Parliamentary Report 2010- 2022

About Me

I was born in Wallsend, grew up on Hillsview Avenue in Kenton and went to Kenton School before studying Electrical Engineering in London. I have lived in many different cities around the world, without ever for a moment forgetting where I am from: Newcastle. My values and beliefs were formed in Newcastle based on the people I grew up with and my own experiences. I was incredibly proud to be elected MP for Newcastle Central in 2010, and I have been proud every day of the 12 years since to serve my constituents.

The last year

Working for Newcastle

As part of my commitment to openness and transparency, I have published the constituency casework figures on my website each month, together with details of my meetings, visits and speeches.

Dear Newcastle February 10th 2022

During this year in Parliament, I have worked closely with the Council, local and regional businesses, community groups, charities and universities to improve the lives of residents and speak up for the region. This year I took taken action on  3,559 cases raised by constituents who have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to a further 4,237 policy issues raised by constituents. These included individual queries for 1,196 constituents and 1,295 policy issues on a variety of Covid related matters.

I secured and led two debates in Westminster Hall, on Hadrian’s Wall in the west end of Newcastle, and celebrating the Tyne Bridge. Westminster Hall is a smaller debating chamber in parliament for MPs to raise issues with Ministers.

Working for a fairer and better society

I regularly spoke up for Newcastle on everything from the economy, jobs and skills to local health and transport services, to arts and culture. Until November I was a joint Shadow Minister across the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Since November 2020, my brief covers only BEIS, as shadow minister for Science, Research and Innovation. The focus of my role has changed, but at the core has always been science and research, and its role in driving prosperity and security.

I have continued to provide constructive criticism to the government, who in the last year have become increasingly mired in scandal: second jobs, partygate, fraudulent Covid claims and now a cost of living crisis they seem unable to even understand let alone act on.

Working in Parliament

Inside Parliament I have been very active. I spoke 172 times  – well above the average amongst MPs. I ask more written questions than most MPs – 630 in this time period.

My attendance record at votes is also above average, at 81% during this time period.

As a former engineer I have worked hard to increase the availability of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of science and technology issues.

I am chair of the All-part parliamentary group for Africa & of the APPG for Diversity and inclusion in STEM, and of the APPG Creative Diversity. I am a member of APPGS on:   AngolaBangladeshCommonwealth, EngineeringEthnic Minority Business OwnersInfrastructureInternet, Communications and TechnologyJazz AppreciationMarketsOpen Banking and PaymentsScientificSpace

Expenses

My expenses are published regularly by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). You can view them on the IPSA website here.

How I have voted

My voting record is public and you can read more here..

I have voted against a score of terrible pieces of government legislation, which fails to address the needs of people in Newcastle Central, e.g. Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Elections Bill, the Health and Care Bill, Nationality and Borders Bill most of which reached completion in the final weeks of the parliamentary session. As a front-bencher, I worked constructively with the government on the ARIA and National Security and Investments Acts, trying to improve the legislation where possible, as well as on the early stages of the Online Safety Bill. I also scrutinised and tried to improve the Telecoms Security and Telecoms Infrastructure Acts.

 

Working to change Parliament

Being an MP is an immense privilege. It is one I believe should be open to more people from different backgrounds, particularly women, those with disabilities, those from working class backgrounds and black and ethnic minorities. These are the groups which are under-represented in Parliament today.

Despite the challenges of Covid19 I have visited and spoken at many primary and secondary schools in Newcastle to emphasise the work done in Parliament and how this should be accessible to everyone. I have spoken on request at many different organisations on the different ways to become an MP and the importance of holding MPs to account. In the constituency I have met with more than ten faith groups, forty community and charity groups and fifty local businesses.  I hope that in future Parliament will look more like the people we see on Northumberland Street.

2016-2021

Working for Newcastle 2016-2021

During these five years in Parliament, I worked closely with the Council, local and regional businesses, community groups, charities and universities to improve the lives of residents and speak up for the region. Between 2016 and 2021 I took taken action on behalf of 14,679 cases raised by constituents who have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to 17,868 policy issues raised by constituents.

Each week, I received around 2,000 emails, letters and phone calls. An uplift in enquiries as a result of the Covid pandemic was noticeable from March  2020, with around 100 individual and 100 policy queries additional each month.

Discussing the issues needing to be addressed by the Online Harms Bill

 

During this time I secured and led three debates in Westminster Hall, on Internet of Things regulation, the State pension for WASPI women and Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle. Westminster Hall is a smaller debating chamber in parliament for MPs to raise issues with Ministers

I secured five Adjournment debates, on Visa Processing Algorithms, Electric Car Batteries, Newcastle United FC and regulation, Sexual exploitation in Newcastle, and the leasehold for St Mary Magdalene Holy Jesus Trust.

