Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News from Westminster

Read a statement from Sharon regarding the Government's recent decision to accept all the recommendations of the Learning Disability and Apprenticeships Task Force last month:

“The recent news that the Government has accepted all the recommendations from the Learning Disability and Apprenticeships task force is a welcome step in the right direction to ensuring that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, need or background, have access to high-quality apprenticeships – a career route that can do so much to change a person’s life.

“The task force, which was chaired by Paul Maynard MP, made some important recommendations including adjusting the minimum requirements for English and maths to enter a level 3 course for defined groups of apprentices with learning difficulties and disabilities. Whilst we should be working towards improving the skills of our workforce, to deny someone the chance to make something of themselves because they haven’t reach an arbitrary level but can prove the functional skills required for the job is deeply damaging to supporting different people into their chosen career path.

“The Government have said that they will be implementing all of these recommendations, at varying time-frames, however, I will continue to keep a close eye on the work of the Government and ensure that they do not delay in the progress needed to ensure that all young people have the chance to make something of themselves.”

You can read a speech Sharon delivered in the North East on apprenticeships and social value, where she touched upon the issue of access to apprenticeships for those with SEND and those who may not be able to reach the minimum requirements despite proving their functional skills, here.

Sharon responds to Government's decision to accept all recommendations from the Learning Disability and Apprenticeships Taskforce

Read a statement from Sharon regarding the Government's recent decision to accept all the recommendations of the Learning Disability and Apprenticeships Task Force last month: “The recent news that the...

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, read Sharon's reaction to the publication of the Childhood Obesity Strategy:

"After many delays and stumbles along the way, the Government has finally published their Childhood Obesity Strategy, sadly at a time when Parliament is not sitting and Members of Parliament are unable to scrutinise the document fully. It is clear why this is: the Government have failed to develop a 'game-changing' comprehensive strategy that we were all promised would help address the burgeoning crisis of childhood obesity in this country, and instead have received a 13-page plan which could have been a lot stronger and gone further to tackle this issue.

"Whilst this is a downgraded plan, there is still some measures, such as a re-commitment to the sugary drinks levy and the pledge that £10 million a year fund of that levy will be for breakfast clubs, which should be welcomed. It is also welcome to see that the Government have finally recognised the inequality seen in their fragmented school system where certain schools must abide by the new School Food Standards, however, they could have gone further with this and ensured that all schools had to adhere to school food standards. I will await with bated breath for the detail of how the Education Secretary will campaign to encourage all schools to commit to the standards.

"It is also welcome after the lobbying by the APPG on School Food, to see that the Government will be working to develop a new voluntary healthy rating scheme that will be taken into account as part of Ofsted inspections into healthy eating and lifestyles in our schools, along with the consultation with schools and experts on the new rating criterion. This will need close monitoring to see how the new scheme is developed and implemented. It is seven years since the last thematic review of school food by Ofsted, so I welcome the 2017 planned review on obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in schools, which I hope will be the start of closer monitoring of school food.

"It will also be interesting to see what advice Public Health England will be giving to schools for those at the front-line of tackling childhood obesity, such as our school nurses, health centres, healthy weight teams in local authorities, not forgetting the vital role of our school catering teams.

"One significant omission from this plan is the Government's failure to address the double burden of malnutrition and children's access to good healthy food in our communities all year round. This summer has seen almost daily press reports on holiday hunger and with tens of thousands of children reliant on food banks in the country, Ministers have failed to make any commitments to address child holiday hunger.

"This childhood obesity plan could have gone a lot further in regards to the food our children are eating in school and in our communities. It could have made serious inroads into addressing an issue which is costing our nation's health, and to ensure that we finally tackle this issue. They have stated 'this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word', I, for one, will continue to hold the Government's feet to the fire and ensure that they deliver not only on what they have outlined but also ensure they think wider than this on how best we reverse the obesity trends in our country."

You can also read a speech Sharon delivered in the House of Commons on the Childhood Obesity Strategy in January 2016 here.

Sharon reacts to the publication of the Childhood Obesity Strategy

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, read Sharon's reaction to the publication of the Childhood Obesity Strategy: "After many delays and stumbles along...

