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Mental Health in Knowsley

19 Dec 2013
NHS mental health workers in Knowsley recently took part in ‘Movember’ - an annual month-long event in which men are encouraged to grow moustaches to raise awareness of testicular and prostate cancer and male mental health. 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust provide specialist mental health, learning disability and community services based in the North West of England.

When talking about mental health, Paul Campbell, Consultant Clinical Psychologist for the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said:
‘If you or someone else has noticed a change in your mood or behaviours; alterations in your sleep patterns, or believe that you are drinking or using stimulants more frequently than usual, it could be that these are the early signs of a mental health issue like anxiety or depression so please speak to your GP. He or she can help you to decide if our service is right for you and support you through our ‘opt-in’ referral system.”

For further information on the services that Knowsley Primary Care Mental Health can provide, click here.

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

17 Dec 2013
A number of constituents have contacted me about the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement’s report on Non-Party Campaigning Ahead of Elections, a Consultation and Recommendations relating to Part 2 of the Transparency in Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.

I welcome the report from the Civil Society Commission on part two of the Lobbying Bill. The Commission’s recommendations are wide ranging, and many of them would help to remove some of the worst excesses of this gagging bill. Labour will be working closely with the Commission and with all concerned charities and campaigners from across the UK as this Bill goes through its next stages in the Lords. In its current form, Part two of the Bill increases the regulation of charities and campaigners in the year before the election and restricts their activity, it makes lobbying less transparent and ultimately, it gags charities and campaigners, while failing to address the real ‘big money’ in politics.

There has been no consultation on the Bill and it has come under sustained criticism from political and constitutional experts and the voluntary sector. The Government are rushing this through Parliament so that charities and campaigners will be hit before the next election. This is a wasted opportunity for political reform.

I will be supporting Labour’s amendments and I’m hopeful that they will achieve the effect that they are seeking.

Alzheimer's Society Campaign
17 Dec 2013
I fully support the Alzherimer's Society Campaign which called for the G8 to step up and tackle dementia. To read more about their campaign, click here. The G8 Dementia Summit Declaration can be found here.

Energy Bill Revolution
3 Dec 2013
I fully support the Energy Bill Revolution campaign for warm homes and lower bills. Energy bills are causing immense financial hardship, with one in five households struggling to heat their homes. To find out more about the Energy Bill Revolution campaign, click here.

Cardiac Risk in the Young: Book Launch
3 Dec 2013
I was delighted to attend a parliamentary reception for the charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), where a new book, “Young, fit and suddenly diagnosed with a life threatening condition…”, was launched. It features 10 essays from young men and women who recount their own experience of being diagnosed with heart conditions. CRY support bereaved families, who have been affected by sudden cardiac death, and also work with the growing numbers of young people who have been diagnosed with potentially fatal heart conditions. The diagnosis of a heart condition can be frightening, however, this book provides young people with the reassurance, from those going through a similar experience, that their lives are not over, they are often only just beginning. For further information on the work CRY do, please click here.

Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Week
26 Nov 2013
As part of Atrial Fibrillation Awareness week, I have pledged my support to improve the detection and treatment of Atrial Fibrillation in order to prevent 7,100 strokes a year. Atrial Fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disturbance encountered by doctors and is associated with deadly and debilitating consequences including heart failure, stroke, poor mental health, reduced quality of life and premature death. There are an estimated 1.5 million sufferers in the UK and the condition costs the NHS £1.8 billion per year. Pulse checks are the easiest and most effective method to detect AF, and as part of AFAware week I had my own pulse checked in Parliament. For further information about the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Atrial Fibrillation, the AF Association or to find out how to get involved with AFAware week, please click here.

Opposition Day Debate: Bedroom Tax
13 Nov 13
In a debate yesterday about the Bedroom Tax, I gave a speech which highlighted the impact that this unfair policy has on people's lives - read my speech in Hansard. Unfortunately, the Government defeated Labour's motion. Click here to see a full breakdown of the vote.

'Knives Wreck Lives' campaign

11 Nov 13
I'm pleased to be supporting Juice FM’s ‘Knives Wreck Lives’ campaign running 11th - 17th November, which draws attention to the wide-ranging impacts of knife crime.

Knife crime can involve people of all ages. The impacts of knife crime can be devastating and many victims can be affected emotionally, physically and psychologically. If you have been affected by knife crime, please contact Merseyside Police or Victim Support. If you would like further information about Juice FM’s 'Knives Wreck Lives' campaign, click here.

