Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health has finally received a response to her letter to the Prime Minister, sent 6th February 2019.
Richard Harrington MP, Minister for Business and Industry, replied on 22nd February 2019. A copy of that letter can be viewed here:
Click on the image above to download the letter.
Unfortunately the Minister is unable to provide any further information regarding what our trading arrangements will be when we leave the European Union (EU) and refused to rule out a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit, which would be hugely damaging.
There are just 29 days until we are due to leave the EU, and businesses such as Nissan still have no clarity about what customs arrangements will be in place the day after.
In the letter, the Minister urges Sharon to vote for the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, but we still don’t know what exactly that will be when it comes back to Parliament. It’s been 95 days – more than three months – since the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration were agreed and thus far no changes have been agreed with the EU.
‘’It is hugely concerning that a Government Minister is unable to provide any more clarity on what our trading arrangements will be once we have left the EU in just 29 days’ time.
Businesses such as Nissan are absolute desperate for some certainty over Brexit, and the Government’s ongoing inability to provide it is hugely damaging.
Although there is also no confirmation that ‘No-Deal’ will be taken off the table in this letter, I am glad that Parliament will now have the chance to vote against it. The Government should urgently confirm that when that vote happens, they will be voting against leaving the EU without a deal, which would be disastrous for the country and our region.’’
Click on image above to download letter.
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health has today written to the Prime Minister in order to outline key concerns around Nissan’s decision to build the new X-Trail Model in Japan rather than in Washington as originally planned.
After considerable speculation over the weekend, this decision was confirmed by Nissan, and has undoubtedly caused much concern for the near 40,000 people who either work at the plant in Washington, or its supply chain.
During a statement on Nissan by Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on Monday 4th February 2019, Sharon asked him what immediate steps the Government would be taking to reassure the UK Automotive Industry.
A clip of Sharon’s question can be viewed on Twitter here:
No such assurances were provided during that statement. Sharon has therefore written directly to the Prime Minister asking her to; confirm that any new application by Nissan for Government funding will be considered fairly, and independently, rule out a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit and confirm when MPs will next get to vote on a re-negotiated deal, and reconsider the option of a negotiating a new customs union with the EU.
A copy of the letter can be found here
‘Many of my constituents will be hugely worried by this decision. Although no immediate jobs are at risk, it is a great shame that the 740 future positions that would have been brought to the plant in Washington have been lost.
There were undoubtedly a number of factors that led to Nissan taking this decision including concerns around the transition away from diesel and falling sales of diesel vehicles.
However, it is also clear that the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit had a role to play, and this was confirmed by Nissan in their initial statement. There are just 51 days to go until we are due to leave the EU, and businesses in this country are still no clearer on what trading arrangements we will have at that point.
I’ve written to the Prime Minister in order to address some key concerns that I have around this decision and I look forward to them being answered as soon as possible.’
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, has today raised concerns with the Secretary of State about the recent decision by Nissan to build the new X-Trail model in Japan, rather than in Washington, Sunderland as originally planned.
The Plant has been a great source of employment for Sunderland and the wider North East area, hiring around 7,300 members of staff directly, and around 32,000 in the supply chain. This means that Nissan provides almost 40,000 jobs in the UK, the majority of which are in the North East.
On Monday 4th February 2019, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, made a statement in the House of Commons regarding Nissan’s decision.
This came after speculations over the weekend that Nissan would announce that the new X-Trail model would be built in Japan, rather than in Washington, resulting in the loss of 740 future jobs. Nissan confirmed this on Sunday 3rd February 2019.
On Monday, a letter written in 2016 to Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan at the time, by the Secretary of State, was published. The letter included references to up to £80m funding assurances by the UK Government, including:
“It is contingent too on a positive decision by the Nissan Board to allocate production of the Qashqai and X-Trail models to the Sunderland Plant.”
Significant questions around this funding must now be answered.
During the Secretary of State’s statement, Sharon asked:
“Nissan in my constituency, together with the supply chain, employs around 40,000 people, many of whom will be extremely worried by this decision.
This Government’s chaotic approach to the Brexit negotiations, concerns around diesel, and a new Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Japan have all created a perfect storm of conditions.
With just 53 days until we are due to leave the EU, no Brexit Parliamentary business scheduled for two weeks, the Prime Minister currently engaged in fantasy politics over the backstop, and the sweetheart deal on the rocks, what immediate steps is the Secretary of State taking to re-assure the whole UK automotive industry?”
