• Food labelling

    I support the mandatory labelling of meat to include details on country of origin, method of production and method of slaughter.

    I am aware of the recent investigation by The Times which found that some supermarkets have labelled meat and dairy products using specific images and phrases to suggest higher animal welfare standards than what is the reality in many cases.

    There are no requirements for most food products (including meat, milk and dairy products) to display information on method of production, although some producers provide it on a voluntary basis. EU law says that food labelling, whether compulsory or provided voluntarily, must not be misleading to consumers, including information on the method of production.

    The UK Government acknowledges that it is not always clear to the consumer what standards underpin welfare terminology and that definitions on labels, such as the term “grass fed”, can vary between retailers. The Government says that when we leave the EU, there will be an opportunity to review labelling requirements for all foods, to ensure that we maintain the highest standards of quality and transparency for consumers. However, it has no plans to introduce compulsory method of production labelling once we leave the EU.

    I believe food labelling must be clear and unambiguous so that consumers know exactly what they are buying – including the country of origin and method of production. That is why I support the mandatory labelling of both domestic and imported meat to include details on country of origin, method of production and method of slaughter (stun or non-stun). Improved food labelling is also vitally important to encourage consumers to buy British.

  • Concerns over women with mental ill-health being sent to prison

    I share Constituents concerns on this issue and believe that prison should always be a last resort and that it should never be a substitute for failing mental health services. At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto which committed to personal rehabilitation plans for all prisoners and to review the provision of mental health services in prisons.

    There are currently nearly 4,000 women in prison in England and Wales. For many women, it is not the best way to break the cycle of reoffending. We could achieve a better outcome for the women themselves, and reduce the number of victims of crime, if we invest in women’s centres, rather than sending non-violent women to prison.

    Recently, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts stated that record high numbers of self-inflicted deaths and incidents of self-harm in prisons are a “damning indictment of the current state of the mental health of those in prison and the prison environment overall”.

    Tory cuts to the prison service have meant there are fewer staff to understand individual prisoners and recognise when they are vulnerable. The cuts have further led to prisoners having to spend longer periods of time locked up in cells. Isolation and confinement can have a devastating impact on those with mental ill-health.

    In my view, there needs to be a distinct approach to the specific needs of female offenders, and I await the strategy for female offenders with interest. The Government has said that the strategy will improve outcomes for women in the community and custody and that it would be published this year.

    In the review, the Government should also look seriously at whether prison is the right place for some women. I hope that the Government will carefully consider the proposals that have been put forward by organisations such as Women in Prison when formulating its strategy.

  • Pavement parking

    I appreciate that pavement parking can be a real problem for those who are blind or partially sighted, parents with prams, wheelchair users and older people. Indeed, I am aware that Guide Dogs conducted a survey which showed that 97% of blind or partially sighted people have encountered problems with street obstructions, and 90% have experienced trouble with a car parked on a pavement.

    As you are aware, Guide Dogs have criticised the inaction of the Government on tackling this issue, and called for all pavement parking to be made illegal. I agree that we need to take action to protect vulnerable pedestrians, and all those who use our roads and pavements.

    There are various ways local councils, along with the police, can act to tackle on-street and pavement parking, such as using legislation governing obstruction and dangerous parking; designating limited areas of ‘no pavement parking’ through a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) or establishing a special parking area. I believe the current laws on pavement parking are often confusing for motorists, dangerous for vulnerable road users and costly for councils who are having to repair damaged pavements.

    The Department for Transport held a consultation on its Accessibility Action Plan between August and November 2017, in which it committed to launch a survey in autumn 2017 to gather evidence on the current, costs, and timescales for processing TROs, and options for change. The Government has now said it will begin the survey in spring 2018, and will engage with stakeholders on this issue in the near future. I can assure you that I will follow this survey closely as I believe the status quo to be unsatisfactory. I would like to see laws in place that would help local councils to make decisions more simply, with reduced costs.

  • The need to ban the use of electronic collars on cats and dogs

    In 2014 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs funded research on the use of e-collars on dogs. The research concluded that e-collars can have long-term detrimental effects on the welfare of dogs, and in such circumstances, an owner could be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

    On 12 March the Government launched a public consultation seeking views on its plans to ban the use of e-collars in England. The Welsh Assembly has already banned the use of these products and the Scottish Government has brought forward proposals to do the same.

    Many animal welfare and veterinary organisations, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Blue Cross, and the British Veterinary Association are opposed to the use of e-collars for dogs and cats. The RSPCA maintains that the evidence is clear that there are “huge welfare” concerns with using e-collars for training animals and that positive training methods should be used instead.

    I am committed to supporting the highest level of care for domestic animals, and while I appreciate that approximately 5% of owners use electronic collars for training their pets, I support measures to ban the use, sale and importation of these products.

    The consultation on the Government’s proposals will run until 27 April 2018. I will follow the outcome of the consultation closely and bear in mind the points you have raised.

  • Response to ‘Crumbling Futures’ report

    The Children’s Society’s recent ‘Crumbling Futures’ report raises concerns that vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds are being let down by the law. I believe that too often, 16 and 17 year olds are treated like adults and are not afforded the additional protections given in law to younger children.

    The report raises further concerns over young people dealing with complex issues such as poverty and mental health problems. I believe we need to do more to help protect vulnerable children and young people.

    At the last general election, I stood on a manifesto which committed to refocus social care to work with families in local communities to prevent children becoming at risk of going into care. It also committed to tackle child poverty with a new Child Poverty Strategy and to increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people.