'Stop the Growing Divide' campaign
11 Nov 13
I support the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (SIGOMA) campaign which calls on the Government to stop the growing divide between the more prosperous and weak economies that its current policies are driving. We ask the Government not to turn its back on those towns and cities that have made this country wealthy but to help regenerate such areas before the impacts of current policies become irreversible. We ask the Government to provide a rational measure of the holistic impact of their policies on cutting funding and welfare payments and to engage meaningfully with those most affected to deliver a method for redressing the current growing unfair imbalances. To sign the petition, click here.

Usdaw's call for shoppers to 'keep your cool' and not abuse shopworkers
11 Nov 13
I fully support Usdaw's campaign for respect for shopworkers as part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff. Too often retail employees are confronted with violence, threats and abuse and it is really important we stand by together and ask people to keep their cool and respect shopworkers. Usdaw's campaign was launched the day after the Government blocked a Labour amendment to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which would have introduced a specific additional offence of assaulting a worker serving the public.

Pilot Badger Cull
16 Oct 13
I have signed Early Day Motion 299 which calls on the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to bring the matter before the House before any decision on a wider roll-out of a pilot badger cull is taken, and that such a matter should be subject to a vote of the House.

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill
15 Oct 13
I have throughout its parliamentary stages voted against the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.

My reasons for doing so include:
- It makes lobbying less transparent;
- The Bill gags charities and campaigners, which in an open democracy is unacceptable;
- It fails to address the critical issues of how large poltical donations, whether from wealthy individuals or companies - taints our politics

Diabetes UK Campaign

25 Sept 13
I am supporting the new campaign by Diabetes UK that aims to reach the 7 million people in the UK who are at high risk of Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a very serious condition that can lead to devastating complications such as blindness, amputations and stroke and can have a devastating impact on both the people affected and their families.

It is very important that people in Knowsley are aware of the risk factors of Type 2 diabetes, which include being over 40 (or over 25 if you are from a South Asian background); being overweight or having a close family member with diabetes.

I am urging people in Knowsley to take a risk assessment if any of these risk factors apply to you as in most cases it is possible to prevent or delay the onset of the condition by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You can get risk assessed online at www.diabetes.org.uk/riskscore, by visiting a pharmacy or by going to your GP.

Diabetes can shatter lives and families so getting checked is one of the best things you can do for your health and for your family.

Employment Practices
28 Jun 13
I've been working with fellow MPs, Luciana Berger and Alison McGovern, to research the impact of zero hour contracts and other precarious employment practices. We found convincing evidence that these contracts are used by some companies to evade their responsibilities and we have drafted a code of practice to improve employment stability, conditions and fairness. Read the executive summary and the full report.

Labour and a new Europe
24 Jun 13
Why an EU referendum is necessary

Proposed Closure of Goodrich Aircraft parts factory, Huyton
1 May 13
Following the announcement by UTC Aerospace Systems (UTC) of the closure of the Goodrich factory in Huyton, George Howarth has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable, asking for his officials to join forces with Knowsley Council in an effort to find ways to pressure UTC’s senior management to reconsider their proposal to close the Huyton factory by the end of 2014.

Mr Howarth referred to a letter from the Business Secretary circulated on 19th March 2013 which referred to a £1.6B to “...back [the government’s] industrial strategy”. He also pointed out that aerospace was highlighted in the letter as “... the first strategy [the government] will support.”

In his letter to Vince Cable, Mr Howarth asked him to “...work together with Knowsley Council to see what support might be available to maintain this factory, which is a very important part of our local economy."

Mr Howarth has also spoken to Knowsley Council and Unite, the worker’s trade union. Knowsley Council are due to meet UTC next week to explore what can be done to keep the Huyton factory going. He concluded:

“It is too early to say whether the efforts of Knowsley Council, Unite and myself will work. What is clear, however, is that there is strong backing for this highly skilled workforce from Unite, the Council and myself and we will do everything we can to save these jobs.”

The potential closure of the Kirkby campus of Knowsley Community College
3 Apr 13
I strongly believe that the College has got this wrong.

Kirkby and Huyton deserve to have further education facilities and this decision is based purely on the College’s assessment of the financial decision.

I believe that there is a viable educational future for the Kirkby campus with or without the involvement of Knowsley Community College and I am aware that other educational bodies would be keen to take it over. I have contacted the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, seeking their support for the College to be kept open, even if it means another educational body taking it over.

Last night, I attended a public meeting in Southdene Community Centre and supported calls for any decision about the Kirkby campus to be delayed for three months to enable people to have meaningful input.

