On behalf of the Opposition, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate entitled Invisible Disabilities and Accessibility Challenges.
You can read Sharon's speech below
Mrs Sharon Hodgson MP:
This has been a fantastic, high-quality debate. It is a shame that the attendance was a bit—[Interruption.] Yes, it is quality over quantity, which is what we tend to find at the moment. Perhaps other things are going on and focusing minds elsewhere. I would like to begin by thanking my hon. Friends the Members for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) and for Newport West (Ruth Jones) for securing the debate and for their excellent and passionate opening speeches. They both mentioned Grace and her “have a heart” campaign. That is a fantastic example of a lived experience-led campaign, and they are often the most powerful and successful. I join my hon. Friends in commending Grace and her campaign, which I wish widespread success.
At this juncture, I also want to mention the Changing Places campaign, which I have been involved with in my constituency on behalf of a constituent whose son has spina bifida. I was shocked to find out how few facilities there are across my constituency; no doubt the same applies to all constituencies.
I thank all hon. Members who have taken part today, including the hon. Members for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) and for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant)—[Interruption.] I am going to crucify all these constituency names with my Geordie accent. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders)—I just about managed that one—and the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson), as well as the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), who spoke for the SNP. I thank them all for their excellent speeches.
Members may have noticed that I am not a Department for Work and Pensions shadow Minister—I am shadow Public Health Minister—but I am happy to be closing this debate on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova). I do chair the all-party parliamentary group on dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. Those are also, of course, invisible disabilities; I shall come back to that aspect later.
As we have heard, in the last census, one in five people in the UK reported having a disability or limiting long-term health condition. The vast majority of disabled people have hidden impairments not immediately obvious to others—neurodiversity, Crohn’s disease, colitis, dementia, arthritis, or mental distress and energy impairment conditions such as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME, and chronic fatigue syndrome, to name but a few.
According to Scope, nearly half the British public are not aware that they even know someone who has a disability. People with invisible impairments face attitudinal barriers in every part of their lives, from accessing public toilets to using disabled parking bays, but I will concentrate mainly on education, access to social security and employment.
People with invisible disabilities often face significant exclusion and stigma in education. For example, the lack of awareness of autism in schools affects autistic students at every level. As a result, fewer than half of children and young people on the autism spectrum say that they are happy in education. SEND provisions are woefully inadequate and have been devastated by brutal cuts to our schools and sixth forms, worth £2 billion per year.
What assessment has the Minister made of the impact funding cuts have on children with autism and their ability to stay in mainstream schools? The issue is about accessibility and access to the curriculum. Autistic children are sometimes forced to wait for more than a year for the SEND support that they need, and just one in 10 parents is satisfied by the education, health and care plan for their child. As I know, children with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties experience that, too: my son is severely dyslexic, and as I mentioned earlier, I am the chair of the APPG on dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties.
Earlier this year, our group released a report entitled “The Human Cost of Dyslexia—the emotional and psychological impact of poorly supported dyslexia”. It outlined the ways in which missed or poorly supported dyslexia during education has made such children feel stupid, unvalued by society, guilty—as if the problem was their fault—and disinterested in education. The implications can lead to under-achievement at every level of education, in careers and work life thereafter and, at the extreme end, to disengagement from society. That is reflected in the fact that there are proportionately more people with dyslexia in the criminal justice system than among the general population. The same can be said for a number of SEND conditions.
Unfortunately, the issues faced by people with invisible disabilities during childhood do not disappear but actually worsen in adulthood. The employment gap between disabled people and non-disabled people is 30.1 percentage points and has remained just above 30 percentage points for the past decade. This is something that the last Labour Government were trying to tackle. We had the Valuing People Now partnership boards—before he had to dash to a meeting, my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) told me that he chaired the successful board in Gateshead—but, sadly, the coalition Government scrapped them in 2012. Three years later, in 2015, the Government pledged to halve the disability employment gap to 15 percentage points. [Interruption.] The Minister is getting frustrated.
