Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News Highlights

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Following many constituents contacting Sharon about their PIP assessments, Sharon spoke in a debate on this matter and raised a few of the recent cases brought to her attention but also how the Government must rethink their heartless policy. 

You can read the full debate here: Personal Independence Payments Westminster Hall 31.01.18

You can read Sharon's contribution pasted below:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Laura Pidcock) for securing this important debate and for her passionate speech.

Our welfare state was founded by a Labour Government, based on the principles of protecting the most vulnerable in our society and providing a safety net for everyone, rich or poor, should they ever need it. Yet under this Government we have seen our welfare state eroded into a completely dehumanising and cruel experience. Yesterday, the Minister refuted my claims that the welfare system we see today is cruel; if it is not cruel, then what is it? These people have been put through the wringer and squeezed remorselessly—and all for nothing, as we now know.

I am like other hon. Members: rarely does a day go by when distressed constituents are not reaching out to me about their PIP assessments. The dread and anxiety that comes with an impending PIP assessment are overwhelming. That is not surprising, given the life-or-death situations constituents find themselves in. A survey by the Disability Benefits Consortium found that one third of those who have had their funding cut in the middle of a benefits shake-up said they were struggling to pay for food, rent and bills.

That is what happened to my constituent Deborah. Since failing her PIP assessment six weeks ago, she has been living on biscuits. Despite the cold weather in the north-east—it has been freezing—she has been unable to put her heating on. Sadly, Deborah, who suffers with severe mental and physical health problems, has been through this once before, so she knows the physical and psychological effects it can have on claimants and their families. Deborah does not want to go through that again, nor should she.

Another of my constituents, Kelly, applied for PIP on behalf of her 17-year-old daughter, who has anti-myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein disease: a rare neurological illness. Kelly’s daughter has limited movement in her spine and 50% lung function, due to a severe spinal scoliosis, and now has titanium rods running the length of her spine. Kelly was told that her daughter did not qualify. Susan, who has severe osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, is in constant pain and can barely walk. She was told she did not qualify. On behalf of my constituents, I ask the Minister exactly how disabled and affected by their disabilities people have to be to qualify for PIP.

The system in place now is not what our predecessors imagined when they founded the welfare state. They expected kindness and compassion for those who need support during difficult times. Yesterday, the Department for Work and Pensions tried to play the compassionate Conservative card and announced that everyone receiving PIP will have their claim reviewed. What does that bittersweet announcement mean for the constituents I have mentioned today and the many others across the country who have already had their payments stopped? Will the Minister provide some clarity on whether and when the Department will consider those claims again?

Given the suffering that my constituents are already going through as a result of PIP, they simply cannot wait any longer. I ask the Minister, please, to confirm today how long this complex exercise is expected to take. I hope, given what we have already heard and will no doubt continue to hear for the rest of the debate, that the Minister will finally put an end to the pain and suffering that so many have had to endure as a result of the Government’s heartless policies—that has to be said—and give people a chance to live with dignity.

Personal Independence Payments Westminster Hall Debate 31.01.18

Following many constituents contacting Sharon about their PIP assessments, Sharon spoke in a debate on this matter and raised a few of the recent cases brought to her attention but...

Response from Environment Agency regarding due diligence.

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Click on image above to download letter.

 

Response from Environment Agency re applications and due diligence

Response from Environment Agency regarding due diligence. Click on image above to download letter.   Read more

During the Remaining Stages of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, Sharon spoke about a range of issues, including the provision of charging points; ensuring as open access as possible to charging points, and; the growth of smart charging. 

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You can read the full debate by following this link: Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill 29.01.18

You can read Sharon's contribution to the debate, pasted below:

Mrs Hodgson

I am last, but by no means least, I hope. We still have the Minister’s closing remarks to come, so I am not altogether last.

As colleagues will know—if they do not, I am going to tell them now—the Nissan plant is in my constituency of Washington and Sunderland West. [Interruption.] Yes, it is. Many will also know that the Nissan Leaf is manufactured there. If I know Nissan, I am confident that it will have been following this debate closely, and I have no doubt it will get in touch with my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) to discuss her Leaf experiences further. As she said, it is very important that consumers who make the leap to a Leaf—do you like what I did there?

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

Is it all like this?

Mrs Hodgson

No, I am just trying to lighten the mood. It is very important that such consumers have a good experience if society is ever to make the transition to electric vehicles that we all hope to see.

