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 [email protected] 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 our...
Sharon has backed Maternity Action’s campaign to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
As part of the campaign, Maternity Action released three videos to empower pregnant women to address pregnancy discrimination in the work place. You can view the three videos here.
Pregnancy discrimination has risen dramatically in the past decade and now affects three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers at work.
Government figures have shown that 20,000 women leave their jobs because of health and safety concerns each year, and 53,000 were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments.
It is also estimated that 54,000 pregnant women a year are forced out of work because of unfair and unlawful treatment because of their pregnancy.
In support of the campaign, Sharon said:
“It is important that pregnant women and new mothers are safe at work and do not feel discriminated against or face problems in the workplace due to their pregnancy. That is why I am backing Maternity Action’s campaign and the launch of their three new videos to help support women if they need to raise concerns with their employer or resolve issues as early as possible.”
Sharon has backed Maternity Action’s campaign to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. As part of the campaign, Maternity Action released three videos to empower pregnant women to address pregnancy...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
This is my final Echo column of 2016, and what a year it has been. It’s safe to say 2016 has been a year of upheaval. However, one thing remains constant, I will continue to represent the people of my constituency here in Sunderland to the full; making sure that their voices are heard in Parliament.
2017 is expected to be as busy a year as any, with the negotiations for exiting the EU expected to officially begin by March 2017 when Article 50 is invoked – which will begin the official negotiations of our exit.
We are still none the wiser as to what a post-Brexit Britain will look like or what our relationship with the EU will be, but it is welcome that the Government have finally conceded to Labour’s calls and will now set out their Brexit plans before Parliament.
It is only right that Parliament has a role to play in the negotiations. This is a momentous constitutional, economic and diplomatic task that we must get right, or face serious consequences and ramifications.
Parliament must be able to fully scrutinise the Government’s plans. MPs are elected by local people to be their voice in Parliament and hold the Government to account; Brexit does not change that.
The result of the referendum was clear, we will be leaving the EU, and if and when the times comes for Parliament to vote on invoking Article 50, I will be voting for it.
Yet, this does not mean that Theresa May and her Brexiteer Secretaries of State have free rein to do as they wish.
The people of our City did not vote to become poorer as a consequence of leaving the EU, and it is up to me, my other Sunderland colleagues and all MPs to hold the Government to account so we get the best deal possible that protects the jobs and livelihoods of people across the country.
To do that, I need to hear what the people of our area want us to do as their politicians, and I welcome any comments from my constituents about what Brexit should look like to them, and as part of this, I will be holding public meetings in the New Year to hear more about the views of the residents of Washington and Sunderland West.
Brexit will happen, but it is still unclear what it will look like.
I will make sure to continue to hold the Government to account, and continue to be the voice for Washington and Sunderland West in Westminster.
For me, we need a good deal that respects the outcome of June’s referendum but does not make us poorer because of it. This will be my driving force in the coming year.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. This is my final Echo column of 2016, and what a year it...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
The age-old proverb: “out of sight, out of mind” always springs to mind when we have some old electricals tucked away at the back of the cupboard or stowed up in the loft.
They sit there for years on end gathering dust and filling up useful storage space, and we always think, “I will get that fixed soon” or “I’ll get round to throwing that away eventually”.
According to United Nations experts, the electronic waste (e-waste) which is discarded by consumers globally totals over 42 million tons a year with less than 16% of that astronomical figure being diverted to recycling or reuse.
This is all alarming news when it is reported that the electrical items we throw away each year contributes up to 4,400 tons of ozone depleting chemicals being let off into our environment.
We all talk about “going green” or “doing more for the environment”, but sometimes we easily forget the effect of throwing away an old camera or mobile phone can have on our environment.
However, a new initiative aims to change all of that. It’s called Restart, and it aims to help empower consumers to address the growing issue of waste and learn life skills to recycle, repair and reuse old electricals which may still have some life left in them – if only they were given some TLC.
The project is currently only based in London, but hopes to expand out across the country.