The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson):
Does the hon. Lady not welcome the fact that just short of 1 million more disabled people were in work in the past five years alone and that for the first time ever, which I emphasise, more than half of disabled people are now in work? We have made significant progress. There is much, much more to do, but we are in a significantly better position than we were in 2010.
I am sure the Minister will be making all those points in his contribution.
The Government pledged to halve the disabled employment gap to 15 percentage points in 2015, but the 2017 Conservative manifesto set a new target to get an extra 1 million disabled people into work by 2027, which is a much downgraded commitment. If that is not the case, will the Minister please clarify the Government’s target and update us on the progress on closing the employment gap? The National Audit Office released a damning report concluding that the DWP lacks any clear measures to support disabled people into work. [Interruption.] It is about accessibility. I cannot see how it is not about this debate.
What will the Government do to ensure that clear measures are put in place to support disabled people, including those with invisible disabilities, into work? A recent TUC survey found that more than two thirds of respondents say there is more stigma for disabled people when their impairment cannot be seen by others in the workplace.
For example, people with autism often face significant stigma and difficulty in work. According to the National Autistic Society, just 16% of autistic adults are in full-time employment, compared with 80% of non-disabled people who are in work in the UK. The vast majority of autistic people face a hostile environment in the labour market, and there is an appalling lack of understanding of autism among jobcentre staff, disability employment advisers and some employers. The same goes for the police and the criminal justice system, which can lead to autistic people being wrongfully arrested when their only crime is being autistic. What will the Government do to ensure better understanding of autism across society?
The Government’s Disability Confident scheme lacks any credible performance measures to ensure that employers support disabled people into work, and it is possible to reach level 3 accreditation without actually employing a single disabled person. Is that something the Government will review?
People with fibromyalgia, which as we have heard is an invisible disability affecting up to 1 million people in the UK, also fall victim to barriers in the labour market. Under this Government, fibromyalgia sufferers face a lack of proper understanding of their condition, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston, as well as a lack of vital in-work support. Only 63% of people with musculoskeletal conditions are in work, with many forced out of work by the difficulties of daily life due to their invisible disability.
The Access to Work scheme could play a vital part in ensuring that employers provide valuable reasonable adjustments in the workplace for people with invisible disabilities. However, a survey conducted by Versus Arthritis found that just 59% of respondents with conditions such as fibromyalgia and only 41% of employers are aware of the scheme. What steps can the Minister take to ensure that employers are aware of the scheme and to encourage take-up?
As we have heard during the debate, assessments for PIP, employment and support allowance and universal credit are failing people with invisible impairments such as mental health problems and mental distress. The Time to Change campaign has reported that 90% of people with mental distress have experienced stigma, including in employment and in accessing social security support. The current assessment framework fundamentally discriminates against people with mental distress, and I am sure that we will all have constituents who have experienced this and felt overwhelmed by the process. The process begins with an arduous written assessment, which is 34 pages long in the case of PIP. That is followed by the collation of medical evidence, which can involve travelling extensively, liaising with different health services and facing huge expense. Finally, there is an often invalidating and often humiliating face-to-face assessment.
In 2013, an upper tribunal panel said that the design of the work capability assessment substantially disadvantaged mental health claimants, as it relied upon the self-reporting of a disability. In 2017, the Government changed the eligibility criteria for the PIP mobility component, to exclude certain people undertaking journeys who are facing “overwhelming psychological distress”. These changes, which were ruled to be unlawfully discriminatory by a High Court and which will take years to complete, prove, once again, the DWP’s shocking disregard for people with mental distress. Some 220,000 people are owed back payments by the DWP, but thus far the Government have only reviewed 10% of cases. When does the Minister expect to have reviewed all these cases?
It is clear from this debate that people with invisible disabilities face stigma in all areas of their lives. That is due not only to the chronic lack of knowledge and awareness of invisible disabilities across society, but to the Government’s cruel loopholes that discriminate against people with invisible disabilities. I hope that the Minister will take on board everything he has heard today. I know he probably is not happy with what he has heard from me, but there we are.
