March saw the unexpected and sad loss of Councillor Nigel Todd whose work for communities across Newcastle, against racism and for life long learning improved the lives of so many in the city and indeed the region. Nigel’s loss leaves a huge hole in many hearts. He was a very active councillor and campaigner on many issues from climate change to co-operative schools. Most recently Nigel and I worked together to help secure a grant for a Social Justice themed walk of the city and Town Moor. He will be much missed.
March brought the vaccination of the over 50s cohort and those vulnerable across all age groups. That is a great relief to many, including me! I was vaccinated at Newcastle Eagles. Meeting the many different NHS and emergency services staff involved, together with many, many volunteers and the taxi drivers offering discounted rides, really impressed on me just what a tremendous cooperative, community and public effort the vaccination is. Not so for the Prime Minister who recently attributed the vaccine rollout success to greed, erasing the public service commitment of all those volunteers and staff. The report on racism that the Prime Minister commissioned also erased the lived experience of all those subject to institutional racism, causing much distress.
Many parents and students welcomed the return to school for all students except those shielding. I met with Newcastle Central school heads to discuss the challenges they face in ensuring Covid security and supporting students and staff who have shown themselves to be so resilient in this difficult time. There have been continued improvements in Newcastle’s infection rate, although those improvements have levelled off recently. March also saw the first tentative steps out of lockdown with six people or two households able to meet outside and I know many are looking forward to a more sociable Spring!
Backbench and Constituency Role
- I held a Student’s Open Meeting to understand their experiences in this pandemic. I heard from undergraduate, postgraduate and apprentice students of the challenges they face from financial hardship to mental wellbeing
- We continue to work effectively online whilst improve working practices to make it easier. We are looking at ways in which we can use technology to work more effectively whilst considering how we will implement a return to office working and what it might be useful to keep from current work practices.
- I secured a meeting with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to discuss the impact of the Government’s Brexit deal on our exporters and in particular how Wylam Brewery can once more be enabled to export its beers to continental Europe.
- I continue to engage with the Prime Minister, Ministers, Government Agencies and others regarding issues and demands for the extension of the furlough scheme, as well as issues regarding rollout and regional data regarding COVID-19 vaccines, availability of testing data and resources to local authorities, challenging the digital divide, financial support for individuals and businesses facing ongoing COVID-19 disruption and restrictions in the North-East, health and safety precautions for health and safety of Royal Mail staff and the Horizon scandal. I have contacted numerous members of the Cabinet with questions that arose as a result of the Digital Town Hall I attended.
Shadow Ministerial and PES Role
- The Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill came to the House for its second reading. I am leading on the Bill for Labour. This is the fourth Bill for which I have had responsibility this year and we know what a significant amount of work it generates. The Bill is now going into the Committee stage which will last until the end of April. We are supportive of the Bill but feel changes are required to make it more effective and accountable.
- The Government left it to the very last minute to agree funding for the Horizon European Science programme, causing huge uncertainty to the science community.
- I spoke for Labour in a Westminster Hall debate on Cybertroops and a Back Bench Business debate on the future of Research and Development.
- The Online Safety Bill is due to be introduced in the new session from mid May. This will possibly be the largest bill of the session and certainly the largest bill I have worked on! I will be leading on it for Labour and it will require a tremendous amount of work.
- We continue to work on the Labour Party’s Digital Future Report
Spoken from the back bench: eight times
NHS Staff pay (8th Mar), Budget resolutions (8th Mar), Northern Ireland (10th Mar), Veterans Mental Health (15th Mar), Court Backlogs (16th Mar), Levelling up (16th Mar), Algorithmic Bias (24th Mar), Wylam Brewery (24th Mar)
Spoken from the front bench: five times
Written Questions: 110