I rise to raise briefly some points about three areas of part 2 of the Bill—clause 10, clause 9, and clauses 11 and 12—each of which I will address quickly. From speaking with Nissan, I know it is welcome that the Bill intends to impose requirements on large fuel retailers and service area operators “within a prescribed description” to provide public charging points. However, it is important, for all the reasons we have heard expressed so eloquently tonight, that this prescribed description is as ambitious as possible and is used in such a way as to deploy the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to its maximum potential. I therefore hope the Minister will elaborate further on how the Government plan to make sure that the expansion of this infrastructure is done in a sustainable, sensible and joined-up manner that does not hinder future growth.

Another aspect of ensuring that this important infrastructure works in the right way is ensuring that electric vehicle charging is open access and not restricted to members of charging schemes only or, as we have heard, to people with certain types of plugs. It is important as this infrastructure rolls out that it does not become a patchwork of varying payment methods, membership schemes and plug points, but instead is accessible to all to help encourage more people to make the move or the leap to electric vehicles. Will the Minister assure me that this will be considered as the Bill progresses to the other place?

The last point I want to touch on is smart charging as it is considered in the Bill. Smart charging is a new and exciting innovation and, as the Minister will be aware, Nissan has been pioneering work on vehicle-to-grid technology, where an electric vehicle’s battery can support the grid network at peak times when it is not charging. The Bill makes positive commitments in this area, but it would be welcome if the Minister committed throughout the Bill’s progress to ensuring that the continued development of these new technologies is supported.

Overall, this is a very welcome Bill that I know will have significant effects on Nissan in my constituency and on the wider electric vehicle industry. I hope that as the Bill progresses we will see further strengthening to make sure that, as we go into the future, electric vehicles become more and more accessible to drivers and, as we so desperately need to be doing right now, that this helps to reduce pollution. With those few remarks, I will end, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill Remaining Stages 29.01.18

During the Remaining Stages of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, Sharon spoke about a range of issues, including the provision of charging points; ensuring as open access as possible... Read more

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Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Sharon spoke in a debate on the proscription of Hezbollah, where she raised her concerns about the anti-Semitic language used by this organisation. 

You can read the full debate here: Proscription of Hezbollah Backbench Business Debate 25.01.18

You can read Sharon's speech pasted below: 

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) for securing this important debate. It has been excellent.

I think that it incredibly important for the Home Secretary to take a clear look at Hezbollah, its activities and the positions that it takes. As we know, it is involved in a number of terrorist activities and has made clear its desire to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, but the main concern that I wish to raise today concerns its anti-Semitic language. Let me take a moment to read out some of the comments made by leaders of Hezbollah to emphasise how shocking they are.

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, has been quoted as saying—I read this out with deep discomfort—

“the Jews…are a cancer which is liable to spread…at any moment.”

He has also said:

“If they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”

Such views are expressed not just by Nasrallah, but by his deputy. Naim Qassem has been quoted as saying:

“The history of Jews has proven that, regardless of the Zionist proposal, they are a people who are evil in their ideas.”

I am sure that Members on both sides of the House agree that those comments are utterly deplorable and should be challenged at every opportunity. Such language should not be allowed to continue, because it feeds into a terrorist ideology that calls for the destruction of Israel, but also of the wider Jewish people. We have heard it in the past, and we stood up against it then. We should stand up against it now as well, because the use of such language in our society should not be tolerated, whether it is used here or elsewhere in the world. There is absolutely no place for it.

What is especially pertinent when we recommit ourselves to standing up to this hate-filled language is that, as we speak, many people are gathering near Parliament Square to remember the holocaust at the Holocaust Memorial Day service. I was torn today: I wanted to take part in both events, but I chose to come to the House and make my speech. Only a week ago, colleagues stood here in the Chamber and movingly marked that auspicious day.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is the power of words. The aim is to explore how language was used in the past and is used in the present. It reminds us never to be complacent. Right now, an organisation that calls for the annihilation of one of our allies and a whole ethnic population is lawfully allowed to be supported in this country, and last year, as we have heard, its flags were flown on the streets of our capital. Hatred should not go unchallenged, wherever it may raise its ugly head.

The British Government must stand strong with resolve and say, “Enough is enough, and we will not stand for their hatred and terrorist activity.” We can all agree that Hezbollah is a dangerous organisation that commits terrorist crimes across the world in the name of its warped view of Islam and that repeatedly vocalises hate-filled language towards a group that it wishes to exterminate. There is no room for its deep-seated hatred—none at all. Therefore, in response to this debate, I hope the Home Secretary—although not present—will ensure that she listens in full to the concerns raised from across the House today.

