Questions and Contributions
Steve's contributions in the House of Commons
Here you will find all contributions Steve has made in this session of Parliament
30 November 2016 - State Pension Wage: Women
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Damian Green): Welcomes the planned average rise of £550 a year for 3 million women, including those born in the 1950s, who receive the new state pension; further welcomes the increase of over £1,100 per year of the basic state pension since 2010 as the result of the triple lock, which will also benefit such women; and recognises that the state pension must reflect the welcome rise in life expectancy in order to remain sustainable for generations to come.”We have heard the case put fully by the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), and I want to start my response by putting this debate in full context. The pensions system, along with the whole welfare system, needs to change to reflect the reality of today. What has happened in recent decades is not only that we are all living longer, which is welcome, but that we are able to work for longer as we become healthier. By 2030, over 3 million women stand to gain an average of £550 extra per year as a result of these changes.
*Later in the debate*
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does the Minister accept that the fundamental issue here is not equalisation, because that has been agreed, but fairness? He can give comfort to the 63,000 WASPI women in Merseyside who, through a quirk of their birth-date, will be hit hard and penalised. He can announce transitional arrangements that would give them some comfort that that is not going to happen.
Damian Green: I was coming on to discuss what we are doing and what we will do for this group. Supporting older claimants to remain in the labour market, and tackling the barriers to their doing so, is a key priority for the Government. To support that aim, we have abolished the default retirement age, so most people can now retire when the time is right for them, and we have extended the right to request flexible working for all. Flexible working is particularly important for this group of people, who may well have caring responsibilities.
02 November 2016 - Community Pharmacies
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is a false economy to cut services, given that the knock-on effects on GP services and the NHS will cost more, and that it will do nothing to alleviate the problem of health inequalities in this country?
Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con): It would clearly be a false economy if it resulted in losing pharmacies in areas where we need them. Equally, we would have to say to GPs, “I’m sorry. We can’t take the money off the pharmacies. We are taking it off you instead.” That would make it harder for them to deliver the services that they want to deliver. I do not think there are any easy answers. The system is under so much financial pressure that we must find savings wherever we can.
01 November 2016 - Apprenticeships Funding
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Streeter. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on securing this important debate.I am proud to be one of the few MPs currently in the House who completed an indentured apprenticeship. I remember being offered a place as an apprentice bricklayer as a teenager and nearly dancing with joy. Back then, an apprenticeship was very much something to aspire to. It was a path that people chose because they, and especially their parents, understood the brand. In many families, young people were told, “If you get an apprenticeship, you’ll always have a trade to fall back on.” However, successive Tory Governments devalued their reputation. It was the last Labour Government who breathed new life into apprenticeships, with capital support for new buildings and substantial increases to vocational funding models. The Government claim that they want to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. That is a laudable aim, but in this House I have repeatedly said that rather than having arbitrary targets on numbers, we need to assure quality. I do not want the House to get me wrong; if all the projected 3 million apprenticeships are at level 3 with a decent wage rate, I am in.Faced with increased university tuition fee debt, young people are now choosing vocational routes into the workplace instead of academia, but the Tories have overseen one of the worst skills shortages in living memory. Research from the Liverpool city region apprenticeship hub suggests that the number of apprenticeship starts in Merseyside and Halton has fallen by almost 25% over the past five years. The Minister will know that construction sector output is vital to his Government’s macroeconomic policy; but the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians has warned that urgent action is needed to tackle the growing skills shortage, and the Construction Industry Training Board has forecast that the industry requires nearly 50,000 new entrants a year up to 2020. That far exceeds of the number of construction apprentices currently undergoing training, which is roughly half the figure given.
Amanda Solloway (Derby North) (Con): As a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, I realise how important apprenticeships are. About three weeks ago in Derby we opened the National Construction Academy, which offers valuable, meaningful apprenticeships for that vital industry. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the plans to extend that around the country are a good thing, and to be commended?
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): I said earlier that it is question of whether the apprenticeships are proper level 3 ones— high skill, high quality, and in high-demand areas. I would of course welcome any initiative to increase people’s opportunity to get a proper job at the end of an â€‹apprenticeship programme. However, the Minister is presiding over an exacerbation of the problem and not tackling the fundamental issue.In the Liverpool city region, the number of NVQ level 3 apprenticeship starts last year was a fraction of the total needed simply to backfill the numbers retiring or leaving the industry. That simply cannot be allowed to continue. The Tories have a track record of failing young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. They scrapped the education maintenance allowance, trebled tuition fees and took away maintenance grants for university students and replaced them with loans, saddling the poorest with ever more debt. That tells us all we need to know about Tory ideology; they want the best only for the privileged few, not for the many.Our devolution deal, with an area-based review for our city region, at least provides us with the opportunity to shape training better, on the basis of local need—if the Government grasp the nettle. At this point I should declare an interest. Devolving the skills agenda further would allow the incoming metro mayor to implement a skills strategy that would train the next generation of tradesmen and women, equipping them for the high-skill, high-paid, high-aspiration jobs that we need to build and sustain our future economic growth. However, central Government have not devolved apprenticeship funding and delivery and they have full control over the new apprenticeship levy that employers are obliged to pay if their wage bill tops £3 million a year. Will the Minister agree to meet me to discuss how the metro mayor of the Liverpool city region will be able, as it states on page 8 of the devolution deal, to“collaborate to maximise the opportunities presented by the introduction of the apprenticeship reforms (including the levy) and work together on promoting the benefits of apprenticeships to employers”?What exactly does he believe that collaboration between the Government and the metro mayor will entail? How does he envisage us maximising those opportunities? Does he agree that it is imperative that, following the upcoming spending and apprenticeship reforms, metro mayors have local control over and are directly responsible for apprenticeship funding and influence over the employer levy? If not, will he explain how he believes it is possible for a metro mayor to achieve improvements and address skills shortages locally without those powers? Apprenticeships must be at the heart of that strategy.If we are to do that, we must also provide our young people with the proper advice and guidance to make informed decisions. It was an act of civic vandalism by the Government to dismantle the Connexions service when they came to power, which has left us with a system in which vested interests give partial advice to young people about their career options. If elected as the metro mayor for the Liverpool city region in May 2017, I intend to develop an independent careers and advice service that serves the best interests of all of the young people in our area. Devolution provides us with the opportunity to make funding allocations based on the knowledge of local leaders across the city region, which is better than guesstimates from Whitehall mandarins. Will the Minister specifically address the points I have raised, unlike his colleague, the Minister for School Standards, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), who shimmied and sidestepped last week like Philippe Coutinho?
