• holding ministers to account on brexit

    Organisations like the St Helens Chamber of Commerce do fantastic work supporting the business community in St Helens and helping firms to grow.

    But this Government is putting our local businesses at risk, with a new poll showing that confidence amongst businesses in the North West has fallen by 22 points – down to just 33 per cent.

    This presents real risks for our economy in St Helens and across the North West, with important decisions on investment likely to be stalled or delayed.

    I took Ministers to task in the House of Commons for their shambolic and chaotic handling of the Brexit negotiations.

  • World Refugee Day

    The UK has a proud history of helping people fleeing violence and persecution. World Refugee Day provides an opportunity to remember our moral and legal obligations to vulnerable people seeking asylum and to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees around the world.

    I believe that we need effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis and that Britain must continue to uphold its proud tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees.

    I also believe that a streamlined system to assess asylum claims fairly and in a timely way, as well as treating asylum-seekers humanely, must be urgently implemented. When the Home Office takes too long to decide a claim, or makes an inaccurate decision, real people suffer.

    There should be no place for the use of torture anywhere in the world – it is illegal and when allegations are made it is essential that they are fully investigated. The UK must act as a champion for the absolute ban on torture and urge others to respect the rule of law and the freedoms and human rights that every person is entitled to.

    Furthermore, while victims of torture and other vulnerable people should not be in immigration detention, current safeguards are not working and vulnerable people are still being detained for long periods of time. I believe the Home Office should implement an effective pre-detention screening process to determine whether someone is vulnerable before they are detained.

  • agency staffing levels in the NHS

    The Tories’ much publicised promise to increase NHS funding is simply not worth the paper it is written on, and cannot be trusted.

    The reality is that this Tory Government is presiding over a recruitment, retention and resourcing crisis in our NHS.

    Health authorities in St Helens have been forced to spend FOUR TIMES more on agency nurses than in 2010.This is a direct result of the Government’s mismanagement of our NHS. Instead of taking action to help hospitals reduce bills and hire more nurses, the Government has scrapped student nurse bursaries – meaning nursing applications dropped by a quarter in 2017.

    Our hardworking NHS staff and local patients deserve a properly funded health service.

  • Racing to schools

    It was great to be at Haydock Park for one of charity Racing to School’s education days for pupils and teachers from Elms Bank Specialist Arts College.

    The education days provide a comprehensive behind the scenes look at how a racecourse works, combining the fun and excitement of the races with real educational outcomes from maths and science to history and geography.

    We were expertly guided around Haydock by Carrie Ford and Jo McCain who work as Education Officers at Racing to School.

    The tour provided a great opportunity for pupils to learn more about horseracing and gain an insight into a huge national industry.

    Horseracing is the second most popular spectator sport in the country and Haydock Park showcases the very best practice in the sport, having recently been rated by Visit England as one of the top twelve racecourses in the country for visitor experience.

  • Care workers for change campaign

    I am very happy to pledge my support to the Care Workers for Change Campaign for Dignity in Social Care.

    Care workers play a huge role in St Helens and it’s important that during carers Week 2018 we highlight their enormous contribution, not just to those they care for, but to our whole society.

    But poor working conditions, job insecurity, and poverty pay has become the daily reality for those who nurse, clean, and feed our loved ones – thanks to this Tory Government’s austerity policies.

    This cannot go on and it is vital the Government steps up to ensure fair funding for social care.

    Care workers provide an essential service supporting the frail and the vulnerable within our communities. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, whilst having the right to a real living wage.

  • the wood pit disaster memorial service

    I joined the local community and former miners from across Lancashire for a poignant service at St James’ in Haydock to remember the 204 men and boys who died in the Wood Pit Disaster on 7th June 1878.

    As well as being one of the biggest single losses of life in the Lancashire coalfields, The Wood Pit Disaster left in its wake 93 widows, 282 orphans and an utterly devastated community, with the majority of victims coming from Haydock.

    As part of the 140th anniversary, St Helens Libraries arranged a commemoration event at the memorial at St James’, with readings and songs from pupils at St Augustine’s taking place in Haydock Library afterwards.

    The prosperity of our country was built on coal, and the coal miners like those at Wood Pit and across pits in St Helens who worked to mine it.

    Without their daily toil underground and the constant risk of danger and death they faced, the industrial revolution would have stalled before it began. It is right that we remember the true price of coal and the terrible events of 7th June 1878.

  • important votes on brexit

    This week a number of important votes are taking place in the House of Commons relating to Brexit.