In response, the Secretary of State said:
"One of the pleasures of dealing with the automotive industry in the UK is that it is one of the most advanced and most capable, in terms of innovation, in the world.
The work that we are doing, through our Industrial Strategy with the sector, in terms of being the leading place in the world, not just for the discovery of battery technologies, but for manufacturing them; the test beds that we have put in place for connected and autonomous vehicles, make Britain the place in the world that people come to for innovation.
We back that in this Government, and it enjoys support, I know, across the House. It is a source of confidence around the world. But it is true that the international business such as the automotive industry is wants to know reasonably what its trading relationships will be with the rest of the European Union in the years ahead.
That is why they’ve been so clear that this House should come together and back the deal. I hope that the Hon. Lady, with the care for her constituents that I know she always has in mind will during the weeks and months ahead do so too.”
After the statement, Sharon said:
“I am disappointed that the Secretary of State has failed to give assurances to the UK automotive industry during these uncertain times.
“Those employed directly or indirectly in the automotive industry will rightfully be concerned by this news, which is why I called on the Government to provide assurances. However, they have failed to do so.
“The Secretary of State spoke about unity over Brexit, but it is down to his own Government’s failings that we are now in uncertain times; just 53 days away from Brexit day, without a deal.
“In light of specific assurances made in 2016 to Nissan, the Government must now be clear about what implications this now has on the future of the automotive industry in the UK, and the funding promised to Nissan’’
On Wednesday 9th January 2019 Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington & Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health spoke in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 Debate and vowed to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal on Tuesday.
Sharon was due to speak in the debate before Christmas recess, but it was suspended due to the Prime Minister abandoning her vote on the Brexit deal.
During the speech Sharon spoke about the abuse that some MPs have been receiving, including some directed at her in recent days and set out her reasons for voting against the Prime Minister’s deal when it is brought before the House next week.
‘Although I campaigned and voted to Remain in the European Union in the referendum, I have set out to respect the result of that vote and taken great care to listen to the concerns of my constituents as the process unfolds.
I cannot in good conscience vote for the Prime Minister’s deal, which in my mind represents the failure of her Governments approach to the negotiations. It does not protect jobs, workplace rights or environmental standards. It will not ensure frictionless trade for UK businesses and the lack of a clear future relationship also means the Northern Ireland backstop is highly likely to come into place, which would have significant implications across the UK.
Hundreds of my constituents have written to me in recent weeks urging me to vote against the deal, both those who voted to Leave the EU and those who voted to Remain.
Almost nothing of what was promised during the referendum campaign has been delivered and as such I will be voting against the Prime Minister’s Deal next week.’
You can read the full text of Sharon's contribution to the debate below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
"As we have a little more time than I thought we would, before I get into the substance of my speech tonight I just want to start by thanking you, Mr Speaker, for your support with regard to the harassment and targeting of MPs on and around the estate. The abuse that the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) and others on both sides of this House and this issue are being subjected to is truly despicable and genuinely worrying for the stability of our democracy. My worry is that the genie may be out of the bottle and the country may not heal for decades, no matter what happens here. That is why, as others have said, this is probably the most important decision and vote that I will have made in my almost 14 years as an MP, and perhaps may ever make.
I say this as I have had brought to my attention details of a threat that I have just received, calling me
“a traitor who should be hung for treason”.
This threat was not even made anonymously. It was made very publicly and traceably, and the man—I believe it is a man because I have seen a photograph of him—who made this threat must know that it is public and easily traceable, which makes this change in our national and political discourse all the more worrying. My crime that precipitated this threat was to be one of the 213 MPs of all parties to have signed the letter against crashing out without a deal—which we now know, after the vote last night and today, is the will of the majority of Members in this House. I say all this to reinforce the point about the pressure of the political climate that we are all operating in and dealing with. I know that none of us is taking any of this lightly at the moment.
Two years ago, over 62% of people in Sunderland voted to leave the European Union. That is an average across the three Sunderland constituencies. My canvassing told me at the time that the vote in my constituency may have been more in the region of 65% to 67%. The fact that—as I am sure you know, Mr Speaker—Nissan, the most productive car plant in the whole of Europe, is in my constituency explains why that first result on results night had the impact that it did on all of us, not just the three Sunderland MPs. I campaigned and voted to remain in the European Union, and did so because I believed that it was the best decision for the security, social cohesion and economy of the north-east and the country as a whole. Despite this, I recognised that a majority of my constituents had voted to leave, and I set out to respect the result of the referendum.
