Sharon Hodgson

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West - Disclaimer: Please note, as Parliament has now dissolved, there are currently no MPs. As this website was set up while Sharon was an MP, any mentions to that fact here are historical.

News Highlights

Read Sharon's latest column for the Sunderland Echo - published on the Echo's website before Parliament was dissolved.

This will be my last Echo column before the General Election campaign begins.

Since the last General Election, my columns have ranged from issues that have concerned my constituents when they have contacted me, including animal welfare and the future of our schools, to the more obscure like recycling unwanted electronics and electrical goods.

It has been wonderful to engage with you through my columns, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. 

One issue that often comes up often in my columns is Brexit – especially now that the Prime Minister has made Brexit the issue of this General Election.

Here in Sunderland we voted to leave, and that must be respected. I have done that by voting to trigger Article 50 in Parliament, but also engaging with my constituents through my public consultation meetings and questionnaires from earlier this year.

Brexit is one of the biggest economic, diplomatic and political issues facing our country. That is why it has been important to listen to you and ensure I can push for the best Brexit deal possible for our area. This has included working to ensure that our economy is as robust as possible as we leave the EU.

We can’t predict what will happen when we leave the EU – it is too unpredictable – but I have worked hard in Parliament to guarantee that our economic potential here in the North East, especially here in Sunderland, is unlocked, and we see much-needed economic growth in our region; something we have been long awaiting.

During the debates on the last Budget, I pushed the Government to direct innovation funding to the North East through a materials funding pot, which would boost production of steel, plastics, ceramics and other materials used in manufacturing in our region. This would have a direct benefit for our automotive sector.

This investment would have the potential to boost jobs and growth in our region by supporting Nissan’s supply chain with a much-needed investment injection.

This funding would not only allow the creation of new engineering and manufacturing jobs here in the North East, but also space to develop new products, the capacity to build products here in our country currently built in other countries and most importantly drive economic growth as we leave the EU.

Brexit has given us the capacity to look at things differently, especially our economy, and it is important we do this to ensure that we get a good deal for our area. We must ensure Brexit works for us all.

ECHO COLUMN: We need to get best Brexit deal possible for the North East

Read Sharon's latest column for the Sunderland Echo - published on the Echo's website before Parliament was dissolved. This will be my last Echo column before the General Election campaign...

Now that Theresa May has called a snap General Election and Parliament has approved its dissolution, there will now be an election on 8th June, therefore it is important to register to vote.


It only takes a few minutes to register to vote, and all you need is the details of where you are currently living and your National Insurance Number to complete the application form.

To register to vote, you can follow this link here:

The deadline for registering to vote is 22nd May – so don’t miss out on the chance to have your voice heard about how the country will be governed for the next five years!

If you won’t be around on Election Day to go to the polling station, you can register for a postal ballot, by checking the box marked: “Yes, send me a postal ballot application” during the application process. A form will be sent out to you, via post or email, and you must return it by the 23rd May. 

Sharon Hodgson, Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Washington and Sunderland West, said:

“Theresa May has called a snap General Election, and this has the potential to catch many people out from denying them the chance to have their voices heard, because they are not registered to vote or will be away on Election Day so can’t make it along to the polling station. 

“That is why it is important to register to vote as soon as possible, so that your voice can be heard and you can contribute to shaping how the country is governed for the next five years.

“It is a quick and easy process which can be done in a matter of minutes, so I hope as many people in Washington and Sunderland West will register to vote as soon as they can so that they don’t miss out on what will be a crucial General Election for them and their families.”


Now that Theresa May has called a snap General Election and Parliament has approved its dissolution, there will now be an election on 8th June, therefore it is important to register to vote....


Dear voters of Washington and Sunderland West,

During my 12 years as a Member of Parliament, I have stood up for local people in our area by holding firstly the last Labour Government and more recently the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition and the current Tory Government to account, as both a backbencher and a Shadow Minister.  I travel down to Westminster every week to do this and to push for changes that will benefit our community and the North East as a whole.

