You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
I know many constituents will be as horrified as I am by the way the unelected Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has been riding roughshod over our democracy.
The events of Tuesday evening, when Boris Johnson expelled 21 members of his own Party, were entirely unprecedented – and many will have been appalled by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s entitled and disrespectful behaviour in the chamber.
Since being elected as leader of the Conservative Party by less than one hundred thousand Conservative Party members, Johnson has been trying to force through a reckless No Deal Brexit, against the wishes of Parliament and the country.
One of the ways in which he has attempted to do so, is by suspending (proroguing) Parliament early next week.
In 2017 I was honoured to be re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West.
My job is to represent everyone in our constituency in Parliament, scrutinize and amend legislation and hold the Government to account.
At a time of such huge political significance and considering the limited time available before the 31st October Brexit deadline, it is outrageous that MPs are being denied the maximum time possible to represent our constituents.
By proroguing Parliament, Johnson has acted in a profoundly undemocratic way.
Leaving the EU without a deal would be a terrible outcome for our country, and particularly for the manufacturing industry in our region.
Companies such as Nissan, who provide around 40,000 jobs in and around my constituency, rely on the ‘just in time’ process in order to operate smoothly. The continued success of this process could be immediately at risk under a No Deal scenario.
Don’t just take my word for it, recent leaked documents from the Government reportedly warn of potential 48-hour delays at Dover.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA), said that they were not surprised by the fact that a document of this nature existed, and added that there is still no sign of a new customs process with only weeks to go until the UK is expected to leave the EU.
It seems clear to me, that those best placed to provide information on these issues are the industry experts themselves, not Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg or Michael Gove.
According to leaked documents, border delays could also lead to shortages of food and of certain medicines.
It is almost inconceivable that this is something a Government would consider imposing on people in circumstances outside of a major national crisis or war.
I did not come into politics to put the livelihoods or the health of my constituents at risk, and I am not prepared to do so now.
That’s why I have supported measures in Parliament to prevent a No Deal Brexit, including Hilary Benn’s Bill which will hopefully become law by the end of this week.
You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website I know many constituents will be as horrified as I am by the way the unelected...
A No Deal Brexit would be a terrible outcome. No matter how people voted in 2016, no one voted for the disruption and economic damage that a No Deal could do.
Leaving the EU without a deal is something I will continue to firmly oppose. No Member of Parliament should be willing to let something with such considerable risks to the economy, our Public Services and vulnerable people in our society, happen and I don’t intend to do so.
Below are the ways in which I have been opposing No Deal and the Government’s chaotic approach to Brexit.
I challenged the then Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark MP to provide assurances for the UK automotive industry, after Nissan’s decision not to build the X-Trail model in Sunderland as planned.
After Nissan took the decision to make the new X-Trail model in Japan rather than in Sunderland, I wrote to the then Prime Minister Theresa May outlining my concerns. In that letter I warned of the potential catastrophic impacts of a No Deal Brexit on Nissan.
You can read my letter here.
Just 38 days before the UK was due to leave the EU, I asked Greg Clark MP when businesses such as Nissan could expect to have clarity on what trading arrangements would be in place.
In March, with just 15 sitting Parliamentary days until we were due to leave the EU, I spoke to BBC Newcastle about the risks that a No Deal Brexit posed and the amount of work that was being done by Parliament and companies to prepare for No Deal.
You can listen to the clip on Twitter here.
I also secured a Westminster Hall debate on the risks that a No Deal Brexit posed to Public Sector catering, which some of the most vulnerable people in our society rely upon.
After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, I used his first statement to the Commons to ask him to rule out leaving the EU without a deal due to the impact it could have on the automotive industry.
I am extremely worried about the impact that a No Deal could have on the worst off in our society, so I’ve been calling on the Government to introduce a Hardship Fund in the event we do leave without a deal.
You can read my article in the HuffPost about this here.
A No Deal Brexit would be a terrible outcome. No matter how people voted in 2016, no one voted for the disruption and economic damage that a No Deal could...
Sharon Hodgson MP raised concerns about Nissan’s announcement and challenged the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP, to rule out a No Deal Brexit, and commit to the continuation of an active, innovation-led industrial strategy to protect our industrial towns.