Proscription of Hezbollah Backbench Business Debate 25.01.18

Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Sharon spoke in a debate on the proscription of Hezbollah, where she raised her concerns about the anti-Semitic language used by this organisation.  You can... Read more

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On the 19th January, Frank Field MP had the 2nd Reading of his Holiday Provisions (Meals and Activities) Bill in Parliament.

Unfortunately, due to time restraints, Sharon was unable to speak in the debate.

However, if she had, Sharon would have given this speech in the Chamber. 

You can read the short debate here: Frank Field MP's Holiday Provision (Meals and Activities) Private Members Bill 19.01.18

Sharon's speech:

Many Members will know that the issue of child holiday hunger is one that I care deeply about and believe we should be doing far more to address.

That is why I welcome this Bill brought before the House today by my Rt. Hon. Friend for Birkenhead – he has been a great ally in campaigning on this issue and this Bill is testament to his passion for this issue.

The main thrust of my speech this afternoon is that the Government must be doing far more to support children and young people who suffer from hunger during the school holidays.

There are many, some in this House and some outside, who believe that when the school gates lock for the holidays, especially the long summer holidays, that it is none of our business how a child eats, or doesn’t in some cases.

For me, this train of thought fails to help us achieve the society we aspire to be: compassionate and caring. 

It is shameful that we will allow children to remain hungry during the school holidays, which will have a serious detrimental effect on their health and education thus negatively affecting their life opportunities.

If we are to truly believe that we are giving our children the best start in life, then it is important that this issue is addressed – and this Bill will help take us a step further to achieving that goal.

UNICEF estimate that 10% of children in the UK are living in severe food insecurity and my Rt Hon Friend’s Inquiry into this issue estimated 3 million children are at risk of hunger over the school holidays; we cannot allow this to continue.

Aside from the Bill by my Rt. Hon Friend, there is a clear policy gap when it comes to addressing food insecurity but, for me, the most pertinent issue is the lack of children’s and young people’s voices in any policy development.

That is why, with the support of the Food Foundation and the fantastic Lindsay Graham, I will be chairing a cross-party inquiry over the next year or so into the views of children and young people so that policy on food security can be developed based on their opinions.

This inquiry will not only address this issue, but place children at the centre of policy that affects them. It is very important they are heard.

We cannot allow this to go on any longer and I wish this Bill every success as it passes through Parliament.

It is vitally important and must be seriously considered by ministers on the Government benches, who must help get it onto the statute book.

I implore the ministers to do more on this issue, because over the next year, we will see children again going hungry during the school holidays.

Let us make 2018 the year that we end this societal failure.

There are far too many children experiencing hunger over the holidays and it is shameful that more is not being done.

As Members of Parliament, we all have a duty to introduce policy to protect children from hunger.

It was true 100 years ago and sadly it is still true today.

Holiday Provision (Meals and Activities) Private Members Bill 19.01.18

On the 19th January, Frank Field MP had the 2nd Reading of his Holiday Provisions (Meals and Activities) Bill in Parliament.Unfortunately, due to time restraints, Sharon was unable to speak... Read more

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

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Last weekend, news broke of the collapse of Carillion and throughout the week it has dominated the news as more and more of this sorry saga unravelled.

But what was deeply concerning was the Government’s failure to recognise the warning signs in front of them.

For the last six months, alarm bells have been ringing about Carillion, who over that short period issued three profit warnings.

Despite these warnings, the Government granted three separate contracts to Carillion, worth nearly £2billion of tax payers’ money, believing that it would make this growing situation go away.

But the Government’s gamble has not paid off, and now it is the nearly 20,000-strong Carillion workforce who will bear the brunt of this Government’s recklessness, with jobs, pensions and ongoing public sector projects that are now in jeopardy.

It is crucial that jobs and pensions are protected and that shareholders and creditors do not walk away with the rewards from profitable contracts whilst the taxpayer is left to foot the bill for loss-making parts of this business.

The Government’s failure to exercise due diligence on Carillion has put services paid for and relied upon by taxpayers such as schools, prisons and hospitals at serious risk.

It is important that the Government works to ensure that these services can continue to be provided at the high standard taxpayers rightly expect.

It is now time for the Government to accept some responsibility on this matter and recognise the need to bring public sector contracts back in-house to protect public services and serve the public rather than private profit.

