Dear Newcastle June 2021

Dear Newcastle

As the weather warms up and Covid restrictions are relaxed many of us look forward to spending more time with family and friends. However the  Government’s mistakes threaten that. The Delta variant first identified in India is causing a Covid surge in North Tyneside, a neighbouring constituency, due to the Government’s delay in putting India on the Red List. At the same time, the lack of support for those isolating, the failure of test and trace and difficulty accessing the vaccine are some of the reasons Newcastle has a persistently higher rate of infection then elsewhere in the country and this is now rising alarmingly. Thankfully it is not yet threatening our NHS as the vaccine does appear to have reduced the link between infections and hospitalisations.

                                            Painless jab at the Vertu Eagles Arena

I fortunately have had my second jab, but was concerned that the staff at the vaccine centre reported quiet days and no shows. They called for more vaccine supply and more promotion of the importance of getting that second vaccine, and I have taken that up with Ministers. I often hear from constituents are forced to go to Hexham or Middlesbrough to get a jab and for many that is just not feasible

As Newcastle City Centre opens up it is good to see more people out, spending money with local businesses but we also need to see investment in the city centre to ensure not only that it is Covid secure when all restrictions are lifted, but reflects changes in peoples habits during the pandemic, and reduces the impact of the loss of key high street brands like Debenhams.

Backbench and Constituency Role
  • We saw a big rise in casework as constituents raised a wide range of concerns from confusion over Covid restrictions to the ongoing impact of  the digital divide particularly on school children as well as concerns trade deals.
  • As an office we continue to work effectively online whilst improve working practices to make it easier. We need to continue to 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 the Pandemic experience.

                                                      TUC discussion on good practices for Trade negotiations

  • Interesting answers to a number of written questions particularly about data sharing and refugee housing.
  • Pleased to be able to get out and about a little again, visiting organisations and businesses in Newcastle, in a covid secure way. My broken foot is not completely healed but I am more mobile and the return to in person visits continues. Many thanks to everyone for the support and kind messages received.
  • 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
  • We launched the Our Digital Future Report on May 17th at an event which was well attended and had good feedback. We continue to work on promoting our positions on digital particularly digital inclusion and empowerment.
  • The Online Safety Bill, which was finally announced in the Queen’s speech and the draft published soon after, almost four hundred pages with impact assessment and explanatory notes. But that is going into pre legislative consultation which means we have some time, probably months, before it is actually before us as a Bill. It is unfortunately very incoherent and does almost nothing to put people in control of their data or protect them from the power of tech giants, or open up the internet to new entrants.

                                                       Great Mural and message at West End Women & Girls

 

  • The Telecoms Security Bill came back to the Commons for its Report stage and I led for Labour on that. The bill seeks to ensure our telecoms infrastructure is secure after the Government were forced to rip out Huawei equipment. However the Government refused to accept any amendments which would have supported UK telecoms providers and jobs in diversifying the network, the only way to be truly secure.

Parliamentary Activity

Parliamentary business  8th May – 4th June

Spoken from the back bench: once

Ministerial code and sleaze (18th May)

Spoken from the front bench: two times

Digital inclusivity (20th May), Telecoms security Bill (25th May),

Written Questions: 63

Coronavirus: Vaccination (17th May), Business: Coronavirus (17th May), Post Office Horizon IT System Independent Review (17th May),  Research: Africa  (17th May), 5G: Infrastructure (18th May), Telecoms Diversification Task Force (18th May),  Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Apprentices  (18th May), Medical Records: Data Protection (19th May), Digital Markets Unit: Staff (20th May), Mass Media: Education (20th May),  Huawei: Telecommunications (20th May),  Telecommunications: Standards  (20th May), Telecommunications: Lithium and Silicon (20th May),  Telecommunications: Codes of Practice (20th May),  Telecommunications: Infrastructure (20th May),  Sexual Offences: Victims  (20th May), 5G: Expenditure (21st May), Journalism: Internet (21st May),  Social Media: Harassment (21st May),  Social Media: Regulation (21st May),  Internet: Safety (21st May),

