Barbara Keeley MP

LABOUR MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR WORSLEY AND ECCLES SOUTH

Policy

It is important that leaving the European Union does not lead to the watering down of the existing environmental standards that protect our wildlife and agriculture. The Conservative Government has announced a Repeal Bill that will be brought in to replace European Law. Conservative Ministers claim that this will transfer the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law.

While I welcome this commitment, I believe that the Conservative’s Repeal Bill would contain sweeping powers for the Executive and with no enhanced safeguards. I am concerned it will not go far enough to ensure UK environmental standards keep pace with the European Union after we leave.  

The Labour manifesto that I stood on at the general election pledged to introduce an EU Rights and Protections Bill to ensure there is no detrimental change to environmental protections when the UK leaves the EU. We must ensure that that all EU-derived laws that are of benefit to our environment are fully protected without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses. Indeed, there is also an opportunity for more progressive and ambitious domestic policies which go beyond European Union standards.  

As we leave the European Union, Agriculture regulations will need to adapt in order to preserve the rules for farmers. The Conservative Government has outlined proposals for a new Agriculture Bill which is intended to provide stability to farmers as we leave the European Union. The Conservative Ministers in charge of producing this Bill are yet to produce any draft guidance or support for farmers.

I can assure you that I will hold the Conservative Government to account on this to ensure that farms and wildlife in Worsley and Eccles South are protected throughout the process.

Protecting the environment after Brexit

It is important that leaving the European Union does not lead to the watering down of the existing environmental standards that protect our wildlife and agriculture. The Conservative Government has...

I appreciate that a number of constituents have concerns about the extent of the powers that have been outlined in the Conservatives' Great Repeal Bill and I and my Labour colleagues will hold the Government to account on this Bill. Labour has pledged to replace the Repeal Bill with an EU Rights and Protections Bill.

The Conservative Government has said that this Bill will convert EU law into UK law. They say that the Bill will then allow Parliament to repeal, amend or replace any EU-derived laws as necessary in the future. I do not underestimate the task of converting EU law into domestic law but we now know that the Conservative Government also intend to include sweeping new powers in this Bill to allow their Ministers to make changes to other laws.

I believe it would be wrong for there to be any changes to EU-derived laws without proper Parliamentary scrutiny. There should be no detrimental change to workers' rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit. These should be protected without qualifications and limitations or sunset clauses.

Not only should existing rights be protected, it is important that we make sure UK rights keep pace with the EU after we leave too. I would also like to see all relevant and substantial rights in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights converted into domestic law. However, the Conservative Government has ruled this out. It is for these reasons that the Labour manifesto I stood on at the recent General Election pledged to replace the Repeal Bill with an EU Rights and Protections Bill.

I also feel strongly that there should be a presumption throughout this process that devolved matters will remain devolved as powers and responsibilities transfer from the EU to the UK. Brexit should not be an excuse to hoard powers in Westminster.

I am pleased that the new Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, will be meeting Government officials to establish the role Greater Manchester can have in securing a good Brexit deal.

The Great Repeal Bill and Brexit

I appreciate that a number of constituents have concerns about the extent of the powers that have been outlined in the Conservatives' Great Repeal Bill and I and my Labour...

Very strong concerns have been raised about the removal of a guaranteed guard on Northern Rail services. I share the concerns that the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union has about these changes to train services.

Introducing Driver Only Operation would mean the driver would be expected to drive the train while at the same time being responsible for passenger safety. The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union is concerned about the introduction of Driver Only Operation trains on Northern Rail and about the safety and security of trains with only one guaranteed member of staff.

I share these concerns and agree that introduction of Driver Only Operation could make train journeys less safe. In particular, I am concerned about the failure to guarantee passenger safety or accessibility for disabled passengers who would face a loss of independence on Driver Operated services.

I am writing to reassure constituents that I oppose any proposals to remove guards from these increasingly busy routes. I am also concerned that Driver Only Operation will mean passengers no longer have a binding safety guarantee from a second member of on-board staff who is fully trained in safety-critical procedures.

I believe train operating companies must listen to the views of passengers and I would like the companies involved to work with the unions to resolve these issues. I believe the Conservative Government must allow Northern the flexibility to reach a settlement that secures a safe, accessible and properly staffed service.

The removal of guards on Northern Rail trains

Very strong concerns have been raised about the removal of a guaranteed guard on Northern Rail services. I share the concerns that the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union has...

I believe it should be a central task of any Government to prevent, reduce and eradicate child poverty. That is why I was appalled by the announcement of the Conservative Government in 2015 that they planned to limit Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit provision to two children per family.

I share the concerns of organisations such as Child Poverty Action Group who fear that this change will push more children and families into poverty. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a report which suggests that this policy could push 200,000 children into poverty. I know that the Social Security Advisory Committee has also written to the Minister for Employment raising concerns about the two-child limit.

