Our MP reports from Parliament

4th July 2017

Below is the summary of last week’s business in the house, I hope you find it useful and informative.Kind regards

·         European Council (Government Statement)

·         Northern Ireland (Government Statement)

·         Grenfell Tower Fire/Fire Safety (Government Statement)

·         Brexit and Foreign Affairs (Queen’s Speech Debate)

·         NHS Shared Business Services (Urgent Question)

·         Education and Local Services (Queen’s Speech Debate)

·         Health, Social Care and Security (Queen’s Speech Debate)

·         21st Century Fox/Sky Merger (Government Statement)

·         Economy and Jobs (Queen’s Speech Debate)
European Council (Government Statement)
On Monday, the Prime Minister made a statement following a meeting of EU leaders on 22-23 June.
The Prime Minister outlined the Council’s discussions on security, migration, climate change and trade. She also spoke about the Government’s proposals on EU nationals’ rights in the UK following Brexit.
Under the Government’s plans, EU nationals who have lived in the UK for more than five years at a specified cut-off date will be allowed to apply for settled status. Any EU nationals who have not yet lived here for more than five years at the cut-off date will be allowed to stay until they can apply for settled status. However, we do not yet know what the cut-off date will be, as this will be determined by the negotiations with the EU.
I have long believed that the Government should unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals already living in the UK and this was a commitment in the manifesto that I stood on at the recent General Election. Unfortunately, the Government’s proposal falls far short of the full and unilateral guarantee that I believe should have been made many months ago. People should not be bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations. The Prime Minister was pressed for more details on her offer to EU nationals, including what would happen to it if no deal is reached with the EU.
More widely, I believe the Government must adopt an approach to Brexit that protects jobs, trade and the economy. It must finally rule out its notion that no deal is a viable option for the country and put the national interest first by building a new partnership with the EU on the basis of common interests and values.
Northern Ireland (Government Statement)
On Monday, the Government revealed to the House of Commons the details of the agreement reached between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Under the agreement, DUP MPs will support the Government on votes on the Queen’s Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to our exit from the European Union and national security. Meanwhile, the Government will provide Northern Ireland with extra funding, including for infrastructure development and to address pressures in health and education.
I believe this deal is unfair to the rest of the UK and could be damaging to the future of peace in Northern Ireland.
The Good Friday agreement that helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland is rightly seen across the world as a model for other countries seeking to end conflict. However, it is also fragile and relies above all on trust, good faith and the impartiality of the British Government. It is worrying that the Government is putting the agreement at risk in order to ensure its own survival.
I do not begrudge the £1 billion extra support for Northern Ireland, but in Scotland, Wales and the English regions, the needs are just as great. Indeed, public services in our own constituency are also in serious need of extra funding. I believe the Government needs to set out where the extra £1 billion announced on Monday is going to come from and when the rest of the UK will get its fair share of extra funding.
Grenfell Tower Fire (Government Statement)
On Monday, the Government made a statement in the House of Commons about the fire at Grenfell Tower.
On 18 June, the Government wrote to councils and housing associations with responsibility for residential buildings with potentially similar cladding to Grenfell Tower and asked them to start sending samples of their cladding. The Government announced on Monday that as of midday the cladding from 75 high-rise buildings in 26 local authority areas had failed the combustibility test. That number has since increased further.
The Government said that its most urgent priority is to make existing tower blocks safe and pledged to provide a financial support package for any local authority that needs extra funds to carry out the necessary work. The Government also acknowledged that there are longer term decisions to be made, including looking at our whole approach to the provision and quality of social housing.
Almost two weeks on, the shock from this truly terrible, tragic fire at Grenfell Tower has not subsided and neither have the concerns and fears of its residents. I believe the Government’s response, both national and local, was not good enough in the early days and is still not good enough. The residents of Grenfell Tower and their relatives are still struggling to keep their lives going in the face of this gravest loss. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of residents in 4,000 other tower blocks across the country are still wondering whether their homes are safe.
I believe we need a much more thorough review of fire safety in all the country’s residential tower blocks, schools and hospitals, and a guarantee that the Government will help to fund the costs. The Government has not given enough attention to social housing and the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower should force a profound change of course on housing in this country.
Brexit and Foreign Affairs (Queen’s Speech Debate)
On Monday, the debate on the Queen’s Speech focused on Brexit, foreign affairs and defence.
At a time of deep international uncertainty, the Government has no answers on Brexit or the many foreign policy challenges Britain faces. The Queen’s Speech does nothing to advance Britain as a beacon of strength, security, prosperity and values around the world. Nor does it contain any of the kind of measures that we desperately need to see in order to get to grips with the defence issues we are facing.
I am concerned that the Government has weakened Britain’s influence and ability to protect our interests by cutting the diplomacy and defence budgets. The outcome of the first round of Brexit negotiations has also shown how unrealistic the Government’s rhetoric has been.
We have started the negotiations on Brexit in the worst of all circumstances and the Government’s approach is damaging our reputation abroad and weakening our position. I believe we need a more constructive and responsible approach, starting with an end to the “no deal is better than a bad deal” mantra. No deal means no agreements on trade, security, the Northern Ireland border or citizens’ rights.
