MP’s Report: April, May and June 2014

Photo – site visit to redevelopment of old Coop building in Newgate Street

 

 

Dear Newcastle

I am sorry to say it’s been some time since I wrote my report. It has been very busy even though Parliament has not been sitting all that much – the zombie parliament indeed. The Chancellor and the Prime Minister seem to have declared ‘mission complete’ on the economy but in Newcastle and specifically in my surgeries and inbox we are certainly not seeing the end to the cost of living crisis. And no wonder, the latest ONS figures show unemployment is rising in the North East whilst wages stagnate and women are hardest hit.

The Queen’s Speech which opened Parliament had nothing to address the widening inequality as wealth is concentrated at the top amongst the Government’s friends. The election results which left both the Tories and the Lib Dems without a single MEP in the North East should have been a wake up call to this Government but they don’t seem to be listening.

So housing and benefits payments casework continue to top the list of issues people bring to me.

But one issue has zoomed into to the top three recently – passports. I have received more casework about passport renewals in the last five weeks than the preceding four years. Like every Member of Parliament I have spoken to this week, I have constituents who have paid for holidays or business trips, put passport applications in on time, but are still waiting for their passports to come through with just days to go.  At least one person has missed out on a well earned holiday because of this..

The Government has been in total denial about the chaos they have created over the passport backlog. Only at the eleventh hour last week did David Cameron acknowledge that the backlog exists and while new measures have now been put in place, many questions still remain.

The truth is that instead of dealing with the problem – which they have known about for some time – the Home Secretary has been fighting with the Education Secretary and the basic business of the Home Office is not being done.  Staffing cuts is part of this too. Cameron said extra resources have been allocated to deal with problem, but in truth staffing at the passport office is down by 15% (600) since 2010.

David Cameron is really out of touch on this. It is totally unfair that people in Newcastle are panicked and distressed when they have saved hard for a well-earned break.

Shadow Ministerial Role

  • The Deregulation Bill returned to the House 15th May and I led on it, opening for Labour on the floor of the house and pursuing a number of amendments, opposing attacks on workers’ rights which aim to strip self employed of their health and safety rights.
  • The Review of Digital Government[1] which I am leading held a number of events in Newcastle, Manchester and London. In particular a roundtable with Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau gave heart-breaking accounts of how this Governments approach to digital services is really making the vulnerable suffer  
  • Spoke from the front bench in Cabinet Office questions on 30th April.

Backbench and Constituency Role

  • Spoke in the Consumer Rights Bill debate to support data rights, in the UK Africa debate on trade with Africa and in Education Questions on the importance of qualified teachers.
  • Huge rise in passport cases – more in last five weeks than preceding four years – as the cuts to Home Office impact applications.
  • Visited Amsterdam for conference on progressive politics with attendees from progressive parties in US, Europe and Australia. Focus was ‘Making progressive politics work’ with an emphasis on jobs![2]
  • Secured Adjournment debate on the closure of the RVI Richardson Unit for the treatment of severe eating disorders.
  • April and May constituency case work Pie charts up on website
  • Wrote to ministers on a wide range of issues on behalf of constituents

Media

  • Quoted regularly in local media including Journal and Chronicle, and many other media outlets inc BBC and Tynetees on the abducted Nigerian Girls, Operation Sanctury and the 1967 Martin Luther King visit. I wrote a number of blogs on digital as well as the North East.

Organisation

  • I continue to receive a huge volume of letters, emails and phone calls, over 2500 per week. We were sad to lose our Spring intern and are now advertising for a summer intern.

Meeting, Visits & Speaking Engagements:

  • Meetings & Visits : Bakers union BFAWU, Agencia para a Modernização Administrativa, Lisbon, Northumberland Fusiliers St George’s lunch, Scotswood Community Garden Spring Funday, Makerfaire, Sandra Erickson & Steve Rake from Harvey Nash, Techuk, Classic FM, Speaker of Australian Parliament, Globe Gallery, Susan Blackmore, National Housing Federation, National Energy Action. Nuance Communications Ltd, Fidelity Growth Partners, EE, Continence Care Awards, Sainsbury Management Fellows  Annual Dinner, Martha Lane Fox, Competition and Markets Authority, MSD, Jemima Kiss, Unite, ScienceGrrl, John Reiners, Peter Ingram, Life Transformation Ministires Gr8 Youths Friday Club, NIWE Eating Distress Service, Philip Virgo, Institute of Customer Service, Newcastle City Futures Exhibition, Ladbrokes, Cystic Fibrosis Adult Unit, Dementia Friends Training, Sussex Research Film, CBI, Ed Twiddy, Chatham House London Conference, British Museum, Martin Linton, Women on Boards Breakfast, Virgin Media, Carers Week, Royal Society of Chemistry, Nomad, Kingfisher, Malaria No More. Portuguese Parliamentary Delegation, Interserve, Business Connectors,  Virgin Media, Nomad Digital, Kingfisher, Malaria No More, Portuguese Parliamentary Delegation, Interserve, Business Connectors, German Social Democratic Party Delegation, Joe Dignan, Frank Domeny, Vodafone, Prospect, Social Business Trust, Tech Week, Nest, Orchard Mews Care Home, Franco British Council

  • Speaking engagements Policy Network Conference, Making Progressive Politics Work. South Africa Freedom Day Solidarity Event and Film Premier, Tech UK SME Deepdive, Procurex UK Re-shaping public procurement to deliver key social and economic objectives, Procurex UK Digtial Government Review Workshop, New Entrepreneurs Foundation Pursuit of Profit & Wider Social Impact Panel, Dynamo14 Defining the North East IT Economy, Cambridge Judge Business School Nigerian Parliamentary Course , POST Green Infrastructure Breakfast,  Westminster Advisors Breakfast on CyberSecurity, The Royal Academy of Engineering National Mentoring Awards, Land Girls Prize Giving at St Catherine’s Care Home, HCA, Weyda, Picfor Year to Election Event, Big Brother Watch Event – After Snowdon, Citizens Advice Bureau Digital Review Roundtable, Newcastle Unites Demonstration, Digital Government 2020, Pictfor CEO Forum on Big Data, Make Newcastle a Slave Free Zone Event, Thinking Digital, Thinking Digital Breakfast, CIFAS Conference, Nigerian Institute of Public  Policy and Strategy, Policy Exchange Technology Manifesto, Science Foundation, Harvey Nash Aspire North East, IET Broadband Debate, Imperial College, Reform discussion lunch People powered public services: the role of technology, IET Broadband Debate, Imperial College, Reform discussion lunch People powered public services: the role of technology, Launch of Newcastle Bangladeshi Taxi Union (NBTU), IPPR Roundtable on Women in Engineering, Digital Leaders Awards Dinner, Digital Leaders Hustings, Tyneside Orientation and Migrant Support Service (TOMSS) Education Awards

[1] www.digitalgovernmentreview.com

[2] http://www.policy-network.net/publications/4624/Making-Progressive-Politics-Work

 

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