In her capacity as Co-Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, Sharon has today written to the new Culture Secretary calling on her to put fans first after a Wembley fact-finding mission where a group of Members of Parliament saw first-hand the activities of ticket touts at the International Championship match between Liverpool and Barcelona on 6th August.

Key findings from the fact-finding mission include:

  • An example where a teenage Barcelona fan paid £170 for a ticket to the match, after a tout had told him the face-value of the ticket was £100, when in fact, it was £26.
  • There were also reports after the match that a family from Spain, who had purchased tickets outside the venue, were subsequently turned away as their tickets were invalid for entry.
  • A well-known name in the resale of tickets who was in operation on the day was Roger Leigh, business partner to David Spanton, who was responsible for the failure to deliver on 38,000 tickets and convicted in 2012. Other well-known touts in operation on the day, included Leonard Scott & Les Hawkins.
  • Touts were in operation from the steps of Wembley Park Tube Station all the way down Olympic Way, and specifically in the area in front of Wembley Park Tube Station where there were up to 30 touts in operation.

In her letter to the Culture Secretary, Sharon writes about what was uncovered on the fact-finding mission, along with calling for the Culture Secretary to begin the process of implementing the recommendations set out in the Waterson Review with her ministerial colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and back campaigns such as Fan Fair Alliance.

You can read the letter here

Following her letter to the new Culture Secretary, Sharon said:

"Following our fact-finding mission to Wembley, we uncovered the scope and scale of ticket touts operating on the ground and fleecing fans desperate to get tickets to a hotly anticipated football match at our national stadium. The fact-finding clearly reaffirmed the need for action to be taken by the Government.

"This is why I have written to the new Culture Secretary asking her to support our campaign by working with her colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and begin to implement the recommendations in the Waterson Review and with campaign groups, like FanFair Alliance, and finally ensure fans are put first is this unfair market."

  • The Wembley fact-finding mission on the 6th August was organised by the Office of Sharon Hodgson MP and Reg Walker of Iridium Consultancy, and on the day was attended by Sharon Hodgson MP, Kerry McCarthy MP, Nigel Adams MP and Reg Walker.
  • You can find out more about the APPG and their recent activity by going to their website here.

Sharon writes to Culture Secretary calling for her to put fans first following Wembley fact-finding mission

In her capacity as Co-Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, Sharon has today written to the new Culture Secretary calling on her to put fans first after a Wembley...

Sharon has welcomed a letter of response from the Minister of State for Education, Edward Timpson MP, following the letter she wrote to him regarding the comments on social media by Baker Small Law Firm on SEND Tribunal cases. Parts of Sharon's letter can be read here.

In his letter to Sharon Hodgson MP, the Minister wrote that he shares the view that the actions of Baker Small were: “not a helpful action for a law firm to take, nor did it have the best interests of the child and their parents at its heart.”

This also backs up what the Minister said on the floor of the House of Commons during Education Questions on 4th July, when Sharon asked him to look into the matter of Baker Small further, and he said practices such as those of Baker Small are: “totally unacceptable” and he would “continue to watch carefully how matters develop”.

Further in his letter, the Minister mentions a research project being undertaken by the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at Warwick University which is looking in-depth at the new system of disagreement resolution, which includes mediation and the Tribunal.

Sharon has welcomed this research project and is calling on parents of children with SEND to engage with the project, and said:

“It is welcome to see both in writing and during the last Education Questions that the Minister agreed with me that the practices of Baker Small law firm’s involvement in SEND Tribunals was completely unacceptable. As we both said during the passing of the Children and Families Act 2014, the system needed to be less adversarial – however, Baker Small didn’t seem to get the memo.

“The minister’s letter in response to my concerns is welcome, and I am glad to see that CEDAR are undertaking research into this area to fully understand what is going on within the tribunal system. I hope as many parents who have experiences of the SEND system as possible will get involved and engage with this vitally important research by CEDAR.”

This information also comes after Sharon Hodgson MP wrote to all 153 local authorities with responsibility for children’s services and received responses from 8 saying they had suspended all activity with Baker Small law firm, including Barnet, Cambridgeshire, Dudley, Essex, Slough, Southend-on-Sea, Westminster & Croydon councils, and over a third of councils who responded said they would never use Baker Small after the comments they made on social media.

You can read the letter from the Minister of State for Education here.

