• Fair Wages For All Ages

    As a co-sponsor of my colleague Holly Lynch MP’s Bill, I’m delighted to support the campaign for Fair Wages For All Ages.

    Young people under the age of 25 working on minimum wage currently earn less than their older colleagues – even if they are doing the same job.

    This is having a big financial impact on young workers, with House of Commons Library figures showing that someone working full time on the minimum wage, who is paid at the rate for 18 year olds, would earn £3,774 less per year than someone who is over 25.

    This gap is only going to increase further as the ‘living wage’ increases towards a target of around £9 an hour.

    It is unacceptable that young people are being left behind in this way, which is why I’m backing the Bill and the campaign to introduce fairness to the system by bringing younger people’s wages into line with their older colleagues.

    This is the right thing to do and would also bring the UK into line with other countries whose young workers do not face this wage discrimination, including Germany, New Zealand, Ireland and even the United States

  • supporting musicians in the house of commons

    The rise of music streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube have allowed millions more people to access music at an affordable price.

    But often there is a large ‘value gap’ between the revenues earned by these platforms and the money paid to artists and bands.

    In 2015, YouTube accounted for 40 per cent of overall music listening but just 4 per cent of revenue for artists. This huge gap in value is simply not fair for hardworking artists and musicians who should be properly rewarded for their creativity.

    I raised the importance of this in the House of Commons and I was pleased to hear that the Government is committed to supporting musicians.

  • the 70th anniversary of the creation of the National Health Service

    This week marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of the National Health Service.

    I’m proud of the NHS, the most enduring legacy of the socialist and progressive measures taken by the radical 1945 Labour Government.

    The real heroes of our NHS are its hardworking and dedicated staff, from staff nurses to junior doctors and hospital porters to ambulance paramedics. They are the lifeblood of our health service, without which it wouldn’t exist.

    Every family has their own NHS story, and like everyone else my gratitude to our health service is because of the treatment I and my family have received over many years and generations. And I’m really proud that my mum has worked in the NHS for 36 years, and that aunts, great-aunts and cousins were NHS nurses and midwives both here in England and in Northern Ireland.

    The travesty of recent years is the abject failure of this Government to support our NHS staff.

    Since 2010, we have seen this Government in disputes with junior doctors and nurses, impose real terms pay cuts in back to back years and preside over a devastating series of winter crises in our hospitals that has stretched staff morale to breaking point.

    Just this year, new figures revealed that here in St Helens, Government mismanagement of our NHS has quadrupled the bill for agency nurses, because of staff shortages after they cut nurse training places.

    The NHS, its staff and its patients desperately need a Labour government that can deal with these crises and support our NHS in the years to come and preserve that most progressive idea of a healthcare system free at the point of use, available to those who need it.

     

  • the importance of a credible brownfield first policy

    I had a very good engagement with the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

    The CPRE has set out some useful policy detail on the importance of a credible brownfield first policy for increasing housing supply, which I agree with.

    In 2010, Government figures showed there were approximately 70,000 hectares of brownfield land that is unused – half of which was considered suitable for housing. Since then the Tories have completely cut funding for remediation work needed to bring this land back in to use, while at the same time increasing pressure on local authorities to meet new house-building targets. This is having a particular impact on places like St Helens.

    In my response to our Local Plan, I made it clear that St Helens Council should commit to the redevelopment of brownfield sites first and phase any release of land to focus developments on previously used sites, with a local register of brownfield sites to ensure we maximise the opportunities to develop them.

    I’ll continue to push for a balanced Local Plan which is ambitious for St Helens, Newton-le-Willows and our villages, which encourages people to live, work and visit here, and which first and foremost ensures the best quality of life for local residents with good housing, schools, health & public services and decent transport infrastructure.

  • meeting with the NFU

    It was great to meet Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union, to discuss the importance of agriculture to the economy and what more the Government can do to support farmers.

    More than 32,000 people work in the agricultural sector across the North West and nearly 100,000 hectares is farmed across the region.

    It is vital for these farmers, their families and the communities theyserve that people are aware of and able to engage with the food and farming industry, which is why I’ve been supportive of an Agriculture GCSE in our schools, for example.

    The NFU will also be stepping up its work educating young people about the importance of food and farming with its new ‘Farmvention’ programme.

    The initiative will launch in September and will offer schoolchildren the opportunity to design tractors and farms of the future as well as giving schools the chance to win fully funded day trips to farms.

     

  • Heathrow expansion will benefit St Helens North

    Businesses in St Helens, companies across the North West and national trade unions have all told me a third runway at Heathrow will be good for workers, good for jobs and good for economic growth in our region and across the UK.

    I’ve been clear that Heathrow expansion must be matched by a renewed commitment to fund transport infrastructure that builds road and rail connectivity across the North.

    In a free vote in the House of Commons tonight, I’ll join dozens of other Northern Labour MPs to support the decision – which was initially made by the last Labour Government – to build a new runway at Heathrow as an important investment in our national and regional economies.

    In St Helens & Newton-le-Willows we are lucky to be served by two airports – Liverpool John Lennon and the nation’s second international hub airport at Manchester – both of which stand to gain from additional capacity at Heathrow.

    Heathrow is currently operating at 98 per cent capacity, denying regional airports like Liverpool a direct link, which is damaging inward investment across the Liverpool City Region.

    The new runway at Heathrow provides an opportunity to create new routes, boosting jobs and growth across Merseyside, with up to 180,000 new jobs expected across the country – and thousands set to be added in the North West.

    Manchester Airport is also making a significant investment in expanding its facilities and that should be matched by strategic Government support to ensure that the capacity offered by its two runways is fully utilised, including for new international routes.

    The decision to build a third runway at Heathrow and expand our national aviation capacity is an important decision for the country, but it is also vitally important for businesses and workers in St Helens and the North West. It is now time to get on with the project and realise the economic benefits for our region and the whole of the UK.

  • House magazine as ‘campaigner of the week’

    I was delighted to be recognised by The House magazine as ‘campaigner of the week’, as part of the campaign to introduce Helen’s Law.

    We are making progress, with Justice Minister Rory Stewart committing the Government to considering two policy options brought through the Ministry of Justice.

    Of course, the real credit goes to Marie McCourt, who has fought tirelessly for justice in the 30 years since Helen was murdered, and the families of many other victims.

    We are absolutely clear that convicted murderers who do not reveal the whereabouts of their victims’ remains should remain in prison where they belong, and we will keep up the fight for Helen’s Law.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

     

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