Following the Prime Minister's renegotiations with other European Union (EU) leaders and his statement to the House of Commons today (22.02.16), Sharon has released a statement on why she is supporting the UK remains in the EU.
Over recent months, Britain’s future in the European Union has been a constant feature of public discourse with various groups and individuals coming out as wanting to remain or wanting to leave the European Union whilst the Prime Minister has renegotiated Britain’s position within the EU.
Now that the Prime Minister has achieved his intended goals for renegotiation, it is now time for the country as a whole to make a decision about our future membership of the European Union in the lead up to the referendum on Thursday 23rd June 2016.
David Cameron’s renegotiation talks with other European leaders were a long and drawn out affair which never delivered the reforms that would have made the EU work better for working families.
Whilst the Prime Minister could have made more of a case for better working conditions and democratic accountability, this does not mean we should vote to leave the EU based on Cameron’s botched renegotiations and instead remember that the reform is not a flash-in-the-pan venture but an on-going process that must always ensure the British public are at the heart of decisions made by the EU.
As a proud trading nation, almost half of our exports go to EU countries – worth an estimated £337 billion last year to the UK economy. Not only do we benefit from trade but also from the direct investment from other EU countries, which is on average worth £26.5 billion. To lose access to the single market by leaving the European Union would have a direct impact on our future economic prosperity and the estimated 790,000 more jobs to be created by 2030 by opening up markets in digital services, energy and tourism within Europe.
As a region, the North-East benefits greatly from our membership of the EU with our region being the only regional net exporter in the UK to Europe, receiving significant investment from EU budgets to address social issues and invest into our economic future but also the large companies from all over the world who choose to base their companies in our region, such as Nissan here in Sunderland, and recruit and train a local workforce and bring much-needed growth.
Labour understands the importance of our continued EU membership and the good that this can bring to ordinary working people’s lives. It was Labour who worked within the European Union to push for better rights for British workers, including minimum paid leave, rights for agency workers, paid maternity and paternity leave, equal pay, anti-discrimination laws, and protection for the workforce when companies change ownership. To exit the EU would put this all in jeopardy.
Britain has a proud tradition as an outward-looking country whilst working collaboratively with the international community on issues that not only affect our national security, but that of the rest of the world, including matters relating to climate change, terrorism and cross-border crime. Instead of becoming an isolationist nation, we must use all the avenues possible to us to ensure our nation remains protected. This includes our continued membership of the EU.
Britain is far better off remaining a member of a reformed European Union fighting for further reforms, rather than standing on the side-lines as spectators throwing stones.
The next few months will be important in deciding the future of the UK, and may be one we never see again in our lifetime. That is why I will be campaigning to remain a member of the European Union so that we can protect Britain’s best interests, both in terms of the lives of ordinary people, our future economic prosperity and national security.
Following the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Commons after his renegotiation talks at the EU Summit, Nissan's Chairman and CEO, Mr Carlos Ghosn, released this statement:
"We are a global business with a strong presence in Europe. We have a rich heritage in the UK with 30 years of manufacturing and engineering presence, and remain committed to building and engineering cars in the country. Last year we produced more than 475,000 vehicles in the UK – 80 percent of which are exported.
"Our preference as a business is, of course, that the UK stays within Europe - it makes the most sense for jobs, trade and costs. For us, a position of stability is more positive than a collection of unknowns.
"However, this is ultimately a matter for the British people to decide.
"While we remain committed to our existing investment decisions, we will not speculate on the outcome nor what would happen in either scenario."
"We obviously want the Nissan UK plant and engineering centre to remain as competitive as possible when compared with other global entities, and each future investment opportunity will be taken on a case by case basis, just as it is now."
Following the Prime Minister's renegotiations with other European Union (EU) leaders and his statement to the House of Commons today (22.02.16), Sharon has released a statement on why she is...
