• The Fight Against Terrorism

    We have seen several horrific terror attacks in our country this year and more have been foiled. The variety of attacks and the varied backgrounds of their perpetrators shows the multiple threats that we face, from Daesh-inspired plots to far-right extremism. Daesh continues to commit acts of indiscriminate barbarism across the globe and I believe we must take all lawful action necessary to counter and confront it. I welcome the progress that has been made towards eliminating Daesh in Iraq and Syria. The Royal Air Force has delivered over 1,600 air strikes against Daesh and it has lost 90% of the territory it once held. I commend the bravery of our servicemen and women who have participated in Operation Shader against Daesh, and I am pleased that they will be recognised with a dedicated operational service medal. I believe Armed Forces personnel also deserve a fair pay rise, in the House of Commons I took part in a defense debate led by Labour’s frontbench.

    I raised the Armed Forces recruitment and retention crisis that has arisen on the Tories’ watch, and the fact that more service personnel are leaving and fewer joining both regular and reserve forces year-on-year.

    I have also called on the Government to do more to support defense workers in the north of England, including bringing forward an order for new Red Arrows jets to keep the iconic team flying British aircraft.

    Here at home, our frontline emergency service workers have also shown incredible bravery in response to terrorism and I believe we need to ensure that both our frontline and security services are properly resourced. Unfortunately, cuts to police and security since 2010 have resulted in 37,000 fewer staff. I was also deeply concerned to learn recently that the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism faces cuts of £50 million over the next two years. The importance of neighbourhood policing cannot be overstated in the fight against terrorism. Neighbourhood engagement at all levels, building a community’s confidence, can often encourage people to come forward with information that may help to stop future terrorist activity. The manifesto I stood on at the General Election in June therefore committed to recruiting 10,000 additional police offices, as well as increasing staffing levels at our security and intelligence agencies to better ensure our collective safety.

    It is also important that we prevent people from being drawn into terrorism by having effective measures against the growing problem of extreme and violent radicalisation. I believe a thorough review of the Prevent counter-radicalisation strategy is therefore needed. I also advocate the creation of a long-term multinational political strategy, led by regional actors, to tackle the spread of extremism. My thoughts are with all those who have been affected by terrorism and I hope this helps to outline my views on this incredibly important issue.

  • Live Animal Exports

    I support British farming and want it to be economically viable, environmentally sustainable and to lead the world with high standards in animal welfare and food quality. I would like to see a growth in the trade and export of meat rather than live animals and I believe animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to where they are reared. The current Government has committed to examine the future of live animal exports and I will await any proposals that it brings forward on this issue. At the recent election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to promote cruelty-free animal husbandry and to consult on ways to ensure agreed standards are better enforced. I will continue to press for the highest possible animal welfare standards across British farming. We must prioritise a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries. We cannot allow Brexit to be used as an excuse for food standards to be reduced or to allow cheap and inferior produce to flood the UK market. I believe we should reconfigure funds for farming to promote sustainable practices so that the industry can thrive and succeed while benefitting local communities. I can assure you I will continue to call for action to promote a humane and sustainable British farming system. I will also press for our existing environmental and animal welfare standards to be retained and strengthened once we have left the EU. But I believe the most significant issue for animal welfare is the distance that animals are transported and the condition those animals are housed in rather than exports, for this reason I am unable to sign this EDM.

  • Animal testing for cosmetics and Early Day Motion 437

    The humane treatment of all animals should be a benchmark for any civilised society and I have long believed that the UK must lead the world on high animal welfare standards and in the fight against global animal cruelty.

    I am proud that in 1997 the UK Government banned the testing of cosmetics on animals. In 1998, this was extended to cosmetic ingredients. After 2009, other EU countries adopted a near-total ban on the sale of products tested or containing ingredients tested on animals for cosmetic purposes, with a complete ban on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing in place since 2013. This applies to all new cosmetics and their ingredients sold in the EU, regardless of where in the world testing on animals takes place.

