Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News Highlights

As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, Sharon welcomes the Government's recent announcement that they will invest £2 million to fund holiday hunger initiatives. 

You can read the Department for Education's press release here 

You can apply for the Holiday Activities and Food Research Fund here

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Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, said:

“I am thrilled that the Government have today announced the “Holiday activities and food research fund”. This will ensure that disadvantaged pupils benefit from a hot and healthy meal, like they do during the school day, during the school holidays.

This is something the APPG has been looking at since 2013 and what campaigners and I have been calling for for a number of years now. This has been a long time coming as too many children return to school after the holidays tired and malnourished as they haven’t eaten properly for weeks.

I am pleased that the Government have now opened their eyes to the ever growing problem of holiday hunger, and will support organisations in their delivery of meals during the holidays.”

[Ends]

Sharon welcomes new Government funding to tackle holiday hunger

As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, Sharon welcomes the Government's recent announcement that they will invest £2 million to fund holiday hunger initiatives.  You can read...

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As Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2018 draws to a close, I thought I would share some thoughts looking back over what has been another successful year in the campaign to increase people’s knowledge of this awful disease.

At the very start of the month it was a pleasure to host the launch event for Eve Appeal’s month long ‘Make Time for Tea’ fundraising campaign. Make Time for Tea encourages people to get together throughout the month of March and hold gatherings in order to fundraise, and spread awareness of the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. Last year, these efforts resulted in £60,000 being raised for Eve Appeal, money that will go towards funding ground breaking research.

The evening included updates on current research, and an extremely powerful and moving account of being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at a young age from Laura Moses. Since her diagnosis, Laura has been working incredibly hard to help raise awareness among other young women about the disease, through articles, pictures, speaking appointments and social media. You can read her fantastic blog here. It was a genuine honour to hear her experience, and that of her father who also spoke frankly and openly about how the diagnosis affected the entire family.

Attendees of the launch event were treated to lovely cakes and tea kindly donated by Ole & Steen and Whittard respectively. I would like to thank the Eve Appeal for the tireless work that they do and organising this event which has now become a landmark in the parliamentary calendar.Make_Time_for_Tea_(2).jpg

Hearing Laura’s story re-affirmed to me just how important it is that we support the research being conducted on Ovarian and other Gynaecological Cancers. In my capacity as Chair of the APPG on Ovarian Cancer I recently chaired a session as part of a wider inquiry entitled ‘Diagnosing ovarian cancer sooner: what more can be done?’ The evidence gathered from these sessions will form the basis of a report due to be published in May. Increased genetic testing and screening will be key to ensuring that many more women are diagnosed as early as possible. UK Survival Rates are some of the lowest in Europe, and this is something that must change.

Towards the end of the month I was thrilled to see many MPs from across the House of Commons come together to be #TealHeroes, dressed up in finest Teal regalia. Despite my best efforts, I was pipped to the post as the ‘Best Dressed’ Teal Hero by Andrew Gwynne MP who triumphed with this attempt:

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Teal Heroes is a new initiative aimed at increasing awareness amongst women of some of the key symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. Many of these symptoms closely resemble those of more minor illnesses and as such are often wrongly diagnosed or dismissed. It is incumbent upon us all to ensure we know the key symptoms and share with them friends and family members.

Finally it was great to see Athena Lamnisos, CEO of the Eve Appeal, raising Ovarian Cancer on a panel discussion at the Women’s Health Parliamentary Conference. Ovarian Cancer Action were also present at the conference with a stall throughout the day to spread awareness amongst the delegates.

As the month comes to an end, I want to pay tribute to all organizations and researchers who are leading in this arena. They provide essential support and fundraising, and are working on projects that will help to reduce the number of people who suffer or die from this terrible disease. Thank you also to Target Ovarian Cancer who provide the secretariat for the Ovarian Cancer APPG, and work tirelessly throughout the year.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2018

As Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2018 draws to a close, I thought I would share some thoughts looking back over what has been another successful year in the campaign to...

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Left to right: Kirsty, Sharon, Tracey and Bob McGurrell

Sharon visits 4Louis charity in her constituency

Left to right: Kirsty, Sharon, Tracey and Bob McGurrell Read more

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Sharon pictured here with Jill Pipes, Centre Manager at the WWT.

Sharon Supports English Tourism Week in Washington and Sunderland West

Sharon pictured here with Jill Pipes, Centre Manager at the WWT. Read more

Sharon has received a response to her letter of 19 Feb 2018.