In that vein, I have largely refrained from commenting publicly on Brexit or speaking about it here—check Hansard!—choosing instead to listen to my constituents to understand the result, the vote. So I ran two surveys on Brexit. I took great care to read all of the significant amount of correspondence I received on the topic. I held three large public meetings. I engaged regularly with major employers in my constituency, such as Nissan, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and others, to hear their concerns about the process as it has unfolded over the past two years. Many of these companies, in particular, have been unnecessarily placed in a position by this Government where they are already spending vast sums of money on preparations for a no-deal scenario—something that none of us here will ever allow to happen.
Voting, and how one votes, is an extremely personal decision, and it would be wrong of us to claim to know exactly what led people to vote in the way that they did. We do know, however, what issues come up on the doorstep, in emails and letters, and through polls and surveys. We also know what was promised to people. As part of the survey that I ran last year—I ran one straight after the referendum and then one again last year—I asked people who had voted to leave in 2016 to rate a number of factors involved in their decision from “very important” to “unimportant”. The three issues with the highest number of people ranking them “very important” were, first, the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK; secondly, concerns that remaining would mean little or no choice about how the EU expanded its membership or powers; and thirdly, the incentive of trade opportunities outside the EU. It will be noticed that in this sample, immigration did not make the top three of the “very important” issues. It was an issue that people could choose but was actually near the bottom of the list in the final analysis. Make of that what you will.
During the referendum, people were also promised that voting to leave would mean more money for the NHS, more controls on immigration, and significant trade opportunities around the world—and ultimately that it would mean “taking back control”.
Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab)
Does my hon. Friend accept that they were also led to believe by the leave campaign that this would be a very simple process?
Absolutely. That would be one of the biggest ironies of any of our political careers, as we are all finding out that it is anything but simple. It has got to be the most complicated thing I have ever had to try to get my head around.
Can anyone in this place honestly say that the deal on offer delivers any of the things I have listed? Far from delivering back control, this deal means giving up our voice within the EU and becoming rule-takers until at least 2020, at which point the problematic backstop could come into place. The Government’s own analysis shows that the economic benefit of further trade deals around the world is minimal, will not come for a while and will be outweighed by GDP falling by around 3.9% under their deal.
With regard to immigration, the Government’s recent White Paper failed to provide overall clarity on the issue and included plans to disgracefully label workers on less than £30,000 a year as “low-skilled”. That policy will only contribute to existing staffing shortages in the NHS in particular, as it rules out nurses, care assistants and paramedics coming from abroad. As shadow Minister for Public Health, I am well placed to know that the much promised extra money for the NHS—remember the £350 million on the side of that big red bus?—could not be further from the truth.
It is no wonder that all this lack of clarity has left people on both sides of the debate hugely disappointed. Indeed, in recent weeks I have received hundreds of emails, letters and postcards regarding this deal, as I am sure every single Member of the House has. There are people who say that the Prime Minister’s deal fails to respect the result of the referendum and would like me to vote against it. There are people who would like me to vote against this deal and then push for a people’s vote. There are people who would like to bypass another vote altogether and for us to remain a member of the European Union. There are people who would like a Norway or Canada-style deal, and there are people who believe that we would now be better off leaving the EU without any deal at all.
However, it is astonishingly clear from the percentages of 87% to 13% that very few people would like me to vote for this deal. It is no wonder that almost 60% of those who took part in my survey now think that the electorate, as well as Parliament, should have to approve any deal agreed with the EU before it is ratified.
Almost nothing of what was promised and expected has been delivered. People who voted to leave the EU are not happy with this deal. People who voted to remain in the EU are not happy with this deal, and 87% of my constituents who contacted me about this deal are against it. As such, I will be voting against it when the question is put on Tuesday."
TinyUrl link to this page here: https://tinyurl.com/y8p9houg
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Oct-Nov 2016 number 89
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Oct-Nov 2016 number 89
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Last week saw Nissan solidify its relationship with Sunderland and the North East further when the company announced that their two new car models, the new Qashqai and the X-Trail SUV, would be built here in Sunderland.
