I will speak very quickly, Madam Deputy Speaker. When I became chair of the all-party parliamentary group on dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties in 2016, the implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014 was under way. I had taken that piece of legislation through Parliament as a shadow Minister so I was hopeful that it might lead to an advance in SEND provision in schools, but things have obviously not gone to plan. The new SEND Green Paper implies by its very existence that something has gone wrong.
I will speak very quickly, Madam Deputy Speaker. When I became chair of the all-party parliamentary group on dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties in 2016, the implementation of the... Read more
9.10pm - Madam Deputy Speaker - Dame Eleanor Laing - Epping Forest - Conservative
Order. I am reluctant to reduce the time limit, but I am receiving appeals for me to try to get more people in, so I will reduce it to three minutes. However, not everyone will have a chance to speak this evening.
9.18pm - Mrs Sharon Hodgson - Washington and Sunderland West - Labour
I speak in this debate as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, which I set up over 10 years ago.
The APPG shines a light on ticket abuse and campaigns to protect fans who are purchasing event tickets from being scammed and ripped off, often by the large-scale ticket touts that dominate resale sites such as Viagogo and StubHub. The APPG works with experts in the field such as FanFair Alliance, a music industry campaign, and the Iridium Consultancy to tackle industrial-scale ticket touting. I hope that when this legislation is reviewed in Committee, those organisations will be called on to share their expertise in this area.
Sadly, online ticket fraud is absolutely rife. Despite some regulatory and legislative improvements, not least in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, too many fans are still being scammed on a regular basis. The Bill, as it stands, includes a major loophole that means people will not be properly protected from online fraud. Search engines such as Google are not currently covered by the requirements on fraudulent advertising. A key issue in the ticketing market is how websites that allow fraudulent tickets to be sold often take out paid ads with Google that appear at the top of the search results. This gives the false impression to consumers that these sites are official ticket outlets. People mistakenly believe that only authorised ticket outlets can advertise on Google—people trust Google—and they are scammed as a result.
The Times reported last year that Google was taking advertising money from scam websites selling Premier League football tickets, even though the matches were taking place behind closed doors during lockdown—you couldn’t make it up. The Online Safety Bill needs to ensure that consumers are provided with much greater protection and that Google is forced to take greater responsibility for who it allows to advertise. If the Bill took action, online ticket fraud would be drastically reduced. With £2.3 billion lost to online fraud in the UK last year, it is very much needed.
It is also important to remember the human side of online fraud. Victims go through intense stress, as they are not only scammed out of their money but feel duped, stupid and humiliated. There cannot be a Member of this House who has not had to support a constituent devastated by online fraud. I have come across many stories, including one of an elderly couple who bought two tickets to see their favourite artist to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. When they arrived at the venue, they were turned away and told that they had been sold fake tickets.
I have a lot more to say, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I think you get the drift.
9.10pm - Madam Deputy Speaker - Dame Eleanor Laing - Epping Forest - ConservativeOrder. I am reluctant to reduce the time limit, but I am receiving appeals for me to... Read more
Westminster Hall speech on regional inequalities and child poverty
Image copyright, Parliamentary Recording Unit, 2022.
Sharon Hodgson MP - spoke in a parliamentary debate about regional inequalities and child poverty held in Westminster Hall, called by Labour colleague Liz Twist, MP for Blaydon.
The debate couldn’t be more relevant at the current time, when children in the North East have the second highest poverty rate in the UK, and 51% of Washington and Sunderland West households with children are in receipt of UC or Working Tax Credit. Many of these families were struggling before the pandemic, but a toxic combination of low incomes, a cost-of-living emergency and the Government’s £20-a-week cuts to universal credit has sent many families into crisis. Speaking in the debate, I focused on the provision of free school meals – a quarter of North East Children in poverty are not eligible for a free school meal. Hungry children cannot learn, and I wanted to make it clear that the Government’s talk of levelling up is meaningless when thousands of children in poverty are being left behind. Food insecurity must be addressed.
Westminster Hall speech on regional inequalities and child povertyImage copyright, Parliamentary Recording Unit, 2022. Sharon Hodgson MP - spoke in a parliamentary debate about regional inequalities and child poverty held... Read more
Image copyright, Parliamentary Recording Unit, 2022.Watch the debate in Westminster Hall here >Read this debate in Hansard >Facebook clip here >Text of speech (from Hansard): Read more
During a debate brought by Liz Twist MP, and alongside fellow North East MPs, I raised the lack of quality bus services in the North East.
Image copyright, Parliamentary Recording Unit, 2021.