To do that they held a Restart party in Parliament, where MPs were able to take their old electronics and repair them themselves.
I, for one, was delighted to personally repair an old clock of mine that I had been tempted to throw away but now can put up again in the house with no need to buy a new one or add to the yearly levels of e-waste we are producing.
Restart hopes to set up local Restart parties across the country where local people can come together and learn more about how they can recycle and repair their old electrical items so we can all take positive steps towards reducing harmful e-waste in the UK whilst also learning valuable life skills we can use in the future. You can find out more about Restart by visiting their website: https://therestartproject.org/
The initiative is only in its infancy, but it is set to grow in popularity where more and more people will learn about repairing or recycling their old electrical items, and can finally empty out that cupboard full of old electrical items and give them a restart to a new life.
You can see some photos of Sharon below at the RESTART reception in Parliament:
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. The age-old proverb: “out of sight, out of mind” always springs to mind...
In her capacity as Co-Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, Sharon organised a cross-party group of MPs and Peers led by along with Nigel Adams MP, Chair of the Music APPG, and were joined with famous faces, such as Imogen Heap, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child producer Sonia Friedman, and Josh Franceschi of You Me At Six!. The photo call called on the Government to accept the “Ban the Bots” amendment during Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill on the 28.11.16.
The photo call took place outside of Parliament, where MPs and Peers backed an amendment drafted by Nigel Adams MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, and tabled on a cross-party basis by the entire Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and supported by Sharon Hodgson MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, and Tom Watson, Labour’s Culture Secretary and Labour’s Shadow Culture, Media and Sport team, which would ban the use of bots to buy tickets. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s move follows years of campaigning by Sharon and the APPG for Ticket Abuse to consider how to tackle different aspects of a multi-faceted issue.
The photo call also linked in with the #ToutsOut campaign by Fan Fair Alliance, who have been galvanising the industry to tackle ticket touting and ensure fans are put first in the market.
This came off the back of a Parliamentary Petition which saw more than 83,000 people call for further transparency measures in the market to help empower fans and protect them from the unscrupulous actions of touts.
Following the photo call, Sharon, said:
“It was excellent to see our cross-party campaign to take another step forward after many years of campaigning on the many issues in the ticketing industry which are locking fans out of seeing their favourite artist, sports team or theatre show. The chorus of concerns from industry, fans and Parliamentarians a like is becoming hard for the Government to ignore. It’s time the Government acted.”
Sharon organises Ban the Bots & Touts Out cross-party photocall ahead of Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill
In her capacity as Co-Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, Sharon organised a cross-party group of MPs and Peers led by along with Nigel Adams MP, Chair of the...
Last week saw Nissan solidify its relationship with Sunderland and the North East further when the company announced that their two new car models, the new Qashqai and the X-Trail SUV, would be built here in Sunderland.
The news which was expected later this month, was brought forward and definitely lifted a weight off the shoulders of those who work at the Sunderland plant and within the supply chain, here in the North East and across the country.
It is not surprising that many people were apprehensive about the impending decision, especially after comments by Chief Executive, Carlos Ghosn, on future investment here in Sunderland due to Brexit. But what this news has done is allowed families who depend on Nissan for their jobs and livelihoods to plan for the future, now that they are secure.
It is only right that we celebrate the good fortune our City and the wider North East region received last week, and recognise the sigh of relief for the many tens of thousands of families, rather than dampen the jubilant mood felt across the region with scepticism. There will be time to discuss what deal was struck and the content of the letter, but for now, this is good news and that should not be forgotten.
+ This week saw LACA’s National School Meals Week return.
National School Meals Week is a year-round initiative which promotes pupils taking up school meals and showcases the improvement seen over the years. Our school catering workforce is larger than the British Navy but can often be overlooked when it comes to celebrating the improvements we have seen in school food over the last decade.
That is why it is important that we recognise all of their contributions to the health, education and well-being of our children.