The Carillion workforce deserve assurances on the status of their jobs, wages and pensions, and the UK electorate deserve a Labour administration that cares about them and not private profits. 

ECHO COLUMN: Carillion workforce deserves assurance on status of their jobs

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. Last weekend, news broke of the collapse of Carillion and throughout the week it has...

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As a local MP for Sunderland, and Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon was invited to speak at the launch of the Sunderland & District Keep Our NHS Public where she set out the national picture when it comes to our NHS, with specific emphasis on the NHS winter crisis. 

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Thank you for that introduction. It is a pleasure to be here speaking with you about our NHS.

The scale of support shown for this recently set up campaign group shows just how strongly local people feel about our NHS and its future.

As a Shadow Health Minister, I know all too well how damaging the Tories policies towards our NHS are and it is groups like your own, working alongside the Labour Party in Parliament, that are helping us hold the Government to account for their actions.

In my contribution this evening, I have been asked to talk about the national perspective when it comes to our NHS and there is nothing more pressing right now than the utterly shameful winter crisis that is engulfing our NHS.

This winter crisis is unlike any we have seen before, and the blame lays squarely at the feet of the Health Secretary who has presided over serious underfunding, understaffing and underappreciation of our fantastic NHS.

Labour have repeatedly dragged ministers to the House to hold them to account on this.

In the first week back in Parliament of this year, we had an Urgent Question where our excellent Shadow Health Secretary, Jon Ashworth, took the Government to task on their dismal actions and all the while Jeremy Hunt was staging a sit-in in Downing Street to save his job.

If he put as much effort into saving our NHS as he did saving his own career, then part of me thinks our NHS wouldn’t be in the state that it is currently in.

As the age-old saying goes, you can never trust a Tory with our NHS.

But I think we should now add: “especially Jeremy Hunt.”

Now many people are getting sick of the constant use of statistics to highlight the scale of the winter crisis, but they must never be forgotten and we should never stop repeating them.

The Tories have starved our NHS of resources. 

This has meant that this winter alone, 75,000 patients have waited in the back of ambulances for over 30 minutes – often in excruciating pain.

Over one third of England’s children’s care units were 100% full, with not one single spare bed for new admittances.

A total of just over 1000 people have been hospitalised with flu; almost three times more than the 366 admitted during the same period in 2016-17.

Our own analysis has shown that there is a workforce crisis with 100,000 vacant posts across NHS England. Labour have estimated that this means a total of 40,000 nurse vacancies, 12,000 nursing support staff vacancies and 11,000 scientific, technical and therapeutic staff vacancies.

It seems astounding that the Prime Minister has said that the NHS is “better prepared” for the winter than ever before, but are we even surprised or shocked when this Prime Minister is prone to saying “nothing has changed” and sticking her head in the sand.

It beggar’s belief that the Tories believe that the NHS is only facing seasonal struggles and believe the NHS is in good health, when the key targets which help us gauge our NHS’s health are not being met.

It is worrying that right now bed occupancy stands at 95% when it should be at 85% and the gold standard A&E four hour waiting target is at 85% when it should be 95%.

So they are meeting the targets – just the wrong way around!

This whole saga is saddening, but what should shame the Tories (though I don’t think it ever will), is that in the 70th year of our NHS existence, it started the year marred by story after story of ambulances queuing up outside of hospitals and Trusts urging patients not to go to A&E because they were full to capacity and couldn’t cope. 

The warning signs have been there for months, if not years.

Back in October, Jim Mackay, Head of NHS Improvement told the House of Commons’ Health Select Committee, and I quote:

“we are running tighter than any of us would really want to … so, it will be difficult – it will be very tight – over the winter”

This is from one of the top people within the NHS and the Tories turned a blind eye and ignored these warning signs.

But Labour has also driven home the need for this winter crisis to be prevented and avoided at all costs, so that patients can have the full confidence they rightly expect in our NHS.

At the General Election, Labour committed to an additional £6 billion being pumped into our NHS to not only prepare the NHS for a crisis such as the one we see now but also make sure our NHS has the money to continue being the jewel in the crown of our public services.

Even back in October 2017, Jon Ashworth was calling on the Government to direct emergency funding towards the NHS with a bailout of £500million to protect those who rely upon an overstretched NHS service.

This was all ignored and ridiculed by the Tories who yet again showed their disregard for the importance of protecting our NHS when they should be doing all they can to ensure our nation’s health is always put first.

