Conversations and post bag issues June and July 2017
Following the General Election my postbag was filled with a variety of issues and frustrations! The people of Bootle constituency are committed, involved and passionate about issues that affect us in our “neck of the woods”, and more broadly, the country.
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 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.
Grenfell Tower Fire
Many residents contacted me recently about the Grenfell Tower fire. This is a tragedy that has shocked the whole country and that should never have happened.
The first priority must be to ensure that all those who are affected are given the support they need now and in the years ahead. The initial support was not good enough and the Government must now do everything it can to support local residents, including providing new housing for all families displaced in the local area. Funding must also be guaranteed for victims' legal, funeral and other costs.
I welcome the announcement of a public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower, which includes a commitment to publish interim findings. The consultation on the terms of reference of the inquiry closed on 4 August 2017. I will follow the outcome of the consultation and the progress of the inquiry closely.
In July the Government announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. This long-awaited review is welcome but long overdue, as Ministers promised this four years ago after the last fatal high-rise fires.
I believe the Government must now expand its testing programme, publish results in full so that residents and landlords know whether or not their buildings are safe, and stand by their earlier promise to help fund the costs of any necessary work.
There are thousands of tower blocks around our country and every person living in one deserves answers about why this happened and what will be done. The tragic fire that occurred at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again.
Battersea Call for 5 year Sentences
As ever, issues of animal welfare is an area that my constituents keep high on my radar. Over the early summer many contacted my about the concerns from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home about sentences for animal cruelty, and argue they do not always appear to match the abuse suffered by the animals, especially in the case of extreme cruelty such as dog fighting. I agree that any sentences given by the courts must reflect the seriousness of these crimes. Cruelty to animals is worrying and it is important that we send out a strong and powerful message that animal cruelty must stop.
I can assure you that I support efforts to increase sentences for those convicted of animal abuse and I will continue to press for clear and enforceable penalties against anyone who commits animal cruelty offences.
Nurses Pay Cap
Many constituents contacted me about the nursing pay cap.
Nurses do a fantastic job in extremely difficult circumstances and are well overdue a pay rise. The determination, professionalism and compassion of nurses comes against the backdrop of years of pay restraint.
In 2015 the Government announced a maximum pay increase of 1% in public sector pay until 2019-20. I do not believe that this is sustainable. The report from the NHS Pay Review Body claims that the pay cap is "coming under stress" and highlights that staff have "concerns about the quality of care they can give, and feel that they are not valued."
On Wednesday 27 June the House of Commons debated health and social care as part of the debate on the Queen's Speech. I believe the Queen's Speech should have been an opportunity to take action to support our hard-pressed nurses and other public sector workers. Instead, the Government confirmed that its policy of a maximum 1 % public sector pay increase has not changed.
I believe a pay rise for nurses, paramedics, police officers, firemen and women - for all public sector workers in our constituency and across the country - is fair and affordable. That's why I supported an Opposition amendment in the debate on the Queen's Speech to end the public sector pay cap. While I voted for the Opposition amendment, the Government voted against it and it was defeated.
I can assure you I will continue to press the Government to lift the pay cap so that nurses and other public sector workers are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication which they bring to their jobs.
Environmental Concerns post Brexit
Many people have contacted me about environmental protections and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as 'the Repeal Bill'.
I agree that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on the environment. In fact, I believe there is an opportunity for more progressive and ambitious domestic policies which go beyond EU standards.
The Government has now introduced the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - which will convert EU law into UK law - and has made assurances that this Bill will mean "the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law".
While I welcome this commitment, I am concerned that the Repeal Bill, as currently drafted, proposes sweeping delegated powers but lacks effective oversight or accountability. I am also concerned that it lacks clear enforcement mechanisms and will not go far enough to ensure UK environmental standards keep pace with the EU after we leave.
I believe we must ensure that all EU-derived laws that are of benefit to our environment are fully protected after Brexit, without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses. I can assure you that I will press for this to be the case, and for EU environmental protections to be transposed into British law and strengthened where necessary.
I can assure you that I will hold the Government to account on its promises on the environment, agriculture and fisheries, and I will press for environmental standards to be protected and strengthened as the Repeal Bill makes its way through Parliament.