• ‘We Own It’ Campaign

    I share the concerns of the many people who have written to me about the NHS and ‘We Own It’ campaign. I agree that a comprehensive health service should continue to be provided free at the point of use and that encroaching privatisation of the NHS must be halted. I also believe that there needs to be more investment to provide the NHS and social care with the funding it so desperately needs.

    In my constituency of St. Helens North, I am concerned that The Department of Health are cutting our public health grants by £909,000, with further cuts likely. The funding for adult social care was also slashed by over £4.5billion from 2010-2015. The blame lies squarely with the Tory government, which over its six years in office has caused a financial and staffing crisis in the NHS. In August, I met with the St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group and urged them not to proceed with their proposal to cancel non-urgent hospital referrals. Thankfully we were successful, however there are still outstanding issues around finances and service provision and I will continue to work with the Department of Health, NHS, St Helens CCG, St Helens Council and other partners to find a resolution to these. You can read the rest of my press release here:

    http://www.sthelensstar.co.uk/news/14677125.McGinn__Government_must_ensure_St_Helens_gets_its_fair_share_of_NHS_funding/?ref=mrb&lp=15 The Government recently confirmed that NHS England expenditure on independent providers has increased by £3.4 billion since 2011/12. At the General Election I stood on a manifesto that committed to reverse the privatisation of our NHS, return our health service into expert public control, and repeal the Health and Social Care Act which puts profits before patients. I support the introduction of a new legal duty on the Health Secretary to ensure that excess private profits are not made out of the NHS, and I agree that there should be no new private finance initiative deals. Throughout the summer the Opposition successfully opposed the Government’s proposal to sell 75% of NHS Professionals, an effective and successful public body which saves the taxpayer around £70 million a year and ensures that hospitals don’t have to rely on expensive private staffing agencies. The Government’s plans were met with widespread opposition from NHS staff and patients. More widely, I am concerned that under this Government waiting lists have topped 4 million and the number of patients spending more than 4 hours in A&E has risen 250%. A report by the British Medical Association revealed that the number of people waiting on trolleys reached the highest level to date in November 2016. I am committed to protecting and strengthening our NHS and that means stopping the drive towards privatisation and ensuring the NHS is based on collaboration and integration, not on competition and fragmentation.

  • Conor Pledges His Support For The Coalfield Regeneration Trust

    It was great to meet with the Coalfield Regeneration Trust recently and pledge my support to their fantastic work supporting former coalfield areas, including communities in St Helens. Since 1999, the Trust has invested over £260 million in former coalfield communities, supporting people into work, improving health and creating opportunities for young people.

    The pledge read “I pledge my support to the work of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust in delivering against its objectives to make a lasting and positive impact on the employment, skills and health of residents in former mining towns and villages.”

    Those wishing to find out about funding available should visit: https://www.coalfields-regen.org.uk/

    The CRT is an unsung hero of our community. They have been working hard under the radar in securing a better future for people from mining communities such as ours. Signing their pledge is important in demonstrating how I will not only support them, but in showing our appreciation for their dedicated work.

  • Conor marks first anniversary of ‘Helen’s Law’ Bill with demand for urgent Government action

    Conor  has written to Theresa May to express the unhappiness of victims’ families with the Government’s failure to bring in a new “no body, no parole” law for convicted murderers.

    Conors proposed new law would prevent the release from jail of killers who refuse to reveal the whereabouts of their victims’ bodies.

    He is fighting for Helen’s Law to get justice for his constituent Marie McCourt whose daughter Helen was murdered in 1988.  Despite her killer’s conviction, Helen’s body has never been found.

    Conor has stepped up the campaign ahead of the first anniversary today (Wednesday October 11) of his parliamentary battle to change the law with his Unlawful Killing (Recovery of Remains) Bill.

    In his letter to the PM, Conor said: “I must report the immense sense of frustration and continued sense of injustice that victims are feeling at the lack of progress.”