On behalf of the Opposition, Sharon responded to a Backbench Business Debate entitled Invisible Disabilities and Accessibility Challenges. You can watch Sharon's speech here You can read the debate here...
Sharon Hodgson MP, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, has today slammed the Government’s inaction on the sexual health service crisis and called on the Government to ensure that local sexual health services are sufficiently funded.
The call comes as Public Health England figures published today show:
• A 5% rise in overall STI diagnoses between 2017 and 2018;
• A 26% increase in gonorrhoea diagnoses between 2017 and 2018. This is the highest level of gonorrhoea diagnosis in 40 years;
• A 5% rise in syphilis diagnoses between 2017 and 2018. This is the highest rate of syphilis in 70 years.
Since 2013, the Government have cut the Public Health Grant to local authorities by £700m up to 2020/21. This includes a cut to sexual health services of £55.7m.
Commenting on the statistics, Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Public Health said:
“The shocking statistics today show that the Government’s funding cuts have consequences.
“Time and time again I hear from local authorities, sexual health services and charities that these vital services are struggling to keep up with demand and are buckling under the Government’s funding cuts.
“That fact that STI diagnoses are continuing to increase, with Gonorrhoea and Syphilis diagnoses at the highest rate on record, should be a serious red light to the Government that their cuts to public health services are having a serious impact on the health of this country.
“I urge the Government, once again, to reverse the cuts to the Public Health Grant and establish a funding settlement post-2020/21 for our vital public health services to ensure that service provision can be provided for all that need it.”
Notes to editors:
• Public Health England’s statistics can be found here
Sharon Hodgson MP, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, has today slammed the Government’s inaction on the sexual health service crisis and...
Today, Friday 24th May, MPs, Peers and representatives of the sporting industry have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP, to raise their concerns about secondary ticket touts for sporting events and call on the Government to ensure that the relevant agencies are sustainably funded to enforce current consumer legislation.
The letter highlights concerns raised by members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse at a recent meeting in Parliament, including secondary ticket touts operating outside of the law and unofficial resale websites being legitimised by their position on Google Ads.
The letter calls for the Government to fund agencies, such as National Trading Standards and the Competition and Markets Authority, to ensure that current consumer legislation is enforced. It also calls for a consumer education programme, to ensure that customers are aware of what ticket information secondary websites should provide (including the block, seat and row number, the original face value price of each ticket and, if the event organiser demands it, the unique ticket ID number) as well as advising consumers not to make a purchase if the site does not provide those details.
The Government Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James MP, and Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Damian Collins MP have both warned consumers against using Viagogo to buy tickets, but fans are still falling victim to the website and pay way above face value for invalid tickets.
The letter highlights several examples of ticket touts, including a case for a Cricket World Cup match when India play Pakistan at Old Trafford on 16th June. The face value for the tickets are £70, but are being sold, in breach of the Consumer Rights Act, for £264 on Viagogo.
Several Royal Ascot tickets for this year are being advertised with the incorrect face value and misleading information about the availability while the lack of a unique ticket ID number makes it extremely difficult to identify the ticket sellers disregarding the law.
You can read a copy of the letter here
Sharon Hodgson MP, who Co-Chairs the APPG on Ticket Abuse said:
“The APPG has been predominantly focussed on the music industry, but as the summer sporting events approached we turned our focus to sports and found that much of the issues are the same as in music.
“The legislation to protect consumers exists, but what is seriously lacking is enforcement. Touts are getting the message that they can break the law without any repercussions. That is why the Government must ensure that enforcement agencies are sufficiently funded so that consumers can be protected.”
Dr Philip Lee MP, who Chairs the APPG on Sport said:
"There is clearly more that can be done to protect sports fans from being ripped off in this way.
"Two ways we can tackle this are more effective enforcement of the current rules and greater awareness of the potential pitfalls of buying tickets on the secondary market.