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Click on image above to download the letter

If any constituents have any queries about this response, please do email Sharon and we will forward your concerns on to Rolton Kilbride and the Local Planning Authority at the Council for you.

See Sharon's original letter to Rolton Kilbride here >

Sharon receives a response from Rolton Kilbride to her letter of 19 Feb 2018

Sharon has received a response to her letter of 19 Feb 2018. Click on image above to download the letterIf any constituents have any queries about this response, please do...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded in a Westminster Hall debate on Orkambi and Cystic Fibrosis on behalf of the Opposition.

During her speech, Sharon called on the Government to work with the drug company, Vertex, and NHS England to ensure that Orkambi can be available free on the NHS so that the thousands of patients who can benefit from the drug no longer have to suffer.

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You can read the full debate here: Orkambi and Cystic Fibrosis

You can watch Sharon's speech here on Parliament TV: Orkambi and Cystic Fibrosis

You can read Sharon's full speech below:

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

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I thank the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) for his excellent opening speech, and I thank the 114,000 people who signed the online petition to enable us to debate it. As we have heard, the petition received more than 107,000 signatures in just 11 days—probably a record for such a petition—which shows how important Orkambi is to people with cystic fibrosis and their families.

I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) for his sterling campaigning on this issue over a number of years, for his passionate speech and for organising the excellent roundtable in Parliament. I was unable to attend the roundtable, but a member of my staff took extensive notes and briefed me fully. I also thank all hon. Members who spoke in the debate. I was going to list them all, but so far there have been 23, and with me and the Minister that will make 25, so I will save everyone from the roll-call. Indeed, at the start of the debate it was standing room only, which shows the strength of feeling on this issue across the House. We have heard very moving accounts about family members and constituents, and that alone should be more than enough to make the case for Orkambi to be made available on the NHS as soon as possible. Finally, I thank the Cystic Fibrosis Trust for its continued “Stopping the Clock” campaign and for all the work that it does to support people with cystic fibrosis.

As we have heard, cystic fibrosis affects about 10,400 children and adults in the UK today. It affects one in 2,500 people, and one in 25 of us carries the gene that causes it. It is a life-shortening genetic condition, with the median survival for an individual with cystic fibrosis currently at just 47 years. Patients with cystic fibrosis therefore have to spend three to five hours every day on aggressive and indiscrete physiotherapy, and need nebulised treatments and strong antibiotics just to keep well. The medicines tackle the symptoms of cystic fibrosis rather than the root cause. That is why new precision medicines such as Orkambi will change cystic fibrosis care for the better.

Kalydeco is the first precision medicine used in this country for people with cystic fibrosis. It has transformed the lives of those receiving it. Patients report no longer needing a tank of oxygen to support their breathing, and greater health stability, so that they can plan their lives more securely. Some are taken off the transplant waiting list, as their clinical status improves dramatically. However, it works for only one in 20 people with cystic fibrosis. In comparison, Orkambi works for eight in 20 people. About 50% of individuals with cystic fibrosis in the UK have the genetic mutation that Orkambi tackles, so the approval of Orkambi for use on the NHS could benefit about 5,200 people living with cystic fibrosis.

Orkambi has been shown to slow decline in lung function by 42% and cut the number of infections requiring hospitalisation by 61%. It gives patients not only more control over their lives but a greater quality of life. Orkambi is available for patients in nine other countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece and the United States. Yet here in the UK, NICE has deemed it to be cost-ineffective, and at least two and a half years after being approved for use it is still not available for cystic fibrosis patients on the NHS. I welcome reports that, after over a year of waiting, dialogue between the drug company Vertex, NHS England and NICE has reopened, and that last month Vertex announced it had proposed a new portfolio approach to the Government on the funding of Orkambi.

I would be grateful if the Minister would elaborate on that in his response and tell us whether the Government are considering the offer seriously. I understand that some hon. Members may have had an update email from Vertex this morning, although I did not; there may be news on that front. I would also appreciate it if the Minister would acknowledge that, given the example of Orkambi, more needs to be done to change how drugs for rare long-term conditions are assessed by NICE. The longer patients go without those precision drugs, the longer they go on suffering irreversible lung damage. That is why we need urgent change.

Mr Paul Sweeney (Glasgow North East) (Lab/Co-op)

Many hon. Members have referred to the Scottish Medicines Consortium. Of course, healthcare in Scotland is a devolved issue but the issues are the same: there is still a two-year wait to get the matter through. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a need for a closer working relationship between NICE and the SMC? Perhaps sometimes, with collective bargaining, a deal on price could be reached sooner.