                      Difference North East discussing the barriers for people with disabilities

Internet: Safety (21st May),  Internet: Safety (21st May),  Telecommunications: Infrastructure (21st May),  Telecommunications: Infrastructure (21st May),  Telecommunications: Infrastructure (21st May),  Telecommunications: Infrastructure (21st May),  Public Houses: Coronavirus (21st May),  Public Houses: Coronavirus (21st May),  Computers (21st May),  Horizon Europe: Quantum Technology and Space Technology (21st May),  Horizon Europe: Quantum Technology and Space Technology (21st May),  Action Fraud: Finance (21st May),  Asylum: Housing  (21st May), Telecoms Diversification Task Force: Finance (24th May), Telecommunications (24th May),  Ofcom: Competition                                              (24th May),  Internet: Safety (24th May),  Postgraduate Education: Coronavirus (24th May),  Pupils: Digital Technology (24th May),  Internet: Safety (24th May),  NEC Corporation: 5G (24th May),  Medical Records: Data Protection  (24th May), Internet: Safety (25th May), Racial Discrimination: Technology (25th May), Students: Mental Health (26th May), Students: Housing (26th May),  Students: Fees and Charges (26th May),  Student Wastage: Coronavirus (26th May),  Energy: Meters (26th May),  Medical Records: Data Protection (26th May),  Asylum: Finance (26th May),  Telecommunications: Infrastructure  (26th May), Pupil Exclusions (27th May), Immigration: EU Nationals (27th May),  Red list travel (27th May),  Blind Children (27th May),  Clinical research (27th May),  Clinical trials (27th May),  NHS recruitment (27th May),  Mental Health – Newcastle (27th May),  Dyson Ventilators(27th May),  Online subscription services(27th May)

                                                            Jobes Gym in Benwell

Organisation

  • Major organisational changes as Marion left us following her win in Blakelaw, Gareth became a full time permanent employee, and Kate joined as our Parliamentary Intern. We are also going to welcome back Kanishka one day a week on Digital, and a new part time, short term caseworker.

Media

Quoted in national and local media including Geordie Pete interview Soccer Saturday on Hollywood Balls, Hairvolution, Rail briefing, BBC Radio 4 Post Office, Tyne Tees (embargo),

Meetings

Nigerian Nurses, Ubisoft, British in Vitro Diagnostics Association, State Opening of Parliament, Changing Lives, Brendan Foster 2026 European Athletics Championship, RJ Andrews-Florence Nightingale, BRIT Awards, HS2 Webinar, TUC AI Project, Parliamentary Space Committee, Boundary Review briefing, Catenae Vaccination App, Mental Health Concern, West End Women & Girls, LGBT Parliamentary Liaison Scheme, BAPG, William Perrin, NFU, Minister Solloway – People & Culture strategy, Solicitors Regulation Authority,

                                                             Jazz in Nuns Moor Park

Difference North East, Pfizer, Petra Ondrova, Government of Jersey, British Business Bank – Investing in Northern SMEs, Competition & Markets Authority, Jerrico Chambers Future of Cyrpto currency, David  Sainsbury, RSA & Dixson’s Carphone Warehouse – Achieving digital equality, NE MPs Ubisoft, Northumbria Police – Roma, Heather Ging Tyne Theatre, Newcastle City Council – levelling up, Jobes Gym, Newcastle United Foundation construction NUCASTLE, ITV roundtable on news, Hamilton Commission Board, PLP BAME, DigiFAB launch,

Speaking Engagements

IET 150 Show, LSE event – What is to be done about fake news in politics, Our Digital Future launch, Surrey Labour students,  Churchill College Cambridge, TUC panel good practice with inclusion, Ditchley Science & Technology Group, Hornsey Wood Green CLP,

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