We need to reset our approach to Brexit, rebuild relations with the EU and make sure that jobs, the economy and rights come first.
NHS Shared Business Services (Urgent Question)
On Tuesday, the Government was asked to make a statement on clinical correspondence handling at NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS).
The failure of NHS SBS in its mishandling of just under 709,000 letters, including blood test results, cancer screening appointments and child protection notes, is unacceptable.
I am concerned by the findings of a National Audit Office (NAO) investigation into the failings at NHS SBS. As at 31 May 2017, the NAO had found 1,788 cases of potential harm to patients as a result of unprocessed correspondence. The report also revealed that while managers at NHS SBS had been aware of the clinical risk to patients since January 2014, they did not develop a plan to deal with the backlog.
The Government on Tuesday described NHS SBS as “incompetent” and agreed that the organisation should never have allowed a backlog to develop. It also confirmed that the costs of this failure amount to more than £6 million. It stated that it is seeking to recover as much of that amount as possible back from the company involved.
I believe the Government needs to explain why the oversight of NHS SBS went wrong and set out what it will do to make sure that NHS patients do not lose out as a result of this failure.
Education and Local Services (Queen’s Speech Debate)
On Tuesday, there was a debate on the education and local services aspects of the Queen’s Speech.
I am concerned by the lack of measures in the Queen’s Speech on education. While I welcome that the Government appears to have abandoned its plans to bring back grammar schools, it must now focus on solving the real ​problems: the crisis in funding and in the teacher workforce. I believe we need to reverse cuts to school funding and protect budgets in real terms for the lifetime of this Parliament.
On local services too, the Queen’s Speech offered no specific legislation. However, local government has suffered severely as a result of seven years of Government cuts. Indeed, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that between 2010 and 2020 local government will have had its direct funding cut by 79%. This is having a negative impact on services: youth centres, museums and libraries are having to close, and our social care system is in crisis.
I believe urgent action is needed on health and social care budgets, public sector pay and local government funding, yet all those issues were absent from this delayed Queen’s Speech.
Health, Social Care and Security (Queen’s Speech Debate)
On Wednesday, the debate on the Queen’s Speech focused on health, social care and security.
I am disappointed that the Queen’s Speech offered no attempt to address the challenges facing the NHS and social care. Waiting lists in the NHS are close to four million; 26,000 people are waiting more than two months for cancer treatment; and the 18-week cancer target has been downgraded and abandoned.
On security, while I welcome the considered approach outlined in the Queen’s Speech on counter-terrorism, I believe resources are a key issue. There are now 20,000 fewer police staff and 10,000 fewer firefighters than in 2010. Asking our security services, and public sector workers generally, to do more with less is unfair, unworkable and counter-productive.
The recent terror attacks and Grenfell Tower fire have shown the bravery, heroism and effectiveness of our public service workers at times of national emergency. I believe the Queen’s Speech should have been an opportunity to take action to support our hard-pressed emergency services, 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. Unfortunately, while I voted for the amendment, the Government voted against it and it was defeated.
21st Century Fox/Sky Merger (Government Statement)
On Thursday, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport made a statement on the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky plc.
I believe this deal threatens media plurality and would concentrate an even greater amount of media power in the hands of the Murdoch family.
The Secretary of State announced that on the basis of Ofcom’s assessment she was minded to refer to the Competition and Markets Authority to conduct a further examination of the deal on the grounds of media plurality.
In my view the Government has done the bare minimum. I fear that it is yet to make a final decision and could choose to accept concessions made by 21st Century Fox instead of referring the deal to a phase two inquiry. If this happens it will throw the integrity of this process into question.
Additionally, Ofcom’s finding that, following the phone-hacking scandal, the Murdoch family remains fit and proper to hold a broadcasting licence is disappointing, and raises the question of whether the test is fit for purpose.
To ensure the facts come forward, part two of the Leveson Inquiry must go ahead and investigate the corporate governance failures that allowed the phone hacking scandal to take place.
It is clear to me, following the Government’s statement on Thursday, that the rules governing media ownership in this country need to be reviewed.
Economy and Jobs (Queen’s Speech Debate)
On Thursday, MPs continued to debate the Government’s announcements made in the Queen’s Speech, this time focusing on the economy and jobs.
The Queen’s Speech failed to outline measures to end austerity in public services, to reverse falling living standards or to make society more equal.
With inflation rising, I believe the Government should have used the Queen’s Speech to announce an end to the public sector pay cap and an increase in the minimum wage to a real living wage of £10 per hour by 2020. It should have taken a different approach, increasing funding to public services to expand childcare, scrapping tuition fees at universities and colleges and restoring the Education Maintenance Allowance, maintenance grants and nurses’ bursaries. Those with the broadest shoulders should have to pay their fair share of tax, with more done to clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion.
I voted for an amendment which called on the Government to take action in these areas and to commit to a properly resourced industrial strategy to increase infrastructure investment in every nation and region of the UK. Unfortunately, Government MPs voted against the amendment and it was defeated.
A further amendment called for women from Northern Ireland to no longer have to pay for abortions on the NHS. Under Opposition and public pressure, the Government finally accepted this on Thursday and the amendment was not pushed to a vote.
Following the debate, there was a final vote on the Government’s programme as announced in the Queen’s Speech. I voted against the Government’s plans. Unfortunately, Government and Democratic Unionist Party MPs voted in support of it and it passed by 323 votes to 309.

