• Gingerbread campaign

    A number of constituents have contacting me about the child maintenance system and the Gingerbread campaign to improve it and get the Government to act to collect unpaid maintenance. Child maintenance is, of course, money children are entitled to and a key plank in the fight against poverty. I share constituents concern that parents are now required to pay to use the Child Maintenance Service collection service whilst the evidence on arrears suggests that it is failing to deliver. As you mention, the Gingerbread ‘Maintenance matters’ report, launched in the summer, looked at the current performance of the Child Support Agency (CSA) and that of its replacement, the Child Maintenance Service. The report highlighted that arrears across the child support schemes amount to almost £4 billion. I know that following the launch of the report the Government stated that it was considering the report’s recommendations, and taking steps to implement powers to recover child maintenance arrears from joint bank accounts. The Government conducted a consultation on this specific measure in the summer. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the Child Maintenance Service and its effectiveness in ensuring regular payments for children, and will consider recommendations to improve the service overall. I know the Chair of this committee has said that the current maintenance system appears to be failing parents in receiving regular payments. I will follow the outcome of this inquiry closely and will bear your views in mind when the Government responds. Child maintenance is vital in providing children with the essentials, such as food and clothing. With 3.9 million children living in poverty we cannot stand by while maintenance arrears mount. The Government is failing in its duty to ensure that non-resident parents meet their responsibilities and I will continue to support efforts to press for action.

  • The breeding and sale of kittens

    I share the concerns of many constituents about the welfare of cats that are bought and sold and about the detrimental impact of poor breeding practices on the welfare of cats.

    I believe it is vital that all breeders follow the high animal welfare standards enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) 2006, introduced by the previous Labour Government. The AWA, for the first time, embedded in statute clear standards relating to the welfare of animals. This Act makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring the welfare needs of their animals are met and makes it an offence to cause unnecessary physical or mental suffering to animals, including cats. Under this Act, breeders of cats may be investigated by local authorities where there are welfare concerns. It is also the case that a business that sells cats, unless it falls within certain exemptions, needs a licence under the Pet Animals Act 1951. Local authorities have powers of inspection of pet shop premises.

    However, I appreciate that while there is distinct legislation for breeding and for selling in the case of dogs, there is no equivalent legislation that regulates the breeding of cats. I agree that irresponsible breeding is a growing problem and I believe poor breeding practices contribute greatly to the number of abandoned animals rescue centres have to deal with.

    At the 2015 general election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to improve protection of dogs and cats and prior to the election, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues committed to review inadequate regulations on the breeding and sale of dogs and cats and ensure that animal welfare standards can be applied to modern trading practices such as online trade.

    As you know, the current Government is reviewing animal establishments licensing in England and is looking at the Pet Animals Act 1951 with a view to updating the laws on the breeding and selling of pet animals. I welcome this review.

    The Government has proposed creating a single “animal establishment licence” for dog breeding, animal boarding, riding establishments and pet shops. The Government has said that the law will be clear that online and home-based businesses must also be licensed and plans to update the legal requirements for each licensed activity. The Government consulted on this from December 2015 to March 2016 and in September 2016, published a summary of the responses it had received. The Government has said that over the next few months, regulations will be drafted regarding the specific proposals, which will take into account the views expressed in the consultation.

    While the consultation included several proposals on standards around the sale of puppies, I understand that Cats Protection made a submission to the consultation and I hope the Government will carefully consider the charity’s views when setting out its response. I will follow developments on this closely.

     

  • Cuts to Employment Support Allowance

    Constituents have been contacting me recently regarding planned cuts to financial support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment Support Allowance. I share those concern about this issue and am very disappointed that the level of support for new claimants in the WRAG is set to be reduced by around £30 a week from April 2017. This will see disabled people in the ESA WRAG group lose around £1,500 a year. During the passage of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, I opposed this unfair measure, as I believe it will hurt vulnerable people who through no fault of their own are suffering from serious illnesses and are in and out of work intermittently. I also believe it risks creating a perverse incentive for people with health problems to be placed in the more expensive Support Group of ESA, thereby making is less likely they will receive help and support to return to work and potentially increase social security costs. While various discretionary funds may be available, there is no guarantee of support and I am therefore concerned that the cuts to ESA will increase the numbers of disabled people living in poverty, threatening their health and wellbeing. I believe, like the NHS, our social security system should be there for all of us in our time of need, based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity. Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I can assure you I will continue to stand up for a welfare state that is there to support people when they need it most, and will press for a full reversal of the planned reductions to ESA.