Sharon has shown her support for the NSPCC’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign after hearing about the scale of abuse young people in the UK experience, and the problems many face getting the kind of help that can turn their lives around at a recent NSPCC’s reception in Parliament.
Sharon at the NSPCC's 'It's Time' campaign reception with Patrick Cantellow, a Youth Ambassador for the NSPCC.
Sharon heard first-hand from young people who have shaped this campaign that according to a recent survey of professionals working with these children, all too often children who have been abused develop chronic mental health problems, are suicidal or self-harm before therapeutic services become available to them.
One of the young people who sat on the campaign advisory group, ‘A Force for Change’, said that support should be provided “at the point of need not the point of crisis”.
Following the reception, Sharon said:
“It is important that we work together, both here in Parliament and with the wider public, so that we can develop a child-centred strategy that ensures children and young people are resilient to the harmful abuse they may be victim to in the formative years of their lives.
“That is why I welcome and support the NSPCC’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign which calls on the Government to offer more support to children and young people, set out a clearer vision on what we can do to support abused children and improve evidence for therapeutic support. Instead of letting abused children languish, we should be offering them the support necessary to lead happy and fulfilling lives, free of abuse.”
You can find out more about the campaign here.
Sharon has shown her support for the NSPCC’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign after hearing about the scale of abuse young people in the UK experience, and the problems many face getting...
Sharon recently joined other MPs at the launch of Alzheimer’s Society’s, the UK’s leading support and research charity for people with dementia, their families and carers, new campaign Fix Dementia Care which calls for improvements in hospital care for people living with dementia.
MPs gathered in Westminster to call for greater transparency across the NHS following an Alzheimer’s Society investigation which found too many people with dementia are falling while in hospital, being discharged at night or being marooned in hospital despite their medical treatment having finished.
Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) carried out by Alzheimer's Society found that in 2014-15:
- 28% of people over the age of 65 who fell in hospital had dementia - but this was as high as 71% in the worst performing hospital trust.
- In 68 trusts that responded to the FOI (41%), 4,926 people with dementia were discharged between the hours of 11pm and 6am.
- In the worst performing hospitals, people with dementia were found to be staying five to seven times longer than other patients over the age of 65.
Following the launch of the campaign, Sharon said:
“It is important that good hospital care for people with dementia should never be left to chance. Yet, in some hospitals people routinely experience the consequences of poor care with many being discharged from hospital late at night and left to their own devices.
“That is why I support Alzheimer’s Society’s Fix Dementia Care campaign to end the postcode lottery on the quality of hospital care people with dementia face by improving transparency so that we can identify where in our system there are pitfalls ensuring that patients receive the best care possible.”
George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Society said:
“We must put a stop to the culture where it’s easier to find out about your local hospital finances than the quality of care you’ll receive if you have dementia. We are encouraging everyone to get behind our campaign to improve transparency and raise the bar on quality.”
“Poor care can have devastating, life-changing consequences. Becoming malnourished because you can’t communicate to hospital staff that you are hungry, or falling and breaking a hip because you’re confused and no-one’s around to help, can affect whether you stand any chance of returning to your own home or not.
“We are delighted to have been able to engage over 160 MPs in one day. Sharon Hodgson MP has a huge influence in Washington and Sunderland West and we hope she will use this opportunity to take action and improve the care for people living with dementia.”
As part of the campaign, Alzheimer's Society is making the following recommendations to fix dementia care:
- All hospitals to publish an annual statement of dementia care, which includes feedback from patients with dementia, helping to raise standards of care across the country
- The regulators, Monitor and the Care Quality Commission to include standards of dementia care in their assessments
You can show your support for Alzheimer's Society's Fix Dementia Care campaign by signing up at: www.alzheimers.org.uk/fixhospitalcare
Sharon recently joined other MPs at the launch of Alzheimer’s Society’s, the UK’s leading support and research charity for people with dementia, their families and carers, new campaign Fix Dementia Care...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website.
Students have suffered yet another blow by this Conservative Government.
