MP’s Report: October 20th 2016

Dear Newcastle

It has been a long, often hot and too often disagreeable summer, at least from a political point of view. Now that Autumn is here all the political parties have their leaders in place – UKIP excepted – and we can now focus on the important issues and challenges facing this country.


Rally at Monument against bringing back Grammar Schools

In his Conference speech, Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn set out the vision and policies for the Party. From building a million new homes to a British investment bank, from increasing R&D funding to investing in our infrastructure, from raising the minimum wage to supporting the self employed, Jeremy set out policies which the country desperately needs[1].

Our new if unelected Prime Minister Theresa May sought to portray her party as championing the poor and disenfranchised and she enjoyed a brief honeymoon period but now the cracks are beginning to show. Top of the agenda is Brexit. Britain voted to leave the European Union and Parliament must respect that vote, but it should also be able to scrutinise the terms negotiated. The Tories have now abandoned the balancing of the books which supposedly drove their austerity agenda and for which the North East in particular paid such a heavy price but they we can be sure that the price of Brexit will be paid by working and vulnerable people if we do not prevent it.

One particular issue is the protection of regional funding. Without long-term certainty over funding, many businesses as well as the local enterprise partnership and our universities cannot plan ahead, and we’ll find it more difficult to attract other private investment.

So over the crucial months ahead before the start of the Brexit process, I will be working hard to hold the Government to account and ensure that the interests of the North East are put first. The Labour Party has also published 170 detailed questions for the Government to answer, one for each day until 31 March 2016, Theresa May’s self-imposed deadline for beginning the Brexit negotiations.

I will also be campaigning against the reintroduction of Grammar Schools and for increased investment in the NHS.


Shadow Ministerial Role

I took up the role of Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation last week, working with Clive Lewis the Shadow Secretary of State. Whilst I was sad to leave behind my responsibilities for the digital economy, it is a role of great importance and relevance to the region.

As one of the few Shadow Ministers in post over the summer there was a great deal of work to do. The Digital Economy Bill returned to the House for the second reading and I opened for Labour in the debate on its second reading[1]. This bill has some positive measures such as making it harder for children to access pornography but also a number of bad measures – giving the BBC responsibility for the over 75s licence fee for example – and fails to cover data rights or digital employment rights.

I also spoke from the frontbench in the Back Bench Business Debate on the 4th Industrial Revolution on the 8th of September and DCMS questions on the same day as well as BEIS questions on 13th September.

At conference I spoke a number of times on all things digital and business as well as representing Labour at the Business and Brexit summits.


Backbench and Constituency Role

There are major changes in my office – Mark Simmonds my researcher left to take up another role, Bobbie the intern and Kirsty our apprentice both got other jobs and Kath has announced her retirement. But we have the fantastic Sarah Pine as Parliamentary Assistant, Jack Hattersley as the new admin apprentice and are recruiting for a new part time case worker. We have an American student, Katie, in the Westminster office and a Digital Civics PhD student, Ian, in Newcastle.

Recess was a good time to visit people, organisations and businesses across the constituency and I enjoyed doing that as you can see in the visits section.


Cruddas Park Early Years Centre

I also held my third ward summit in Elswick, details of which can be found here

I held lively BlueHouse Roundabout meeting, the feedback from which can be found on my website

Constituency boundaries are also set to change, the Boundary Review has abolished Newcastle Central. Newcastle Central wards are proposed to move into Newcastle East, Blaydon and a new seat called Newcastle North West. These proposals do not reflect community ties in Newcastle and we will be objecting.

Summer is also a good time to research and develop ideas. As Chair of the Africa APPG I joined a cross party delegation to Southern Africa to look at trade and economic development. I also attended a summit in Rome to set up a progressive network on Digital Policy.


Meeting with South Africa’s Trade & Industry Committee to discuss Trade

I discussed the North East response to Brexit with our Labour MEPs. Please consider their consultation at


Media, Organisation & visits


Quoted regularly in local media and nationally. Appeared on radio and television. Wrote a number of blogs.

