Without regulation, short-let sites like AirBnB are becoming a burden councils can’t bear

The ‘sharing economy’ is a description which gives good vibe. Who can oppose the idea of new opportunities for people to use their own assets to generate some extra cash, all facilitated by digital technology? And yet, all is not what it seems. The rapid growth of the short-let or ‘nightly booked’ accommodation sector – including, but by no means limited to, Airbnb – has a positive side, of course, and I am certainly not amongst those wanting to bring it to an end.


However, alongside the owners renting out a spare room, or letting their flat for a few weeks while they are on holiday, there is another reality – that of an increasingly professionalised arm of the hospitality industry operating without effective regulation and leaving the problems for others to deal with.

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Technology can change the world – provided we have a measure of democracy, too

Over the last five decades, the American Consumer Technology Association’s annual jamboree has grown to become the world’s largest tech show: attracting over 190,000 visitors and 4000 companies, with 7,460 reporters filing 59,969 reports over the course of four days in Las Vegas. In the process, it has achieved an almost mythical status – from unveiling the first-ever home VCR (Philips 1970) to Bill Gates’ resignation from Microsoft in 2006, and has included cameo appearances by the likes of Jay-Z and Barack Obama.

As a fully qualified geek (Electrical Engineering degree, 20 years in tech – before it was cool) and the shadow minister for Industrial Strategy Science and Innovation, I couldn’t resist seizing the opportunity to venture to Las Vegas while on a family holiday to the US’ west coast; hoping, against all hope, to see the progressive future of a technology-enabled, more equal world.

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We must not return to a hard border in Ireland

After nearly twenty years of peace it’s easy to take progress in Northern Ireland for granted. Questions about the incompatibility of Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement are dismissed as the latest obsession of the unreconciled Remainer. But fears about what Brexit means for Northern Ireland are genuine and need answers.

Those wanting greater control and enforcement of rules on immigration after Brexit imagine the reinstatement of a hard border on the island of Ireland will help. It won’t. The common travel area has allowed citizens of both countries to move freely, give or take the occasional interruption, since 1925. We need to remember that the border was dismantled not in response to an EU treaty, but in order to achieve peace. The watchtowers, checkpoints and guns were removed because that is what was agreed in the Good Friday agreement, not because both countries are EU members. Having said that, there is no doubt that aspects of EU membership helped remove some of the obstacles to the softening of the Irish border.

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Closing the entrepreneurial gender gap requires us all to take action

British men are nearly twice as likely as women to be entrepreneurs.

This isn’t just bad for entrepreneurship, but society at large suffers when the ideas of half the population aren’t adequately represented. Closing the gender entrepreneurship gap would ensure we no longer miss out on countless innovations, increase productivity, and raise wages.

A report from the Federation of Small Businesses estimated that the UK is missing out on 1.2m female-led businesses. In fact, if we just achieved parity with the US, which suffers from its own gender entrepreneurship gap, we would have 900,000 more businesses and an additional £23bn gross value added to the UK economy.

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How Europe should respond to increased Russian aggression

It has been a tough decade for Europe. The euro crisis, migrant crisis, terrorist attacks and a resurgence of the nationalist right have pushed its politics to breaking point. Now a new crisis looms as Russian aggression finally splits the unity of the Gorbachev era, and, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, a new darkness descends.

It was thirty years ago that President Gorbachev laid out a vision of a “common European house,” a vast home to the rule of law that was Europe’s great gift to the world. This is not a vision that Vladimir Putin shares.

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Haul Myanmar’s military leaders before the international criminal court

At the weekend Boris Johnson visited Myanmar and Bangladesh, and saw for himself some of the devastated and burned-out villages where the Rohingya people used to live. The foreign secretary also met with the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Yet nearly six months on from the outbreak of the horrific violence that led to the Rohingya refugee crisis, what action has the British government taken against the head of the Burmese army, General Min Aung Hlaing?

The UK claims it has led the diplomatic effort to help the Rohingya and apply pressure to the military. Since violence broke out last year, the government has given £59m in aid, making it one of the biggest donors. It has also suspended military training programmes with the Burmese army after pressure from British parliamentarians and secured a statement from the UN Security Council on the crisis. But that’s it.

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The children of alcoholic parents need help. I know this all too well

There’s no way I would ever have become an MP if it wasn’t for my dad, Dermot. Warm, funny and a 60s radical, he was the son of Irish immigrants who was inspired into a life of public service by John F Kennedy’s quote that you should “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. He paid my Labour party subs when I joined at the age of 15. But he struggled with alcohol for much of his life and, nearly two years ago, that chronic dependency killed him.

In a heartbreaking moment on a cold, grey dawn on St Joseph’s day – the patron saint of fathers – the nurses folded down his blankets so I could hold his hand as he slipped away. In the weeks that followed, I knew I had to start speaking out about the plight of children of alcoholics. All two million of them.

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NHS cancer staff shortages should be ‘top government priority

The NHS cancer workforce do an incredible job and we should never stop thanking them for the work they do to diagnose, treat and care for cancer patients.

That is why it’s important that workforce concerns are made a top priority of any government, so that staff have the capacity to diagnose and treat patients and achieve the vision set out in England’s Cancer Strategy.

This includes addressing staff shortages so we can improve diagnosis, treatment, care and outcomes.

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Providing A Social Security System Fit For The Future

The fact that a majority of people in poverty live in working households is a scandal, and one that Labour, the party of dignity at work, will have a special responsibility to address on returning to power. Correcting the mistakes and false promises that underlie the Tory government’s flawed universal credit will be an early priority. Last month, I suggested five ‘quick fixes’ to universal credit, to help make work pay and achieve its stated goal of ‘[removing] the barriers to work and earning more by providing the stronger financial incentives to encourage people to work and for those in work to increase their earnings’.

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Theresa May should be ashamed of the NHS crisis Downing Street has created

Yesterday we learnt that January was the worst ever month for patients attending major A&E Departments.

Just 77.1% of patients were seen within 4 hours in Type 1 A&E Departments, significantly below the 95% target.

The Government has consistently failed to meet this target since July 2015- that’s an unprecedented 30 months in a row.

And the NHS top brass have told patients this crucial target won’t be hit until March 2019, breaking Jeremy Hunt’s flagship promise to meet the target this calendar year.

The underfunding of our NHS is now so severe we’re witnessing a winter crisis like never before.

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