Sharon's Question can be viewed on Twitter here
Sharon's Question can be viewed on Parliament TV here
Sharon's Question can be read here
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health used the new Prime Minister’s first statement in the House of Commons to raise concerns around Nissan’s announcement this morning that 12,500 jobs will be lost worldwide.
She also challenged Boris Johnson to rule out a No Deal Brexit, and commit to the continuation of an active, innovation-led industrial strategy to protect our industrial towns.
The Automotive Industry in the UK is undoubtedly going through a challenging period, and by far the greatest threat to its continued competitiveness is a No Deal exit from the European Union (EU).
‘Like many people I was hugely worried by Nissan’s announcement this morning. At this stage there is little indication that any job cuts will be made at the Sunderland plant, but I will be monitoring the situation extremely closely and maintaining contact with both Unite Officials, and Nissan.
I’m glad Boris committed to the continuation of an active, innovation-led industrial strategy and I look forward to seeing that in practice.
When it comes to Brexit, a No Deal exit from the European Union poses an existential threat to the continued success of the automotive industry in the UK.
It is frightening that we now have a Prime Minister who believes he knows more than the industry itself when it comes to the challenges that a No Deal would present. I will continue to challenge No Deal at every available opportunity, and hold this new Prime Minister to account.’
Sharon Hodgson MP raises concerns about Nissan’s announcement and challenges the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP
Sharon Hodgson MP raised concerns about Nissan’s announcement and challenged the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP, to rule out a No Deal Brexit, and commit to the continuation of...
Sharon has this week received a response from the Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Mrs Heather Wheeler MP, in reply to her letter dated 26th of June regarding the leasehold property market which can be found here.
In her letter to the Minister, Sharon outlined the problems and injustices felt by constituents of Washington and Sunderland West regarding leasehold properties, and made the case for urgent policies to stop leasehold injustices.
The response from the Minister outlines developments relevant to the leasehold sector, and offers advice and comment for leaseholders who may want to take action personally.
“I thank the Minister for responding to my letter and for her advice to my constituents. However, I fear that this will provide little comfort to my constituents who continue to feel trapped in their leasehold home, and subject to this feudal and exploitative market.
The Government’s current proposals to change the market overlook existing leaseholders, and its attitude towards this crisis has been lacklustre.
Only Labour is committed to truly reforming the market in a way that will deliver justice for all homeowners with our New Deal for Leaseholders.”
Sharon has this week received a response from the Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Mrs Heather Wheeler MP, in reply to her letter dated 26th of June regarding the leasehold...
On Friday 19th July, Sharon spoke at the Planning and Highways Committee meeting regarding the proposed application for a gasification plant to be built at Hillthorn Farm. During the meeting, Councillors voted to reject the planning application.
You can read Sharon's speech below
** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY **
I’m the MP for Washington and Sunderland West and the proposed site for this application is in my constituency.
I am here today to represent the views of my constituents, as they have been expressed to me over the last two years.
In my 14 years as an MP no other issue has galvanised my constituents to campaign against something than what is before you today.
Whilst the vast majority of complaints have understandably come from Washington residents, I don’t actually want this plant built anywhere near any of my constituents. In Washington or Sunderland.
I would like to begin by expressing my disappointment that this meeting is being held in Sunderland, rather than in Washington where the proposed site is, and in the middle of the afternoon as that has limited who could attend due to work or care commitments – as well as the distance to travel.
My constituents in Washington are very proud of its heritage and industry.
However, communities feel they are becoming the victim of Washington’s excellence, with industries – such as the waste processing sites cluster in Teal Farm – being akin to the nightmare neighbour next door.
Many of my constituents have told me they are worried that Washington risks becoming the dumping ground of the whole region and beyond!
If this gasification plant is a regional or national necessity, why can’t it just be built well away from homes and schools?
As one constituent wrote to me, and I quote:
“The people of Washington do not want this monstrosity built near to where we live and work.”
As I mentioned, some communities in Washington are already suffering as a result of nearby industries.
Building a waste gasification plant in Washington may attract more of the same problems that residents living near existing industries face such as: vermin, flies and odours.
