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Bridget_Phillipson_MP_Nissan_2015.jpgBridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has warmly welcomed today’s announcement by Nissan that it will produce the next Qashqai and will add production of the next X-Trail model at its Sunderland plant.

Responding to the announcement, Bridget said:

“I am delighted by the fantastic news that Nissan have decided to produce the next Qashqai and X-Trail models at its Sunderland plant, securing the future of more than 7,000 local jobs. I pay tribute to the workforce, whose role in making the Sunderland plant amongst the most productive in Europe no doubt contributed to this welcome outcome.

“Nissan have been clear that this decision follows the UK government's commitment to ensure that the Sunderland plant remains competitive, but have not indicated exactly what guarantees the Prime Minister has offered to protect the company from the impact of Britain's decision to leave the EU, and potentially the single market as well.

“As I mentioned during a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament this week, it is imperative that the government also offers protection to the small and medium sized businesses in the Nissan supply chain and the wider manufacturing sector in the north east and beyond.”

Bridget welcomes Nissan decision to make new Qashqai and X-Trail models in Sunderland

Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has warmly welcomed today’s announcement by Nissan that it will produce the next Qashqai and will add production of the...

Bridget_Phillipson_Westminster_Hall_NE_exports_25-10-2016.jpgOn Tuesday 25 October, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, contributed to a Westminster Hall debate on the future of the north east export industry following Britain's decision to leave the EU.

The debate was well attended by members of all political stripes, who raised a number of important questions and concerns. In her contribution, Bridget emphasized the importance of Britain's membership of the single market to the automotive industry in the north east, in particular to the continued success of the Nissan factory in Sunderland. She also pressed the government to include small and medium sized enterprises in any special protection measures to mitigate against the impact of Brexit.

A complete transcript of Bridget's speech during the debate follows below:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I am grateful to my hon. Friend Phil Wilson for securing this important debate about the future of our region.

Like many here, I made no secret of my preference for the UK to remain a member of the European Union, but a majority of people in my city and in the region voted a different way. Many people who voted to leave did so in the belief that a brighter economic future lay ahead for the UK and for the north-east. If their optimism is to be fulfilled, it is vital that exports from the north-east to the European Union are protected.

Export trade with the EU is critical to the north-east’s economy. The region is unique in England in being the only one to consistently maintain a balance of trade surplus. Last year, more than half our goods exports were to the EU, and the most recent figures from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs indicate that four of the five top export partners for the region are EU countries. Given that the proportion of exports destined for the single market from the north-east is relatively high compared with other regions of the country, those of us who represent north-east constituencies have a particular responsibility to raise concerns about the impact Brexit will have on the region’s economic interests, especially if the Government decide to take the UK out of the single market as well as the European Union.

As has been said, the automotive sector is central to Sunderland’s and the region’s economy and to the future success that lies ahead. A recent report by IPPR North found that the export of road vehicles, parts and accessories accounts for more than 40% of north-east goods exports to the EU and that the value of those exports grew by 118% in the past decade. Much of that trade depends on the continued success of Nissan in Sunderland and it is clear that future investment decisions by Nissan will play a major role in driving long-term economic growth in the north-east. Let us not forget that membership of the single market has been central to that success. The renaissance in car building in this country also demonstrates what can be achieved when Government pursues a focused, sector-led industrial strategy.

I sincerely hope that the decision on where to build the next Qashqai is a positive one for Sunderland. I will welcome any steps Ministers can take to assuage the company’s fears. What will require greater clarity from Ministers is the degree to which small and medium-sized businesses in my constituency and in the supply chain will be protected. Those businesses are already suffering from the collapse of sterling and the uncertainty that has dogged the economy since June. If Ministers intend to offer the automotive sector special protection from the impact of Brexit, presumably on the basis that they intend to take our country out of the single market, it must have wider coverage and not ignore SMEs in the north-east and beyond.

