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International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill
15 December 2014
On the 5th December I voted in favor of the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill, which would enshrine in law the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national spend on overseas aid.
UK aid changes and saves lives every day. In 2013, British aid supported 10.2 million children – 4.9 million girls – to go to primary and lower secondary school; ensured that 3.6 million births took place safely with the help of nurses, midwives or doctors; prevented 19.3 million children under 5 and pregnant women from going hungry; and distributed over 33.5 million insecticide treated bednets.
Since 1990 the number of children dying unnecessary deaths has been cut almost in half, from 12 million a year to 6.9 million. Aid has also contributed to improving education, health, sanitation, gender equality, and other public services that sustain a developing economy and add to global growth. We have a duty to care for the world's poorest, and it is in our interest to help build a more peaceful and stable world.
If you wish to view the progress of the Bill, you can do so by clicking here.
2 December 2014
On the 23rd November 2013, a pet poodle called Harvey went missing. Harvey was later found dead on the M62 motorway. Despite Harvey being microchipped, Harvey’s owners did not find out about his fate until February 2014, and this was only by chance.
As a consequence, Harvey’s owners and their supporters have launched the Harvey’s Law e-petition, which proposes three new Highways Agency requirements:
• Compulsory scanning of all domestic animals retrieved from the highways
• Log report filed and circulated to both Police and Dog Warden
• Photographs of the deceased to be held with the log report to be used for identification purposes.
If you wish to sign the e-petition, you can do so by clicking here. Should the e-petition receive over 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee.
Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) campaign
28 November 2014
Every week in the UK at least 12 young people die of undiagnosed heart conditions. Since its formation in 1995, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) has been working to reduce the frequency of young sudden cardiac death (YSCD). CRY supports young people diagnosed with potentially life-threatening cardiac conditions and offers bereavement support to families affected by YSCD. CRY promotes and develops heart screening programmes and funds medical research.
This week, CRY launched a new short film about young sudden cardiac death, as part of their ongoing mission to raise awareness of young sudden cardiac death and to highlight the importance of their pioneering cardiac screening programme. CRY's video can be seen here.
For more information about CRY, please click here.
Carers Rights Day
28 November 2014
Today is Carers Rights Day which is organised by Carers UK to increase the take up of carers’ rights and entitlements and to raise awareness of the needs of carers.
There are around 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK who provide care and support to family, friends and neighbours, saving the country an estimated £119 billion each year.
Carers are fulfilling a vital role in our society, but too often they go without the support they need because they don’t know about the support available. We must all play a role in helping to identify and support people who are looking after ill, frail or disabled loved ones and making sure they get the right information and advice about the support they are entitled to as early as possible.
To find out more about Carers Rights Day, please click here.
Children's Heart Foundation
28 November 2014
The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) is the UK’s leading children’s heart charity and an umbrella organisation for 21 member groups who support heart children and their families. CHF supports families through its information service, small grant programmes, peer support events and provision of equipment. The charity also lobbies for changes to the health, social care and education systems for the benefit of heart families.
I’m supporting the CHF in their call for all political parties, including my own, to commit to raising awareness of the need for heart donors for children. We’ve come a long way with medical advancements for these children over the years - we now need to look to their future.
For more information on the Children’s Heart Federation, please click here.
Wildlife Cybercrime on UK websites
28 November 2014
A number of constituents have contacted me about wildlife crime on UK websites. Our wildlife is facing unprecedented challenges from climate change and habitat loss. I am deeply concerned that the Government is not doing enough to stop this wildlife loss and overcome the threats to our natural world. It is vital that politicians of all parties face up to this challenge of protecting wildlife for future generations.
David Cameron promised to lead the “Greenest Government Ever” but instead his Government has set back efforts to protect Britain’s wildlife and natural environment. Labour developed a new approach to environmental policy in government, based upon whole ecosystems rather than individual species or habitats. We commissioned the world’s first National Ecosystem Assessment, made a binding commitment to reverse the decline of biodiversity by 2020 and committed to make space for nature in every region of the UK. Unfortunately this Government has abandoned our approach. Government has a duty to protect our natural environment and wildlife so that all can enjoy them, including future generations.
