Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, today (Wednesday 15th May) raised food insecurity with Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Question Time and asked her to meet with young food ambassadors who have experienced food insecurity themselves.
Sharon, who Co-Chaired the Children’s Future Food Inquiry, used the opportunity to raise figures published today by the End Poverty Coalition showing that 500,000 more children are having their lives blighted by poverty today than at the start of the decade.
The Children’s Future Food Inquiry was the first inquiry about food insecurity amongst young people that included children and young people in the discussions and recommendations.
The young food ambassadors published a #Right2Food Charter which outlines what they believe should be done to tackle food poverty and insecurity.
The Inquiry’s Committee, made up of cross-party politicians and charities, recommended that the Government set up an Independent Children’s Food Watchdog to cost some of the policies that could help tackle food insecurity and hunger.
Sharon asked the Prime Minister:
“Three weeks ago, the Prime Minister received a copy of the Children’s Future Food Inquiry report, delivered to No.10 by Dame Emma Thompson and six young food ambassadors who have all experienced food poverty.
“On her Government’s watch, the End Child Poverty Coalition have found that half a million more children are having their lives blighted by poverty today than at the start of this decade.
Will the Prime Minister meet with these young food ambassadors to discuss their #Right2Food Children’s Charter as soon as possible?”
In her response, the Prime Minister said:
“I haven’t actually seen the Charter yet, so I will look very carefully at that Charter.
“But as I have said in response to a number of questions on this issue: what is important is that we have in this country an economy that enables people to get into good jobs.
“That is what we are delivering as a Conservative Party in Government. That is what enables people to have that stability in their income. That is what enables people to be able to care for their children.”
Following PMQs, Sharon said:
“I am disappointed that the Prime Minister would not commit to meeting with the young food ambassadors, who have been so brave in sharing their experiences of food insecurity with politicians.
“At a time when we see poverty increasing, the Government must take food insecurity seriously or we risk losing an entire generation of young people to hunger. But it is clear that the Government is not able to grasp the nuances of poverty and food insecurity.
“I will continue to bring this issue to the Government’s attention until they take meaningful action to tackle this problem.”
Notes to editor:
- You can watch Sharon’s question and the Prime Minister’s response here.
- The Children’s Future Food Inquiry report can be found here.
- The #Right2Food Charter can be found here.
- More information about the Children’s Future Food Inquiry can be found here.
- You can read the End Child Poverty Coalition’s press release here.
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, today (Wednesday 15th May) raised food insecurity with Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Question Time and asked her to meet...
During a debate in the House of Commons on TV licences, Sharon set out why TV licences for over 75s are so important to the elderly and called on the Government to take responsibility and ensure that TV licences for over 75s remain.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West):
I welcome the opportunity to debate free TV licences for over-75s. My mam, who I know will be watching, as a lot of pensioners do—I am sure lots of people besides our mams will be watching the Parliament channel—is very passionate about this issue because she is turning 75 in January. To her, this is personal, as she keeps telling me. She feels it has been done deliberately to give her a hard time. It is also personal to the thousands of pensioners who will be worse off if the free TV licence for over-75s is revoked, curtailed or means-tested.
In March, I hosted and addressed the National Pensioners Convention in Parliament for its rally on the BBC’s consultation. I share all of their frustrations about these proposed changes, because I know—I heard this at the rally, from the pensioners—how important their TVs are to their everyday lives. That is why I contributed to the BBC’s consultation in February this year. I have received notification that my letter will be included in the consultation document, so I hope all my points will be taken on board by the BBC and, in turn, listened to by the Government.
The introduction of free TV licences in 2000 for those aged over 75 was one of the many great achievements of the last Labour Government. That is why I and many of my colleagues opposed the Conservative Government’s outsourcing of this social benefit to the BBC as part of its 2015 royal charter. As we have heard, the cost to the BBC is roughly equivalent to the total it currently spends on all of BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies, so I strongly disagree with what the Prime Minister said at last week’s Prime Minister’s questions in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham). She said that
“there is no reason why the BBC, with the money made available to it, is not able to continue that.”—[Official Report, 1 May 2019; Vol. 659, c. 203.]
I am incredulous that the Prime Minister really believes the BBC can fund all of this without detriment. Even to try to do so would be extremely detrimental to the content the BBC is able to offer, and risks causing immense damage to the quality of the service that we all currently enjoy.
I agree with BECTU—the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union—which has said, in opposing the proposals to scrap or limit free TV licences:
“as a welfare benefit, meeting the cost of free licence fees should be the duty of the government”.