Update – 8 May 13
In my original post of 3 Apr, I included links to reports by KPMG reports into the potential closure. I have now taken those reports off this website for the time being. It is no longer relevant as College governors are now looking at ways in which the Kirkby campus can be retained. Knowsley Council are assisting them in this. If it becomes relevant again, I will put them back here. However, should any constituent wish to see copies, please contact my office and we will provide them.

Joining other MPs to investigate zero hours contracts
18 Feb 13
In conjunction with fellow Merseyside MPs - Luciana Berger MP & Alison McGovern MP – today, we have launched an investigation into the impact of zero hours contracts.

The expression "zero hours” contract is colloquial term for an employment contract under which the employee is not guaranteed work and is paid only for work carried out. Currently, many well-known companies – mainly though not exclusively through agencies – are employing people on either zero hour, casual, ‘rolling’ or short-term contracts in order to evade employment rights.

Many see hours of work cancelled at the last minute, or are forced to work longer hours which impact on childcare arrangements. Fluctuating hours can cause problems for people claiming Tax Credits, often resulting in huge overpayments which need to be repaid to HM Revenue and Customs. In Nov 2012, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) stated that under-employment had risen by 47% - one million extra people- since 2008, with young people and low paid workers more likely to be affected than other workers.

We are launching this investigation to find out people’s experiences and we hope to use the results to highlight the range and scale of the problem to Government and to develop a code of practice for responsible companies to sign up to.

This purpose of this survey is to collect information about young people in the Liverpool City Region. We are particularly interested in finding out more about those employed on zero-hours contracts, casual, ‘rolling’ contracts, through employment agencies or as interns. To complete this survey please click here.

All responses will be treated in confidence as regards the names and personal details of the respondent. We would, however, unless respondent specifies otherwise wish to publish the names of firms and/or agencies using such practices.

Ambitious Knowsley Young People
26 Nov 12
Over the summer of 2012, I carried out a project to help gain an understanding of the aspirations and ambitions of young people in Knowsley. A number of valuable points surfaced from the discussions with young people but perhaps the most interesting was that despite the social and economic disadvantages they face, the young people in Knowsley are no less ambitious than young people elsewhere in the country. Read the full report here.

28 Sep 12
The memo from Linda Rushton (dated 12 February 1998) did not convey the specific terms of any discussion between me and Jane Kennedy or Peter Kilfoyle.

The terms ‘on message’ and ‘neutralise the local media’ were her words and not words we would have used. Our overriding concern was to ensure that the feelings of the families were dealt with respectfully and sensitively.

A more accurate representation of my concerns at that time is reflected in the memo from Paul Pugh to Linda Rushton (dated 28 January 1998), which refers to my suggestion that ‘the failure on the part of South Yorkshire Police to disclose sections of the video tapes ....should be deplored.’

The context of this material is that I was conscious that the families would be disappointed at the outcome of the Stuart-Smith Review, as I was myself, and that public statements had to be mindful of their legitimate feelings.

Joint statement on Sonae with UNITE
2 Aug 12
Earlier today, I issued this joint statement on Sonae with Paul Finegan, the Regional Secretary of UNITE. The statement calls for an independent expert to identify what it would take to resolve all of the health and safety and environmental problems associated with the factory. Read the full statement here.

Sonae's consultation about closing its Knowsley factory
27 Jul 12
It is, of course, a matter of great concern that Sonae has embarked on a course that could potentially lead to the loss of some 200 jobs in Kirkby.

In his statement, the Managing Director, Nigel Graham, stated that he expects ‘...local public representatives to facilitate a constructive resolution [to the situation at Sonae].’

I have made it clear to employees at Sonae that if a viable plan could be put in place that resolved all of the problems the community has experienced with the Kirkby plant, there would be no reason not to support it.’ I would, however, need two assurances:
- first, that any such plan would be independently audited by suitably qualified consultants (and by independent, I do not mean consultants appointed by Sonae) and;
- secondly, I would need to be convinced that Sonae’s senior management was genuinely committed to doing whatever is required to resolve all of the problems.

All of this begs the question: if it is possible to resolve the problems the community have experienced, why has Sonae not done so already?

Mr Graham’s statement seeks to lay all of the blame at the door of Knowsley Council. This is far from the case. Knowsley Council has, in fact, shown enormous patience over the years, working with the company to ensure that the current planning application is in a fit state to be put before the planning committee.

House of Lords should be abolished, not reformed
13 Jul 12
This week the House of Commons has been debating the reform of the House of Lords. I spoke in this debate and called for it to be abolished rather than reformed so that we move to a unicameral system. Read more about my views on this subject here.