Mrs Hodgson

Absolutely, I agree. I do a lot of work, as the Minister does and has done in the past, on access to cancer drugs. The same can be said in that context—that it is a postcode lottery not just within nations but between the nations, and that it need not be. The issue could be explored further.

NICE considers all the different benefits that a treatment could give, including living longer, but also having a better quality of life. That is hard to establish for some rare long-term conditions such as cystic fibrosis, making it hard for drugs to meet NICE’S requirements. There is a need for high-quality data on treatments, so that an accurate quality-adjusted life year model can be created. However, that is very difficult to achieve in short trials, particularly for rare long-term diseases such as cystic fibrosis, where “powering” a trial with enough patients is very difficult. People with long-term conditions often score their quality of life more highly than people who have developed acute conditions after being well, often because of differences of perception. If, during trials, people score their quality of life as high prior to treatment, subsequent quality-adjusted life year gains are lower.

The cost of developing a treatment for a rare disease is also high. Understanding the condition, developing an effective treatment and running the required trials in a small population is expensive. Treatments often have no competitors, so there is dampening of market forces, with negative consequences for the consumer or payer. NICE found that Orkambi was important and effective, but that the cost was too high. Vertex must therefore work as a matter of urgency to bring down the cost of Orkambi, so that thousands of cystic fibrosis patients can benefit from the drug on the NHS. The Opposition are committed to ensuring that all NHS patients get fast access to the most effective new drugs and treatments.

In response to the online petition, the Government responded:

“We want patients to benefit from clinically and cost effective treatments.”

What steps are they taking to bring that about? NICE’S guidance on Orkambi is scheduled to be reviewed in July 2019. Will the Government work with Vertex, NICE and NHS England to ensure that the review is brought forward so that thousands of patients can benefit much sooner from the drug on the NHS? It is clear from today’s debate that we need more and better treatments for cystic fibrosis in the UK. Last year, half of all people who died with cystic fibrosis were under the age of 31. It is unacceptable that while pharmaceutical companies, NHS England and NICE barter, people’s lives are at stake. The Government must therefore take responsibility for negotiating an agreement as soon as possible. I hope that the Minister will take on what he has heard today. I hope he will acknowledge how important it is to find a solution that guarantees that the current situation affecting the pipeline of treatments for cystic fibrosis will never happen again, and that thousands of patients will get access to the most effective drugs and treatments as soon as possible.

Orkambi and Cystic Fibrosis Westminster Hall Debate 19.03.18

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded in a Westminster Hall debate on Orkambi and Cystic Fibrosis on behalf of the Opposition. During her speech, Sharon called on the... Read more

Government Call for Evidence.

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The Government has recently launched a consultation on how to improve safety for all road uses and boost active travel.

Government Cycle and Walking Strategy Safety Review Consultation 2018 - Call for Evidence

Government Call for Evidence. The Government has recently launched a consultation on how to improve safety for all road uses and boost active travel. Read more

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Sharon has agreed with Rolton Kilbride (via Coast Communications) to publish this letter on her website to provide balance and answer some constituents’ concerns that have been brought to Sharon’s attention.

Rolton Kilbride copy Sharon in to their letter to Sunderland City Council

Sharon has agreed with Rolton Kilbride (via Coast Communications) to publish this letter on her website to provide balance and answer some constituents’ concerns that have been brought to Sharon’s...

As the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, Sharon spoke in a debate on the Government's proposals to introduce a £7,400 net income threshold for families on Universal Credit and eligibility for free school meals. In her speech, Sharon raised concerns that the threshold would see over 1 million children in poverty miss out on a free school meal.  

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You can read the full debate here: Universal Credit and Free School Meals

You can read Sharon's full speech below:

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

These regulations will affect millions of families up and down the country, so it is only right that we are able to discuss them today. The Government consulted from November to January on introducing an earnings threshold that would restrict free school meals to families with net earnings under £7,400 per annum. The consultation received 8,981 responses. However, the Government excluded 8,421 of those responses from their analysis, meaning that fewer than 4% of respondents agreed with the Government. Surely that goes against every rule of public consultations. Talk about statistics being used against vulnerable people!

In 2010, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions promised in the White Paper on universal credit that it would

“ensure that work always pays and is seen to pay. Universal Credit will mean that people will be consistently and transparently better off for each hour they work and every pound they earn.”

