Dear Newcastle March 2019
Newcastle is always a better place to be than London but in the last month that has been even more true than usual, with Westminster a grid-locked toxic Brexit black hole and Newcastle celebrating achievements on the pitch and off. In Parliament it felt a bit like Ground Hog month – only we didn’t get another meaningful vote! Theresa May decided to kick the can further down the road, even though the road is very rapidly running out. It has become even clearer that her strategy – if that is not too complementary a term for it – is to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny until it is too late and she believes MPs can be bounced into supporting her deal. Westminster has become a truly toxic environment, with polarisation and suspicion and many different sides for every question and proposal.
Dementia Research Lab on General Hospital site
I feel it was also the right time for the Labour Party to follow the Brexit motion passed at our Conference in September and support a public vote. It is not something I have previously campaigned for – I felt it was important to honour the result of the referendum and deliver on the Brexit the majority voted for. But the Tories have stolen Brexit and turned it into a hard right back-to-the-Thatcherite future dystopian mess. I joined the Love Socialism Hate Brexit grouping of Labour MPs to give a strong, left, pro European voice. We do need to make it clear this position has been brought upon us by Tory intransigence and inability to negotiate.
The Tories cancelled recess because of the Brexit shambles so I spent the week in London not Newcastle. I did do two Statutory Instruments during that time but that is but a small part in the hundreds that are outstanding.
On the more positive side Newcastle were doing a little better in the Premier League and despite nine years of cuts, Newcastle City Council were able to commit to continue paying the real Living Wage. Chi-Chi Shi joined as my Parliamentary Assistant and got off to a flying start, supported by Lois and with the addition of Catherine our Hansard intern, the Westminster team is at full strength.
English language class at Action Foundation
Backbench and Constituency Role
- I held a successful Ward Summit at Monument to discuss how I can best represent that area of the city in Parliament. Local groups were well represented including Your Homes Newcastle, the Police, charities and a number of local churches.
- I was very moved and most impressed by a visit to the Men’s Health Group at Maggie’s Centre at the Freemen Hospital
- I gave my longest speech ever – I think, haven’t checked – as part of the Brexit and Trade debate focusing on landscape, agriculture and negotiating powers and opportunities for Africa.
- As Chair of the Africa APPG I met with the Immigration Minister to discuss the dire state of the visa approvals process.
- Spoke from the backbenches 10 times– Financial transparency in the Premier League (4 Feb); Regulation of the bailiff industry (5 Feb); Unpaid work trials (5 Feb); Diversity Charters (7 Feb); Tech regulation post Brexit (7 Feb); Shamima Begum and citizenship (20 Feb); Trade post Brexit (21 Feb); Deprivation of British citizenship (25 Feb); Cultural and business exchanges between African countries and the UK (26 Feb); EU funding and regional disparity (28 Feb)
Scotswood’s district heating network
- I asked 32 Written Questions since Feb 1 Ability for UK professionals to practise in EU post Brexit (4 Feb); Recognition of professional qualifications post Brexit (4 Feb); MASH Holdings company accounts (4 Feb); Regulation on conduct of rogue bailiffs (5 Feb); Open Access publishing for humanities and social science publishing (11 Feb); Expanding Open Access research (11 Feb); Role of BEIS in review on Open Access policy (11 Feb); Economic assessment of Open Access policy options (11 Feb); Open Access risks (11 Feb); Open Access effect on UK researchers and researchers seeking to work in UK (11 Feb); Universal Credit funding 2019-2020 (11 Feb); Investment in R&D (11 Feb); Recognition of Professional Qualifications post Brexit (13 Feb); Shared Prosperity Fund administration (14 Feb); Shared Prosperity Fund details (14 Feb); Companies House- enforcement (14 Feb); R&D tax credits (15 Feb); Refugee accommodation contracts (15 Feb); Student accommodation and council tax (15 Feb); European Regional Development Fund (15 Feb); Cost of detaining someone at Yarslwood immigration removal centre (18 Feb); Visa application delays (25 Feb); Visa application delays- super priority service (25 Feb); UK e-commerce post Brexit (25 Feb); UK space programme and national security post Brexit (25 Feb); UK space programme post Brexit (25 Feb); Small business EU grants and loans (25 Feb); Funding replacements for European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (25 Feb); Validity of Irish driving licenses in event of no deal (25 Feb); Cyber Essentials Scheme (26 Feb); Funding for tackling homelessness in Newcastle (26 Feb); Digital inclusion targets (26 Feb)
- I am engaged in correspondence with Ministers or Government Agencies on Leasehold, Litter, Long Term Support for Victims of Operation Sanctuary, Mesh, Newcastle United Finance, Weinstein and Ipsa funding for staff, with the Council on Kittiwakes and Homelessness and with LNER on Disability Access
Shadow Ministerial and PES Role
- We continue to develop our science offer and encourage colleagues to highlight what the loss of European Regional funding will mean to regional economies.
- I continue to meet with third sector, businesses and unions on industrial strategy, investment and skills.
- Spoke from the frontbench five times Recognition of professional qualifications post Brexit SI (Feb 4); Economic growth in the South West (5 Feb); ); Motor manufacturing post Brexit (12 Feb); EU structural and investment funds SI (19 Feb); Minimum Wage SI (19 Feb);
Circus Central in Elswick
Chi-Chi started, as did Catherine. Lois will stay with us till the end of March. Matt finally got his leaving presents.
Quoted in national and local media including ITV , Sky, & LBC, BBC 5 Live ; Politics Live and a good reception for my most recent Brexit blog.
Meetings and visits
New Inventors from Wingrove Primary at Discovery
Dementia Research Labs, Enterprise & Entrepreneurship Newcastle University, Paul Brannen MEP, Bahr Academy, Maggie’s Centre, Centrica, Kidney Cancer Awareness, Smart Meters, Cancer Research UK, Aerospace Technology Institute, Celebration of Northern Potential, SNC-Lavalin, Royal Statistical Society, EON, Michael Capaldi Dean Innovation Newcastle University, British Business Bank Small Business Finance Markets, Funding Circle, Dogs Trust, NSPCC, Catholic Education Service, Society of Chemical Industry, Local Improvement Finance Trust, Intu Properties, National Apprenticeship Week event, Disability Lobby, Leonard Cheshire, Agricultural Biotechnology Council, CBI, Newcastle Eagles, Heart Unions, Baltic Artists Awards, Tyneside Irish, EEF, , Newcastle Jobs Fair, Circus Central, Projections Commisssions launch Tyneside Cinema, FoE & WI Plastic Pollution, National Grid, Fair Pay Fair Play, Design Council, Heathrow, Foundation for Science & Technology, Channel 5, Industry & Parliament Trust, Deep Mind, Fairtrade Fortnight, Lloyds Diversity in Business, Women in Journalism, Adult Autism Diagnosis, UK Hospitality Apprenticeships, LEP, Museum of the Moon Centre for Life, Force, IET New Approaches to Engineering Higher Education,
Autistica meeting in Newcastle
Newcastle United Foundation, UTC opening, Monument Ward Summit, APPG Africa Immigration Ministerial meeting, CIARB conflict avoidance roundtable, Action Foundation, Love antiracism hate Brexit, What did Thatcher do for the North East Live Theatre, Northumbria Coding, Christ Embassy Youth Programme, Industry Forum