• Conor has called for urgent action to help the soaring number of people forced to rely on St Helens food banks


    The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network , published new figures this week revealing how many emergency food parcels it has delivered in St Helens North.

    Shocking figures reveal that between April and September 2016 volunteers provided 2,224 emergency food supplies to adults and children in St Helens North. A total of 778 of the emergency aid parcels, which contain enough food for three days, went to children in the constituency.

    Commenting Mr McGinn said: “It’s shocking that the number of people in St Helens who are forced to rely on food banks has continued to rise.

    “I have visited the foodbank in St Helens and whilst the volunteers there do an amazing job, it is shameful that so many people, including children, have been pushed into poverty because of the policies of this Tory Government.

    “As one of the world’s richest economies in 2016, families should not be reliant on emergency food handouts just to survive, and that’s why I support the Trussell Trust’s idea of a new hotline to help the most urgent cases.”

    Across the UK, the Trussell Trust’s network of 420 food banks distributed 519,342 food packages to people in crisis between April and September 2016 – compared to 506,369 over the same period last year.

    Conor is backing the Trussell Trust’s call on the Government to set up special telephone hotlines between food banks and the Department for Work and Pensions to enable volunteers to help those using food banks solve their problems more quickly.

    The Trussell Trust said problems with benefit payments, including administrative delays and benefit sanctions, were the biggest reason why individuals were referred to food banks.

    It says the new hotline would focus on the most urgent cases and provide vital, trouble-shooting support for people referred to food banks because of problems with a welfare claim.

    It would help ensure the underlying causes of people’s crises are tackled faster, reducing stress and negative impact on the mental wellbeing of people due to delays, admin errors and instances where benefit sanctions have been questionably applied.

    David McAuley, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “To stop UK hunger we must make sure the welfare system works fairly and compassionately, stopping people getting to a point where they have no money to eat.”

  • Conor calls for bedroom tax to be scrapped and praises families after Supreme Court ruling


    Conor reiterated his call for the bedroom tax to be scrapped, following the Supreme Court ruling that the bedroom tax is unfair and discriminatory.

    Last week, a woman who has spina bifida and a couple who look after their severely-disabled grandson won their Supreme Court appeals against the bedroom tax. The court ruled that the government’s changes to housing benefit discriminated against them.

    Since April 2013, housing benefit for people in the social rented sector deemed to have a spare bedroom has been reduced by 14%. In the North West over 63,000 homes have been affected and over 2000 households in St Helens.

    In 2013 the Government gave local authorities more funding for discretionary housing payments, in part to allow them to cover the costs of the bedroom tax in some instances. Statistics from DWP in July showed that 40% of all local authorities had spent all the money allocated to them.

    Commenting Conor said:

    “I would like to pay tribute to all the families for their tireless work on bringing this issue to court. The true cruelty of the Tories bedroom tax has been exposed.

    “The bedroom tax is a cruel and unnecessary policy. And the Government have failed to provide adequate funding for local authorities to mitigate the worst effects.

    “As a result, the ill-thought-out and callous bedroom tax punishes low-income social housing tenants and those most vulnerable in our society.

    “A Labour Government would scrap the disgraceful bedroom tax, ending the misery faced by people in my constituency and across the country.”

  • Sea Bass

    I share your concern about the serious decline in bass stocks across Europe, which I believe is largely the result of commercial overfishing over the last 30 years.

    The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) recommended an 80% cut in bass mortality across the EU for 2015. However, the measures introduced across the EU for 2015 reduced catches by only 36%. ICES had previously recommended a 36% cut for 2014 but this was not implemented; and bass landings by UK vessels rose by 30% in 2014. It is very disappointing that expert scientific advice was ignored. For 2016, ICES recommended a 90% cut, and it has now recommended a complete ban on catching bass for next year. I believe this is what happens when early warnings are not heeded. If drastic action is not taken urgently, I believe that the fish will simply not be there for people to catch in future.

    While the Government has taken the view that previous measures by the European Council represented steps in the right direction, I believe the European Commission’s proposals for 2016 were watered down by EU Fisheries Ministers. These measures were inadequate and it is clear they have not done enough to achieve the reductions in fishing mortality needed to allow the stock to recover to levels capable of the sustainable fishing of the species.