I have written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Liz Truss about this issue and will post her response on my website.
National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill
25 November 2014
A number of constituents have contacted me about the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill.
I attended the debate on Friday 21st November. I voted in favour of this Bill as it will end the move towards NHS privatisation and will put patients back at the heart of the NHS. You can read the transcript of the debate that took place in Hansard.
The Bill passed and will now be considered by a committee of MP’s in approximately two weeks time. You can view the progress of the Bill by clicking here.
4 November 2014
I have been in contact with a number of firefighters' in my constituency, union representatives and Ministers since spring 2013 on the issue of firefighters’ pensions and fire station closures.
On 28th October, Penny Mordaunt MP, the Fire Minister, released an open letter on reforms to firefighters’ pension scheme, outlining the final changes to the pension scheme and laying the pensions regulations in Parliament.
I have raised constituent’s concerns with the Fire Minister and will continue to do all that I can to help firefighters in their efforts to achieve a workable, fair and affordable solution to negotiations with the government on pension reforms.
I will sign Early Day Motion 454 ‘Public Service Pensions’.
Recall of MPs Bill (updated)
29 October 2014
As you may know, the Bill passed its Second Reading stage in the House of Commons on Tuesday 21 October, and had a day of consideration in committee on Monday 27th. During committee stage, Labour’s frontbench proposed some amendments to strengthen the Bill. These would have reduced the number of days of suspension from the House which would trigger the recall process and would have widened the scope of offences caught by the Bill. The Government indicated they would accept three of these amendments - to include within the scope of the Bill offences committed but not convicted prior to the Bill coming in to force, to lower the suspension threshold and also to trigger recall for all convictions for fiddling expenses fraud. This is a welcome step, and we look forward to returning to these amendments at Report Stage.
During the debate, the Labour frontbench also made clear that we want to find a way to support the suggestion from backbencher David Heath and others to provide a third trigger for recall in the case of misconduct that the public can instigate. If we can find a way to make this suggestion work, I think it will be a good way to help ensure the public have faith in a recall process because it will provide a mechanism completely independent of the Houses of Parliament and MPs.
At the conclusion of day one of committee stage, the House voted against Zac Goldsmith’s amendments to the Bill which would have allowed a form of recall that would let an MP be removed from parliament for any reason, not just misconduct. I voted with MPs across all parties against these amendments because I think they would have given too much power to well-funded interest groups to pressure MPs into supporting their agenda with a constant threat of recall petitions. I think it is critical that MPs are able to vote with their conscience on the issues of the day and then face the electorate at a General Election. A balance must be drawn between giving the people the opportunity to recall an MP for misconduct and allowing MPs to make difficult decisions that might anger certain organisations or groups. Now the House has spoken on Zac Goldsmith’s amendments, we must now focus on improving and strengthening the proposals in the Government’s Bill.
I think if we can find a workable way of creating a public trigger for recall when an MP has done something wrong, and we can toughen up the rest of the government’s proposals, then we will hopefully have a system of recall that commands public trust and ensures people don’t have to wait until the general election to get rid of their MP when they have done something seriously wrong.
Recall of MPs Bill
28 October 2014
A number of constituents have contacted me about the Recall of MPs Bill 2014-15.
I support the principle of a right of recall where an MP has been involved in serious misconduct as I believe this would provide greater accountability and would further empower constituents. The right of recall could also increase public engagement in politics and help to restore public trust.
The previous Labour Government had plans to introduce a right of recall and there was broad cross-party support for this at the last General Election.
My view is that the Recall Bill is not strong enough, and Labour would seek to strengthen this Bill at future stages. I am not in favour of a system of recall that simply enhances the House of Commons’ internal disciplinary procedures. There is a real risk that such a system will be seen as the political establishment closing ranks and could lose the confidence of the public. In addition, any system of recall must not allow powerful vested interests to take action against MPs where no wrongdoing has occurred but there is simply disagreement on the way a politician voted on a particular issue.
Recall could play an important role in giving people a bigger say if we get the detail right. That is why I will be closely following this Bill and any future amendments. You can follow all of the stages of the Recall of MPs Bill 2014-15 here.
