• supporting the renegotiation of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme

    I support the renegotiation of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme’s agreement with the Government and am working with Parliamentary colleagues, the NUM and local campaigners in St Helens and the North West on this important issue.

    In 1994 a surplus sharing arrangement saw the Government guarantee the pension scheme – a vital step – but at an extraordinarily high price. Since 1994 the Government has received £4.1 billion from the scheme but has paid nothing.

    This must be renegotiated – a greater proportion of the funds should return to the hard-working former miners. The 50% share is disproportionate and denies former miners the deal they deserve.

    I signed an letter to the Chancellor calling on the Treasury to undertake a formal review into the surplus sharing agreement. Former mineworkers, their families, and our communities must receive their fair share for their decades of hard work.

  • Zimbabwean nationals being refused asylum in the UK

    I share the concerns of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, who have all reported abuses against protestors in Zimbabwe by security forces, including the use of live ammunition.

    The violence that followed the general strike on 14 January 2019 was utterly deplorable. I am further concerned by the Zimbabwean Government’s shutdown of internet services in the days that followed the violence. This action severely disrupted the flow of information and obscured the behaviour of the army and the police.

    In light of the troubling reports of oppression of activists in Zimbabwe, I believe it is important that the UK Government makes clear how it has deemed it safe to return asylum seekers to that country.

    I am concerned that people who may be at risk could be deported and that insufficient regard is being shown for potential human rights abuses. I am clear that deportations should not be happening in any serious case where human rights are under threat.

    More widely, regarding the situation in Zimbabwe, I believe that President Mnangagwa must act swiftly to restore the hope that existed last summer and put an end to attacks on civilians. We do not want history to repeat itself, nor do the Zimbabwean people.

     

  • My views on this week’s Brexit developments

    These are difficult and uncertain times for the country and our community. The Government’s shambolic handling of Brexit negotiations has been chaotic and confused, and caused concern for people right across Britain.

    My mailbag today reflects that and also demonstrates the diverse range of opinions in my St Helens North constituency. I get hundreds of emails and letters each week from people who want to revoke Article 50 altogether and stay in the EU, from people who want to leave with no-deal, from people who want to leave but remain in the customs union or the single market, from people who want Theresa May’s deal, from people whose views since the referendum have changed in both ways – but primarily from leave to remain – and increasingly from people who want the public to have the final say over any deal.

    When MPs are told “get on with it”, “leave means leave” or “just cancel Brexit”, it unfortunately isn’t that simple. Parliament is divided, but so is the country.

    In 2016, a majority of people in St Helens borough voted to leave the European Union. But for every six people who voted to leave, four voted to remain.

    In respecting the result of the referendum both locally and nationally, I voted to trigger Article 50 to enable Britain to leave the European Union. I was as clear then as I am now that any deal or process for leaving should prioritise workers, families, businesses and the community in St Helens borough. In addition, it must be in the national interest, ensuring that we get the best deal to protect jobs and our economy, hard-won workers’ rights, environmental and food standards, human rights, security and defence co-operation with our European partners, peace in Northern Ireland and most importantly our young people’s futures.

    But Theresa May’s deal does none of that. It would make people in St Helens borough poorer and I will never do anything to enable that. Worse still, leaving with no-deal would be an economic catastrophe that would be devastating for our community, and so my priority is to ensure we don’t crash out in this way.

    The Prime Minister has shown that she is unwilling to listen, so now Parliament has taken control. Tomorrow night, MPs will undertake a series of indicative votes stating their preferred options to try and find a way forward. I hope we can find a consensus. But I am increasingly of the view that whatever Parliament decides, or if it can’t agree, we may still need to go back to the people for a final say.

    Finally, it is my job to represent everyone in St Helens North. Not just leave voters, not just remain voters, not just those who voted for me or the Labour Party, but everyone. I will keep doing that as best I can over the coming critical days and weeks.

  • Glass Futures update

    I am delighted that Glass Futures have identified St Helens as their preferred location for their new glass making facility that is set to have a production capacity of 30 tonnes per day.

    This is another vote of confidence in our borough as the best place in the North West for investment.

    I have met with leading representatives of the glass industry both here and in Westminster to make the case for St Helens borough. Our skills, infrastructure, location, and proud manufacturing history make us the perfect place for this new investment.

    Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has also voiced his support for St Helens as the ideal location. I will continue to push for this investment which would be a huge boost to St Helens borough.

  • commemorating the Golborne mining disaster

    I joined hundreds of people to commemorate the ten miners who lost their lives in the Golborne mining disaster 40 years ago.

    John McKenna
    Colin Dallimore
    Joe Berry
    Desmond Edwards
    Patrick Grainey
    Peter Grainey
    Brian Sherman
    Bernard Trimble
    Raymond Hill
    Walter McPherson

    Our mining communities across the Lancashire coalfield share a proud heritage and the same values, and those were very evident at this event. A procession led by the local brass band, clergy including the Bishop of Liverpool, families and the National Union of Mineworkers moved past the site of the pit, where family members laid flowers, before arriving at St Thomas’s Church for a moving service.

