• 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.

  • Catholic sixth form funding

    Carmel College provides a first-rate education for young people across St Helens borough. I spoke in Westminster about the fantastic impact they have on increasing social mobility, with over a third of high-achieving students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    Unfortunately, Carmel and other Catholic sixth form colleges face significant financial disadvantages compared to other sixth forms and 16 to 19 academies – which of course are also under huge funding pressures because of cuts. Under current legislation, they are unable to access VAT refunds as well as access to a teacher’s pay grant. It is vital that we address this unfair anomaly to enable fantastic educational institutions like Carmel College to continue to make a real difference

  • Women in Football ‘What If?’ campaign

    I  joined my Merseyside Labour MP colleague Alison McGovern, and the Liverpool-born Political Director of Unite the Union, Anneliese Midgeley, to promote the Women in Football ‘What If?’ campaign. If you are a local womens or girls football team in St Helens borough, do get in touch with my office for more information about some of the support available from this great initiative

  • Racing post article

    I was delighted to write for the Racing Post and highlight the challenges facing British horseracing.

    As Chair of the APPG for Racing and MP for Haydock Park, I will continue to champion this hugely important industry which contributes to our local community and economy here in St Helens Borough, and across the country.

  • keeping young people out of the criminal justice system

    In a recent Parliamentary debate on prison sentences, I raised the need for the Government to support initiatives in working-class communities like ours to give young people opportunities while keeping them out of trouble and stopping them sliding into the criminal justice system.

    We are lucky to have volunteers such as Dom Hodnett at clubs like Wildcard Boxing Academy in Parr,  and many other sporting and community groups across St Helens borough working hard to make sure local kids have things to do, can learn about focus and discipline, and are being encouraged to aim and achieve

  • new role as chair of coalfields communities APPG

    I have been elected as Chair of a committee in Westminster that champions the voice of coalfield communities like ours in St Helens borough. The Coalfields Communities APPG raises awareness of issues that former mining areas face and promotes regeneration and economic development. My new role gives me the opportunity to build on the past work of the group and to press the government to focus resources and support in areas like ours.

    I recently spoke in Parliament about the work of great organisations such as the Industrial Communities Alliance and the Coalfield Regeneration Trust, who work closely with MPs, local authorities and businesses to invest in communities across the country.

    I met with the Chair of the Industrial Communities Alliance my friend Cllr Terry O’Neill from Warrington and Cllr Joan Dixon from Bolsover to discuss how we can work together to improve our coalfield communities. On issues from culture and sport to housing and the high street, the voice of former mining communities needs to be heard in Westminster. I will use my new role to make sure it is.

  • supporting our RAF personnel

    It was great to join a cross-party delegation of MPs to visit the RAF Benevolent Fund and was impressed by the important work they do to support RAF personnel, veterans and their families.

    The Fund has provided fantastic care and assistance for 100 years, and it was great to hear first-hand about their work, especially from those who have directly benefitted from it.

  • Irish businesses investing in St Helens

    I hosted businesses from across the UK and Ireland at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in Westminster and talked about ESB’s significant investment in St Helens. Strong trading and business ties between the islands is of great economic importance to both countries.

    Greengate Energy Recovery Facility in St Helens is a shining example of the benefits these close ties bring. Pilkington and Irish-owned ESB Asset Development have jointly developed a facility bringing local jobs and boosting our economy.

    I will continue to help build strong ties between our businesses in the UK and Ireland and use them to help benefit our local economy in St Helens.

  • its ‘Time For Better Pay’

    I am supporting a campaign to strengthen workers’ rights following the launch of a ‘Time For Better Pay’ petition from Usdaw.

    St Helens borough has more jobs classified as ‘sales and customer services’, ‘caring, leisure and other service’ and ‘process, plant and machine operatives’ which are more likely to be lower-paid professions. This means that people in St Helens borough will be more susceptible to receiving poor pay and working under poor conditions.

    The petition launched on the .gov website seeks 100,000 signatures to secure a Government response and possible parliamentary debate. Find the petition at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/234531.

    It demands the government introduces:
    ● A minimum wage rate of at least £10 per hour for all workers.
    ● A minimum contract of 16 hours per week for everyone who wants it.
    ● A contract based on an individual’s normal hours of work.
    ● An end to zero-hours contracts.

    Usdaw’s survey of over 10,500 working people about their experiences of low pay, short-hours contracts, and insecure work shows that stronger employment rights are urgently needed:
    ● Over the past five years, 92% of those surveyed have seen no improvement in their financial situation.
    ● Over the past 12 months, 76% of low-paid workers have had to rely on unsecured borrowing to pay everyday bills.
    ● 63% of people believe that financial worries are having an impact on their mental health.

    There are too many hard working people in St Helens borough who are struggling to get by. The Tories are allowing people in work to be paid less than they need for a decent standard of living. These unacceptable standards should be addressed by increasing the minimum wage to £10 per hour for all workers and ending zero hours contracts.

     

  • We need a General Election and a Labour Government

    Last night the Government was defeated by the largest margin in British Parliamentary history.

    This Tory Government has failed on far more than just Brexit. It is presiding over growing poverty, reduced living standards and homelessness rising year-on-year. Our NHS is in crisis with overcrowded A&Es and increasing waiting lists. Funding to our schools has been cut by £7 billion and cuts to the police force mean there are 21,000 fewer police officers on our streets.

    I have no confidence in Theresa May’s Government to deliver a good Brexit deal and have seen the damage that Tory policies have inflicted on communities in St Helens borough and across the North of England.

    We need a General Election and a Labour Government, and so I will vote for the motion of no confidence in the Government this evening.

     

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