Palestinian Statehood - Debate on 13th October
9 October 2014
A number of constituents have contacted me about the debate on Palestinian statehood on Monday 13th October.
Labour has supported Palestinian recognition at the United Nations since 2011. I fully support two states living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours and it is clear that the events of recent months only underline the dangers for both Palestinians and Israelis of a resumption of violence and bloodshed. Labour is clear that this conflict will only be resolved through negotiations. However, after decades of diplomatic failure, there are those on all sides that today question whether a two-state solution is any longer possible. Labour believes that the international community must take concrete steps to strengthen moderate Palestinian opinion, encourage the Palestinians to take the path of politics, reject the path of violence, and rekindle hopes that there is a credible route to a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel achieved by negotiations.
In 2011 and 2012, Labour called on the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to commit Britain to supporting the Palestinians' bid for recognition at the UN, not as a means of bypassing the need for talks, but as a bridge for restarting them.
Labour’s consistent support for the principle of recognising Palestinian statehood, as part of continuing steps to achieve a comprehensive negotiated two state solution, is why I will be voting to support the principle of Palestinian statehood when the House of Commons debates the issue on Monday. This motion does not commit Labour to immediate recognition of Palestine but it does reaffirm Labour’s support for the principle of recognising Palestinian statehood.
Open letter to Islamic State from Muslim Scholars
8 October 2014
Last month, over 120 Islamic scholars from around the world issued an open letter denouncing Islamic State militants and refuting their religious arguments. To read the Executive Summary and full 23 page letter, please click here.
Police Estates Strategy
6 October 2014
Last week, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside, Jane Kennedy announced the launch of the Police Estates Strategy. This link will detail the proposed changes and outline the planned locations of new Neighbourhood/Patrol Hubs and Community Police Stations.
There will be two public meetings with the Commissioner and Knowsley’s Police Area Commander along with 4 public road-shows in the Knowsley area where members of the public can attend.
Weds 22nd Oct 1.00pm-3.00pm Asda Huyton, Huyton Lane, Huyton, L36 7TX
Mon 27th Oct 4.00pm – 6.00pm Aldi Halewood, Leathers Lane, L26 0TX
Weds 29th Oct 10.30am – 12.30pm Kirkby One Stop Shop, The Kirkby Centre, Norwich Way, Kirkby, L32 8XY
Mon 3rd Nov 12.00pm – 2.00pm Prescot One Stop Shop, Prescot Shopping Centre, Eccleston Street, Prescot, L35 5GA
Thurs 30th Oct 6.00pm – 8.00pm Kirkby – All Saints Catholic High School, Roughwood Drive, Kirkby, L33 8XF
Weds 12th Nov 6.00pm- 8.00pm Huyton Suite, Civic Way, Huyton, L36 9GD
If you are unable to attend the roadshows or public meetings, there is also an opportunity to provide feedback via the Police Commissioner’s website, please click here for more details.
Iraq: Coalition against ISIL
26 September 2014
That this House condemns the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq including the Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians and Yazidi and the humanitarian crisis this is causing; recognises the clear threat ISIL poses to the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request from the Government of Iraq for military support from the international community and the specific request to the UK Government for such support; further recognises the threat ISIL poses to wider international security and the UK directly through its sponsorship of terrorist attacks and its murder of a British hostage; acknowledges the broad coalition contributing to military support of the Government of Iraq including countries throughout the Middle East; further acknowledges the request of the Government of Iraq for international support to defend itself against the threat ISIL poses to Iraq and its citizens and the clear legal basis that this provides for action in Iraq; notes that this motion does not endorse UK air strikes in Syria as part of this campaign and any proposal to do so would be subject to a separate vote in Parliament; accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government, working with allies, in supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting civilians and restoring its territorial integrity, including the use of UK air strikes to support Iraqi, including Kurdish, security forces’ efforts against ISIL in Iraq; notes that Her Majesty’s Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; and offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s armed forces.
I will be voting for this motion today. My reasons for doing so, are, first of all, the motion proposed is measured and limited. For example, it specifically rules out any actions which would include troops on the ground and extending the role into Syria. Secondly, such limited action that is proposed, is at the specific request of the democratically elected Iraqi government. On that basis, given the humanitarian crisis brought about by the actions of ISIL, I think that this is the right thing to do.