But we know exactly what the Tories will say which is that they have moved funding towards the NHS but does anyone really think that an additional £1.6 billion will help address these pressures? It is paltry in comparison to what the NHS needs.

It is also concerning that NHS Trusts who had heard this announced and had probably let out a sigh of strained relief were not informed of their allocation until a month later.

The Budget was announced on the 22nd November and Trusts were not receiving their emergency funding until late December – some only getting it days before Christmas.

It is not surprising that NHS Providers turned around and said this money had come: “very late to be used to maximum effect”.

Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, also providing a damning analysis of the reality our NHS finds itself in last week said, and I quote:

“For the first time since [targets] were introduced, despite best efforts, last year the NHS missed all four of the long standing acute and ambulance performance standards. The four hour A&E standard. The 18-week elective surgery standard. The 62-day cancer standard. The ambulance response time target.”

End Quote.

This has culminated in NHS staff describing the state of their A&E departments as “third world” or “never seen anything like this”.

This has meant Trusts have had to delay all elective surgeries – which is estimated at 55,000 operations – until the end of January and no sign of when they will be rescheduled for.

This, of course, will have a knock-on effect for future operation schedules and will see patients living in pain for far longer than they should and many even see, god forbid, fatalities.  

And this crisis is not over yet, as John Appleby of the respected think tank the Nuffield Trust said two weeks ago:

“the sobering reality is that winter for the NHS has hardly started”.

This is troubling. This is worrying. This is shameful.

We cannot allow this to continue.

That is why KONP is such a valuable local group which will help campaign to raise awareness amongst local people about our NHS and engage residents in defending our NHS before it is run completely into the ground and totally privatised.

Labour are committed to giving our NHS the support it needs.

In its 70th year we shouldn’t be seeing this precious public service being run into the ground but instead seeing investment that sees it through another 70 years and another 70 years after that.

People may say that this is an often misquoted line, attributed to Nye Bevan, but the thrust of it remains true.

“The NHS will last as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it.”

I am up for that fight, as I know all of you are too.

So let’s go from here and fight for our NHS.

Let us protect it and defend it at all costs.

Not just for those people who rely upon it now but for those future generations who will rely upon it too.

Sharon speaks at launch of Sunderland & District Keep Our NHS Public

As a local MP for Sunderland, and Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon was invited to speak at the launch of the Sunderland & District Keep Our NHS Public where...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on blood cancer. In her speech, Sharon raised issues around psychological support and care pathways for blood cancer patients, the need to improve research into drugs and address issues with the appraisal support.

You can read the full debate here: NHS Blood Cancer Care

You can read Sharon's speech below:

It is a genuine pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) on his good fortune in securing this debate just before the launch of the report by the all-party group on blood cancer, which will take place afterwards. That was very opportune and well done. He made an informative and heartfelt opening speech, and I am sure that he can secure no finer legacy in memory of his mother than what he is achieving in Parliament today. I am sure his whole family are proud of him.

As we have heard throughout this debate, blood cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, and the fifth most common cancer, with more than 230,000 people living with the disease. For those people and their families—some of whom are here today or watching the debate—action is needed to improve the treatment and support on offer. That includes some of my own constituents who contacted me prior to this debate, and it is for them that we are here today. There is much that we can do to improve treatment and support, as so eloquently put by the hon. Member for Crawley, and others who have spoken today, including my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North East (Colleen Fletcher), and the hon. Members for Gordon (Colin Clark), for Strangford (Jim Shannon), and for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who all made excellent speeches.

Blood cancer patients need to see their GP many more times before being referred to hospital than those with other cancers. Indeed, 35% of blood cancer patients had to see their GP three or more times before being referred, compared with only 6% of those with breast cancer, and 23% of those with all other tumour types. Such figures must be the fire beneath that spurs us on to do more, otherwise we will be failing the 230,000 people who live with this disease. Today I want to pick up on three key issues: first, patient experiences, and specifically the “watch and wait” principles of treatment and support; secondly, the improvements needed in research and access to treatments; and finally I will discuss post-stem cell transplant care. 

Each year, 5,000 people with slow-growing blood cancers do not start treatment straight away, but instead are placed on a regime called watch and wait. That means that patients are monitored until they reach a point where treatment must start. It can take many years for that to happen, which can add much pressure to a patient’s life, including the psychological struggles that they might face. That is understandable: it must be excruciatingly difficult for someone to live with a cancer, including a blood-borne one, yet not receive any treatment, even though they know they have the disease. 