When the then Coalition Government trebled tuition fees in 2011, it was promised that the most disadvantaged would still be able to access higher education without being deterred.
Yet, students from disadvantaged families planning to go on to University will now be seriously affected by the Conservative Government’s decision to scrap maintenance grants in favour of a loan system.
As a non-repayable grant of up to £3,387, maintenance grants are designed to provide extra financial support to students from low-income families with their living costs.
The National Union of Students (NUS) estimates that approximately 500,000 students currently rely on maintenance grants.
Replacing this important source of income with a loans system will seriously affect students from low-income backgrounds, who are estimated to face an extra £12,500 worth of debt upon graduation, rising from £40,500 to £53,000.
This will only exacerbate the current situation in England where students from more affluent backgrounds are more than twice as likely to go on to higher education than their less affluent peers.
With maintenance grants scrapped, this gap will only widen.
These concerns have also been reflected in the Government’s own Equalities Impact Assessment which acknowledges that the changes may have a negative impact specifically on women, disabled learners, older learners and students from ethnic and religious minority backgrounds.
Labour understands that burdening graduates with masses of debt on entering the world of work will not be the best start to adulthood.
That is why we have opposed these changes and highlighted that these changes were never included in the Conservative’s 2015 election manifesto.
During a Delegated Legislation committee – a small, representative group of MPs from across the House – we opposed these changes.
We then used one of our allotted slots for debate in the main Chamber – as we believed it was too important a change to not be fully debated on the floor of the House – and called on the Government to make a u-turn.
Unfortunately, the Government won the vote, albeit with a majority of only 14 – the smallest majority they have had this Parliament.
Despite this, Labour remains committed to ensuring young people from the poorest backgrounds reach their full potential, whether by going on to university or getting a high-quality apprenticeship, and we are committed to continuing with this aspiration in the face of Tory senseless cuts.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website. Students have suffered yet another blow by this Conservative Government. When the then... Read more
During Points of Order today (09.02.16) in the House of Commons, Sharon raised concerns that the use of vellum - a special material made of calf-skin upon which Acts of Parliament are printed - has been scrapped without any debate on the floor of the House of Commons.
The use of vellum to print Acts of Parliament is a centuries-old practice that requires highly-skilled craft training and contributes to the heritage industry here in the UK. Vellum is used in the printing of Acts of Parliament, but can also be used for the creation of special heirlooms and celebratory documents, including for family events and certificates.
This came about due to the Administration Committee of the House of Commons deciding to end the use of vellum. However, the figures cited by the Administration Committee have been disputed by William Cowley's Parchment Works - the last-remaining maker of vellum in the UK, and official provider of vellum to Parliament - and users of vellum, such as Patricia Lovett, Co-Chair of the Heritage Craft Association.
Speaking on the disputed figures, Paul Wright of William Cowley's Parchment Works, said:
“The figures quoted for printing on vellum are actually more than the cost of the vellum itself. This is surprising as no specialist printer or printing press is necessary. We print on vellum here every day, at William Cowley's on an ordinary office printer with archival ink and have no specialist printing knowledge.
When was the last time the House of Commons put out a tender for printing the Acts of Parliament because they no doubt would have found a much more reasonable, and comparable with printing on paper, cost?”
Patricia Lovett, Co-Chair of the Heritage Craft Association, and an expert user of vellum, said:
“William Cowley is the very last vellum maker in the UK. It still uses traditional craft techniques and skills, and trains its own apprentices. Many users of vellum, not just practitioners like myself, but libraries, museums, book binders, those who work in conservation, drum makers and so on, are concerned at the effect that not printing Acts of Parliament on vellum will have on future supplies.
“Representatives from various organisations and crafts have written to their own MPs and have received favourable responses. It does seem strange that these MPs from various parts of the country are not going to be able to represent their constituents in this matter, nor has there been an independent cost-benefit analysis or risk analysis done.”