The applicant has failed to confirm what waste will be used in the feedstock, or how it will be treated.
This is particularly relevant in light of the experience of the residents in Derby, who have had two years of foul smells from the Sinfin gasification plant, despite all the reassurances given by the operator at the planning application stage .
In terms of this application, the Environment Agency are unsatisfied about the technical detail with respect to the odour management system.
Surely the Committee cannot approve an application that fails to satisfy the Environment Agency, and the concerns of my constituents, who will have to live alongside it?
Waste will be coming from across the Northern region, in 110 HGVs a day, which will have significant adverse impacts on both transport congestion as well as recycling rates in the region.
The pollution that would be emitted from the stack and from the transport to and from the facility would also have serious adverse impacts well beyond the immediate locality.
We therefore do not know the short or long-term health and environmental impacts that an approved plant in Washington would have on the local and wider population.
Last year, I held a meeting with constituents and the applicant managing company, Rolton Kilbride, to discuss concerns about the proposed plant’s technology.
They were unable to confirm what technology or feedstock would be used and a year on we are still none the wiser. This is deeply alarming.
What they did say though is that the technology would be similar to one used in Japan; but never one previously used in Europe.
The people of Washington should not be used as guinea pigs for technology used for the first time in Europe.
My constituents are concerned about several matters not just how close the proposed site is to thousands of homes and ten schools all within a mile radius, but also the effects on air quality, public health and impact on house prices.
There is also the very real danger it could pose to any metro extension to Washington.
Therefore in conclusion, knowing the anxiety of constituents and the lack of information from the applicant, could you really approve this application with a clear conscience?
I called the application in to the Secretary of State in August last year, but that should not be used as a safety net for the Council.
Please don’t gamble with the health and lives of my constituents – they deserve their elected representatives to have their best interests at heart at all times and this is too important a decision to get wrong.
On Friday 19th July, Sharon spoke at the Planning and Highways Committee meeting regarding the proposed application for a gasification plant to be built at Hillthorn Farm. During the meeting,...
You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
Yesterday, I had an adjournment debate in the House of Commons which I secured on behalf of one of my constituents.
In 2017, it was estimated that one in eight children, aged between five and nineteen, had a mental disorder in England. That is around 1.25 million children and young people suffering.
My constituent is just one of those people, and their experience is no different to thousands of other children and young people up and down the country.
Mental health services, which many of the most vulnerable in our society rely upon, is in crisis because of historic underfunding by the Conservative Government. This has led both adults and children struggling to access the treatment and support they need.
According to research from the Children’s Society, over 110,000 children were unable to access mental health support from a Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS), despite being referred for support.
My constituent has faced similar problems: lost referrals, cases being closed, and lack of NHS mental health counsellors means that my constituent had to wait months to be seen and has not had another appointment for seven months.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Yet, if an A&E stopped treating patients there would be uproar. When the same happens for mental health services, there is silence.
After years of inaction, the Prime Minister said that she wanted to make mental health a priority. But these warm words mean nothing for children and young people, like my constituent, who are currently suffering with their own mental health and unable to get access to treatment and support they need and deserve.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, mental health trusts have less money to spend on patient care in real terms than they did in 2012.
Funding cuts mean that mental health services are buckling under the strain.
This is having an impact on recruitment and retention; something that affected my constituent’s treatment.
Research by the Labour Party found in January that the total number of mental health nurses has fallen each month this year. The Government is on track to miss its mental health workforce target by 15,000 staff.
As mental health awareness increases so too should the funding and support services provided to those suffering.
That is why a Labour Government will prevent any further raiding of mental health budgets by ring-fencing NHS mental health budgets; increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people and ensure every secondary school in England is able to offer a school-based counselling service to its pupils.
Young people, like my constituent, have their whole future ahead of them. When they need support, they must have access to it and not be turned away at the door. Parity of esteem needs to be a reality not just warm words.
You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. Yesterday, I had an adjournment debate in the House of Commons which I...
