Sharon Hodgson MP

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On Wednesday 9th January 2019 Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington & Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health spoke in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 Debate and vowed to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal on Tuesday.

Sharon was due to speak in the debate before Christmas recess, but it was suspended due to the Prime Minister abandoning her vote on the Brexit deal.

During the speech Sharon spoke about the abuse that some MPs have been receiving, including some directed at her in recent days and set out her reasons for voting against the Prime Minister’s deal when it is brought before the House next week.

Sharon said:

‘Although I campaigned and voted to Remain in the European Union in the referendum, I have set out to respect the result of that vote and taken great care to listen to the concerns of my constituents as the process unfolds.

I cannot in good conscience vote for the Prime Minister’s deal, which in my mind represents the failure of her Governments approach to the negotiations. It does not protect jobs, workplace rights or environmental standards. It will not ensure frictionless trade for UK businesses and the lack of a clear future relationship also means the Northern Ireland backstop is highly likely to come into place, which would have significant implications across the UK.

Hundreds of my constituents have written to me in recent weeks urging me to vote against the deal, both those who voted to Leave the EU and those who voted to Remain.

Almost nothing of what was promised during the referendum campaign has been delivered and as such I will be voting against the Prime Minister’s Deal next week.’

You can read the full text of Sharon's contribution to the debate below: 

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

"As we have a little more time than I thought we would, before I get into the substance of my speech tonight I just want to start by thanking you, Mr Speaker, for your support with regard to the harassment and targeting of MPs on and around the estate. The abuse that the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) and others on both sides of this House and this issue are being subjected to is truly despicable and genuinely worrying for the stability of our democracy. My worry is that the genie may be out of the bottle and the country may not heal for decades, no matter what happens here. That is why, as others have said, this is probably the most important decision and vote that I will have made in my almost 14 years as an MP, and perhaps may ever make.

I say this as I have had brought to my attention details of a threat that I have just received, calling me

“a traitor who should be hung for treason”.

This threat was not even made anonymously. It was made very publicly and traceably, and the man—I believe it is a man because I have seen a photograph of him—who made this threat must know that it is public and easily traceable, which makes this change in our national and political discourse all the more worrying. My crime that ​precipitated this threat was to be one of the 213 MPs of all parties to have signed the letter against crashing out without a deal—which we now know, after the vote last night and today, is the will of the majority of Members in this House. I say all this to reinforce the point about the pressure of the political climate that we are all operating in and dealing with. I know that none of us is taking any of this lightly at the moment.

Two years ago, over 62% of people in Sunderland voted to leave the European Union. That is an average across the three Sunderland constituencies. My canvassing told me at the time that the vote in my constituency may have been more in the region of 65% to 67%. The fact that—as I am sure you know, Mr Speaker—Nissan, the most productive car plant in the whole of Europe, is in my constituency explains why that first result on results night had the impact that it did on all of us, not just the three Sunderland MPs. I campaigned and voted to remain in the European Union, and did so because I believed that it was the best decision for the security, social cohesion and economy of the north-east and the country as a whole. Despite this, I recognised that a majority of my constituents had voted to leave, and I set out to respect the result of the referendum.

In that vein, I have largely refrained from commenting publicly on Brexit or speaking about it here—check Hansard!—choosing instead to listen to my constituents to understand the result, the vote. So I ran two surveys on Brexit. I took great care to read all of the significant amount of correspondence I received on the topic. I held three large public meetings. I engaged regularly with major employers in my constituency, such as Nissan, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and others, to hear their concerns about the process as it has unfolded over the past two years. Many of these companies, in particular, have been unnecessarily placed in a position by this Government where they are already spending vast sums of money on preparations for a no-deal scenario—something that none of us here will ever allow to happen.

Voting, and how one votes, is an extremely personal decision, and it would be wrong of us to claim to know exactly what led people to vote in the way that they did. We do know, however, what issues come up on the doorstep, in emails and letters, and through polls and surveys. We also know what was promised to people. As part of the survey that I ran last year—I ran one straight after the referendum and then one again last year—I asked people who had voted to leave in 2016 to rate a number of factors involved in their decision from “very important” to “unimportant”. The three issues with the highest number of people ranking them “very important” were, first, the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK; secondly, concerns that remaining would mean little or no choice about how the EU expanded its membership or powers; and thirdly, the incentive of trade opportunities outside the EU. It will be noticed that in this sample, immigration did not make the top three of the “very important” issues. It was an issue that people could choose but was actually near the bottom of the list in the final analysis. Make of that what you will.

During the referendum, people were also promised that voting to leave would mean more money for the NHS, more controls on immigration, and significant trade opportunities around the world—and ultimately that it would mean “taking back control”.

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend accept that they were also led to believe by the leave campaign that this would be a very simple process?

Mrs Hodgson

Absolutely. That would be one of the biggest ironies of any of our political careers, as we are all finding out that it is anything but simple. It has got to be the most complicated thing I have ever had to try to get my head around.

Can anyone in this place honestly say that the deal on offer delivers any of the things I have listed? Far from delivering back control, this deal means giving up our voice within the EU and becoming rule-takers until at least 2020, at which point the problematic backstop could come into place. The Government’s own analysis shows that the economic benefit of further trade deals around the world is minimal, will not come for a while and will be outweighed by GDP falling by around 3.9% under their deal.

With regard to immigration, the Government’s recent White Paper failed to provide overall clarity on the issue and included plans to disgracefully label workers on less than £30,000 a year as “low-skilled”. That policy will only contribute to existing staffing shortages in the NHS in particular, as it rules out nurses, care assistants and paramedics coming from abroad. As shadow Minister for Public Health, I am well placed to know that the much promised extra money for the NHS—remember the £350 million on the side of that big red bus?—could not be further from the truth.