  • Battle for Breath campaign

    I sympathise profoundly with anyone who suffers with respiratory illness and I share many of the concerns raised by the campaign. Lung disease is a major health issue and I believe it is important that we do all we can to make inroads into improving respiratory health.

    In its report published in March the British Lung Foundation highlights wide variation in treatment and care across the country. It estimates that lung disease costs the economy £11 billion every year and raises serious concerns about the long-term neglect, under-prioritisation and underinvestment in research, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease.

    This report is an important step in highlighting the staggering and rising cost of the illness. There is not only a financial toll for our society but for the NHS as well. I believe the Government need to come up with a credible and comprehensive strategy to minimise the prevalence of lung diseases in our country.

    I remain concerned that cuts to public health spending may widen the health inequality gap in our country – £200 million has already been cut from local public health budgets and 3.9% average real-terms cuts are expected each year to 2020-21. I believe the Government must be more proactive in raising awareness among the public and invest in preventative health measures which can head off the risks of lung disease in the years to come.

    The Department of Health has said it is keen to work with the NHS and the voluntary sector to find practical and innovative ways of improving outcomes for patients with respiratory disease, and that it will consider proposals for an independent respiratory taskforce as part of that process. I know that the Government continues to be questioned in Parliament on whether it will establish an independent taskforce on lung health. I can assure you I will continue to follow any developments with interest.

     

  • Beer duty

    I value our pubs, which are often at the heart of community life, I myself am a CAMRA member of over ten years standing. It is concerning, therefore, that so many across the country continue to close every week. This loss is not only felt by local communities but by our economy as a whole in terms of jobs, trade and tax revenues.

    It should not be forgotten that the Coalition Government’s decision to increase VAT to 20% added around 6p to the price of a pint. I know that there was disappointment from some in the industry that there was not a fourth successive cut in beer duty in the March 2016 budget. CAMRA has stated that considering the current economic uncertainty and financial pressures on pubs, more action is needed.

    No change to beer duty was announced in the Autumn Statement and I know that attention has turned to the 2017 Budget and that CAMRA and the British Beer and Pub Association have called for there to be a cut next year.

    I appreciate that there was real disappointment that there was not more support announced on business rates for pubs in the Autumn Statement. The 2017 revaluation has left many small businesses at risk of closing due to large rate increases. The Government’s relief package does not go anywhere near far enough to helping these businesses, especially given the other pressures on them. I believe there should be an overhaul of business rates and I will continue to support efforts to press for fairer rates.

    In my view a comprehensive approach is required to support consumers and community pubs. For example, the Opposition have continued to hold the Government to account on issues such as the implementation of the statutory Pubs Code.

     

     

  • McGinn: The Tories are failing working families – 1/3 of Sure Start centres in St Helens have been lost

    Sure Start

    Conor McGinn MP & the Labour Party have uncovered shocking figures which show a third of Sure Start centres in St Helens and the UK have been lost since 2010.

    The Tories famously pledged to be the “most family friendly Government we’ve ever had” and promised to protect Sure Start. However, new research, based on Freedom of Information requests to councils, reveals the Tories have broken their promise.

    The figures show that the number of designated Sure Start children’s centres in St Helens has dropped by a third from 12 in 2010 to 8 in 2017. There are also 173 fewer centres in the North West.

    Commenting Mr McGinn said:

    “These shocking figures reveal yet another broken promise by the Tories, who are failing working families by making them pay for their economic mismanagement.

    “The closure of Sure Start centres in St Helens – taking away support from children and their families – has made life harder for many in my constituency.

    “A Labour Government would support Sure Start and stand up for families by building the services they need so we can give children the support they deserve.”

