The last few weeks in Westminster has been dominated by the real economy and our deteriorating public services though Brexit remains a source of constant bickering in the Government.
Visit to Gosforth Hotel
January saw the collapse of Carillion with devastating consequences for its employees, those who depend on its services and the many small businesses which make up its supply chain. As Shadow Minister for Business I spent some time looking into the history and failings of the outsourcing model on which Carillion depended and it brought into sharp focus a number of serious failings in our economy and Government – public sector dependency on the private sector, lack of transparency and accountability in the private sector, the casino capitalism business models of companies like Carillion who were raising their dividend payments even as their profits were falling and their pension fund and small business suppliers were suffering.
The hostile takeover of British engineering firm GKN by Melrose is another such watershed moment for our economy although it has yet to achieve the kind of profile that it deserves. The failure of Virgin East Coast to maintain services and its bailout by the Government also highlight the failings of rail privatisation.
The long years of Conservative austerity is now being seen in our public services in a way even Ministers find hard to deny – falling police numbers, a ‘Winter’ NHS crisis that seems set to last well into the Spring and a Local Authority – Northamptonshire – declared bankrupt. Newcastle City Council is maintaining good services overall but I know from constituents that concerns over litter and the environment are widespread. I am working with local councillors and the Police to address this.
Shadow Ministerial Role
- I have been closely involved in Labour’s response over Carillion and the GKN takeover including meeting the GKN unions.
- I spoke from the frontbench in Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Topical Questions (30 Jan 2018) on the proposed hostile takeover of GKN
- We continue to develop our industrial strategy and are holding a roundtable in Newcastle on February 15th
- During a Shadow Minister visit to Oxford I discussed the importance of science and innovation with local businesses and academics.
Backbench and Constituency Role
- John Bercow’s gave an Insight Lecture as part of Freedom City was very successful and I recommend his lecture which can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/newcastleuniversity/videos/1793431714043072/
- I secured two meetings with ministers, the first regarding the situation of leaseholders in Leazes Park who cannot extend their leases and the second regarding quality and consistency of GP services and the closure of some practices in Newcastle. On GPs services the Minister said he was not aware of this issue elsewhere in the country. The minister’s officials are going to research where else this has occurred in the country before we have a ‘Health Summit’ for Newcastle GP services.
- I invited Google’s Android Play Services Director to Newcastle Campus North for an event with start ups to help form an Android user group here in Newcastle.
- My question to the Prime Minister (24 Jan 2018) on foodbank usage in Newcastle, the generosity of ToonAid, and benefit sanctions received much positive feedback although, as I emphasised, we should not have to be feeding people with charity. The PM did not answer my point.
- I spoke a further eight times from the backbenches, including:
- In debate following a statement on Carillion (15 Jan 2018)
- In an Urgent Question on Personal Independence Payment (23 Jan 2018)
- In Education questions (29 Jan 2018) on role models for girls in engineering.
- In Exiting the European Union questions (1 Feb 2018) on business investment in the North east
- I asked 27 written questions to Ministers.
Discussion session in Newcastle University
Quoted regularly in local media and nationally including on Sky News and the Daily Politics. Wrote a number of blogs including on regional economic policy for the Fabians http://www.fabians.org.uk/creative-solutions/ and for the Guardian on the importance of trade unions for all workers, including tech workers here and in the US https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/31/silicon-valley-unions-employee-workers-rights-organise-labour and the impact of a hard Brexit: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/09/brexit-means-north-east-poorer-leaked-report
Meetings and visits
Barclay’s/ Allen Simpson, Santander reception, Holocaust Memorial day event, TechUK & LEOcoin Foundation reception, Digital Charter dinner, Novartis/ Dominic Wake, City Fibre/ Vicky Read, Alliance for Intellectual Property, IoD Parliamentary Reception, CAMRA/ Paul Hillhouse, NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG/ Guy Pilkington, Dental Health Inequality/ Professor Justin Durham, East Coast Mainline Authorities/ David Carr, Power of coding Apple reception, Candida Owusu-Apenten, Cybersecurity/ Tom Ilube, Rolls-Royce Future Technology Showcase, Leaseholds Departmental meeting, UKIR/ Sir Mark Walport,Tine van Houts, Data Protection Bill Immigration Exemption, African High Commissioners, Medical Research Council’s science showcase, ‘True Value of Retail’ report, Social care & the upcoming Green Paper, Laura Pidcock, Annual intu Parliamentary dinner, Stonegate pub/ David Crow and Nick Andrews, Sage (UK) Limited visit, Kenton School/ Sarah Holmes-Carne, Port of Tyne Board/ Lucy Armstrong, Commemoration quilts exhibition for Newcastle Holocaust Memorial, APPG Fintech reception, Northumbria University and Dynamo North East (IC3) Reception, IOT Visa/ Avin Arumugam dinner,
Newcastle University School of Dental Health
The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland’s campaign, Creativity: Powering the 4IR reception, US Embassy Kim Dubois, Professional and Business Services Council on Brexit, Observatory for Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT launch, GP Surgeries/ Steve Brine, Michael Peel, Unite/ Tony Burke and GKN worker reps, The Society for Radiological Protection reception, Briefing dinner for centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, launch of Newcastle Community Asset Trust, Culture in the North East/ Adam McKenna & Dane Ridley, CITMA/ Ian Byworth and Bill Goodwin, Know Africa/ Elewechi Okike, Labour North Burns’ Night, SITB Exhibition, Wired/ Rowland Manthorpe, Labour together, Ten Years On: The Financial Crisis and the State of Modern Capitalism, YLDC launch event, Pictfor AGM, 100th anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act reception, BBC Civilisations, Kier Group breakfast roundtable on skills crisis facing the UK, Drax Group/ Karl Smyth, Royal Africa Society/ Nick Westcott, Timber Industries Parliamentary Reception, Mandela8 reception, Cornelia Parker exhibition, ICE 200 Celebration Dinner
During a Shadow Ministerial visit to Oxford I met Oxford Science Park, Nanopore, Immunocore, Evox Therapeutics, Vaccitech, Oxford Genetics, OxSonics, Sesui, Professor Ian Walmsley and Professor Sir Charles Godfray and toured the Oxford Beecroft Physics building.
Google Android event at Campus North in Newcastle
Chair Regulation and the Internet, Launch Women & Work report on industrial strategy, Daily Politics PMQs Panel, Chair RAS private dinner, ‘The Internet of Things’ roundtable, Science and Engineering Roundtable on 3% target, Chair Innovation & Construction Roundtable, Google Android event Newcastle, Newcastle University Students Labour, Westminster briefing Local Government ICT after Brexit, APPG Diversity & Inclusion in STEM, Chair South African Development Community meeting, Coffee Research Fortnight, Speaker Lecture Newcastle University, Overseas Fellowship of Nigerian Christian Newcastle Branch, Powering the North; Next step for delivering an infrastructure strategy debate, Frontbench Science Park visit, Kenton School 6th Form Politics.