    Until we leave the EU, current arrangements for fisheries remain in place and, as you know, the EU Fisheries Council will next meet in December. The European Commission has now published its proposals for Atlantic and North Sea fish quotas in 2017 ahead of the meeting. The Commission has proposed a total commercial fishing ban on Atlantic sea bass from 2017, in order to prevent a collapse in fish stocks. A final decision on next year’s quotas will be taken by EU ministers at the meeting in December. Before the European Council’s proposals had been published, the UK Government said that its approach to the negotiations would include consideration of the scientific advice from ICES on bass for 2017 and would also take into account the current and long term interests of the recreational and commercial fishing sectors in relation to sea bass stocks.

    As you may be aware, there was a debate in the House of Commons on 11 February 2016 about this issue. The motion noted that the EU restrictions on recreational bass fishing had, up to that point, failed to address the real threat to the future viability of UK sea bass stocks. It also called on the Government to make representations within the EU on the reconsideration of those restrictions. I supported the motion, which was agreed to without a vote.

    Further action is clearly needed at EU level, not only to conserve sea bass stocks, but to restore them to sustainable levels. I remain about the poor quality of UK commercial landing records and am pleased my Shadow Frontbench colleagues have pressed the Government to take national action to tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported landings. Evidence shows that, when a sustainability stock strategy is put in place, fish stocks are revived and in the longer term, productivity is far higher.

    I am following this issue closely and will continue to press the Government to do more to secure a sustainable future for sea bass and to take a firm position on this important issue within the EU in December.


  • Conor campaigns for better local bus services in St Helens


    Conor is fighting Government plans to ban new council-run bus firms to help protect and improve local services.

    He has joined the campaign to “take control of our buses” which is opposed to a planned new law that would stop local councils setting up new municipal bus companies.
    Conor has already met local councillors and passengers who are worried about a shake-up by Merseytravel of bus services in Seneley Green.

    Now, he wants to put the brakes on a key section of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s Bus Services Bill that is currently going through Parliament.

    Under Clause 21 of the proposed legislation, English local authorities would be stopped from setting up council-run bus firms that could operate their own services.
    But Conor is opposing the change and is pictured with the campaign’s “battle bus” as part of the fight against the ban.

    Conor said:

    “I have already met councillors from Billinge and Seneley Green, as well as local bus users because of their worries about changes to local services.
    “This Tory plan contained in the Bus Services Bill is a further threat to bus services which are a lifeline to many people.

    “Since the deregulation of bus services 30 years ago, ticket prices have rocketed and services have worsened. Private firms continue to put profit before passengers

    “I will be fighting this dangerous and ill thought out plan by the Government to ban councils from running bus companies.

    “Councils can play a vital role in running community services on less busy routes that private firms often ignore because they are more interested in chasing a profit.”

  • Conor calls for real living wage


    One of the great legacies of the last Labour Government is the National Minimum Wage. Introduced in the teeth of opposition from the Tories, it raised the wages of millions of workers and helped improve living standards for families across the country.

    In April 2016 the government introduced a higher minimum wage rate for all staff over 25 years of age inspired by the Living Wage campaign – even calling it the ‘National Living Wage’.

    Yet the government’s ‘National Living Wage’ is not calculated according to what employees and their families need to live. It is based on a target to reach 60% of median earnings by 2020. Under current forecasts, this means a rise to less than £9 per hour by 2020.

    This is unacceptable. I want to see a statutory REAL Living Wage which independent forecasts put this at over £10/hour in 2020.

    Labour’s REAL Living Wage will reflect the cost of living. It is about ensuring what households need to survive & doesn’t take account of possible employment effects. Labour’s REAL Living Wage will be an independent economic calculation based on the cost of living and adjusted for inflation.

    Moreover, Labour’s REAL Living Wage is just one aspect of our plan to tackle low pay. Only a Labour Government can deliver the industrial strategy to rebuild and transform Britain – to address wage stagnation, inequality, regional imbalance and provide investment support in those areas like St Helens which have been hardest hit by economic decline and austerity.

    Paying a living wage makes a real difference to workers and employers, their families and the wider community. I recognise the challenges of becoming a Living Wage employer, but it’s a challenge we need to help more organisations meet, if workers and their families are to live, and not just get by. I am delighted to see more and more employers in St Helens and across the country become living wage employers.

    Decent pay is not just fundamentally right, it’s good for business, it’s good for employees, and it’s good for Britain.