That is why consumer education is vital to ensure that sports fans know what to look for when buying tickets from these websites."
Adam Webb, Campaign Manager of FanFair Alliance and secretariat to the APPG on Ticket Abuse said:
“If consumer protection legislation is not adequately enforced, then sports and music fans will continue to be scammed by unscrupulous secondary ticketing sites and large-scale ticket touts. This Government has helped support some major reforms of this market, particularly for live music events, but there is clearly more to be done.”
Lisa Wainwright, Chief Executive Officer of the Sport and Recreation Alliance and secretariat to the APPG on Sport said:
“It is simply unfair that those wanting to watch sporting events are being scammed in this way by secondary ticketing sales. It is not only unfair to them but unfair also on individual sports themselves. It should not be for sports bodies themselves to police these ticket organisations and we think it is vital to strengthen enforcement. Watching sport is an important way of inspiring participation particularly among children and young people and those selling tickets in this way are not only damaging people’s enjoyment of sport but are increasing barriers to participation as well.
“It is also important that entire communities benefit from being able to watch sporting events, this includes those from low socio-economic backgrounds. These touted tickets - often being sold at well above face value - are continuing to make watching sport the preserve of those who can afford to pay these exorbitant costs.”
Claire Turnham MBE, Victim of Viagogo said:
“For the love of music, sport and the arts fans deserve more. Despite improvements, we still see British consumers ripped off on a daily basis. The laws are in place but they mean nothing unless put into action through education and enforcement. This is imperative to seeing a positive change within the secondary ticketing market.“
Juliet Slot, Chief Commercial Officer, Ascot Racecourse said:
“Secondary market websites and touts are routinely exploiting customers with tickets on sale above face value and without the required information as listed by the Consumer Rights Act. In the run up to Royal Ascot, we are fighting against Google ads which often give prominence to these websites that claim the event is sold out when it is not so they can charge significantly above the face value.
“It is not just customers who suffer, but the racing industry as a whole with lost revenue that could be invested in prize money for the sport’s participants, alongside welfare and integrity measures. We will be working closely with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and Thames Valley Police again this year to minimise the impact of touts during Royal Ascot, ensuring that all our customers have a safe and enjoyable experience.
“We welcome the work of the APPG for Ticket Abuse and are pleased to be taking a stand with our colleagues from other sports. Ascot enforces the right to refuse entry to any person purchasing a ticket from an unofficial source and urges all customers to be aware of the risks. Anybody looking to buy tickets should do so through our official channels.”
Sharon received a response from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 18th June. You can view the response here.
Today, Friday 24th May, MPs, Peers and representatives of the sporting industry have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Wright...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
Today, the UK goes to the polls to vote in the European Parliamentary elections.
After the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) in the 2016 referendum, no one envisaged we would be voting in an EU election ever again.
The blame for this lies squarely with the Conservative Government for failing to secure an agreement that Parliament can support.
Their botched Brexit deal fails to: protect jobs, secure workers’ rights, environmental protections, and guarantee the frictionless trade that our manufacturing industry relies upon.
But whilst the Conservative Party has been failing to secure a deal that works for everyone and the country has been arguing over remain and leave or hard and soft Brexit, we have been guilty of missing something much more important and problematic for future generations: child poverty.
Last week, the End Child Poverty coalition released new statistics which found that half a million more children are having their lives blighted by poverty today than at the start of the decade; two thirds of which are growing up in working households.
In some constituencies across the UK, more than 50% of children are living in poverty.
In my constituency, Washington and Sunderland West, 39% of children are growing up in poverty.
That is almost 9,000 of our local children going to school hungry, being poorly clothed and suffering in the cold during winter.
Poverty instantly disadvantages children from their more affluent peers in every aspect of their life: health and wellbeing, education and future employment.
That so many children throughout the UK are growing up in poverty should shame this Government into action.
Yet, when confronted with the issue that millions of households across the country face, the Conservative Government are quick to dismiss it as an anomaly.
But this is a reality for far too many.