Corporation Tax: Coronavirus (8th Mar), Horizon Europe (8th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (8th Mar), Digital Technology: Small Businesses (8th Mar), Broadband: Finance (8th Mar), Capital Allowances (8th Mar), Charities: Armed Forces (8th Mar), Care Homes: Inspections (9th Mar), National Skills Fund (9th), Electronic Government: Proof of Identity (9th Mar), Broadband (9th Mar), Coronavirus: Screening (10th Mar), Remote Education: Computer Software (10th Mar), Coronavirus: Disease Control (10th Mar), Coronavirus: Disease Control (11th Mar), Broadband: Capital Allowances (11th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (11th Mar), Capital Allowances (11th Mar), Post Codes: Databases (11th Mar), Travel: Coronavirus (11th Mar), Coronavirus: Newcastle upon Tyne (12th Mar), Organs: Donors (12th Mar), Science: Migrant Workers (12th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (12th Mar), Research: Finance (12th Mar), Migrant Workers: Visas (12th Mar), VAT: Africa (12th Mar), Business: Government Assistance (12th Mar), Digital Technology: Training (12th Mar), Broadband: Rural Areas (12th Mar), Remote Education: Computer Software (12th Mar), Visas: Applications (12th Mar), Investment Security Unit: Finance (12th Mar), Computer Software: Capital Allowances (12th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (15th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (15th Mar), Research: Tax Allowances (15th Mar), Department of Health and Social Care: Written Questions (15th Mar), Advanced Research and Invention Agency: Finance (15th Mar), Research: Coronavirus (15th Mar), Buildings: Insulation (15th Mar), Remote Education: Extracurricular Activities (15th Mar), Higher Education: Remote Education (15th Mar), Broadband: Capital Allowances (15th Mar), Coronavirus: Disease Control (16th Mar), Vaccination: Local Press (16th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (16th Mar), Mathematics: Research (16th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (16th Mar), Solar Events (16th Mar), Solar Events (16th Mar), Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: North East(16th Mar), Foreign Investment in UK: National Security (16th Mar), Treasury: Publications (16th Mar), Post Codes (16th Mar), Broadband: Finance (16th Mar), Technology: Capital Allowances (16th Mar), Travel: Coronavirus (16th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (17th Mar), Coronavirus: Newcastle upon Tyne (18th Mar), Directors: Debts (18th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (18th Mar),Coronavirus: Newcastle upon Tyne (18th Mar), Batteries: Recycling (18th Mar), Business: Coronavirus (18th Mar), Research: Finance (18th Mar), Postgraduate Education: Research (18th Mar), Remote Education: ICT (18th Mar), Remote Education: ICT (18th Mar), Remote Education: ICT (18th Mar), Remote Education: ICT (18th Mar), Remote Education: ICT (18th Mar), Business: Government Assistance (18th Mar), Elections: Disinformation (18th Mar), Pupils: Digital Technology (19th Mar), Remote Education: ICT (19th Mar), Pupils: Digital Technology (19th Mar), Oxygen: Blood Tests (22nd Mar), Broadband: Rural Areas (23rd Mar), Coronavirus: Disease Control (23rd Mar), Remote Education: ICT (23rd Mar), Broadband: Rural Areas (23rd Mar), Broadband: Rural Areas (23rd Mar), Broadband: Rural Areas (23rd Mar), BT Group: Profits (23rd Mar), Broadband: Prices (23rd Mar), Broadband (23rd Mar), National Tutoring Programme (23rd Mar), Schools: Coronavirus (23rd Mar), Internet: Safety (24th Mar), Mobile Phones: Rural Areas (24th Mar), BT Group: Profits (25th Mar), Broadband: Finance (25th Mar), Local Restrictions Support Grant (25th Mar), Pharamcy: Coronavirus (25th Mar), Advanced Research and Invention Agency (25th Mar), Schools: Coronavirus (25th Mar), Business: Government Assistance (25th Mar), Coronavirus: Vaccination (26th Mar), Sexual Offences (26th Mar), Coronavirus: Disease Control (29th Mar), Tax Avoidance: Mental Health (29th Mar), Broadband: Voucher Schemes (30th Mar), Africa: Research (30th Mar), Medical Records: Research (30th Mar), Schools: Coronavirus (30th Mar), Maintained Schools: Coronavirus (30th Mar), Pupils: Disadvantaged (30th Mar), Remote Education: ICT (30th Mar), Broadband: Capital Allowances (30th Mar)
Kanishka and India are leaving us. Christine continues to provide support – thanks Christine! Gareth’s contract is being extended to after the local elections
Interviewed on local media including BBC Politics North, ITV Tyne Tees on Women’s Safety, BBC on Extra investment in Bus services, Reach Interview 12 months without fans at St James’, Freeman’s magazine Benefits of the Town Moor, published TechUK blogpost, online media Tweet Chat Straight talking, Politics Home,
Installation of New Palace Year flagpoles, Minister Dinnage vaccine disinformation, Royal Society Pair Dr Maria Pregnolato, Labour for a New Democracy, Competition & Markets Authority, Openreach, Minister Zahawi vaccine briefings, Paul Marshall Horizon, NE Child Poverty Commission, Forward Assist, Sir Robert McAlpine Roundtable, Cellnex – David Crawford, GMB, St Patricks Day reception APPG Ireland, Football Foundation, Vmware, PLP Driving out Antisemitism, financial Focus Metapraxis, Hamilton Commission Board, Foxglove, Universities UK on R&D funding, Alcumus, Industry & Parliament Trust Making the UK a Battery power, Octopus Investments, Investment Association, Which, BAPG State of the Union, Bennett Institution Digital Republic workshop, Adobe, Nominet, West End Resident’s Association, Rabbi Lipsey, PLP Facebook & Instagram, Onfido, Royal Mail, Stephen Tompkinson, Minister Solloway, Ada Lovelace biometric data, Tyne & Wear Museums, BAPG Race & Democracy, Nexus, MP meeting.
Bishop Auckland CLP Women’s Forum, Openreach roundtable, Labour Spring Business Forum, Intriguer interview, Royal Society Pairing Scheme, Prospect International Women’s Day (IWD) webinar, Royal Society Biology Voice of the Future, Interview Premier League, Teach First STEMinism, MPs school lunch discussion, UNISON MP panel, Angelou Centre IWD event, Future of R&D funding Westminster Hall, Connected Voice video, Stand up to Racism UN International Day Action Against Racism, IET 150th anniversary video, Digital Voice conference, Society for Applied Microbiology Women in STEM, Newcastle Central Students meeting, APPG Africa Elections & Democracy, 50th Independence Day Bangladesh, Jessie4Mayor phone bank, Business In The Community – Taking action on employment & skills in the NE