Sharon Hodgson: Government must be pressed to invest in the North East

The Queen's Speech
The Queen's Speech
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Last week, Parliament continued to debate the Queen’s Speech and the thin legislative programme announced by the Government. It had been my intention to speak in the debates, but after hours of waiting, I was unfortunately not called.

What follows is a brief version of what I was going to say if given the chance.

The Queen’s Speech ignored what the people had voted for at the General Election, which was: for an end to austerity and a change to the status quo with better investment in their communities and the public services they rely upon. This was not forthcoming.

That is why it was slap in the face when Theresa May gave Northern Ireland an additional £1 billion in funding just to save her own political skin. It is estimated that the money offered to the DUP in just two years is more than the North East was offered over 30 years as part of our then devolution deal.

That’s why in my speech, I was hoping to make some points about what the Government could do to invest in the North East, especially here in Sunderland.

First off, and one that I think is incredibly important, is the Tyne and Wear Metro.

This has been a long-standing campaign of mine, and something I know constituents care passionately about, and £1 billion would have been more than enough to not only refurbish the current line but extend it too, including finally to Washington, with money left over for my second idea which is a materials catapult.

I have talked about this in my columns before and raised during the Budget debates earlier this year. I made the point then, and make the point now, that investing in this catapult would not only invest in Nissan’s supply chain but would help to create the 21st century economy we need, based on high-skilled jobs for local people.

Investment should not be done to cling on to power, but must be done where it is most needed and if Northern Ireland is to get more investment, then the North East should surely be next in line. As ever, I will push the Government to do just that and not fail our region as it has done for the last seven years.