I hope to continue doing so and hope that I can count on your support in my re-election to continue to represent Washington and Sunderland West in Parliament.

Theresa May has laid down the gauntlet and has made this General Election about Brexit and about weakening scrutiny of her and her Party in Parliament, by wrongly claiming other political parties are trying to block Brexit from happening, when in actual fact, what we are doing is simply our democratic duty in holding this Government to account.  This is a completely false accusation, as three-quarters of MPs and two-thirds of the House of Lords voted in favour of triggering Article 50 back in March and respected the will of the people.

This is all about her wanting a bigger majority to push through her right-wing ideological agenda of austerity for the UK.

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has a plan when it comes to Brexit and we will be making our case clear in the coming weeks about what our future relationship with the European Union will look like, but this General Election must also be about not letting the Tories go unchallenged on other important issues.

Our alternative case set out by Jeremy over the last few days and weeks shows a clear difference in our vision for Britain.  We don’t have to endure continued Tory rule, which has seen a combination of failed economic growth for regions such as our own and deep and damaging cuts to our welfare state and public services, such as schools, our NHS and local government.

Labour have always been about standing up for working people, and Labour will use this General Election to prove this to be true and ensure we see a Labour Government elected on 8th June, that will put the people of Washington and Sunderland West first.

I hope I can count on your vote on the 8th June.

Yours faithfully,

Sharon Hodgson

Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Washington and Sunderland West

Show your support for Sharon by:

  1. Pledging to vote for Sharon here.
  2. Endorsing Sharon here.
  3. Signing up to volunteer on Sharon's campaign here.


Dear voters of Washington and Sunderland West, During my 12 years as a Member of Parliament, I have stood up for local people in our area by holding firstly the...

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2017 number 94



Click on picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Mar-Apr 2017 number 94

Sharon Hodgson MP's report Mar Apr 2017 number 94

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2017 number 94   Click on picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Mar-Apr 2017 number 94 Read more

On Friday 7th April, Labour women MPs wrote a pamphlet for the Fabian Society commemorating the 101 Labour women elected to Parliament in Labour’s 1997 election landslide – which happened 20 years ago this year.

The pamphlet was borne out of the idea of commemorating the 1997 Labour landslide election, and looking at an array of policy issues that Labour women worked on, at the time, and since, that helped transform the country for the better.

As part of this pamphlet, Sharon Hodgson MP co-wrote a chapter with Caroline Flint MP on childcare and early years education: which has always been an area of interest for Sharon as a Member of Parliament.

During her time as a Member of Parliament, Sharon has taken a great interest in childcare and early years issues and the need to ensure this area of policy was greatly improved to support families and address child poverty in the UK, which follows on from the work started by the Labour Government elected in 1997. This includes Sharon’s work as Shadow Minister for Children and Families in the last Parliament where she helped develop Labour’s offer to the country on 25 hours of free childcare, her involvement as an officer of the Children’s Centres APPG and as a Patron of Labour Friends of Sure Start.

In the chapter, Sharon and Caroline Flint MP write about the work of the 1997 Labour Government to radically transform early years and childcare provision in the UK after years of neglect by the previous Tory Governments under Thatcher and Major, how improved childcare is important for equality and the what the challenges are for the future when it comes to childcare provision and what we can learn from the last Labour Government’s approach to this policy issue.

Sharon Hodgson MP, said:

“It was an honour to be asked to contribute to this pamphlet on what is an important policy issue for me as a Member of Parliament, which I know is something that affects many of my constituent’s lives.

“It is not a lost on many that at the last General Election, childcare was a crucial election issue for the main political parties, and this can easily be put down to Labour’s concerted and successful plans to modernise children and family policy over the last 20 years; from the introduction of universal early years education entitlement, the introduction and roll-out of Sure Start Children’s Centres and the expansion of childcare places.

“Labour’s many achievements in Government, especially on childcare and early years cannot be forgotten or left to fail with the Tories holding the levers of power, that is why this pamphlet is an important contribution to the necessary debates on where Labour goes with our offer to ensure no child is denied the best start in life to help develop our offer to families ahead of the next General Election.”