For more information regarding CEDAR's research project, please follow click here.

Sharon welcomes letter from Education Minister calling on parents of children with SEND to particpate in CEDAR Research Project

Sharon has welcomed a letter of response from the Minister of State for Education, Edward Timpson MP, following the letter she wrote to him regarding the comments on social media...

Sharon, in her role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, is lending her support to the Make Rio Count National Fun Day on the 4th August 2016, the day before the start of the Rio Olympic Games.

This national fun day will highlight the good work of schools, charities, councils and others helping make provisions for children to get good food and free activities in the school holidays, and will coincide with the global nutrition summit in Rio, the day before the Olympic Games begin.

The global nutrition summit in Rio follows a similar summit held ahead of the London 2012 Olympics on nutrition and aims to build on the work being done internationally and nationally to address hunger and food insecurity.

The two specific asks from the Make Rio Count Fun Day, include:

  • A new vision for food and nutrition security in the UK which delivers healthy, affordable sustainable diets for all;
  • A targeted package to improve the life-chances of women and children most at risk of a poor diet, which includes:
    • Increase the uptake and voucher value of the Healthy Start programme.
    • Protect and improve child nutrition during the school holidays by piloting holiday provision for the UK’s most vulnerable children, and;
    • Conduct an annual national measurement of household food insecurity.

This national fun day follows on from important work done by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School’s Food Holiday Hunger Task Group, which since its inception in 2013, has held a national conference in Sheffield on child holiday hunger, launched guidelines on providing food during holiday provision, written an update report on holiday hunger which highlights best practice around the country, and most recently, worked with Northumbria University to map holiday provision, which includes food provision, to identify where more support is needed to address child holiday hunger.

Following the launch of the National Fun Day, Sharon said:

“For many years now, I have worked alongside fellow Parliamentarians and experts in the world of children’s health, nutrition and education to ensure we finally end the issue of child hunger, including during the school holidays, and that is why I welcome the Make Rio Count national fun day to help raise awareness of what more can be done by the Government.

“The Government cannot attend this vital international conference and call for hunger to be addressed across the world, and not do anything to address it on our own doorstep. With evidence continuing to show that children return to school after the summer holidays malnourished and have fallen behind their more affluent peers in terms of their education, along with the rising use of food banks during the summer holidays, then it is high-time the Government did something about this.

“The government’s rhetoric on addressing hunger globally is welcome but inaction here in the UK cannot continue as it is detrimental to the future and the life chances of our children. That is why rhetoric on hunger in other countries must be replicated here in the UK and I hope that this national fun day can take us one step closer to seeing the Government finally address this important issue.”

You can find a flyer for the National Fun Day here.

Sharon backs Make Rio Count National Fun Day ahead of the start of the Rio Olympics 2016

Sharon, in her role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, is lending her support to the Make Rio Count National Fun Day on the 4th August...

Sharon has supported a petition created on change.org calling for M&S to reconsider their plans to cut worker’s pay to fund the National Living Wage.

This follows a concerted campaign by fellow Labour MP, Siobhain McDonagh MP, who has repeatedly raised these issues in Parliament, firstly in regards to B&Q and now, M&S.

Proposed plans set out by in a consultation by M&S, include:

  • Cuts to pay for unsociable hours, including Sundays, Bank Holidays and for working after 9pm;
  • Targeting staff who have worked for a long-time within M&S with the member of staff who has created the change.org petition estimated to lose £1366 per year, and;
  • The pensions of 11,000 members of staff being affected after closing the final salary pension scheme to new contributions.

The petition calls on Marks and Spencer to ‘think again and scrap these proposals that are targeting their most loyal staff’.

In support of the petition, Sharon said:

“The Government’s version of the National Living Wage should be welcomed by all as a step in the right direction to addressing pay in this country; however, it is important that businesses are not funding this new scheme at the detriment of their workers who have contributed so much to their place of work.

“That is why I am supporting this petition which is calling for a rethink by M&S, and hope as many of my constituents as possible will get behind this petition and ensure that the National Living Wage helps to raise the standards on pay and conditions for some of the lowest paid in our society, and not impact the pay of workers who have dedicated a lot of their time and service to their employer.”

You can find the petition at this link.