To help fully understand this struggle, I want to read from a case study that was sent to me by Bloodwise, and written by the blogger who writes the “Diary of a ‘Fake’ Cancer Patient”. It states:

“About a month after diagnosis, I went to pieces and sat in front of my consultant panicking, crying and generally not coping.”

Reading the full case study is harrowing but heart-warming at the same time. That may sound peculiar, but it shows the scale of the struggle that blood cancer patients face under “watch and wait”, and also that when support is offered they can lead as normal a life as possible, and have the support to cope with the disease and the situation in which they find themselves. That is why Labour supports calls for tailored psychological support for patients who are on watch and wait, and it would be welcome if the Minister addressed that point when he replies to the debate.

It would be of great interest to hear from the Minister whether the Government plan to look at the perceived pitfall in the cancer strategy regarding the recovery package, and the failures to take into consideration the unique characteristics of blood cancer, as well as the use of terms such as “beyond cancer” and “post- treatment”, which can be alienating to blood cancer patients. As we know, blood cancers are very different to solid tumour cancers, and that determines the kind of treatment on offer to patients. For blood cancer patients, treatment is not about surgery or radiotherapy; it is about drugs to help to fight their cancer, and importantly, about access to said drugs. It is therefore crucial that innovation and the development of new drugs is encouraged to help improve patient outcomes. The Government must continue to commit to ongoing research to help save lives, and capitalise on our world-leading position as blood cancer research pioneers.

Lots of this work already happens, including charitable investment and collaboration between public bodies. One such example is IMPACT—a £4 million clinical trials programme that is jointly funded by Anthony Nolan, Leuka, and NHS Blood and Transplant services. By 2020, this exciting and much welcomed project will have established 12 clinical trials involving approximately 1,500 patients. It will play an invaluable role in achieving the vision set out in the Government’s life sciences industrial strategy and—most importantly—it will help to save lives. It is of utmost importance that the Government continue their commitment to this work.

We must also consider how the cancer drugs fund works, and how the temporary collection of data to make appraisal decisions can, for some rare blood cancers, lead to insufficiency in collecting robust data, and therefore to negative appraisals for drugs. I have raised concerns in the past about the way we appraise drugs—indeed, I worked with the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire when we were both co-chairs of the all-party group on breast cancer, and we carried out work on some breast cancer drugs, including Kadcyla. It is therefore disappointing, yet not surprising, that we find similar situations when it comes to blood cancer drugs with, for example, the drug ibrutinib being given to patients with mantle cell lymphoma. That drug received a negative appraisal, and later a positive one. That causes unnecessary distress and anxiety for patients, and it is important that such problems are addressed. I hope that the Minister will give us some steer on when the Government plan to rectify these matters.

Finally, I will touch briefly on the need for support for those living post transplant, and the care that should be on offer to them. It is estimated that by 2020 more than 16,000 people will be living post transplant, and they will therefore be more exposed to physical and psychological effects, such as graft-versus-host disease, depression and prolonged duress stress disorder. Although stem cell transplants can save a person’s life—that is fantastic—it is important that when someone’s life is saved, they can live it to its fullest. Sadly, only 54% of those who need psychological support actually receive it. That is down to the commissioning of post-transplant services not working for all patients, especially at the 100-day cut-off after a transplant, when responsibility for services moves from NHS England to CCGs, and therefore leads to gaps in the care and support provided. Is the Minister aware of that, and will he commit to looking at how that gap can be filled so that patients receive the best post-transplant support possible?

This debate has been incredibly important, and I am sure it has given the Minister a lot to think about. I hope that when he gets back to his office, he will look at this issue in depth and read the APPG’s report following its launch today—I am looking forward to that—so that all the 230,000 people living with blood cancer can be confident that the Government are doing their utmost to give them the best chance of living.

Blood Cancer Westminster Hall Debate 17.01.18

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on blood cancer. In her speech, Sharon raised issues around psychological support and care pathways...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on junk food advertising and childhood obesity. In her speech, Sharon highlighted the affects junk food advertising has on children and high obesity rates in the UK. Sharon called for a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm watershed to tackle this issue.

You can read the full debate here: Junk Food Advertising and Childhood Obesity Westminster Hall

You can read Sharon's speech below:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I thank the hon. Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup) for securing this important debate, and for sharing her knowledge in her passionate speech. I also thank the other hon. Members who have spoken this morning for their eloquent speeches: my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Matt Rodda), the hon. Members for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Angus (Kirstene Hair), my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) and the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), who spoke for the Scottish National party.

