Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo's website.
PLEASE NOTE: This piece was also submitted before the tragic scenes seen at Grenfell Tower in West London.
Firstly, it was an honour to be re-elected to continue as the Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West last Thursday.
This General Election was one that nobody wanted - apart from Theresa May – or needed, yet I feel she may have wished she had said no for an eighth time when she came down from Snowdonia back in April.
Whilst Labour lost the election nationally, it can be said that Labour presented a manifesto of hope and opportunity, which was well received by the general public, compared to the dire manifesto by Theresa May – which one Tory MP described as poisonous - and was clearly rejected by the public.
We cannot be complacent following this election result, and it is important that we recognise we have a long way yet to go before we can form a Labour Government again.
What was clear is that the Prime Minister’s empty slogans failed to engage with the general public who rejected the Tories on polling day thus scuppering May’s plans to have a thumping majority to do whatever she liked.
Election night was one of shocks. From Labour holding its traditional heartlands, to snatching a seat from the former Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg, and even taking seats such as Kensington and Chelsea and Canterbury; seats we have never held before.
Yet, the main thing that has come out of this election is the omnishambles of Theresa May.
At the time of writing this column, the Prime Minister is failing to negotiate a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party – a hard-right political party in Northern Ireland – and has delayed the Queen’s Speech as she cannot form a majority to pass it. And this is the woman who asked the public to trust her with the Brexit negotiations.
It’s the typical troupe after a General Election to say we are in interesting times, but right now it couldn’t be more true. Whatever the case or outcomes of the next few weeks, I will be working hard every day to represent the people of Washington and Sunderland West to my fullest.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo's website. PLEASE NOTE: This piece was also submitted before the tragic scenes seen at Grenfell Tower in West...
Read Sharon's latest column for the Sunderland Echo - published on the Echo's website before Parliament was dissolved.
This will be my last Echo column before the General Election campaign begins.
Since the last General Election, my columns have ranged from issues that have concerned my constituents when they have contacted me, including animal welfare and the future of our schools, to the more obscure like recycling unwanted electronics and electrical goods.
It has been wonderful to engage with you through my columns, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
One issue that often comes up often in my columns is Brexit – especially now that the Prime Minister has made Brexit the issue of this General Election.
Here in Sunderland we voted to leave, and that must be respected. I have done that by voting to trigger Article 50 in Parliament, but also engaging with my constituents through my public consultation meetings and questionnaires from earlier this year.
Brexit is one of the biggest economic, diplomatic and political issues facing our country. That is why it has been important to listen to you and ensure I can push for the best Brexit deal possible for our area. This has included working to ensure that our economy is as robust as possible as we leave the EU.
We can’t predict what will happen when we leave the EU – it is too unpredictable – but I have worked hard in Parliament to guarantee that our economic potential here in the North East, especially here in Sunderland, is unlocked, and we see much-needed economic growth in our region; something we have been long awaiting.
During the debates on the last Budget, I pushed the Government to direct innovation funding to the North East through a materials funding pot, which would boost production of steel, plastics, ceramics and other materials used in manufacturing in our region. This would have a direct benefit for our automotive sector.
This investment would have the potential to boost jobs and growth in our region by supporting Nissan’s supply chain with a much-needed investment injection.
This funding would not only allow the creation of new engineering and manufacturing jobs here in the North East, but also space to develop new products, the capacity to build products here in our country currently built in other countries and most importantly drive economic growth as we leave the EU.
Brexit has given us the capacity to look at things differently, especially our economy, and it is important we do this to ensure that we get a good deal for our area. We must ensure Brexit works for us all.
Read Sharon's latest column for the Sunderland Echo - published on the Echo's website before Parliament was dissolved. This will be my last Echo column before the General Election campaign...
On Friday 7th April, Labour women MPs wrote a pamphlet for the Fabian Society commemorating the 101 Labour women elected to Parliament in Labour’s 1997 election landslide – which happened 20 years ago this year.
The pamphlet was borne out of the idea of commemorating the 1997 Labour landslide election, and looking at an array of policy issues that Labour women worked on, at the time, and since, that helped transform the country for the better.
