remains a leading figure in the Momentum organisation. Ms Mountford argued that the change in rules was necessary to allow for members’ right of self-defence while on protests.

A statement from Momentum cited World War Two and apartheid as examples of situations where violence would be legitimate.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, commented on the change with concern:

This change is both ludicrous and sinister.

It shows that Trotskyites within Momentum have a huge influence over the organisation and are shaping it in the direction they want to see: extra-parliamentary resistance to capitalism and the state.

I am sure new members of the Labour Party and Momentum will be either puzzled or concerned by the change. Most joined to support Jeremy Corbyn not to violently resist police in the streets!

The purpose of this alteration is to give violent protesters leeway in the organisation. It is frankly unbelievable that Momentum has changed its code of conduct because of hypothetical worries about a fascist invasion or the imposition of apartheid, as they have claimed. If either of those were to happen I imagine we’d all have more to worry about than getting kicked out of Momentum.

I have had many strong disagreements with my local Teesside Momentum group but I would hope they would distance themselves from this change and recommit to non-violence.

The original news story can be found here.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour Party nominates Owen Smith, despite attempted ‘entryism’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party (CLP) last week voted to nominate Owen Smith as the next leader of the Labour Party.

The vote, 23-12 in favour of Owen, was welcomed by MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop, who also nominated the challenger in the contest.

Tom said:

“I am really pleased with this overwhelming vote to support Owen Smith as our next Labour leader.

“I know some of those who voted for Owen at this meeting supported Corbyn in the last election, which I think says a lot about both Corbyn’s leadership and Owen’s radical and practical vision for our country.

“As well as our local party and unions such as Community and GMB, polling shows the general public also believe Owen should be the next leader of the Labour party. I hope party members and supporters listen to these voices and vote for Owen Smith.”

The vote was carried despite one Jeremy Corbyn supporter, who is not a Labour party member, trying to enter the meeting using someone else’s membership card.  CLP officers spotted the discrepancy and ensured the individual was prevented from participating in the meeting.

Tom said:

“I am grateful that vigilant staff prevented this attempted entryism from influencing our nomination meeting. I will be informing the national party of the incident and will ask that they provide additional support to CLPs around the country to stop these sort of underhand tricks undermining the nominations process.

“If this is happening in local nomination meetings then we must be aware of what Corbyn supporters from outside our party may be doing to undermine the upcoming national voting process.”

This follows the news that Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed evidence from Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, of hard-left groups organising to influence the leadership election.

Tom’s comments on more Job losses at Boulby Potash Mine

Commenting on news that Cleveland Potash are cutting another 140 Jobs Tom Blenkinsop, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, where the mine is located, said:

Tom at Boulby mine with on-site GMB and Unite representatives

Tom at Boulby mine with on-site Unite and GMB representatives

“This is very concerning news as it comes just a week after another accident at the mine.

“Mines by their nature are hazardous but there has been a marked increase in incidents in recent months. In April 11 miners were trapped underground for hours when a fire cut them off, in June a gas blowout killed John ‘Richie’ Anderson, last week a worker was put in to and induced coma for two days after suffering a serious electric shock and there have been other health and safety incidents since the workforce was reduced at the beginning of the year.

“I will be meeting with the chief inspector of mines, Bob Leeming, Tomorrow (Tuesday 16th August) to talk about the series of accidents in recent months and since the initial redundancies were announced.

“Safety must be the first priority in any potentially dangerous workplace and I will be seeking assurances from the mines owners that they have taken this into account when deciding on these new job losses.

“I already have concerns that the new 11.5 hour shifts could have an effect on safety and I would like a guarantee that proper consultations will take place if there are any further changes to the shift pattern and that the high temperatures and hazardous conditions are taken in to account when changes are made.

“My thoughts are with the workforce and their families at this difficult time, I will do all I can to help them. I have already contacted on-site union representatives and I will be working closely with them through the redundancy process. I would also like to reiterate the calls I made for enhanced redundancy payments when previous job losses were announced.”

You can read Tom’s concerns about redundancy payments here.

GMB joins Community, USDAW and the MU in nominating Owen Smith

GMB logo

The GMB union is the fourth union to nominate the challenger Owen Smith for Labour leader. It is also the first to take its decision via a general vote of members.

The union, which represents over 600,000 working people, voted for Owen over the current leader Jeremy Corbyn by 60% to 40%.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said:

Unionised working people are having their say on this Labour leadership contest. Steelworkers, binmen, lollypop ladies, defence sector workers, welders, factory workers, bus drivers and thousands of others are saying they need a Labour government – they need Owen Smith for leader.

I hope that the voices of these organised working people will be heard over heckles of disorganised protesters who for too long have been allowed to drown out serious concerns about our present leadership.

It is no coincidence that the first union to nominate a candidate by a ballot of all its members nominated Smith by such an overwhelming margin. Tim Roache he is a real leader and one who listens to the working people of this country.

I hope Unison will follow GMB’s lead in endorsing the only candidate in this election who can save the Labour party and the NHS we created.

For more details visit GMB’s website.

Captain Cook museum to be refurbished, leading to ‘confused’ protest

Tom Blenkinsop MP has queried a proposed ‘march to save’ the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton.

A protest is due to take place against the supposed ‘closure’ of the museum, which is due to receive a refurbishment. The museum will only close temporarily to allow for this work.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton pays tribute to the legendary navigator’s life. Cook is credited, among other things, with being the first western explorer to reach the east coast of Australia and Hawaii.

Tom, who is himself from Marton, said:

The organisers of this march on the museum are obviously confused.

The story of Captain Cook is a huge part of the Marton’s history – if the museum was under threat I would be the first to protest.

I have been assured by Middlesbrough councillors the only the reason the museum is closing temporarily is because significant funding has become available for a much needed refurbishment.

I am concerned that this march might worry residents for no reason when really we should be welcoming the funding made available to help recognise one of Marton’s and Yorkshire’s most celebrated sons.

Tom’s Comments on the European Regional Development Fund

Commenting on news that payments from the £3 billion EU development fund were suspended just days after the Brexit vote, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Businesses across Teesside and East Cleveland have benefited from some of the £3billion European Regional Development Fund which is designed to improve economic growth in areas like ours.

“The Tories inability to guarantee match funding will means that the money put into the North East by the EU is sitting in a government bank account and is not creating the jobs which the area desperately needs.

“The future of the ERDF needs to be made clear by the new Chancellor and those, like Boris Johnson and local UKIP Councillors, who were part of leave campaign which guaranteed that the North East would lose no funding need to make sure this happens.

“So much for the Northern Powerhouse, James Wharton who campaigned to leave the EU has been removed as the Northern Powerhouse minister and won’t have to clean up the mess he has made on Teesside and across the North.”