Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News Highlights

As part of the First Phase of the Path to Excellence consultation, Sharon was invited to attend a meeting of the Sunderland and South Tyneside Joint Health Scrutiny Committee to give her views on the consultation and the proposed plans.

Sharon's comments from the meeting can be read below. 

If any constituent wishes to include their views in this consultation, they can visit the Path to Excellence website and fill out the survey there: https://pathtoexcellence.org.uk/take-part-survey/ 

Further details about the proposed plans can be read on the Path to Excellence website. 

PLEASE NOTE THE CONSULTATION CLOSES AT MIDNIGHT ON THE 15TH OCTOBER 2017. 

 

** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY **

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to your committee this afternoon.

I don’t want to speak for too long, as I know there is a packed agenda of other stakeholders to hear from.

In my contribution, I just want to raise some points about the consultation along with seeking reassurances that as many people as possible are being consulted with, especially those from disadvantaged groups.

As we know, these proposed plans come at a time when the NHS is facing serious reductions in its resources form central government with every growing demand by patients.

The work of our NHS staff is commendable and we should never stop praising them for their hard work and dedication – something I know every one of us in the room here today can agree upon.

However, I want to seek assurances from those here today that the plans being put forward will not put further strains on our already overly stretched NHS staff and guarantee that patients will not see a diminished quality or access to services?

Capacity has already been mentioned with regard to Sunderland Royal Hospital and I’m sure will be mentioned again by others. But also the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Queen Elizabeth Hospital could be effected.

We cannot escape the fact that these plans are about cuts. Cuts which are passed off as efficiencies but nevertheless, are being inflicted upon our NHS from a national position which is ideologically driven.

We know efficiencies can always be made when it comes to our public services, but the drive to make our NHS more efficient should never be done in a way that impedes on the experiences of staff and patients alike.

I’m aware some centralising of services make sense and can greatly improve the services offered so this is about taking the public, staff and patients on this journey with a full and transparent consultation, which is why we are all here today.

Service users and staff should be at the centre of every decision made. I know that my constituents want to see quality NHS services in their local area that they can access with ease by staff who are confident in the structures designed.

That is why I welcome that this consultation is happening, whilst recognising there are concerns about how it is being done. For example, am I correct in thinking that people are not allowed or encouraged just to turn up at the public hearings – but have to register first to be allowed to attend?

People should have their voices heard on these proposals, as we know that people value our NHS so dearly. The consultation events being held are important, but as we know people may not have the chance to attend these sessions and will instead take part in the survey on the Path to Excellence website.

Though, from recent information released to the public, there have only been 414 survey responses to date. Is that correct? It may be a little higher since that figure was released. Now I don’t have the population figure to hand that this consultation covers but it’s many hundreds of thousands, possibly not much short of ½ million. So that does seem a little low to me?

So I have genuine concerns that these responses will not fully reflect the thoughts of local people, and as a crucial way for people to engage with this consultation, I hope that the two remaining sessions planned will be opened up to as many people as possible to allow people with as many opportunities as possible to engage with the future of local provision.

Decisions as great as these should have the fullest engagement from local people so that services reflect what they wish and expect.

It is also important that groups who are harder to engage with, through many complex reasons, have their say including young people and older people, disabled people, BME communities and LGBT people.

Some of these groups access services on a regular basis and it is crucial that they are listened to, just as all of us should be.

I understand that support is out there for charities and organisations to provide routes in for these groups to engage with the consultation – and I would welcome an update from the committee on this and what they hope to do further to ensure everyone is listened to.

These plans will change the very nature of our local NHS services. Consultation is important so that people are not caught unaware when a service may close and they then struggle to access it.

I hope the committee can give me the reassurances that this consultation is being done in a way that everyone can have their say, and we can ensure our NHS reflects the wishes of local people. 

Sharon attends Path to Excellence Consultation Meeting

As part of the First Phase of the Path to Excellence consultation, Sharon was invited to attend a meeting of the Sunderland and South Tyneside Joint Health Scrutiny Committee to...

Information for my constituents regarding Rolton Kilbride's proposed renewable energy centre Hillthorn Park in Washington

Rolton Kilbride proposed renewable energy centre Hillthorn Park in Washington

Information for my constituents regarding Rolton Kilbride's proposed renewable energy centre Hillthorn Park in Washington Read more

Over the 2017 summer holidays, Northumbria University conducted a mapping exercise into holiday hunger provision across the United Kingdom.