Scottish Independence Referendum
19 September 2014
Congratulations to Scotland for the example they have set in democratic engagement. With a turnout of 85% and, following a lively debate, there are lessons we can all learn about the importance of identity and the instinct we share for much greater fairness.
Because of the promises given by Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg to the people of Scotland, it is now inevitable and welcome, that the UK as a whole makes some big decisions about how resources are distributed to communities and what mechanisms are put in place to ensure that they are distributed more fairly.
In his statement this morning, the PM, David Cameron, said that: “It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new settlement that applies to all parts of the United Kingdom […]”
And, the Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, said that: “’How can we build a better future for our children and grandchildren?’ We know those were the questions that people were asking, they were not just asking questions about the constitution and about the way our politics works, they were asking about whether our country works for them and they were telling us, and they are telling us this in Scotland, they are telling us this throughout our country, that our country only works for a tiny elite few at the top”.
For some time now, I have been campaigning in Parliament for greater recognition that areas like Knowsley are not being treated fairly by the Coalition government. For example, Knowsley Council’s grant settlement means that they will lose between £65-£74 million in government support over the lifetime of this government. Liverpool City Council will experience equally savage cuts over the same period. Yet both are by all official statistics amongst the poorest Council areas in the UK.
At the same time some of the most prosperous areas such as Wokingham and West Oxfordshire, with far less need than Liverpool and Knowsley, are having virtually no cuts or even an increase in the Government Grant they receive. This strikes at the heart of the fairness debate. Whilst it is welcome that the main party leaders recognise this need, any solution on new arrangements must recognise that a Whitehall/Westminster-centric fix will not any longer be an acceptable way forward. What we now need is a new way of doing things which is rooted in local communities and reflects local needs.
My strong belief is that more powers and resources should be invested in local councils. In our case we have a relatively new combined authority, the Liverpool City Region, which incorporates Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral. Elsewhere, it could involve county councils such as Lancashire or Cheshire.
I see the post-Scottish referendum as an opportunity to redress the imbalance of power and resources that, for too long, has held back our communities on our city region. So, in congratulating Scotland, we now need to make it clear that areas like the Liverpool City Region are now seeking the same powers, fairness and resources to control our own destiny. .
Knowsley Foodbank Xtra
16 September 2014
Knowsley Foodbank is a wonderful local organisation, who help those in need get back onto their feet. I have long been a supporter of their invaluable work, not only in offering food, but also debt and employment advice, and support for those with newborn babies. Their new project - Foodbank Xtra – will make a big difference to how clients use the food they receive. In addition to this extra food, Knowsley Foodbank will also provide nutrition-related health advice and signposting for clients to make the most of what they have. If you would like further information on the work that Knowsley Foodbank do, please click here.
Affordable Homes Bill
10 September 2014
A large number of constituents have contacted me regarding Andrew George’s Private Member’s Bill in respect of the Bedroom Tax, which had its Second Reading on 5th September. I am wholly opposed to the Bedroom Tax and know all too well the effect it is having in Knowsley. The Labour Party are committed, if we are successful at the next general election, to scrapping the Bedroom Tax and I fully support that policy.
I attended the debate last Friday, and voted with Labour colleagues to support the Affordable Homes Bill. It is my intention to continue supporting this Bill.
To read the Hansard transcript of the debate, please click here.
UK's 0.7% Aid Promise
10 September 2014
On Friday 12th September, I will be attending the Second Reading of Michael Moore's Private Member's Bill on International Development (Official Development Assistance Target).
The Labour Party is supportive of legislation, to enshrine in law, the UK’s commitment to spend at least 0.7% of Gross National Income on international development.
22 August 2014
Youth Debate is a website where young people from the age of 14 – 25 can post and debate their views on politics.
Youth Debate describe their primary principles, and goals as follows:
1. To be welcoming to all, no matter their views.
2. To encourage healthy debate.
3. To inspire youth to engage in politics.
4. To provide information to young people who want to physically get involved in politics.
5. To influence mainstream politics by engaging in intelligent, thought-provoking debate.
If you are interested in finding out more about Youth Debate, visit their website www.youthdebate.co.uk
Equality and Human Rights Commission call for evidence
20 August 2014
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have launched a call for evidence from individuals and organisations about the impact of religion or belief on people as employers or service providers or as employees or service users.
