Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News Highlights

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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

Sharon met with Sarah in Parliament, to hear first-hand her experience of being a Business Apprentice and to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2018, which runs from 5 to 9 March.

Co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, National Apprenticeship Week 2018 is the 11th annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships in England and is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses, local communities and the wider economy.            

During the Week employers and apprentices from across England will come together to celebrate the success of apprenticeships whilst encouraging even more people to choose an apprenticeship as the pathway to a great career.

Sharon said:

“It is great to meet apprentices here in Parliament. Apprenticeships are so important to those undertaking them – giving them the skills they need to succeed in life and in a role they want to progress in – and to employers, giving them the opportunity to mould and shape the workforce they need.

“I am delighted to support National Apprenticeship Week this year, and pay tribute to employers who are contributing to local economies through apprenticeships whilst demonstrating that apprenticeships work for individuals, employers, and the community.’’

Sharon celebrates National Apprenticeship Week 2018

Sharon met with Sarah in Parliament, to hear first-hand her experience of being a Business Apprentice and to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2018, which runs from 5 to 9 March....

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.

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Today marks International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate the success of women around the world but also a day to reflect on how far we still have to go.

This year’s theme is #PressForProgress, which aims to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

It is no doubt that days like today still need to exist, even in 2018.

Despite making up 51% of the population, women are still outnumbered in almost all professions.

In the House of Commons, there are twice the number of men than women elected in Parliament, and at the current rate of progress it will take 50 years to achieve gender equality in Parliament. In a 100 years since some women got the right to vote, I am the only Sharon elected since 1918, compared to 403 men named John in the same period.

Similarly, a FTSE 100 CEO is more likely to be named David than be a woman, and will earn on average 77% more than their female counterparts.

If these high profile positions cannot practice and promote gender equality in the workplace, then it is difficult to expect others to follow.

That is why the Government must therefore take decisive action to ensure that companies deliver on gender equality in the workplace, and take steps to encourage gender equality in Parliament.

This is something Labour have been championing for many decades now, and I am proud to be one of the 119 female Labour Party MPs sitting in the House of Commons today, making up 45% of Labour MPs.

To #PressForProgress, I will be building on the past achievements of Labour women who have come before me and pushing for full equality and protection of women: financially, in the workplace, in families and homes and in public spaces.

ECHO COLUMN: International Women's Day is also a reminder of how far we still have to go

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. Today marks International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate the success of women around the...

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Public Health Minister, and Cold Feet actress Fay Ripley have joined forces this March to help Marie Curie provide care and support to more people living with a terminal illness.

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Sharon Hodgson MP and long-term Marie Curie supporter Fay were pictured together with Marie Curie Nurses, Victoria Shodeko and Victoria Oluwalogbon, at a parliamentary event held last week to celebrate the launch of the Great Daffodil Appeal, Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising campaign.

Marie Curie’s daffodil pins are now available from volunteers and shops on high streets across the country. With demand for Marie Curie services growing, as more people die each year, the charity hopes that this March, more people than ever will give a donation and wear the iconic yellow flower.

The money raised will help the charity be there for more people living with any terminal illness, providing them and their loved ones with vital care and support at the most difficult time of their lives.

Sharon pledged her support to the appeal and is encouraging local people to help the charity raise more money than ever before by simply giving a donation and wearing a Marie Curie daffodil pin.

Sharon said:

‘‘It was a pleasure to join Fay Ripley, Victoria Shodeko and Victoria Oluwalogbon in Parliament to help launch Marie Curie’s annual Great Daffodil Appeal.

Unfortunately, it is extremely likely that we will all know someone who has been or will be affected by a terminal illness, so the support that Marie Curie provides is absolutely vital.

Making a donation, and wearing a daffodil pin are small individual ways in which we can make a larger collective difference to people’s lives. I look forward to seeing many of them when I am out and about, and supporting Marie Curie’s work in the future.’’

Fay Ripley, who is best known for her role in the ITV series Cold Feet and also as a recipe author, said during the event:

"I’m delighted to be here with Sharon to help launch Marie Curie’s annual Great Daffodil Appeal.

Chances are, we all know someone who’s been affected by a terminal illness, so it’s absolutely crucial that families have the care and support they need at such a difficult time.

I hope that as many people as possible wear a daffodil this March and understand that in doing so, they are making a huge difference for people living with a terminal illness and their loved ones.”

Sharon and Fay Ripley help launch Marie Curie's Great Daffodil Appeal

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Public Health Minister, and Cold Feet actress Fay Ripley have joined forces this March to help Marie Curie provide...

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, supports launch of new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer report which finds concerning geographical variation in NHS services.

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Sharon has called for an end to the stark inequalities in breast cancer diagnosis and care across England, following the launch of a new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer (APPGBC) – and supported by leading charity Breast Cancer Now.

The landmark report – launched in Parliament on Tuesday 27th February – uncovers the true extent of the ‘postcode lottery’ in breast cancer diagnosis and care across England, with women in worst-affected areas found to be more than twice as likely to die from breast cancer under the age of 75 than those elsewhere in the country.

Following a year-long inquiry (October 2016 - November 2017), which gathered evidence from NHS leaders, clinicians, patients and charities, the report found that while overall outcomes for breast cancer are improving, stark geographical inequalities exist across England in screening, early detection and access to treatment and services.

Sharon said:

“As the former chair of the APPG on Breast Cancer at the time this report was initiated, I was very pleased to attend the launch of their report into geographical inequalities in breast cancer. These widespread differences in the diagnosis, treatment and care of women with breast cancer, based on where they live, are shocking. It was incredibly moving to hear from speakers at the event just how difficult it can be for breast cancer patients to get the support they need.