Their findings found:

  • A rise in the number of organisations delivering holiday hunger clubs since 2015 with a sharp rise in the establishment of new holiday clubs in 2017.
  • The regions of the UK with the greatest number of responses to the survey are the North East of England, London and Scotland.
  • Over two thirds of organisations surveyed do not charge for their holiday club provision.
  • The majority of organisations provide food and a range of activities for children.
  • Voluntary or community based groups and church or faith groups together make up over half of all holiday club providers.
  • The majority of organisations rely on both paid and volunteer staff and partner with other organisations or agencies to deliver this provision.
  • Holiday clubs are available to children of all ages but organisations predominately focus their provision on primary school aged children (5 – 11 year olds).

Over the past five years, Sharon Hodgson MP, has campaigned on the issue of child hunger issues, including holiday hunger, including the commissioning of the first mapping exercise in the summer of 2016 as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food.

In response to the latest information released on the holiday hunger situation in the UK, Sharon, said: 

It is deeply concerning to see that holiday hunger provision this summer has increased so drastically compared to last summer, especially with some of the greatest number of responses to Northumbria University’s survey coming from the North East.

“The staff and volunteers who help provide this vital support to families over the summer holidays should be thanked profusely for doing such an amazing job, but it is high time that the Government seriously addressed this issue once and for all.

“The Government must acknowledge this is becoming an ever-more serious issue in our country and come up with policy to tackle this issue. By continuing to put their heads in the sand, they are letting down generations of children who deserve the best start in life, no matter what their background or circumstances. The time to act is now.”

You can see the full report from Northumbria University here: http://www.frankfield.co.uk/upload/docs/Holiday%20Club%20Survey%202017.pdf

Sharon reacts to Northumbria University's Preliminary Findings of Holiday Hunger Survey 2017

Over the 2017 summer holidays, Northumbria University conducted a mapping exercise into holiday hunger provision across the United Kingdom. Their findings found: A rise in the number of organisations delivering...

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jul-Sep 2017 number 96

2017_08_01_number_96_gc_report-1_cover.jpg

Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jul-Sep 2017 number 96

Sharon Hodgson MPs report Jul-Sep 2017 number 96

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jul-Sep 2017 number 96 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jul-Sep 2017 number 96 Read more

Following concerns that the Department of Health was ignoring the concerns of the contaminated blood community about the Department's involvement in setting up the inquiry, Sharon responded on behalf of the Opposition during an Urgent Question called by Diana Johnson MP. 

You can read the full debate in Hansard here.

Read Sharon's contribution to the debate below.

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

It is disappointing that we are here again today, so soon after last week’s announcement. A week ago, this House united in agreement to finally facilitate justice for those tragically affected by this scandal. Yet, as we have heard, in recent days Ministers have reneged on last week’s promises and run roughshod over the affected community.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Philip Dunne)

indicated dissent.

Mrs Hodgson

The Minister of State may shake his head, but that is how the community feel; we have spoken to them. There are three key questions that the Under-Secretary before us this morning must answer, and I hope she will be more forthcoming with much-needed answers than she was to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson).

Understandably, the community have deeply held suspicions when it comes to the Department of Health, so why are Ministers ignoring these concerns and the demands to facilitate an inquiry through another Department, such as the Ministry of Justice? This concern has been well documented in the letter to the Prime Minister by my hon. Friend, the Haemophilia Society, the 10 campaign groups and the law firms Collins Law and Leigh Day. Why does the Minister think the Government can so easily disregard all these people?

Events over the past few days have shown that last week’s promise to consult, engage and listen to the community was simply warm words. The audacious move to hold a roundtable meeting this morning with so little notice to potential attendees from throughout the UK has hindered many from being involved in the process of setting up the inquiry. Will Ministers explain why the meeting was held at such short notice? Who did they plan to invite so that the meeting was properly consultative? In the end, who was scheduled to attend following the mass boycott by many of those invited, who felt that the offer of a meeting was a slap in the face?

It is important that the inquiry is held sooner rather than later, but not at the risk of jeopardising justice. Will the Minister publicly outline, now, the timetable for the inquiry? Do the Government intend to initiate the inquiry in September? If so, why has that not been made public? Why is it that we must bring Ministers to the House again to make this clear? Does that not go against everything we were promised last week? The Minister must remember the promises made just last week and ensure that consultation is central to the whole process; otherwise, the Government will fail this community, who must have the justice they so rightly deserve.