The Government’s priority should be getting people back to work

14 May 12
In a debate yesterday I called for the Government to make cutting unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, a priority for its agenda in the year ahead. We need to give young people some hope of being able to find a job and sort out the muddle that is the skills and training system. I also called for the Government to rethink its plans to legislate to reduce employment rights – we should be supporting people back to work not making it easier to sack them. Read my speech here.

Universities Week
I'm pleased to be supporting Universities Week, 30 Apr-7 May, which draws attention to the great work our universities do. For more information, please click on the logo below.
Universities Week

Government must explain leaked comments about Liverpool fans at Hillsborough
Following reports in the press about leaked Government documents containing allegations against Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, Steve Rotherham MP and I have called on the Government to explain to Parliament that those comments are scandalous. A media report last week revealed a briefing received by Margaret Thatcher, days after the disaster in 1989 which included comments about Liverpool fans. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has responded by establishing an inquiry into the leaked papers to find out how the contents reached the BBC before being shown to the families and relatives of the victims of the disaster - and before the full information is put together by the Hillsborough panel. Read my comments in Parliament here.

Why we need a clearer and fairer system to regulate Freeview
10 Feb 12
In an article for the Huffington Post today, I make the case that we need a clearer and fairer regulatory system to ensure the UK broadcast market remains amongst the most dynamic and successful in the world. At the moment, we are following a model for Freeview that is unfair and damaging. If Freeview channels were a physical retail asset, the current approach would be the equivalent of allowing the major supermarkets to move the location of a smaller competitor at will. As well as being an important matter of principle, this jeopardises the stability of QVC which is an important employer in Knowsley. Read my full article here.

Parliamentary motion calling for Sonae to be closed down
7 Feb 2012
Earlier today, I tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament about the fire at Sonae on 26 January 2012. The Motion notes this is the 22nd occasion on which the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has had to attend the factory in the past 12 years, expresses concern about the tragic loss of life at the factory and calls on the Health Safety Executive to close the factory down on the grounds that it is unsafe and badly managed. Read the full Motion here.

Government must act to prevent another disaster at Sonae
3 Feb 12
Earlier today, I wrote to the Minister responsible for the Health and Safety Executive, Chris Grayling, demanding that the Executive should use its extensive powers to put a stop to the string of disasters at Sonae before it is too late for the company’s employees and the surrounding neighbourhoods. Read the full letter here.

Latest incident at Sonae
1 Feb 12
Sadly, the latest incident at Sonae shows that the process is unstable, unsafe and that the plant is badly managed. There is strong and irrefutable evidence of odour nuisance, dust and poor safety which, in my view, should be sufficient to close the plant. There are three areas residents, Knowsley Council and myself can pursue which I hope will encourage the relevant authorities to take firm and decisive action.

First, Knowsley has the responsibility for Sonae’s environmental licence. I have already urged them to rescind the licence and I would encourage you, your friends and family and neighbours to contact environmentalhealth@knowsley.gov.uk to add your voice to this call.

Secondly, Sonae currently have a planning application lodged with Knowsley Council planning department, which, as I understand it, is as a result of work they wish to carry out following the earlier fire during the summer. To date, there has only been one objection to the application. I will be writing to put my objections to the Council and I would urge you, your friends, family and neighbours to do the same. Those who wish to object should write to environmentalhealth@knowsley.gov.uk citing the planning application reference of 11/00581/FUL.

Finally, I believe the Health and Safety Executive have been far too slow and ineffective in their assessment of previous incidents and, once I receive further information I am seeking, will be raising the matter with Ministers and in Parliament.

Business rates
18 Jan 12
During a debate on business rates, I made the case for reforms that would benefit local authorities such as Knowsley. Read the debate here.

Liverpool and Southampton ports
18 Jan 12
During a debate on planning covering the ports of Southampton and Liverpool, I made the case for Liverpool city council and the local authority in Southampton to work together to find common ground to secure investment. Read the debate here.

Unemployed graduates
18 Jan 12
I have asked the Department for Work and Pensions about the number of unemployed graduates living in each constituency. Read the Government's response here.

17 Jan 12
In the context of a recent visit by the Foreign Secretary to Burma and its recent ceasfire with the Karen National Union, I asked about the role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can play to encourage the Burmese to maintain progress. Read the Foreign Secretary's response here.

Regulating the pub industry
12 Jan 12
In a debate on the pub industry, I made the point that the Government needs to be clear about the limits of self-regulation. If self-regulation fails to work, the Government needs to make it clear whether it is prepared to follow-up with statutory regulation. Read the full debate here.