 

Copyright © 2017 Marie Rimmer, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Marie Rimmer

St Helens South and Whiston Labour

Century House, Hardshaw Street

St Helens, WA10 1QU

United Kingdom

 

 

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27th June 2017

In this, my first weekly report of the new Parliament, I would first of all like to thank each of you for allowing me the opportunity to serve again as Labour MP for our constituency, it truly is a great honour and a privilege to do so.
Below is the update on last weeks business in the house, I hope you find it informative.
Kind regards

  • Queen’s Speech
  • Grenfell Tower Fire (Government Statement)
  • Terror Attacks (Government Statement)
  • Housing and Social Security (Queen’s Speech Debate)
    Queen’s Speech 
    This week, the Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s agenda for the new session of Parliament, outlining proposed policies and legislation for the next two years.
    It was a thin Queen’s Speech, which was notable more for what was missing than what was being proposed. Many of the policies included in the Conservative election manifesto were left out because the Government does not have enough MPs to get them through Parliament. The policies I was delighted to see dropped included the commitments to means-test Winter Fuel Payments, to end free school lunches for infants, to introduce new grammar schools and to have a vote on fox hunting.
    The Government no longer has the majority of MPs, and in my view the sparseness of the Queen’s Speech shows it is unable to put together a proper programme.
    Eight of the bills announced relate to Brexit and its impact on immigration, trade and sectors such as fisheries and farming. Brexit must not lead to the rolling back or weakening of workplace rights, environmental protections or consumer rights. It is in all our interests that we get a Brexit deal that puts jobs and the economy first and I will scrutinise all the Bills announced on Wednesday very carefully.
    I was pleased to see proposals to introduce new laws on domestic violence. Stronger action on this issue is always welcome, but it was also important that the Prime Minister was pressed on Wednesday to restore legal aid in such cases, and the funding to re-open the many refuges that have closed.
    I also welcome the Government’s commitment to reform mental health legislation to give it greater priority. However, it was right that on Wednesday the Prime Minister was pressed to give an assurance that no mental health trust will see its budget cut this year, like 40% of them did last year.
    In light of the recent terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire, the Prime Minister was also rightly pressed to fully fund our emergency services. I am concerned about the lack of action to tackle the underfunding of all our public services. I fear the Government’s plans will lead to more austerity and cuts.
    Parliament will debate the content of the Queen’s Speech over the course of the next week. I will scrutinise all of the announcements it contained very carefully.
    In general, I would have preferred to see a bolder vision which offered hope and addressed the big challenges facing our constituency. I would like to have seen proposals to increase the living wage to £10 an hour by 2020, cut class sizes in our schools, work out a proper funding deal for the NHS and take real action to tackle our housing crisis by building genuinely affordable homes.
    Grenfell Tower Fire (Government Statement)
    On Thursday, the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons on the fire at Grenfell Tower.
    The Prime Minister acknowledged that the victims of the fire did not receive the support they needed in the aftermath of this tragedy. She stated that the Government has since set up an emergency community centre to support victims. This includes access to a GP, specialist mental health services and support from government officials. Families who have lost their homes will receive £5,000 from an emergency fund. The Government also committed to re-homing those affected within three weeks.
    The Prime Minister said she would commission a full and independent public inquiry to provide justice for the victims and their families. The Government also rightly committed to pay for the victims’ legal representation and announced a new public advocate to act as an independent voice to represent bereaved families at public inquiries.
    We have all been shocked by the Grenfell Tower fire and dismayed at the tragic loss of so many lives. I commend the community spirit and public generosity which has supported bereaved families and residents of Grenfell Tower at this traumatic time. I also express my admiration for those in our emergency services who responded with the utmost courage and professionalism.
    However, lessons must be learnt. This disaster never should have happened and another such disaster must never be allowed to happen again. The residents of Grenfell were let down, both in the immediate aftermath and so cruelly beforehand, when Grenfell residents’ concerns about the safety of their building were ignored. I believe this is a tragedy and an outrage.
    The public inquiry into the Grenfell fire must report as soon as possible – there are over 4,000 tower blocks around our country and people living in them need answers and reassurance. I therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to publishing an interim report. In the meantime, changes that can be and should have been made must now be made without delay and the Government should act immediately to fund the retrofitting of sprinklers into high-rise blocks.
    Terror Attacks (Government Statement)
    On Thursday, the Home Secretary made a statement on the horrific terror attacks of the last few months. This was the first opportunity MPs have had to discuss these terrible events in the House of Commons since the General Election.
    The Home Secretary said that she believes we are experiencing a new trend in the threat that we face following the Westminster attack in March. Since then, we have seen attacks in Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park, and five other plots have also been prevented.
    The Government has since announced plans to establish a Commission for Countering Extremism and a review of the counter-terrorism strategy to ensure the police and security services have the powers they need.
    I largely support these actions by the Government but believe there should be greater emphasis on resources, not just new legislation. Indeed, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has said that current powers are sufficient.
    While specialist policing and security resources are important, so too is the neighbourhood policing that builds communities’ confidence and encourages people to come forward with information that may help stop future terrorist activity. However, we have lost 20,000 from police numbers since 2010 and I fear that further cuts may be in the pipeline. I will oppose any further cuts to police budgets.
    I commend all of our emergency services – the police, fire service, and NHS staff – who run towards danger, saving lives and preventing worse injuries. My thoughts too are with those families to whom children or parents will never come home, as well as the many people who have been injured and seen sights that they may never be able to unsee.
    Housing and Social Security (Queen’s Speech Debate)
    On Thursday, the House of Commons debated the Government’s proposals for housing and social security that were brought forward in the Queen’s Speech.
    The Government has committed to introduce a draft Bill to ban letting agencies from being able to charge fees to tenants. This is a policy I have long supported, as one in seven tenants pay more than £500. It is right that the Government has changed its mind and is acting to ban this unfair practice.However, a ban on tenants’ fees is only one part of the change that is needed on housing. The Government has cut investment and outsourced responsibility for building new homes to big developers. Home ownership has fallen to a 30-year low and the number of people sleeping rough on our streets has more than doubled. I am concerned that the housing measures announced in the Queen’s Speech fall far short of the change required. We need a long-term solution to fix the housing crisis facing first-time buyers, renters, homeowners and those who are homeless.
    In terms of social security, the Queen’s Speech announced a Financial Guidance and Claims Bill to establish a new arm’s length single financial guidance body to replace three existing providers of publicly funded financial guidance. It will also strengthen the regulation of claims management companies.
    Overall, I believe the Bill is a welcome step towards improving the transparency of pension schemes and making sure that financial advice and guidance is more accessible. I will be carefully scrutinising the details of it to ensure it helps improve advice and does not represent a cut to these important services.
    However, the Bill does nothing to tackle the serious structural issues surrounding pension provision. I believe the Government needs to reject plans for a further increase in the State Pension age, take steps to regulate and secure the future of defined benefit pension schemes, provide transitional protections to WASPI women and tackle excessive costs and charges being applied to pension saving pots.
    More widely, while I was pleased that further cuts to older peoples’ living standards appear to have been dropped, after seven years of austerity we still have escalating levels of poverty, including for 7.4 million people in working households, 4 million children, 4.2 million disabled people and one in seven pensioners. I am therefore disappointed that the Government did not take this opportunity to change course on social security.
Copyright © 2017 Marie Rimmer, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:

Marie Rimmer

St Helens South and Whiston Labour
Century House, Hardshaw Street

St HelensWA10 1QU

United Kingdom

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25th April

Here is the summary report from last week in Parliament. Obviously the week was dominated by the decision of the Prime Minister to call a snap election and the vote that followed.
Next Wednesday, the 3rd of May, Parliament will be dissolved and the election campaign will begin in earnest. I will be standing again for Labour in St Helens South and Whiston and I hope that I will be returned on the 8th of June to continue to work hard for the constituency.
Also don’t forget that the Metro Mayoral Elections are next week too.
Kind regards.
  • Syria and North Korea (Government Statement)
  • Finance (No.2) Bill (Second Reading)
  • Early Parliamentary General Election (Government Motion)
  • Technical and Further Education Bill (Consideration of Lords Amendments)
  • Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 (Government Motion)
  • Persecution and Detention of LGBT Citizens: Chechnya (Urgent Question)