 

Urgent Question on the Inquiry into the Contaminated Blood Scandal 20.07.17

Following concerns that the Department of Health was ignoring the concerns of the contaminated blood community about the Department's involvement in setting up the inquiry, Sharon responded on behalf of...

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate secured by Dan Jarvis MP on the need for the Government to consider the introduction of an opt-out organ donation system to improve organ donation in England. 

You can read the full debate on Hansard here

Read Sharon's contribution to the debate below.

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

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) for securing this debate, for his excellent contribution and for all the work that he has done in recent weeks to raise awareness of the need for more people to become organ donors. I commend other hon. Members for their thoughtful contributions to this debate; the Daily Mirror for raising awareness of organ donation since the case of Max Johnson, a nine-year-old boy in need of a new heart; and the more than 9,000 people who signed the Change.org petition.

I also pay my respects to other hon. Members who have brought this issue to our attention over the last decade or so. They include my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), who introduced a private Member’s Bill on this topic back in 2004, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), who introduced a private Member’s Bill more recently and who spoke so well today.

I will quickly set the scene on organ donation in the wider sense and then move on to the situation in countries such as Wales and Spain, in which opt-out systems have been introduced. Finally, I will talk about three tests that Opposition Members would like the Government to look at, if such a system were implemented in England, to ensure that patients, NHS staff and community groups could have confidence in such a change in the law.

There is no doubt about the need for more organ donors in England. We have heard about that so clearly today. With so many people on the waiting list for new organs, it is important that we get more people signing up to donate their organs so that we can ensure that more people have the chance to live. That is why it is welcome that in a written answer last year, the then Public Health Minister, Nicola Blackwood, confirmed that since 2008 organ donation across the whole of the UK had increased by 68% and transplants by 47%, and that 2015-16 saw the highest ever deceased donor rate in the UK, with 1,364 deceased donors resulting in 3,529 transplants.

However, as we have heard, there is still a lot more to do because, tragically, 1,000 people every year die while waiting for a transplant. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central, 6,388 people in Britain currently need a transplant. That includes 183 children. It also includes Rebecca, the adult daughter of my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott). I send my hon. Friend, Rebecca and all her wider family my best wishes, as I am sure we all do.

Like the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and, I am sure, others here today, I am a card-carrying organ donor. As soon as I became old enough to carry a card, I did, and that was also because of a direct family experience of someone requiring organ donation. My Aunty Ella was one of the pioneers of organ donation when she received a kidney transplant at the fantastic Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. That was about 50 years ago. I have just looked this up: the first organ donations at the Freeman were in 1967, so my Aunty Ella was literally one of the first. She had a very young family at the time. I was born in ’66, but I can remember being told that all she wanted was to live long enough to see her children grow up. Well, she saw her children grow up, get married and go on to give her grandchildren. That is what organ donation is all about: it gives people a future.

There are issues, though, when it comes to black and minority ethnic communities. NHS Blood and Transplant reported that 66% of people from BME communities in the UK refuse to donate their organs, despite being more likely to need a new organ because of a predisposition to certain illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension. I will cover that issue when I come to the three tests that we would need to set. It is why it is welcome that we have had an opportunity today to debate this issue and everything that comes with it and to think about how we go about improving organ donation, alongside considering what my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central set out on the principle of an opt-out system.

Currently, we know of two countries in which opt-out organ donation systems work: Wales, which we heard quite a bit about today, and Spain. As we heard, Scotland is also considering how it can introduce an opt-out scheme. In Wales, the system was brought in via the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013, which came into force in 2015. The new law sets out that those who live and die in Wales will be deemed to have given consent for their organs to be used unless they have explicitly said otherwise—that is the opt-out.

According to the Organ Donation Wales website, a public awareness campaign before the change in the law came into effect resulted in the numbers of organs transplanted increasing from 120 to 160. NHS organ donation statistics have shown an 11.8% increase between 2014-15 and 2016-17 in people in Wales opting in to donate their organs—the highest increase among England, Wales and Scotland. However, a written answer from the Minister present today, based on NHS Blood and Transplant figures, stated that

“there has been no notable change in Welsh deceased donation figures since the change in legislation”.

This is backed up by NHS organ donation statistics, which show that despite the opt-out system in Wales, there were more deceased organ donors in England and Scotland. That could be because the system is still in its early days; people who have not opted out are still alive and have not yet been able to donate their organs.

