Dear Newcastle October 2021

Parliament returned to a series of critical debates on very important subjects. The Elections Bill is an attempt by the Conservative Government to make it harder for people to vote, just as we should be making it easier!  They Tories also rushed through a vote on the funding of the Prime Minister’s so called Social Care Plan, even though there was no detail on who would be funded to do what, and the rise in National Insurance Contributions would hit some of the poorest hardest. And Labour forced a vote on the Tories   huge cut to Universal Credit payments – the Tories did not have the courage of their supposed convictions to vote against it, but are still refusing to scrap the cut. At the same time, many constituents continue to contact me on behalf of relatives under threat in Afghanistan. The Foreign Office has been forced to apologise for not responding to MP enquiries. This is a desperate time for many UK citizens with connections to Afghanistan and Government is once more showing it is unable to meet basic levels of competence.

Proud to join the Fusiliers on the day they were granted the Freedom of the City

And then of course the country was hit by a series of supply chain crisis which has left some supermarket shelves bare and had drivers queuing for hours to get petrol as well as an energy crisis which has seen energy companies (including in Newcastle) go bust and consumers facing huge energy price hikes.   These crises are entirely made in Whitehall, a combination of incompetence, lack of preparation, arrogance and being out of touch. The petrol shortage is a particularly frustrating example.

There has been a shortage of HGV drivers for years but the Government refused to take action to address it, preferring to leave it to the market. Brexit meant that many foreign drivers left, Covid and the stress of complex tariff rules meant that more left, and yet Government did not see that coming. I shared the example of a constituent who sought help to train as a HGV driver six years ago, with the Minister promising the market would sort it (https://chionwurahmp.com/2021/09/hgv-driver-shortages-since-2015/)

But it is the cost of living pressures which will be the most devastating for constituents, energy price rises, food price rises, a cut to universal credit of £20 per week. This will cause real hardship in the constituency.

Small business visit  Brew & Bite on Ashburton Road

In that context the Labour party Conference in Brighton was an opportunity to show that we were concentrating on the issues that matter to people facing huge challenges. Whilst the media reporting tried to exaggerate divisions in the party, overall there were many positive reports particularly on our announcements  on mental health and education. I spoke at thirteen events, including two dinners, and there was an overwhelmingly positive atmosphere and reception from attendees for the engagement around my briefs.

Backbench and Constituency Role

Progress

  • It has been a real pleasure to return to in person visits. I was particular moved by my meeting with victims of domestic violence who have found refuge in Newcastle. I also met with businesses and community groups across the constituency, and spoke at the re-opening of the reinvigorated Lit and Phil.
  • We have made progress on a partial return to the office. Thanks to Carol Stanners for her Covid secure rota we will have a presence in the Newcastle office each day.
  • A Newcastle based green energy company, Green, unfortunately went bankrupt as a consequence of the Government’s incompetence. The Business Secretary called them a ‘failing’ company. I highlighted his many failings.
  • I was proud to march with the 5th Fusiliers through the streets of Newcastle as they were granted the Freedom of the City by Newcastle City Council.
  • We were successful in recruiting  a new Parliamentary Assistant. Maddy Eagan has already started work. She is North Shields woman with strong local background and great experience including working for Andy Burnham.
  • Maria has agreed to rejoin the team on a temporary basis to support Carol on administrative duties whilst we seek a longer time solution to the changes in apprentice training which means we cannot take an admin apprentice.
  • I continue to engage with the Prime Minister, Ministers, Government Agencies and others regarding issues and demands for support for constituents and businesses, on support for businesses exporting to the the EU, on the problem of pigeons damaging the war memorial in Eldon Square.

Meeting with Unison to discuss tech & the public sector

  • I will be following up with Ministers on correspondence regarding a meeting with Wylam brewery, which we have still yet to get a commitment on.

Shadow Ministerial and PES Role

  • Keir’s Leader’s speech had significant digital and technology content:

“A focus on the long-term will allow for better investments. Labour will make Britain a world leader in science and research and development. We will set a target to invest a minimum of 3 percent of GDP.”

“A scientific revolution is happening around us but if we don’t have a government ready to remake the nation the opportunity will pass us by.”

 

  • Although I sought to limit my appearances this year and was only there for two days, Conference required a huge amount of preparation for 13 appearances  talking about elements of my brief. I think overall it was a great success with much positive feedback.
  • Kanishka also left us sadly and we are looking for additional support on the digital front as the Online Safety Bill continues through pre-legislative scrutiny with the formation of a committee of both houses to look at it. We worked to produce a briefing on the Bill and our key aims.
  • I met with a number of stakeholders on the continuing issues of algorithmic surveillance of workers and algorithmic bias.