    While the UK has shown strong leadership on this issue, as you know there are a number of countries around the world where cosmetics animal testing and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics are still permitted.

    I am aware that Cruelty Free International is calling on the UK Government to press the United Nations to develop an international agreement to end cosmetics animal testing everywhere. I believe that national governments have a duty to work together to fight animal cruelty across the world and I would like to see the UK do more to encourage other countries to ban animal testing for cosmetics.

    I hope that the UK Government will consider and respond to the issues that have been raised by organisations such as Cruelty Free International about the continued practice of cosmetics animal testing.

     

  • Conors views on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration

    I believe it is right to commemorate this historic anniversary and to recognise the relationship that we have with the state of Israel. However, it is clear that there is more to do, and that Balfour’s promise that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” remains unfulfilled.

    As we rightly reflect on the last 100 years, I believe we have a shared duty to look towards the future and to the next generation of young people growing up in Israel and Palestine today. At present, that generation knows nothing but division and violence.

    I am committed to pressing for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a viable state of Palestine. Both sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve. It must mean an end to the blockade, occupation and settlement construction.

    The legacy of Balfour reminds us that the words and actions of politicians can make a difference, and I hope politicians on all sides will use the time that they have to take decisive action in the Middle East – to advance the cause of stability, security and peace.

    This is why the Labour Party is committed to recognising the state of Palestine and supporting Israel, and why I hope the Government will do so too while continuing to press for an immediate return to meaningful negotiations.

     

  • Funeral Poverty

    I share constituents concern about the worrying rise in funeral costs and I appreciate this can leave families with significant additional financial responsibilities at the most difficult and emotional of times.

    In December 2016 I backed calls for child burial fees to be scrapped and supported the campaign launched by Labour MP Carolyn Harris who moved MPs to tears when she told the story of the death of her eight-year-old son in a road crash.

    No parent should have to endure the heartbreak of having to bury their child, that pain is made so much worse if they cannot afford to meet the cost of a funeral at such a difficult time. The Government should be doing far more to help parents in such a difficult situation by increasing the financial assistance available to them.

    Funerals offer families the opportunity to celebrate the life of a loved one, and providing a simple ceremony and proper burial or cremation is a matter of respect for those who have passed away. I believe it is absolutely right that support is available to bereaved families to provide dignified funerals, regardless of income. At the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to fund child burial fees for bereaved parents, and to transform our social security system to ensure it is there for all of us in our time of need. It is very concerning that research from Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index for 2017 indicated that one in six families arranging a funeral struggled to afford its cost, and a report from SunLife found that funeral costs have risen 70% in the past decade, and 4.7% in the last year alone. I am aware that Fair Funerals is calling for the Chancellor to review the Social Fund Funeral Payment. The Government recently consulted on reforms to the Funeral Expenses Payments Scheme, and intends to bring forward a number of reforms due to take effect in spring 2018. However, the Government will not increase the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payments scheme because it believes that the current amount makes a significant contribution towards a funeral. I share your concerns that this payment has not kept pace with inflation and I agree that the current cap is insufficient. I hope that the Government will listen to the concerns raised by individuals and organisations such as the Fair Funerals campaign and take action to tackle funeral poverty.

  • Public sector pay cap

    I believe a pay rise for all public sector workers, both in our constituency and across the country, is fair and affordable. Public sector workers have been subject to years of falling real wages and I do not believe that this is sustainable. The large number of letters and emails I have received on this issue highlights the strength of public concern. Indeed, an online petition calling on the Government to end the public sector pay cap has been signed by more than 230,000 people. The previous Coalition Government imposed a two year pay freeze on public sector workers in 2011, and as you are aware, in 2015 the Government announced a maximum pay increase of 1% in public sector pay until 2019-20. A report published by the Office of Manpower Economics in July found that real earnings have fallen since 2010 and remained below their 2005 level in 2015. The report states that the decline in earnings from 2010 coincides with the wage freeze imposed on public sector pay settlements by government in 2011-2013 and the average 1% rise in 2014-15. On 12 September the Government announced a partial lift of the 1% pay cap for police and prison officers. This will come as cold comfort for those nurses, teachers and other public sector workers who the Government has ignored and will face even steeper pay cuts on top of what they have lost since 2010. Furthermore, with inflation now at 2.9%, the reality is that the Government is still going ahead with a pay cut in real terms for police and prison officers. In Westminster , I was delighted that Labour’s frontbench put forward my Early Day Motion (132) on NHS pay for debate in Parliament. 70 MPs from all parties – except, of course, the Tories – had already signed the motion calling on the Government to scrap the pay cap for NHS workers.