As part of this pamphlet, Sharon Hodgson MP co-wrote a chapter with Caroline Flint MP on childcare and early years education: which has always been an area of interest for Sharon as a Member of Parliament.
During her time as a Member of Parliament, Sharon has taken a great interest in childcare and early years issues and the need to ensure this area of policy was greatly improved to support families and address child poverty in the UK, which follows on from the work started by the Labour Government elected in 1997. This includes Sharon’s work as Shadow Minister for Children and Families in the last Parliament where she helped develop Labour’s offer to the country on 25 hours of free childcare, her involvement as an officer of the Children’s Centres APPG and as a Patron of Labour Friends of Sure Start.
In the chapter, Sharon and Caroline Flint MP write about the work of the 1997 Labour Government to radically transform early years and childcare provision in the UK after years of neglect by the previous Tory Governments under Thatcher and Major, how improved childcare is important for equality and the what the challenges are for the future when it comes to childcare provision and what we can learn from the last Labour Government’s approach to this policy issue.
Sharon Hodgson MP, said:
“It was an honour to be asked to contribute to this pamphlet on what is an important policy issue for me as a Member of Parliament, which I know is something that affects many of my constituent’s lives.
“It is not a lost on many that at the last General Election, childcare was a crucial election issue for the main political parties, and this can easily be put down to Labour’s concerted and successful plans to modernise children and family policy over the last 20 years; from the introduction of universal early years education entitlement, the introduction and roll-out of Sure Start Children’s Centres and the expansion of childcare places.
“Labour’s many achievements in Government, especially on childcare and early years cannot be forgotten or left to fail with the Tories holding the levers of power, that is why this pamphlet is an important contribution to the necessary debates on where Labour goes with our offer to ensure no child is denied the best start in life to help develop our offer to families ahead of the next General Election.”
You can read 'This Woman Can' be following this link here.
On Friday 7th April, Labour women MPs wrote a pamphlet for the Fabian Society commemorating the 101 Labour women elected to Parliament in Labour’s 1997 election landslide – which happened...
In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon has welcomed Labour's announcement on free school meals for all primary school children, and said:
“Lunchtime can often be an overlooked part of the school day; which can continue to ignore the growing problem in society where more and more children are going to school hungry and are unprepared to learn because they do not have the nutrients in them to fuel their bodies and minds.
“Many of those children must wait until lunchtime to get their free school meal, whilst some will not at all and will instead pay for their meals or opt for packed lunches which have been proven to lack any nutritional value to support a child’s learning. This policy allows for all children to reap the educational, behavioural and health benefits which come from having a hot and healthy school meal.
“Universalism is a proud tradition of the Labour Party and it is welcome that school food provision will now be a part of that important approach, continuing the important work the last Labour Government did when we introduced the universal free school meal pilots in Durham and Newham and had a fully-costed plan to roll this out to other areas post-2010, which was sadly scrapped by the incoming Tory-led Coalition Government.
“This policy will not only allow those children who are already on free school meals to see the stigma associated with these meals eradicated, but also the two thirds of children living in poverty who are actually in working households, known as the working poor, who will benefit from free school meals when they couldn’t before because they were just above the thresholds, and all other children who will benefit from access to a healthy meal that will aid their learning and help complement the whole school approach to food that has been pushed for since the publication of the School Food Plan.
“This policy announcement provides us with the space to continue our concerted campaigning for other improvements including access to breakfast clubs which have been shown to be the most beneficial intervention to support a child’s education, child holiday hunger which was first identified 111 years ago and unmet can reverse the many positive interventions seen throughout the school year, and wider household food insecurity which is a growing issue in society. This policy announcement is to be strongly welcomed.”
Notes to Editors:
Sharon has been the Chair of the School Food APPG for 7 years, and has campaigned on universal free school meals for over 10 years.