Syria and North Korea (Government Statement)
On Tuesday, the Foreign Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons about developments in Syria and North Korea.
Two weeks ago, we saw the horrifying chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Syria, which killed dozens of ordinary villagers and injured many more. In response, the United States launched strikes against the military air base in Syria from which it is believed the chemical attack was launched. Russia continues to support the Assad regime and blocked a UN Security Council resolution that demanded the regime’s co-operation with an international investigation into the chemical attack.
More than 400,000 lives have been claimed by the ongoing civil war in Syria and it is clear that a peaceful settlement is needed now more than ever. I believe efforts must therefore focus on building international support for a ceasefire and an intensified political process.
In North Korea, the Kim Jong-un regime tested two nuclear bombs and 24 missiles in 2016. Last weekend, the regime attempted to test yet another missile and threatened further tests. I condemn North Korea’s ongoing nuclear missile programme and believe this crisis can only be resolved through co-ordinated international action, de-escalation of tensions and negotiations.
The world needs statesmanship, not brinkmanship, on these issues and Britain needs to provide stable global leadership.
Finance (No.2) Bill (Second Reading)
Each year the tax measures for the year ahead from the Budget are set out in a single Bill: the annual Finance Bill. On Tuesday, the House of Commons debated this Bill.
The Finance Bill 2017 increases the standard rate of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) from 10% to 12% with effect from 1 June 2017. It is concerning that as a result, families in our area will have to bear a higher cost for insurance for their car, house, personal possessions and even pets and mobile phones.
The Bill introduces new digital record-keeping and reporting requirements for businesses, self-employed people and landlords. Taxpayers covered by the clause are required to keep their tax records in digital format and submit quarterly updates to the HMRC. These proposals will put undue pressure on small businesses and the self-employed in our area, who simply do not have the resources to input tax information on a quarterly basis.
The Bill also increases the rates of excise duty charged on spirits, beer, wine and made-wine, and cider and perry in line with inflation (3.9%). I know that many in the drinks industry have expressed concern at how this will affect pubs and small businesses.
More widely, I do not believe that the Bill does enough to tackle tax avoidance and evasion. I would like a wide-ranging review of the UK tax gap to be part of this Finance Bill.
Predictions of average earnings have been revised down for next year and I am concerned that this Finance Bill does too little to address the severe problems with living standards that many of my constituents are currently facing. In my view, it also does not offer the support for small and medium-sized businesses I would like to see. I voted against the Bill. However, it passed its Second Reading stage with support from the Government.
Due to the timing of the Dissolution of the House prior to the general election, the remaining stages of the Bill are scheduled for next week. I hope significant improvements can be made to the Bill.
Early Parliamentary General Election (Government Motion)
On Wednesday, the House of Commons voted for a general election to be held on 8 June.
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, general elections should take place on the first Thursday in May every five years. The last election was held on 7 May 2015, so the next one was not due until 2020.
However, the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday that she wanted an early general election.
On Wednesday, the Government proposed a motion, under Section 2 of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011: “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election.” This required support from at least two-thirds of all MPs in the Commons, which it received.
The Government had consistently said there would not be an early election. However, on Wednesday, the Prime Minister presented the case for the motion on the basis that an election would help the Government to negotiate Brexit. I disagree with that case, as we had a referendum on Brexit, and Parliament has voted to accept that result. In my view there is no obstacle to negotiations taking place.
Technical and Further Education Bill (Consideration of Lords Amendments)
On Wednesday, the House of Commons considered the Technical and Further Education Bill.
The Bill proposes to rename the Institute for Apprenticeships the “Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education” and to extend its remit. It also proposes to create an insolvency framework for the further education sector.
I believe that further education plays a vital role in giving young people the skills they need, and supporting older learners into retraining and learning new skills. It is essential that it is put on a sustainable financial footing. However, this Bill does not go far enough to address the serious issues in technical or further education.
Although I welcome some of the Bill’s proposals on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, the Government has not done enough to make clear the role and capacity of the Institute. Furthermore, while I believe the proposals in the Bill establishing an insolvency framework for further education and sixth form colleges are necessary, this is only because of repeated Government failure in this sector. Indeed since 2010, the sector has been facing sustained budget cuts which have amounted to 14% in real terms.
On Wednesday, I supported an amendment to enable families eligible for child benefit to receive it for children aged under 20 who are undertaking apprenticeships and to extend the Higher Education Bursary to care leavers taking apprenticeships. Unfortunately, the Government opposed the amendment and it was defeated.
I also supported an amendment requiring schools to give education and training providers the opportunity to talk directly to pupils about the approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships they offer. I am pleased that this amendment passed with cross party support.
Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 (Government Motion)
The UK is required to send a report on the economy and the Government’s budget to the EU every year. On Wednesday, the House of Commons debated a motion to approve the economic assessment which forms the basis of that report.
Given the result of the EU referendum, it might seem odd that the House of Commons was debating this. However, the report is a legal requirement and the motion presented the opportunity for debate about the deficit and negotiations to leave the EU.
I have been disappointed at the level of progress made on reducing the deficit, and am concerned that debt as a percentage of GDP has risen and now stands at 85%, with £750 billion borrowed over the last seven years. I am also concerned that predictions of both economic growth and average earnings growth have been revised down for coming years.
The EU accounts for 44% of UK exports of goods and services, and 53% of imports. A “hard Brexit” would put much of those exports and EU imports at risk. I was disappointed that the assessment presented by the Government on Wednesday did not, in my view, sufficiently assess what the UK’s post-Brexit economy would look like, or acknowledge the economic difficulties ahead. For these reasons, I voted against the motion.
Persecution and Detention of LGBT Citizens: Chechnya (Urgent Question)
On Thursday, the Government was asked an urgent question in the House of Commons about allegations of persecution and detention of LGBT citizens in Chechnya, Russia.
I am concerned about reports that over 100 men in Chechnya were arbitrarily detained because of their sexual orientation, and that many have been tortured and at least four people killed. The Minister for Europe described these reports as “credible” and said that the Government was also concerned.
The Russian Government bears ultimate responsibility for the safety of its citizens, yet it appears to be looking the other way while Chechen authorities commit the most terrible abuse. This appalling and disgusting prejudice is still represented in official policy in some parts of Europe and something must be done.
The UK’s representations on this issue need to be escalated and raised at a much higher political level. The Prime Minister should take the initiative by calling in the Russian Ambassador to demand answers.

Copyright © 2017 Marie Rimmer MP, All rights reserved.