The EHRC intend to use this information to assess how employers and service providers are taking religion or belief into account and the impact this has on individuals.
If you would like to take part, please visit www.equalityhumanrights.com/religion
Living with Diabetes Day
20 August 2014
On Saturday 18 October, Diabetes UK will be running a free support event for anyone diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the last few years, or who may have been diagnosed for longer, but has little knowledge of their condition. Over 80,000 people are estimated to have Type 2 diabetes across Merseyside. Improving people's understanding of the condition and how to look after themselves will not only help improve their day-to-day health, but will also help them to avoid serious complications in the long-term.
Throughout the day, people will be given information they need to help them start taking control of their condition so they can enjoy a healthy life. Healthcare professionals will provide information on local healthcare and the services available to people with Type 2 diabetes in the area.
The event is free but places are limited so people need to book a place online at www.diabetes.org.uk/lwdd or by calling 0345 123 2399. The event will be at Liverpool's Crown Plaza Hotel, St Nicholas Place, Princes Dock, Liverpool.
Deregulation Bill - Private Hire Vehicles
21 July 2014
A large number of constituents have contacted me about the three taxi and private hire related clauses in the Deregulation Bill. I wrote to the Minister for Government Policy at the Cabinet Office, Oliver Letwin MP regarding this issue. You can read his response here.
Save grass roots football
21 July 2014
I recently signed an e-petition titled 'Save Grass Roots Football', set up by David Crausby MP.
This petition calls on the Government to ensure that grass roots football receives financial support from the Premier League. Every child should have the chance to take part in organised sport, but poor quality pitches and ever increasing fees are driving people out of grass roots football.
Government cuts mean that many Local Authorities are no longer able to fund grass roots football; we need a bigger investment from the professional game. The Premier League is the focus of huge amounts of money in English Football, it is right for them to support football from the ground up to ensure its future. Global broadcasting rights give the Premier League as much as £5bn over three seasons. The Government must work with the FA and Premier League to ensure that 7.5% of broadcasting rights is committed to grass roots football. You can add your name to the petition by clicking here.
Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill
11 July 2014
A number of constituents have contacted me about the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. I should begin by saying I do share the concern about emergency legislation. It is never an ideal way to conduct legislative business. However, I do acknowledge that there are circumstances where it is necessary. I am a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC), the body responsible for the oversight of the UK’s intelligence and security agencies and, as regards counter-terrorism, the police. My reason for stating this is that I do have quite a detailed knowledge of the practices involved and the reasons why they are considered necessary. It is also worth drawing your attention to Clause 6(3) of the Bill which sets a limit on the provisions – known as a ‘sunset clause’ – at 31st December 2016. I do think such a time-limit is appropriate for an emergency Bill.
The legislation has been introduced, with the agreement of the two coalition parties and the Labour Party as a response to the recent European Court of Justice judgment, the result of which is that 95% of the information needed to police online child abuse, serious and organised crime and to counter terrorism will become unobtainable. As a member of the ISC, I have good reason to know that this is a real problem which does need to be addressed urgently by UK legislation.
The effect of the European Court of Justice decision is that internet providers, unless they are have a business reason to hold data, will not be obliged to retain communications data for law enforcement purposes for up to 12 months. Unless addressed, this will seriously affect the law enforcement and intelligence agencies’ ability to conduct ongoing investigations. Because of the European Court of Justice decision, several of the more prominent communications data providers have been requesting a clearer legal framework in order to give a legal basis for cooperation with law enforcement and intelligence agencies in order to intercept what terrorists and serious criminals are saying to each other.