We have a duty to ensure that every child has the same opportunity to grow up into a healthy adult.
But we risk losing a generation to poverty, fuelled by the Conservative Government’s callous austerity policies and ignorance to the real issues families face.
As the UK goes to the polls today, we must remember what really matters.
Brexit may be important, but sadly it is proving to be a huge distraction from national scandals such as child poverty.
These children deserve better.
You can visit the Sunderland echo website here.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. Today, the UK goes to the polls to vote in the European Parliamentary elections. After...
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, today (Wednesday 15th May) raised food insecurity with Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Question Time and asked her to meet with young food ambassadors who have experienced food insecurity themselves.
Sharon, who Co-Chaired the Children’s Future Food Inquiry, used the opportunity to raise figures published today by the End Poverty Coalition showing that 500,000 more children are having their lives blighted by poverty today than at the start of the decade.
The Children’s Future Food Inquiry was the first inquiry about food insecurity amongst young people that included children and young people in the discussions and recommendations.
The young food ambassadors published a #Right2Food Charter which outlines what they believe should be done to tackle food poverty and insecurity.
The Inquiry’s Committee, made up of cross-party politicians and charities, recommended that the Government set up an Independent Children’s Food Watchdog to cost some of the policies that could help tackle food insecurity and hunger.
Sharon asked the Prime Minister:
“Three weeks ago, the Prime Minister received a copy of the Children’s Future Food Inquiry report, delivered to No.10 by Dame Emma Thompson and six young food ambassadors who have all experienced food poverty.
“On her Government’s watch, the End Child Poverty Coalition have found that half a million more children are having their lives blighted by poverty today than at the start of this decade.
Will the Prime Minister meet with these young food ambassadors to discuss their #Right2Food Children’s Charter as soon as possible?”
In her response, the Prime Minister said:
“I haven’t actually seen the Charter yet, so I will look very carefully at that Charter.
“But as I have said in response to a number of questions on this issue: what is important is that we have in this country an economy that enables people to get into good jobs.
“That is what we are delivering as a Conservative Party in Government. That is what enables people to have that stability in their income. That is what enables people to be able to care for their children.”
Following PMQs, Sharon said:
“I am disappointed that the Prime Minister would not commit to meeting with the young food ambassadors, who have been so brave in sharing their experiences of food insecurity with politicians.
“At a time when we see poverty increasing, the Government must take food insecurity seriously or we risk losing an entire generation of young people to hunger. But it is clear that the Government is not able to grasp the nuances of poverty and food insecurity.
“I will continue to bring this issue to the Government’s attention until they take meaningful action to tackle this problem.”
Notes to editor:
- You can watch Sharon’s question and the Prime Minister’s response here.
- The Children’s Future Food Inquiry report can be found here.
- The #Right2Food Charter can be found here.
- More information about the Children’s Future Food Inquiry can be found here.
- You can read the End Child Poverty Coalition’s press release here.
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, today (Wednesday 15th May) raised food insecurity with Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Question Time and asked her to meet...
During a debate in the House of Commons on TV licences, Sharon set out why TV licences for over 75s are so important to the elderly and called on the Government to take responsibility and ensure that TV licences for over 75s remain.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West):
I welcome the opportunity to debate free TV licences for over-75s. My mam, who I know will be watching, as a lot of pensioners do—I am sure lots of people besides our mams will be watching the Parliament channel—is very passionate about this issue because she is turning 75 in January. To her, this is personal, as she keeps telling me. She feels it has been done deliberately to give her a hard time. It is also personal to the thousands of pensioners who will be worse off if the free TV licence for over-75s is revoked, curtailed or means-tested.
In March, I hosted and addressed the National Pensioners Convention in Parliament for its rally on the BBC’s consultation. I share all of their frustrations about these proposed changes, because I know—I heard this at the rally, from the pensioners—how important their TVs are to their everyday lives. That is why I contributed to the BBC’s consultation in February this year. I have received notification that my letter will be included in the consultation document, so I hope all my points will be taken on board by the BBC and, in turn, listened to by the Government.