You can read 'This Woman Can' be following this link here

Sharon writes for Fabian Society on childcare

On Friday 7th April, Labour women MPs wrote a pamphlet for the Fabian Society commemorating the 101 Labour women elected to Parliament in Labour’s 1997 election landslide – which happened...

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon has welcomed Labour's announcement on free school meals for all primary school children, and said:

“Lunchtime can often be an overlooked part of the school day; which can continue to ignore the growing problem in society where more and more children are going to school hungry and are unprepared to learn because they do not have the nutrients in them to fuel their bodies and minds.

“Many of those children must wait until lunchtime to get their free school meal, whilst some will not at all and will instead pay for their meals or opt for packed lunches which have been proven to lack any nutritional value to support a child’s learning. This policy allows for all children to reap the educational, behavioural and health benefits which come from having a hot and healthy school meal.

“Universalism is a proud tradition of the Labour Party and it is welcome that school food provision will now be a part of that important approach, continuing the important work the last Labour Government did when we introduced the universal free school meal pilots in Durham and Newham and had a fully-costed plan to roll this out to other areas post-2010, which was sadly scrapped by the incoming Tory-led Coalition Government.

“This policy will not only allow those children who are already on free school meals to see the stigma associated with these meals eradicated, but also the two thirds of children living in poverty who are actually in working households, known as the working poor, who will benefit from free school meals when they couldn’t before because they were just above the thresholds, and all other children who will benefit from access to a healthy meal that will aid their learning and help complement the whole school approach to food that has been pushed for since the publication of the School Food Plan.

“This policy announcement provides us with the space to continue our concerted campaigning for other improvements including access to breakfast clubs which have been shown to be the most beneficial intervention to support a child’s education, child holiday hunger which was first identified 111 years ago and unmet can reverse the many positive interventions seen throughout the school year, and wider household food insecurity which is a growing issue in society. This policy announcement is to be strongly welcomed.”


Notes to Editors:

Sharon has been the Chair of the School Food APPG for 7 years, and has campaigned on universal free school meals for over 10 years.

This has included being an integral part in pushing for the universal free school meal pilots in Durham and Newham in 2009, playing a key role in influencing the School Food Plan which recommended universal free school meals when the funding could be found in 2013, and then in 2015, to save Universal Infant Free School Meals when they were under-threat by the then Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP, in the lead-up to the 2015 Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review, when Sharon got the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to commit at the Despatch Box to protect this policy for the duration of the Parliament.

You can read more about Sharon’s campaigning journey and some of the work she has been doing on this issue, by reading these two speeches from 2010 and 2015:

Recent research by St Mary's University showed that using free school meals as a poverty indicator may not be the most accurate measure of children in poverty, as two-thirds of children living in poverty come from families with at least one parent working; therefore they are not eligible for free school meals however, this policy would be most helpful to the children of the working poor in particular as it would allow those children who do not meet the current eligibility to take advantage of free school meals. Further info available here.

Sharon welcomes Labour's policy announcement of Free School Meals for All Primary School Children

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon has welcomed Labour's announcement on free school meals for all primary school children, and said: “Lunchtime...

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon is calling on as many party members, charities and health organisations as possible to contribute to Labour’s Health and Social Care Policy Commission consultation document, especially on public health issues.

Public health policy will play a key part in Labour’s Health and Social Care policy development with specific questions around how to address health inequalities in our society, how to support parents to improve children’s health, tackling the obesity crisis facing the country, what we can learn from devolved countries, and specific health issues facing specific groups in society, especially LGBT and BAME communities.

Recent studies found that when £1 is invested in public health, we can see an estimated £14 return on that investment – showing just how important it is to invest in our public health services, not only for the health of individuals and the nation, but also our NHS. Improving public health investment will help to see issues addressed at source rather than later downstream when treatment can be costlier and less successful.

In NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, public health and prevention was to have a radical upgrade, and in the Refresh document published in March 2017, welcome measures were announced but public health was buried in the back of the document with efficiencies and cost saving measures; rather than being one of the key measures to improve the sustainability of our NHS.