Knowsley Training Academy
14 Dec 11
Last week, I visited the Knowsley Training Academy. Since it opened in September this year, almost 200 people have been trained their and over half of the first group to complete the course are now employed. I hope the academy will be a great success. Read coverage of the visit in the Liverpool Daily Post.

QVC must be treated fairly
23 Nov 11
The shopping channel QVC, which is the largest employer in my constituency, faces an unfair threat from larger broadcasters which could force a change in its channel position. This could hit sales and threaten job cuts. Read the the debate in Parliament and coverage in the Liverpool Echo in which I call for fairer regulation to safeguard local jobs.

The Intelligence and Security Committee
21 Nov 11
In a debate on the role of the Intelligence and Security Committee, on which I sit, I made a number of key points:
- it is a great strength that the Committee's members are politically impartial;
- it would be beneficial if the current Chairman stays in position for the duration of this Parliament;
- while the Committee should adopt a more open approach this will not mean a free-for-all and we should be honest about that;
- cyber-security is a critical issue for the nation's security;
- we need clarity on whether the Baroness Neville-Jones speaks for the Government or not, particularly when she speaks in the media about Russia and China's involvement in cyber attacks;
- the amount of intelligence we have received from the US since the Binyam Mohamed case has declined and we therefore need to be careful about what information is brought into public through court cases.
Read my full speech in Hansard

Immigration and threats to UK workers
21 Nov 11
In response to reports that the Government may be considering allowing workers to come to the UK from India to be employed at below UK rates, I asked questions to ascertain the exact situation. The employment Minister confirmed that the 'requirements of EU and member state laws and regulations regarding entry, stay, work and social security measures shall continue to apply' meaning that UK workers cannot be undercut. Read the full questions and answers here and here.

Peace must be a more compelling option than violence
21 Nov 11
In the wake of yesterday's Spanish elections, there is a real opportunity to secure peace in the Basque region. We need strong commitments by all sides to ongoing peaceful processes, the rule of law and primacy of democracy. Working together, and with the support of the international community, there is now an opportunity to achieve lasting peace for the first time in generations. Read the full article published by Progress.

Allocation of Freeview channels, TV regulation and their impact on QVC
14 Nov 11
The allocation of TV channel numbering is key to the success of smaller broadcasters such as QVC which employs around 2,000 people in the UK, most of whom are in Knowsley. I'm putting pressure on the Government to make sure that this process is fair - local jobs depend upon it. That's why I asked this question about regulation of the channel allocation process and this question about who the Government has consulted.

Responsibility of the Home Secretary for border control breach
9 Sep 11
During a debate on ministerial responsibility following the revelations that border controls had been relaxed last summer, I drew attention to the importance of Ministers taking responsibility for the actions taken by Government Deparments. Read the debate in Parliament here.

The EU referendum debate
24 Oct 11
During the debate in Parliament on a referendum for the EU, which saw over 80 Conservative MPs vote against the Government, I questioned Labour colleagues about the wisdom of voting with Tories intent on redistributing powers to employers away from workers. Read the debate in Parliament here.

Securing intelligence sharing with the US and other close allies
19 Oct 11
During a debate on a report by the Intelligence and Security Committee, I asked the Justice Secretary about the risk that co-operation with close allies may be jeopardised by decisions made by judges. Read the debate in Hansard.

Parliament debates the release of Government documents about the Hillsborough disaster

17 Oct 11
The Government has agreed to publish previously secret documents after pressure from the families of the Hillsborough 96 and Merseyside MPs. In the debate that followed I called for the Government to explain how it will manage the process to ensure that nothing has been inappropriately witheld. Read the full debate in Parliament and coverage in the Daily Mirror.

33,000 people sign petition against Whiston hospital
7 Sep 11
Campaigners against the potential privatisation of two Merseyside hospitals have handed over a 33,000-strong petition to Downing Street. More

Sonae incident
8 Aug 11
I would like to express my sincerest sympathies to the family of the man who lost his life at Sonae last Saturday.

There have been conflicting accounts of the exact circumstances which led to this sad loss. It is important that the police and Health and Safety Executive are able to carry out a proper investigation into how the tragedy occurred so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent similar tragedies occurring in the future. We need Sonae and its subcontractors to cooperate fully with those investigations and be completely open about the circumstances which led to this incident.

I have commented extensively on the more general matter of the future of Sonae during the past few weeks. There is still little, if any, evidence that Sonae has resolved the underlying problems with safety and stability at the plant. When the recent fire broke out in June, Sonae's management expressed concern that its safety record had been misunderstood. In the interests of openness and transparency, now would be a good time to publish Sonae’s health and safety record in full. This would allow misconceptions to be corrected and genuine concerns to be addressed.