    Labour’s Shadow Brexit team under Keir Starmer have been robust, forensic and relentless in taking the Tories to task on their chaotic handling of withdrawal negotiations so far.

    Last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, Jeremy Corbyn eviscerated Theresa May on her Government’s division, paralysis and failure to publish any coherent plan for Brexit. And our position is clear: we want an arrangement that brings the benefits of the single market and the customs union, and a close relationship with the EU.

    That’s why I’m voting for our frontbench amendments, designed to ensure that Parliament has a meaningful vote on any final deal and to urge the Government to seek a deal in the context of access to the single market and a customs union.

    The cost of leaving the single market to the UK would be £29bn a year by 2030 – and £3bn for the North West alone. Thousands of existing jobs and businesses would be lost. Many more would never get the chance to be found. I have a responsibility to tell people these uncomfortable truths, so in the same breath as telling you that I respect the vote to leave which is why I voted for Article 50, I also need to say that there are consequences to that and not all of them are good.

    There is, however, another amendment from the House of Lords that would enable the Government to join the European Economic Area (EEA), which would allow Britain to stay in the single market. This amendment is not supported by the Labour frontbench, but I will be voting for it.

    I am very clear that EEA membership is not a perfect option for a future relationship with the European Union, but at this stage it is unfortunately one of the few realistic options left for the UK.

    Two years on from the referendum and over a year since Article 50 was triggered and time is rapidly running out; visions for Brexit need to be replaced with plans for Brexit, and I don’t see many of those forthcoming.

    Specifically, no-one has come forward with any alternative structures that would simultaneously protect workers and businesses in St Helens, ensure the UK has access to trade and export markets and prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

    I realise this is not without its political challenges. St Helens North is a Leave-voting seat. But my impression from talking to you – my friends and neighbours – is that if we reduce the interests and priorities of people in St Helens to Brexit and immigration then we do ourselves a disservice. Which is why those figures I quoted above that emerged over the weekend about the cost of leaving the single market made my mind up not to let the best be the enemy of the good on the EEA amendment.

    Labour’s historic mission has always been to bring about better conditions and a more hopeful future for the people and the places we represent. That’s what brought me in to politics and that’s what I’ll always work for; for the people of St Helens and for the country.

     

  • carers week

    This week is Carers Week, a chance to recognise the outstanding work of the millions of people in the UK who provide unpaid care by looking after an ill, older or disabled family member, friend or partner.

    But carers do not always get the recognition and support they deserve, with around 1.4 million people providing over 50 hours of unpaid care per week, according to figures in the last census.

    And those carers who are eligible for Carer’s Allowance by providing full time care for someone who gets a qualifying disability benefit, often don’t have enough to make ends meet.

    That’s why I’m backing the Carers UK Fairer for Carers campaign, calling for an increase in Carer’s Allowance in England to reflect the huge amount of work they do.

    Carer’s Allowance is currently the lowest benefit of its kind at £64.60 per week, but it is due to increase by £8.50 in Scotland while staying the same in other parts of the UK.

    This simply isn’t fair for hardworking carers in St Helens who will receive a lower rate of financial support just because of where they live.

    The St Helens Carers Centre estimates there are around 23,000 carers across the borough, with more than a thousand new carers registering with the Centre in the last year alone.

    The Government must step up to the plate and address the financial hardship that many carers find themselves in, often because a loved one falls ill or grows old.

  • Channel 4 Headquarters

    It’s great news that Liverpool has been shortlisted as the potential location for the new Channel 4 Headquarters.

    I have been a strong supporter of the bid, alongside my MP colleagues across Merseyside and Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham. We all want to see Channel 4 come to our City Region.

    Liverpool is an iconic city known the world over for its creativity and passion for the arts. But the bid’s strength lies in the talent and creativity found across the boroughs of the whole City Region. In St Helens we are recognised nationally for the arts through the Heart of Glass and our library service and the bid reflects this pooling of skills and resources across Merseyside.

    Channel 4 being based in Liverpool would be a positive step for the broadcaster and the country, and a boost to the North West economy. It will also act to harness the creative talents to be found across the City Region and within St Helens North.

  • National Police Specials Weekend

    This weekend is National Police Specials Weekend and I’m delighted to take this opportunity to recognise the hard work and dedication of volunteer police officers in St Helens, Merseyside and across the country.

    Special Constables play a key role in local policing and have the same powers in law as regular police officers, including the power of arrest. They come from all walks of life, and work alongside regular officers and PCSOs in our community and play a vital role in supporting the work of the police and the community.

    Alongside full-time police officers, they are an integral part of our St Helens communities and this weekend we say: thank you!

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