The UK has one of the worst obesity rates in Europe, with almost two in every three people either overweight or obese. I am, as hon. Members can see, one of those two. I am back on a strict diet post-new year, with no sugar or alcohol for the foreseeable future—if any hon. Members see me with either or both in my hand, please take them off me—and I hope that by August there will be a lot less of me.

I commend the honesty of the hon. Member for Strangford. I have been on a similar journey to him healthwise, and I hope to share his success weightwise. It is hard though—if it were easy, nobody would be overweight. We have not all got metabolisms as good as a horse, as the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire attests to. However, I started life as a skinny kid and was a slim teenager. I am proud to say that I was a size 10 when I got married, but I still ended up overweight as time went by. Therefore, I worry greatly when I see the stats, as I know we all do, for this country’s children.

As we have heard this morning, a pattern now emerges at a very early age. In 2016-17, almost a quarter of reception children aged between three and four were overweight or obese. In the same year, for pupils in year 6, it was more than a third. An obese child is five times more likely to grow up into an obese adult. I did not start as an obese child, and hon. Members can see where I got to, so it is important that the Government do all they can to ensure that child obesity rates are reduced as a matter of urgency.

As we know, obesity is linked with several health issues: lung and liver disease, heart attacks, strokes, seven or more types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes, all of which could be prevented with healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. According to Cancer Research UK, continued eating and drinking patterns—alcohol is also a major factor in cancer—could lead to being overweight and obese and could cause an additional 670,000 cases of cancer in the UK over the next 20 years. Diabetes UK also warns that there are now 12.3 million people at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If overweight and obesity levels were to be reduced, three in five cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed.

Obesity comes at a high financial cost too. Obesity and its related health problems cost the NHS in England an estimated £5.1 billion a year, projected to reach £9.7 billion by 2050, if the Government and the people themselves fail to take any action—as we have heard in the debate, people need to take action for themselves. That is why this debate is so important. If we do not do anything about obesity today, the children of tomorrow are the ones who will suffer.

There are many ways to address obesity. No one intervention is a silver bullet, but it is the Opposition’s belief that action on advertising and marketing can make serious inroads.

Ten years ago, Ofcom’s restrictions on junk food advertising came into effect, but over that decade, our viewing habits have changed, as we have discussed. At that time, the Ofcom report said:

“Advertisements of high fat, salt and sugar products should not be shown in or around programmes specifically made for children...For the avoidance of doubt this measure will remove all HFSS advertising from dedicated children's channels”.

Ten years on, as we all know, that is incredibly outdated and out of touch with the way children watch TV. Children are likely to watch TV with their family or watch programmes that are not on specific children’s channels, such as “The X Factor”, “Britain’s Got Talent”, “Hollyoaks” and other programmes.

A report by the University of Liverpool found that 59% of food and drink adverts shown during family viewing time were for high fat, salt and sugar products and would have been banned from children’s TV. The same report also found that, in the worst case, children were bombarded with nine junk food adverts in just a 30-minute period and that adverts for fruit and vegetables made up only 1% of food and drink adverts shown during that family viewing time. Ofcom’s restrictions on junk food advertising are therefore totally obsolete and in need of a serious update to protect children from the bombardment of junk food advertising from multinational companies.

Many of the charities and organisations that provided me with briefings for this debate called for junk food advertising to be restricted until the 9 pm watershed on all channels, which was something I was pleased to commit to in the 2017 Labour party manifesto and am proud to remain committed to. I hope that the Minister will hear the calls today from hon. Members across the House and will see why an update of the restrictions is necessary.

Children must of course also be protected from other forms of advertising, such as billboard and bus shelter adverts, as well as subtle advertising in films and in made-for-purpose games, which are so prevalent there is a name for them—advergames. “Newsnight” last night noted that there are major concerns with the regulations around confectionary firms and their marketing to children. There seems to be a loophole in the law with regard to advergames, which needs to be closed.

There are also genuine games that are very popular with children although they are not aimed at them, such as Candy Crush—I have to admit to having tried that one myself—which embed advertising in the game and have been shown to drive children's food choices. Sponsorship has also been shown to have a huge impact on brand awareness and purchasing decisions among children. Products high in fat, salt and sugar are often found to sponsor sporting events or teams of which children are a key part of the audience. For example, Cadbury is the official snack partner of the premier league.

