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Banners marching through Durham City Centre at the Miners' Gala 2018

       

On Saturday 14 July 2018, I was delighted to attend in the 134th Durham Miners’ Gala, and of course it goes without saying that this event was a huge success.

The Gala was once again incredibly well attended, with an estimated 200,000 people from Durham and across the UK joining the celebration of our mining heritage. It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the fabulous weather, and having such an good time with friends and family.

As well as being a great day out, the Miners’ Gala is a hugely symbolic event, reminding us all of the mining history of Durham and the wider region, the solidarity and strong sense of social justice our mining communities have left for us all, and of course remembering those miners who lost their lives working in the difficult and dangerous conditions in the mines.  It is also a chance for us to recognise the important role that our Trade Unions have played in securing workers’ rights throughout the years.

                  

 Roberta waving to the balcony at the Royal County Hotel

This year I had the pleasure of joining members from our Sherburn branch, and we marched through Durham with the Sherburn Colliery banner, and their fantastic band. It is always great to catch up with people marching through Durham, as well as meeting some new faces on the way!


I was also able to join our City of Durham Labour Party banner for a while and catch up with Angela Hankin, our Chair, and local members too. A great time was being had by all.

                                  

The Labour Party Tea Tent was again a huge success, thanks to the hard work of our fundraising officer Hannah Walter, and our incredible, committed members. There were hordes of people popping in for a cuppa and a sandwich or one of the delicious cakes on offer. I am always so impressed by all of the work that not only goes into the day itself, but also in organising everything in the lead up to the Gala and so my thanks go to the officers of the CLP, and all of the volunteers who made the Tea Tent such a huge success. As usual, it proved to be the best place to go for much needed refreshments!

There were a range of speakers this year, including the Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, who spoke on a wide range of subjects, including health, education, poverty, and the unions.

Jeremy was joined by Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary, as well as Dennis Skinner MP, Ian Lavery MP, Joe Whitworth, Chair of The Durham Miners’ Association, and Alan Cummings, Secretary of the DMA.

This year, the stage set up and the acoustics for people listening was superb, and it was great to see this being used to its full effect with live music performed by Billy Bragg following the speeches.

Joe Whitworth, Chair of the Durham Miners' Association, giving the vote of thanks on stage

Unfortunately, I did have to leave the platform a bit early as I had to make my way to Durham Cathedral for the blessing of the banners. It was an especially significant service this year, as the County Durham Women’s Banner was blessed as we celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage.

The service at the cathedral is always so special, and hearing the bands perform inside the cathedral is such a unique and moving experience. This year was no exception, and everyone in the cathedral enjoyed the remarkable atmosphere.

The blessing of the banners  - picture courtesy of Durham Cathedral

Of course, my thanks must go to Alan, Joe, Ross Forbes, and many other from the Durham Miners’ Association for working so hard to make sure the Miners’ Gala continues to be such a hugely important event in Durham. As well as everyone involved with the DMA, they have once again done an incredible job in organising a very successful Gala. A special thank you must also go to Alan Cummings who, despite having so much to do during the Gala, found time to hand out water to people who had been standing in the heat for hours!

Alan Cummings giving out water to the thirsty crowd!

If you want to help support the Miners’ Gala, and ensure it continues in the future, you can find out about become a Friend of the Miners’ Gala by visiting the website www.friendsofdurhamminersgala.org

Durham Miners' Gala 2018

Banners marching through Durham City Centre at the Miners' Gala 2018         On Saturday 14 July 2018, I was delighted to attend in the 134th Durham Miners’...

On Saturday 30 June, I spoke at the Women’s Gala, which took place in Wharton Park in Durham City.


As July 2018 marks the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote in the UK, this event was organised to celebrate this important anniversary.


The original Women’s gala ran from 1921 to 1977, and was started by women who were part of the labour movement, and wanted to provide political education for newly enfranchised women.


At its peak, the gala attracted thousands to Durham to hear speakers such as Barbara Castle, Jennie Lee and Clement Attlee, as well as take part in activities and events aimed at improving political engagement amongst women. 2018 saw a range of speakers once again, and I was delighted to speak alongside fellow MPs Chi Onwurah, Helen Goodman and Sharon Hodgson, as well as Clare Williams from Unison, Dame Vera Baird and Jude Kirton-Darling MEP.


