Last updated: May 2016
Working for Newcastle
During my six years in Parliament, I have worked closely with the Council, local and regional businesses, community groups, charities and universities to improve the lives of residents and speak up for the region. Between 2010 and 2015 I took taken action on behalf of 12,803 constituents who have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to a further 18,873 policy issues raised by constituents.
Since my re-election, I have taken action on behalf of a further 2,675 constituents who have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to 4,643 policy issues (as of March 2016).
As part of my commitment to openness and transparency, I have published the constituency casework figures on my website each month, together with details of my meetings, visits and speeches. Each week, I received around 2,000 emails, letters and phone calls.
Since first being elected I have secured and led eleven debates in Westminster Hall, most recently on Housing in Newcastle. Westminster Hall is a smaller debating chamber in parliament for MPs to raise issues with Ministers. Topics of debates I have secured include north east council funding, the internet of things, health inequalities in the north east, transport in the north east and mitochondrial disease (which Newcastle University has been pioneering research). I have also secured several Adjournment Debates – short debates at the end of each parliamentary day. One such debate on the planned closure of the Richardson Eating Disorder Unit in Newcastle resulted in a Ministerial meeting which saved the unit – the only one in the region – from closure.
I have presented three petitions on behalf on constituents, one on the Blaydon Races, one opposing plans for a Drivethru McDonalds at Kenton Lodge and one on young people and body image.
As a Chartered Engineer I have campaigned to make ICT and engineering more accessible to all, particularly girls, and to bring engineering and ICT jobs to the North East.
Working for a fairer and better society
As well as regularly speaking up for Newcastle on everything from the economy, jobs and skills, to local health and transport services, to arts and culture, I am the Labour Party’s shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy. It’s my job to scrutinise the Government on its disastrous broadband policies and to speak up for libraries and the importance of the digital economy to the UK.
In the last Parliament I was the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister for Digital Government, cyber security and social enterprise. In this role I commissioned a Review of Digital Government, set out how a Labour Government will support social enterprise, and led the Opposition’s scrutiny at all stages of the Deregulation Act 2015 in the House of Commons. I have promoted the North East as a hub for both digital industries and social enterprise, most recently holding a seminar in Newcastle on how small businesses could benefit from digital government.
I have also sat on the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee and scrutinised theEnterprise, Regulatory Reform Act 2013 as a Shadow Business Minister.
Working in Parliament
Inside Parliament I have been very active, speaking 48 times since being re-elected in May 2015 – well above the average amongst MPs. I ask more written questions than most MPs – 214 since the election – and my attendance record at votes is also above average.
As a former engineer I have worked hard to increase the availability of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of science and technology issues.
I am chair of the All-part parliamentary group for Africa and co-chair of the all-party Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum (PICTFOR) that works to keep MPs, Peers and other interested groups informed of digital issues in Parliament.
My expenses are published regularly by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). You can view them on the IPSA website here.
How I have voted: 2015 – present
My voting record is public and you can read more here.
Since being re-elected, I have voted against George Osborne’s Budget cuts to Personal Independent Payments for disabled people and his disgraceful plans to cut £4.4bn in tax credits to working families. The Government eventually backed down on both.
I voted in favour the ‘Dubs Amendment’ to act on Save the Children’s call for Britain to take 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children.
I voted against the Government’s forced academisation plans. The Education Minister has since announced that they are abandoning the plans.
I voted against the Government’s politically motivated attacks designed to permanently weaken the opposition and the trade union movement in the Trade Union Bill. The Government eventually backed down on
On Syria, I asked constituents to send me their views on whether the UK should extend airstrikes against Daesh/ISIS from Iraq to Syria. The vast majority of the constituents who contacted me were against airstrikes and after thinking very carefully about it, I agreed with them and voted against the proposal. I set out my reasoning here.
I have opposed the Tory Housing Bill, which will leave a £593m hole in our city’s long term plan for social housing as well as forcing the council to sell off higher value properties. In May 2016 I secured a debate in Parliament on Housing in Newcastle, which can be read here.
How I have voted: 2010 – 2015
I have voted repeatedly against the Government’s vicious bedroom tax. A Labour Government will scrap it.
I voted against the Government’s £3bn reorganisation of the NHS at every opportunity. I voted against marketisation and in favour of restricting the use of NHS services for private patients. I also moved to block regulations that would open the NHS up to further marketisation. A Labour Government will repeal these changes, without another reorganisation, stop any further privatisation or marketisation and invest a further £2.5bn in the NHS, creating 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more doctors.
On tax, I have voted against the Government’s tax cut for millionaires and corporation tax. I have voted against rising VAT, as it hits the poorest hardest.
I voted against raising tuition fees cap to £9,000. A Labour Government will lower the cap.
I voted against this Government’s unfair council funding allocations, which meant that Newcastle had to make £100m of cuts, whereas some Councils in richer areas ended up with few or even no cuts to make. A Labour Government will make the system fairer and devolve £30bn of funding to local and regional bodies.
Many constituents contacted me about the vote for equal gay rights and same-sex marriage. A large majority wanted me to support it, and I did.
I voted against the privatisation of Royal Mail and restrictions on legal aid.
I voted to recognise Palestine as a state, and believe that both Israel and Palestine deserve safety and security and control over their own destinies.
I also voted against selling off our forests, which was stopped.
Working to change Parliament
Being an MP is an immense privilege. It is one I believe should be open to more people from different backgrounds, particularly women, those with disabilities, those from working class backgrounds and black and ethnic minorities. These are the groups which are under-represented in Parliament today.
I have visited and spoken at every primary and secondary school in Newcastle to emphasise that Parliament belongs to everyone and should be accessible to everyone. I have encouraged constituents to visit me in Parliament and arranged dozens of tours for them. I have spoken on request at many different organisations on the different ways to become an MP and the importance of holding MPs to account. I hope that in future Parliament will look more like the people we see on Northumberland Street.