Further afield, our friends in Spain have had a soft opt-out system since 1979, in which consent is presumed in the absence of any known objection by the deceased, but family consent is still sought. The implementation of that system led to a small increase in organ donation and transplant, but there was a dramatic increase after 1989 when the Spanish Government made a big push to reorganise organ donation, as a result of which there was a medically trained transplant co-ordinator in every hospital by 1999. However, as a 2012 British Medical Association report stated, there are likely to be differences between the UK and Spain’s performance on organ donation because of their different approaches to resources and clinical practices. For example, Spain has a higher number of intensive care beds, different ICU admissions criteria and end-of-life practices, and the use of higher-risk donors in comparison with those used here.

Nevertheless, those two examples give us food for thought on the change in organ donation rules in England. They show that if we implement this policy, we need to get it right. It is important that we learn from what has already happened, adapting and using what we learn from other countries to get it right in this country. I hope the Minister and her officials will be busy doing that after the debate.

As I said, Labour will set three tests for the Government if any new organ donation system is introduced in England. First, they must obviously ensure full public awareness of any change in the organ donation rules. Secondly, they must ensure that medical and healthcare professionals are involved in designing any changes to the system and that they have the support to raise awareness among the public. Thirdly, they must promise to work closely with community groups to ensure that cultural and religious views are fully consulted on and taken into account before any change is introduced. Those three tests are based on work done in other countries, notably Spain and Wales, but also on the current situation across the UK, where there have been documented issues with engaging with BME communities on organ donation.

Organ donation and transplantation is a sensitive issue, as we have heard in this debate. Many people have strong and differing opinions on it, and it is crucial that the Government ensure that all voices are listened to so that we can come up with a solution. These real problems must be addressed. We know of many people who are on transplant waiting lists for far too long. Sometimes people die because they have been on the waiting list for years without a match to save their lives. We need considered action by the Minister and the Government. They must look at the issue carefully, consult with the public, ensure that solutions are found and bring about the improvements needed. I trust that the Minister will endeavour to do just that.

Organ Donation Westminster Hall Debate 13.07.17

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate secured by Dan Jarvis MP on the need for the Government to consider the introduction of...

Following the successful application for an Emergency Debate by Diana Johnson MP on the Contaminated Blood Scandal, Sharon responded on behalf of the Opposition with the need to hold this inquiry and how this inquiry should be conducted. 

You can read the full debate on Hansard here

Read Sharon's contribution to the debate below.

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

Thank you for your guidance, Mr Speaker.

First and foremost, thanks must go to my outstanding hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), who has so valiantly campaigned on this issue for numerous years now. Without her and the dedicated resolve of her and all those she cited who have been involved in this campaign, we would not be where we are today. Thanks must also go to the former Member for Leigh, Andy Burnham, for the debate he ​led at the end of the previous Parliament, for which I had the honour of being present. He helped to add expediency to this issue with his commitment to go to the police with the evidence he has if the Government failed to come forward with an inquiry to seek justice for those who have been neglected

For too long, the contaminated blood community have been simply failed by their Government and ignored by those who have let the demands of those affected fall on deaf ears, leaving the community without justice. It is very welcome—as we have heard in the news in the past hour and a half or so—that an inquiry may finally be happening, and I look forward to hearing further details from the Minister when he responds. I am grateful that he and you, Mr Speaker, have allowed me to speak first so that he can answer the questions I pose. This is a rather unusual format, and I had no prior knowledge that it was going to be changed. I hope that other Members who speak and pose questions will get a response from the Minister; I do not know whether he will get two bites at the cherry or will have to intervene to answer other Members’ questions.

This emergency debate is timely and allows the House to have its voice heard fully, which is right after the decades of neglect the contaminated blood community has faced. At any point prior to 12.30 pm, when the announcement was made in the news, the Minister could have come forward and made a statement. That would have saved my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North from having to apply for an emergency debate yesterday. It feels like the order of things has been a little forced, and it is sad that it has had to be forced in this way. But we are where we are.

Labour Members are resolutely in favour of a Hillsborough-style public inquiry, as we made clear in our manifesto a couple of months ago—my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North and I pushed for that to be included. The Labour party believes that that style of inquiry would get to the heart of the problems that unfolded in the 1980s and hold to account those who were to blame for this scandal, before it is too late. It is not just our party, but all the parties—especially those on the Opposition Benches—that have made a commitment to stand up for those people seeking justice. That was so clearly documented in the joint letter, which was published on Sunday, from the leaders of every single opposition party here in this House, including, I am pleased to say, of the Democratic Unionist party.