This has included being an integral part in pushing for the universal free school meal pilots in Durham and Newham in 2009, playing a key role in influencing the School Food Plan which recommended universal free school meals when the funding could be found in 2013, and then in 2015, to save Universal Infant Free School Meals when they were under-threat by the then Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP, in the lead-up to the 2015 Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review, when Sharon got the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to commit at the Despatch Box to protect this policy for the duration of the Parliament.
You can read more about Sharon’s campaigning journey and some of the work she has been doing on this issue, by reading these two speeches from 2010 and 2015:
Recent research by St Mary's University showed that using free school meals as a poverty indicator may not be the most accurate measure of children in poverty, as two-thirds of children living in poverty come from families with at least one parent working; therefore they are not eligible for free school meals however, this policy would be most helpful to the children of the working poor in particular as it would allow those children who do not meet the current eligibility to take advantage of free school meals. Further info available here.
In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon has welcomed Labour's announcement on free school meals for all primary school children, and said: “Lunchtime...
In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon is calling on as many party members, charities and health organisations as possible to contribute to Labour’s Health and Social Care Policy Commission consultation document, especially on public health issues.
Public health policy will play a key part in Labour’s Health and Social Care policy development with specific questions around how to address health inequalities in our society, how to support parents to improve children’s health, tackling the obesity crisis facing the country, what we can learn from devolved countries, and specific health issues facing specific groups in society, especially LGBT and BAME communities.
Recent studies found that when £1 is invested in public health, we can see an estimated £14 return on that investment – showing just how important it is to invest in our public health services, not only for the health of individuals and the nation, but also our NHS. Improving public health investment will help to see issues addressed at source rather than later downstream when treatment can be costlier and less successful.
In NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, public health and prevention was to have a radical upgrade, and in the Refresh document published in March 2017, welcome measures were announced but public health was buried in the back of the document with efficiencies and cost saving measures; rather than being one of the key measures to improve the sustainability of our NHS.
This radical upgrade has been undermined by the current Tory Government, who have cut public health spending cut by £200 million with year on year cuts in each year of this Parliament. This means public health spending is expected to fall by around £600 million.
“Ensuring effective and high-quality public health and health prevention services are crucial components to Labour’s approach to the health of our country; not only does improved public health services make our country healthier but it can support the sustainability of our NHS and how it functions.
“Evidence has shown that investment in public health can have serious benefits to our nation, yet, sadly, public health has not been supported in the way it should be by the Tories – with public health taking a back seat in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View Refresh and the damaging cuts seen to public health since 2015, which are expected to continue in each year of this Parliament.
“That is why it is important that Labour hears from party members, health specialists and health organisations and charities about how we best approach public health policy, and this consultation document is perfect way to hear those views. Labour knows how important it is never to take our nation’s health for granted and it is up to us to ensure people lead healthier lives, but that future generations are healthier than the last and we have a healthy and sustainable NHS going into the future.”
To read and find out more about the Health and Social Care Policy Commission’s consultation document, follow this link: http://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/agenda-2020/commissions/health-and-social-care/npf-consultation-2017-health-and-social-care
The consultation is open until Wednesday 31st May.
You can also read a speech Sharon gave to the North East branch of the Socialist Health Association on public health to find out more about Labour’s approach to public health by following this link: http://www.sharonhodgson.org/drt/sharon_speaks_at_the_north_east_s_socialist_health_association_s_seminar_on_public_health
In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon is calling on as many party members, charities and health organisations as possible to contribute to Labour’s Health and Social...
Read my latest Sunderland Echo column below or find it on the Sunderland Echo website.
The last week has been dominated by the news of the London terror attack last week.
As people went about their daily lives – with tourists taking in the sights of London and Parliament voting on the Pensions Schemes Bill – terror befell the capital and the world watched as Parliament entered lockdown.
Thankfully due to the amazing reactions of our police and security personnel, Parliament was quickly secured and the terrorist was swiftly dealt with.
But sadly, in the moments before that happened, we saw many innocent people injured, some resulting in deaths, including that of Pc Keith Palmer, who bravely and selflessly defended our democracy and the many thousands of people who call Parliament their workplace, including myself and my team.