In a Point of Order on the 26th October last year, James Gray, Conservative MP for North Wiltshire, raised his concerns about the future of vellum and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, ruled that a decision would have to be made on the floor of the House of Commons - as is customary. You can read Jame Gray MP's Point of Order here.
When news broke that this had happened without any decision made by the House, instead making this decision by using a ruling from 1999 in the House of Lords (which was rejected in the House of Commons at the time), Sharon raised a Point of Order to see what more could be done by Members of Parliament who support the use of vellum and want to debate the disputed figures cited by the Administration Committee.
Following the ruling by the Speaker, Sharon said:
"All of our most important historical documents, from the Magna Carta to the Lindisfarne Gospels, have been made by using vellum and because of this have lasted through the ages so that future generations can appreciate and understand our shared history.
“That is why it was disappointing that such an important decision with ramifications on the future of the craft and the conservation of our history was pushed through without any prior consent of the House of Commons and instead using a ruling made by the House of Lords from over sixteen years ago – which was rejected by the House of Commons at the time – to push forward on this change.
“I appreciate what Mr Speaker had to say in regards to the advice he gave me during my Point of Order and will take it into consideration to ensure that we can continue our campaign to preserve this important craft heritage into the future.”
You can read Sharon's Point of Order here.
During Points of Order today (09.02.16) in the House of Commons, Sharon raised concerns that the use of vellum - a special material made of calf-skin upon which Acts of...
As Co-Chair of the Breast Cancer APPG and Chair of the Ovarian Cancer APPG, Sharon attended an event in Parliament this week to show her support for World Cancer Day (February 4, 2016).
Sharon met with representatives from four of the UK’s leading cancer charities who are working together to unite the nation and help transform the lives of millions of people who are affected by cancer.
Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care, Anthony Nolan and the Movember Foundation are calling on people across Sunderland to show their support by wearing a Unity Band with pride (February 4).
The Unity Band is made of two parts, knotted together, to represent strength in unity and the power of what can be achieved when people come together.
The Unity Bands are available from each charity in their own colours at www.worldcancerday.co.uk for a suggested donation of £2. All money raised from the Unity Bands will go towards the charities’ individual research projects and support services.
One in two people born in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime.
Collectively the four charities support millions of people every year through their individual work in the prevention, detection, treatment and support of those affected by cancer.
Money raised from the Unity Bands will fund breakthroughs in scientific research; save and improve the lives of people with blood cancers; provide high quality care, support and information for people with breast cancer, and fund research and support services to tackle prostate and testicular cancer.
By joining together this World Cancer Day, they aim to show that a small action taken by many will transform our future.
Reflecting on the message of World Cancer Day 2016, Sharon said:
“With World Cancer Day coming round this week it is important that people across the country, including here in Sunderland, show their support for helping to fight cancer – as we all do year round.
“Whether we spend this time celebrating those who have overcome cancer, showing our support for those currently undergoing treatment or remembering those who have sadly lost their life, it is important that we all come together and stand up against cancer and help reduce the devastating impact of cancer on future generations.”
For more information, to get any of the charities’ Unity Bands or make a donation visit www.worldcancerday.co.uk.
As Co-Chair of the Breast Cancer APPG and Chair of the Ovarian Cancer APPG, Sharon attended an event in Parliament this week to show her support for World Cancer Day...
Ahead of yesterday's (03.02.16) Labour Opposition Day Debate on transparency of multi-national corporation tax systems, Sharon joined Labour colleagues in supporting a petition calling on the Government to make clear their tax deals with large corporations, such as Google and Facebook.
This comes after reports that multi-national corporations, such as Google, are paying a tax rate of 3% on any profits made in the UK.
Last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, hailed the deal between HMRC and Google amounting to £130m in respect of taxes dating from 2005-2015 as a great success. Yet, Labour, as well as a number of Conservative MPs, have made it clear that the deal was nothing to celebrate.