Sharon supports petition calling on M&S to reverse decisions to cut worker's pay to help fund National Living Wage

Sharon has supported a petition created on change.org calling for M&S to reconsider their plans to cut worker’s pay to fund the National Living Wage. This follows a concerted campaign...

Sharon has welcomed a national petitions campaign by WASPI which will then be handed into Parliament on mass by Members of Parliament on the floor of the House of Commons at the end of the day’s business on the 11th October 2016 and is calling on WASPI women and their families to collect as many signatures as possible over the summer.

As part of this petitions campaign, Sharon has written to the many women who have written in to her over the years on this matter and asked them to go out and collect as many signatures as possible so she can hand them in with fellow MPs in October.

Sharon is asking that these signed petitions sheets (please find links below) are sent to her Parliamentary Office no later than 7th October to be collated and put together so they can be presented in one go to Parliament – signatures handed in after the petition has been submitted will not be able to be handed in, as it will have then closed.

Sharon said:

“The WASPI campaign’s momentum has been fantastic over the last year and has gained some real traction amongst Parliamentarians, and we cannot let this fight fall by the wayside. That is why I am fully behind this petitions campaign and hope as many WASPI women, along with their friends and family, will be able to collect as many signatures as possible so that come the 11th October, I can stand in Parliament and present the petitions and ensure the Government hears the voice of my constituents, especially those women who have been the most affected by these changes.’

For guidelines on the petition, please read this helpful guide.

For a copy of the petitions sheet, please find it here. If you fill this page, and want to continue, please use this continuation sheet.

Sharon calls on WASPI women and their families to sign petitions to be handed into Parliament in October

Sharon has welcomed a national petitions campaign by WASPI which will then be handed into Parliament on mass by Members of Parliament on the floor of the House of Commons...

Sharon Hodgson has written to the new Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, calling on him to support the recent decision by the North East Combined Authority (NECA) to support extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro into areas of the region currently not served by the Metro, such as Washington.

The decision by the NECA has been welcomed by Sharon as part of her campaign to see the Tyne and Wear Metro extended into Washington – the fourth largest town in England not served by a rail station.

As part of her campaign, Sharon has repeatedly called on the previous Coalition Government and the current Conservative Government to support vital transport infrastructure in the region, seen through submitting three petitions in the last Parliament and one during this Parliament last July on behalf of residents and in her speech in the Budget debates earlier this year where she called on the former Chancellor, George Osborne, to seriously invest in North East transport infrastructure as part of his Northern Powerhouse project.

In Sharon’s letter to the Transport Secretary she raised the long-standing history of rail in the region, and specifically within the constituency of Washington and Sunderland West with the Bowes Railway Museum, which is based on part of one of the first railway routes in the country which was built by George Stephenson and the need to support the decisions made by local decision makers to invest in local transport infrastructure, whereby extending the Metro would allow the much-needed economic growth in the North East to be realised and better transport access to Tyne and Wear’s two city hubs, Sunderland and Newcastle.

Following her letter to the Transport Secretary, Sharon said:

“It was very welcome when last week news broke that the North East Combined Authority was considering Metro extension plans, including into Washington, and that this has now been fully backed at a full meeting of the Combined Authority this week.

“My constituents have made their voice clear that they want to see the Metro extended into Washington and time and time again, I have raised this on their behalf with the previous Coalition Government and the current Tory Government as something vital to the Government’s Northern Powerhouse project.

“Now is an important time for the Government to act and support the business case set out by the NECA which will be put forward to the Transport Secretary in the coming months and I hope he will deliver for the region. As always, I will be continuing to push on this important matter for my constituents at every available opportunity in Parliament.”

You can read Sharon's letter to the Transport Secretary here

Sharon raised extension of the Metro into Washington during her contribution to the Budget debates. You can read her speech here.

If you support the extension of the Metro into Washington, you can sign Sharon's petition here.

Sharon calls on Transport Secretary to support North East Combined Authority’s decision to extend the Tyne & Wear Metro into Washington

Sharon Hodgson has written to the new Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, calling on him to support the recent decision by the North East Combined Authority (NECA) to support extension...

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.

