On Friday I visited the Bobby Robson PET facility in Newcastle University. There, thanks to the Sir Bobby Robson fund, they are using cutting edge science to improve diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients here in Newcastle. It was inspiring to see how money raised through the generosity of so many people is being put to such a good cause, and in the memory of one of our greatest sporting legends. And it’s great to see two of our most important institutions, Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals Trust working together in the interests of the people of Newcastle.
Elsewhere though the news is not so good. We are told by George Osborne that the economy is ‘fixed’. That we are ‘all in it together’. But I know from my surgeries that the North East economy has a long, long way to go before it can provide good, well paid jobs for all those who need them. Newcastle Central is rising in the one table we don’t want to be at the top of – unemployment. Though there has been a small welcome reduction in unemployment we now have the 25th highest rate in the country – a year ago we were 41st. It’s the same story across the North East. Unemployment is falling more slowly here than elsewhere. This is not a ‘balanced’ recovery, the North East is losing out.
And that means far too many people this winter are facing a choice between heating and eating, demand for foodbanks is outstripping supply and youth unemployment remains tragically high. All this while the Chancellor focuses on protecting bankers’ bonuses from European attempts at regulation.
That’s why Labour have pledged action on energy prices, zero hours contracts, the minimum wage and bankers bonuses. 2014 could be the last full year we have to endure a Tory led Government. My New Year’s resolution is to do everything I can to make sure that is the case. Newcastle Central deserves better that this out of touch Government.
Shadow Ministerial Role
I have been holding meetings in Newcastle, Westminster and elsewhere to discuss my shadow ministerial responsibilities: Digital Government, Cyber Security and Social Enterprise. I announced a Digital Government Review and am looking closely at the role of social enterprises and how to promote their contribution to the economy. I have major concerns about the Governments Cyber Security policies as they implement digital by default without much regard for digital inclusion or security. I have put down a number of parliamentary questions to examine this and on 30 October 2013 I spoke from the frontbench on Cyber-Security.
I also spoke for the front bench on the Prime Minister (Replacement) Bill and on 11 December 2013 on Government ICT Strategy.
Backbench and Constituency Role
I called a debate in Westminster Hall on 3 December 2013 on Local Authority Funding to highlight the unfairness of this Government’s habit of top slicing what central Government funding remains and then giving it back to local authorities in such a way as ensures Newcastle loses out. I was privileged to be able to sign the South Africa House Condolence Book on behalf of Newcastle.
I also spoke extensively in the House on 29 November 2013 on the European Union (Referendum) Bill and on 9 December 2013 as part of the House’s Tributes to Nelson Mandela
I spoke on 28th November Decarbonisation, on 25 November 2013, Topical Questions for DCLG on social housing); 18 November 2013 on Employment and Support Allowance; 12 December 2013 twice, Arts Council Funding & Broadband; 10 December 2013 in the Engineering Skills (Perkins Review) [Westminster Hall]
Quoted extensively and on a number of subjects in local media including Journal, Chronicle and published blogs in Computer World, LSE Review of Books and Computer Weekly.
I continue to receive a huge volume of letters, emails and phone calls, over 2500 per week . We have an office admin apprentice and will be recruiting a Spring living wage intern.
Meeting, Visits & Speaking Engagements:
- Meetings & Visits: Lindisfarne Christmas Concert, Culture Lab Newcastle Uni, Digital Mysteries, Amber Film Collective, Julia Manning 2020Health, the IET, the CMA, Google, Mary Riddell, Fujitsu, Newcastle College, Community Foundation, Wildlife Trust, Bite the Ballot, Aventi, Labour Campaign for Human Rights, Obesity Awareness, English Folk Dance and Song Society, UK Contractors Group, Hewlett Packard, William Hill, BBC, PROPS, Bobby Robson PET tracer production unit foundation, UK India Business Council,
- Speaking engagements: Dame Allens, Nigerian Parliamentarians Delegation, Marie Curie Palliative Care BAME, Newcastle Eagles Hoops4Health Awards.