I presented four petitions on behalf of constituents, on violence in Lagos, on Premier League Transparency, Football club ownership, and the implementation of 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts.

Working for a fairer and better society 2016-21

As well as regularly speaking up for Newcastle on everything from the economy, jobs and skills, to local health and transport services, to arts and culture, I have been a Shadow Minister to the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The focus of my role has changed, but at the core has always been science and research, and its role in industrial strategy.

  Local meeting in Newcastle central to discuss ASB issues

 

I was also a Shadow Minister in the Department for Culture Media and Sport from 2020-21. My focus was on the digital economy, and I pushed the government on online safety, data protection and regulation for new technologies e.g. the Internet of Things, AI.

I was also proud to be the shadow minister for the Post Office. I led the response on the Horizon scandal in the Post Office, where thousands of postmasters and postmistresses were falsely accused and even imprisoned for fraud they did not commit, one of the greatest injustices of our time.

I have also scrutinised legislation on committees. Most of the committee work focused on legislative changes for leaving the EU, e.g. on Intellectual Property, Electronic Communications, changes to the Communications Act (2003).

Working in Parliament 2016-2021

Inside Parliament I have been very active. I spoke 758 times  – well above the average amongst MPs. I asked more written questions than most MPs – 1951 in this time period, which averages 2.6 questions per sitting day of Parliament.

My attendance record at votes was also above average, rising to 81% in the 2017-19 period from 72% in 2015-17.

As a former engineer I have worked hard to increase the availability of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of science and technology issues.

Expenses

My expenses are published regularly by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). You can view them on the IPSA website here.

How I have voted: 2016 – 2021

My voting record is public and you can read more here..

The legislative agenda from 2016-19 was dominated by leaving the EU. Most notably, I voted against triggering ‘Article 50’ to leave the EU and I explain why here. I consistently voted for a ‘soft’ as possible Brexit, as I believed the impact of leaving the EU would be hugely damaging for my constituents. I did so respecting the outcome of the referendum, but wanting to see the UK get the best deal out of the negotiations.

Since re-election in 2019, I have voted against a score of terrible pieces of government legislation, which fails to address the needs of people in Newcastle Central, e.g. Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Elections Bill, the Health and Care Bill. As a front-bencher since 2019, I worked constructively with the government on the ARIA and National Security and Investments Acts, trying to improve the legislation where possible.

Clearly, Covid-19 was the most important issue facing the country from 2020. I gave constructive criticism to the government in a time of national crisis along with Labour colleagues, trying to keep people safe and prevent the fraudulent and corrupt activities that we are now getting the full detail of.

Working to change Parliament 2016-2021

Being an MP is an immense privilege. It is one I believe should be open to more people from different backgrounds, particularly women, those with disabilities, those from working class backgrounds and black and ethnic minorities. These are the groups which are under-represented in Parliament today.

Notably, I was temporarily successful in securing online voting and participation in debates as an important safety measure during the pandemic, which the government have sadly since reversed despite it being a success and having the potential to free up MPs from having to always be in Westminster.

From 2016-2021 I have visited and spoken at many of the primary and secondary schools in Newcastle to emphasise that Parliament belongs to everyone and should be accessible to everyone. I have encouraged constituents to visit me in Parliament and arranged dozens of tours for them. I have met and spoken with hundreds of different community organisations, charities and business on many issues and been able to raise issues on their behalf encouraging their participation in Parliament.

2010-2016

Working for Newcastle 2010-16

I worked closely with the Council, local and regional businesses, community groups, charities, and universities to improve the lives of residents and speak up for the region. Between 2010 and 2015, I took action on 15,478 cases raised by constituents who have contacted me for help with individual issues, and responded to a further 23,516 policy issues raised by constituents.

I secured and led eleven debates in Westminster Hall, such as on Housing in Newcastle. Westminster Hall is a smaller debating chamber in parliament for MPs to raise issues with Ministers. Topics of debates I have secured include north east council funding, the internet of things, health inequalities in the north east, transport in the north east and mitochondrial disease (which Newcastle University has been pioneering research). I have also secured several Adjournment Debates – short debates at the end of each parliamentary day. One such debate on the planned closure of the Richardson Eating Disorder Unit in Newcastle resulted in a Ministerial meeting which saved the unit – the only one in the region – from closure.