The event was a wonderful day out for families from across the region, with live music from Ladies of Midnight Blue, an all-women brass duo, and Mums in Durham choir. There was also plenty of activities for children and families such as mini-golf and a women’s heritage trail.


This gala also gave us the chance to celebrate the contribution that Durham made to the women’s movement. The first petition for Women to get the vote from County Durham was presented to Parliament in 1869, and there is a strong history of political engagement and education for women in region with the Miners’ Gala stating in 1951 that “the Women’s Organisation plays a large part in the strength of the Labour movement in Durham” and the success of the Women’s Gala shows that this is still true today.

It also allowed us to reflect on how the suffragette movement still has relevance, as we seek to address gender pay inequality and increase female representation in politics and public life.

Alongside these important issues though, it was wonderful to see so many families enjoying the fabulous weather, and taking part in a range of activities, such as mini-golf, mini-cars and football games organised by the Foundation of Light. We even saw local Brownie units on hand to teach people how to make mini-Suffragette banners, and solidarity bracelets! A number of women’s banners were on display throughout the event, and families had the opportunity to attend a banner blessing at St Cuthbert’s Church after the speeches.

The event also had numerous stands for visitors to find out more about women’s organisations, trade unions and not-for-profit organisations, as well as space for voter registration to try and drive up participation of women in politics. It was encouraging to see so many visitors finding out more about the important work that these organisations do.


Wharton Park was a fantastic venue, and it was great to see so much going on in this wonderful setting. It was particularly fitting as this was the same venue as the original Women’s Gala, and the first Miners’ Gala.


My thanks go to Councillor Maura McKeon, who originally conceived the idea of bringing back the Women’s Gala, and to the rest of the organising committee – Councillor Marion Wilson; Vera Baird QC; Aurelia Smith; Val Hudson, Clare Williams; Susan Egglestone and Chris Fletcher - for all their hard work in making this idea a reality, as well as all of the people and organisations who supported the event.


My thanks must also go to all those who came along to the Gala and help make the event a huge success.

Roberta speaks at the 2018 Durham Women's Gala

On Saturday 30 June, I spoke at the Women’s Gala, which took place in Wharton Park in Durham City. As July 2018 marks the centenary of the 1918 Representation of...

It has been a very busy and complicated week in Parliament as MPs voted on the Lords amendments of the European Union Withdrawal Bill, with several hours of debate and dozens of votes. This is a hugely important matter to the country and I have received many emails and letters from constituents sharing their thoughts and asking my opinion, as Brexit will of course have a big impact on Durham. I wanted to provide an update on what happened in parliament and to explain to constituents how I voted.

Since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, I have been working with my Labour colleagues to campaign for the best Brexit package possible. However, I am very concerned by the growing divisions that have been created in our society by Brexit. This week I supported all of the Lords amendments and voted against the Government’s rejection of them, except amendment 51, which I abstained.

Labour believes that in order to protect jobs, the economy, rights and to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland we need to negotiate a strong single market deal, and we do not think that the European Economic Area (EEA) is the best way to achieve this. The EEA does have several attributes, including ensuring a high level of participation in the single market, but it also has very significant drawbacks, for example, it means that the UK has little say over EU rules. This is why I abstained over the vote for this amendment.

I instead voted for Labour’s amendment, 51 a, which set out “to ensure the United Kingdom has full access to the internal market of the European Union, underpinned by shared institutions and regulations, with no new impediments to trade and common rights, standards and protections as a minimum.” This amendment underlines our determination to retain the benefits of the single market and build on commitments in our manifesto.

I share many concerns that not being part of a customs union could lead to a hard border in Northern Ireland. Negotiating a new comprehensive customs union with the EU is the best way to prevent this, and also to ensure there are no tariffs or customs checks with the EU, which will help support British manufacturing industry. I voted for in favour of the Lords amendments 1 and 2, and against the Government’s rejection of this.

I strongly agree believe that Parliament should be able vote on the final Brexit deal proposed by the Government. This is important to ensure that the process of Britain exiting from the European Union is carried out in a democratic way.