On behalf of one of her constituents, Sharon secured an end of day Adjournment debate on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the North East. During her speech, Sharon raised the case of her constituent and the difficulties they have faced when accessing CAMHS.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson MP (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab):
As hon. Members know, it is very difficult to secure an Adjournment debate—the last one took me over a year to obtain—so I was very pleased when this one was granted, especially as it is on such an important matter, as I will outline in some detail tonight. It is especially welcome that business has fallen early tonight, so I do not need to rush or curtail my remarks to leave time for the Minister. This is such an important matter and I know we will both have plenty of time to deal with this issue.
I would first like to thank my constituents for bringing their case to me, and for waiving their anonymity in the hope that their story can help other families and ensure that something like this does not happen again, as it could so easily have had a tragic ending. Going public like this is a very brave thing to do and I sincerely hope that their story, and today’s debate, will spark a change.
In March this year my constituent, Mr Thomas, wrote to me about his daughter Jane, and the
“deplorable treatment when attempting to access CAMHs support”.
Jane, aged 16 at the time—she is now 17—tragically lost her mother as a result of alcohol abuse. Everyone will appreciate the grief that this will have caused Jane and her family, and the lasting impact of that grief after years of watching a parent decline due to alcohol abuse. Many hon Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne), have spoken about their own experience of growing up with similar experiences. I pay tribute to them, and to Jane, today.
Having experienced such loss on top of what she would have seen her mum go through over the years, Jane was understandably struggling with her mental health. Mr Thomas therefore felt that Jane needed professional intervention. Having consulted Jane’s GP, Jane was referred to North Durham child and adolescent mental health services at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation NHS Trust. This is where Mr Thomas’s frustration begins.
Jane waited weeks for a CAMHS appointment following the referral, but it was not forthcoming. Mr Thomas went back and forth with the GP to ensure that the referral had been made, and was assured that it had. He was even shown the email confirming that. He then contacted the CAMHS team directly over the phone. As you can imagine, he was surprised to hear that they had no record of any referral regarding Jane. Mr Thomas says that this
“set the pattern of misinformation and incompetence that Jane and I were to encounter.”
Mr Thomas contacted CAMHS again to enquire whether an appointment would be made for Jane, and was told that Jane would not be seen as her need had already been assessed and her case was closed. That exasperated him further, as it referred to an earlier episode and a case from several years earlier, not the most recent case following the death of Jane’s mother. Therefore, it did nothing to inspire confidence.
Jane finally saw a CAMHS practitioner at the end of last year and was making positive progress, but her last appointment was on 4 January 2019. It is now July, and Jane has not had another appointment on the national health service in the past seven months. The initial reason for the delay was that Jane’s counsellor had left to start her maternity leave—something that, of course, she is absolutely entitled to do—but the trust will have been well aware for some time that the counsellor’s maternity leave would need to be covered. There also should have been a period of handover so that the service could continue its work smoothly. That did not happen.
Maternity cover was found after a gap of more than two months. However, just days after starting, that person resigned their position, leaving the trust unexpectedly without any cover. I am told that that was for personal reasons. It was at that point that the trust wrote to Jane Thomas, on 8 March, apologising for the delay in her treatment and suggesting that, if she had any inquiries, she should contact the team at North End House or, if she was in crisis, she could call the CAMHS crisis team. It was then three months since her last treatment.
It was upon receiving that letter that Mr Thomas contacted me to bring all this to my attention. There was nothing in the letter to Jane—I have seen a copy of it—to suggest that she should contact the trust to arrange an appointment or alternative provision; it just said to call if she was in crisis. I therefore wrote to the trust on 18 March, asking them to examine this matter further and advise Jane and Mr Thomas.
On 29 March, I received a reply that said that the trust had
“looked at interim solutions, such as part time staff working additional hours.”
It did not say whether that was actually happening, or whether that would include an offer of support to Jane, only that they were looking at it. That was just one of the many opportunities that the trust had to take another look at Jane’s case, to see what interim solutions were in place for her and to make contact with her directly, perhaps by calling her, as they did yesterday—I will come to that in a moment. But that did not happen.
