• buffer zones outside abortion clinics

    Abortion is an extremely sensitive and emotive issue with passionate views on both sides.
    Given how difficult and stressful this decision is, it is vital that women are able to access confidential medical and psychological advice and support without fear of harassment or intimidation.

    Of course, everyone has the right to peaceful protest and I appreciate that many people that hold vigils outside abortion clinics do so peacefully.

    However, I am very concerned by reports that some women have faced intimidation from protesters as they enter abortion clinics. No one should feel in any way harassed or intimidated simply for exercising their legal right to healthcare advice.

    As you know, on 26 November 2017, the Government announced that it would be carrying out an assessment of protests outside abortion clinics and that it would consider what further action could be taken to protect those using or working in abortion clinics. This could include bolstering existing or creating new police and civil powers. The review invited evidence from policing partners, healthcare providers and local authorities as well as groups protesting outside abortion clinics and people who have sought medical assistance or advice.

    I welcome this review because I believe it is important that we look at new ways of making sure women seeking advice, as well as staff working in clinics, are safe and that it should consider buffer zones as part of that.

    The Home Office is currently assessing the evidence and it has been reported that the current Home Secretary expects to make an announcement on the review in September. I can assure you that I will monitor developments closely.

    I am aware that other countries around the world, such as the US and France, have introduced measures that include buffer zones. It is sensible to look at the experience of other countries.

  • personal injury claims and the impact on road accident victims.

    I share the concerns about the planned reforms to personal injury claims.

    The Government has introduced a Civil Liability Bill, which it says will crack down on fraudulent whiplash claims and ban the settling of claims without medical evidence, while introducing a fixed tariff of compensation for whiplash injuries with a duration of up to two years. The Government has also confirmed that it plans to increase the limit for which cases are heard in the small claims court for road traffic accident related personal injury claims to £5,000 and for all other personal injury claims to £2,000. As you are aware, below these levels, generally people will not be able to recover their legal costs, even if their case is successful.

    While these reforms are being presented as being about false whiplash claims, they in fact propose a five-fold increase in the small claims limit for all road traffic personal injury claims. I am concerned that many genuinely injured people may lose out.

    The Government seems to believe there is an out of control compensation culture but I feel this is unfair. I am concerned these changes will undermine the longstanding legal principle that the guilty party pays and that victims could be left unfairly liable for greater legal costs.

    More widely on road safety, I believe the UK’s road safety vision should be reset, and that we should strive for a transport network with zero deaths. I believe road-safety targets should be reintroduced and bold measures set out to improve safety standards on our roads. I am aware the Government is currently undertaking a review into cycle safety and that the second phase of this review will consider road safety issues relating to cycling. This is an important issue and I can assure you I will follow developments closely.

     

  • Reproductive rights in Northern Ireland

    Abortion is an extremely sensitive and emotive issue with passionate views on both sides. It is also a matter of conscience.

    As you know, the recent vote in the Republic of Ireland has brought attention to the situation in Northern Ireland where abortion law differs to the rest of the UK.

    In Northern Ireland, abortion is currently illegal, other than in cases where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or if there is a permanent or serious risk to the mother’s physical or mental health. The UK Government has consistently stated its view that because abortion is a devolved matter, the law in this area is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

    However in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly the UK Government should, in consultation with the Irish Government and Northern Ireland parties, end this anomaly from the rest of the UK and the island of Ireland.

    It is my personal view that women in Northern Ireland should have access to a safe and legal abortion.

     

  • UK military action in Syria.

    The attack in Douma on 7 April resulting in the deaths and suffering of innocent civilians, including children, was horrific and those responsible must be held to account. We know that the Assad regime and others have used chemical weapons throughout the conflict in Syria, and these actions cannot go unchallenged.

    We know that the targeted UK, French and US led strikes that took place on 14 April to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and to deter their use. I believe that before authorising this UK military action, the Prime Minister should have consulted Parliament first.

    In my view there was a moral and ethical case for these airstrikes, but it is unclear how they fit in with any wider strategy.

    Although Parliament was in recess, I believe there was time for the Prime Minister to do this. Indeed, while President Trump indicated on 11 April that the US would likely take military action, the strikes did not actually take place until the early hours of 14 April. Parliament was given a say on UK military action in Syria in 2013 and 2015 by convention, and I believe this convention should be maintained.

    I welcome the investigation being carried out by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into the attack in Douma. It must be allowed to do this work unhindered.

    The ultimate humanitarian priority though must be to end the suffering of the Syrian people for good. The Government’s urgent focus should therefore be on a coordinated international drive to achieve a ceasefire, de-escalation and a negotiated political settlement under UN auspices.

  • the European Union Act and the environment

    I agree that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards and I consistently supported amendments to the Withdrawal Bill, as it passed through Parliament, to safeguard environmental protections.

    Such amendments included that moved by Lord Krebs in the House of Lords, which would ensure Brexit does not weaken standards to protect our environment. I voted to defend this in the House of Commons on 13 June.

    Unfortunately, the Government rejected this amendment, arguing that it came ahead of the outcome of its consultation on ‘Environmental Principles and Governance after EU Exit’, which closed on 2 August. Instead, it brought forward its own amendment setting out that the Government will publish a draft Bill on this matter no later than six months after the date of the Withdrawal Bill passing into law.

    This amendment did introduce some helpful developments, including proposals to enable the new watchdog to initiate legal proceedings. The draft Bill will also be required to include the environmental principles within it, such as the “polluter pays” principle and the precautionary principle.

