It is over two months since I wrote to you and in that time so much has happened. By the time some of you read this Parliament will have decided whether to endorse airstrikes on Syria. I am voting to oppose bombing, and have already set out my reasons.If the vote is carried, as looks likely, I will work to hold the actions of our Government in Syria to account, promote the security of our citizens and minimise civilian causalities. Our Armed Service personnel will have my support.
The terrible attacks in Paris gave rise to many emotions – sympathy for the victims, solidarity with the French, and concern for what the future may bring. Whilst it is absolutely wrong to politicalise our response to such a horrific attack, there are legitimate political questions which need to be considered around policing, security, defence, surveillance, borders and the help we offer refugees. We need to consider these soberly but in the knowledge that the terrorists win when they divide us. They are attacking us because in Paris, as in London and Newcastle, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists… live together without fighting each other, in peace and with respect for each other.
Last month also saw Chancellor George Osborne forced into a number of U turn by Labour campaigns – on tax credit cuts, cuts to police and cuts to arts and culture. I welcome that, but the tax credit cuts have in fact only been delayed and the swinging 59% cut to local government funding means that Newcastle City Council services, already much reduced, will have to suffer further, painful cuts.
The spending review was a disappointment also on devolution, so important to the North East. The so called Northern Powerhouse deal has been agreed in principle, but so not backed with real power or funding.
On a brighter note, the rights of young people took centre stage last month. Labour Peers led a cross-party vote in favour of giving 16 and 17 year-olds the vote in the upcoming EU referendum, resulting in a resounding Government defeat.
I held a ward summit in Benwell and Scotswood to agree my parliamentary priorities for the Ward, with local councillors, representatives of local residents associations, charities, the Police, Newcastle City Council, Housing Associations and faith groups represented. Thanks to everyone involved many important issues were raised. A summary will be made available, at the end five ward priorities were agreed
o Protecting and supporting communities
o Devolution to communities
I will be holding a summit in every ward, the next will be Blakelaw.
I organised an event with Oona King and Miriam Stoppard at the Centre for Learning to launch the APPG for Adult Education. It was highly praised by all who attended and highlighted the importance of life long learning.
Conference was extremely busy, I spoke at 16 events over two days.
Spoke from the backbenches on 15th October on legal and ethical framework for drones and diversity reporting in the Tech sector, on 29 October 2015, Public Transport Accessibility (Disabled Passengers), Topical Questions on Volkswagen cheat software, on27 October 2015 on the Northern Powerhouse on 26 October 2015 on Education, on 16 November 2015 on Investigatory Powers: Police/Security Services and 26 November 2015 Women Engineers. Also spoke in Transport Topical Questions on devolved power over transport especially buses.
The May hack of our office computers was covered in the Times which generated further publicity
Letters of support for Mining Institute
Shaath Scholar Namala in Newcastle.
Excellent away Team half day helping Summerhill Bowling Green clear rubbish and make leaf mould.
Shadow Ministerial Role
I agreed to be Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Minister for Culture and Digital Economy, shadowing Ed Vaizey across BIS and DCMS. I am getting up to speed on new brief, meeting cultural and digital stakeholders in the region and across the country. There are many important issues in the brief, relevant to many in Newcastle Central from digital exclusion to cuts to libraries. I will be focusing on
• Digital and creative enterprise
• Consumer champions
• Culture for All
• Broadband which works for all
• Next generation infrastructure
Returned to Parliament to first two debates in Shadow Minister Role – Superfast Broadband in the Main Chamber and Media Plurality in Wales in Westminster Hall. First parliamentary Urgent Question granted on Talk Talk data breach following application written whilst on train to London.
Spoke from the BIS frontbench on the lack of quality Apprenticeships on 10 November 2015 and from DCMS frontbenchon 28 October 2015 in a debate on Outdoor Recreation [Westminster Hall] and on 27 October 2015 in a debate on the Met Office [Westminster Hall] and in DCMS questions 22 October 2015 on BBC (Charter Renewal), I spoke for Shadow DCMS in the 25 November 2015 UK Musicians Performing Overseas [Westminster Hall] debate
I launched nuisance calls campaign with letters to Ed Vaizey, Ofcom and major telcos.
Jake our summer intern left, Nimala, Shaath Scholar, from Palestine, joined the Westminster office to observe British Politics and provide help to Mark, and spent a week also in the Newcastle office.