Latest tragedy at Sonae
6 Aug 11
My first thoughts are with the family of the man who died earlier today at the plant. I'm deeply saddened by this latest tragic incident.

It's barely three weeks since I said that "as matters stand I don't see how anyone can have any confidence in Sonae to operate safely and with stability." It's too early to comment on the details about this tragic incident, but I sincerely hope that this will never happen again.

Visit to QVC
2 Aug 11
Earlier today I visited the QVC headquarters at Knowsley Industrial Park which is a major local employer. During the tour I saw the technology used by QVC to process orders and to make sure that the warehouse can respond to the 24/7 demands of customers from across the country as well as visiting the call centre and learning about the company's plans for growth.

George Howarth with Mark Bennett and Dermot Boyd from QVC
Above: viewing QVC's control room with technical director, Mark Bennett, and CEO, Dermot Boyd.

Sonae re-opening is wholly inappropriate
21 Jul 11
As matters stand at the moment I don’t see how anyone can have any confidence in Sonae to operate safely and with stability. The re-opening of the plant is wholly inappropriate because there can be no guarantees that Sonae has resolved the underlying problems with safety and stability at the plant. Read the full story by the Liverpool Daily Post.

More questions about Cameron's links with Murdoch
20 Jul 11
Following the Prime Minister's evasion of my question during a debate in the Commons, I have tabled two written parliamentary questions to find out exactly what the Prime Minister discussed during his many meetings with News International executives. The questions are:

- To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the Statement of 20 July 2011, what advice he received prior to taking his decision to take himself out of the decision-making process in respect of the acquisition of BSkyB; and whether contacts during the course of his meetings with senior staff from News International at formal meetings or socially, constrained him from taking part in that process.

- To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the Statement of 20 July 2011, for what reasons it was not appropriate for him to take a view on the proposed takeover by NewsCorp of BSkyB; what record was taken of his meetings with senior staff from News International; and if he will place a copy of such records in the Library.

Under parliamentary protocol, the Prime Minister is not obliged to answer these until Parliament returns in September, but I intend to write to him demanding a more urgent response.

What does the Prime Minister have to hide about News International?
20 Jul 11
The Prime Minister has now admitted that he has met News International representatives an astonishing 32 times. Says that he did not have any 'inappropriate' conversations about the BSkyB deal, but he needs to go further to clarify exactly what he did discuss during those meetings. During an emergency debate in Parliament, I asked the Prime Minister, 'what has got to hide’ and I pushed him on why he felt he had to remove himself from the ongoing phone-hacking scandal. Read the debate in Hansard here.

Water main bursts in Huyton
18 Jul 11
United Utilities must act now to address the cause of the latest water main burst in Huyton. This is the fifth burst in recent years and the third time that residents' homes have been flooded. That things have gone wrong so often shows United Utilities has not addressed the underlying cause. The Government needs to carry out an urgent investigation into this and United Utilities' practices. Read the motion I've tabled in Parliament about the burst mains and United Utilities' responsibilities here calling for immediate compensation for those affected. You can read coverage on the BBC and in the Liverpool Echo.

Dismissal of staff at Liverpool passport office

30 Jun 2011
Following the dismissal of 14 members of staff from the Liverpool passport office, together with colleagues, I raised the issue with the responsible minister and called on the Minister to avoid a tribunal and instead consider the moral case. My contributions to the debate can be read here and here.

Answers to my Parliamentary Questions about Sonae
28 Jun 11
Government Ministers have answered some of the Parliamentary Questions I tabled about Sonae on 17 June:
- Number of complaints about air pollution
- Impact of the plant on public health
- Number of inspections by the Health and Safety Executive
- Number of investigations by the Health and Safety Executive
- Cost of police visits to the Sonae factory
- Number of times the Fire Service has been called to Sonae

The Government’s answers to my questions reveal:
- the Health and Safety Executive has run nine investigations into Sonae since 2007 and fourteen in total over the past decade resulting in three prosecutions.
- the Fire Service has been called to Sonae 28 times over the past decade, not including the most recent fire.

It’s clear that several organisations hold more information on Sonae and that should be brought into the public domain so an informed decision can be made about its future. I’ll be working towards that over the coming days.

Read coverage of these PQs and the reaction of local residents in the Liverpool Echo.

Sonae and air quality
28 Jun 11
Last night I met with local residents concerned about Sonae. The Liverpool Echo reported the meeting here.