That is why Labour called an opposition day debate on this matter, and for an inquiry into how corporations get away with such lenient tax deals, especially at a time of restricted public spending.
Sharon has had many constituents write to her regarding this issue and has subsequently written to the Chancellor asking for an inquiry to be held into this matter to help restore public confidence when collecting tax revenues from large multi-national corporations.
Commenting after the Google Tax Deal announcement, Sharon said:
“The revelations, and subsequent celebration by the Chancellor, on Google’s tax deal are deeply concerning especially when public spending is being tightened further and hardworking families are feeling the squeeze on their household budgets.
“A number of constituents have contacted me about this issue recently and I agree with them that more must be done to make multi-national corporation tax deals more transparent and we should be ending the practice of mates’ rates on taxes, that's why I wrote to the Chancellor for further action to be taken. It's paramount in a democratic society that multi-national corporations pay their fair rate of tax, just like everyone else.”
You can sign the Labour Party’s petition calling for more transparency in tax deals here.
Ahead of yesterday's (03.02.16) Labour Opposition Day Debate on transparency of multi-national corporation tax systems, Sharon joined Labour colleagues in supporting a petition calling on the Government to make clear...
Sharon has welcomed a cross-party, multi-organisation campaign led by Bite The Ballot to increase voter registration the same week that Labour Party figures show that over 1200 electors in Washington and Sunderland West have dropped off the electoral register – a percentage total of 1.8%.
This drop off is down to the current Conservative Government’s plans which brought forward by 12 months the full implementation of Individual Voter Registration (IER), which took place on December 1st 2015. These figures come the same week as Bite The Ballot’s ‘National Voter Registration Drive 2016’- a cross-party, multi-organisation campaign to increase voter registration.
Labour support the move to IER, but opposed the decision to bring forward the implementation due to concerns that earlier implementation would lead to a large number of people falling off the register and instead called for a transitional period with strong safeguards that would have mitigated against any damage to the electoral register.
Late last year, Labour led a national campaign to highlight the changes and make sure people were registered to vote register ahead of the move to IER last December and has called on the Government to issue guidance to make it easier for universities, local authorities, electoral registration offices and other Government agencies to work together to ensure no-one is disenfranchised from voting in elections.
In reaction to the drop off figures, Sharon said:
“It is concerning that in Washington and Sunderland West there has been a drop of over 1200 electors from the electoral register, which included as part of the national picture marks the biggest disenfranchisement in our history.
“Labour opposed the plans to bring forward the changes to voter registration for these exact reasons, and campaigned at the end of last year to make sure people were registered to vote and instead wanted to see a transitional period with strong safeguards to mitigate against this drop-off.
“With local elections coming up in May along with an expected EU Referendum in the summer it is important, now more than ever, that people are registered to vote and don’t lose out on exercising their democratic right and I welcome the week-long voter registration drive being led by Bite The Ballot to ensure people can cast their vote on polling day.”
Make sure you are registered to vote by visiting the gov.uk website here.
It only takes a few minutes and all you need is your National Insurance Number.
Sharon has welcomed a cross-party, multi-organisation campaign led by Bite The Ballot to increase voter registration the same week that Labour Party figures show that over 1200 electors in Washington...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website.
Since Parliament’s return, much of our time has been dominated by consideration of the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill.
This Bill has been forced through Parliament in order that the Government can continue their short-sighted strategy on housing which will only lead to a spiralling housing crisis.
On our first day back, MPs found the Government had shoe-horned in a vast number of amendments to the Bill, which saw MPs voting on amendments as late as 2am. These new amendments totalled over 60 pages – the largest number of amendments tabled that we have seen on a piece of legislation in recent Parliamentary history.
Despite these many amendments, they have yet to improve the Bill and help provide any affordable and adequate housing. Some of our main concerns with this Bill, included: the lack of support for families and young people aspiring to get on to the property ladder; the forced selling off of council and social housing stock, and; the failure to address the need for landlords to maintain their rental properties at a liveable standard for tenants.