The gratitude towards our emergency services, from the police to NHS staff, could never be expressed enough, for their duty of running towards the danger whilst telling everyone else to go the opposite way, and of course to my parliamentary colleague, Tobias Ellwood, MP, who did all he could to save the life of Pc Keith Palmer, as did Tony Davis, the local boxing coach from Low Fell, who is now living in Darlington, who was one of the first on the scene, again running into possible danger to help.
Many words of reassurance have been said since last Wednesday, and in the days and weeks ahead, our emotions will run high and people will be understandably anxious about what this all means. I want to echo the words of many others, and say: we must never let terror win.
It will be hard, but we must continue with life as normal. Not as a way to forget what has happened, but as a display of defiance against such evil acts. We must maintain our resolve to uphold our freedoms and not give in to those who wish to destroy our way of life.
That is why the day after the attack took place, myself and my team were back to work early that morning doing the jobs that we were there to do and standing strong against the adversity of the day before.
And in the days following, I continued to meet with constituents and honoured all appointments in my diary, prepared for speeches in the Chamber for this week on various topics, from rare genetic diseases to local HIV services, and responded to constituent’s correspondence – as I do every day.
Primarily our thoughts must be with those affected by this horrific attack, especially Pc Keith Palmer’s family. But we must continue on as we always do; because not doing so, will let the terrorists win and we can never let that happen.
Read my latest Sunderland Echo column below or find it on the Sunderland Echo website. The last week has been dominated by the news of the London terror attack last...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved my office onto a new improved casework system. This allows me to record correspondence from constituents and identify major issues affecting the residents of Washington and Sunderland West.
Some people may think it would be Brexit or some other big national issue. However, surprisingly one of the top issues is animal welfare.
Since 2007, I have received 1,147 letters, emails or postcards about the vast array of issues on animal welfare.
This includes dog fighting, the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses, wild animals in circuses, concerns over trophy hunting, the controversial badger culls, puppy farming, fox hunting... the list goes on and on.
This isn’t surprising. Every week I write letters to constituents about a whole host of issues, but it is clear that the people of Washington and Sunderland West are passionate animal lovers.
As a pet owner myself, I completely understand this. Animals are defenceless creatures and it is up to us to uphold our moral duty to do the right thing by them.
Recently, on one of Parliament’s sitting Fridays – where Private Members Bills are brought before Parliament by Backbench MPs to be debated – we saw three Bills on animal welfare – one on wild animals in circuses, and two on sentencing around animal cruelty.
Yet, all three were opposed by the Government despite huge public support for them.
I should know, I have had many constituents write to me about these specific Bills.
Labour has a proud track record on animal welfare issues.
We will continue to champion this record and build upon it, which I will do with renewed vigour, knowing that this is an issue which my constituents care so deeply about.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved my office onto a new... Read more
In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, Sharon will be joining an esteemed judging panel to judge a competition to redesign the British passport post-Brexit.
The unofficial competition is a way for professional designers, non-designers and students from across the UK to join a conversation on the future of Britain, post-Brexit, through the medium of art by using the British passport as the canvas.
The top prize for the winning design will be £1000, with second place winning £500 and third place winning £250.
Following the competition, the winning designs will be published in Dezeen magazine and exhibited at the Design Museum in London, with a wider selection of entries exhibited at Clerkenwell Design Week in London in May 2017.
Along with Sharon, the other judges include: Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum; Rohan Silva, founder of Second Home and former government policy advisor; Margaret Calvert, graphic designer; Oliver Wainwright, architecture and design critic for the Guardian, and; Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in-chief of Dezeen.
The judges will be looking for a combination of a strong overall idea, good execution, practicality and a convincing justification for their design.
“Creativity and artistic expression are uniting forces, and at a time when the country seems more divided than it as ever been, it is important that we all come together and look to a positive future for Britain.
“That is why I am delighted to be involved in Dezeen’s Brexit Passport competition, which aims to bring people together through the medium of art and using the canvas of what the British passport will look like once we leave the EU.