    He urged the Prime Minister to work with him to get Helen’s Law on to the statute book as swiftly as possible to ease the torment endured by Marie McCourt and many other families.

    Helen McCourt was killed at the age of 22 by Ian Simms, the landlord of a pub where she had worked as a barmaid. She disappeared close to her home in Billinge in Mr McGinn’s constituency of St Helens North on February 9 1988.

    Simms, then aged 31, was found guilty of murder in a landmark conviction based on overwhelming DNA evidence – even though Helen’s body was never found.

    Since Helen’s death, Simms has continued to torment Marie McCourt by refusing to explain what happened to Helen’s body.

    His callous silence has denied Marie and her relatives the chance to grieve properly and give Helen a proper funeral.

    Marie has described that unimaginable distress and the prospect that she could die before discovering the whereabouts of her daughter as “a special kind of torture”.

    More than 400,000 people have signed a petition backing Helen’s Law which would help grieving families give their loved ones a proper funeral.

    The new law would help people like Marie and others suffering similar ordeals, likethe parents of murdered schoolgirl Danielle Jones, who vanished from a bus stop in 2001, and relatives of Carole Packman who was killed in 1985.

     

    According to Home Office figures, there have been at least 30 murders since 2007 in England and Wales where no body has been recovered.

    “Throughout her ordeal, Marie has shown dignity and courage while continuing to fight for justice.

     “Yet, despite his cruel silence, her daughter’s killer could soon be released from jail. That would be a terrible injustice.

     “Helen’s Law would mean that if a killer refused to give information about the location of a victim’s body, they would not be considered eligible for parole and would remain behind bars.

     “Despite the huge support of more than 400,000 people, the Government is in danger of being seen to be dragging its feet and risks betraying victims’ families and those like Marie who are being denied the justice they deserve.”

  • Air pollution

    The World Health Organization has described air pollution as a “public health emergency” and there is clear evidence that poor air quality has serious environmental and health impacts. A report to the United Nations human rights council in September 2017 raised concerns regarding the effects of air pollution on vulnerable groups in the UK, including the risk of “mortality, morbidity and disability” to children.

    I am extremely concerned about the fact that the UK has routinely exceeded the legal levels for pollution and I believe that the air pollution crisis is a national scandal, and that urgent action must be taken. Too often it is people in the poorest areas suffering from the worst levels of air pollution, but clean air belongs to us all – not just a privileged few.

    Following several court cases, on 26 July 2017, the Government finally published its final plan on air quality, which includes the introduction of new Clean Air Zones, a new £23 million fund for hydrogen vehicles and a £64 million fund to promote the uptake of electric taxis. The Government also plans to ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, and has suggested that new pollution taxes could be levied on diesel drivers who use the most congested roads in major towns and cities from 2020.

    After seven years of illegal air pollution, the Government has only acted after being dragged through the courts. I believe the Government must urgently set out their response to the concerns raised in the report to the UN human rights council, and take stronger and more immediate action on all areas of public health and environmental concern that have been highlighted.

    At the General Election in June 2017, I stood on a manifesto which committed to bring forward a new Clean Air Act to drive challenging emissions reduction targets.

     

     

  • Significant problems with Personal Independence Payment

    I am concerned about this issue and I believe we should, as a society, be caring for all sick and disabled people, rather than making their lives worse through punitive assessments.

    In St Helens North I have seen first-hand the devastating impact of delays to Personal Independence Payments, lengthy tribunal waits and difficulties challenging face to face assessment results.

    I have represented many constituents in this area in challenging Personal Independence Payment decisions and I am seeing a steady increase in constituents requiring help.

