The Labour candidate for South Shields has spoken of her ambition to become a minister in a future Labour government.
Emma Lewell-Buck says she is not taking her re-election for granted as she heads into the final week of the general election campaign.
She was elected town MP after a by-election in 2013 and says she is fighting the campaign this time round on what she has achieved in the two years since.
Mrs Lewell-Buck also admits that Labour can no longer take South Shields for granted as a “safe seat”.
“People are questioning more, which I think is a good thing because I love having a good debate with people. We have knocked on doors where people say they have always voted Labour but are now saying they’re not sure, they’re having a serious think about it. I have never taken it for granted and I never will, even if I am successful next Thursday. It’s about respecting your constituents.”
In the past two years Mrs Lewell-Buck’s office has dealt with almost 5,000 pieces of casework for constituents, on issues ranging from housing and immigration to international affairs.
The MP has also been a vocal figure in the House of Commons, where she has one of the highest records for speaking.
She is also proud of the jobs fair she has held in the town and the campaigns she has backed in Parliament, including her part in helping change the law around child sexual grooming which will make it compulsory for an individual to be arrested after one offence of contacting a child for sex.
And Mrs Lewell-Buck is also unapologetic about her long-term political ambitions.
She said: “I got into politics to make a difference and, yes, you can make a huge difference as a backbencher but if you become a minister or a secretary of state the ability to make a difference becomes even stronger and I didn’t come into this not to make a difference.
“This campaign has been just as busy as in 2013 but it has had less of a frantic feel about it. In by-elections it’s all hands to the deck and you have people coming from all over the country to help out.
“This time it has been the constituency Labour Party and core supporters coming out and pounding the streets.
“It’s been nicer talking to voters this time round because you’ve got that record. You have been in two years and people recognise you, so instead of having to introduce myself they’ll say, ‘oh, it’s our Emma, lovely to see you’ and have a chat about something I have done in Parliament. This is very much my campaign.”
The other candidates in South Shields are: Lisa Nightingale (Independent), Robert Oliver (Conservative), Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat), Norman Dennis (UKIP), Shirley Ford (Green Party).
Source – Shields Gazette, 29 Apr 2015
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today sought to “set the issue straight” over a statement she made in Parliament saying some grieving relatives were being forced to bury loved ones’ in their gardens.
The MP found herself buried beneath a barrage of criticism after making the suggestion when proposing her Funeral Services Bill last month.
Some critics claimed there was no evidence to back the assertion – and even funeral directors in her own constituency dismissed it,
But Mrs Lewell-Buck says the comment was taken out of context from the bill as a whole.
And she said her central aim, to highlight escalating funeral costs, had been lost amid the debate.
The Labour MP, who is to stand at the General Election in May, said there was also no suggestion in her speech that people in South Shields had buried relatives in their gardens.
“I really wanted to just set the issue straight because I feel I was misrepresented as the result of one small sentence.
“That one comment was picked up on and was the only issue focused on in the national and local press and in comments on the Internet.
“That’s why I felt the need to speak out because one sentence has been hijacked.”
In her letter the MP writes:
“My Bill calls for a Government review of funeral affordability in the UK.
“It also proposes changes to improve the Funeral Payments system, and the creation of a ‘simple funeral’ where funeral directors would be required to provide information about the cost of a standard service to help people make a better-informed decision about the service they choose.
“A lot of the reports on the Bill focused on the issue of garden burials, and while that was only a very small part of my speech and such burials are not commonplace, it has created a national conversation about this emotive and taboo subject.
“I would also like to clarify that this Bill is national and at no stage in my speech did I say people in South Shields or even the North East have buried relatives in their gardens.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck said she was particularly eager to dismiss any inference that she had misled Parliament in any way.
“I am very proud to be a member of Parliament and would never do that. I was just eager to ensure that people did not get the wrong end of the stick and to make my position crystal clear.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 09 Jan 2015
Funerals are becoming so expensive people are burying their dead in the back garden says South Shields’ MP.
Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck claims people are holding “do it yourself” funerals with rising costs putting even a basic service out of many families’ reach.
She made the announcement at the House of Commons this afternoon as she proposed a bill calling for a review of funeral costs and for providers to offer an affordable, simple service.
Mrs Lewell-Buck told MPs:
“People are also turning to alternatives to the traditional funeral. Some are holding do-it-yourself funerals, and even having to bury relatives in their back garden. A number of companies are offering cut-price funerals, including “direct” cremations that have no formal service attached to them.
“Increasingly, bereaved individuals who simply cannot afford a formal service are faced with having to opt for a public health funeral, or what used to be referred to as a pauper’s funeral.”
Research published by Royal London shows that one in five households struggle to afford the cost of a basic funeral. In order to make up the shortfall many take on credit card debt, sell possessions or even turn to payday lenders. The report also shows that funeral costs are rising, with the average service now costing £3,551.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said:
“Funeral poverty is on the rise in Britain, as costs go up while household budgets continue to be stretched. The last thing a bereaved person needs is money worries, but increasingly people are getting in to debt to afford a decent send-off for those they care about.