Marie Rimmer MP

2nd Floor
Century House, Hardshaw Street

St Helens, WA10 1QU

United Kingdom
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4th April

Here is the Parliamentary report for last week’s session. We’re on Easter Recess now, so there won’t be an update until the house returns on the 18th.
On Monday I asked The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Penny Mordaunt) a question about whether she would be scheduling a debate and vote on the Government’s emergency PIP regulations. You can watch the video of this athttps://goo.gl/QhTJlW
I hope you find the report interesting and informative.
Kind regards

  • Magnox: Early Contract Terminations (Urgent Question)
  • Bus Services Bill (Report Stage and Third Reading)
  • Northern Ireland: Political Developments (Government Statement)
  • Neighbourhood Planning Bill (Ping Pong)
  • Article 50 (Government Statement)
  • Personal Independence Payment: Regulations (Emergency Debate)
  • Pension Schemes Bill (Report Stage and Third Reading)
  • Legislating for UK Withdrawal from the EU (Government Statement)

Magnox: Early Contract Terminations (Urgent Question)
On Monday, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was forced to make a statement on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s early termination of the contract to decommission the Magnox nuclear estate.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) awarded the 14-year contract to clean up 12 redundant Magnox sites to the Cavendish Fluor Partnership in September 2014. However, on Monday the NDA announced that it had decided to terminate the contract on two years’ notice. The BEIS Secretary said that after CFP started work on the estate, it had become clear that there was a mismatch between the work tendered for and that to be carried out.
The BEIS Secretary also said on Monday that the NDA had settled outstanding claims relating to the contract, paying nearly £100 million to engineering companies Energy Solutions and Bechtel. He stated that the tender process for the contract was clearly flawed and that the Government had therefore established an independent inquiry into the original procurement process and why the 2014 contract proved unsustainable.
I believe it is vital that the independent inquiry into the contract involves full public disclosure, as well as a public hearing. This is particularly important as a court judgement last year stated that the NDA had attempted to get rid of information that might have damaged its case. I also believe this calls into question the future operation of the NDA, as well as whether the Government has a well thought out and long-term nuclear decommissioning strategy.
This is the second big contract that the Government has cancelled in the space of six months and I believe it raises questions about the Government’s handling of procurement processes. The public should not have to put up with such a lack of competence.
Bus Services Bill (Report Stage and Third Reading)
On Monday, the House of Commons considered the Bus Services Bill.
In the mid-1980s the Government deregulated the bus industry across Britain, except in London. Since then, fares have risen faster than inflation; bus use has fallen by more than a third; and bus market monopolies have become the norm. I therefore welcome that the Government appears to have reversed its historic policy towards the bus market with this Bill, which offers a step back from the problems created 30 years ago.
I believe local communities should have a much greater say over the operation of bus services in their area, and this Bill could go some way to re-regulating the bus industry. It gives mayoral combined authorities the ability to regulate their bus services, increasing parity between areas such as Greater Manchester and London. It provides local authorities with new partnership options for working alongside bus operators. I also welcome that the Bill gives the Government the power to require local buses to have audio-visual information systems in place.
The Bill is not perfect. I would have liked powers to re-regulate bus services to be available to all areas, not just mayoral combined authorities. I also supported a new clause which would have required the Government to publish a national strategy for buses, including consideration of a concessionary scheme for young people. I was disappointed that the Government voted against this clause and it was defeated.
I was further disappointed that the Government amended the Bill to include a clause banning local authorities from forming their own bus companies in the future. I supported an amendment to remove this clause, which unfortunately did not pass.
However, I am pleased that the Bill will go some way to reversing the damage of deregulation in bus services and I supported it at Third Reading. The Bill will now return to the House of Lords for consideration of amendments.
Northern Ireland: Political Developments (Government Statement)
Monday was the deadline for political parties in Northern Ireland to form a government following the election there on 2 March.
On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland reported to the House of Commons that despite the efforts that had been made, there had been no agreement, and there was now therefore no devolved Administration.
The consequences of all of this are potentially extremely serious, as the budget for Northern Ireland has not been signed off, and that could soon start to have an impact on the day-to-day lives of businesses and the general public.
I hope that every effort will be made to reach a deal as soon as possible. The process has to be built on partnership, genuine compromise and consensus if we are to build up faith and confidence not just in the institutions, but, much more importantly, across the whole population of Northern Ireland. I want this to succeed and believe all avenues should be used to reach that goal.
Neighbourhood Planning Bill (Ping Pong)
On Tuesday, the House of Commons debated the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. This included consideration of amendments made in the House of Lords.
The key purpose of the Bill is to identify and free up more land to build homes on to give communities as much certainty as possible about where and when development will take place. It also aims to speed up delivery of new homes by reducing the time it takes from planning permission to building work commencing and new homes being delivered.
I believe it is important to recognise the value of the planning system in delivering developments that are well planned, in the right place and supported by the infrastructure they need. This includes access to good quality healthcare, schools, further and higher education, transport links and employment.
On Tuesday, the Government made a concession on the Lords’ Opposition amendment regarding permitted development and public houses. The amendment removed permitted development rights from pubs and ensured that any change of use or demolition of pubs in the future would require a planning application and allow for a local decision in all cases.
Pubs provide 1 million jobs and are worth £22 billion a year to the economy. Yet since 1980, 21,000 pubs have closed, and 21 pubs close every week. I am therefore pleased that the Government is acknowledging the role that pubs play in the local community.
Article 50 (Government Statement)
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons informing MPs that she had formally started the process for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The UK voted to leave the EU, and I respect that decision. Now that Article 50 has been triggered, our country will undertake the most important negotiations that it has in modern times and the next steps will be crucial.
It is vital that the Prime Minister secures the best deal for the country. However, she has already said that she believes no deal with the EU would be better than a “bad deal”. I believe no deal would be the worst possible outcome and it would be a national failure if protections for jobs and living standards, for example, were not secured.
I will therefore judge any final deal negotiated by the Government against six tests relating to the impact of Brexit on: the UK’s future cooperation with the EU, our economy, immigration, fundamental rights, national security, and the distribution of power and opportunity across the country.
I want to see our country have a collaborative and co-operative future relationship with the EU and a partnership based on our shared values, common aims and mutual benefit. I can assure you that I will use all means possible to hold the Government to account on this over the coming months.
Personal Independence Payment: Regulations (Emergency Debate)
On Wednesday, the House of Commons debated Personal Independence Payment (PIP) regulations. The request for an emergency debate had been made by my colleague the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.
PIP helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability. Last year, two tribunals were held to challenge how strict PIP criteria are. Both ruled in favour of changes that allow more people who need this support to be able to access it. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said these changes would cost the Government £3.7 billion more by 2022.
Following these rulings, the Government rewrote its legislation to stop these changes from happening. The Government’s analysis estimates that this will affect more than 160,000 people, the majority of whom have mental health conditions and will not be able to access the full support that they would have been entitled to under the tribunals’ rulings.
It is regrettable that Wednesday’s emergency debate was the first real opportunity for the House of Commons to discuss the new regulations and that the debate did not allow for a substantive vote on them. I believe the Government’s decision to introduce the new PIP regulations without debate or scrutiny undermines both our democracy and the independent tribunal judgments. I am concerned about future actions that the Government may take in relation to court cases that it loses.
I am also concerned that these changes to PIP have come on top of significant cuts to support for disabled people. I believe the Government should publish an assessment of all tax and social security changes, showing the impacts that they have had, and will continue to have, on disabled people.
Pension Schemes Bill (Report and Third Reading)
On Wednesday, the House of Commons continued to consider the Pension Schemes Bill. Consideration of the Bill at Report Stage and Third Reading was postponed last week due to the London attacks.
The Pension Schemes Bill includes measures to regulate master trusts and to protect the interests of pension scheme members. It also includes regulations to override contractual terms in occupational pension schemes, with the intention of enabling full implementation of policies to restrict certain charges and fees relating to pension scheme members.
I support the measures in this Bill. However, I feel it is a missed opportunity to address our wider pensions crisis. The Government could have used this Bill to address the high costs and charges being applied to occupational pension savings, prevent further decline of defined benefit pension schemes, and provide support to women born in the 1950s who are unfairly affected by the increase in the state pension age.
I supported an amendment which sought to ensure that in the event of a master trust failing, there is a funder of last resort. I also supported a number of other amendments relating to member-nominated trustees for master trusts; a review of the new master trust governance and member engagement process; and master trust annual member meetings. It is disappointing that the Government opposed these amendments, as there is a need to create further security and dignity in retirement for working families across the UK. However, overall I welcome that the Bill will strengthen the regulatory footing of master trusts.
The Bill passed Third Reading and now awaits consideration by the House of Lords.
Legislating for UK Withdrawal from the EU (Government Statement)
On Thursday, the Government published a White Paper about its proposed Great Repeal Bill and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU made a statement in the House of Commons.

