Apr 29

Government concessions on the Trade Union Bill

The government finally made important concessions on the Trade Union Bill this week after months of hard campaigning from trade unions, their members and Labour MPs.

Luciana Berger MP supporting trade unionists

Luciana Berger MP supporting trade unionists

The government announced it would accept the compromises proposed by the House of Lords, knowing they faced a united opposition if they had refused to compromise.

The government had planned to change the way trade unionists paid into their union political fund. They wanted union members to ‘opt in’ every five years to remain in the political fund and gave unions just three months to sign up their members.

It was an obvious attack on the ability of unions to campaign for their members and a partisan attack on the Labour Party and our ability to hold the government to account.

The government has now agreed to delay changes to political funding and have given trade unions 12 months rather than three to engage with new members. Most importantly, existing members will be exempt from the changes.

This is a welcome move, and an important victory as rushing through the changes to political funds would have had serious knock-on effects for trade unions’ capacity to campaign.

After refusing to introduce e-balloting, the government again conceded and agreed to a trial of e-voting for strike ballots. This will allow trade unions to bring balloting into the 21st century and encourage turnout and participation.

Labour also forced the government to back down over plans to end the right of workers to pay union subscriptions automatically by deducting them from their wages.

These are hard-fought and welcome concessions, but Labour still remains opposed to the Trade Union Bill in its entirety.

It is unnecessary, bad for workers and bad for businesses. We will look to push for further concessions.

Apr 18

Backing business investment in Liverpool

YouTube Preview ImageLiverpool is hosting over 300 overseas businesses at this year’s International Festival of Business, attracting thousands of delegates from around the world to our city for three weeks in June.

The first International Festival for Business in 2014 saw £280 million worth of investment and trade deals and this year’s event is set to be even bigger.IFB2016

Around a third of the over 30,000 delegates are expected to be from overseas. The gathering offers UK businesses, and small, medium and large enterprises from Liverpool in particular, huge opportunities to meet potential partners and customers from markets in Europe, US, China, India, Africa, South East Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Around 60 per cent of the delegations are from the USA, Europe and China, which are key regions for export and investment and which present a wealth of opportunities to British businesses.

Organisers are making particular efforts to help showcase small and medium enterprises looking to make a mark on the global stage, whether to do deals, find suppliers and develop new partnerships.

As a long-time supporter of the grassroots Small Business Saturday UK that celebrates the diversity of our local High Streets, traders and businesses, I’m delighted at the festival’s focus on bringing together the global and the local.

For last year’s Small Business Saturdayt I visited shops and traders across Liverpool Wavertree with the Federation of Small Businesses to show our support for the fantastic contribution they make to the community. Students from Liverpool John Moores University Screen School made a short film of the day that you can view by clicking here.

In June, the International Festival of Business will see a free Meet Your Future Deal programme with companies taking part in 6,000 face-to-face meetings with potential new customers, suppliers, innovation and technology partners and investors. If you are interested in the free digital matching programme, you can sign up online by clicking here.

Big name speakers already announced for the festival include social media advertising platform Unruly chief executive Sarah Wood, Reggae Reggae Sauce founder Levi Roots, grocery sales entrepreneur Lorna Davidson and designer Wayne Hemingway.

Whether you are a small or large business, it would be well worth taking an interest in this year’s festival which is shaping up to be the best yet.

 

Apr 15

Remembering the 96

Hillsborough 96Our thoughts are with the families of the 96 Liverpool fans today, the 27th anniversary of the #Hillsborough disaster.

Apr 11

Tory-Lib Dem cuts four times higher in Liverpool

Tory local cuts calculatorUnfair Tory cuts to local government since 2011 mean that by 2020 Liverpool City Council will have £671 less to spend per household than in 2011. We will continue to experience this locally, while David Cameron’s council, West Oxfordshire, will only have £17 per household less to spend.

Liverpool is one of the most deprived area in the country, but is experiencing Tory government cuts nearly four times the national average. In fact, the areas across the country seeing the 10 biggest cuts to spending power per household are all Labour-controlled.

This is a deeply unfair attack on those most in need that began with the Tory-Lib Dem government in 2010 and is continuing under the Tory government since 2015.

The Tories are continuing the work started with their Lib Dem partners and depriving councils like Liverpool of the spending power they need. Rather than spreading these cuts fairly, they have chosen to attack some of the most deprived areas of the country. If we had been given the average cut, Liverpool would have an additional £80 million a year.

These unfair cuts are politically motivated and deliberately aimed at those most in need. The vital services that people in Liverpool rely on are being attacked.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Labour offers a real alternative for you and your family.