Yesterday, I spoke to Mr Levi Buckley, director of operations at the trust, in advance of this debate. We had been trying to arrange a call for some time and could not get the dates to match, but obviously that changed once I secured this debate. I was told yesterday that alternative arrangements had been put in place for the majority of patients. He told me that when Jane’s counsellor went on maternity leave in January, all those patients should have had their cases reviewed and reassigned to another counsellor or another support network. However, for whatever reason, that did not happen for Jane, although I am told that it did for all the others. Jane had obviously, and shamefully, just slipped through the net. The trust realised that, no doubt prompted by Mr Thomas, and in March, when the new counsellor started and then left after two days, they contacted Jane to apologise with the letter dated 8 March that I mentioned earlier.
There was no concerted effort at any point by the trust to re-establish contact with Jane, who for all they knew was getting no support at all with her mental health. There was just that one letter. Even after I contacted the trust on 18 March to begin this dialogue, they still made no further contact with Jane until yesterday, when she was called within two hours of my conversation with Mr Buckley, prior to this debate. I understand that Jane spoke to the head of the CAMHS service, who apologised and offered her transitional provision to move her into adult services, as she is 18 later this month. It is, of course, entirely up to Jane what she decides to do.
Having spoken to the trust, they agree that they could have done more to make contact with Jane, who obviously was easily contactable, as they spoke to her without delay yesterday. There have been many opportunities available, since March when I first contacted the trust on behalf of Mr Thomas and Jane, to make that direct contact and arrange counselling provision for Jane, but that did not happen. That means that a vulnerable young person had fallen through the gaps because of incompetence, and even when it had been brought to their attention in March, nothing was done to rectify the situation until yesterday.
It does not need me to point out that this could have been fatal, had Mr Thomas not sought and paid privately for mental health provision for Jane. I understand from my call with Mr Buckley yesterday that the situation at the trust was made more difficult because, after advertising the job twice and getting no applicants, they had had to lower the grade of the position—meaning that the person would require more supervision—in order to attract someone they could employ. This person is due to start in September—nine months after the counsellor on maternity leave left. Mr Thomas emailed me earlier today to say that the
“analogy of too many Generals and no Soldiers would suggest itself”.
In April, when I met Mr Thomas in my constituency surgery, he was very clear that this was about incompetence and bad management within the trust that had allowed his daughter to slip through the cracks. What has most frustrated him about this ordeal is the lack of accountability for what he calls the
“appalling management of the service”.
He went on:
“This CAMHS organisation is poorly led, poorly administered and managed with incompetence.”
Can the Minister please inform the House who should be accountable for these failures?
A freedom of information request made in 2018 to the Care Quality Commission by a concerned parent inquiring into numbers of complaints made against CAMHS went unanswered, with the CQC stating that it did not have full oversight of this organisation and therefore could not provide the requested information. Who does oversee CAMHS? Who should be taking responsibility for the vacancy gap and the real problems that the trust has had in filling the vacancy, and for the impact it has had on vulnerable young people who need access to support? What advice can she give to my constituent, who just wants to help his daughter get the professional treatment she needs, when she needs it, on the NHS? Does the Minister think that trusts should not be able to mark their own homework on such cases? They must surely be held accountable when there are failures and recognise the need for change. I hope that this debate brings about some change.
Hugh Gaffney (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab):
I thank my hon. Friend for bringing this debate to the Chamber, and for explaining the importance of mental health services in the north-east. In Scotland in the last five years, there has been a 50% increase in the number of suicides among 15 to 24-year-olds. We need to do something about this national crisis.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I would encourage him to apply for a debate with the same title, only with “Scotland” at the end instead of “North-East” so that he can explore that 50% increase in greater detail. If he is lucky, he might get a nice long session like me, but I know the Minister will have heard his comments.
Throughout all this incompetence it is Jane who has suffered. If this is an issue of recruitment and retention, which it seems to be, what will the Minister do to ensure that CAMHS staff are both recruited and retained nationally, and specifically in the north-east? Nationally, the number of consultant child and adolescent psychiatrists fell by 4.5% between October 2013 and October 2018, which might account for why it was so hard for the trust to recruit someone, while the Government are on track to miss their mental health workforce target by 15,000 staff. Labour research in January found that the total number of mental health nurses had fallen in every month the previous year. I should be grateful if, in her remarks, the Minister would address the issues that led to this decline in the number of mental health nurses and evaluate the impact that it is having on young people such as Jane.