“People understandably don’t like to talk about these issues, and struggling to pay for a funeral can be an isolating and upsetting experience. That’s why politicians need to speak up about this issue, and why I hope MPs will support my call for a funeral poverty bill.”
> Well, that’s unrestrained capitalism for you. Screw every penny out of you when you’re alive, and death is just another money-making opportunity.
Source – Shields Gazette, 09 Dec 2014
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has called on the Government to cut business rates to give South Shields’ struggling shops a chance to survive.
The plight of her constituency’s beleaguered shopping centre was raised in Parliament last night in an adjournment debate with High Street minister Brandon Lewis.
The move came amid concern for the retail viability of the town centre, following the recent departure of such big-name outlets as Marks & Spencer and Mothercare.
To prepare for the debate, Mrs Lewell-Buck paid a fact-finding visit to King Street to find out what the main concerns of traders are.
She said that the clear message was an alarming decline in both income and customer numbers in the last two years – and the high cost of business rates.
She said: “Shops in King Street have reported that footfall is down in the last two or three years, at the same time as incomes are being squeezed and families have less money to spend.”
Last night, Ms Lewell-Buck called on the minister to take more action to cut business rates.
“One in 10 businesses now spends more on business rates than rent. Rates have risen by an average of £1,500 under the coalition.
“The Government also delayed the revaluation of business rates, which many firms have said means business owners in smaller towns are paying unfairly high levels compared to those in London and the South East.
“The Government relaxed planning rules in a way that has made it easier for betting shops and payday lenders to cluster on high streets, giving shoppers less incentive to visit.”
‘Trade is at its worst for 20 years’
Emma Lewell-Buck’s intervention has been welcomed by the traders she visited, including Lesley-Annz ladies’ fashion shop in the Market Place and Premier Furnishings and Carpets in King Street.
Michael Blake, owner of Premier Furnishings, has revealed he pays a whopping £600 a week in rates – twice as much as he pays in rent.
And in the last four years he has seen profits fall from up to £12,000 a week to between £700 to £2,000 a week.
He said: “I do appreciate the fact that she made the effort to come and see us and I hope this achieves something.
“We’re really suffering at the hands of competition from internet shopping, and parking is also a big issue.
“I have people in here who say after 10 minutes that they have to dash – because their car is on a meter. Shoppers can’t relax.”
Lesley Dawson, owner of Lesley-Annz fashions, said: “Just take a look around. It is shocking. There’s no shops. There’s nothing.
“I have been in the trade 20 years and this is the worst I have known it.
“We have lost so much footfall since Wouldhave House and Franchis cafe were demolished. We know there’s a new library to be built on the site, but that’s two years away. That’s a long time.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 27 June 2014
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has hit back at the “boring Tory boys” after they mocked her North-East accent.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said that Conservative party members who are claimed to have mocked her accent don’t bother her – because it means they have nothing else to criticise her for.
The town’s MP also welcomed the support she received from constituents over the row which has broken out over claims by Durham North West MP Pat Glass, that Tory MPs target female opposition members.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “It is annoying sometimes, but I never let it silence me. I just think ‘grow up’.
“I feel sorry for them really, because I think if that’s all you have to say about me, then I must be doing a good job.”
Fellow Labour MP Mrs Glass said that abuse in the “Gladatorial” atmosphere at Westminster is worse for female MPs with strong accents, and likened Mrs Lewell-Buck’s to that of fellow South Shields native, comedian Sarah Millican.
She said: “I know Emma has a lovely strong accent, but they have really gone for her in the chamber over that,” she said.
“She has that Sarah Millican accent and they shout at her because of it.
“There are big differences between my accent and hers, but generally, if you are a woman, they target you and if you have a northern accent, they go for you.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck, who grew up in a family of shipyard workers, and was a social worker before gaining her seat in Parliament, said: “I want my constituents to hear and see someone who looks and sounds like them.
“I want them to understand what I am saying, because I am in House representing them.
“I don’t care if the posh boys in the Tory party don’t understand me.
“They do, sometimes, get themselves over-excited and shout things, but I just think it’s not like they’re going to launch themselves across the commons and punch me.”
She added: “I’ve always said that to be an effective MP you have to talk to your constituents, that’s a huge part of the job.
“I’m always out and about talking to them, and use the information they give me when I’m in the House of Commons representing them.
“For me, the most nerve-wracking thing is that people put me there, and I don’t ever want people to think that they put me there and I have let them down.”
Mrs Glass said it was not just older Tory MPs who were guilty of barracking Labour women.
She said: “What I found is if a woman gets to speak, particularly women with an accent, then there is orchestrated barracking.
“You don’t get to see it on television because the camera is fixed on the person who is speaking and not on the orchestrated response.
“I get the impression they think women who are Northerners should not be there.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck, added: “It doesn’t really surprise me that people in South Shields have been supportive about my accent.
“So far, I haven’t had anyone say ‘you have let us down,’ or ‘we didn’t like what you said’.
“In the main, a lot of people have been really supportive.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 21 Feb 2014