That is why, along with my Labour colleagues, I voted in favour of the Lords amendment 19, and I was very disappointed that the Government voted to disagree with the amendment. I understand that the Prime Minister made several concessions to some Conservative MPs just before the vote to convince them to vote this way. These concessions are yet to be made public and I hope that when we find out what they are, they will ensure that Parliament has a final say on the Brexit deal.

Please be assured that with my Labour colleagues, I will continue to challenge the Government on their failure thus far to bring forward a Brexit package that acts in the best interest of the UK, and will do my best to prevent Britain’s departure from the EU from negatively effecting my constituents. Following this week in Parliament, I look forward to further discussions with my Labour colleagues and organisations about how to deliver a Brexit deal that provides the best outcomes for Durham and the North East.

 

 

 

Roberta votes on Lords Amendments for the EU Withdrawal Bill

It has been a very busy and complicated week in Parliament as MPs voted on the Lords amendments of the European Union Withdrawal Bill, with several hours of debate and...


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Press Releases

"I am saddened to see proposals put forward by the Government that would reduce the service on the Cross Country route from Durham to Chester-le-Street and beyond. This is an important route for people in Durham to get to and from work, or to visit family.

As with the recent chaos on Northern and Thameslink Route, the Government prefers to simply reduce the frequency of services rather than invest in infrastructure.

The Government have talked about delivering a “Northern Powerhouse” for years now but in terms of investment in transport connectivity, the North East always misses out and we seem to be going backwards."

You can view the full consultation document here.

Roberta opposes changes to Cross Country train route

"I am saddened to see proposals put forward by the Government that would reduce the service on the Cross Country route from Durham to Chester-le-Street and beyond. This is an...

Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham has today welcomed the decision of Durham Constabulary to request a review of the premises licence of Missoula in Durham City.

Following the death of Olivia Burt outside Missoula on Wednesday 7 February 2018, a joint investigation into the incident was launched by Durham County Council and Durham Police. Although investigations are still ongoing, the police have now requested that the council review the premises licence of Missoula, to address concerns relating to the prevention of crime and disorder, and public safety. Following this request, Roberta has written to Durham County Council to support this move, and to call for a wider review into the licensing policy for Durham City.

Roberta said:

“I am pleased to hear that Durham Constabulary has asked for a review of Missoula’s premises licence, and have contacted Durham County Council to support this request and to call for a wider review in the city centre.

I and others have raised the issue of public safety with the local authority for many years, particularly with reference to the number of establishments in the Walkergate development with late licences. While this request by the police is a welcome move to address concerns with this particular premises, it is vital that this is not dealt with as an isolated case.

As I have pointed out to the council on a number of occasions, a blanket licensing policy for the whole county is not appropriate, and does not take into account the unique challenges of a compact city centre such as Durham.

Following this request from the police, I have asked Durham County Council to carry out a review of its licensing policy for Durham, as the wider issues such as the suitability of the locations for many of the licensed establishments in Durham, public safety and the management of the night time economy still remain.”

MP backs review into Missoula and calls for wider review into Durham City licencing

Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham has today welcomed the decision of Durham Constabulary to request a review of the premises licence of Missoula in Durham City. Following...

Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham has today welcomed the decision of the Home Office to grant two Durham University academics, Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin and Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago, indefinite leave to remain in the UK, despite initially saying they must leave the country. The family has lived in the UK with their daughter for 11 years.

Following the decision to refuse their recent visa application, Roberta and others contacted the Immigration Minister and the Home Office to ask that this decision was reconsidered, and was delighted that the family has now been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Roberta said:

“I am so pleased that common sense has prevailed, and that Ernesto and Arely have been granted leave to remain in the UK. This seemed a particularly unfair decision, as this work in Mexico is part of their roles at the University.

It was also heartening to see the huge amount of support that the family received from people in Durham and across the UK. It was clear from the correspondence I received that they are really valued members of the local community, and my thanks go to everyone who took the time to contact me to show their support for the family.

Despite the initial decision to refuse their application, my thanks also go to the Home Office for the quick response both I and the family received once this refusal was challenged, and the speed with which they reviewed the decision. I am delighted at the positive outcome.”

Roberta welcomes Home Office decision on Durham Academics

Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham has today welcomed the decision of the Home Office to grant two Durham University academics, Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin and Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago,...


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