    On 16 March 2018, the current Government announced plans to transform education for children with additional needs and to improve the experiences of children in alternative provision. I am aware the Children’s Society believes this review should be broader, and I hope that the Government will carefully consider and respond to these concerns.

    The Children’s Society has further argued that the review must look at how support can be paid for in the context of declining financial resources given to local authorities. It is very concerning that the Local Government Association has found that children’s services are facing a £2 billion funding gap by 2020. Indeed, local authority spending on services for children and young people has fallen in real terms by almost £1 billion since 2012.

    St Helens has been hit hard by Government cuts over the years having lost well over 50 per cent of central funding since 2010. Over the next two years, the council will face further funding cuts totaling £9m, resulting in funding cuts of £90m over the ten-year period which equates to £507 less per person to spend on services than 2010.

    Children’s services provide a lifeline to thousands of vulnerable children and families across the country and it is incredibly worrying that funding has fallen so dramatically. I believe councils must be provided with the funding that is needed to meet demand for children’s services.

  • Labours new policy on free bus travel for under 25s

    Labour has announced a new policy to fund free bus travel for under 25s across the country – which would save money for thousands of young people in St Helens.

    Across our borough around one in four children grow up in poverty, with years of Tory austerity hitting family finances and stretching budgets.

    Introducing free bus travel for young people will support them to travel to work, to school or college and to visit friends.

    Across the Liverpool City Region, Labour is leading the way with the introduction of the Merseytravel My Ticket – the young persons discounted ticket which gives unlimited travel across the whole region for a full day and is available to all young people up to their 19th Birthday.

    This is particularly important given that young adults tend to have less disposable income and more insecure work than older people.

    Across the country, introducing free bus travel for under 25s will save up to 13 million young people up to £1,000 per year and will be paid for using money ring-fenced from Vehicle Excise Duty.

    Labour’s research has shown how the average number of bus trips made by under 25s since 2010 has declined – up to 40 per cent for those aged 21 – 25. Free bus travel will help boost these falling numbers and give young people greater mobility.

  • Helens Law Day of Action

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of Helen McCourt’s murder in Billinge.

    Today, I joined with Helen’s mother Marie McCourt, other victims’ families and their MPs in Westminster for a day of action in the campaign for a “no body, no parole” rule to be included on the statute book.

    We met with the Justice Secretary David Gauke and presented a petition with almost 500,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street.

    I am determined to help Marie finally get some peace from what she describes as the “special kind of torture” of knowing she could die without ever discovering the whereabouts of her daughter.

    Families from across the country who are involved in the campaign came together to back the campaign for Helen’s Law.

    It is high time Parliament delivered the change in the law that Marie and so many other families desperately need.

  • Universal Credit Roll Out

    This week sees the rollout of the Universal Credit Full Service to St Helens.

    The botched rollout has continued despite widespread problems, including the failure of the online system to accept certain kinds of evidence and long waits for an initial payment with delays in processing claims.

    In some other parts of the country, these delays have added to an already lengthy wait for initial payment that is built into the Universal Credit system.

    The Citizens’ Advice Bureau has already highlighted that these delays have placed people at risk of eviction as rent arrears have built up due to the delays.

    Figures from the Trussell trust also show food bank referrals have increased at more than double the national average in areas in which the Universal Credit Full Service has been rolled out.

    The Government must urgently get to grips with these problems and fix Universal Credit so that people in St Helens are not put at risk.

     

  • Congratulations to Haydock Band

    Congratulations to Haydock Band on the fantastic news that they have been promoted to the First Section as of 2019.

    Brass bands are graded like football teams – the Premiership with household name bands such as Black Dyke and then sections one down to four. Haydock are now one step away from the Premiership.

    Haydock Band has deep roots in our community and their reputation is growing all the time including through recent appearances on TV and radio, and this is one more feather in their cap.

    I also know gaining promotion like this isn’t easy as it is based on the standard of performances over the last three years so this is a fitting reward for the hard work and dedication of Musical Director Mark Quinn and everyone associated with Haydock Band.

    I am delighted for the band, and I will continue to work with them as they build on their success.

    What we now need to see is funding bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England better recognise bands like Haydock and others in Merseyside and the North West by giving them greater support to grow and flourish.

  • My support for Unison’s Ethical Care Charter

    I spoke at the Age UK Mid Mersey conference to highlight the enormous challenges facing social care – with a funding gap of more than £20 million in the health economy across St Helens.

    I also pledged my support to Unison’s Ethical Care Charter which will establish key standards for the safety, quality and dignity of care by improving pay, conditions and training levels.

    Social care has been pushed into a state of emergency. Cuts to adult social care budgets are expected to reach £6.3 billion by the end of 2017/18 and the Tory Government has completely failed to set out a proper plan to fund it.

    This is having a detrimental impact on care quality, and the estimated number of people with an unmet social care need in England could be as high as 2.35 million.

    That’s why Labour is committed to give the NHS over £30 billion of extra investment over the next parliament and invest an extra £8 billion to tackle the crisis in social care.

    We have committed as a Party to taking one million people off the waiting list and guaranteeing that patients can be seen within four hours in A&E.

    In St Helens, we have a £20 million shortfall across the health economy in the borough, piling more pressure onto already overstretched carers.

    There is a crisis in our NHS and social care and we urgently need a Labour government to rescue services.

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