    When it became clear that the majority of MPs were likely to vote with Labour in support of this yesterday, the Tories cynically announced an end to the pay cap but then ran away from the vote. It was passed unanimously by the House of Commons.

    It is a great victory for our NHS staff and all those who have been campaigning for a pay rise like the Royal College of Nursing and Unison.

    I’m proud to have played a role alongside Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth in pushing the issue to the floor of the House of Commons, putting it up to the Tories and getting the motion passed unanimously. The Government now needs to act and pay our nurses, NHS staff and all public sector workers properly and fairly.

    At the General Election I stood on a manifesto that pledged to end the public sector pay cap and make a return to public sector pay being agreed through collective bargaining and the evidence of independent pay review bodies. I will continue to press the Government to lift the pay cap so that public sector workers are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication which they bring to their jobs.

  • Factory Farming

    I support British farming and want it to be economically viable, environmentally sustainable and to lead the world with high standards in animal welfare and food quality. I would like to see a growth in the trade and export of meat rather than live animals and I believe animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to where they are reared. The current Government has committed to examine the future of live animal exports and I will await any proposals that it brings forward on this issue. At the recent election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to promote cruelty-free animal husbandry and to consult on ways to ensure agreed standards are better enforced. I will continue to press for the highest possible animal welfare standards across British farming. I share your concerns about overuse of antibiotics on farms and agree far too much of this is preventative. Antibiotics should not be used in place of high quality farm management and husbandry systems. The Government says that it is working on plans to reduce the use of antibiotics. I believe it should establish firm targets for reducing antibiotics in farming and specific targets on the use of antibiotics “critically important” in human medicine. I also support a ban on certain classes of antibiotics in certain species, such as fluoroquinolones in poultry, and believe farmers must be supported on the responsible use of antibiotics. I recognise that as a country we need to change our relationship with food and as such I believe that new proposals on food labelling are needed. We must prioritise a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries. We cannot allow Brexit to be used as an excuse for food standards to be reduced or to allow cheap and inferior produce to flood the UK market. I believe we should reconfigure funds for farming to promote sustainable practices so that the industry can thrive and succeed while benefitting local communities. I can assure you I will continue to call for action to promote a humane and sustainable British farming system. I will also press for our existing environmental and animal welfare standards to be retained and strengthened once we have left the EU.

  • Royal British Legion’s 2017 manifesto

    A number of constituents have contacting me recently about the Royal British Legion’s 2017 manifesto, highlighting a number of important issues. Firstly, I support the Royal British Legion’s calls for there to be questions for the next census about membership of the Armed Forces community. I believe this would be a simple way of acquiring an additional source of information about the veterans living in our area to allow public services to better meet their needs. I also believe we must promote greater awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant, seek greater consistency in its implementation by public authorities, and also promote increased participation in the Corporate Covenant. I agree it is important that the Government monitor any new research that is published on Gulf War illnesses, particularly as it has said it has no plans to fund further research into this itself. However, I understand that the Ministry of Defence has commissioned further research into the development and prevention of Non-Freezing Cold Injury, and it is, of course, only right that those who have sustained life-changing injuries while serving our country receive the best medical care. In December 2015, the Ministry of Defence committed to looking at options to addressing concerns around housing support for separated partners of Service personnel and reporting back on these in 2016. Disappointingly, it is still to report back on this issue and I hope the Government will bring forward proposals for change swiftly. It is concerning that the 2017 Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey showed a further decline in satisfaction with Service life. However, over the last seven years our Armed Forces have been hit by rent rises, pay restraint and changes to tax and benefits, putting real pressure on our Service personnel and their families. We have a duty to properly reward and remunerate our Armed Forces. I believe the Government should therefore lift the public sector pay cap, allowing the Armed Forces Pay Review Body to make pay recommendations without restriction that reflect the hard work of our Service personnel. Our Armed Forces are driven by the hardworking men and women who serve and it is time the Government recognised that. This is also why the manifesto I stood on at the General Election in June 2017 was committed to driving up standards in Service accommodation, reviewing and improving the Forces Help to Buy scheme, and rolling out a Homes Fit for Heroes programme to insulate the homes of disabled veterans for free.