It should also be noted that the police and intelligence agencies can only access such communications with a warrant - the interception of communications is only allowed under the authority of a warrant signed by a Secretary of State (usually the Home Secretary) - this is an existing safeguard which will still apply. The new Bill actually narrows the grounds on which a warrant can be applied to national security and serious crime. The previous legislation covering this matter – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) - included the economic wellbeing of the UK as one of the grounds on which a warrant can be applied for. Clause 3(4) of the Bill, however, requires economic wellbeing to be linked to national security. The Interception of Communications Commissioner will continue to audit the work of the Security Services. Their primary task is to keep under review the issue of warrants for the interception of communications and the adequacy of arrangements for ensuring the product of interception is properly handled. To further strengthen oversight, the government will establish a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. This will be based on David Anderson’s existing role as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Without such legislation, terrorists and serious criminals will have a safe haven on the internet to communicate without inhibition.
You can read a copy of the Bill and the explanatory notes here.
I am, for these reasons, in favour of the Bill. I hope you will understand that I have not arrived at my conclusions lightly.
HMRC data sharing
1st July 2014
A large number of constituents have contacted me asking me to attend a data-sharing roundtable on Tuesday, 8th July. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend due to longstanding parliamentary commitments in my Westminster diary. A consultation on proposals for data sharing and publication was launched last year by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and the results were first published in December 2013. You can read the latest version of the published report here.
You may be aware that a 38 Degrees’ petition against HMRC’s plans has garnered over 260,000 signatures. In response to the petition, a spokesperson for HMRC wrote a letter to address some of 38 Degrees’ concerns. A copy of HMRC’s response can be found here. I would like to draw your attention to paragraph 7 of HMRC’s response which details the next steps that the Government has announced it will take:
- Go ahead with the next steps for making aggregated and anonymised tax data
- Legislate to enable implementation of the proposals for controlled release for non-financial VAT registration data for specific purposes (principally, credit scoring) to a small number of qualifying parties (for example, credit reference agencies); and
- Explore options for public release of a limited subset of VAT registration data, for example whether a business is VAT-registered or not; no decision has been made about whether to take this proposal further.
HMRC’s proposals are subject to parliamentary approval. It is not possible to judge them fully until a draft Bill has been presented to the House and we are able to see to what extent HMRC have accepted concerns that have been raised and adequate safeguards implemented. I will continue to monitor the situation.
Motor Neurone Awareness Month
30th June 2014
The ability to communicate is a basic human right. But for many people with Motor Neurone Disease this is not possible because MND takes away their ability to speak.
80-95% of people with MND will experience communication problems as their speech deteriorates. That's why this month I am supporting the Motor Neurone Disease Association who works to ensure that thousands of people with MND have a voice during MND awareness month and beyond. Visit www.mndassociation.org
Shale Gas Extraction
16th June 2014
I believe shale gas extraction should only go ahead in the context of robust regulation, comprehensive monitoring and strict enforcement, and in a way which is consistent with decarbonising our electricity supply by 2030.
Gas is a fuel which remains vital to the operation of our homes, services and businesses in the UK. 80% of our homes rely on gas for heating, while around 30% of our electricity comes from gas fired power stations. While low carbon power generation will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels over time, we will still need flexible power to help manage peaks in demand. Projections from National Grid expect gas continuing to play a vital role in our energy system for many years to come. While demand for gas continues to be high, our ability to source this fuel from within our own borders has been steadily declining. In 2004, the UK became a net importer of gas for the first time since North Sea extraction began. For those reasons, the possibility to source gas from the UK should not be ruled out without careful consideration.
The Government’s Infrastructure Bill proposes changes to the regulations on fracking for shale gas. Conventional oil and gas exploration and production mostly involves vertical or near-vertical drilling from one spot at the surface. A well for shale gas, however, will usually run vertically down and then extend horizontally for some distance – this could be as much as 2 miles, or even more. This would mean that companies would have to seek permission from a large number of landowners. As it stands, the existing legislation allows coalmining, water, sewage and gas transportation pipelines to have underground access without needing the permission of the landowner, but not shale gas or deep geothermal. In reality it would provide an effective block on fracking activity and deep geothermal in the UK. At the end of May the government published a consultation on changes to trespass regulations and confirmed their intention to legislate in the forthcoming Infrastructure Bill. These changes will mean that while shale gas companies will still need the permission of landowners for surface access and still require local planning consent, underpinned by environmental impact assessments, they will not need permission for underground access at depths of 300m or more. I therefore do not oppose these reforms. However, the issue of underground access rights is separate from the environmental and safety framework. Only by fully addressing legitimate environmental and safety concerns about fracking with robust regulation, comprehensive monitoring and strict enforcement will people have confidence that the exploration and possible extraction of shale gas is a safe and reliable source that can contribute to the UK’s energy mix.