  • Conor & Labour: free school meals for all primary school children in St Helens

    Free school meals

    Conor McGinn MP has welcomed the Labour Party’s pledge that the next Labour Government will provide free school meals for all primary school children, a change that could benefit 7,986 children in St Helens.

    Labour will fund the policy by introducing VAT on private school fees, it is estimated this will raise £1.5billion. The House of Commons Library estimates that the cost of providing free school meals for all primary school children would be £700-£900 million.

    Research confirmed by the National Centre for Social Research and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown offering universal access to free school meals improves educational attainment. The provision of free school meals also has been proven to improve the health of pupils through better nutrition.

    Commenting Conor McGinn MP said:

    “No child in St Helens should go without a decent lunch and be hungry at school.

    “By charging VAT on private schools fees, the next Labour Government will make sure all primary school children, no matter what their background, get a healthy meal at school.

    “This will benefit lower income families in my constituency who don’t qualify for free school meals currently, but are still struggling to make ends meet.

    “Research shows that this will improve educational attainment and will help make sure that no child is at a disadvantage because of their background.”

  • Conor backs Parkinson’s Awareness Week

    Parkinson's

    This Parkinson’s Awareness Week St Helens North MP Conor McGinn has pledged his support to the charity Parkinson’s UK’s “We Won’t Wait” campaign, calling for urgent action to unlock the promise of research developments that could pave the way to better treatments and stop Parkinson’s drugs ‘falling behind’.

    Conor McGinn MP said;

    “While great strides have been made over the past 200 years, people with Parkinson’s are still waiting for a treatment that can tackle the condition head on. Because of this, I am supporting Parkinson’s UK’s We Won’t Wait campaign: we need a complete step change to deliver better treatments and a cure faster.”

    Research released by the charity revealed that despite being an incurable, degenerative condition which can affect anyone, in the North West, more than half (54%) of people are unsure, or wrongly say that it is possible to prevent Parkinson’s.

    Parkinson’s UK wants to drive forward crucial developments in Parkinson’s research to pioneer more effective treatments that are desperately needed for the estimated 14,000 living with the condition in the North West.

  • Conor visits local business Handepay

    Handepay

    Conor McGinn MP paid a visit to locally-based national business Handepay in Haydock.

    Conor met with the Managing Director, Andy Peake, to talk about the company’s success and their plans for the future.

    Handepay provides debit and credit card processing services to 26,000 independent businesses. They employ 210 people with 150 jobs based at their headquarters in Haydock.

    Andy, from Newton-le-Willows and educated at Selwyn Jones High School, has worked hard to build his business. Last year Handepay celebrated their tenth year anniversary and marked it by pledging to raise £10k for the Steve Prescott foundation.

    Speaking after his visit, Conor said:

    “It was good to meet with Andy to talk about the success of Handepay, and how he wants to develop his business and continue to make a positive contribution to the local economy and community.

    “Chances are if you have paid for goods or services with a credit or debit card, you will have at some point used a Handepay card machine.

    “Andy is a great example of what can be achieved through hard work, creating the right product and a skilled and motivated workforce.”

  • Conor attended the induction of the Revd Malcolm Fife

    Malcom fife 2 Malcom fife

    Conor attended the induction of the Revd Malcolm Fife to the joint pastorate of Christ Church United Reform Church (URC) Haydock, Cross Lane URC & Huyton URC.

    The service was a very moving and uplifting event with Merseyside Synod Moderator, Revd Jacky Embrey, members from all three churches present along with the representatives from other Christian denominations and the wider community across St Helens, as well as Revd Malcolm’s family and friends.

    The church was founded in 1891 as Haydock Congregational Church and has served the local community ever since. The church also introduced a community centre which continues to support Haydock and the surrounding areas.

    Speaking after the event, Conor said:

    “It was a pleasure to attend a very uplifting service of celebration for Revd Malcolm’s induction as the United Reform Church Minister for this pastorate, and welcome him into our Haydock, Newton-le-Willows and entire St Helens community.

    “I look forward to working with Revd Malcolm in the future to continue the excellent work the church does in and for our whole community.”

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