• Conor McGinn backs bid for St Helens regeneration funding

    Conor McGinn backs bid for St Helens regeneration funding

    Local MP Conor McGinn has pledged to work with the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT) and back its bid to secure £40 million in funding – helping communities in St Helens.

    The Trust supports former coalfield communities and invests in jobs and skills, and St Helens will stand to gain if the funding bid is successful.

    Four in ten people in St Helens live in the top 20 per cent of most deprived neighbourhoods in the country – making it a priority areas for regeneration funding.

    On top of this, 23 per cent of people in St Helens have a limiting long-term illness, compared to the national average of 18 per cent.

    Under plans set out by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the new funding will assist 10,000 young people into work and help a further 200,000 people access sports and fitness projects.

    Throughout the country, an estimated 5.5 million people live in former coalfield communities – one in ten across England.

    Commenting, Mr McGinn said:

    “Communities in St Helens face higher levels of deprivation and rates of long term illness than the national average.

    “As a former coalfield community, it’s important that St Helens benefits from central government regeneration funding, which is why I am proud to back the important work of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and support their bid for £40 million of funding.

    “Jobs, skills and training are all vital for our communities and it is important the Government invests in our young people through regeneration funding – here in St Helens and across other former coalfield communities.”

    Coalfields Regeneration Trust Chairman Peter McNestry added:

    “People may think that £40 million is a lot of money to ask for, but when you consider the scale of the challenges that still remain, it requires this level of ambition if we are to make the significant and lasting impacts needed.

    “We know that we can deliver a social return on investment of £10 for every £1 spent. There is no other organisation in the country that could achieve this in our communities.”

     

  • Conor gives his support to St Helens libraries and Libraries Week

    Conor McGinn visited Moss Bank and Haydock libraries as he praised dedicated library staff in St Helens and threw his support behind Libraries Week.

    Over the last week, local libraries have showcased the creativity, innovation and diversity they offer. In St Helens, the activities range from tea and talk events, family reading sessions, examining the Borough archives and Read and Rhyme sessions that introduce children to the fun of reading.

    Conor said: “Libraries Week is a wonderful showcase for all that our libraries have to offer thanks to the efforts of their dedicated staff. As well as their traditional role, our award-winning library service is a key partner in tackling social exclusion and isolation by giving people a place to meet and socialise.

    “We have also seen our libraries used as venues for top quality arts and drama productions and exhibitions through the Cultural Hubs programme. Like thousands of constituents, I and my family have enjoyed using our library service which is an invaluable asset, and Libraries Week gives us the opportunity to shout about its success and importance to our communities.”

  • St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School Celebrates 60 Years

    It was lovely to join staff, pupils, parents and the community of St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School in Parr at Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King for a Diamond Jubilee Celebration Mass of Thanksgiving.

    The service is just one of the events being held to mark the school’s 60th anniversary and to celebrate the part its staff, students – past and present – and the wider community have played in the school’s journey and success.

    I want to particularly thank headteacher Mrs Catherine Twist for inviting me to take part in this special event to mark the school’s Diamond Jubilee year, and to Archbishop Malcolm McMahon for his warm welcome to all of us to the Cathedral.

    St Cuthbert’s has been an important part of our community since its opening in 1957 and in adding my congratulations to the school for reaching this important milestone, I would particularly like to thank all the current staff and governors, and many others in similar roles over the last 60 years, who have been dedicated to providing young people in the area with a good education, an ethos of care and community, and strong values to take forward in to adult life.

  • 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.”

     

  • 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.

     

     

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