Housing is an important part of any future infrastructure plans in the UK, and that is why it is vital that this Bill must be used to addresses the lack of affordable housing in the UK and so it doesn’t mean we only come back to these issues in later years finding more and more people are living in squalid, over-priced housing.
That is why it was deeply concerning when an amendment to the Bill was put forward that proposes to increase the threshold to be eligible for discount on starter homes to £450,000 in London and £250,000 outside of London.
As a former top civil servant at the Department for Communities and Local Government has said, this new definition of starter homes stretches the definition of affordable housing to breaking point.
Though Labour supports more home ownership, as was seen under the last Labour Government, it is concerning, as Shelter has found, that families on the Government’s new national living wage in 98% of local authorities would not be able to own a starter home, including many areas of the North-East. The Government’s new starter homes scheme will only help those on high-earning salaries and not those on low or middle incomes.
Again and again, the Government has shown that they do not understand the housing crisis we currently face and instead have pushed ahead with their ideological agenda which will not fix the situation, only make it worse.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website. Since Parliament’s return, much of our time has been dominated by consideration of... Read more
At Prime Minister’s Questions on 13th January 2016, Sharon pressed the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision by the Energy Secretary last year to scrap Renewables Obligation Certificates which will be detrimental to the planned investment of £3 million for the windfarm at the Nissan Factory at the Turbine Industrial Park in Sunderland.
Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016
This comes ahead of the House of Commons debating the 2nd Reading of the Government’s Energy Bill on Monday 18th January 2016, where the general principles of the Bill will be debated.
Sharon called on the Prime Minister to rectify the decision from last year and the negative effect this will have on pro-green businesses, like Nissan.
An amendment to introduce a ‘grace period’ for projects already in the pipeline was rejected when the Energy Bill was considered in the House of Lords, but there are now moves to see this amendment re-introduced during the Commons’ stages of the Bill.
The full exchange between Sharon and the Prime Minister can be seen below, or read here in the Official Hansard.
In her question to the Prime Minister, Sharon asked:
Last year the Energy Secretary scrapped support under the Renewables Obligation for new onshore wind projects, which will impact the £3 million investment by Nissan at their windfarm in my constituency. Does the Prime Minister realise that his attacks on clean energy are detrimental to pro-green businesses, like Nissan, and will he look into this immediately and rectify it in the Energy Bill next week?
To which the Prime Minister responded:
We had extensive exchanges about this in the Liaison Committee yesterday, and I can tell the hon. Lady that we are going to see another 50% increase in onshore wind investment during this Parliament. Also, Britain has the biggest offshore wind market anywhere in the world. The Leader of the Opposition raised the question of solar. Britain has the fourth largest solar installation of any country anywhere in the world. Indeed, my new favourite statistic is that 98% of those solar panels have been installed since I was Prime Minister. This is all good news, and it means that we have a genuine claim to be leading a renewables revolution. However, every single subsidy that is given to these technologies is extra money that we put on to people’s bills, making their energy more expensive. So it is right that we seek a balance between decarbonising our economy and making sure we do it at a low cost to our consumers and the people who pay the bills. That is what our policy is all about.
Commenting after the Prime Minister’s response, Sharon said:
“The Prime Minister again has used his hot-air rhetoric to deflect from the arguments regarding the future of clean energy here in the UK and has ignored the wealth of support from pro-green businesses, such as Nissan here in Sunderland to invest in clean energy.
“With businesses, like Nissan, wanting to invest in the future of our energy infrastructure and security, it is concerning that the Prime Minister and his ministers have scrapped support that will be detrimental to this investment.
“That is why in the upcoming Energy Bill, I hope that Government ministers will seriously reconsider their short-sighted actions that will affect businesses, consumers and our environment alike.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions on 13th January 2016, Sharon pressed the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision by the Energy Secretary last year to scrap Renewables Obligation Certificates which will be...