I will therefore continue to push for the environmental framework to be strengthened. In 2012 Labour set out six tough environmental conditions which should be in place prior to any shale gas extraction taking place in the UK. While the government accepted four of the six conditions in December 2012, we still believe that the regulatory framework is not sufficiently robust. It is clear that the level of methane in groundwater should be assessed prior to any drilling. Methane can occur naturally in groundwater, so it is important that robust baseline information exists to monitors activity against. Further, all monitoring activity should take place over a twelve month period, to allow sufficient time to gather all of the evidence required to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with exploration. Labour will continue to push for the environmental framework to be strengthened in these areas and for assurances that the responsibility for clean-up costs and liability for any untoward consequences rests fairly and squarely with the industry, not with taxpayers or homeowners. Many other concerns remain, particularly regarding the effectiveness of the monitoring process and the capacity of the relevant bodies to undertake that monitoring and enforce the regulations, which must be addressed.
Recall of MPs
16th June 2014
Labour supports recall, it was in our 2010 General Election Manifesto. The Government has committed to bring forward a Bill, which whilst late in the day, is to be welcomed.
Labour are now awaiting the details of their Bill but there are two key points I would make. First, we are not in favour of a rerun of the proposals in Nick Clegg’s draft Bill. This would have seen the recall process in the hands of Members of Parliament. There is a real risk that such a system will be seen as the political establishment closing ranks on the behaviour of a fellow politician and could lose the confidence of the public. Secondly, any system of recall needs to be designed to avoid powerful vested interests kicking out MPs where no wrongdoing has happened simply because they dislike the way a politician has voted on controversial issues.
Recall could play an important role in giving the people a bigger say if we get the detail right. That’s why we’ll be closely studying the Government’s plans as and when they are published.
16 May 2014
Carers make a hugely valuable contribution to society and they need support to carry on the work they do - without carers the UK would face a £119 billion care bill. That is why I am supporting this campaign to reach out to carers across Knowsley and help ensure they don’t miss out on support. Events will be taking place across the UK during Carers Week in June, to provide carers with advice, information and support with caring. To find out more about events in Knowsley or sign the Quest Pledge Wall, visit Carers Week Quest.
Carers Week 2014 runs from Monday 9 to Sunday 15 June.
Carers Week is an annual UK-wide awareness campaign which takes place to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers. It is also a time of intensive local activity with thousands of events planned for carers right across the UK. In 2013 more than 2,600 organisations registered to take part in the campaign.
Launch of 'My Ticket', a new bus ticket for young people
1 May 2014
Today, Merseytravel and the bus operators of Merseyside are introducing a new ticket for young people called My Ticket. This means younger travellers can make as many journeys as they like within Merseyside on the day they buy the ticket.
My Ticket is a new bus ticket for young people aged 5 to 15. It costs £2 and is valid on participating buses in Merseyside any day, at anytime. It will be available on buses from ticket machines Young people will be able to make as many journeys as they like on the day they buy the ticket. For more information, please click here.
Type 1 Diabetes and Young People
1 May 2014
Yesterday I led on a Westminster Hall debate on Type 1 Diabetes and Young People. To read the full debate in Hansard, click here.
22 April 2014
A number of constituents have contacted me regarding the government’s decision to ignore NHS pay review body recommendations. My view is that the government should take into account the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) to award a cost living increase for all staff in the NHS. I have written to Dr Peter Carter, the Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing to offer my support.
Opening of the new Kirkby Centre
8 April 2014
The new £5m Kirkby Centre is now open, bringing together a range of key local services under one roof. The project is a key part of the regeneration of Kirkby Town Centre. The Kirkby Centre is home to:
- Local history archive
- One Stop Shop
- Kirkby’s Knowsley Works team
- Adult Disability Day Service
- Community meeting rooms
- Independent coffee shop
- Changing Places changing and toilet facilities
The Kirkby Centre will also be the new home of my advice surgeries in Kirkby. To find out when I am next sitting in Huyton and Kirkby, please click here.
Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Act – ‘Gagging Law’
Updated 4 April 2014
A number of constituents have contacted me to ask if Labour intend to repeal the ‘Gagging Law’ if they win the election in 2015. Labour opposed this bill throughout its passage through the Houses of Parliament but, despite this, it gained Royal Assent on 30th January 2014.
On 3 April, Labour announced that should we win the next general election we will repeal the Lobbying Act. To read more about Labour's plans, click here.
Care Bill - the identification of carers
25 Mar 2014
Amendment NC3 on the identification of carers, tabled by Paul Burstow, was debated in the Commons on 10th March. Following the debate, the Care Minister Norman Lamb MP responded to this Amendment stating:
“On new clauses 3 and 19 about NHS work to identify and promote the health of carers, I can confirm that the guidance will absolutely reinforce the importance of co-operation between the NHS and local authorities on local authorities’ duty to identify carers. NHS England is developing its own action plan for identifying and supporting carers. In addition, our vision for out-of-hours hospital care, which will be published in April, will build on changes to the GP contract for 2014-15. All patients aged 75 and over will have a named accountable GP with responsibility for their care, and we will consider how we can extend this approach to all people with long-term conditions. The plan will emphasise the importance of GPs identifying carers and supporting them in their caring role by directing them to information, advice and support”.
As a result of this reassurance from the Minister, who confirmed that statutory guidance on this issue would accompany the Bill, Paul Burstow withdrew his amendment.
Hunting Act 2004
21 Mar 2014
A number of constituents have contacted me about the proposed changes to the Hunting Act 2004. The Government is considering an amendment to the 'stalking and flushing out' exemption which would render the existing Hunting Act unenforceable. I am opposed to repealing the Hunting Act and will continue to monitor the situation.
17 Mar 2014
On Thursday 13 March, MPs took part in a debate on a motion relating to the badger cull. This debate was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee. Alongside Labour colleagues, I voted to halt the badger cull. The result of the vote was 249 votes to 1 in favour of the Government halting the existing culls and granting of any further licences, pending development of alternative strategies to eradicate bovine TB and promote a healthy badger population. I have written to the Prime Minister to call for an independent committee to be set up to review the policy of bovine TB.
To read the full transcript of the debate in Hansard, please click here.
Clause 119 of the Care Bill
17 Mar 2014
On Tuesday 11th March, there was a debate in the House of Commons regarding Clause 119 and amendment NC16 to the Care Bill. Clause 119 gives the Health Secretary sweeping powers to force hospital closures over the heads of local communities. I voted to reject clause 119 in Parliament.
Amendment NC16 to the Care Bill, which received cross-party support, would have ensured that all commissioners of services affected by a trust special administrator’s report would have the right to define local specified services and, save for the trust in administration, local commissioners would remain the decision makers for services they commission. This amendment was defeated by the Tories and Lib Dems.
To read a full transcript of the debate in the Commons and details of the vote please click here.
Fuel Poverty 'Mind the Gap' Campaign
17 Feb 2014
I have pledged my support for ‘Mind the Gap’, a campaign run by the national charity Turn2us, aimed at raising awareness of the help available for people affected by fuel poverty. Fuel poverty is an extremely important issue that can have a hugely damaging effect on people from all backgrounds. It’s vitally important that people realise that they do not have to struggle alone and that help is available to help manage energy bills. I’m pleased to be able to support Turn2us’ ‘Mind the Gap’ fuel poverty campaign and I encourage anyone that is worried to take action and use the six steps to manage their bills.
More information about this campaign can be found here.
Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill
24 Jan 2014
A large number of constituents have contacted me about the Transparency in Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. I voted for Labour's amendments, but unfortunately we were defeated by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government.
To read the debate in Hansard that took place on Wednesday 22nd January, please click here. To track the progress of this Bill click here.
You can see earlier press appearances and speeches here:
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Early Day Motions::
As well as making speeches and asking questions in Parliament, you can view the Early Day Motions (EDMs) George has signed. EDMs draw attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrate parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view. You can find out more from the House of Commons advice sheet.
©2007-19 Rt Hon George Howarth MP for Knowsley