The damage that the Conservative Party has done to our country has been immense.
While the economic shocks from Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could not be predicted, Britain is lagging in its recovery compared to our G7 counterparts.
Sunak promised professionalism; his premiership so far is 'a professional car crash'
In another example of the merry-go-round that is Tory government these days, Rishi Sunak, after jumping ship as Chancellor three months ago and personally putting the last nail in the coffin of Boris Johnson’s stint as Prime Minister, has returned to Downing Street as the latest captain of the sleaze and scandal-ridden sinking ship that is this Tory government.
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Sep-Oct 2022 number 154
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Sep-Oct 2022 number 154
You can read Sharon's latest Echo Column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
I can’t imagine many people in the region missed the news coming from Nissan last week, and rightly so.
This three-headline announcement has the potential to transform our country’s automotive industry and is an incredible vote of confidence in our region’s world-class workforce.
Firstly, Sunderland will move full throttle towards its aim of being a carbon-free city by 2040, providing green jobs and clean energy with the construction of a ‘microgrid’.
This microgrid will then power a Gigafactory, which will be producing batteries for electric vehicles as we race towards the 2030 ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars.
And finally, to match the increasing demand for electric vehicles, Nissan have announced their next electric model will be built in Sunderland.
This collaboration between Nissan, AESC Envision, and Sunderland City Council, with support from the Government, is a result of incredible hard work.
But let’s not forget, the automotive industry was pushed to a cliff edge last year awaiting Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal which came through at the very last minute.
The deal emphasised the necessity for a domestic battery-manufacturing industry which for years has been highlighted by Nissan, local stakeholders and in Parliament by myself and colleagues, in order to meet the 2030 electrification goal and the moving goalposts of the UK-EU trade deal.
The Gigafactory commitment is therefore a massive sigh of relief for us all, and will pioneer the way ahead for British batteries.
The Sunderland plant has truly been certified as the jewel in the Nissan crown, with our region reaping the economic and employment rewards. In the North East, we all know people employed by Nissan or its supply chain, so we should all be very proud that their hard work has brought us here.
I will continue to showcase our automotive superpower in Parliament; a job that will be significantly easier after last week’s announcement.
Following today's statement by Nissan (01.07.21) please see below Sharon's statement:
"I am thrilled with Nissan’s announcements which have the potential to transform car-making in the UK.
"Nissan’s confidence to make their next electric vehicle model in Sunderland is testament to the incredible skill of our region’s world-class workforce, and certifies the Sunderland plant’s position as the jewel in the Nissan crown.
"Having worked closely with Nissan to raise in Parliament the necessity of investment in battery technology for the long-term success of operations, I am delighted to see firm commitment with the announcement of a local Gigafactory.
"This is a massive sigh of relief for us all and will help the UK as we move through complex trading arrangements towards the 2030 electrification goal, as well as bringing a further 6,200 high quality jobs across the whole supply chain.
"I will continue to work closely with Nissan to help build and support a localised supply chain for components, so that tariff-free trade can continue in the coming years.
"This announcement is also testament to Sunderland City Council’s dedication to becoming a city of the future, providing green energy, green jobs and green investment.
"This collaboration between Sunderland Council, Nissan, Envision AESC with support from the Government will ensure that Nissan stays on the map as a global automotive superpower, with our region reaping the rewards.
"The North-East fuelled the industrial revolution with coal, and 200 years later we are taking a leading role in the development of the green revolution with our automotive giant - we should all be very proud."
You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
Last week, a parliamentary session lasting over sixteen months ended. The State Opening of a new session will take place next Tuesday, where, following a centuries old tradition, the Queen will visit Parliament and read out a list of the Conservative Government’s priorities for the year ahead.
The first test for the Conservatives in this Queen’s Speech will be to commit once more to securing jobs and backing our local businesses, helping people across the North East, rather than lining the pockets of their mates with dodgy contracts worth millions of pounds.
In Government, Labour would work with private enterprise to create the next generation of high-skilled jobs, and get people into work, training or education, while ensuring the protection of public sector jobs. Labour’s priority is to see jobs protected by holding the Tories to account and by working hard locally to support businesses, trade unions and employees.
We know that the easing of restrictions will help us see many people return to work. But many will not. This Queen’s Speech follows a national report by Green Alliance which shows Washington and Sunderland West has the highest Labour Market Challenge Score (the greatest combination of pre- and post-pandemic unemployment), scoring 239, compared with the national average of 100. This shows that Washington and Sunderland West will have the highest employment challenge nationwide post-pandemic.
It is clear that it will take our community a long time to rebuild; and it is only the Labour Party whose priorities lie firmly with rebuilding our communities and securing the future of our jobs.
Ten years of Conservative austerity cuts have left our councils cash-strapped, while pay for key workers has decreased in real terms. The pandemic only exacerbated the deep-rooted inequalities already present, while favours were provided for those who have ministers in their Whatsapp contacts.
There’s no reason we can’t have job security, more opportunities, high streets we are proud of, and public services that put people first: the Government just has to prioritise them.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to remind readers to use their vote today in our local elections for Councillors and the Police and Crime Commissioner. Our council has worked hard to ensure that this can be done in Covid-safe manner. Results should be known by midday Friday.
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”.