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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
This week, I opened a Westminster Hall debate on the effect a No Deal Brexit could have on public sector catering. Public sector catering includes schools, universities, hospitals, care homes and prisons; and therefore caters for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
It is estimated that 10.5 million people in the UK rely on public sector catering for some of their food, of which some are completely reliant for all of their meals. Away from all the Brexit arguing, are people, young and old, who will suffer in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
I was therefore clear to the Government that no deal should not mean no meal for millions of people up and down the country who rely upon public sector catering for their meals. Meals in our schools, hospitals and care homes provide important nutritional value to children, patients and the elderly and are catered to their specific needs, such as dietary requirements and health needs.
Any rise in food prices, delays in food deliveries or decrease in nutritional standards or safety of food, in the event of a No Deal Brexit will be detrimental to service users. For example, it could slow down recovery time for a hospital patient.
That is why I called on the Government to ensure that institutions such as schools, hospitals and care homes are given priority in the event of food shortages, and asked the Government to support Local Authorities and public sector caterers in absorbing any increase in food prices in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
When we talk about the impact of a No Deal Brexit on our health and wellbeing, we must also consider the availability of food to the most vulnerable in our society. Brexit shouldn’t be the reason that millions of the most vulnerable in our society can’t eat.
That is why I was proud to stand up in Parliament and speak on behalf of public sector catering services, users and campaigners.
Sunderland Echo website
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. This week, I opened a Westminster Hall debate on the effect a No Deal Brexit...
As the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food (APPG), Sharon has today written to Sean Harford, National Director of Schools at Ofsted about healthy eating in schools.
In 2015, Sean wrote to Sharon to say that Ofsted was committed to giving wellbeing, health and healthy eating a more prominent place in inspections. However, four years on, the new draft Ofsted inspection framework and handbooks do not mention healthy eating, school food or food education.
Sharon writes to Sean Harford, National Director of Schools at Ofsted about healthy eating in schools
As the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food (APPG), Sharon has today written to Sean Harford, National Director of Schools at Ofsted about healthy eating in schools.... Read more
Sharon Hodgson MP, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, participated in the British Obesity Society's podcast "Fat Chat".
Photo Credit: NK-Photography, 2017
During the podcast, Sharon spoke about her personal experiences with her weight and health, and also explained how her own experiences have influenced her in her role as Shadow Minister for Public Health.
You can listen on iTunes here
You can listen on SoundCloud here
The podcast is 28 minutes.
Sharon Hodgson MP, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, participated in the British Obesity Society's podcast "Fat Chat". Photo Credit: NK-Photography, 2017 During the podcast, Sharon spoke about her... Read more
Local Labour MP, and Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon Hodgson has announced she will be giving up fizzy drinks for the whole of February as part of a national campaign to raise awareness of the negative health consequences of drinking sugary fizzy drinks which can lead to obesity and other sugar related illnesses.
Sharon is also encouraging local schools and constituents to take up the challenge of “Fizz Free February”, to raise awareness of the negative health consequences of drinking sugary fizzy drinks which can lead to obesity and other sugar related illnesses.
Participants will give up fizzy drinks for the 28 days of February.
Sugary soft drinks, mainly fizzy drinks, make up an average of 29 per cent of free sugar intake for 11-18 year olds, the single largest source of sugar in their diet. Studies have also suggested that fizzy drinks can affect the appearance of young people’s skin, cause brittle bones and rotten teeth, as well as causing weight gain and affecting pupils’ ability to concentrate in school.
The initiative is part of a wider campaign to tackle the obesity crisis in Britain. 61% of adults in England are either overweight or obese and 34% of children in year 6 are overweight or obese. Type 2 diabetes, a disease linked to obesity and sugar intake, costs the NHS 10% of its entire budget to treat.
In the local area 46% of year 6 children are overweight or obese and 28% of five-year olds are suffering from dental decay.
Public Health England dietary advice says that adults should consume no more than 30g free sugars per day, children aged 7-10 should have no more than 24g and children aged 4-6 should have no more than 19g.
Examples of sugar content in popular fizzy drinks:
• A can of Original Coca Cola – 35g of sugar = 145% of a child’s recommended daily sugar intake
• A can of IRN BRU – 34g of sugar = 142% of a child’s recommended daily sugar intake
• A can of Fanta Orange – 15g of sugar = 63% of a child’s recommended sugar intake
• A can of Original Pepsi – 41g of sugar = 171% of a child’s recommended sugar intake
In 2018 the campaign was started by Southwark Council in London. In 2019 Sharon Hodgson is encouraging councils and schools across the country to take part and help people in the local community to do #FizzFreeFeb
Sharon Hodgson MP said:
“As Shadow Minister for Public Health, I am committed to promoting a healthier nation, and working towards reducing child obesity, which includes raising awareness of how excess sugar consumption can have terrible effects on health.