This radical upgrade has been undermined by the current Tory Government, who have cut public health spending cut by £200 million with year on year cuts in each year of this Parliament. This means public health spending is expected to fall by around £600 million.

Sharon said:

“Ensuring effective and high-quality public health and health prevention services are crucial components to Labour’s approach to the health of our country; not only does improved public health services make our country healthier but it can support the sustainability of our NHS and how it functions.

“Evidence has shown that investment in public health can have serious benefits to our nation, yet, sadly, public health has not been supported in the way it should be by the Tories – with public health taking a back seat in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View Refresh and the damaging cuts seen to public health since 2015, which are expected to continue in each year of this Parliament.

“That is why it is important that Labour hears from party members, health specialists and health organisations and charities about how we best approach public health policy, and this consultation document is perfect way to hear those views. Labour knows how important it is never to take our nation’s health for granted and it is up to us to ensure people lead healthier lives, but that future generations are healthier than the last and we have a healthy and sustainable NHS going into the future.”

To read and find out more about the Health and Social Care Policy Commission’s consultation document, follow this link:

The consultation is open until Wednesday 31st May.

You can also read a speech Sharon gave to the North East branch of the Socialist Health Association on public health to find out more about Labour’s approach to public health by following this link:

Labour launches consultation on Health and Social Care policy

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon is calling on as many party members, charities and health organisations as possible to contribute to Labour’s Health and Social...

As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon was invited to speak to LACA's East of England about her work on school food. In her speech, Sharon discussed both childhood obesity and hunger; which can be seen as two sides of the same coin; along with why school food is an important part of a wider package of policy measures to address these issues, and what more can be done to raise awareness of these issues and the working going on in schools to address both issues. 



Thank you for that introduction, Lin.

I am honoured to be invited here today by your Regional Chair, Lin O’Brien, to talk about an issue which is very close to my heart: school food.

For many years, as the Chair of the School Food APPG, I have campaigned closely with LACA on our shared vision of seeing every child sitting down at lunchtime to a hot and healthy school meal.

I have been campaigning on school food for the best part of 10 years now; after seeing the standard of school food on offer in some of my local schools, but also what it could be like after I went on a delegation to Sweden and saw how they approached their school lunchtime.

This has included campaigning for universal free school meals, which we now have in the infant stage of school; breakfast clubs; healthier packed lunches, and also; child holiday hunger.

But I am certainly not the first politician, or hopefully the last, that will hold the mantle and champion food in our schools on the green benches of the House of Commons.

The first politician to raise school food in Parliament was back in 1906, when the Labour Member of Parliament for Bradford West, Fred Jowlett, used his maiden speech in the House of Commons to launch a campaign for school meals, that is not just that they should be free to the poor but that there should be provision in schools to start with.

This was after his work on Bradford’s School Board where he witnessed malnourished children falling behind their peers and he argued in his speech that with the introduction of compulsory education, it was down to the Government to provide children with the food necessary to sustain them throughout the day. So they could learn and benefit from the education on offer.

Jowlett’s noble intervention then led to the passing of the Provision of School Meal’s Act in 1906, which established a national strategy for local authorities to provide school meals for the very first time.

I would strongly urge you to go and read the debate, if you can. It is hard to believe that it was debated in 1906, not 2017, as the same arguments for and against are rehearsed and debated today.

It Is sad really that in some ways the case has still not been fully won over 111 years later.

Setting the scene – child health inequalities

The persistent issue of child malnutrition in our society is still as pertinent today in many ways as it was in 1906.

Obesity and hunger are the two manifestations of malnutrition, and we can see them, easily, as two sides of the same coin.

On one side of the coin, we are seeing the prevalence of obesity increasing in both reception and Year 6 that would have been unheard of in 1906.

This is then compounded by the fact that children living in the most deprived areas at both the start of primary school and at the end of primary school are more than twice as likely to be obese than their peers from more affluent backgrounds.

This is all being fed by the fact that children are consuming more sugar and fat than ever before, with little or no healthy food included in their diet. This has been supported today by Public Health England with the announcement of their voluntary guidance for sugar reduction and limits.