    I can assure you that I am fully committed to supporting our Armed Forces community within our constituency and at a national level. I have campaigned locally for improved funding for veterans homes and supported the armed forces ‘Count them in campaign’ in St Helens. You can find out more about my work in this area on my website – http://www.conormcginn.co.uk/conor-marks-armed-forces-day-and-gives-backing-to-royal-british-legion-campaign/

     

  • Taxation on beer and pubs

    Taxation on beer and pubs [and the related campaign from CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale]. Is an important issue and I know that it will be of concern to many people in our area. Pubs in the UK create one million jobs and make £80,000 on average for their local economy each year. They are also community hubs. I therefore agree that we must take action to ensure their long-term future.
    I value our pubs, which are often at the heart of community life, I myself am a CAMRA member of over ten years standing. I appreciate the importance of the beer and pub industry to the UK. The pub is a long-established part of British life and the industry employs 850,000 people, mainly in the local pubs that form the hub of many communities. I believe we must do everything we can to ensure that pubs continue to enjoy the important role that they do in British life. I appreciate your concerns about the level of beer duty. As you may be aware, at the 2017 Spring Budget, the Government increased the level of beer duty by retail price index inflation. This added 2p to the cost of a pint of beer and together with increases in other alcohol duties will cost pubs £125 million this year. I believe this was the wrong decision and poses a risk to pubs, particularly coming alongside increasing inflation and higher business rates. On business rates, the Government announced in March 2017 that it would be providing a £1,000 discount for pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000. I know that CAMRA, while believing the Government should go further, welcomed this support. However, I am concerned that this relief represents only a temporary respite rather than long-term support. There remain serious questions over how pubs will afford to stay open after the discount ends in 2018. I believe we need a fundamental review of business rates, alongside a number of other reforms, including switching from RPI to consumer price index inflation. On beer and pubs more widely, at the recent General Election I stood on a manifesto that committed to setting up a national review of local pubs to examine the causes for their decline, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider their future sustainability. It also committed to giving communities more power to shape their town centres, including by strengthening powers to protect pubs. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to call for action to support the long-term future of local pubs. You can view my press release on this here – http://www.sthelensstar.co.uk/news/15116577.Pubs_play_a_vital_role__says_McGinn/?ref=rl&lp=2

  • Events in Catalonia

     I appreciate that numerous concerns have been raised about activities both prior to the independence referendum in Catalonia and on the day of the referendum itself. I believe that disputes over sovereignty should be resolved in accordance with local rules and laws, and that any referendums on these issues need to constitutional as well as democratic and fair.

    I recognise that Spain’s constitutional court had suspended the 1 October referendum. However, the images of violence against citizens on the day of the referendum were shocking and the overreaction by the Spanish authorities, through aggressive police action and the forcible closure of polling stations, was clearly unacceptable.

    All sides must now strive to come together to reach a solution to this constitutional crisis. Violence of any sort will simply serve to worsen divisions and make a resolution harder to reach.

    Spain is of course a close ally of the UK and I believe the Prime Minister must therefore appeal directly to the Spanish Government about the importance of dialogue and finding a political solution to this situation.

     

     

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