“That is why I am taking part in Fizz Free February, and encouraging constituents to take up the challenge too, in order to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in fizzy drinks, and the impact this has on our health.
“Obesity is a growing problem in Sunderland, and across the country, so it is important to take steps to help reverse this trend. Of course, Government has a big part to play in this, which is why I am urging them to reverse cuts to public health budgets so that people can be supported in losing weight.”
Local Labour MP, and Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon Hodgson has announced she will be giving up fizzy drinks for the whole of February as part of a national...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
This week, January 21 to 27, 2019, is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, a campaign spearheaded by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, and supported by other charities, such as The Eve Appeal.
As the Shadow Minister for Public Health, I work closely with charities, health professionals and the public to raise awareness of cancer symptoms, so that cancers can be diagnosed early, in order to improve the effectiveness of treatment.
Cervical cancer is currently one of three cancers that are screened for nationally, along with bowel and breast cancer.
However, cervical cancer screening rates are at their lowest rate for two decades.
Three million women across England have not had a smear test for at least three and a half years.
A survey, published this week by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, found that eight out of ten women said they had delayed a smear test or never gone for a screening because they felt embarrassed.
In November 2018, it was found that more than 40,000 women in England have not received information regarding cervical cancer screening.
We must do better.
Each day, nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and two women lose their lives to the disease.
Seventy-five per cent of cervical cancers can be prevented by smear tests.
It is therefore crucial that women, aged between 25 and 64, firstly know that they are eligible for a smear test, and secondly take up the opportunity to attend.
Most women receive a normal screening test result; but for those that don’t, the results from the screening will provide a gateway to treatment and care.
This is not something women, or men either, should be embarrassed talking about to their families and friends, after all it could save lives.
This Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, I encourage all of my constituents to talk about cervical cancer and smear tests, and the lifesaving benefits of attending appointments.
If you have been invited for a test, don’t delay your booking any longer.
The number of cervical cancer deaths has fallen in recent years, but it remains the most common cancer in women under 35.
If we want to prevent more cancers, we must be open to talking about symptoms and concerns about screening tests.
If you are concerned about cervical cancer, please contact your local GP.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. This week, January 21 to 27, 2019, is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, a campaign spearheaded...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo.
Amidst the latest Brexit chaos were several resignations of senior cabinet ministers.
One particular resignation of interest was Esther McVey, who has overseen the botched roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) and has failed to acknowledge the criticisms and real-life experiences of families up and down the country who have struggled to make ends meet because of UC.
Following the conclusion of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights report in the UK, it was expected that McVey’s successor, Amber Rudd, would finally recognise the failures of UC and make urgent changes to the system.
Instead, she said that the report was “disappointing”, not because of the shocking evidence it unearthed of 21st century Britain, but because of “the extraordinary political nature of his language”.
The UN rapporteur, Philip Alston, said that “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach.”
He called Universal Credit “Orwellian”, and was struck by the mobilisation of food banks saying that they “resembled the sort of activity you might expect for a natural disaster or health epidemic”.
The UK is not suffering from a natural disaster or a health epidemic.
It is suffering from a Conservative Government that is so wrapped up in its own internal battles and negotiating a bad Brexit deal, that it is forgetting the people at home.
Fourteen million people, a fifth of the population in the UK, now live in poverty.
The use of food banks increased by 13% when comparing figures from April to September 2017, to the same period this year.
In the 2017-18 financial year, more than 1.3 million three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis by Trussell Trust food banks.
That is almost a million more packages given compared to in 2012-13, when 346,992 three-day emergency food supplies were provided.
The number of people sleeping rough in England has risen each year since 2010, with 4,751 people sleeping rough in 2017, and just last week it was reported that there are now 320,000 homeless people in Britain.
Life expectancy for both men and women has stagnated for the first time in over a century, and in some areas has even begun to decrease.
All of this would not be out of place in a Charles Dickens novel, but unfortunately it is the reality of 21st century Britain.
The UN rapporteur’s report should have been a wake-up call for the Government, but instead they are plunging our communities into a living nightmare.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo. Amidst the latest Brexit chaos were several resignations of senior cabinet ministers. One particular resignation of...
In a Westminster Hall Debate on Proposed new integrated risk management plan for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Sharon spoke about the funding challenges that the Service faces, and raised constituent concerns about this issue.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) for securing this important debate and for her excellent speech outlining the issues.
Many people in the constituencies served by the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Services, whom we all represent apart from the Minister and the shadow Minister, are following this debate closely. A significant number of constituents have written to me in recent weeks to raise their concerns about the proposed new integrated risk management plan for Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service, and the ongoing cuts to fire and rescue services more widely. People will be particularly concerned about this issue in the light of troubling events in recent weeks in which firefighters have been verbally and physically attacked—I will come back to that.