According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, less than one in ten 11 – 18 year olds get their 5-a-day, and also this survey revealed that children’s sugar intake remains at more than the double the latest government recommendation of no more than 5% of daily energy from free sugars.

Even according to the State of the Nation report by the Children’s Food Trust, they found that one in five parents say their children are eating fast food and ice cream once a week.

This is backed up by research by Cancer Research UK which found that UK consumers eat around 100 million ready meals and takeaways each week – with many of them consumed by children.

Not only does obesity have serious ramifications on the health of our children; with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer, but also it negatively impacts educational attainment, leads to lower self-esteem and negative body image.

Then on the other side of the coin we have hungry children, going to bed hungry, going to school hungry and barely eating at all in the school holidays. For these children, their free school meals, that Fred Jowlett fought so hard for, is their main source of nutrition in their lives.

It seems jarring to think that here in the UK when we talk about a burgeoning obesity crisis that we also have an issue with hunger as well.

But, sadly, we do.

According to the Department for Work and Pension’s own statistics, there were 3.9 million children living in poverty in 2014-15.

And in the same year, the Trussell Trust, reported that the number of people provided with 3-day emergency food parcels reached just over 1 million.

If we were to account for people receiving a food parcel more than once, it would be estimated around 500,000 different people in the UK received food assistance that year – and almost half would be thought to be children.

A report by Kelloggs a few years ago, also showed the scale of the problem we face, when a third of parents reported that they skipped a meal so their children did not go hungry.

This issue is exacerbated during the school holidays, especially the summer holidays, as teachers and catering staff have anecdotally reported that children return from the long summer holidays looking malnourished and having fallen behind their peers in terms of their attainment; only to improve and catch up again after a few weeks of access to free breakfasts and lunches to help aid their learning.

Yet, sadly, many people will argue that when the school gates lock for the school holidays, it is none of our business about how a child eats, or doesn’t’ in some cases, when they are at home.

But our children are at school for 190 days of the year, and for the rest of the year, a total of 170 days, their food is the responsibility of their parents totally. Some may say this is right and how it should be.

We all know that food helps us concentrate and basically it is our fuel and stops us from fainting, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to focus on anything other than how hungry we are; so why is this not seen to be the same for children?

In 21st century Britain children are going hungry for sustained periods of time, that is why inaction and complacency cannot be accepted.

Why is school food important?

Healthy school food is crucial to our approach to childhood obesity and hunger.

Though it must be said: healthy school food is not a silver bullet that will fix everything.

But it should be included as part of a whole array of policy measures to help address health and educational issues facing our society.

Yet, I do believe it can go a long way to address these issues and be complementary to other policy measures being looked at in order to address this crisis.

Back in 2009 when the last Labour Government introduced the universal free school meal pilots in Durham and Newham the analysis was steadfast in showing the benefits of this policy measure.

In both Durham and Newham, they found an uptake of 23% in vegetable consumption at lunchtime with a steep decline in the typical unhealthy packed lunch foods.

For example, there was a 16% decline in soft drink consumption and an 18% decline in crisps being eaten.

Whilst these pilots and the future roll-out were sadly scrapped by the incoming Tory-led Coalition Government, we have thankfully seen improvements in the provision on offer when it comes to school food – especially through the School Food Plan.

The School Food Plan helped to revolutionise the way we look at food in our schools, but also provided school cooks and catering staff – just like all of you – with the support and capacity to do what you all knew to be the case in the first place: improving food on offer in order to help children’s health and educational attainment.  

This is because all of us in this room right now can agree that the school setting is one of the most important vehicles for providing children with the necessary interventions to improve their life chances.

It is where we nurture and educate the future generations; so why shouldn’t we give them the right kind of fuel to achieve that?

There is still a long way to go when it comes to the School Food Plan and ensuring it is implemented correctly, and I know that Sally Shadrack is committed to doing this as the Chair of LACA and so is the rest of the School Food Plan Alliance – who are acting as the guardians of the principles and recommendations of the School Food Plan to make sure it is achieved in full.