In spite of the Tory cuts, Liverpool’s Labour council has prioritised protecting the most vulnerable, built over 5,000 new homes and 12 new schools across the city.

By voting Labour on Thursday May 5 you can elect Labour Councillors who will stand up against these unfair Tory cuts and do the very best for all the people of Liverpool.

Vote Labour on May 5 and send a clear message to David Cameron.

Apr 08

The European Union protects us all at work

Hidden agenda Boris JohnsonThe European Union has helped to secure real protections for 8.5 million part-time workers – rights that could be threatened by a Tory government if we leave the EU.

The right for part time workers to be treated in the same way as full time workers was introduced in 2000, thanks to trade union campaigning in Europe. There is no guarantee that those protections will remain if the UK votes to leave the EU on Thursday June 23.Hidden agenda workers rights

The EU guaranteed a minimum amount of paid holiday; enshrined paternity leave and maternity leave in law; gave part-time agency workers the same rights as their full-time colleagues; ensured that no one working seven days straight should have to work an eighth day without at least 24 hours rest. It is Europe that passed legislation which gives workers a 20-minute break for every six hours of work.

Many of those measures were introduced as part of the Social Chapter, a piece of legislation that the Tory Party has always attacked and opted out of when it was first introduced in 1992. It took a Labour government in 1997 to introduce the Social Chapter in full.

The rights it protects today would be threatened if the country voted to leave the EU. As the outgoing Tory Mayor of London and would-be Tory Party leader Boris Johnson said in 2012: ‘Scrap the Social Chapter’ that protects employee rights.

Indeed, the Tory government under David Cameron recently floated the idea of asking workers to give up employment rights in exchange for receiving a small number of shares in the company they work for. There is no telling what a Tory government free from the rights protected by our membership of the EU might do.

As Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson says: ‘It is Europe that has protected, enhanced and extended the rights of working people in the UK for a generation or more.’

This is just one reason why we need to campaign for an emphatic, unqualified and unequivocal vote to Remain in Europe on June 23.

Apr 07

Vote Labour on Thursday May 5

Labour wants an economy that works for all, where everyone pays the taxes they owe and our public services deliver for all who need them.

Labour’s campaign for the mayoral, council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections on Thursday May 5 focus on four key themes:

  • Standing up for a fairer economy that works for all;
  • standing up for families struggling;
  • standing up for safer communities and;
  • standing up for the NHS.

The Tories have the wrong priorities.

The Tories claim that the country can no longer afford nurses’ bursaries or student grants but they are prepared to spend over £1 billion on the forced academisation of every school – a move teachers and parents don’t want or need.Vote Labour on May 5

In the last Parliament they cut over £4 billion from adult social care, which helps elderly people stay in their homes, yet found billions to give huge tax breaks to big corporations and the highest earners.

The elections on May 5 are an opportunity for all of us to show our support for our Labour Council, led by Mayor Joe Anderson, that is battling hard to invest in our housing, schools and care services having faced, and continuing to face, savage 56 per cent government cuts from central government.

On May 5 we can show our support for our Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy who helped lead the national fight against threatened police cuts.

The elections on May 5 are also our chance to send a clear message to this failing Tory government.

Labour stands up for a fairer economy that works for all – by creating an economy that delivers prosperity and security for all, not just those at the top.

We will stand up for safer communities – opposing deep Tory cuts to frontline police officers to keep Bobbies on the beat.

And we will stand up for the NHS – by joining up services from home to hospital with a properly integrated health and social care service.

Apr 07

I am backing World Autism Awareness Week

NAS Alan GardnerI am supporting the National Autistic Society’s World Autism Awareness Week to help increase public understanding and awareness.

I recently met Alan Gardner, star of the Channel 4 series, The Autistic Gardener, and NAS Parent Campaigner and TV presenter Carrie Gran. I heard moving accounts of living with autism and why increased understanding of the condition can be life enhancing.

The NAS Too Much Information campaign says that the term ‘autism’ is widely recognised, but poorly understood.

Autism is a lifelong condition which affects, on average, over 3,000 people in every Parliamentary constituency. NAS points out that being autistic means having a brain that’s wired differently and that can make someone see, hear and feel the world in a different way to other people. Sometimes everything is overwhelming, sometimes it can mean people are skilled in things that others aren’t, sometimes it means the things everyone else finds so easy are the most unbearable challenges imaginable.

Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people on the autism spectrum share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.

Some people can live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support.

Alan turned his passion for gardening into a career, but too many people’s potential is being left untapped. Increased awareness would help more people with autism gain the confidence to pursue their dreams.