The paper sets out three elements to the Great Repeal Bill. Firstly, it would repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on the day we leave the EU, ending the supremacy of EU law in the UK. Secondly, it intends to convert EU law into UK law, making sure rules do not change overnight and allowing Parliament and devolved legislatures to amend, repeal or improve these laws in the future. Thirdly, the Bill would create powers allowing the Government to amend laws that it determines would not operate appropriately once we have left the EU. The Secretary of State explained in his statement that he believes the Bill will help to ensure certainty and stability.

While the text of the Bill has not yet been published, I have initial concerns that the White Paper does not detail any enhanced safeguards for the proposed sweeping use of Government powers.

I do not underestimate the task of converting EU law into UK law but I believe there have to be clear principles for this. As a starting principle, I believe all rights and protections derived from EU law must be converted into UK law with no limitations, no qualifications and no sunset clauses.

Copyright © 2017 Marie Rimmer MP, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:

Marie Rimmer MP

2nd Floor

Century House, Hardshaw Street

St Helens, WA10 1QU

United Kingdom
 22nd March 2017
Here is the report from last week’s business at the House,  sorry for the delay. In the section on Personal Independence Payment I’ve included a blog post I wrote for my website www.marierimmer.org.uk

Kind regards

  • European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill (Ping Pong)
  • Britain’s Place in the World Debate (Budget Resolutions)
  • European Council (Government Statement)
  • Education and Skills (Budget Resolutions)
  • Personal Independence Payments (Urgent Question)
  • Visible Religious Symbols: European Court Ruling (Urgent Question)
  • Class 4 National Insurance Contributions (Government Statement)
  • Counter-Daesh Update (Government Statement)
  • Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill (Ping Pong)
  • National Citizen Service Bill (Report Stage and Third Reading)
  • Sky/21st Century Fox: Merger (Government Statement)

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill (Ping Pong)
On Monday the House of Commons debated the Bill which gives the Prime Minister power to trigger Article 50 and begin the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
MPs considered two amendments to the Bill proposed by the House of Lords. The first sought to guarantee the residence rights of EU citizens presently in the UK. It would have required the Government to introduce proposals for achieving this within three months of the triggering of Article 50. I believe this is a matter of principle because there are 3.2 million EU nationals who have made their homes in the UK including many in our area. They do vital jobs in our local NHS and in our public services and are valued members of our community.
The second amendment sought to guarantee that the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and our future relationship with it, should be subject to votes in Parliament. This amendment sought to formalise the promises that the Government has already made to do this.
I have supported the important protections and safeguards behind both these amendments throughout the Bill’s passage through Parliament and Monday was the last opportunity for them to be put into legislation. I was therefore disappointed that the Government opposed and defeated them.
The Bill has now become an Act of Parliament and I expect that the Prime Minister will trigger Article 50 shortly.
I will continue to argue on behalf of my constituents for a strong future relationship with the EU – one based on collaboration and co-operation – and oppose any Brexit that puts jobs, the economy or living standards at risk.

Britain’s Place in the World Debate (Budget Resolutions)
This week the House of Commons continued to debate last week’s Spring Budget, and on Monday this focused on defence, foreign affairs and international development.
The Foreign Secretary stated that commitments to spend 0.7% of gross national income on international development and 2% of GDP on defence would be honoured by the Government.
While these seem like clear commitments, there are many unanswered questions about how funding is split between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, and about how this money is spent.
The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review allocated another £300 million of the aid budget to the £1 billion Conflict, Stability and Security Fund overseen by the National Security Council, involving, amongst others, the Foreign Office, Home Office and MoD. I am concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability in relation to cross-departmental aid spending. Aid spent outside the DfID budget is not subject to the same rigorous requirement to focus on poverty reduction, as set out in the International Development Act.
The FCO has faced cuts of 38% and I am concerned about the loss of skilled linguists and experts, the consequences for our standing in the world and for our global reach and influence.
Since 2010 the way that our 2% of GDP defence spending is calculated has changed and now includes, for example, war pensions. I believe we should look very carefully at whether we should go back to the old way of calculating the 2% that was used before.