Many people expressed concerns about the impact of the factory on local residents' health. I undertook to post this report into local air quality carried out by the council and PCT in 2008 on my website. A summary is also available here which was considered at a board meeting of the PCT in February 2008.

Letter to Kirkby residents about Sonae
20 Jun 11
Together with local councillors, I have written to local Kirkby residents about Sonae. You can download that letter here.

Questions in Parliament about Sonae
17 Jun 11
Following the Sonae fire, I have asked questions in Parliament to find out more about the safety risks posed by the plant and cost of plant to the taxpayer, including:

- How many times have the fire service been called to Sonae in the past ten years, how much did it cost and were any firefighters injured?
- How many complaints have the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs received about Sonae in the past ten years and how much have they cost to investigate?
- What assessment has the Department of Health made on Sonae’s effect to public health and how much will it cost the NHS to - treat?
- When and how often have police been called to Sonae and how many investigations have they carried out?
- How many times have the Health and Safety Executive investigated Sonae since it opened and how much did it cost?
Read the Liverpool Echo's coverage here.

South China Sea disputes
16 Jun 11
As Chair of the Vietnam All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), I have proposed an Early Day Motion in Parliament alongside the Chair of the China APPG, calling for a peaceful resolution of the disputes between China, Vietnam and other countries in the region over areas in the South China Sea. As well as threatening global security, tensions in that area risk pushing up the price of UK fuel and other commodities. The motion has been covered in the media by the Voice of Vietnam news.

Civil service job losses

14 Jun 11
I have asked the Cabinet Office about civil service job losses on Merseyside and in Knowsley because it is important that the impact of cuts on the local economy should be fully understood. Unfortunately, the response from the Cabinet Office is less than helpful: they do not collect that information centrally. You can read my questions and their official responses here.

Parliamentary motion calling for Sonae to be closed

14 Jun 11
I have tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for Sonae to be closed down for good. Read the EDM here and coverage by the BBC and the Liverpool Echo as the Health and Safety Executive announces another investigation.

15 Jun update: more coverage of the Early Day Motion in the Liverpool Echo.

Sonae should be closed - permanently
13 Jun 11
In a Parliamentary debate about health and safety legislation, I asked the Minister responsible for the Health and Safety Executive, if 'he will take into account the problems that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has had at Sonae in my constituency. A major fire incident over the last few days has covered much of the industrial area as well as residential areas in acrid black smoke. Will he assure me that the HSE will work with the local authority, Knowsley council, the fire service and everybody else in the town, because we have reached the conclusion that this place should be closed down?"

The Minister, Chris Grayling, replied "I am aware of the very unfortunate incident in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency. I cannot comment specifically on that investigation, but I can assure him that the HSE is investigating carefully what happened. Clearly, lessons must be learned. However, that underlines my view that the HSE should concentrate its resources on dealing with genuinely serious incidents and problems, and not on trivial matters."

I've asked for Sonae to be closed because its record of fires and accidents poses too many risks to its employees as well as local residents. Over the next few days and weeks I will be taking more action in Parliament as well as meeting key local organisations to make sure that no more risks are taken with local people's lives.

Carers Week
13 Jun 11
I'm pleased to support Carers Week that recognises the value and hard work of carers up and down the country. Read more to find out about the valuable work done each and every day by local carers.
George and Angela Rippon discussing carers week
Above: discussing Carers Week with Angela Rippon

Future for Sonae in doubt after latest blaze
10 Jun 11
Following another fire on Friday night, the Fire Service, Knowsley Council and the Health and Safety Executive should come together to decide whether Sonae can be allowed to continue given the risks to the community. Read coverage on the BBC and by the Liverpool Echo.

Government plans to reduce the time criminals spend in prison
23 May 11
The Government is proposing to reduce the amount of time criminals spend in prison. During a debate in Parliament I made the point that prison protects communities from offenders while they are inside and it is important to make sure the public still trusts the justice system. Read the debate in Hansard here.

Prof Michael Chester and the National Refractory Angina Centre
18 May 11
I have tabled a Parliamentary motion about the relationship between the patient support group and the hospital authorities at the National Refractory Angina Centre (NRAC) based at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen. Read the Liverpool Daily Post's coverage here and the Early Day Motion here.

Closure of Huyton's Jobcentre Plus is outrageous
14 May 11
Proposals to close Huyton's Jobcentre Plus are outrageous and disgraceful. It should be unthinkable to take away these facilities from an area with high levels of deprivation at a time when unemployment is rising. Read the full story in the Liverpool Echo.