More than 1 in 100 people in the UK have autism and many have had to battle to get their needs identified, diagnosed, understood and then met.

We need to work together to improve access to public spaces, employment and services, supporting people with autism and their families to play an active role in their community and to achieve their full potential.

Apr 02

A vote we need to win on June 23

I know from talking to people on the doorstep across the constituency that some people have doubts about whether they need to come out to vote to remain in the European Union in the referendum on June 23.EU all in one

After all, the referendum was called by the Tory government and comes at a time when people are deeply concerned about many other issues, not least Tory threats to their living standards.

The EU referendum does matter – and it matters to everyone who wants to live in a forward-looking, progressive Britain.

Nine million people across the country voted Labour at the last General Election and I am working hard with Labour colleagues up and down Britain to encourage each one to vote Remain.

The civil war in the Conservative Party cannot and must not obscure the central question in this referendum: are we more likely to secure social justice and progressive change inside the EU or outside?

The answer is resoundingly that we should vote Remain.

The problems we face in the 21st century demand co-operation across borders. Of course, the EU needs to change to make it more progressive, but we need to be in it to make that happen. Leaving is a direct route to a more unequal, unfair, unjust Britain.

We need to trade across borders to ensure good jobs. Our membership of the European Union ensures that we can.

We need to make companies pay their taxes and not dodge them by playing off one country against another. We need international co-operation through the European Union to hold these companies to account.

We need to guarantee basic rights for people working in Britain and for British people working and living in Europe. Our membership of the European Union allows us to achieve this.

We need to tackle climate change and it just isn’t realistic for one country to do this alone.

Membership of the EU has helped cleaned up our beaches, improve our water supplies and recognise the need to combat air pollution. EU legislation that is forcing this government to act.

These global threats and challenges are best solved by acting together not alone.

The EU is an essential tool to tackle the great injustices of the 21st century.

The positive case to remain in a reformed EU is powerful, but we also need to recognise the dangers and weaknesses of the case for leaving. Those in UKIP and the Tory Party making the case for Britain to be isolated outside the EU want to join a low regulated, race to the bottom in which Britain competes to offer the lowest wages and poorest living conditions.

That is one race I have no wish our country to win.

Let’s recognise that we cannot put our feet up and see what happens in the referendum. We cannot be spectators or bystanders in this campaign.

Those who turn up and vote will decide this referendum, that is why I am encouraging everyone to talk to family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues to encourage them to vote to remain on June 23.

 

Apr 01

The mental health questions the government can’t answer

The government struggles to answer important questions on mental health, despite claims that it wants to parity between mental health and physical health. Unless we know what is happening in mental health how can the government claim that it is meeting its promises?#MHM_Facebook_1200x650px_Final8

That is why, every day this month, I am going to be tweeting the questions I have asked the government in my role as Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health that it has failed to answer.

The questions include waiting times for mental health treatment, the number of specialist doctors and nurses and the number of patients who have died in inpatient mental health care.

Shockingly, in the answers to all 30 questions, Ministers reported that the government does not collect the information.

These alarming revelations follow a speech by David Cameron, last month in which he claimed to be leading a ‘revolution in mental health treatment in Britain.’  Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has even talked about a supposed ‘transparency revolution’ going on in the NHS.

The government’s failure to answer my questions underlines the gap between what Tory Ministers say about mental health and what they actually do. It is not even collecting basic data.

It is absolutely appalling that Ministers have no idea how many new mums have taken their own lives because of mental health problems, how many people diagnosed with mental illness go to prison, or how many children have died in NHS mental health units. How can ministers claim to be focussing on mental health when they don’t have an accurate picture of what is actually happening on the ground?

If Ministers couldn’t answer such basic questions on physical health there would be outrage. These findings cast further doubt over the Tory government’s ability to deliver what they have promised and make mental health the real priority it deserves to be.

Follow my questions each day this month by clicking here.

Mar 31

Please sign the petition to #SaveOurSteel

Save-Our-Steel facebook bannerThe government should recall Parliament to debate the crisis facing our steel industry and secure the jobs of the 40,000 people reliant on it.

The government is in disarray and floundering in the face of the decision by the Tata group to put its steel business up for sale.

David Cameron is resisting the recall of MPs, but we need the voice of the public to make him think again.

Steel lies at the heart of British manufacturing. Labour believes that as a country, we must act without delay to save this strategically vital industry.

The Tory Party is standing by whilst potentially thousands of people could lose their jobs. It is broken promise after broken promise, failure after failure and let down after let down.

Labour is on the side of the British people. Please join me in calling for a recall of Parliament and urgent government action on steel by signing our petition by clicking here.

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