Meeting, Visits & Speaking Engagements:
Meetings and visits
• John Lewis, Africa Film Festival, TUC lobby Trade Union Bill, Sophie Pavlovic – Optical Confederation, Jenifer Burden – The Gatsby Foundation, Ubisoft, Grierson awards, Tony & Sithandiwe Kgoroge, Specialist Engineering Contractors Group, Ukie Innovation showcase, Simon Blagden – Fujitsu, Joe Garner – BT Openreach, TechFuture Badge Academy, Historic England, NE Cultural Partnership, 14th Celebration of Diwali, Roundtable with Israeli political delegation, Siraj Datoo – Buzzfeed, Action on Hearing Loss, Commercial Broadcasters Association, Beth Farhat – TUC, Walter Dix, Team Valley Broadband, Clouston Crowne Plaza opening, Andrew Taylor – Nomad, Trinity Mirror, Mark Dobson – Tyneside Cinema, Crown Estate, Construction alliance NE, Radio 3 Free Thinking Launch, Remembrance Sunday, National Gallery Goya, Innovate UK, Will Black & Ruby Peacock – Federation of Small Businesses, Rentokil, Paul Ferris – UK Digital Currency Association, Hull 2017, National Theatre – Waste, Ms Natural Hair UK, Smarter Britain/Smarter Environment, Arts Council, Angolan Embassy 40 years national independence, Franco-British council digital conference, Alexandra McMillan & Stephen Hind – Network Rail, MLK Freedom City launch, Vamos & Freedom City, Greening Wingrove Apple day, Go On UK & Google digital skills event, Former Bhutanese MP Karma Wangchuk, UK crowdfunding association, Catherine Stihler MEP, Zeinab Badawi, South African High Commission, BBA reception, Tamsin Collison, Black history month celebration, Association of British Insurers reception, Geoff White, Shadow DCMS team meeting, IET reception, Nursing and midwifery council, Celebrating Japanese companies in the UK, GG2 leaderships awards dinner, Construction products reception, Fiona Elliott, Design economy statistics event, Exposing LGBT persecution in Nigeria, Design council reception, British Science Association event, Bernie’s list launch, St Oswalds, Newcastle Freemen, , Local government association annual parliamentary reception, Centenary of women’s institute, Road haulage association reception, Healthwatch England parliamentary reception, launch of Fire Mark Education campaign, reception to mark the creation of APPG on Portugal, TalkTalk, British Library West Africa exhibition, Raytheon UK, NE automotive alliance launch, Step change debt charity, Breast cancer awareness month reception, Food standards agency reception, , IOP innovation awards, Dimeji bankole, WEA petition handover, Sir Trevor Chinn, Ged Bell & St Thomas residents, British council visit, Duarte Cavalinhos Vhils Studio, CLP GC, Rugby world cup match, Live Theatre, Franco British Council, 70th Anniversary of BBC Radio 4, Etsy meeting, Aid to the Church in Need’s report, APPG statistics meet John Pullinger, Action on hearing loss event, Michael Dughar team meeting, Austin Healey meeting, APPG Broadband & Digital meeting, Breifing with BBC Director, Biology week reception, Dinner with Jeremy Lefroy, Julian David meeting, Precious Awards, Manifesto for a New City, Andrew Rothwell meeting, MLK meeting, CLP meeting. CPS, Tyne Tunnels, Honorary Consul Latvia, Classic Season Sage, North East Art Collective, Fusiliers Memorial bench unveiling, Wall will Fall gathering, Board Apprentice, Celts Art British Museum, Eid celebrations, Case for Culture, Tyneside Cinema, BIS , Dance Edits Dance City, 16th Fusiliers commemoration, Arts Council, MLK steering Group, Shelter,Tech UK, WERS, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson Northumbria University, South African dignitaries, Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Conference: Open University, Labour Friends of Palestine, Pierre Kanuty Parti Socialiste, City of London Corporation, Visa UK, Church leaders of five denominations, Macmillan, Exhibition stands tour, Digital Economy & EU, Huawei, WEA Annual meeting, BAMER, Ignite, Emiline Bowman – Virgin Media, Channel 4 APPG, – Buzzfeed, Parliamentary and Scientific Committee’s Annual Lunch, Marcus Gruenwald – Kapturo, David Austin – British Board of Film Classification, Together for Short Lives reception, Judith Donovan & Scott Couldridge – Keep me posted, Medical technology, Five Talents, 2015 UK IT industry award, John Mathers – Design Council, Alex Stepney and Alex Towers – BBC trust, Anti-bullying week, Adam & Patrick Collerton & Kanya King & Zoe Cook, Clare Moody MEP – Digital single market reforms, RSC, Abigail Pogson – Sage, Youth Parliament, Launch to build a Conservatoire for Dance Gateshead, Lloyds Bank foundation, Launch of Freeview play, Seven Stories 10th birthday, Royal Society science pairing scheme, Johh Walton muscular dystrophy research centre, Joanna Elson & Matt Hartley – Money Advice Trust, Luke Warren – Carbon Capture & Storage Association, NEA Members reception, Russell Group – Impact of research, , IET – House of Lords Briefing, Inspire UK, ITV reception, Ed Brewster – Huawei, Charlotte Eyerman – Monteray Museum of Art, GDPR general data protection regulation, Our Lady of St Ann’s – Unison Stars in our Schools, John Tulip – Northern Film & Media, Tour Crowne Plaza Hotel, Books on Tyne festival – Chris Phipps lecture,
• Roundtable on unethical marketing practices, Africa APPG screening as part of Africa Film Festival, Radio 5 live, Chair roundtable Ghana budget committee, Newcastle university black history month event, Junior Doctor Rally march, film interview – IntoFilm, Ditchley foundation & British American parliamentary group on Big Data discussion, Transport questions, chair IAB session at Parliament & Internet conference, Keynote speech – Pictfor conference Labour Women’s group meeting, Meeting to discuss broadband debate, Superfast Broadband debate, Media plurality in Wales debate, ComRes interview, Govnet conference, Young people & Social technology, Northern powerhouse breakfast, China-Britain business council, Tyneside Irish festival. Labour Women’s coffee, Oona King & Miriam Stoppard, Inside Out Family reunion filming, West & East Gosforth & Parklands members meeting, Soctim Women in IT launch, English Martyrs School, North East Innovation celebration, Parliament Outreach event@ Conference: Policy Network Digital Disruption, Labour Digital Roundtable, Prospect Digital Revolution, Media Watch, Policy Network Job Creators, Newcastle University & Energy, New Statesman Financial Exclusion, Progress Securing our Digital Future, BBC interview, Chartered Trading Standards Scams, Policy Exchange Me.gov, TechCentral, Social Market Foundation Gene Genie, New Statesman Tackling the Digital Skills Deficit, Pictfor CEO forum, What Next, Roundtable discussion – Israel issues, Launch of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s latest report, Women students in STEM, Aveika opening, Courier interview, Ward Summit, Policy Connect Digital, Digital Evolution conference
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