Safety of deepwater oil drilling
9 May 11
A year after the BP oil disaster of the coast of the US, I tabled a Parliamentary Question to find out what measures the UK Government has taken to ensure a similar disaster does not happen here. Read the Government's answer here.

The future of Whiston Hospital
4 May 11
Following the Freedom of Information requests I made in April, I've now used a debate in Parliament to press the Health Minister, Simon Burns, on whether there have been discussions with the Department of Health to privatise Whiston Hospital, and what options are on the table. Read the debate here.

Why I will be voting to keep the current electoral system

22 Apr 11
"AV is designed not to give people a choice between the big ideas and the big parties, but to give third and fourth preference candidates a greater status than people’s real choices". Read how other Merseyside MPs are intending to vote here.

Possible plans to privatise Whiston Hospital

21 Apr 11
Following rumours of plans to privatise Whiston Hospital, I have tabled Freedom of Information requests to find out exactly what discussions have taken place about the future of St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust. More information.

Campaign to review 'soft' sentences to burglary gang goes to appeal
31 Mar 11
I welcome the review of the sentences of three members of a gang of burglars who subjected their victims to terrifying ordeals. More information.

The Big Society
22 and 30 Mar 11
Read my article in Progress Magazine and the full pamplet in which I argue Labour should engage with the 'big society' and put universality and equity at the heart of our alternative.

Defend Radio Merseyside's daytime shows

26 Mar 11
BBC bosses should abandon plans to axe Radio Merseyside's daytime shows including Billy Butler, Roger Phillips and Sean Styles. More information.

Climate Week
21 to 27 March 2011
I'm pleased to be supporting Climate Week - one week to show how we can combat climate change. Thousands of events and activities, highlighting the positive steps being taken to help combat climate change, are being planned by organisations from every part of society for the UK's first Climate Week. To find out more go to www.climateweek.com, email info@climateweek.com or telephone 020 3397 2601.

Costs of rock salt procurement

17 Feb 11
In a written Parliamentary Question, I have asked the Transport Minister about the costs of procuring the emergency supply of rock salt. George has received information that the charges made by central Government to local authorities seem to be disproportionately expensive, so this question is aimed at finding out the facts. Read the Government's response here.

Pilch Lane Pharmacy

7 Feb 11
I have been liaising with Knowsley Council and the PCT to ensure that residents' concerns are taken into account in relation to the 100 hour pharmacy licence application for the Pilch Lane pharmacy. Read the letters from the Council and PCT sent on 3 February and 4 February about the process. The local health service's 'Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment' which outlines the context for considering the proposal is available here.

Advice and levels of deprivation

3 Feb 11
In a debate on the provision of advice, I stressed the importance of organisations such as Kirkby Unemployed Centre, Merseyside Welfare Rights and Knowsley citizens advice bureau. Read the debate here.

How to prevent publishing information about how to make bombs

31 Jan 11
Read the Home Office Minister's reply here to my question to the Home Secretary about how to protect the public in the light of publications about how to make explosives by radical groups.

Bank lending and business rates
25 Jan 11
The Government answers my Parliamentary Questions on their review of business rates and levels of bank lending across the regions.

George warns of the risks of scrapping Educational Maintenance Allowance

19 Jan 11
George speaks out for the 80% of Knowsley students aged between 16-18 who will lose Educational Maintenance Allowance as a result of the ConDem's plans to slash education funding. Read the debate in Hansard here.

George calls for National Insurance holiday to apply to charities
11 Jan 11
In a vote on whether to allow charities to benefit from the NI holiday for newly formed companies, I said "I am slightly surprised that the minister has taken that line, because charities are important players in our economy. Although they may not be out to make a profit, they are often enterprising institutions – and employing institutions, hiring various staff in many different cases – and they deserve our support and encouragement.” Unfortunately, the Government opposed the measure, so charities will lose out. Read the full story in Civil Society.

Bank lending to local economies

11 Jan 11
Following the Government's relaxation of bonuses paid to top bankers, I have pressed the Chancellor of the Exchequer for information on how much banks will be expected to set aside for local economies. Read the Chancellor's response here.

You can see earlier press appearances and speeches here: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010

View the Parliamentary achive here: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010

To search Hansard for more examples of George speaking in Parliament, click here. These current Hansard pages cover the period from 2005 to the present day

To search Hansard's archives to see George's speeches and questions in Parliament since his election, click here.

Early Day Motions
As well as making speeches and asking questions in Parliament, you can view the Early Day Motions (EDMs) George has signed here. EDMs draw attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrate parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view. You can find out more from the House of Commons factsheet.


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©2007-19 Rt Hon George Howarth MP for Knowsley