These changes to Universal Credit were introduced as part of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. While this Act was progressing through Parliament, Labour Shadow Ministers raised opposition to the two-child limit and in particular the lack of an equality impact assessment for this change.

I have consistently called upon the Conservative Government to rethink its welfare reforms and to abandon the two-child limit on tax credits. I supported calls for the two- child limit to be dropped before it came into force on 6 April 2017.

I believe these changes are wrong and that they represent an arbitrary cap on the number of children that the Government will help families to bring up. I remain concerned that this measure will increase child poverty and have a negative impact on the lowest incomes in our society. Please be assured that I support measures to reduce child poverty. I am committed to reversing the two-child limit on Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit.

Introduction of a Two-Child Limit for Tax Credits and Universal Credit

I believe it should be a central task of any Government to prevent, reduce and eradicate child poverty. That is why I was appalled by the announcement of the Conservative...

In April, I wrote to Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to raise the issue of neonicotinoids and bee populations.

I have now received a response from George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which you can read here.

I am pleased that, after considerable pressure from MPs, the public and independent experts the Conservative Government has now decided to reject the two applications it received to use neonicotinoids on crops.

The importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and economy is clear. I continue to believe that it is vital that Conservative Ministers take a science-led approach to pesticide use. They must consider the best way to support farmers, protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators.

I can assure you I will continue to press the Conservative Government to apply evidence-based policy to the use of neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoids and Bees

In April, I wrote to Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to raise the issue of neonicotinoids and bee populations. I have now received...

Pavement Parking can be a real problem and can cause a great deal of frustration for pedestrians and road users. It can be even more problematic for those who are blind or partially sighted and for people who use wheelchairs.

The current laws on pavement parking are confusing for motorists, they can be dangerous for vulnerable road users and they are costly for councils who are having to repair damaged pavements. Progress needs to be made on this issue.

There are ways that local councils and the police can act to tackle on-street and pavement parking under the legislation governing obstruction and dangerous parking. They can designate limited areas of ‘pavement parking’ or establish special parking areas for commuters and residents in busy areas.

In 2015, the Pavement Parking (Protection of Vulnerable Pedestrians) Bill progressed to the Second Reading stage. During the debate, Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister with responsibility for buses, cycling and walking, Daniel Zeichner MP, said that “Vehicles parked on pavements are an issue particularly for vulnerable pedestrians—especially for older people, families with pushchairs, wheelchair users and people with visual or mobility impairments. We need better legislative intervention”. I was disappointed that the Bill did not progress further due to time constraints as it could have given local councils greater powers to manager parking on pavements.

The current rules are unsatisfactory for people who, like me, would like to see laws in place that would help local councils to make decisions about pavement parking more simply, with reduced costs. We need to be able to protect vulnerable pedestrians and all those who use our roads and pavements.

Pavement Parking

Pavement Parking can be a real problem and can cause a great deal of frustration for pedestrians and road users. It can be even more problematic for those who are...

I am concerned by Age UK's estimate that over 1.2 million older people say they are chronically lonely.

Tackling loneliness is a vital issue. Too often loneliness can go undetected, as many people put up with it in silence. According to Age UK there are 200,000 older people who have not had a conversation with friends or family for a month and 3.9 million older people who say that the television is their main form of company.

Recent evidence suggests that loneliness can have a serious impact on the physical and mental health of older people. It can be associated with increased rates of depression, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. I have learned that loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

I believe that loneliness is a public health issue and that more could be done to treat it as such. I also believe there is a role for Government in recognising the impact of loneliness.

Working with 13 charities including Age UK, the Jo Cox Commission aims to shine a spotlight on the different aspects of loneliness and to look at positive ways to tackle the issues. I support the work of the Commission - a cross-party coalition of MPs, charities and campaigners working to take action on loneliness in my late colleague's memory.

I would like to see a system of safety checks for older people who are vulnerable, identifying risks to their health and preventing problems such as loneliness and depression from escalating.

Locally, I am continuing the work of the Commission by looking at how loneliness is affecting people in Salford and at finding ways we can tackle the problem.

Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness – help for older people experiencing loneliness

I am concerned by Age UK's estimate that over 1.2 million older people say they are chronically lonely. Tackling loneliness is a vital issue. Too often loneliness can go undetected,...

In July 2016 the Government confirmed that NHS bursaries for training nurses, midwives, and Allied Health Professionals will be abolished and replaced with student loans from August this year. I understand how strongly NHS staff and many people in Worsley and Eccles South and across the country, feel about this issue. The 'Keep the NHS Bursary' petition was signed by more than 162,000 people. I share these strong feelings about this policy change

Nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals work long hours, often in difficult circumstances. They work hard to make our health service one to be proud of, and deserve our respect and support. It is therefore disappointing that rather than investing in healthcare students and protecting their bursaries - which help with living costs and tuition fees - student nurses are now being asked to pay to train to work in the NHS.