    The current average waiting time for a tribunal in St Helens North is 28 weeks following the mandatory reconsideration process which in itself can take 4 weeks. I have one constituent who has been waiting since April 2017 to obtain a tribunal date following an appeals process which started in February. I found it deeply concerning that eight in every 10 of those facing PIP assessments find it makes their health worse, and two thirds feel their claim was poorly represented by the assessor. These survey results are an indictment of the harsh assessments, and the miserable effect they are having on people in our area and across the country who are trying to access much needed support. There are clearly long-term issues with the PIP assessment process as a whole. I know that over a quarter of all assessments are challenged and referred for mandatory reconsideration, with the majority of the decisions being changed. 65% of tribunal appeals end with a ruling against the Government, in St Helens North this figure is 58%. The assessments should be right the first time and the statistics show the system is failing.

    I believe the Work Capability and PIP assessments should be abolished and replaced with a personalised, holistic assessment process that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers. I stood on a manifesto at the last General Election which pledged to bring this into effect.

    I am not convinced that those with lifelong or degenerative illnesses should be subjected to face to face health assessments to evidence an illness which by nature will only get worse, an issue which has impacted residents with Cerebral Palsey, Parkinsons and Dementia in St Helens North. I hope that the Government reads the Disability Benefits Consortium’s report and their recommendations, and works with them to make improvements to PIP.

  • The inspection of faith schools

    I recognise that there is some concern about the requirement for schools to promote “British values” and the implications of this policy for faith schools. As you may be aware, in July 2015, the Government commissioned an independent review by Dame Louise Casey into “opportunity and integration”. The review was published in December 2016 and recommended that British values such as “respect for the rule of law, equality and tolerance” should be “enshrined in the principles of public life”. The Government has accepted many of the recommendations made in the report and believes that the promotion of British values is an important strategy to promote integration and prevent extremism. Department for Education standards require all schools to actively promote fundamental British values, including respect for those with different faiths and beliefs. Schools are also required to teach about the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. Characteristics such as sexual orientation and gender reassignment are protected under this Act. You mention the inspection of Vishnitz Girls’ School in north London. I understand concerns have been raised about this case, and the potential for tension between the freedom of parents to educate their children in accordance with their religious beliefs, and the duty of schools to comply with equalities legislation and promote British values. I note that Ofsted also raised concerns about the quality of leadership and management at this school. It is important that all genuine concerns about educational standards are properly investigated. Faith schools make a hugely valuable contribution to our schools system and all communities must be free to practice their religion. However, I also believe that age-appropriate, relationships and sex education is important to make sure that our young people are equipped to deal with the pressures of the modern world, and grow up aware of the diversity of modern families.

  • Conor McGinn demands protections for Good Friday Agreement in Brexit Bill

    Conor McGinn has called for the Good Friday Agreement to be protected in law as the UK leaves the European Union.

    In amendments tabled to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the legislation that will take the UK out of the EU, Mr McGinn has called for the principles of the Good Friday Agreement to be reaffirmed in law.

    The amendments will ensure freedom of movement and trade on the island of Ireland, enshrine the power-sharing and North-South institutions set-up under the Agreement in UK law, preserve existing human rights and equality legislation and the principle of consent in relation to Northern Ireland’s future.

    The status of Irish citizens would also be placed on the statute book, with the amendments recognising rights “inclusive of and in addition to their status, rights and entitlements as EU citizens”.

    Conors changes to the Bill, which would come into force after clearing parliamentary hurdles in the House of Commons and House of Lords, would mean the Good Friday Agreement is explicitly upheld by the British Government after the UK’s departure from the EU.

    Conors proposals also seek to preserve the EU-recognised status of the Irish language, on the basis of “respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity” as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

    “As the UK leaves the European Union, Parliament has a duty to uphold the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland.

    “That’s why I am calling for the maintenance of the Good Friday Agreement – and all of its provisions and institutions – to be enshrined in law through my amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

    “MPs from all parties recognise the importance of protecting the peace process and the tremendous progress we have seen on the island of Ireland and in British-Irish relations since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement nearly 20 years ago, and the Government has the chance through my amendments to show it does too.