Last November, in a debate secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North, we discussed a whole host of issues that this community faces, including how people could be compensated for the terrible events that have occurred. Today, we are here to debate the fight for justice, which should have happened a lot sooner.

In my contribution, I want to impress on the Minister two key points: first, that the previous two inquiries have, categorically, not been sufficient in seeking justice, which is why a Hillsborough-style inquiry must be actioned; and secondly, that the evidence presented so far is clear that if we are to have truth and reconciliation after the murky covering up of this scandal, then the strongest of daylight must be shone on every aspect, leaving no stone unturned.​

The two previous inquiries—the Archer inquiry in 2009 and the Penrose inquiry in Scotland in 2015—did not go far enough in the eyes of the affected community in getting the truth and justice that they deserve. The Archer inquiry, which was not Government-backed, failed because there were no Department of Health witnesses giving evidence to the convened panel. The Penrose inquiry also did not go far enough in seeking the truth, as it was unable to compel witnesses from outside Scotland when, at the time of the scandal, most, if not all, of the decisions were made in Whitehall. That failure to compel witnesses to attend from outside Scotland meant that the inquiry failed to provide the justice and answers that people from right across the UK deserved.

There are many allegations around this scandal, ranging from Department of Health officials destroying evidence as part of the cover-up, to victims’ medical details being tampered with to hide the cause of their infections.

Ian Austin

Two of my constituents have two particular matters that they want the inquiry to consider: first, one said that he was infected with hepatitis C and exposed to the HIV virus, but was not informed of that by the NHS until years afterwards and he wants to be assured that the inquiry will reveal why the truth was hidden; the second wants to know about this issue of doctors and scientists being paid by the drug companies and about the precise nature of those deals. He thinks that those deals have to be really properly and rigorously exposed by this inquiry, so that we can get to the bottom of whatever vested interests existed during this scandal.

Mrs Hodgson

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. The evidence on those things has been well documented, especially by the former Member for Leigh and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North. Those who have lived with these conditions; who are brave enough to come forward; and who are at the sharp end of this heinous negligence and the recent uncovering reported in the Daily Mail last week have proved just how important it is that a Hillsborough-style inquiry is set up.

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the report, “Self Sufficiency in Blood Products in England and Wales” is unauthorised, and could possibly be perpetuating inaccuracies and outright lies, as my constituent says in a letter to me?

Mrs Hodgson

All of this evidence will have to be examined. In recent days, constituents affected by this scandal have been in contact with my office with intricate details that must be addressed. It is important that those questions, no matter how small they may be, are answered, as they reflect the issues that have inextricably affected that person’s whole life. It is most important that those issues are addressed, so that those who have lived with the ramifications of this serious negligence can finally have the justice that they deserve.

Getting to the bottom of the allegations and the evidence and having a full and frank inquiry that brings justice for the many people affected are the reasons why we must have this inquiry. As the joint letter by the ​Opposition leaders said, if a panel were to be convened, it must disclose any and all documents related to the scandal, which involves the victims at every stage; and it must compel all parties involved to participate in the disclosure process and not to hinder justice any further. It must also investigate the events leading up to an individual’s infection and the aftermath, including allegations of medical details being tampered with, whether people were unknowingly tested for viruses without their knowledge and whether enough was done to identify those at risk of infection. As part of this inquiry, there must also be an investigation into the role of profit-making American firms, which supplied the blood factor concentrates to people with haemophilia.

Although none of this will bring back loved ones and those who have died as a consequence of this scandal, or change the life circumstances of those who are alive today living with these conditions inflicted on them, there is still something that we can do, which is to hold an inquiry. It is the very least that we can do. The thousands of people affected by this scandal must be supported and we must stand beside them in seeking justice, as that is our duty as elected representatives of the public.

I want to conclude with this final remark: none of us here has a magic wand—I know that our constituents think that we do—and we cannot turn back time and stop this scandal from happening. Sadly, that power does not exist, but the power that does exist, at the behest of the Minister before us today, is that of facilitating the justice for those who live with the aftermath of this scandal. Here, today, we can send a message—a loud and strong message to those who campaign on this issue day in, day out—that Parliament has listened and is on their side. We in this House have heard them; we in this House are there with them; and we in this House will do all that we can for them in their quest for justice. We cannot let them down. We can help facilitate the truth once and for all. Parliament is listening to the individuals who have spent decades fighting against the system to get the truth that they seek, and the Government must listen to Parliament. Parliament is saying: fix this, provide those thousands of people who never asked for this to happen to them with the justice that they so rightly deserve. We cannot fail them any longer.

