You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website.
The Free TV Licence for over-75s was something the Labour Government in 2000 proudly introduced as a package of social welfare policies for the elderly.
But it was a Conservative Government who, in 2015, callously outsourced this treasured benefit to the BBC, as part of a “Hobson’s Choice” Charter renewal.
The 2017 Conservative Party manifesto itself committed to protecting “all pensioner benefits including… TV licences for the duration of this Parliament” Which would take us to 2022, not 2020 when these changes will come into effect.
So, whilst a Conservative Party manifesto has been broken without any consideration, it is the elderly and most vulnerable in our society who will suffer.
The changes to the free TV licence for over-75s, which will see only those receiving Pension Credit acquiring a free TV licence, means that approximately 3,150 households in Washington and Sunderland West will now miss out on a free TV licence.
Many of my constituents have contacted me about this issue, and I share their concerns about the impact this could have on those affected by these changes.
Age UK estimate that for over a million of the oldest people in our country, television is their main form of company. Further analysis shows that scrapping the free TV licence could push 50,000 pensioners below the poverty line.
I am therefore concerned about the isolation and loneliness this could cause, as well as the financial implications on some of the oldest and most vulnerable in our community.
The blame for this lies squarely at the feet of this Conservative Government. Public broadcasters should not be responsible for social policy.
I contributed to the BBC’s consultation on the free TV licence back in February, spoke in a recent debate on the proposed changes and hosted the National Pensioners Convention’s parliamentary lobby in March protesting the changes.
Since the consultation began, I have argued that the Government should take back responsibility for funding the free TV licence for over-75s.
Lets not forget, amongst all the noise around Brexit and the leadership contest to be the next Prime Minister, the Government can change all of this and I will continue to urge them to do so.
In the meantime, any constituents who are concerned about the impact these changes will have on them, their friends or family, please ensure that you are claiming all the benefits that you are entitled to, particularly Pension Credit. Visit www.entitledto.co.uk to check this out.
You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website. The Free TV Licence for over-75s was something the Labour Government in 2000 proudly introduced as...
Responding to Managing Director of Viagogo, Cris Miller's claims that Viagogo will comply with current legislation 'as soon as possible', Sharon Hodgson MP said:
"Viagogo should have complied with UK legislation, the Consumer Rights Act, when it was enacted four years ago. Instead, they have ripped off thousands of genuine fans over the years and taken little responsibility for their actions.
"While Viagogo’s competitors agreed undertakings to follow the law in April 2018, Viagogo resisted change and were eventually served with a court order in November 2018. They were duty bound to comply fully with this order by Mid-January, almost five months ago. This begs the question what 'as soon as possible' means to Cris Miller of Viagogo?
“Four years ago, the Consumer Rights Act was enacted in order to protect consumers. Viagogo have therefore had four years to comply with the law. Why did Viagogo not comply immediately, when other secondary ticket sites did?
"Viagogo is not a new businesses, as Miller states, but is in fact thirteen years old. Regardless, that should not grant a business that lies to and manipulates consumers into spending huge amounts of money for tickets, that may not be valid or may not even exist, immunity from the law.
"I don’t agree that Viagogo are being asked to do 'more than their competitors' and if they feel they are perhaps it’s because they are the worst site in the secondary ticket industry and refused to comply with the CMA's original enforcement action.
"The Minister and the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee have warned consumers: do not buy from Viagogo. As Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, I echo this warning and will not stop until all resale sites are compliant with UK legislation."
Notes to editor
- The relevant article can be found here
- Sharon is the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse.
Responding to Managing Director of Viagogo, Cris Miller's claims that Viagogo will comply with current legislation 'as soon as possible', Sharon Hodgson MP said: "Viagogo should have complied with UK...
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...
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...
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
Photo Credit: NK-Photography, 2017
Nominations for the NHS Parliamentary Awards are now open.
I was thrilled to be able to showcase some of the brilliant NHS staff and their achievements in my constituency and across the North East last year, and hope to do so again for 2019.
For the last 70 years, NHS staff have been there for us all. This includes doctors, pharmacists, nurses, scientists, clerical staff, cleaners and porters. Without their contributions, the NHS wouldn’t exist.
All our NHS staff, volunteers and society’s carers deserve recognition, but there are many that go above and beyond the call of duty to make the NHS a better service - with hard graft, exciting new ideas and simply by putting patients first.
The NHS Parliamentary Awards give us an opportunity to say thank you for those NHS staff who go above and beyond for their local community, and to recognise the talent, creativity and dedication of NHS staff in Washington and Sunderland West.
If you know anyone working with and for health and care organisations in Washington and Sunderland West who deserves national recognition please send me your nominations. You can download the nomination form here.
Nominations close at midnight on April 26th, so please get them to me as soon as possible by filling in the form and sending it to email@example.com
There are ten categories, covering key areas such as mental health and primary care, as well as a Lifetime Achievement award for someone who has contributed to the success of the NHS for 40 years or more.
More information on how to nominate is available at http://www.nhsparliamentaryawards.co.uk/how-nominate-0
Photo Credit: NK-Photography, 2017 Nominations for the NHS Parliamentary Awards are now open. I was thrilled to be able to showcase some of the brilliant NHS staff and their achievements...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
On Wednesday last week, the Prime Minister addressed the nation about Brexit.
After two years, the Prime Minister has failed to negotiate a deal with the EU that protects workers’ rights, environmental regulations or our economy.
The Prime Minister’s deal has been overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament more than once.
During her Downing Street Statement, the Prime Minister tried to place the blame for this on MPs.
But it is not MPs who are to blame. She is.
The national debate on Brexit at the moment is very tense.
My colleagues and I have received many abusive and threatening messages, just for doing our job.
That the Prime Minister should fan the flames of this hatred against elected politicians is extremely dangerous, and demeans the office of the Prime Minister.
Following the speech, the Government then spent tens of thousands of pounds promoting clips of the Prime Minister’s speech on Facebook, alongside the caption “I am on your side”.
If the Prime Minister was on your side, her Government wouldn’t have cut funding for our schools so much that teachers have to use their own money to pay for essentials such as books and pencils; our NHS wouldn’t be in crisis, with 2.8 million people waiting for 4 hours or longer in A&E in 2017/18, compared to just over 350,000 in 2009/10; and our country wouldn’t be facing a knife crime crisis, with police numbers slashed by 21,000.
Instead of attempting to bully and blackmail MPs, the Prime Minister should listen to the thoughts, opinions and concerns of MPs, so that we can effectively represent our constituents.
The North East is my home, I was born here, I brought my children up here, I lived through the dark days of Thatcherism and its impact on our region, and I consider myself lucky every day to represent such a fantastic constituency and people.
I respect the result of the referendum, and welcome hearing from all of my constituents on this.
However, I do not accept that anyone has the right to be abusive or threatening to my parliamentary colleagues and I.
Whatever you think about what is going on in Westminster, I would ask you to appreciate that I only ever do what I think is in the best interests of my constituents on this and all matters.
Whilst the Brexit debate rages on, we must all respect one another and ensure the tone is kept amicable.
The Prime Minister would do well to remember that in the days and weeks to come.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. On Wednesday last week, the Prime Minister addressed the nation about Brexit. After two...