How do Ministers intend to act to safeguard the interests of the rest of the manufacturing sector in the north-east? What of the growing and thriving tech and software start-ups in my constituency, in Rainton Bridge and elsewhere? The region’s current strong track record on exports is a source of pride, but we still face the highest level of unemployment in the UK and a skills gap that holds back our young people as well as our economy. We can ill afford to see a decline in jobs, wages and living standards. As the North East local enterprise partnership has pointed out, we are a region that needs EU funding more than most—and we have a track record of investing it well. I note the guarantee offered by the Chancellor, but the north-east was originally allocated £437 million in EU structural funds up to 2020. Of that central pot, at present more than £198 million remains unallocated. There is clearly room for improvement.

In the north-east we have long needed Ministers to add some substance to the so-called northern powerhouse—a concept that appears to have fallen out of favour with the new Government. Now more than ever we need the Government to use all of the powers and levers available to them to support our region and its people to fulfil our economic potential in these difficult times.

To read the debate in full, click here.

To watch Bridget's contribution to the debate, click here.

Bridget calls on government to protect north east exports to EU

On Tuesday 25 October, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, contributed to a Westminster Hall debate on the future of the north east export industry following...

Bridget_PAC_TroubledFamilies.JPGOn 19 October 2016, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, attended the latest evidence session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to question representatives of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on the government’s Troubled Families Programme (TFP).

In August, the BBC reported that an independent analysis undertaken by Ecorys and commissioned by the DCLG had found that the TFP had “no discernible” effect on unemployment, truancy or criminality. According to BBC Newsnight, this unfavourable evaluation of the government’s flagship policy response to the 2011 riots was being suppressed by ministers.

In response to these media reports, the PAC announced a follow-up inquiry into the TFP programme, which was held on 19 October 2016. Witnesses included: Louise Casey, Director General, Casey Review Team, Department for Communities and Local Government; Joe Tuke, Director, Troubled Failies and Public Service Reform, Department for Communities and Local Government; and Melanie Dawes CB, Permanent Secretary, Department for Communities and Local Government.

In advance of the inquiry, Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, wrote to Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, on 5 October 2016 to raise concerns that the department only planned to provide the committee with two of the six reports that comprise the full evaluation of Ecorys’s analysis of the Troubled Families programme.

The full evaluation was published on Monday 17 October 2016. In response, the Times newspaper published a front-page story on 18 October under the headline “Cameron ‘wasted £1bn on troubled families’”, which highlighted the unfavourable findings of the report.

Speaking at the end of the PAC evidence session on 19 October, Bridget Phillipson said:
“During today’s Public Accounts Committee inquiry I sought clarification from three senior servants about the impact of the government’s flagship Troubled Families Programme (TFP).

“In stark contrast to claims by government ministers that the TFP has transformed the lives of 99% of the 120,000 troubled families it targeted and saved the taxpayer an estimated £1.2billion in the process, an independent evaluation of the programme published on Monday found that the first phase of the TFP had no significant impact on the key outcomes it was supposed to improve – employment, benefit receipt, school attendance, safeguarding and child welfare.

“When I asked the civil servants responsible for the programme to reconcile the independent report’s damning findings with their own positive assessments, they had no answers. In fact, there was an attempt to criticise the independent report to deflect attention from its key findings.

“I was particularly worried about their inability to justify the huge levels of public expenditure on the TFP during a time of swingeing cuts to public services and council funding in regions such as the north east, and by the unanswered questions regarding the flaws in the payment by results model that the programme adopted.

"It was especially troubling to hear the Permanent Secretary at the DCLG say that she did not recognise my description of the challenges that local authorities such as Sunderland are facing in providing statutory services due to huge funding cuts from central government.

“In light of today’s evidence, I am also deeply concerned that the decision to expand the TFP to 400,000 families by 2020 was taken before the independent evaluation was complete.

“I have always believed that we need to find new and better ways of working with disadvantaged families, but it is clear that ministers have serious questions to answer about this programme. I'm concerned that grandiose claims by government ministers and civil servants about the success of the TFP may undermine public confidence in such work.”

“Over the weeks to come, my committee colleagues and I will assess today’s evidence before publishing a final report. If anyone would like to share their experiences of the TFP with me, I would encourage them to get in touch.”

To watch the Troubled Families Programme inquiry in full, click here. 

PAC Bulletin: Bridget Phillipson MP scrutinises government's Troubled Families Programme

On 19 October 2016, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, attended the latest evidence session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to question representatives of the...

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