The current restrictions do not encapsulate those areas, and in our digital world it is important that our restrictions advance to protect children. Will the Minister commit to holding a cross-Departmental meeting with colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to discuss the urgency of addressing junk food marketing to children across those forums?

Not only do we watch TV and use the internet differently, but we also shop differently. Our sedentary lifestyles mean that we now rush into supermarkets trying to buy the quickest or cheapest products. As soon as we walk through the door, we are tempted with promotions, such as buy one get one free or three-for-two offers. Such discounts make up for more than half of all food sold in the UK, a higher proportion than in any other country in western Europe. We all love a bargain, but research has shown that 76% of purchases were unplanned and decided on in store, which shows the power of such promotions.

That trend is increasingly prevalent among families from poorer backgrounds who are not able to afford more expensive, nutritious and healthier food, or lack the skill to cook it. It is therefore no wonder that children aged five from poorer backgrounds are twice as likely to be obese, and that those aged 11 are three times as likely to be obese. Following what the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire said, we also need affordable, healthy and nutritious products available on promotion to change habits.

I am sure the Minister will uphold the Government’s pledge to tackle childhood obesity, but their efforts are dwarfed by multinational corporations’ spending on junk food advertising. In 2016, the 18 highest-spending crisps, confectionary and sugary drinks brands together spent more than £143 million advertising their products. I recently met an advertising executive who has turned gamekeeper since having a damascene conversion—he now campaigns against added sugar and obesity. He told me how much effort multinational corps put into marketing specifically to children. It is not accidental, but a deliberate, well-thought-through and lucrative strategy.

Eighteen months ago, the Government launched their much-depleted childhood obesity plan, which left much to be desired. Will the Minister update us on the current situation of the childhood obesity plan? Will he commit to looking beyond it and going further by introducing the initiatives that have been suggested today, such as a 9 pm watershed on junk food marketing, which were sadly dropped from the original plan?

All of the arguments we have heard this morning point to the fact that essential Government action is needed to ensure our children grow up in a healthy environment so they can be fighting fit for the future. I hope the Minister will take these suggestions back to his Department and think about how they can be implemented into a serious drive to reduce childhood obesity over the next 10 years. Childhood obesity must be addressed. We cannot have a soft-touch approach. We must do this for future generations of children, and make a promise to them that they can be some of the healthiest children in the world.

Junk Food Advertising Westminster Hall 16.01.18

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on junk food advertising and childhood obesity. In her speech, Sharon highlighted the affects...

** PLEASE NOTE: THE DEADLINE FOR THIS APPLICATION HAS PASSED **

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, is looking for the ideal candidate to join her hard-working, fast-paced and committed team in Parliament to assist in her Parliamentary work.

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This would be an ideal opportunity for a candidate with at least one year’s experience as a Parliamentary Assistant who is looking to work for a frontbench spokesperson who is an active Member of Parliament.

Responsibilities will include, but not be limited to:

  • Dealing with and monitoring incoming telephone and visitor enquiries, responding to emails and letters, efficient data and file management;
  • Opening and dispatching mail where necessary;
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  • Undertaking photocopying, scanning and formatting of documents;
  • Assisting with the running of various All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs);
  • Ensuring office records are kept and an efficient filing system is in place and up to date;
  • Adhering to the Data Protection Act principles and respecting the confidentiality of data at all times;
  • Liaising on behalf of Sharon with relevant groups/personnel within Westminster and within the Constituency, including liaison with outside organisations and the general public;
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Knowledge of caseworker.mp software as well as Microsoft Office would be an advantage. Previous experience of working for a Labour politician in Westminster is highly desirable.

Initial contract will be for one calendar year, pending a successful probationary period of 6 months and further review towards the end of the contract.

Upon appointment you will be required to comply with the Baseline Personnel Security Standard, undertaken by the Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO).

The deadline for applications is 6pm on Friday 26th January. Interviews will take place on Thursday 1st February. We may hold 2nd interviews on Friday 2nd February if needed. If you anticipate a problem with interview dates, please make this clear when you apply.

Candidates will be notified by email on the 29th January if they have been offered an interview with further instructions.

Please send a short covering letter (maximum 1 side of A4) detailing why you are interested in the job and your CV (maximum 2 sides of A4) to [email address removed], putting PASH18 as the subject line.

Sharon recruiting for a junior Parliamentary Assistant

** PLEASE NOTE: THE DEADLINE FOR THIS APPLICATION HAS PASSED ** Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, is looking for the ideal...

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