It was for this reason that I was delighted to invite Audrey Chappell of Albany Primary School to come down to London and cook in Parliament’s kitchens, and for me to go along and see her in action and hear about her day’s experiences. It was lovely to hear about everything Audrey got up to on her visit and how it would not be an experience she will forget.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Last week saw Nissan solidify its relationship with Sunderland and the North East...
Read below Sharon's reaction to the announcement on 27.10.16 that Nissan will be building their new Qashqai and X-Trail SUV at the Nissan Sunderland factory in her constituency:
“The announcement today that Nissan has decided to base the production of their new Qashqai and X-Trail SUV here in Sunderland is fantastic news and shows that not only have Nissan got confidence to continue investing in our region but most importantly, reinforces Nissan’s continued faith in the skilled and highly capable workforce based at the plant.
“Credit must go to the workforce at the Nissan factory for their continued hard work in producing such high-quality cars, where nearly 80% of the cars rolling off the production line in Sunderland are exported across the globe. The talent and skill of Sunderland’s workforce is showcased across the world and puts Sunderland very squarely on the map as somewhere for businesses to come and invest.
“It is welcome that this announcement will secure 7,000 jobs at the plant and it is up to the Government to ensure that this news is not squandered by jeopardising it with an unclear Brexit strategy. Clarity is still very much needed on what will happen to our automotive industry as we continue down the path of exiting the European Union.
“Nissan is such a vital contributor to our regional economy but also our national economy, along with supporting such a large workforce totalling over 48,000 employees by Nissan directly and in the supply chain. This news should be welcomed by all and is a moment for the North East to celebrate some good news for our region’s much-needed economic growth and job creation.”
Sharon reacts to announcement on new Qashqai & X-Trail SUV being built at Nissan's Sunderland factory
Read below Sharon's reaction to the announcement on 27.10.16 that Nissan will be building their new Qashqai and X-Trail SUV at the Nissan Sunderland factory in her constituency: “The announcement...
Read Sharon's reaction to the Government's decision to expand Heathrow below:
“Now that the Government has finally got their act together and announced their decision on a third runway at Heathrow Airport, it is important that they now deliver on this important transport infrastructure programme which will have a clear and positive impact on the North East.
“With Brexit showing that the future of our economy is unclear, it is vital that investment into national transport infrastructure benefits the regions of the UK, especially regions such as the North East where we need to see more growth and investment, in order that we can deliver on the untapped economic potential our region holds.
“The expansion of Heathrow and building the third runway at this important international hub will benefit the North East greatly by allowing our region’s airports, at Newcastle and Durham-Tees Valley, to become important commercial hubs which serve not only the needs of major conurbations in the North but also other regions in the UK and the rest of the world with improved connectivity.
“This is an absolute imperative when the North East’s export performance, as the only net exporter in the country, shows we have far more to be offered to our country’s economic future. Instead of squandering this potential, the Government must recognise and harness it so that it not only benefits our region’s economic development, but also the whole country’s.
“We still have a long way to go before the runway is built, but it is important our region is not being left behind as this strategically important infrastructure programme goes ahead. Dithering by the Government on such a nationally significant issue cannot continue; they must now get on with the task at hand.”
Read Sharon's reaction to the Government's decision to expand Heathrow below: “Now that the Government has finally got their act together and announced their decision on a third runway at...
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, was presented with the Educatering Mag Special Award for her work on Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM), specifically her integral role in committing the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to protect funding for UIFSM at the Despatch Box after it was revealed that the scheme was going to be scrapped ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2015.
Sharon Hodgson MP received her award from Jamie Robbins, Managing Director of H2O Publishing and Hilary Hadley, Business Development Manager at Nestle Professional.
Before the award was presented, a citation was read out which said:
"This year’s winner is a real champion of school meals.
She [Sharon Hodgson MP] is a brilliant ambassador and supporter of all those that work in our industry. She has used her public position to promote and raise the profile and importance of feeding children healthy, nutritious and tasty meals at school.
Our winner set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food which she chairs.
This forum gives the opportunity for all the interested organisations and individuals involved with school food to discuss the issues, put forward ideas and highlight concerns.