    “We must act to safeguard the progress made by protecting the Good Friday Agreement and enshrining it on the statute book as we leave the EU.”

     

  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

    Supporting young people’s mental health is crucial, particularly through prevention and early intervention. On average, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life and 75% of adult mental health illnesses develop before the age of 18. Around one in ten children today have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.

    In recent years, referrals to CAMHS have increased by two-thirds and the number of young people presenting to A&E units with psychiatric conditions has doubled. Yet, too many children and young people are still not getting the support they need. Two-thirds of young people referred to specialist mental health services by their GP receive no help and a third are not even assessed.

    Despite the Government making repeated promises to give mental health the same priority as physical health, 40% of NHS trusts saw cuts to mental health budgets in 2015/16. The health charity, the King’s Fund, has also reported this year that half of clinical commissioning groups are concerned about their ability to increase funding for mental health services in line with the national commitments.

    Funding for mental health fell by £600 million between 2010 and 2015. There are also fewer doctors and 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010, and a review of the NHS Five Year Forward View has found that money intended for mental health has been used to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.

    At the General Election in June I stood on a manifesto that pledged at least an extra £1 billion spending for mental health services. The manifesto also pledged to invest in early intervention by increasing the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people.

    More widely I support investment in school counselling, which has been shown to prevent mental health problems worsening in adolescence and adulthood. I believe any additional money for mental health services should be ring-fenced to ensure that extra money is actually spent on mental health, and I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government to invest properly in children’s mental health services

     

  • Protection of ancient woodland

    The Woodland Trust is dealing with an unprecedented number of threats to Ancient Woodland and has long called for planning policy to be changed to address this.

    In 2005 the then Government published a statement of policy for England’s Ancient and Native Woodland. This statement set out a vision to maintain and increase the area of ancient woodland, to improve its ecological condition and protect and conserve the cultural heritage associated with Ancient Woodland.

    However, Ancient Woodland is currently not a statutory designation in law and this sets it apart from many other precious habitats, and means it is liable to suffer from a lack of protection.

    As you know, in February the Government published a Housing White Paper which proposes to clarify which policies provide strong reason to restrict development when preparing plans. The proposed changes would amend the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to further protect Ancient Woodland.

    A consultation on the White Paper sought views on the specific proposals to amend the NPPF. This includes protections for Ancient Woodland and aged or veteran trees. The consultation closed on 2 May 2017 and the Government is currently analysing feedback.

    I am pleased that the Government has committed to work to clarify protections in this area as part of the planning framework. A number of organisations, including the Woodland Trust, do important work in restoring, managing and conserving Ancient Woodland to help it survive, but that work will ultimately prove futile while those habitats remain insufficiently protected in the planning system.

    I can assure you I will follow the outcome of the consultation on the White Paper proposals closely and will continue to bear in mind the points you have raised.

     

     

  • We Own It campaign

    NHS professionals provides a “bank” of staff who work flexibly across the health service. It is used by over 65 NHS trusts in England and saves the NHS money by supplying staff more cheaply than private sector agencies. The Government is currently in the process of selling over 70% of NHS Professionals to a private company. I am disappointment that this Government has chosen to sell off such a large stake in an organisation that saves the NHS approximately £70 million per year. The NHS is under unprecedented financial pressure and is struggling to cope with excessive sums being spent on agency staff. According to figures from the NHS Institute, £3.64bn was spent on agency and contract staff in 2015-16. The Government believes that NHS Professionals requires significant investment to enable it to expand, so it can deliver improved services to NHS trusts and reduce the reliance on agency staff. Nevertheless, the answer is not simply more privatisation. I believe that if the Government treated NHS staff with the respect they deserved, there might not be such a need to rely on agency staff in the first place. The Government is currently in negotiation with several private companies who are bidding for the majority stake in NHS Professionals.  I will follow this process closely and press the Government to put patients before profit.

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