It is a disgrace that the Government not only feel able to wash their hands of the responsibility for providing this welfare policy, but are now refusing to rule out breaking the commitment they made in the 2017 Conservative manifesto to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s up to 2022. More than 5,000 households in my constituency are eligible for a free TV licence as they have someone over the age of 75. I am sure that those households will feel let down and unable to trust the Conservative Government if their free TV licence is taken away.
Alex Sobel (Leeds North West):
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. The BBC is under a lot of pressure in respect of new services, and has introduced BBC Sounds, on-demand services and social media services. These services are less likely to be used by the over-75s, but the Government expect the BBC to introduce these services and take away the benefit for over-75s or take the costs. This cannot stand. Does she not agree that the Government need to pay for this, because the BBC needs to continue to innovate?
Exactly. I am pleased that my hon. Friend has made that intervention to make that point. The BBC needs to innovate, move forward and get better. This move would be to its detriment. It would be a huge backward step in terms of what the BBC would be able to provide in the future, and it just makes no sense.
As we have heard over and over again from Members in all parts of the House, the BBC is much more than just entertainment. Loneliness is blighting the lives of people across the country, with four in 10 people saying that their television is their main source of company. If the Government were serious about tackling the issue of social isolation, they would not be continuing their devastating programme of austerity cuts that affect the most vulnerable in our society. If free TV licences are ended, curtailed or means-tested, millions of older people, who suffer disproportionately from social isolation, will have to pay to keep the little company they have. I feel as though the Minister, his Parliamentary Private Secretary and the Whip are suffering social isolation today in this Chamber, because, as you will notice, Madam Deputy Speaker, they are the only ones here—here because of their roles. I do not think we could have any fewer Conservatives in the Chamber and be allowed to continue!
As with so many of the Government’s policies, this is yet another cruel attack on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. The Government must be honest with the country: austerity is not over. That is proved by the fact that the Minister said in her opening remarks that this policy change was dreamed up under the original austerity plans of Osborne—or rather, the former Chancellor—and it is just being implemented now. If austerity is really over, why can the Government not just drop this hugely unpopular and unfair cut?
As we have heard, the licence fee concession was guaranteed to be safe until at least 2022 in the Conservative manifesto. The Government are shirking their responsibility, breaking their promises and punishing pensioners. They must stop passing the buck, accept their basic moral duty, and stick by the manifesto commitment on which all Government Members were elected. That is probably why the majority of them are not present to front this up—because they cannot. The Government need to properly fund TV licences for the over-75s, and they need to do it now.
During a debate in the House of Commons on TV licences, Sharon set out why TV licences for over 75s are so important to the elderly and called on the...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Apr-May 2019 number 117
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Apr-May 2019 number 117 Click on the image above to download the file. Read more
I want to start by saying that I know that many people are hugely frustrated with the Brexit process and how this Government has handled our exit from the European Union (EU).
It has been clear for many months now that the Prime Minister's deal does not have the support of Parliament and it has been rejected on multiple occasions. As I am sure you will be aware, I have been voting against the Prime Minister's deal as I believe it is deeply flawed. It will not protect jobs, workplace rights or environmental standards, and it will not ensure frictionless trade for British businesses, something hugely important to the manufacturing industry in our region of the North East.
You can also see how I voted in the indicative votes process here: http://www.sharonhodgson.org/brexit_update_april5th
Talks are now taking place between the Labour Party and the Government to try and find a solution to this ongoing impasse. This is something that the Government should have done years ago, and their failure to reach out across the political spectrum is in part why we find ourselves where we do now. These talks are covering customs, services, workers’ rights, environmental protections, entrenchment of commitments, a confirmatory public vote, and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
In recent days, the Prime Minister has agreed a further extension to the Brexit process. Although the new deadline is now the 31st of October 2019, there is still a possibility of leaving before then if Parliament can agree on a deal. I appreciate that for many people, the fact that we are still in the EU almost 3 years after voting to leave it will be concerning, particularly if we do end up taking part in the European Elections.
Although this situation is not ideal, it is in my view preferable to leaving either with the Prime Minister’s bad deal, or crashing out with ‘No-Deal’. It is incumbent on the Government now to drop their red lines and compromise to find a way forward that people can unite around.
There remains a huge variety of opinions on Brexit and what should happen next. I want to make it clear that I will always do what I think is in the best interests of my constituents, and would consider all options (including a Public Vote) to ensure that we do not end up leaving the EU in a way in which would damage livelihoods, workers’ rights, environmental protections, or jobs.
People feel passionately about this issue, and I empathise with the Brexit fatigue that many people are no doubt experiencing. I want to assure you that despite Brexit dominating the news, I am continuing to campaign on important local and national issues. Whether it’s opposing cuts to Public Health Funding and tackling the obesity crisis or bringing the Metro to Washington and opposing the new Waste Incinerator.