At a recent street surgery in Oxclose, the inconsistency and infrequency of buses was brought up many times. Reliable and frequent bus services connect people to the economy and are vital for areas like Washington which risk being stranded. However, our Local Authorities are having to bear the brunt of the Government’s public transport cuts as the Government has slashed covid funding for the Metro. With the Leamside line snubbed in the Integrated Rail Plan, bus provision is even more important. I will continue to press the Government on this issue and work with colleagues like Bridget Phillipson and Paul Howell regarding the reinstatement of the Leamside line.
During a debate brought by Liz Twist MP, and alongside fellow North East MPs, I raised the lack of quality bus services in the North East.Image copyright, Parliamentary Recording Unit,... Read more
Sharon Hodgson spoke in the debate - Giving Every baby the Best Start in Life debate - brought by the Hon Member for Richmond Park, Sarah Olney MP.
Watch Sharon's contribution to the debate at timing 15:44 >
Sharon Hodgson spoke in the debate - Giving Every baby the Best Start in Life debate - brought by the Hon Member for Richmond Park, Sarah Olney MP.Watch Sharon's contribution...
In-school Counselling, Commons Chamber on 9th November 2021.
Sharon Hodgson MP spoke in a debate in the the House of Commons Chamber, brought by The Rt. Hon Nick Brown MP, on school-based counselling services provision.
A silent epidemic is sweeping through our schoolchildren in poor mental health. For some children, school is a solace from difficulties at home.
In-school counselling services help children cope with a broad range of emotional pressures and reduce chronic mental health problems. Only around 61% of schools in the UK benefit from a counselling service, a sad deficit which the Tory Government must address.
In-school Counselling, Commons Chamber on 9th November 2021.Sharon Hodgson MP spoke in a debate in the the House of Commons Chamber, brought by The Rt. Hon Nick Brown MP, on... Read more
Sharon Hodgson MP speaks in the Legacy of Jo Cox debate - 09/09/2021
Sharon Hodgson MP speaks in the Legacy of Jo Cox debate - 09/09/2021 Read more
Sharon Hodgson MP spoke in the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review debate - 8th July, 2021, brought by the Hon Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, Emma Hardy MP.
Watch the debate here - Sharon Hodgson is at 15:53 time marker >
Sharon Hodgson MP spoke in the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review debate - 8th July, 2021, brought by the Hon Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, Emma... Read more
Following her PMQ in December 2020, Sharon once again called on the Government to use the upcoming Queen's Speech to ban fire and rehire practices.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mrs Murray. I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) on securing her first Westminster Hall debate on such an important subject and her excellent speech. It is also a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery).
I first raised fire and rehire with the Prime Minister on 16 December 2020 at Prime Minister’s Question Time, after highly skilled engineers at Centrica British Gas were told they had to sign new contracts before Christmas or else they would be fired and rehired in the new year on worse terms. The Prime Minister’s response was deeply concerning:
“it is also vital that we have a flexible economy that is able to generate jobs, particularly when we are going to go through a very difficult and bumpy time.”—[Official Report, 16 December 2020; Vol. 686, c. 272.]
During this “very difficult and bumpy time”, as the Prime Minister put it, is exactly when people need stability and certainty in their lives. Yet according to Unite the Union, one in 10 workers is already threatened with fire and rehire, and many more are likely to face this manipulative process as furlough comes to an end.
Earlier this month, I was saddened to see approximately 350 British Gas engineers lose their jobs because they refused to sign a contract with worse terms and pay. Equally sad is the thousands upon thousands of other GMB members at British Gas signing new but worse contracts under duress. Yet when my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) raised it with the Prime Minister just last week, he was not even aware of the issue. Four months on from my question, hundreds have been sacked and the Prime Minister still does not have an answer.
It is not just British Gas engineers either; fire and rehire is also used by British Airways in Heathrow, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) will go into further detail on those disputes. Go North West drivers have been on strike for more than 50 days, while Jacobs Douwe Egberts coffee producers is starting an indefinite overtime ban on International Workers Day, 1 May, and engineers at Brush Electrical Machines are balloting for action against pay cuts of up to £15,000.
Fire and rehire is an exploitative and illegitimate negotiation tactic that causes real hurt and anger. Household names have betrayed decades of trust from the nation. These tactics damage not only their workforces but their customer base, who will feel the same way at the disgraceful way those businesses treat their employees. The Government have an opportunity with the upcoming Queen’s Speech to work with Labour and the relevant trade unions such as Unite and the GMB to introduce vital legislation that will ban fire and rehire practices and give workers the stability and assurances that they need at this—again in the Prime Minister’s own words—“very difficult and bumpy time”.
Following her PMQ in December 2020, Sharon once again called on the Government to use the upcoming Queen's Speech to ban fire and rehire practices. You can read Sharon's speech below...