    However, I do not believe that the Government’s proposals are good enough. They do not represent the environmental protections we currently enjoy in the EU. The proposed watchdog is a toothless imitation of current EU institutions, which will advise and lay reports to Parliament with formal action only at the end of numerous bureaucratic hoops. I want to see a world-leading environmental body with independent, statutory backing.

    The Government has also announced it will introduce a new Environment Bill as a step towards achieving a “Green Brexit”, but I am concerned about the lack of information around this Bill. I look forward to closely scrutinising the details when they are revealed.

    I will continue to press for environmental standards to be properly protected and enhanced where necessary and to ensure our principle and governance mechanisms are not weakened on exit from the EU. This is vital to secure the future of our natural environment.

  • meeting young people taking part in the NCS

    I recently met with young people from across the constituency taking part in the National Citizenship Service program.

    National Citizenship Service is an opportunity for young people aged 16 and 17 to learn new skills, meet new people and make a difference in our community. I met them as they were in the process of planning their social action projects, working hard to design and deliver a volunteer project which would have a real impact, working with other community groups. We talked about how they had chosen local charities to support such as Zoe’s Place and Jenson’s Twinkle stars, and how they wanted to help them.

    There were over 50 young people from St Helens taking part, and it was interesting to speak to them about how they got involved, and what they wanted to achieve through the NCS, as it provides a real opportunity to make a positive impact in their communities, enhance their CVs and future prospects. Through the NCS, young people can feel more equipped to tackle issues, become more involved in the community, are more confident about finding a job. If you think it’s right for you or a young person you know and want to learn more, please visit www.ncsthechallenge.org.

  • regional business award winner, ATG

    I visited ATG Access in Haydock to personally congratulate the company President Glen Cooper on the company winning the International Business of the Year award at the Liverpool Echo Regional Business Awards 2018.

    The award was in recognition of the company’s flourishing export business which has grown rapidly in recent years and continues to expand, making up 75% of ATG’s work as they build an international reputation for the access control and high security barrier systems they produce.

    The international success of the company means jobs here in our community, with 85 already employed locally and plans to recruit more – an important boost for the local economy in Haydock.

    ATG has rightly received this award in recognition of all their hard work and drive to build a world leading company, based right here in St Helens.

  • standing up for our towns

    I’m proud to be a part of the new Labour Towns group, which is made up of Labour MPs, councillors and members to stand up for our towns and call out the Tories for the damaging effect that eight years of austerity has had on them.

    As the Member of Parliament for St Helens North, I represent two towns: Newton and St Helens. I have seen how our borough faces a complex blend of challenges that often don’t apply to larger cities or to more rural areas.

    New research from the Labour Towns group has shown that towns have had half the rate of new jobs and businesses as cities since 2010, with the overall economy in towns growing at two thirds the rate of cities in the same period.

    This lag in growth has been accompanied by savage tory cuts to our local government finances, with central government funding to St Helens Council falling form £103 million in 2010 down to a projected £56 million by 2020 – an expected drop of 45 per cent.

    What the Government needs to do is focus on our towns as a new centre for economic growth, and St Helens and Newton are ideally placed to lead this work as it marks its 150th year.

    I’ll be supporting Labour Towns in its important work making the case for places like St Helens and you can find out more about this here:www.labourtowns.co.uk

  • Government needs to support the local transport infrastructure

    I spoke in the House of Commons on two important transport infrastructure issues facing my constituents.

    I called for new works to the junction to be included in the next Road Investment Strategy, Haydock Island is a vital junction that carries traffic off the M6 where it meets very busy local roads.

    Although it has been remodelled in recent years, there are still issues with heavy traffic flows and this is impacting local residents and businesses.

    St Helens is ideally situated for businesses that trade in Liverpool and Manchester and it is vital for workers commuting there and for drivers in St Helens that traffic flows freely.

    on the rail network, the  Wales and the Borders train franchise runs through much of the North West, including areas of St Helens and my constituency of St Helens North.

    Despite this, and the fact that a large number of passengers using the service start and finish their journeys at stations in the North West, no one from our region or indeed at the Department for Transport in London has control over who gets the franchise.

    I raised this issue in the House of Commons and pointed out to the Transport Secretary that it is ludicrous that decisions affecting English passengers are made exclusively in Wales.

    This is galling for commuters and rail passengers in my constituency who have already endured months of delays and cancellations as a result of Northern’s botched new timetable – also something that the Transport Secretary refuses to take responsibility for.

    We need a publicly-run rail franchising system that delivers for passengers and is accountable to the proper authorities.

  • joining local celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the NHS

    I joined the local community, NHS staff, and the Mayor of St Helens at the Mansion House in Victoria Park for St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group Annual General Meeting and a local celebration of the 70th anniversary of the forming of the NHS. The event saw music provided by the Cowley school choir, poetry readings and afternoon tea.

    Tens of thousands of lives across St Helens North have been improved by our NHS and Labour will always stand up for our health service for the generations to come. It remains Labour’s greatest ever achievement, and one of our most cherished institutions.

    But we must fight to ensure it is properly resourced and funded in the years to come. With 700,000 more people on waiting lists, over one million more people waiting longer than four hours in A&E, over 230,000 more people spending more than four hours waiting on a trolley for a bed and 9,600 more people waiting over two months for their first cancer treatment, it is clear the NHS is creaking at the seams despite the best efforts of hardworking and dedicated NHS staff.

    This Government must urgently come up with a proper plan to rescue our NHS that is fully funded and can stand the test of rising demand from an ageing population.

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