I want to start by saying that I know that many people are hugely frustrated with the Brexit process and how this Government has handled our exit from the European...
It has been yet another challenging and fast-moving week when it comes to Brexit. I know that many of my constituents are hugely frustrated by the ongoing deadlock in Parliament, and the way in which this process has been handled by the Conservative Government over the past few years.
I have received a significant amount of correspondence over the past few weeks and as such there is currently a short delay in responses to queries regarding Brexit. I hope this update provides some information in the meantime, but please note all constituents will receive a full reply.
At the bottom of this post you will find a breakdown of my voting record for the recent indicative Brexit votes that took place in Parliament. I approached the indicative votes process in the spirit of compromise and therefore supported all options that were in line with Labour Party Policy, even if they did not fully align with our position.
It is no exaggeration to say that we are now in the middle of a full-blown political crisis, with time running out. I am therefore open to supporting a range of options that would break the deadlock and allow us to move forward as a country.
As many people will know, I have consistently opposed the idea of leaving the EU without a deal as I believe it would be a disastrous outcome for our country, and particularly the manufacturing industry in our region of the North East.
With that in mind I supported Yvette Cooper MP & Sir Oliver Letwin MP’s Bill this week, which aims to avoid a No Deal Brexit on the 12th April 2019. It is now being considered by the Lords and this process will continue Monday of next week.
The Prime Minister’s approach to Brexit has been chaotic. She has stuck to unnecessary red lines and refused to pursue a cross-party approach until such a time when she had no other options left. This process is now, finally, taking place with talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn (and their teams).
Jeremy and his negotiating team have discussed customs arrangements, single market alignment including rights and protections, agencies and programmes, internal security, legal underpinning to any agreements and a confirmatory vote. They are now expecting to hear more from the Government, who have also requested a further extension of Article 50 from the EU.
It is more important now than ever that we work together in order to find a path through this complicated period for our country that works for everyone and brings people together. I will continue to update constituents as this process moves forward.
Due to the Government’s failure to secure a Brexit deal that could secure a majority, MPs took control of the order paper and organised two rounds of indicative votes to see if there were any options that could find majority support.
First Round – 27th March 2019
Motion D - Common Market 2.0
Proposed membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It allows for continued participation in the single market and a ‘comprehensive customs arrangement’.
Motion J – Customs Union
Required a commitment to negotiate a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide Customs Union with the EU in any Brexit deal.
Motion K – Labour Plan
Our plan for a close economic relationship with the EU including a comprehensive customs union and close alignment with the single market in order to secure rights and protections.
Motion M – Confirmatory Public Vote
Would require a public vote to confirm any Brexit deal passed by Parliament before its ratification.
Motion B – Leaving the EU without a deal
Proposed leaving the EU without a deal on the 12th April 2019.
Motion H – EEA / EFTA without a Customs Unions
Proposed remaining within the EEA and re-joining EFTA, but remaining outside a customs union with the European Union (EU).
Motion O – Contingent preferential arrangements
Called on the Government to try and secure preferential trade arrangements with the EU in case we are unable to implement a withdrawal agreement.
Motion L – Revoke article 50
Proposal in which if the Government failed to pass its Withdrawal agreement it would have to then hold a vote on No Deal, two sitting days before the date of departure. If No Deal was voted down by MPs, the Prime Minister would need to revoking article 50.
Second Round – 1st April 2019
Motion C – Customs Union
Required any Brexit deal to include a commitment to negotiate a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU”. No major change from the first round (Motion J).
Motion D – Common Market 2.0 / Norway
Very similar to the Motion tabled previously (Motion D) with some minor changes relating to the UK having a say on future EU trade deals and protocols relating to frictionless agri-food trade.
Motion E – Confirmatory Public Vote
Same as in first round (Motion M).
Motion G – Parliamentary Supremacy
Very similar to Motion tabled in the first round (Motion L) with some changes. Namely that if Article 50 was revoked as a result, a public inquiry would then be set up to find a Brexit option that could secure public support.
It has been yet another challenging and fast-moving week when it comes to Brexit. I know that many of my constituents are hugely frustrated by the ongoing deadlock in Parliament,... Read more
Photo Credit: NK-Photography, 2017
Nominations for the NHS Parliamentary Awards are now open.
I was thrilled to be able to showcase some of the brilliant NHS staff and their achievements in my constituency and across the North East last year, and hope to do so again for 2019.
For the last 70 years, NHS staff have been there for us all. This includes doctors, pharmacists, nurses, scientists, clerical staff, cleaners and porters. Without their contributions, the NHS wouldn’t exist.