“It’s so important to attend routine mammograms so that we can detect breast cancer as early as possible to give women the best chance of survival.

“While such variation across the region exists, we’re falling short of the Government’s ambition of world-class outcomes for all cancer patients, and we call on NHS England and Public Health England to do all that it can in working with the Northern Cancer Alliance to ensure they receive the support they need to meet this challenge.”

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, which supported the inquiry, said:

“These are really concerning findings. While overall, more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before, this crucial report uncovers variation in breast cancer services on a major scale.

“With patients and healthcare professionals alike already feeling the impact of the workforce shortages across the country, this alarming report must now act as a wake-up call. All women with breast cancer deserve the best possible chance of surviving and living well, no matter where they live, their age or the colour of their skin.

“This report shows too many women miss out on the best breast cancer care this country has to offer. We urge NHS England and Public Health England to take immediate action to ensure all women in the North East and across the country receive fair access to the care, treatment and support they need.”

Sharon calls for an end to stark inequalities in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and care

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, supports launch of new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer report which finds concerning geographical...

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Feb-Mar 2018 number 102

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Sharon Hodgson MP's report Feb-Mar 2018 number 102

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Feb-Mar 2018 number 102 Click on image above to download Read more

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, attended a drop in event at the House of Commons this week to pledge her support to help ban the use and sale of electronic shock collars.

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On Tuesday 20th February, Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity launched its #ShockinglyLegal campaign to help urge the Government to ban the sale of electronic shock collars.

A recent poll revealed around a third (31%) of the public wrongly believe shock collars are already illegal, yet despite public opinion, buying and using one of these painful devices to correct a dog’s behaviour, is shockingly still lawful in England.

84% of people know that shock collars cause a dog pain, but the sad reality is that they are still readily available to buy at the click of a button. These torturous devices can send between 100 to 6000 Volts2 to a dog’s neck, and have the capacity to continuously shock a dog for up to 11 terrifying seconds at a time. Research shows that physical effects can include yelping, squealing, crouching, and physiological signs of distress in direct response to an electric shock3,4. It’s not just shock collars – spray and sonic collars are also widely for sale.

Whilst the use of electronic shock collars is banned in Wales, and Scotland has also made moves towards prohibiting the use of these cruel devices, England is dragging its heels. Only Westminster has the power to ban the sale of electronic shock collars so Dogs Trust is urging members of the public to tweet their MP using the hashtag #ShockinglyLegal to help bring this important issue to light.

Sharon said,

“I’m delighted to pledge my support to Dogs Trust in calling for a ban on the use and sale of electronic shock collars. These aversive training methods are outdated and cruel, and there is no need for them to be used when there are so many positive training methods available. This is a hugely important issue for dog welfare and I hope my support will help make a difference.”

Rachel Casey Director of Canine Behaviour and Research at Dogs Trust explains

“We are appalled that it is still legal to buy and use electronic shock collars in England - 83% of dog owners polled said they wouldn’t use them so why on earth are they legal? It is both unnecessary and cruel to resort to the use of these collars on dogs. This type of device is not only painful for a dog, it can have a serious negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. A dog can’t understand when or why it’s being shocked and this can cause it immense distress, with many dogs exhibiting signs of anxiety and worsened behaviour as a result.”

“Positive based methods, such as using rewards like food, are the most effective and kindest way to train your dog, so there is absolutely no need for owners to even consider the use of these devices. We urge everyone who loves dogs to consider the impact that using these kinds of devices can have on our four-legged friends, and join with us in asking your MP for an immediate ban on their sale and their use.”

Sharon supports calls to ban electronic shock collars

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, attended a drop in event at the House of Commons this week to pledge her support to help ban the use and...

A number of constituents have been in touch with me recently to express concern around financial fraud.

This is an issue that has also been in the news as an increasing number of older people are targeted, often for their pension savings. The Times reported last week that nearly £200 million has been stolen by investment fraudsters over the past year. Despite this being an eye-watering figure it may also be somewhat of an under-estimation, as people are sadly often too ashamed to come forward with complaints. I wanted to share this information, and some of the ways in which you can take action to try and protect against fraud.

There appears to have been a significant rise in the targeting of pensioners by fraudsters ever since pension changes came in to effect in 2015 that allowed people to access their savings from any time after becoming 55. Currently, one of the more prevalent methods of fraud is the creation of fake ‘clone’ companies that resemble well known or trusted brands. These clone companies then approach people in retirement and offer them an attractive investment proposition. Many people have been tricked into investing in companies or funds that effectively do not exist.

Towards the end of last year, the Payments Systems Regulator (PRS) published an interim report on progress made in relation to their response to a super-complaint by Which? Magazine. This complaint raised concerns over how little protection there is for people who are tricked into transferring money to a fraudster. One of the suggestions that this report included, was that of a potential reimbursement scheme. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is currently monitoring responses to this interim report and I will ensure to keep an eye on the final outcome, and see what further steps could be taken to help people who have fallen victim to these crimes.

When it comes to precautionary steps, the FCA has a comprehensive guide on how to avoid investment scams here. Advice includes; rejecting unexpected offers, checking whether a firm is FCA authorised, and checking a firm is not a ‘clone firm’. If you have any doubt as to whether the firm you are talking to is genuine, you should check the FCA’s online register.  It is important to only access the FCA’s register via its own website, as links included in an email to you may lead you to a fake site. I personally think that the old adage "if it’s too good to be true." is truer now more than ever.  It is always better to be overly cautious, rather than risk getting caught out.

If you have been a victim of a crime such as this, and you live in the constituency of Washington and Sunderland West, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Staying Safe Online

A number of constituents have been in touch with me recently to express concern around financial fraud.This is an issue that has also been in the news as an increasing...

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