    I want to thank all those who have supported the Golborne ex-miners and worked to commemorate and preserve the memory of those who died in the disaster, in particular Brian Eden, Eric Foster and my good friend Colin Rooney. And I especially want to pay tribute to Brian Rawsthorne.

    It is important for us to remember that terrible day and to keep supporting workers today who still need to fight for safety and protection at work.

  • opening the new rail station and transport interchange at Newton-le-Willows

    I was delighted to open the new rail station and transport interchange at Newton-le-Willows today alongside Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram.

    Newton-le-Willows has a proud history as a pioneering railway town. It’s at the heart of the North West and the gateway between the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester. The redeveloped rail station, new routes and plans for increased capacity confirm the town’s status as a key North West and Northern region transport hub.

    This significant investment in the station will hugely improve the facilities for passengers and better connectivity will help bring jobs, and growth to St Helens borough.

    I want to congratulate all the people involved in bringing this ambitious and impressive project to fruition and well done to everyone involved in the opening, particularly the Mayor of St Helens Borough, local councillors, Newton and Earlestown Community Group, and thanks to the Riddling Rack for providing refreshments.

  • A Government in disarray and not acting in the national interest

    The last 24 hours in Westminster have been chaotic and shambolic.

    The Prime Minister has lost authority and now is in office for her and her party’s self-interest, and certainly not in the national interest.

    The House of Commons should have voted on her deal today. Instead the Government has postponed the vote and is in a complete state of disarray.

    I would have voted against this deal. It is bad for young people, workers, businesses and the wider community in St Helens North. Theresa May’s offer gives no guarantees on workers’ rights, environmental protections, consumer standards, security co-operation and most importantly it gives no clarity about a future trading relationship between the EU and Britain.

    How can I trust the Tories to protect or deliver on any of these given what we’ve seen in Parliament this week, and more acutely in what the Government has done to the NHS, schools, police and local government in St Helens borough over the last 7 years?

    We are at an impasse. My priority is guarding against a no-deal Brexit that would be catastrophic for St Helens North and the whole country. I believe that this Tory Government is discredited and now should call a general election. If that doesn’t happen, then I believe the option of a second referendum is one we must consider.

  • St Helens day

    St Helens Day took place this year to mark our borough’s 150th anniversary.

    In 1868 Queen Victoria granted the charter that incorporated the municipal borough of St Helens, integrating Eccleston, Parr, Sutton and Windle. 150 years on, St Helens Day offered time to reflect upon some of those that make our borough special. Pioneers in Glass production and pharmaceuticals are just two examples alongside musicians, sportsmen and women and many more.

    The civic parade, led by the Mayor, celebrated the people of the borough. The St Helens 150 programme has seen local arts and cultural partners working alongside the council to create an exciting year of events right across the borough.

    As well as reflecting upon the town’s proud history we also look forward to a bright future for the borough.

     

  • the contaminated blood scandal enquiry

    The victims of the contaminated blood scandal have been waiting years for justice. So, I’m glad the Government has responded to our calls for action and is getting the long-awaited inquiry moving.

    It has accepted the terms of reference recommended by inquiry chair Sir Brian Langstaff which means he can now start his investigations.

    This is good news for my constituent Sandra Molyneux who lost her husband Alan in 1985 after he contracted a virus from a blood transfusion at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. Alan was a haemophiliac and needed regular treatment for his condition, but was one of thousands infected with contaminated blood. Sandra was left widowed at the age of 32 with two children as a result of his death from the infected blood which was imported from the USA in the 1970s and 1980s.

    I raising her case since I became the MP for St Helens North and it’s high time the Government offered more than words to Sandra and all those who have endured similar pain.

    As well as fighting for Sandra as her local MP, I have campaigned for action in my role as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood.

    The first stage of the inquiry’s work will be to gather evidence from the Government, the NHS and many other organisations as well as, most importantly, those who have been directly affected by the scandal.

    That work needs to be as comprehensive as possible, but it also needs to be completed as quickly as possible for the sake of all those who have waited so long.

    The impact of contaminated blood has had a profound impact on so many people’s lives. I hope we can finally get justice for Sandra and the other victims who have suffered so much.

  • speaking in the council of Europe

    2018 is a very important year for St Helens, marking 150 years since our borough was created.

    But it is also 70 years since St Helens’ twinning with Stuttgart in Germany, a historic partnership that I raised at the Parliamentary Assembly to the Council of Europe.

    St Helens is an innovative borough that powered the industrial revolution with coal, glass chemicals and rail.

    Our twinning with Stuttgart came about after the horrors of the Second World War. In 1948, the Mayor of St Helens, Alderman Walter Marshall was the first British civic leader to visit the city after hearing a presentation from a Stuttgart resident about the challenges there.

    Mayor Marshall, in a very radical, visionary and generous act, held out the hand of friendship – and the people of St Helens and Stuttgart have been linked ever since.

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