Conversations and post bag issues May and June 2018

Every month I hear from constituents about issues close to their hearts. Here I will try to summarise the issues that have generated a high volume of correspondence from constituents and my response so that you can keep up to date with my work in the constituency, as well as in Parliament. I hope you find this information helpful, and if you would like to get in touch about a particular matter, please send me an email.

The Bootle constituency community is committed, involved and passionate about issues that affect us in our “neck of the woods”, and more broadly, the country.

EU Withdrawal Bill

The largest single issue I was contacted about in this period was the EU Withdrawal Bill and the many different points of concerns and implications.

The EU Withdrawal Bill has now completed its passage through Parliament and will soon become law. This Bill is not about whether we leave the EU - that was settled by the referendum and Parliament's decision to trigger Article 50 last year. The Bill is instead about how we leave the EU, Parliament's role in the process and how we ensure that vital rights and protections are safeguarded.

I have shared many serious concerns about this Bill and sought to improve and remove its worst aspects at every opportunity throughout its consideration in Parliament. While improvements were made in a number of areas thanks to the hard work of my colleagues across Parliament, I would have liked to have seen further changes.

Two years on from the referendum, it is clear the Government has no plan for how it will protect jobs and the economy and guarantee no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I believe the best way to protect our economy - including our manufacturing and services sectors - and to avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland is to negotiate a new UK-EU customs union and secure a strong single market arrangement.

I therefore voted for amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill that would have put the negotiation of a customs union with the EU back on the negotiating table and required the Government to secure full access to the single market. Unfortunately, these amendments were defeated. However, I intend to press the Government further on these issues at appropriate opportunities in Parliament.

I have long argued that Parliament should have a meaningful vote on the final terms of our exit from the EU. This is not about frustrating Brexit. It is about ensuring that Parliament can shape the Brexit process and protect jobs and the economy from the risk of a no deal Brexit.

I therefore supported an amendment which would have ensured that if any withdrawal agreement is rejected by MPs - or if no deal can be reached at all - it would be for Parliament, not the Prime Minister, to decide the next steps. Disappointingly, this amendment was defeated by the Government.

I will continue to press the Government at every opportunity to secure a Brexit deal that protects jobs and the economy and works for our area as well as the country as a whole.

 

NHS Matters

I share the concerns of the many people who have written to me about this issue. I agree that a comprehensive health service should continue to be provided free at the point of use and that encroaching privatisation of the NHS must be halted. I also believe that there needs to be more investment to provide the NHS and social care with the funding it so desperately needs.

I support the introduction of a new legal duty on the Health Secretary to ensure that excess private profits are not made from the NHS and I agree that there should be no new private finance initiative deals. I am committed to protecting and strengthening our NHS and that means stopping the drive towards privatisation and ensuring the NHS is based on collaboration and integration, not on competition and fragmentation.

More widely, I am concerned that the sustained underfunding of our NHS is stretching the finances of hospitals beyond their limits. A&Es are overstretched and overcrowded, an increasing number of people are waiting too long for operations and key performance targets, such as the 62-day cancer treatment target, are being missed month after month.

The Government has come under sustained criticism for its failure to deal with increasing pressures in the NHS and I believe it is patients and staff who are paying the price.

Voyeurism

I strongly support the campaign change the law so that the disgraceful practice of "upskirting" is made a specific sexual offence in law.

I am concerned that there is currently a gap in the law that allows people who have taken upskirt photographs in public places to escape prosecution.

Upskirting is humiliating for victims and a huge invasion of their privacy. I believe that the law must be changed so that women are protected, offenders are punished and potential offenders are deterred.


At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to appoint a commissioner to set new standards in tackling domestic and sexual violence. It also pledged to make age-appropriate sex and relationship education a compulsory part of the curriculum so that young people can learn about respectful relationships.

I welcome the government’s subsequent intervention to come forward with its own legislation to make upskirting a specific criminal offence.


Social Care

I share the concerns about the state of adult social care in England that many residents have contacted me about. The Government has repeatedly delayed finding a solution to the long-term funding of social care and I believe Ministers have been complacent over this issue at a time when our health and social care system is coming under increasing pressure.

The Chancellor's Autumn Budget offered no additional funding to support social care services and in December the Government confirmed that it will not implement its plans for a cap on personal contributions to lifetime care costs. £6.3 billion has been cut from adult social care budgets since 2010 and there are now 400,000 fewer people receiving publicly-funded social care.

I support the establishment of a new National Care Service, built alongside the NHS, to move quickly towards a joined-up system that responds to the health and care needs of the population. I am also committed to ensuring that people do not have to pay very high care costs, as is too often the case with the current system. I support implementing a lower cap on care costs than the £72,000 cap that was abandoned by the Government in December.

Improving the quality of social care is vital to providing dignity in older age and independence and support for people who are vulnerable. That's why, at the 2017 general election, I stood on a manifesto with a commitment to invest an additional £8 billion in social care budgets across this Parliament to ease the care crisis, including an extra £1 billion in the first year. This additional funding would have meant offering some extra packages of care which were publicly-funded.

The Government's green paper on social care is expected to be published before the summer. I assure you I will follow its publication closely and bear in mind the points you have raised.

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