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab):

I am glad that my hon. Friend has picked out that point. She will have heard the Secretary of State saying that jobcentres would advise people not to take extra work or to get a pay rise because they would end up worse off. Is that not absolutely contrary to the whole principle of universal credit that she has just read out?

Mrs Hodgson:

Yes, absolutely. We know that the Government are today reneging on the former Secretary of State’s commitment.

Free school meals are worth far more to a family than £400 a year per child. That might not seem to be a lot to some hon. Members, but to those families it is an absolute lifeline. By introducing a £7,400 threshold for eligibility, the Government are forcibly creating a cliff edge that will be detrimental to families, especially children. To give just one example, someone with three children in their family who earns just below the £7,400 threshold is set to lose out on £1,200-worth of free school meals if they work only a few extra hours or get a pay rise. The Opposition’s proposal would simply remove the huge cliff edge and the work disincentive for families who most need support. It would take away the barrier to working extra hours or seeking promotion. Our proposals would therefore make work pay. The Government’s proposal is in fact the new 16 hours, which they said was a disincentive.

Mike Hill (Harlepool) (Lab):

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Hartlepool, where universal credit is not being rolled out—it is already in—more than 1,000 children are being denied free school meals on the basis of the new proposal?

Mrs Hodgson:

Yes. We can all cite the numbers from our constituencies. Even Conservative Members need to think about what they are doing to some of the poorest children in their constituencies. In the example I just quoted, the family’s annual wages would need to increase from £7,400 to almost £11,000 to make up for what they would lose by rising above the eligibility cliff edge. That problem did not occur under the old tax credit system, because that provided an offsetting income boost at the point at which free school meals were withdrawn. However, there is no equivalent mitigation under universal credit.

The Children’s Society has been much maligned today and has been cited as giving duff statistics—Conservative Members should be ashamed of themselves. It estimates that the cliff edge will mean that a million children in poverty will miss out on free school meals once universal credit is fully rolled out. They will miss out on something that is crucial for their physical and mental development.

The Government have said that 50,000 more children will benefit by the end of the roll-out in 2022, when the transitional protections are at capacity, but I and many others struggle to understand how that can be the case. Parliamentary questions tabled by my hon. Friends and others have gone unanswered, and the Government cannot just pluck figures out of the air, as they claim so many others have done. At least we can back up our claims with evidence from the Children’s Society, Gingerbread, the Child Poverty Action Group and Citizens Advice, all of which agree that this statutory instrument would take free school meals away from a million future children—[Interruption.] It would. If the SI does not come into force, a million more children will receive free school meals—[Interruption.] Conservative Members can shake their heads all they like.

During my recent Westminster Hall debate, I offered Ministers a solution that would mean that all children in universal credit households would continue to receive free school meals. As somebody asked earlier, I can say that it would cost half a billion pounds—not a huge cost to feed over a million of the poorest children. My proposal would see around 1.1 million more children in years 3 and above from low-income families receiving free school meals compared with under this change.

Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) (Con):

If we were to maintain free school meals for absolutely everybody on universal credit, does the hon. Lady think it would be right to prioritise those coming from the legacy tax credit system, who could be earning up to £50,000 a year, instead of opening up eligibility and getting free school meals to more children in poverty?

Mrs Hodgson:

I am running out of time, so— [Interruption.] Perhaps Conservative Members would let me finish before they use up all my time. I was going to say that while I cannot go into the full details, because of the time, I understand from the Children’s Society that that is a small number of people—up to 40,000—and that those people are often in large families with severely disabled children. The large amount of money is down to how much they receive for those children. It is disingenuous to use that as an example and to make out that all those families are receiving £50,000.

The Minister claimed yesterday that my proposal would result in around half of all pupils becoming eligible, increasing the figure to 3.3 severely million children. Even the much-cited Channel 4 FactCheck article states that our proposal would extend to 1.1 million children, making the total 1.8 million children. When we talk about facts, Conservative Members need to get their facts right. Where do the extra 1.5 million children come from?

Free School Meals and Universal Credit Debate 13.03.2018

As the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, Sharon spoke in a debate on the Government's proposals to introduce a £7,400 net income threshold for families on... Read more

Sharon receives a response from Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment.

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Click on the image above to download the letter.

Impact of China ban on plastics used for gasification and incineration

Sharon receives a response from Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment. Click on the image above to download the letter. Read more

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