Emergency Debate on holding an Inquiry into the Contaminated Blood Scandal 11.07.17

Following the successful application for an Emergency Debate by Diana Johnson MP on the Contaminated Blood Scandal, Sharon responded on behalf of the Opposition with the need to hold this...

 

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jun-Jul 2017 number 95

Sharon Hodgson MP report number 95 

 Click on picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jun-Jul 2017 number 95

Sharon Hodgson MPs report Jun-Jul 2017 number 95

  Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jun-Jul 2017 number 95   Click on picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jun-Jul 2017 number 95 Read more

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo's website.

Sharon_Echo_col_header_FIN.jpg

Last week, Parliament continued to debate the Queen’s Speech and the thin legislative programme announced by the Government. It had been my intention to speak in the debates, but after hours of waiting, I was unfortunately not called.

What follows is a brief version of what I was going to say if given the chance.

The Queen’s Speech ignored what the people had voted for at the General Election, which was: for an end to austerity and a change to the status quo with better investment in their communities and the public services they rely upon. This was not forthcoming.

That is why it was slap in the face when Theresa May gave Northern Ireland an additional £1 billion in funding just to save her own political skin. It is estimated that the money offered to the DUP in just two years is more than the North East was offered over 30 years as part of our then devolution deal.

That’s why in my speech, I was hoping to make some points about what the Government could do to invest in the North East, especially here in Sunderland.

First off, and one that I think is incredibly important, is the Tyne and Wear Metro.

This has been a long-standing campaign of mine, and something I know constituents care passionately about, and £1 billion would have been more than enough to not only refurbish the current line but extend it too, including finally to Washington, with money left over for my second idea which is a materials catapult.

I have talked about this in my columns before and raised during the Budget debates earlier this year. I made the point then, and make the point now, that investing in this catapult would not only invest in Nissan’s supply chain but would help to create the 21st century economy we need, based on high-skilled jobs for local people.

Investment should not be done to cling on to power, but must be done where it is most needed and if Northern Ireland is to get more investment, then the North East should surely be next in line. As ever, I will push the Government to do just that and not fail our region as it has done for the last seven years.

ECHO COLUMN: Government must be pressed to invest in the North East

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo's website. Last week, Parliament continued to debate the Queen’s Speech and the thin legislative programme announced by the...

Sharon has again pledged to fight the Tory cuts to school budgets in the new Parliament, following analysis of the Tories’ manifesto plans for schools.

Analysis by the IFS shows that schools in Washington and Sunderland West face significant cuts over the next five years if the Tories go ahead with the implementation of their manifesto commitments on school funding.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) have used these figures to calculate that pupils in Washington and Sunderland West will on average have their funding cut by -£409 or by –9%, which equates to -£150,873 cut on average for each school in Washington and Sunderland West.

In reaction to this, the School Cuts campaign website has created a new petition to put pressure on the new Tory Government to rethink their approach to education. The petition can be found here: https://schoolcuts.nationbuilder.com/post_ge_petition

Before the 2017 General Election, Sharon secured a debate in Parliament on school cuts in the North East. Yet, the concerns from parents and teachers raised by MPs during the debate were ignored by the Minister who responded to the debate. 

Sharon also campaigned on the issue of school cuts during the General Election and visited many school gates where parents highlighted their concerns with the future of their children’s schools, and committed to take these concerns with her back to Parliament.

Following the General Election, and the analysis of IFS figures, Sharon has pledged to fight against these cuts in Parliament, and said:

“The education of our children and young people has always been an important issue which I have dedicated much of my time as a Member of Parliament doing, and now that I have been re-elected, I will continue doing so to ensure the next generation has better opportunities than the last.

“Sadly, we are not seeing this promise and instead find a complete mismanagement engulfing our education system under the Tories, ranging from a failure to address the real-term cuts to school budgets, the increasing class sizes, subjects being dropped from the school curriculum and a serious recruitment and retention crisis within the teaching profession.

“Instead of further heads-in-the-sand complacency from the Tories, we need action that does not damage the future prospects of children in our country, including here in Washington and Sunderland West. I hope as many of my constituents will join me in fighting these cuts and sign this petition: https://schoolcuts.nationbuilder.com/post_ge_petition

 

Sharon pledges to fight school cuts & supports new School Cuts petition

Sharon has again pledged to fight the Tory cuts to school budgets in the new Parliament, following analysis of the Tories’ manifesto plans for schools. Analysis by the IFS shows...

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