The introduction of free TV licences in 2000 for those aged over 75 was one of the many great achievements of the last Labour Government. That is why I and many of my colleagues opposed the Conservative Government’s outsourcing of this social benefit to the BBC as part of its 2015 royal charter. As we have heard, the cost to the BBC is roughly equivalent to the total it currently spends on all of BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies, so I strongly disagree with what the Prime Minister said at last week’s Prime Minister’s questions in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham). She said that
“there is no reason why the BBC, with the money made available to it, is not able to continue that.”—[Official Report, 1 May 2019; Vol. 659, c. 203.]
I am incredulous that the Prime Minister really believes the BBC can fund all of this without detriment. Even to try to do so would be extremely detrimental to the content the BBC is able to offer, and risks causing immense damage to the quality of the service that we all currently enjoy.
I agree with BECTU—the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union—which has said, in opposing the proposals to scrap or limit free TV licences:
“as a welfare benefit, meeting the cost of free licence fees should be the duty of the government”.
It is a disgrace that the Government not only feel able to wash their hands of the responsibility for providing this welfare policy, but are now refusing to rule out breaking the commitment they made in the 2017 Conservative manifesto to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s up to 2022. More than 5,000 households in my constituency are eligible for a free TV licence as they have someone over the age of 75. I am sure that those households will feel let down and unable to trust the Conservative Government if their free TV licence is taken away.
Alex Sobel (Leeds North West):
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. The BBC is under a lot of pressure in respect of new services, and has introduced BBC Sounds, on-demand services and social media services. These services are less likely to be used by the over-75s, but the Government expect the BBC to introduce these services and take away the benefit for over-75s or take the costs. This cannot stand. Does she not agree that the Government need to pay for this, because the BBC needs to continue to innovate?
Exactly. I am pleased that my hon. Friend has made that intervention to make that point. The BBC needs to innovate, move forward and get better. This move would be to its detriment. It would be a huge backward step in terms of what the BBC would be able to provide in the future, and it just makes no sense.
As we have heard over and over again from Members in all parts of the House, the BBC is much more than just entertainment. Loneliness is blighting the lives of people across the country, with four in 10 people saying that their television is their main source of company. If the Government were serious about tackling the issue of social isolation, they would not be continuing their devastating programme of austerity cuts that affect the most vulnerable in our society. If free TV licences are ended, curtailed or means-tested, millions of older people, who suffer disproportionately from social isolation, will have to pay to keep the little company they have. I feel as though the Minister, his Parliamentary Private Secretary and the Whip are suffering social isolation today in this Chamber, because, as you will notice, Madam Deputy Speaker, they are the only ones here—here because of their roles. I do not think we could have any fewer Conservatives in the Chamber and be allowed to continue!
As with so many of the Government’s policies, this is yet another cruel attack on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. The Government must be honest with the country: austerity is not over. That is proved by the fact that the Minister said in her opening remarks that this policy change was dreamed up under the original austerity plans of Osborne—or rather, the former Chancellor—and it is just being implemented now. If austerity is really over, why can the Government not just drop this hugely unpopular and unfair cut?
As we have heard, the licence fee concession was guaranteed to be safe until at least 2022 in the Conservative manifesto. The Government are shirking their responsibility, breaking their promises and punishing pensioners. They must stop passing the buck, accept their basic moral duty, and stick by the manifesto commitment on which all Government Members were elected. That is probably why the majority of them are not present to front this up—because they cannot. The Government need to properly fund TV licences for the over-75s, and they need to do it now.
During a debate in the House of Commons on TV licences, Sharon set out why TV licences for over 75s are so important to the elderly and called on the...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Apr-May 2019 number 117
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Apr-May 2019 number 117 Click on the image above to download the file. Read more
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website.
Last Thursday, The Trussell Trust, a nationwide network of foodbanks, released its latest figures.
A shocking 1.6 million emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis by Trussell Trust foodbanks between April 2018 and March 2019. More than half a million of these went to children.