Discussing the role out of City Fibre

Parliamentary Activity

Parliamentary business  6th Sept 4th Oct

Spoken from the back bench: four  times

Justice Topical: Reoffending rates (14th Sept),  AUKUS  (16th Sept), Levelling-up (23rd Sept), Gas Prices and Energy Suppliers (23rd Sept)

Spoken from the front bench: four time

Gigabit Broadband (16th Sept),  Automotive Battery Manufacturer (21st Sept),

Help to Grow: Digital  (20th Sept), Subsidy Control Bill (22nd Sept),

Written Questions: 42 questions

Coronavirus: Mental Health and Suicide (14th Sept), Courier Services: Fees and Charges (8th Sept), Help to Grow Scheme (13th Sept), Help to Grow Scheme: Marketing (13th Sept), Help to Grow Scheme (13th Sept), Help to Grow Scheme (13th Sept), Students: Finance (14th Sept), Help to Grow Scheme: Digital Technology (14th Sept), Post Office: Pay (14th Sept), Made Smarter: North East (14th Sept), Medical Records: Data Protection (14th Sept), Coronavirus: Vaccination (15th Sept), Medical Records: Data Protection (14th Sept), Coronavirus: Vaccination (15th Sept), Sept), Students: Loans (14TH Sept), Refugees: Afghanistan (14th Sept), Biometrics: Equality (14th Sept), Biometrics: Equality (14th Sept), Social Security Benefits: Broadband (14th Sept), Education: Digital Technology (14th Sept), Free School Meals (14th Sept), Help to Grow Scheme (14th Sept), Artificial Intelligence: Competition and Consumers (14th Sept), Asylum: Afghanistan (15th  Asylum: Afghanistan (15th Sept), Facebook: Advertising (16th Sept),  Courier Services: Fees and Charges (20th Sept), Delivery Services: Fees and Charges (20th Sept), Green: Prices (20th Sept), Energy Supply: Prices (20th Sept), Made Smarter: North East  (14th Sept), Broadband: Low Incomes (15th Sept),

Kenton Family Fun day

Afghanistan: Repatriation (15th Sept), Students: Finance (15th Sept), Afghanistan: Immigration (15th Sept), Oneweb: Satellites (15th Sept), Asylum: Afghanistan (15th Sept), Mental Health: Young People (14th Sept), Mental Health Services: Children and Young People (14th Sept), Mental Health Services: Children and Young People (14th Sept) Green: Insolvency (22nd Sep), Green: Redundancy (22nd Sept), Green: Insolvency (22nd Sept), Google: Conditions of Employment (23rd Sept),

Media

Quoted in national and local media including Tyne Tees on the demise of Green Energy, local Radio on Universal Credit, Channel TV

Top tweet

#Newcastle is the best place in the UK – lets make it official! twitter.com/altweet_pet/st…

8  40  221

” – 115k Impressions, 41 Retweets, 221Likes

NIDAS supporting victims of domestic violence in Newcastle

Meetings

Duncan McCann & Mathew Lawrence, NIDAS, GCSE pod, BAPG , Disabled Children’s Partnership, Changing Lives, Fusiliers Freedom of the City Of Newcastle Parade, Kenton Family Fun Day, GD Multicultural Food event, Great North Run, CACI analytics & data, IPT COP26, Parliamentary & Scientific Committee Mathematical algorithms & modelling, Westminster Africa Business, National youth jazz orchestra, Afrobarometer, Beating the Retreat Tower of London, Kelkoo, Sky Arts Salon, Newcastle Gateshead CCG, City Fibre site visit, John Marley Heritage Centre, Kiddical Mass cycle, US Embassy, Big Brother Watch, Italian Embassy Order of Merit Mariana Mazzucato, Regional Schools Commissioner for the North, Speed up Britain, Petersen, Kenton Litter pick, Forces in Mind, LSE, Sky,

Unison, Global Britain Mandelson dinner, Legal & General, Julia Wong Guardian, Oliver Theatre, Common Room, Newcastle University Business School Dr Karen Elliott, Live Theatre, Blakelaw Litter Pick, Evening Standard/Netflix Stories event, Friends of Leazes Park, BBC World Service, Delegation of the EU to the UK,

Common Room – the refurbished Miners Institute on Neville Street

Speaking

Lit & Phil reopening, UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference, APPG Creative Diversity Report Launch, North East Chamber Commerce Digital Connectivity, Happold Lecture (read out), TEDI opening, COP26 March, Search conference (video), Catapult Network,  Tyneside Irish Festival Desert Island Disks, Tyneside Irish Cultural Festival Opening

CONFERENCE: Labour Business Forum, Policy Exchange – Tech for Growth, Institute for Government/Imperial/Royal Society-  Preparing for Future Challenges, Royal Academy of Engineering – Becoming a Science Superpower, Tech Reception, Institute for Government – The impact of Technological change on public services, Online Harms Technology & national security, IPPR/Microsoft – Technology, Democracy & Trust, New Statesman – A better digital future, Progressive Britain – The dignity of Labour at the heart of a new economic settlement.

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