It is no wonder that all this lack of clarity has left people on both sides of the debate hugely disappointed. Indeed, in recent weeks I have received hundreds of emails, letters and postcards regarding this deal, as I am sure every single Member of the House has. There are people who say that the Prime Minister’s deal fails to respect the result of the referendum and would like me to vote against it. There are people who would like me to vote against this deal and then push for a people’s vote. There are people who would like to bypass another vote altogether and for us to remain a member of the European Union. There are people who would like a Norway or Canada-style deal, and there are people who believe that we would now be better off leaving the EU without any deal at all.

However, it is astonishingly clear from the percentages of 87% to 13% that very few people would like me to vote for this deal. It is no wonder that almost 60% of those who took part in my survey now think that the electorate, as well as Parliament, should have to approve any deal agreed with the EU before it is ratified.

Almost nothing of what was promised and expected has been delivered. People who voted to leave the EU are not happy with this deal. People who voted to remain in the EU are not happy with this deal, and 87% of my constituents who contacted me about this deal are against it. As such, I will be voting against it when the question is put on Tuesday."

Sharon Hodgson MP speaks in European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 Debate and sets out reasons for voting against Prime Minister’s deal

On Wednesday 9th January 2019 Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington & Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health spoke in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 Debate...

In a Westminster Hall debate, Sharon raised the concerns of constituents who have got in touch with her recently about leaseholds. Sharon has recently written to constituents to ask them to get in touch if they have been affected by leaseholds.

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You can watch the debate here

You can read the debate here

You can read Sharon's speech below:

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West):

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) on securing this important debate. I would like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) in speaking about leasehold issues that relate to the protection of homebuyers.

An estimated 12.4% of homes sold in Washington and Sunderland West were sold as leasehold in 2016. I realise that my constituency does not have the largest number of leasehold homes—certainly not as many as the constituencies of some of my hon. Friends—but the issue is still important to my constituents. That is why I recently began a consultation on leasehold homes in which I asked constituents to get in touch with me about their experiences. I only launched the campaign three weeks ago, but 30 constituents have already written to me with their concerns, in some cases in detail. I do not have time to go into the details of each, but I would like to share the themes that have become apparent from their emails.​
Most homebuyers were not aware what a leasehold was when they purchased their home. There is a serious lack of knowledge about what leasehold and freehold are; I feel that developers have a duty to inform prospective buyers about the difference between the two and what it means for them. As we have heard, solicitors also have a part to play. It makes a person wonder who they act on behalf of—the buyer or the developer—especially when the developer includes free conveyancing as part of the sale. Solicitors should always act in the best interest of their client, who in this case should be the buyer, not the developer. I have to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), who is not in her place at the moment, that this abuse should be referred to the Law Society. I hope that the Minister will make that recommendation; I am sure it is in her power to refer dodgy solicitors to the Law Society.

Does the Minister agree that if we are to protect homebuyers, we should educate them to know the difference between leasehold and freehold so that they can make the best decision for themselves and their families? That should certainly be the case for first-time buyers, and financial education lessons in schools have an important part to play in achieving that.

Notwithstanding the issue of educating the population as a whole, there should be complete transparency from very early on in the sale about whether the property is leasehold and what that means. Two of my constituents have told me that they were not informed that their property was leasehold until the very day of signing the contract. Another has told me that they were not aware that their property was leasehold until nearly 15 years after the original purchase—probably when they tried to make alterations or build an extension. Because of the lack of knowledge about leaseholds and the lack of information available to homebuyers, there is a lot of confusion and variation when it comes to buying the freehold.

Many leaseholders were told that they could purchase the freehold at a later date, perhaps when they had saved enough money. However, when some constituents inquired about purchasing the freehold, they found that the goalposts had moved and the price was much further out of reach than they had expected. Some have even been informed that the freehold is now not for sale—in some cases because it has been sold to a third-party company without the leaseholder’s knowledge.

Not only is the cost of buying the freehold out of reach for some of my constituents; so is the cost of ground rent, which can increase year on year. Then there are the admin fees that homeowners have to pay when asking the freeholder’s permission to make changes to their own property. One of my constituents was charged £400 by the freeholder to build a conservatory on their own property. Another constituent expressed great frustration that they are charged £100 for a yes or no decision on basic things, such as replacing a kitchen, bathroom or even a window. It can sometimes take more than eight weeks to hear back on whether that is a yes or a no.

I know that some leaseholders out there listening will now be horrified and will be deterred from making queries to the freeholder, for fear of being charged some of these exorbitant fees. Too many leaseholders are locked into a state of being regularly over charged by freeholders, being unable to afford their ever-increasing ​ground rent, or never being able to afford to buy their freehold due it to being linked to some sort of escalator that was hidden in the small print of the contract, which their solicitor never pointed out to them. I share the concerns of my constituents who feel like they have been ripped off by leasehold contracts and I call on the Government to launch an inquiry into the scandal as soon as possible.

 

Protection for Homebuyers - Westminster Hall 13.12.18

In a Westminster Hall debate, Sharon raised the concerns of constituents who have got in touch with her recently about leaseholds. Sharon has recently written to constituents to ask them...

Sharon has written to Sunderland Council for an update on the proposed gasification plant application in Washington.

 

Click on image below to download the letter.

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Sharon writes to Sunderland Council for an update on gasification plant application

Sharon has written to Sunderland Council for an update on the proposed gasification plant application in Washington.   Click on image below to download the letter.


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