Importantly, the group ensures a route for the industry to influence Government policy and decisions.
As we were all very aware, this was never more vital than this time last year, when the recipient of tonight’s award played the most important card in the campaign to Save Universal Free School meals for our youngest customers.
The then Secretary of State for Education seemed to be determined to abolish these free meals. Following much lobbying and a petition which had some 42,000 signatures, Universal Free School meals was finally saved by her asking this question at Prime Ministers Question Time in Parliament to Mr Cameron.
She said: “Will you guarantee now not to scrap universal infant free school meals so you don't go down in history as Dave the dinner snatcher?"
This action saved Universal Free school meals, and we all owe her a huge thank you for all that she does to support us.
I have much pleasure in announcing that the winner of the EDUcatering Special Award 2016 is shadow health minister Sharon Hodgson MP."
After receiving her award, Sharon said:
“It is a real honour to have received this EDUcatering Mag award and have my work to ensure all children are eating a hot and healthy school meal, especially one that is free, recognised. The work that I have done over the years has been supported and formed by the commitment and passion shown by the school food sector, and it is wonderful that they have bestowed this special award on me.
“This award is a testament to the work we have done together which has seen so many improvements in school food in the last decade. There is still a lot more that we can and must do to improve school food, and the access to healthy and nutritious food all year round for children, and I will continue to work hard on this important matter.”
Pat Fellows, former Chair of the Lead Association for Education Catering (LACA), who has worked in the school meals service for 44 years, and who nominated Sharon Hodgson MP for the EDUcatering Mag special award, said:
“Sharon’s work on school food was never more vital than this time last year, when she played the most important card in the campaign to Save Universal Free School Meals for our youngest customers when the then Secretary of State for Education seemed to be determined to abolish these free meals.
“Following much lobbying and a petition in excess of 42,000 signatures, UIFSM was finally saved by Sharon asking Mr Cameron at Prime Ministers Question Time in Parliament if he would guarantee then not to scrap universal infant free school meals so he wouldn’t go down in history as ‘Dave the Dinner Snatcher?’.
“All of us involved in school meals are absolutely delighted that our “Champion” has won this prestigious award, so richly deserved”.
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, was presented with the Educatering Mag Special Award for her work on Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM), specifically her...
When the Prime Minister stood outside Downing Street earlier this year, she told the country that no one would be left behind.
Yet, in the months since her appointment, Theresa May has run roughshod over this promise and brought in plans which would take regressive steps back on improving the lives of many children and young people in our country with the introduction of Grammar Schools.
These plans, just like the Government’s plans to force all schools to become academies, have been met with opposition from across the political spectrum, including Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and the former Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.
Add to this the anger from education experts, teachers, trade unions and most importantly, the wider public, and it is clear that the Government is not listening to the people.
The evidence is clear, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed last month, that where grammar schools are prevalent, such as in Kent, only 27% of pupils on free school meals achieved five good GCSEs.
The Government says that children on free school meals thrive in grammar schools, yet ignore the facts that the poorest children struggle in this form of education as shown by the IFS, and also that only 2.5% of grammar school entrants are entitled to free school meals.
It is absolutely paramount that we improve the education of children and young people in our country in order that the next generation have the skills and knowledge to achieve in the 21st century world of work.
However, deciding a child’s future prospects at the age of 11 is a highly damaging way of educating our children, which deserves to be left forgotten in the 1950s.
This is compounded when the financial means of more affluent families are used to help coach their children to excel and pass the 11+ exams, which disproportionately advantages their future education over that of children from families who do not have the means to have their child coached in this way.
This is why we should oppose these plans wherever possible.
Grammar schools are yet another example of how out of touch the Tories are with the public and the experts, and instead of stopping and listening to the evidence, are dragging us back to a failed educational system based on segregation. Instead the Government should be getting to work on the nuts and bolts issues facing our education system; ever-increasing class sizes and teacher shortages - not another bells and whistles restructuring of our schools which nobody wants or asked for.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. When the Prime Minister stood outside Downing Street earlier this year, she told...