• Openreach

    I know that concerns have been raised that BT has underinvested in Openreach, leading to poor service which has resulted in customers experiencing service interruptions and slow speeds. I also understand that Openreach has faced criticism for delaying the installation of ultra-fast broadband.

    In 2016, Ofcom announced the initial conclusions of its Strategic Review of Digital Communications, including plans for a more independent Openreach, and in July launched a consultation on its proposals for Openreach to become a legally separate company within the BT Group. This consultation closed on 4 October and I will follow developments closely.

    As you may be aware, the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee recently published a report which calls on BT to invest significantly more in Openreach. The Committee also supports Ofcom’s plans for establishing greater separation between Openreach and the BT Group, but argues that if BT fails to offer necessary reforms and investment assurances, Ofcom should move to enforce full separation of Openreach.

    I believe it is important Openreach implements more ambitious service standards and is much more responsive to consumers, as far too many customers have experienced a lack of access to broadband and poor quality service. I believe it is right that Ofcom should decide on the future of Openreach and should be supported to ensure the most competitive environment possible. I am concerned that the Government has failed to foster a competitive communications market, both in in mobile and fixed, and believe that more competition means better service, more investment and lower prices for businesses and consumers and that Ofcom should be supported to make sure that happens.

    More widely, I believe we need a digital industrial strategy to ensure everyone benefits from the digital revolution, particularly as research has shown that faster broadband speeds would add up to £17 billion to the UK economy by 2024. It is therefore disappointing that the Government has abandoned the previous Labour Government’s commitment to fully funded universal broadband. I am concerned the Government lacks a coherent strategy and has repeatedly failed to hit its targets on broadband rollout, costing the economy billions in lost productivity gains and new jobs; and denying millions of people the economic and social benefits provided by the Internet.

    The Government’s Digital Economy Bill contains measures to create the right for every household to access a minimum broadband speed of 10 megabits per second by 2020. While I welcome the proposed broadband Universal Service Obligation, it is disappointing that it has taken so long for it to be introduced. Indeed, it is now four years after the last Labour Government’s commitment to universal broadband for all would have come into force.

    I can assure you that my Labour colleagues and I will hold the Government to account on how it plans to improve communications infrastructure and connectivity as the Digital Economy Bill progresses through Parliament. Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I can assure you I will continue to follow this important issue closely and hold the Government to account on the delivery of high speed broadband.

  • Conor McGinn steps up campaign to get a better deal for St Helens ex-miners

    Miners letter

    Conor McGinn, St Helens North MP, is demanding a far better deal for former mine workers from St Helens and across the region.

    He has joined Gloria DePiero MP in writing to the trustees of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS) to call for a meeting to review an arrangement that has deprived ex-miners of billions of pounds.

    Under an agreement made by the Tory Government and the trustees of the British Coal pensions schemes in 1994, 50 per cent of the surplus made by the MPS goes to the Government.

    Since 1994, it has made £3.36bn from the scheme – despite making no contributions, even when the scheme was in deficit.

    Mr McGinn is working with the National Union of Mineworkers and MPs from coalfield communities to get a fairer deal for ex-miners.

    Commenting, Mr McGinn said:

    “Thousands of miners from St Helens and Lancashire and across the North West worked hard in difficult and dangerous conditions to build up a pension pot for their retirement.

    “I believe they or their widows and families should have a much greater share of the huge surplus that has been built up.

    “We will keep fighting for them. The Government might want to forget the contribution these men made, but we won’t. Victory to the Miners.”

  • Conor to hold debt advice surgery on Friday 10th February 5pm

    CAB

    The first couple of months of the New Year can be a tough time for many people as they try to get their finances in order after Christmas.

    That’s why Conor McGinn MP has teamed up with St Helens Citizens AdviceBureau to encourage people to get advice on dealing with their debts.

    The St Helens North MP will hold a joint advice surgery with the CAB at his St Helens constituency office on Friday 10th February at 5pm.

    Conor McGinn said: “Post-Christmas is a stressful time for many people who are struggling with their debts.

    “More and more people every year have trouble making ends meet and covering the most essential household bills.

    “Money troubles don’t go away by themselves. So, if you’re getting into difficultly, act quickly and seek advice about how to deal with it. St Helens CAB is there to provide advice and support and our joint surgery will give people a chance to get help and advice.”

    Karl Pearce, chief executive of Citizens Advice St Helens said: “Demand for money and debt advice is highest in January and February, with one person contacting their nearest Citizens Advice for help every 11 seconds and people visiting our website every 3 seconds in January.”

    “Although debt worries can be more acute in January and February, people also need to take stock of their finances and thinking about the future. It doesn’t matter what your earn – whether you are on minimum wage or have a comfortable salary – everyone can benefit from reviewing their finances.”

    If you feel Conor and the CAB could be of help, please contact 01744 21336 to make an appointment.

  • Conor backs law change to tackle police assaults

    Conor policeHolly Lynch

    Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North, has co-sponsored a Bill which would put in place measures to protect police officers, fire and rescue service workers, paramedics, doctors and nurses.

    The Crime (Assaults on Emergency Service Staff) Bill is led by the Labour MP for Halifax Holly Lynch and sponsored by Mr McGinn and nine other MPs. The Bill would make certain offences, including malicious wounding, grievous or actual bodily harm and common assault, aggravated when perpetrated against a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, doctor or nurse in the execution of their duty.

    It would also require someone who spits at an emergency responder to provide a blood sample to rule out the risk of having transmitted a communicable disease, or face a fine and custodial sentence for refusing to do so.

    Mr McGinn has previously called for tougher sentences for criminals assaulting police officers after he obtained figures for the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy. The figures showed that 584 Merseyside police officers were assaulted in the year 2015-2016 which represented one in six of the force’s 3,635 officers.

    This week the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of their latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million (2,113,602) unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12 month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

    Speaking after the Bill was presented in Parliament, Conor McGinn MP said:

    “The amount of assaults and intimidation faced by our emergency services workers is truly shocking.

    “It seems clear that something needs to be done to better protect emergency workers and it for this reason that I am proud to support and sponsor Holly’s Bill.

    “I know from my regular meetings with the police officers and representatives from the Police Federation, as well as medics and firefighters what a difficult and often dangerous job they do. They deserve our utmost respect.

    “We need tough sentences to protect those who protect us and show that attacks against emergency service workers will not be tolerated.

    “This Bill will help protect those providing vital services against violent attacks and other forms of intimidation.

    “I hope the Government take note and act now to ensure police officers and emergency service workers are properly protected.”

  • Fuel duty

    I appreciate that fuel prices have a serious impact on household budgets and businesses and that the average price of a litre of petrol or diesel has risen by over 10p this year, and that 80% of households have seen either flat or falling incomes since 2008.

    Previously, the Coalition Government’s VAT rise from 17.5% to 20% added around 3p to the price of a litre of petrol or diesel and the Opposition voted against it at the time.

    I entirely understand concerns about the stability of the price of fuel, particularly as the ‘tax lock’ – legislation aimed at ensuring the current Government keep their own promises on tax – does not include increases in taxes such as fuel duty.

    I believe that a review of how best to stabilise pricing would be sensible. I understand that families and businesses need stability and that price fluctuation is an important issue in need of addressing. I was disappointed that the Government rejected an amendment to the 2016 Finance Bill which called for a review to establish the form of fuel duty regulator which would best ensure stability of pricing.

    I am not convinced that the Treasury has established a sustainable approach to fuel prices.