“I hope as many people as possible, including my own constituents, will get involved in this competition, from top designers to the next budding designer looking for their artistic break, and showcase to the world a positive outlook on the future of Britain, post-Brexit.”
You can read more about the competition, including rules and the entry form, by following this link: http://www.dezeen.com/passport
In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, Sharon will be joining an esteemed judging panel to judge a competition to...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Parliament is currently dominated by Brexit as we continue the process of passing the Article 50 Bill which will see Parliament allow the Government to trigger Article 50 in March; however, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other issues going on which are just as important.
Last week, I attended a debate on Maintained Nursery Schools and the worry is that this jewel in the crown of our education system is under threat from this Government’s changes to the Early Years Funding Formula.
Here in Sunderland, we are lucky to have nine good nursery schools providing for the local communities, with four in my own patch in Washington and Sunderland West. H
owever, there are concerns that the changes in the funding for Nursery Schools here in Sunderland could drop from £5.38 an hour to £5.11. It may seem like a small change, but it is the difference between survival and closure for many nursery schools.
I have always been a champion of improving our early year’s education in this country. Giving children the best start in life is paramount to improving social mobility and giving all children the opportunity in life to achieve great things.
There has also been a lot going on regarding cancer in Parliament, and in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, I have been working hard on this issue especially in the lead up to World Cancer Day (which took place last weekend).
Firstly, we had a debate on Kadcyla – a breast cancer drug which can extend terminally-ill women’s life for many months, sometimes years – which is being removed by NICE and then research by Cancer Research UK released last week showed the impact that inaction on prevention measures – such as smoking and obesity – could mean more women developing cancer faster than men in the next 20 years.
Brexit may be taking all the headlines, but this Government is implementing policy decisions that if not addressed in a sensible way, will have ramifications on the long-term health of our country.
In my last few columns, I have mentioned that I am holding public meetings in my constituency to talk about Brexit. I recently launched my Brexit Listening Exercise, along with a questionnaire, and held the first of two public meetings last month and the next will be on February 25 in South Hylton. If you’re a constituent, please contact my office at email@example.com or on 0191 417 2000 to register.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Parliament is currently dominated by Brexit as we continue the process of...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Over the Christmas period, many of us would have spent much of our time with loved ones celebrating everything the holidays have to offer. Yet, this wouldn’t have been the case for many people who suffer from loneliness.
Over 9 million of us say we are or are often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting it. We shouldn’t; loneliness affects us all at some point in our lives. From moving out of home and to a new area, to becoming a new mum and struggling with the change in life or getting older and losing contact with friends and family.
There are small and simple ways we can reach out to others. Instead of walking by, we can smile and say hello to a neighbour or decide to ring an elderly loved one who you may not have spoken to in a while.
Even the #joinin hashtag on Twitter over Christmas, promoted by local comedian, Sarah Millican, showed how taking an interest in another person’s life can be transformative, help fight loneliness and shows how isolation affects many different people.
Two Christmas ago, I backed Age UK’s loneliness campaign in this column and just over a year later, it is important we all recommit our efforts to ending isolation and loneliness in our communities.
That is why I am supporting the Jo Cox Commission into Loneliness, which will be spearheaded by Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP. This commission was the brainchild of our late colleague, Jo Cox, and will be in memory of Jo and her desire to tackle isolation and loneliness in our society.
The Commission will be all about action, rather than being a talking shop. This work is something we can all get behind and come up with ways to address loneliness.
I commend both Rachel and Seema for taking up the mantle from our late friend, Jo, and continuing her work.
In my column at the end of last year, I mentioned that I would be holding public meetings in my constituency to talk about Brexit. I recently launched my Brexit Listening Exercise, with the first of two public meetings this weekend, and the second in February.
For those who cannot make it to the meetings, I have also launched a questionnaire for people to feed in their views to me. The response has been phenomenal, and I am so pleased to see so many constituents engaging with this listening exercise. If you’re a constituent, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0191 417 2000 to get involved.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Over the Christmas period, many of us would have spent much of...