The news which was expected later this month, was brought forward and definitely lifted a weight off the shoulders of those who work at the Sunderland plant and within the supply chain, here in the North East and across the country.
It is not surprising that many people were apprehensive about the impending decision, especially after comments by Chief Executive, Carlos Ghosn, on future investment here in Sunderland due to Brexit. But what this news has done is allowed families who depend on Nissan for their jobs and livelihoods to plan for the future, now that they are secure.
It is only right that we celebrate the good fortune our City and the wider North East region received last week, and recognise the sigh of relief for the many tens of thousands of families, rather than dampen the jubilant mood felt across the region with scepticism. There will be time to discuss what deal was struck and the content of the letter, but for now, this is good news and that should not be forgotten.
+ This week saw LACA’s National School Meals Week return.
National School Meals Week is a year-round initiative which promotes pupils taking up school meals and showcases the improvement seen over the years. Our school catering workforce is larger than the British Navy but can often be overlooked when it comes to celebrating the improvements we have seen in school food over the last decade.
That is why it is important that we recognise all of their contributions to the health, education and well-being of our children.
It was for this reason that I was delighted to invite Audrey Chappell of Albany Primary School to come down to London and cook in Parliament’s kitchens, and for me to go along and see her in action and hear about her day’s experiences. It was lovely to hear about everything Audrey got up to on her visit and how it would not be an experience she will forget.
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - July-Oct 2016 number 88
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - July-Oct 2016 number 88
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - May-Jun 2016 - number 86
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - May-Jun 2016 - number 86
At Prime Minister’s Questions on 13th January 2016, Sharon pressed the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision by the Energy Secretary last year to scrap Renewables Obligation Certificates which will be detrimental to the planned investment of £3 million for the windfarm at the Nissan Factory at the Turbine Industrial Park in Sunderland.
Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016
This comes ahead of the House of Commons debating the 2nd Reading of the Government’s Energy Bill on Monday 18th January 2016, where the general principles of the Bill will be debated.
Sharon called on the Prime Minister to rectify the decision from last year and the negative effect this will have on pro-green businesses, like Nissan.
An amendment to introduce a ‘grace period’ for projects already in the pipeline was rejected when the Energy Bill was considered in the House of Lords, but there are now moves to see this amendment re-introduced during the Commons’ stages of the Bill.
The full exchange between Sharon and the Prime Minister can be seen below, or read here in the Official Hansard.
In her question to the Prime Minister, Sharon asked:
Last year the Energy Secretary scrapped support under the Renewables Obligation for new onshore wind projects, which will impact the £3 million investment by Nissan at their windfarm in my constituency. Does the Prime Minister realise that his attacks on clean energy are detrimental to pro-green businesses, like Nissan, and will he look into this immediately and rectify it in the Energy Bill next week?
To which the Prime Minister responded:
We had extensive exchanges about this in the Liaison Committee yesterday, and I can tell the hon. Lady that we are going to see another 50% increase in onshore wind investment during this Parliament. Also, Britain has the biggest offshore wind market anywhere in the world. The Leader of the Opposition raised the question of solar. Britain has the fourth largest solar installation of any country anywhere in the world. Indeed, my new favourite statistic is that 98% of those solar panels have been installed since I was Prime Minister. This is all good news, and it means that we have a genuine claim to be leading a renewables revolution. However, every single subsidy that is given to these technologies is extra money that we put on to people’s bills, making their energy more expensive. So it is right that we seek a balance between decarbonising our economy and making sure we do it at a low cost to our consumers and the people who pay the bills. That is what our policy is all about.
Commenting after the Prime Minister’s response, Sharon said:
“The Prime Minister again has used his hot-air rhetoric to deflect from the arguments regarding the future of clean energy here in the UK and has ignored the wealth of support from pro-green businesses, such as Nissan here in Sunderland to invest in clean energy.
“With businesses, like Nissan, wanting to invest in the future of our energy infrastructure and security, it is concerning that the Prime Minister and his ministers have scrapped support that will be detrimental to this investment.
“That is why in the upcoming Energy Bill, I hope that Government ministers will seriously reconsider their short-sighted actions that will affect businesses, consumers and our environment alike.”
Sharon Hodgson MP highlights Nissan’s achievements on production of their new model Qashqais, and questions the Prime Minister’s attitudes to Trade Unions. 16th September 2015
Image copyright BBC Parliament, 2015.