The reason this is so important is that, as I’ve already said, for many children, their hot and healthy school meal may be the only nutritious meal they have in a day.

That is why it is imperative we do all we can to make that meal the most enjoyable and healthiest meal we can provide.

Sadly, there are still many children who do not receive free school meals – mainly because they are just over the threshold for receiving them and instead have packed lunches – the majority, 99% of which, have been shown to be lacking in nutritional value – or because their parents feel they are too ashamed to accept free school meals and want to avoid the stigma that comes with free school meals.

This is why I am evangelical about universal free school meals; not only because of the health benefits I have already described to you, but also the social and behavioural impact it can provide as well, especially in reducing the stigma that is associated with those on free school meals.

But it is important that we ensure the UIFSM policy is fully evaluated to ensure it is robust and achieves what we want it to. As the saying goes: what gets measured, gets done. That is why I’m pleased that LACA is conducting their own evaluation of UIFSM and I look forward to hearing the results in due course.

That is why it was welcome, in what was already a much reduced Childhood Obesity Plan, to see that the Government plans to commission Ofsted to look at school food as part of a wider thematic review into health and well-being in our schools.

We’re still awaiting the details of this – though I can assure you I am on the case, and keeping a close eye on what the Government are doing when it comes to this matter.

This is because it is something, we as the APPG, have been calling for over a number of years now and I hope that it provides us with the information we need to continue to raise our banners and advance our campaign for improved school food and better access to it.

What can we all do together?

Whenever I come to speak at LACA Conferences, I always have an ask of you all.

My request is the same every time and that is to write to your local Member of Parliament and let them know about the work you have been doing to improve food in your school and ask them to support measures that will benefit children’s health and education.

Even invite them along to your school to see the situation first-hand – I can assure you politicians love a good photo opportunity! And free food!

Remember, as the School Food Plan outlined, the school catering workforce is bigger than the navy – and the Government must listen to you.

You may not see yourselves as natural campaigners – but your voices should – and must – be heard.

As individuals, with experience on the ground of what is going on, and as a collective that is bigger than the navy – your influence and campaign capacity is endless.

That is why it is important that you harness it. I know that the leadership of LACA under the direction of your fabulous Chair, Sally, is already doing this, but you have to all get behind her and speak to your MPs and make them aware of all the hard work you are doing and what the issues are that we need them to get behind.

As a Member of Parliament myself, having a constituent highlight an issue to me is always important – especially when this happens on mass – so get your friends, family, work colleagues, neighbours to write in as well.

It has been over 110 years since Fred Jowlett introduced his law to begin the long march to improve food in our schools and we have a long way to go yet.

We’re the current custodians of this important issue and we must do what is right by the children in our schools today but also the children that will come after them.

If not, we will fail a generation and see the century-long march falter.

We cannot allow that to happen. The health and education of our children is far too precious to be passive about.

Our campaigning can ensure the next generation reach their full potential.

And I know that’s what we all want to see.

Thank you. 

LACA East of England Conference 31.03.17

As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon was invited to speak to LACA's East of England about her work on school food. In her speech, Sharon...

Read my latest Sunderland Echo column below or find it on the Sunderland Echo website.


The last week has been dominated by the news of the London terror attack last week.

As people went about their daily lives – with tourists taking in the sights of London and Parliament voting on the Pensions Schemes Bill – terror befell the capital and the world watched as Parliament entered lockdown.

Thankfully due to the amazing reactions of our police and security personnel, Parliament was quickly secured and the terrorist was swiftly dealt with.

But sadly, in the moments before that happened, we saw many innocent people injured, some resulting in deaths, including that of Pc Keith Palmer, who bravely and selflessly defended our democracy and the many thousands of people who call Parliament their workplace, including myself and my team.

The gratitude towards our emergency services, from the police to NHS staff, could never be expressed enough, for their duty of running towards the danger whilst telling everyone else to go the opposite way, and of course to my parliamentary colleague, Tobias Ellwood, MP, who did all he could to save the life of Pc Keith Palmer, as did Tony Davis, the local boxing coach from Low Fell, who is now living in Darlington, who was one of the first on the scene, again running into possible danger to help.