All our NHS staff, volunteers and society’s carers deserve recognition, but there are many that go above and beyond the call of duty to make the NHS a better service - with hard graft, exciting new ideas and simply by putting patients first.
The NHS Parliamentary Awards give us an opportunity to say thank you for those NHS staff who go above and beyond for their local community, and to recognise the talent, creativity and dedication of NHS staff in Washington and Sunderland West.
If you know anyone working with and for health and care organisations in Washington and Sunderland West who deserves national recognition please send me your nominations. You can download the nomination form here.
Nominations close at midnight on April 26th, so please get them to me as soon as possible by filling in the form and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org
There are ten categories, covering key areas such as mental health and primary care, as well as a Lifetime Achievement award for someone who has contributed to the success of the NHS for 40 years or more.
More information on how to nominate is available at http://www.nhsparliamentaryawards.co.uk/how-nominate-0
Photo Credit: NK-Photography, 2017 Nominations for the NHS Parliamentary Awards are now open. I was thrilled to be able to showcase some of the brilliant NHS staff and their achievements...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2019 number 116 Brexit update
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2019 number 116 Brexit update
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2019 number 116 Brexit update Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2019 number 116 Brexit update Read more
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Mar-Apr 2019 number 115 Read more
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
On Wednesday last week, the Prime Minister addressed the nation about Brexit.
After two years, the Prime Minister has failed to negotiate a deal with the EU that protects workers’ rights, environmental regulations or our economy.
The Prime Minister’s deal has been overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament more than once.
During her Downing Street Statement, the Prime Minister tried to place the blame for this on MPs.
But it is not MPs who are to blame. She is.
The national debate on Brexit at the moment is very tense.
My colleagues and I have received many abusive and threatening messages, just for doing our job.
That the Prime Minister should fan the flames of this hatred against elected politicians is extremely dangerous, and demeans the office of the Prime Minister.
Following the speech, the Government then spent tens of thousands of pounds promoting clips of the Prime Minister’s speech on Facebook, alongside the caption “I am on your side”.
If the Prime Minister was on your side, her Government wouldn’t have cut funding for our schools so much that teachers have to use their own money to pay for essentials such as books and pencils; our NHS wouldn’t be in crisis, with 2.8 million people waiting for 4 hours or longer in A&E in 2017/18, compared to just over 350,000 in 2009/10; and our country wouldn’t be facing a knife crime crisis, with police numbers slashed by 21,000.
Instead of attempting to bully and blackmail MPs, the Prime Minister should listen to the thoughts, opinions and concerns of MPs, so that we can effectively represent our constituents.
The North East is my home, I was born here, I brought my children up here, I lived through the dark days of Thatcherism and its impact on our region, and I consider myself lucky every day to represent such a fantastic constituency and people.
I respect the result of the referendum, and welcome hearing from all of my constituents on this.
However, I do not accept that anyone has the right to be abusive or threatening to my parliamentary colleagues and I.
Whatever you think about what is going on in Westminster, I would ask you to appreciate that I only ever do what I think is in the best interests of my constituents on this and all matters.
Whilst the Brexit debate rages on, we must all respect one another and ensure the tone is kept amicable.
The Prime Minister would do well to remember that in the days and weeks to come.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. On Wednesday last week, the Prime Minister addressed the nation about Brexit. After two...
Today, Sharon submitted a letter to the Department of Transport’s Call for Evidence on light rail. Sharon has also sent a copy of this letter to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.
Please click on the image above to see the letter in full
Washington is the largest conurbation in England without a rail link, despite having a population of almost 70,000. While our Metro is one of our national treasures, residents of Washington do not benefit directly from it, and I believe an extension is well overdue. This is an issue myself and my constituents are passionate about.
The letter provides an outline of numerous reasons that the Metro should be extended;
Incentivise investment and growth, while promoting higher employment rates and more opportunities for not only Washington but Tyne and Wear as a whole
More accessible options for post-16 education at the many colleges, sixth form centres and training campuses around the region, while post-16 education institutions in Washington would become more accessible and attractive to students in the region
Incentivise residents to use a more sustainable mode of transport, helping our environment and congestion in the region, where 70% of Washington residents are currently car-dependent
Proposals suggest re-opening existing transport infrastructure. The disused Leamside Line would easily connect Washington to stations at Pelaw and in Sunderland.
"Despite being left behind so often, Washington has so much potential. I believe that an extension of our Metro to Washington is an opportunity to make the future of Tyne and Wear a prosperous one."
UPDATE: 21st March
On Thursday 21st March, Sharon raised this in the House of Commons during Transport Questions. You can watch Sharon's question here
Today, Sharon submitted a letter to the Department of Transport’s Call for Evidence on light rail. Sharon has also sent a copy of this letter to the Transport Secretary, Chris...