Meetings and visits (to 7th October)

APPG on Medical Research: Can patient data revolutionise healthcare?, Huawei 15 years in UK, British Bankers Association reception, Dom André Soares –  Anglican Bishop of Angola, Yvette Cooper – Reclaim the internet campaign, Ofcom Digital Communications review,. Ashok Vaswani – CEO of Barclays UK, Clive Selley  – CEO Openreach, Helen Pidd – Guardian, Graham Steele, Doug Belshaw – Dynamic Skillset, Bernard Ginns – Digital health Inhealthcare. Google (Verity Harding); Tribune; the Chartered Institute for IT (Karen Tuck); The Co-operative (Tom Loosemore); Martha Lane Fox’s Women in Tech Charter (Peter Read & Ana Bradley); West End police re Hate incidents; Unions (Unite, GMB, Unison)- latter two with Catherine McKinnell; New Scientist; Royal Statistical Society (Roeland Beerten); Campaign for Broadcasting Equality (Simon Albury); Nigerian Minister of Power, Works & Housing (Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola); Digetteria Ltd; IOD re Employment Skills Policy; NCC Councillors re transport proposals for Newcastle; Institute of Civil Engineers (Jeffri Ramli); North East Data Meet-Up; Newcastle University School of Computer Science; JobCentre Plus;  Trinity Mirror Group (Peter Whitfield); Northern Housing Consortium; SPACE meeting re Blue House 2035 [Carol, on Chi’s behalf]; NCC re Blue House 2035 (Ged Bell & Graham);  Fintech company visit Newcastle;  Kenton School F1 team; Lai Mohammed Nigeria Digital; Freedom City fundraising; Road to Recovery. Andrew Cranston Cell:cm, Paul Brannen MEP, Hope not Hate community picnic, Energy Networks Association, Angola APPG Development Workshop, ODI Open Data Leaders, Stonegate Pub Company celebration,Parklives, Jeremy Silver Digital Catapult, Matt Hancock Minister DCMS, Heritage Lottery Fund re parks, NEA Heat Heroes, Sacred Heart Primary School in Parliament, Smart Energy, Westminster Africa Business Group, Parliamentary Digital Service, Peter Wells, Renate Samson Big Brother Watch, Digital Agenda Newcastle City Impact, Future Assembly Lab Live Theatre, Believe in Young People charity showcase, Ten Million Raspberry Pi computers, Parliamentary Sports Fair, Save our Apprenticeships, Parkrun,  Hope not Hate More in Common Picnic, Moorside Allotments Show, English Martyrs Macmillan Coffee Morning, Bernardo’s Anti Bullying Celebration, Women Against State Pension Action Day, Newcastle University Centre for Childhood Cancer, Peace in Palestine & Israel, Fifth Fusiliers Anzio House, Tricycle Theatre,  Microsoft, TSB, Peter Stone Newcastle University & Cultural Property, Rachel Wearmouth,  Fun Palace Live Theatre, Stefano Fassina Italian Economist, Cruddas Park Early Years Centre, Larches Bingo, PCC policing priorities, Newcastle United Foundation, entrepreneurial Spark NatWest, Josh Halliday Guardian North East

Conference – New Statesman, Prospect, IOD, Sky, LabourList, Tech City, Virgin Money, ITV.

Speaking Engagements (to 7th October)

Pictfor Summer Forum – “Brexit, Tech & the Digital Single Market”, English Martyrs School debate, Business & Industry Lunch: Skills for the Digital Economy, Labour Leader Women in Engineering event, Public Technology website; BCS IT at the Top – Digital Economy UK; Africa-UK trade & investment agreements after Brexit; Politics of Land and Development panel – Ouseburn; Elswick Ward Summit; NUBS Gender & STEM network; Artistic Directors of the Future talks Brexit; Interview with Tyne Tees TV; Advanced Manufacturing Forum (South Shields); Yam Festival; Interview with Listening Project; Blue House 2035: Building the West Gosforth We Want. Pictfor Tech & SME’s, Heritage Science Forum Open Science, Eve of Great North Run Gathering, APPG Defence & Security & UK Defence Forum, Africa APPG, Foundation for Information Society Policy- Possible impacts of Brexit on the Information Society, Centre for Excellence/ESRC Information sharing, Mountfield School, Annual Government ICT 2.0 Conference, Progressive Vision for Europe’s Net economy, Gainford County Hotel Opening

Conference: Open Labour, Friends of Bangladesh, Prospect Health Tech & Empowerment, New Statesman/Raytheon Cybersafe UK, New Statesman & Big Innovation Centre Think Artificial Intelligence & Innovation Capitalism, Fraud Fringe, Countryside Alliance – Tackling Digital exclusion, Respublica – The North, fuelling inclusive growth,  Bloomberg Economic Summit, Open Banking Standard




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