Many words of reassurance have been said since last Wednesday, and in the days and weeks ahead, our emotions will run high and people will be understandably anxious about what this all means. I want to echo the words of many others, and say: we must never let terror win.

It will be hard, but we must continue with life as normal. Not as a way to forget what has happened, but as a display of defiance against such evil acts. We must maintain our resolve to uphold our freedoms and not give in to those who wish to destroy our way of life.

That is why the day after the attack took place, myself and my team were back to work early that morning doing the jobs that we were there to do and standing strong against the adversity of the day before.

And in the days following, I continued to meet with constituents and honoured all appointments in my diary, prepared for speeches in the Chamber for this week on various topics, from rare genetic diseases to local HIV services, and responded to constituent’s correspondence – as I do every day.

Primarily our thoughts must be with those affected by this horrific attack, especially Pc Keith Palmer’s family. But we must continue on as we always do; because not doing so, will let the terrorists win and we can never let that happen.

ECHO COLUMN: We must never let the terrorists win

Read my latest Sunderland Echo column below or find it on the Sunderland Echo website. The last week has been dominated by the news of the London terror attack last...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on HIV Treatment and raised concerns with the ramifications of the Health and Social Care Act on local HIV services, along with concerns over public health budget cuts and issues with PrEP. 

You can read the speech here: Sharon Hodgson MP HIV Treatment Westminster Hall Debate 28.02.17

Speech below:

3.32 pm

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

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Main. I thank the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) for his excellent chairmanship of the all-party parliamentary group on HIV and AIDS, for securing this important debate and for his comprehensive opening speech. It was a tour de force.

I also thank the other hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. I thank the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and my hon. Friends the Members for Hove (Peter Kyle) and for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) for their excellent and knowledgeable speeches and interventions. They will all have given the Minister much to think about.

We have come a long way since the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, but that does not mean that we should be complacent in our approach to the disease now. Across the UK, an estimated 101,200 people were living with HIV by the end of 2015; 87% of them had a diagnosis, and 96% of those diagnosed were accessing treatment. Although they are a minority of people in the wider population, they are a significant minority that we cannot let down when it comes to their care and treatment.

The number of people receiving HIV care in 2015 in England was just over 81,000. That is a 73% increase in the number of people accessing HIV care since 2006. In part, that is welcome, as it means that more people are accessing care that can improve their lives, but it also provides us with reasons to ensure the future quality of care provided, and that is the crux of why we are here today to debate this issue.

As the APPG highlighted, it is understood that since the passing and implementation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, there have been growing complications with the commissioning and provision of HIV services across the healthcare system. In the rest of my contribution, I will touch on the Health and Social Care Act’s impact on HIV services, but I will also expand into other areas, such as the cuts to public health budgets and the worrying trend of decommissioning of HIV services, and finally I will touch on issues regarding PrEP.

Since the passing of the Health and Social Care Act, there has been a significant fragmentation of our NHS and wider health services. During the passage of the Act, Opposition Members felt that it was an unnecessary top-down reorganisation. The case of HIV services proves exactly how that fragmentation is causing consequences for the future of vital services. The creation of CCGs and the devolution of public health to local authorities have fragmented HIV services across various bodies, with no coherent commissioning and oversight. Currently, services are failing to maintain the standard that patients expect. That is down to commissioning responsibility not being clearly defined under the Health and Social Care Act. Although the coalition Government argued that the Act would ensure the streamlining of services, the opposite has clearly been the case for HIV services.

I therefore want to push the Minister on what she is doing to look into the APPG’s recommendations, especially about joint commissioning for support services by NHS England and CCGs, along with co-commissioning of HIV and sexual health services by local authorities and ​NHS England. Another issue that the Minister must look at—I raise this repeatedly with her—is public health funding. The cuts to services further exacerbate the problems that HIV services face because of commissioning responsibilities being unclear, which is pushing services to walk away from their responsibilities.