If an A&E just closed its doors because of a lack of staff and stopped treating people, there would be an outcry—we would not stand for it—so why do we allow it to happen when it comes to mental health? The Prime Minister said she wanted mental health to be a priority, but the Government are nowhere near achieving that goal. Mental health awareness is one thing, but it must be matched by mental health support and treatment services, and that is where the Government are failing, especially with regard to staffing.
According to research carried out by the Children’s Society, more than 110,000 children a year are unable to access mental health support from a CAMHS service, despite being referred for support. Three out of four children with a diagnosable mental health condition do not receive the support that they need, according to similar research conducted by YoungMinds. This is therefore not a problem exclusive to the north-east—or even Scotland, as we have just heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney)—which is why the Government must take action.
I wrote to Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, which informed me that it did not operate a waiting list in County Durham and Darlington CAMHS. However, Jane and other young people, across the north-east and the whole country, are still waiting. It beggars belief that the trust could say that, but it is in the letter that it sent to me.
As I have said, Mr Thomas was left with no choice but to engage a private practitioner. That came at a huge cost to him and his family, but as a loving parent he felt that he had no other option. No parent should be put in that position, and not all parents have the means to step in when the services let them down so badly, as was the case for Jane.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, mental health trusts have less money to spend on patient care in real terms than they had in 2012. Of course, lack of funding means that trusts are strained and unable to provide vital services. Is that what led to the staffing problems in this trust? Was its inability to fill the vacancies down to the salaries being offered, or was the workload that was being demanded of staff too high? Why did that new person leave after only two days? Will the Minister support Labour’s calls for the ring-fencing of NHS mental health budgets and an increase in the proportion of those budgets that is spent on support for children and young people? Increased funding will relax some of the pressure on services, and will ensure that they can be sufficiently staffed and resourced to improve patient experiences.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, Mr Thomas and Jane were very brave to allow me to share their story with the House in so much detail today. However, it should not have come to this. Jane, having mental health problems, should have been referred to CAMHS, been assessed and then been given therapy appointments as necessary to support her recovery—unbroken, with no seven-month gaps in provision. Instead, she and Mr Thomas have been back and forth and have had to fight, and even pay, for the support that she needs and to which she is entitled.
Mr Buckley, from the trust, informed me that North Durham CAMHS had seen an 18% rise in referrals over the last year. It follows that as the number of referrals rises, the funding must also increase to meet that need. The Government must increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people: they must make mental health a priority, with actions and not just warm words.
While the staffing crisis and mismanagement at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust rages on, Jane still has no access to treatment and support on the NHS, although I have been told that she received a call yesterday suggesting that the problem might be resolved shortly. I therefore ask the Minister what she will do for Jane, and young people like her, to ensure that situations like this do not occur in future.
On behalf of one of her constituents, Sharon secured an end of day Adjournment debate on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the North East. During her speech, Sharon...
The proposed gasification plant at Hillthorn Farm in Washington is at the next stage of the planning process. On 19th July 2019 at 4:30pm, the application will be referred to the Planning and Highways Committee at The Stadium of Light.
I share the concerns of my constituents about this plant and have applied to speak at the Committee hearing. If you are one of my constituents and would like to share your concerns with me please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the letter in full and find out how to apply to speak at the meeting, please click the image above
The proposed gasification plant at Hillthorn Farm in Washington is at the next stage of the planning process. On 19th July 2019 at 4:30pm, the application will be referred to...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jun-Jul 2019 number 119
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jun-Jul 2019 number 119
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jun-Jul 2019 number 119 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jun-Jul 2019 number 119 Read more
During a debate on Ending the Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans Sharon talked about the challenges and oppurtunities of transitioning to Electric Vehicles (EVs) and what the Government needs to do to create an environment in which consumers are able to confidently move away from Petrol and Diesel vehicles.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
It really is a pleasure to speak in this debate today, because it is on an issue of great importance not only to our environmental commitments, but to the continued success of the UK’s automotive industry. As people will no doubt be aware, because I bang on about it, it is also important to my constituency, which is home to Nissan’s UK car plant. Just last month, the plant became the first in the UK to build its 10 millionth vehicle—an astonishing achievement and a real testament to the efficiency of the facility and the dedication of the workers.