I am worried that Conservative-led Government cuts to nurse training places during the last Parliament have left hospital wards understaffed. I also believe that placing the burden of the cost of education on nurses is wrong and that these plans risk discouraging nurses from working in frontline nursing roles.

A UNISON survey of student nurses found that almost 91% would not have applied for their degree without access to the bursary and in February the House of Commons Library revealed that the admissions organisation UCAS received 10,000 fewer applications for nurse training compared to last year.

Last year I supported a Labour motion in the House of Commons which called for the Conservative Government to drop the proposals and instead to consult on how it could best fund and support the future healthcare workforce. Unfortunately the motion was defeated. I and my Labour colleagues have continued to pressure the Conservative Government on this issue.

In January, there was a debate in Westminster on the ‘Agent for Change: NHS Pay Restraint’ petition. During the debate my shadow health team colleague, Justin Madders MP, said that Labour believed “the disastrous policy of having tuition fees for student nurses will almost certainly make the position (of the NHS) worse, not better. The Royal College of Nursing warned at the time that the policy could act as a disincentive for students from some backgrounds—particularly mature students and those on lower incomes—and early indications are that applications to study are down by at least 20%. If that turns out to be an accurate reflection of the position, the pressure on existing staff can only increase.”

Labour’s opposition to the cut was repeated again during the March debate on NHS pay. In that debate, the Shadow Health Minister criticized the Conservative Government for “driving an NHS workforce crisis, forcing people out of health professions and putting others off starting in the first place”.

I and my colleagues in the Shadow Health team will continue to stand up for local NHS staff in Parliament and we will continue to press for these changes to be reversed.

Cuts to NHS Bursaries

In July 2016 the Government confirmed that NHS bursaries for training nurses, midwives, and Allied Health Professionals will be abolished and replaced with student loans from August this year. I...

NHS workers do a great job in difficult circumstances and I believe that a pay rise is overdue for them. I and my Labour colleagues support a return to public sector pay being agreed through the evidence of pay review bodies.

The determination, professionalism and compassion of staff continues against the backdrop of years of pay restraint, and in March the NHS Pay Review Body recommended a further 1% pay increase for NHS staff from 1 April 2017.

In 2015 the Government announced a maximum pay increase of 1% in public sector pay lasting until 2019-20. I do not believe that this is sustainable. The report from the NHS Pay Review Body claims that the pay cap is "coming under stress" and highlights that staff have "concerns about the quality of care they can give, and feel that they are not valued."

Health unions maintain that since 2010 there has been a real-terms drop in earnings of 14% for its members and have said that some nursing staff are now relying on foodbanks and second jobs to make ends meet. I appreciate the big personal impact the pay freeze is having on some of those affected in our area.

I am concerned that pay restraint has caused severe problems in health recruitment, as young people are put off joining health professions and others simply cannot afford to continue. The NHS's dependency on agency staff has also strengthened the case for a pay increase.

I believe it is time that the NHS pay cap was lifted so that the nursing staff, paramedics, midwives and other key NHS workers, in our constituency and across the country, are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication which they bring to their jobs.

Time to talk about NHS pay

NHS workers do a great job in difficult circumstances and I believe that a pay rise is overdue for them. I and my Labour colleagues support a return to public...

It is important that anyone who has been the victim of a road traffic accident is able to claim compensation for injuries they have suffered due to negligence. This must be balanced against the need to ensure insurance premiums are affordable for responsible motorists and that people are not able to make frivolous or fraudulent claims.

The Conservative Government has said that it will not remove the right to damages for minor soft tissue injuries. Instead, it will create a tariff for claims for an injury lasting up to two years. The Government has plans to increase the small claims limit for road traffic related personal injury claims from £1,000 to £5,000. It also intends to ban offers to settle whiplash claims before medical evidence is given.

These changes will be taken forward in the Prisons and Courts Bill, which had its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on 20 March.

I understand several organisations have expressed concern about these proposals. While they affect the victims of road traffic accidents, I am concerned that the proposed reforms to whiplash will affect others, including those people who are injured at work.

I am also concerned that the proposal to increase the small claims track for non-RTA claims to £2,000 will harm access to justice in a range of cases, including employer's liability. In his 2009 Review of Civil Litigation Costs, Lord Justice Jackson opposed any increase in the small claims limit until inflation justified an increase to £1,500.

In any case, I would like the insurance industry to guarantee that all savings will be passed on to consumers in reduced premiums. The Prisons and Courts Bill will provide an opportunity for these proposals to be debated and scrutinised and I and my Labour colleagues working on the Bill will bear in mind the concerns being raised with us.

Changes to Personal Injury Claims under the Prisons and Courts Bill

It is important that anyone who has been the victim of a road traffic accident is able to claim compensation for injuries they have suffered due to negligence. This must...

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