It has been noted in this debate that fire services across the country have felt the significant impact of funding cuts since 2010. As a result, almost 12,000 frontline firefighter jobs have been lost, including 285 in Tyne and Wear. Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service faces a number of unique funding challenges—we have heard about them in detail—and I want to bring some particular ones to the Minister’s attention. By 2019-20, the revenue support grant will reduce by £10.8 million, to £45.8 million. Based on all current information, the authority is on course to face a cumulative funding shortfall of £3.96 million by the end of 2021-22. Doing nothing is not an option. I am sure that colleagues will agree that is a huge shortfall, especially when pressure on all our public services is increasing.
The Minister may say that there are fire and rescue services across the country whose finances are growing—we heard that from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell)—due to their ability to raise funds from business rates and the council tax precept. Unfortunately, that is another way in which Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service, along with other metropolitan services, experiences serious shortfalls in funding, and shows why a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Although we have the highest council-tax band-D precept of all metropolitan authorities, at £79.94, the vast majority of households are in bands A, B and C. As a result, the council tax income generated by the authority is the lowest of all metropolitan fire and rescue services. That is extremely concerning.
Our communities in the north-east have suffered hugely as a result of austerity and its associated problems. It should therefore not be the case that the very deprivation that this Government have caused has the knock-on effect of preventing some of our public services from having access to the funding that they need to keep us all safe. Even worse, in areas with high levels of deprivation there is a higher risk of fire and fire-related deaths. Will the Minister take a nuanced approached when developing a fair funding model for fire and rescue services, based on risks related to deprivation and local needs? It is absolutely clear that the Government should trust local services to outline their own specific needs. Those who work for and in communities on a daily basis are best placed to know where resources are best deployed and how much they cost. Budgets allocated on the basis of scarcity alone will not provide sufficient funding.
Like many of my colleagues here today, I recently met the chief fire officer of Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service, Chris Lowther, to discuss proposals for the new integrated risk management plan, and wider concerns about the funding available to him. He is doing everything within his power to manage the resources currently available, in a way that guarantees the safety of my constituents, and everyone across Tyne and Wear. In response to the consultation that the service is currently running, there has been some pushback from members of the public, who are understandably concerned.
Let me make it clear that I hold this Government solely responsible for their failure to provide sufficient and sustainable funding for our fire and rescue service, and I do not blame Chris Lowther, or the Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service, for trying to make the best of a very bad deal. It is particularly frustrating that services such as ours are being put in such a terrible position. They are doing everything they can to deliver their services while coming under ever increasing financial pressure, and as we know, these are not the first round of such cuts in Tyne and Wear.
I also discussed with the chief fire officer the spate of recent attacks on firefighters, which I mentioned earlier. Last year, there were 148 attacks on firefighters in the north-east, and only a few weeks ago in Southwick in Sunderland Central—the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott)—an incident took place that has been described as the worst attack of its kind in a decade. Firefighters were called to an incident in which a car was driven on to a bonfire, and they were pelted with bricks, bottles, and fireworks. The firefighters were ambushed and cordoned in by criminal “pool” cars. It is difficult to comprehend the mindset of someone who actively sets out physically to harm those on whom we rely to keep us safe, and I was pleased to see Sunderland Council back a motion just last week to call for a zero tolerance approach to attacks on emergency service workers.
The recent Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 will hopefully begin to have an impact, as the maximum sentence for such attacks has now been increased from six to 12 months. However, we must acknowledge that such things do not just happen or appear out of nowhere, and those attacks are a symptom of the underlying damage to the fabric of a community that has suffered almost 10 years of punishing austerity that has imposed cuts on all our public services. We know that when services engage with communities through education and outreach programmes, the long-term relationships that are forged can prevent such incidents from happening in future.
The successful preventive work undertaken by Tyne and Wear fire and rescue Service’s and its fast response times have, over the past nine years, reduced the number of injuries from accidental dwelling fires, and in two of the past six years it has been the only metropolitan authority to report zero accidental fire deaths. Its preventive work includes work in our communities on home safety, education and youth inclusion, and collaborative partnerships with other public services such as Sunderland clinical commissioning group and the Northumbria police and crime commissioner. I urge the Minister to ensure that all fire and rescue services are given the funding necessary not only to fulfil their statutory duties, but to continue engaging meaningfully with the communities they serve.
In conclusion, I wish to reiterate how important it is that the Minister listens to the concerns raised today by Tyne and Wear MPs, and to express my deep gratitude to Chris Lowther and the firefighters—some of whom are in the Gallery today—and everyone in Tyne and Wear fire service who works tirelessly day in, day out, serving our community and keeping us safe.
Westminster Hall Debate - Proposed new integrated risk management plan for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
In a Westminster Hall Debate on Proposed new integrated risk management plan for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Sharon spoke about the funding challenges that the Service faces,...