European Council (Government Statement)
On Tuesday the Prime Minister made a statement following a meeting of the European Council.
The Prime Minister reported that the issues discussed included the challenge of managing mass migration; threats from organised crime and instability in the western Balkans; and the measures needed to boost Europe’s growth and competitiveness.
The Prime Minister said, following the Bill on Article 50 completing its passage through Parliament, that she would return to the Commons before the end of the month to notify when she had formally triggered Article 50 and begun the process through which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.
The Prime Minister was pressed to focus on securing a transitional agreement with the EU at the earliest opportunity to give people and businesses some short-term clarity. She was also asked to bring certainty to EU nationals living in the UK, and to protect jobs and living standards by securing tariff-free access to the single European market. Additionally, she was pressed on the Government’s response to the refugee crisis.
As the Government moves towards the triggering of Article 50, it will be my parliamentary role, and that of my colleagues, to fight for jobs and the economy on behalf of my constituents, using every method of scrutiny to hold the Government to account.

Budget Debate (Education and Skills)
The House of Commons continued to debate last week’s Spring Budget on Tuesday, with a debate focused on education and skills.
I am disappointed that this Budget did not take any of the necessary steps to ensure that Britain has a school system that allows every child to fulfil their potential.
Despite the Government’s Social Mobility Commission recommendation that it should not implement its proposals for new grammar schools, the Government remains committed to expanding the use of academic selection. The Chancellor used the Budget to announce plans to spend another £320 million on the next tranche of new free schools.  This money is supposed to create 140 schools, providing 70,000 school places. However, this is unrealistic when figures from the National Audit Office show that, given the average cost of creating a place in a free school, the Government will be unlikely to create even a fifth of the spaces it has promised.
The Government also announced that it is providing £5 million a year to transport children to grammar schools. However, this follows a £6million cut to school transport budgets last year, which left no statutory provision for disabled 16 to 18-year-olds and others, who were forced to change school.
The Chancellor pledged £216 million for every other school over a three-year period. However, the National Audit Office has said that £6.3 billion is required to ensure that all existing school buildings are at least satisfactory.
The Budget included no plans to address the growing financial black hole in the schools system and it did not commit any revenue spending to address the £3 billion in cuts that are facing schools across the country. The Government previously committed that not a single pupil in the country would see their funding cut. Yet the National Audit Office has found that there will be an 8% drop in per pupil funding this Parliament.

Personal Independence Payments (Urgent Question)
On Wednesday my colleague the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary asked the Secretary of State to make a statement on the recommendations of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) on the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
In a letter dated Monday last week, the Social Security Advisory Committee made a series of recommendations for the Government including greater scrutiny of the regulations, an in depth assessment of the impact on existing claimants and greater consultation with healthcare professionals.
The Government was rightly pressed for a guarantee that its changes to eligibility would not result in anyone seeing a reduction in their PIP award.
The rules around Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which help with the extra costs of a long-term health condition or disability, will change from today (Wed 15th March 2017) .

Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people as a result of additional associated costs, and PIP is a key source of income to prevent real hardship. Disability charity Scope has estimated that these additional costs amount to approximately £550 a month.
The Government says it is making these changes because two court judgements have made access to PIP – to people with debilitating mental health conditions or cognitive impairment which means they need support to navigate a journey – beyond what they had originally intended. This contradicts their response to their 2012 consultation on the new PIP assessment process and the arguments they made in a 2015 court case, where they argued that “psychological distress” should be included in PIP assessments.
On Tuesday the Government back tracked on their tax hikes for the self-employed in response to the uproar from small businesses. Now they should listen to calls from more than 30 disability charities who have written to ministers urging them not to restrict access to PIP. The charities have echoed Labour’s calls that people will be left without vital financial support if these draconian changes go ahead.
In addition they should listen to their own Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), who, like the charities and disabled people’s organisations, they failed to consult prior to introducing these changes. In a letter to the Minister for Disabled People this week, SSAC recommended that there should be wider engagement prior to any changes and that proposals should be tested before implemented.
Labour has been fighting these regulations since they were sneaked out at the end of February. The changes will see over 160,000 disabled people and people with chronic mental health conditions not be able to access the full support they are entitled to – an effective cut worth £3.7bn. For a disabled person this means the difference between £21.80 and £57.45 a week.
We need to see people with mental health conditions being treated fairly and being properly supported to live full and independent lives. The proposed changes would create a legal distinction between mental health problems and other kinds of impairments when it comes to assessments. So much for parity of esteem.
The Government has fallen well short of fulfilling their commitment here. Evidence from the mental health charity, MIND, shows that 55% of people with mental health conditions transferring from Disability Living Allowance to PIP receive less support or no support at all. In addition the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions claimed that the new regulations meant people with a mental health condition could receive the enhanced PIP mobility rate when the new PIP assessment guidelines make it absolutely clear that they cannot!
On the day when Scope published analysis revealing that 89% of PIP Mandatory Reconsiderations or Appeals were successful, the Tories were still trying to peddle the myth that everything is fine with PIP.
The new PIP regulations is one of a series of cuts in social security support since 2010, with more due in April. The results have been devastating to disabled people, with debt, poverty and failing health. For too many it has been too much and they have given up on life, as life seems to have given up on them.
I do not believe that, given the choice, the British public would chose cuts in Corporation Tax (which is lowest in the G7) over pushing disabled people into destitution or worse.
The Government needs to know that enough is enough. No more cuts in support to disabled people. So please join us, Disabled People’s Organisations, activists and charities to campaign against these changes. Tell your family, your friends, your neighbours and get as many people as possible to lobby their MPs, write to the Prime Minister and sign the petition calling on the new regulations not to be implemented.

Stand with Labour, stand with disabled people. Enough is enough.