Despite that good news, the overall picture for the automotive industry is worrying. A decline in sales of diesel vehicles, continuing uncertainty over Brexit, fears of a no-deal outcome, and the shift towards electric cars and autonomous vehicles are just some of the key factors that have led some in the sector to describe the current situation as a crisis. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, British car production fell for the 12th month in a row in May as output dropped to 15.5%. It is now clearer than ever that we need an urgent resolution to the ongoing Brexit stalemate and one that avoids the UK crashing out without a deal, which would be disastrous for the automotive industry.
While we must recognise the challenge that the transition towards electric vehicles presents to the automotive industry, it is important to see it as a great opportunity. Climate change is rightly back on the top of the political agenda, partly due to recent protests, including last week’s successful “The Time is Now” mass lobby. The deadly heatwave that swept across Europe last week should also focus our minds on tackling this issue. According to scientists, it was at least five times, and possibly a hundred times, more likely because of climate change.
As the shadow Public Health Minister, I am hugely concerned by illegal and harmful levels of air pollution across the UK, especially here in the capital. Air pollution damages the health of millions of people and is hugely dangerous for children, babies, older people, and those with existing health conditions. Successfully transitioning to electric vehicles is just one way of combating the climate crisis.
Nissan has been leading the way in developing EVs and the battery technology upon which they rely. The Nissan Leaf, made in my constituency, was the best-selling EV in Europe last year. The plant in Washington is also the only volume car manufacturer making a pure battery EV and has the first UK battery plant. Disappointingly, uptake of EVs in the UK lags behind other European countries, and the Government must be held partly responsible. They have failed to create an environment in which the EV market can thrive. Grants for EVs have been cut, and investment in the charging infrastructure has been insufficient, as we have heard from several hon. Members.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the Government continue to hold an unambitious phase-out date for new petrol and diesel models of 2040. By comparison, Norway’s target is for all vehicles sold to be low emission by 2025, the Netherlands and Sweden are aiming for 2030, and Scotland’s target is 2032. Although opinions vary on what the target should be, many in the industry have told me that the sector could absolutely cope with our target being brought forward to, say, 2035. The Committee on Climate Change recently called for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to be banned by 2030, so does the Minister agree with the CCC?
If companies such as Nissan are to build on their successes by producing and selling EVs, the right conditions must be in place for consumers to feel comfortable about making that transition. Two of the key barriers to consumer uptake are concerns around sufficient charging infrastructure and the high price of purchasing an EV compared with a petrol or diesel vehicle. Last year, the Government cut the grant for EVs from £4,500 to £3,500, which Labour strongly opposed. We simply cannot expect people, many of whom were encouraged to buy diesel cars not that long ago, to be able to afford new EVs when they can cost up to £10,000 more than a petrol or diesel vehicle. Even if they cost less to run over time, that initial outlay is the barrier.
As for charging infrastructure, Sunderland is well served, as is the north-east as a whole, as the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) pointed out. I attended the launch of our new Fastned charging station in Sunderland just last month, for example. As she said, the current market-led approach could lead to an unequal and inefficient distribution of charging points, and if the Government expect consumers to make the change to electric, they need to set out a national strategic infrastructure plan for charging points and further support individuals with home charging.
Although it is welcome that, as of 1 July, all electric car charge points installed via the official homecharge scheme must now have smart features, that means that chargers installed outside of the scheme will not have to be smart. In order for the electricity grid to ever be able to cope with this new future of high levels of EV charging, the systems in place need to be as efficient and smart as possible, not only in homes, but in workplaces and public locations.
The SMMT published figures today showing that the UK car market is in decline for the fourth consecutive month and that alternatively fuelled vehicle demand fell for the first time in 26 months. It is clear that the EV market in the UK can thrive with the right conditions in place, and the Government should be ensuring that the transition away from petrol and diesel vehicles is seen as an opportunity by all.
During a debate on Ending the Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans Sharon talked about the challenges and oppurtunities of transitioning to Electric Vehicles (EVs) and what the...