Sharon_Echo_col_header_FIN.jpg

In my last column for the Sunderland Echo, I wrote about the need for us to get the best deal possible out of the EU exit negotiations and the importance of local elected representatives listening and learning from the referendum vote to ensure the voices of the people of Sunderland are heard loud and clear in the coming months and years ahead.

Now that we have a new Cabinet in place, which is led by our second female Prime Minister, Theresa May, it is now time for politicians to hold her and her government to account on the upcoming negotiations. This is especially true of the three key Cabinet positions of Foreign Secretary, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and Secretary of State for International Trade; which are all occupied by key Brexiteers.

That is why last week I welcomed the launch of a public consultation by the North East’s two Labour MEPs, Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brennan, who are planning to engage with business leaders, universities, civil society, trade unions and community groups and most importantly, ordinary people, to understand what they want to come out of the EU exit negotiations.

This consultation will be important to allow the voices of people here in Sunderland, and across the North-East, to be heard by those in Whitehall and Brussels, especially when it is unclear exactly what will come of these negotiations.

This is even more concerning when only hours after the result was announced for us to leave the EU, that those leading Leave campaigners reneged on some of their key campaign promises, such as the additional funding to the NHS, and since then have sadly been unable to outline what a post-Brexit Britain would look like, on policy such as worker’s rights and if we will remain in the single market or not.

It is clear that we face uncertain times and protracted negotiations; however, it is important that we all come together and make sure that our City’s voice is heard and the fragile economic prosperity we have seen is not weakened further by this Tory Government failing to recognise the support the people of our City need to thrive.

I hope as many Wearsiders as possible will get involved in Jude’s and Paul’s consultation, and will visit the Plan for The North East website here: http://www.northeastlabour.eu/plan and take part in the consultation’s survey so we can try and ensure that this government can get the best outcome for the people of Sunderland and deliver on what the Leave campaign promised for Brexit.

ECHO COLUMN: City’s voice must be heard in Brexit talks

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. In my last column for the Sunderland Echo, I wrote about the need...

As Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children's Centres, or more commonly known as Sure Start Centres, Sharon has supported a report written by the APPG which sets out a vision for the future of these centres.

The report, Family Hubs: The Future of Children's Centres, argues that Children’s Centres have had a crucial role to play in providing support to young children and their parents, intervening early to address problems that prevent children reaching their potential, and tackling poverty and disadvantage.

It sets out a series of recommendations for how Children’s Centres would be even better placed to improve life chances if they operated as Family Hubs – reaching more families and offering support across a broader range of issues - especially with the publication of the expected Government Life Chances strategy in the coming months.

Having heard evidence from a range of Children’s Centres, local authorities and charities over the last 12 months, the report, Family Hubs: The Future of Children’s Centres recommends:

  1. Augmenting Children’s Centres into Family Hubs as part of the Government’s Life Chances agenda. This would mean renaming and rebranding them as Family Hubs, broadening the range of services available to make them universally recognised one-stop-shops for sourcing support for families – at all stages and ages – in their local communities, linked with national online support.
  2.  Placing Family Hubs at the heart of local Health and Wellbeing strategies, requiring strong leadership at local and national government levels
  3.  An emphasis on mental health support, including looking at how support available from other partners such as schools can be integrated into Family Hubs support
  4. Delivering employment support, particularly for the long term jobless. This will involve strengthening links between Family Hubs, local employers and Jobcentre Plus
  5. Relationship support should be delivered in Family Hubs, or signposted from them, to include statutory, voluntary and self-help provision, and be extended beyond parenting support to include couples counselling; pre-marriage courses; post separation support and help with parenting teenagers.

Following the publication of the report, Sharon said:

“For over the last 15 years, Children’s Centres have been a vital means of support to families who need support in the early stages of family life. These centres have done so much good in that time and it is sad to see so many closing down across the country. Now more than ever, it is important that those families who are struggling do not miss out on the much needed support offered by these centres and that is why we must protect and build on those achievements.

“By expanding the support on offer and opening the doors to more families, Children’s Centres can be a central hub in our communities for all families to use and do what they do best which is identifying problems and intervening early to ensure those problems do not escalate further and irreversibly damage children’s futures.”

You can read the full report here

Sharon supports APPG Children Centre report into Family Hubs

As Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children's Centres, or more commonly known as Sure Start Centres, Sharon has supported a report written by the APPG which sets out...

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