• 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.

     

  • 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.

  • Use of agency staff doubling in the NHS

    Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North, has slammed the Government’s continued neglect of the NHS after new figures show spending on agency staff since 2010 has more than doubled at St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust.

    The figures, obtained by Mr McGinn in a Freedom of Information request, show that the total amount spent on agency staff has soared from £4.8 million in 2010/11 to £10.7 million in 2016/17 – more than doubling the cost of temporary staff to the Trust.

    An increase in spending on agency nurses has driven up the figures, with just £0.5m spent in 2010/11 but over £2m paid out in 2016/17 – and the figure is set to increase for the last financial year too.

    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.

    The drop in nursing applications and the increase in spending on agency staff shows that our local Trust is being forced to spend more to plug staffing gaps.

    Commenting, Mr McGinn said:

    “Spending on temporary and agency NHS staff has soared on this Government’s watch and it just goes to show that you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.

    “Despite the best efforts of our local Health Trust, hardworking and dedicated NHS staff in St Helens have endured years of real terms pay cuts as prices have risen, while the amount spent on agency staff has more than doubled to meet the increasing demand.

    “This is a direct result of this Government’s failure to properly run our NHS, and the decision to scrap student nurse bursaries will make matters worse, with a quarter fewer nursing course applications last year alone.

    “A dependence on agency workers to plug staffing gaps is bad for the long term future of our NHS and the Government should commit to turning these numbers around and recruiting more permanent staff as a matter of urgency.

    “Local Trusts like St Helens should not have to fork out to fix a problem created by the Tory Government in London.”

  • My Equal Marriage Bill

    Hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland and across Britain and Ireland who support the right of same-sex couples to marry will be outraged that one Tory MP was able to prevent the progress of my Equal Marriage Bill in the House of Commons last Friday.

    Ministers now need to clarify how they intend to ensure that the right to equal marriage in Northern Ireland – which has the support of the Assembly, Parliament and the public – becomes law. The Government can’t continue to talk out of both sides of its mouth on this issue. It can and should legislate to extend equal marriage to Northern Ireland – because if it’s good enough for my constituents in St Helens and for people in London, Dublin, Cardiff and Edinburgh then it’s good enough for people in Belfast too.

    I will keep fighting alongside and working with the Love Equality NI campaign to get this done. A rally is planned in Belfast on Saturday 2nd June in support of Equal Marriage. My Bill is due to return to Parliament in late October.

    You can watch me being interviewed on The Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC alongside two fabulous women Cara McCann and Amanda McGurk. This is not going away, and we are not giving up.

  • our historic twinning with Stuttgart

    Our creative industries foster strong links between our communities, in art, music, sport and culture, across the country and internationally.

    In our borough’s 150th year, it is important that we renew and strengthen these bonds, as well as ensuring our young people can fully benefit from them.

    The twinning of St Helens and the German city of Stuttgart is an excellent example of what can be achieved for our communities and this is underpinned by our creative industries.I spoke in Westminster to highlight the historic partnership between St Helens and Stuttgart – the first such partnership after World War 2.

  • Labours new policy on free bus travel for under 25s

    Labour has announced a new policy to fund free bus travel for under 25s across the country – which would save money for thousands of young people in St Helens.

    Across our borough around one in four children grow up in poverty, with years of Tory austerity hitting family finances and stretching budgets.

    Introducing free bus travel for young people will support them to travel to work, to school or college and to visit friends.

    Across the Liverpool City Region, Labour is leading the way with the introduction of the Merseytravel My Ticket – the young persons discounted ticket which gives unlimited travel across the whole region for a full day and is available to all young people up to their 19th Birthday.

    This is particularly important given that young adults tend to have less disposable income and more insecure work than older people.

    Across the country, introducing free bus travel for under 25s will save up to 13 million young people up to £1,000 per year and will be paid for using money ring-fenced from Vehicle Excise Duty.

    Labour’s research has shown how the average number of bus trips made by under 25s since 2010 has declined – up to 40 per cent for those aged 21 – 25. Free bus travel will help boost these falling numbers and give young people greater mobility.

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