In Sunderland, 4,821 three-day emergency food supplies were given to local people in crisis. 1,234 of these went to children.
These figures, which do not account for every foodbank in the country, show that the number of food parcels given out across the UK has soared by 73% in the last five years.
In February this year, I raised a question in the House of Commons with the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, about the link between Universal Credit and the rise of foodbanks.
For the first time, the Government admitted that there was a link between Universal Credit and the rise in foodbanks; but it shouldn’t have taken them so long to make the connection.
For over a year, I have been Co-Chairing an Inquiry into food insecurity and hunger amongst young people, entitled “The Children’s Future Food Inquiry”, which published its report on Thursday last week.
The inquiry heard from children and young people about their own experiences of food at home and at school. We heard worrying stories of limited access to free water provision in schools; pupils spending their free school meals money on water is outrageous, especially when they are trying to stretch it far enough so they don’t go hungry. We also heard about young people rationing their own food at home, to make it stretch.
All this in the world’s fifth richest economy. The Government should be ashamed.
As the Co-Chair of the Inquiry, I am calling on the Government to establish an independent food watchdog that will consider the costings of policies that could prevent us losing a generation to hunger and its consequences in this country.
A Labour Government will end the benefits freeze, stop the rollout of Universal Credit and ensure that our social security system supports any one of us should we need it.
Hunger and high foodbank use should have no place in the 21st century.
The Government must urgently recognise these stark figures as yet another red flag that proves their welfare reforms, and particularly Universal Credit, are hurting too many people and simply not working.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website. Last Thursday, The Trussell Trust, a nationwide network of foodbanks, released its latest figures. A shocking 1.6...
I want to start by saying that I know that many people are hugely frustrated with the Brexit process and how this Government has handled our exit from the European Union (EU).
It has been clear for many months now that the Prime Minister's deal does not have the support of Parliament and it has been rejected on multiple occasions. As I am sure you will be aware, I have been voting against the Prime Minister's deal as I believe it is deeply flawed. It will not protect jobs, workplace rights or environmental standards, and it will not ensure frictionless trade for British businesses, something hugely important to the manufacturing industry in our region of the North East.
You can also see how I voted in the indicative votes process here: http://www.sharonhodgson.org/brexit_update_april5th
Talks are now taking place between the Labour Party and the Government to try and find a solution to this ongoing impasse. This is something that the Government should have done years ago, and their failure to reach out across the political spectrum is in part why we find ourselves where we do now. These talks are covering customs, services, workers’ rights, environmental protections, entrenchment of commitments, a confirmatory public vote, and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
In recent days, the Prime Minister has agreed a further extension to the Brexit process. Although the new deadline is now the 31st of October 2019, there is still a possibility of leaving before then if Parliament can agree on a deal. I appreciate that for many people, the fact that we are still in the EU almost 3 years after voting to leave it will be concerning, particularly if we do end up taking part in the European Elections.
Although this situation is not ideal, it is in my view preferable to leaving either with the Prime Minister’s bad deal, or crashing out with ‘No-Deal’. It is incumbent on the Government now to drop their red lines and compromise to find a way forward that people can unite around.
There remains a huge variety of opinions on Brexit and what should happen next. I want to make it clear that I will always do what I think is in the best interests of my constituents, and would consider all options (including a Public Vote) to ensure that we do not end up leaving the EU in a way in which would damage livelihoods, workers’ rights, environmental protections, or jobs.
People feel passionately about this issue, and I empathise with the Brexit fatigue that many people are no doubt experiencing. I want to assure you that despite Brexit dominating the news, I am continuing to campaign on important local and national issues. Whether it’s opposing cuts to Public Health Funding and tackling the obesity crisis or bringing the Metro to Washington and opposing the new Waste Incinerator.
I want to start by saying that I know that many people are hugely frustrated with the Brexit process and how this Government has handled our exit from the European...