Visible Religious Symbols: European Court Ruling (Urgent Question)
On Wednesday, the Government was asked to make a statement on the recent European Court of Justice ruling allowing employers to ban workers from wearing religious dress and symbols in the workplace.
On 14 March 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that companies can ban employees from wearing the Islamic headscarf, but only as part of a wider ban which includes other religious and political symbols. The court found that such a ban is legal if it is “objectively justified by a legitimate aim”, such as a company’s policy of political or religious neutrality.
The judgment was prompted by the cases of two employees in Belgium and France who were dismissed from work after refusing to remove their headscarves. The Belgian employee had been working for a company which has a general ban on visible religious or political symbols, while the French employee was told to remove her headscarf after a client complained. The court emphasised that if a company does not have a wider internal ban, it cannot selectively discriminate against a worker at request of a customer.
The Government said that it is the right of all women to choose how they dress, and it does not believe that the recent judgment has changed that right. The Government said that the court’s ruling confirms the long-standing position of EU and domestic law that an employer’s dress code, where it applies in the same way to all employees, is justifiable if the employer can show legitimate and proportionate grounds for it.
However, I am concerned about the implications this judgement may have for faith communities. Whilst I am pleased that the Government is working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to update the guidance to employers on dress codes, I believe that it should reinforce the rights of employees in the UK to express their religious freedom.
I do not believe that a customer or service user would assume that a company is favouring one religion just by virtue of how one of its employees dress. Women and men must be allowed to choose how they express their faith and I do not believe that this judgment is consistent with the British liberal and human rights tradition.

Class 4 National Insurance Contributions (Government Statement)
On Wednesday the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a statement on national insurance contributions paid by the self-employed. He announced a u-turn on the tax rise announced in last week’s Budget.
The Chancellor said that the reason for reversing the increase was that MPs and others had questioned whether it was compatible with the tax lock commitments made in the Government’s election manifesto in 2015. The Chancellor said that there will now be no increases in NIC rates in this Parliament but that the Government will look for other ways to address the difference in the tax treatment of those who are employed and those who are self-employed.
I welcome this reversal, and I hope that the issues that self-employed people in my constituency care about will now be addressed instead, including: exploitation, late payments; the lack of access to maternity, paternity, adoption and sick pay, compassionate and carer’s leave.
The £2 billion that would have been raised by this tax rise was to go some way to tackling the serious problems in our social care system. So, it will be important for the Government to set out where these funds will come from now. The Chancellor was pressed on Wednesday to guarantee that no other tax rises for working people, or cuts to public services, would result from the change in policy.

Counter-Daesh Campaign: Iraq and Syria (Government Statement)
On Wednesday, the International Development Secretary updated the House of Commons on operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Since the last update in the House of Commons in November, Iraqi forces have made significant progress against Daesh in Mosul, Iraq, with support from coalition aircraft including those of the Royal Air Force. After three years of Daesh rule, east Mosul was retaken on 24 January this year. The next phase of the operation, to liberate west Mosul, was launched on 19 February.
The International Development Secretary stated that her department has committed £169.5 million to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and that a significant proportion of these funds is contributing to the Mosul humanitarian response.
In Syria, Daesh also continues to lose territory. The wider civil war there is now entering its seventh year, and some 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian support.
The International Development Secretary also noted progress in countering Daesh’s propaganda, which is used as a recruitment tool, with its output having fallen by about 75% over the last year.
I pay tribute to the brave men and women of the armed forces involved in the fight against Daesh, and to the aid workers and others who are delivering humanitarian support to civilians. I hope the Department for International Development will engage with civil society groups and other local actors in mapping out the long-term future of Iraq and Syria. I also believe we must continue to give help to the most vulnerable fleeing terror and persecution.

Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) BilL
On Wednesday the House of Commons debated the Health Services Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill. This included consideration of the amendments made in the House of Lords.
The key purpose of the Bill is to allow the Government to act to ensure the cost of medicines used by the NHS is kept as low as possible. I support the Bill as it will allow the NHS to better control the prices of medicines and it will close a loophole which has allowed a number of companies to hike the prices of drugs.
However, I have concerns around access to medicines and treatments, which is why I supported an amendment to the Bill which would have ensured that patients have rapid access to new clinical and cost-effective medicines and treatments approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Unfortunately the Government voted against this amendment.
I believe the decision not to include this amendment represents a missed opportunity, however I strongly support the core of the Bill, which seeks to close loopholes and to secure better value for money for the NHS from its negotiations with the pharmaceutical sector.

National Citizen Service Bill (Report Stage and Third Reading)
On Wednesday, the House of Commons considered the National Citizen Service Bill.
National Citizen Service (NCS) is a summer programme that offers courses to 15-17 year olds during the school holidays in England and Northern Ireland. It is currently administered by the NCS Trust, a community interest company.
The Bill proposes to place NCS on a permanent statutory footing, with the aim of making the NCS Trust a national institution while preserving its independent ethos. It also proposes to establish appropriate administrative, funding and accountability arrangements for the NCS Trust and to enable HMRC to send information on NCS to young people.
Social integration is the most important function of NCS, and I believe that bringing together young people from different backgrounds broadens their understanding of their own country and the community of which they form a part, and it helps to build a sense of shared nationhood, which is very important for the future of our country.
I believe that the NCS has a great deal to offer young people, and I therefore welcome the Bill and its provisions to put NCS on a more secure footing. However, this week the Public Accounts Committee raised a number of concerns over the NCS and its value for money, governance and transparency. I hope the Government will show that it is listening to these concerns.
The proportion of NCS graduates from poorer backgrounds has fallen since 2011. The Government must do more to make NCS open to those who need it most. I hope that the Government will listen to these concerns as the Bill progresses so that we can harness the potential of young people to the fullest.

Sky/21st Century Fox: Merger (Government Statement)
On Thursday the Culture Secretary gave a statement to the House of Commons on the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky.
The Culture Secretary confirmed that she will intervene in the deal on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards, and I welcome this.
The Culture Secretary will seek advice from Ofcom on those public interest considerations, and from the Competition and Markets Authority on other issues and has said there will be a thorough regulatory review. The CMA and Ofcom are expected to report back by Tuesday 16 May.
Ofcom has a duty to be satisfied that broadcast licensees are fit and proper on an ongoing basis. Earlier this week Ofcom announced that it would conduct a ‘fit and proper’ assessment at the same time it considers the public interest test in response to the decision to intervene in the Sky/21st Century Fox merger. I welcome this, but I am concerned that Ofcom has only 40 days to conduct the assessment. I also believe that some of the questions can only be answered by going ahead with part 2 of the Leveson inquiry, the findings from which would be crucial to assessing whether James and Rupert Murdoch should be allowed to obtain 100% control of Sky.

Copyright © 2017 Marie Rimmer MP, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:

Marie Rimmer MP

2nd Floor
Century House, Hardshaw Street

St Helens, WA10 1QU

United Kingdom