School visit and discussion in Newcastle Central

 

I presented three petitions on behalf on constituents, one on the Blaydon Races, one opposing plans for a Drivethru McDonalds at Kenton Lodge and one on young people and body image.

As a Chartered Engineer I campaigned to make ICT and engineering more accessible to all, particularly girls, and to bring engineering and ICT jobs to the North East.

Working for a fairer and better society 2010-16

As well as regularly speaking up for Newcastle on everything from the economy, jobs and skills, to local health and transport services, to arts and culture, I was the Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy. It was my job to scrutinise the Government on its disastrous broadband policies and to speak up for libraries and the importance of the digital economy to the UK.

I then became the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister for Digital Government, cyber security and social enterprise. In this role I commissioned a Review of Digital Government, set out how a Labour Government will support social enterprise, and led the Opposition’s scrutiny at all stages of the Deregulation Act 2015 in the House of Commons. I promoted the North East as a hub for both digital industries and social enterprise,  holding a seminar in Newcastle on how small businesses could benefit from digital government.

I also sat on the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee and scrutinised themEnterprise, Regulatory Reform Act 2013 as a Shadow Business Minister.

Working for Parliament 2010-16

Inside Parliament I was very active, speaking 48 times since being re-elected in May 2015 – well above the average amongst MPs. I asked more written questions than most MPs – 214 since the election – and my attendance record at votes was also above average, at 77%.

As a former engineer I worked hard to increase the availability of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of science and technology issues. As well as regularly speaking up on these issues, I was on the board of Parliament’s Office of Science and Technology.

I was chair of the All-party parliamentary group for Africa and co-chair of the all-party Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum that works to keep MPs, Peers and other interested groups informed of digital issues in Parliament.

Expenses

My expenses are published regularly by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). You can view them on the IPSA website here..

How I have voted: 2015 – 16

My voting record is public and you can read more here.

I voted against George Osborne’s Budget cuts to Personal Independent Payments for disabled people and his disgraceful plans to cut £4.4bn in tax credits to working families. The Government eventually backed down on both.

I voted in favour the ‘Dubs Amendment’ to act on Save the Children’s call for Britain to take 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children.

I voted against the Government’s forced academisation plans. The Education Minister has since announced that they are abandoning the plans.

 Climate Change rally in Newcastle Central

 

I voted against the Government’s politically motivated attacks designed to permanently weaken the opposition and the trade union movement in the Trade Union Bill. The Government eventually backed down on

On Syria, I asked constituents to send me their views on whether the UK should extend airstrikes against Daesh/ISIS from Iraq to Syria. The vast majority of the constituents who contacted me were against airstrikes and after thinking very carefully about it, I agreed with them and voted against the proposal. I set out my reasoning here.

I opposed the Tory Housing Bill, which will leave a £593m hole in our city’s long term plan for social housing as well as forcing the council to sell off higher value properties. In May 2016 I secured a debate in Parliament on Housing in Newcastle.

I voted repeatedly against the Government’s vicious bedroom tax.

I voted against the Government’s £3bn reorganisation of the NHS at every opportunity. I voted against marketisation and in favour of restricting the use of NHS services for private patients. I also moved to block regulations that would open the NHS up to further marketisation.

On tax, I voted against the Government’s tax cut for millionaires and corporation tax. I have voted against rising VAT, as it hits the poorest hardest.

I voted against raising tuition fees cap to £9,000.

I voted against this Government’s unfair council funding allocations, which meant that Newcastle had to make £100m of cuts, whereas some Councils in richer areas ended up with few or even no cuts to make.

Many constituents contacted me about the vote for equal gay rights and same-sex marriage. A large majority wanted me to support it, and I did.

I voted against the privatisation of Royal Mail and restrictions on legal aid.

I voted to recognise Palestine as a state and believe that both Israel and Palestine deserve safety and security and control over their own destinies.

I also voted against selling off our forests, which was stopped.

Working to change Parliament 2010-16

Being an MP is an immense privilege. It is one I believe should be open to more people from different backgrounds, particularly women, those with disabilities, those from working class backgrounds and black and ethnic minorities. These are the groups which are under-represented in Parliament today.

I visited and spoke at every secondary school in Newcastle and 24 of the 26 primary schools to emphasise that Parliament belongs to everyone and should be accessible to everyone. I have encouraged constituents to visit me in Parliament and arranged dozens of tours for them. I have spoken on request at many different organisations on the different ways to become an MP and the importance of holding MPs to account. I hope that in future Parliament will look more like the people we see on Northumberland Street.

 

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