I know that the Minister will reference the funding going into regular HIV testing and the promotion of safe sex, along with the HIV innovation fund, but the impact on funding cannot be ignored. Last week, the National AIDS Trust published a report showing that in England, there has been a 28% decrease in the expenditure between 2015-16 and 2016-17. That is on top of the cuts to HIV support services, or decommissioning of said services, in Lambeth, Southwark, Oxfordshire, Portsmouth and Bexley. Although public health budgets are only one part of the funding streams for HIV support, treatment and care, they are nevertheless an important part of the pathway, as cuts to sexual health services more broadly are detrimental to HIV care. The £200 million in-year cut and 3.9% cut year on year will only have a negative impact on the future of all sexual health services, including those for HIV. The Minister must seriously address that false economy, or risk seeing a public health crisis that could easily have been avoided.

Thangam Debbonaire

I thank my hon. Friend for the excellent speech that she is making. I want to add my support for what she has just said, and perhaps go a bit further. Does she agree that the Minister needs to address the fact that the failure to address preventive services will only store up costs and problems further down the line, and that when there are cuts to public health grants, those services need to be ring-fenced or protected in some other way so that we are not storing up problems for the future?

Mrs Hodgson

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention. I agree with her absolutely. The whole point of preventive services—HIV and sexual health services are preventive—is to save money, and lives, further down the line. We regularly debate preventive measures for other health issues with the Minister in this Chamber.

There is still a question mark over the future of HIV services, not only because of the cuts that we are seeing now, but because the future of public health budgets after 2018 is not guaranteed. There are also issues with the devolution to local authorities of business rates, which will be used to fund public health spending. The Government have still not published details of how they aim to ensure that public health will continue to be prioritised when that comes into effect. I hope that the Minister will be able to offer clarity today

PrEP is a highly effective way of protecting someone who does not have HIV from contracting it. As the UK PROUD study showed, it was 86% effective in preventing HIV transmission and, if taken correctly, it has closer to a 100% success rate. That is why it is important that this drug treatment is supported as much as possible. While the announcement on the feasibility study is welcome, questions remain that the Minister must answer. Nearly four months since the trial was announced, we are still none the wiser as to when it will begin, other than that it will begin early in the 2017-18 financial year. I welcome that in her letter to the APPG yesterday the Minister ​said that the trial would begin in the summer, but I hope she will offer further clarity on when we will know more. There remains an issue with the drug Truvada, which is used in PrEP. For the trial to reach the 10,000 people that it plans to, a generic version of Truvada will need to be used. I am interested to know what conversations the Minister has had with Gilead, and how co-operative it has been to ensure the success of the trial.

Finally, I want to ask the Minister about the concerns that many PROUD participants will run out of their supply of PrEP this week, and that between 350 and 4,000 individuals at the highest risk of HIV will run out of supplies. That is a matter of urgency, and the Minister must address it as a matter of priority. We cannot allow the people who take this drug treatment to be put at risk. Therefore, I hope the Minister will go away today and look at the matter immediately.

These issues are highly important to many people who live with HIV or within those communities where infection rates are more common than in others, as we heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Hove and for Bristol West. I was shocked and surprised to hear that there is four times the normal rate of those people in the community of my hon. Friend the Member for Hove. I am well aware why he is here today to speak for his constituents.

The Government’s mismanaged approach to the NHS’s structures and to wider health services is seeing services fall through the gaps and people’s lives affected, which is exacerbated by short-sighted cuts. It is important that we recognise the work that has already gone into addressing HIV in our society, but accept that we still have a long way to go. We cannot squander these opportunities, as we could see yet another public health crisis due to complacency and failure to step up and address this issue. I hope the Minister has listened carefully to all the contributions to the debate and the seriousness of it, and will go away and do the right thing by the tens of thousands of people living with HIV or at those risk of contracting it, and support them. They should not be let down.

HIV Treatment Westminster Hall Debate 29.03.17

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on HIV Treatment and raised concerns with the ramifications of the Health and Social Care Act on local HIV...

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