It has been yet another challenging and fast-moving week when it comes to Brexit. I know that many of my constituents are hugely frustrated by the ongoing deadlock in Parliament, and the way in which this process has been handled by the Conservative Government over the past few years.
I have received a significant amount of correspondence over the past few weeks and as such there is currently a short delay in responses to queries regarding Brexit. I hope this update provides some information in the meantime, but please note all constituents will receive a full reply.
At the bottom of this post you will find a breakdown of my voting record for the recent indicative Brexit votes that took place in Parliament. I approached the indicative votes process in the spirit of compromise and therefore supported all options that were in line with Labour Party Policy, even if they did not fully align with our position.
It is no exaggeration to say that we are now in the middle of a full-blown political crisis, with time running out. I am therefore open to supporting a range of options that would break the deadlock and allow us to move forward as a country.
As many people will know, I have consistently opposed the idea of leaving the EU without a deal as I believe it would be a disastrous outcome for our country, and particularly the manufacturing industry in our region of the North East.
With that in mind I supported Yvette Cooper MP & Sir Oliver Letwin MP’s Bill this week, which aims to avoid a No Deal Brexit on the 12th April 2019. It is now being considered by the Lords and this process will continue Monday of next week.
The Prime Minister’s approach to Brexit has been chaotic. She has stuck to unnecessary red lines and refused to pursue a cross-party approach until such a time when she had no other options left. This process is now, finally, taking place with talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn (and their teams).
Jeremy and his negotiating team have discussed customs arrangements, single market alignment including rights and protections, agencies and programmes, internal security, legal underpinning to any agreements and a confirmatory vote. They are now expecting to hear more from the Government, who have also requested a further extension of Article 50 from the EU.
It is more important now than ever that we work together in order to find a path through this complicated period for our country that works for everyone and brings people together. I will continue to update constituents as this process moves forward.
Due to the Government’s failure to secure a Brexit deal that could secure a majority, MPs took control of the order paper and organised two rounds of indicative votes to see if there were any options that could find majority support.
First Round – 27th March 2019
Motion D - Common Market 2.0
Proposed membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It allows for continued participation in the single market and a ‘comprehensive customs arrangement’.
Motion J – Customs Union
Required a commitment to negotiate a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide Customs Union with the EU in any Brexit deal.
Motion K – Labour Plan
Our plan for a close economic relationship with the EU including a comprehensive customs union and close alignment with the single market in order to secure rights and protections.
Motion M – Confirmatory Public Vote
Would require a public vote to confirm any Brexit deal passed by Parliament before its ratification.
Motion B – Leaving the EU without a deal
Proposed leaving the EU without a deal on the 12th April 2019.
Motion H – EEA / EFTA without a Customs Unions
Proposed remaining within the EEA and re-joining EFTA, but remaining outside a customs union with the European Union (EU).
Motion O – Contingent preferential arrangements
Called on the Government to try and secure preferential trade arrangements with the EU in case we are unable to implement a withdrawal agreement.
Motion L – Revoke article 50
Proposal in which if the Government failed to pass its Withdrawal agreement it would have to then hold a vote on No Deal, two sitting days before the date of departure. If No Deal was voted down by MPs, the Prime Minister would need to revoking article 50.
Second Round – 1st April 2019
Motion C – Customs Union
Required any Brexit deal to include a commitment to negotiate a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU”. No major change from the first round (Motion J).
Motion D – Common Market 2.0 / Norway
Very similar to the Motion tabled previously (Motion D) with some minor changes relating to the UK having a say on future EU trade deals and protocols relating to frictionless agri-food trade.
Motion E – Confirmatory Public Vote
Same as in first round (Motion M).
Motion G – Parliamentary Supremacy
Very similar to Motion tabled in the first round (Motion L) with some changes. Namely that if Article 50 was revoked as a result, a public inquiry would then be set up to find a Brexit option that could secure public support.
It has been yet another challenging and fast-moving week when it comes to Brexit. I know that many of my constituents are hugely frustrated by the ongoing deadlock in Parliament,... Read more