19 October 2016 - Education Merseyside
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): I am delighted to speak on this important issue, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) on securing this important debate. Often in Britain, and all too often on Merseyside, the place where people are born seems to determine where they end up in life, but education is a tool that offers young people the hope of going on to achieve their full potential. It can provide the ladder of opportunity for the next generation and education policy should primarily â€‹be designed to do that. It should not be a political football for any Minister or Secretary of State, attempting to impose a narrow sense of ideological entitlement on others. Schools in my constituency, and indeed across our city region, are proud of what they have achieved. The tireless work of our teachers, governors and staff has been mentioned by many hon. Members today. They devote their lives to getting the best out of children, but it has to be said that educational attainment is stronger in some areas of the city region than others.I note the criticism of the mayor of Liverpool, Mayor Anderson, by the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh), but the city mayor has been asked to achieve something with one hand tied behind his back, partly because of some savage cuts inflicted by the coalition Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a member.
Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab): Surely not!
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Surely yes.
The excellent work of many in our schools is often hamstrung by factors outside their control. Research by the House of Commons Library suggests that in my constituency just 38% of students get five A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths. With a national average of 53.8% that puts us well behind, but that in no way reflects the effort of the schools and teachers. Although it is only 10 miles away, Wirral’s figure is seven percentage points above the national average, at 61%. It is easy to imply that schools need to do more and be better, as the Prime Minister said today. There has not been a Secretary of State in the past 50 years who has not trotted out the tired old mantra that we need more good schools, but improvement cannot be achieved without the collaborative efforts of parents, teachers and governors and, most importantly, it cannot be achieved without the Government’s political will to invest fully in children’s future.
For far too many pupils there is poverty of aspiration. In many cases we have failed to convince young people from working-class backgrounds that they can be the doctors, nurses and lawyers and even, God forbid, the political leaders of tomorrow. I bet that that is not the case in many of the schools that many on the Government Front Bench went to. The Government’s idea of harking back to the 1950s and an elitist education system by returning to the 11-plus will do nothing to increase the life chances of the majority of young people.
The grammar school system is designed to achieve the best not for all but for the selected few. How can the Prime Minister advocate grammar schools when she stood on the steps of Downing Street a few weeks ago and promised the British people that she would lead a Government that works for everyone? Grammar schools will segregate, not educate. They will polarise communities, not promote social cohesion. Grammar schools would once again stifle the prospects of many of the children who would inevitably see themselves as failures if they did not pass the entrance exam. As Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw put it, grammar schools will “put the clock back”. The desire for selection at 11 years old tells us all we need to know about the Government and how they see our precious education system. It is a microcosm of their entire political ideology. It will deliver for the few, not the many.â€‹
As my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby highlighted, teachers have voiced their concerns about upcoming Government proposals such as the prospect of a national funding formula and the added pressure to offer a more restricted curriculum because of the baccalaureate and progress 8. However, the new devolution deals provide an opportunity to transfer decision making and accountability to a local level. We currently face a situation in which the Government seek to devolve powers over industrial strategy and economic growth to metro mayors while fragmenting delivery and centralising accountability in the education system. That does not make sense. We have a ludicrous situation in which local education authorities continue to have statutory responsibilities under legislation such as the Education Act 1996 while having been deprived of any levers to pull to fulfil those duties and influence outcomes. For example, every secondary school in Knowsley is now an academy and is therefore much more accountable to the Secretary of State, through the schools commissioner, than to locally elected politicians, but—guess what?—local politicians get the blame when they are threatened with the withdrawal of A-level provision in the borough.
The problem in Merseyside is not the level of attainment of the top 20%; it is the level of attainment of the rest. We need an education system that lifts the attainment of all, not just those who are gifted and talented. That is why I am calling for the return of an element of local accountability. Education provides the building blocks for achieving the economic success we so desperately need, so the Minister should make the regional schools commissioner accountable to the metro mayor. I would appreciate it if he would address that issue specifically. That would afford the incoming metro mayor—and here I must declare an interest, Sir Roger—the opportunity to create a city region education strategy that could work collaboratively as the catalyst for sharing best practice. If elected metro mayor, I will introduce a pathways to excellence programme in our city region and help to raise educational attainment in each of the six districts, lifting the level of aspiration across all our communities, with no borough and no child left behind.
As metro mayor I want to harness the pool of talent that we have. I want to attract global businesses to locate into our area, offering the high-skilled, high-paid, high-aspiration jobs we need, as well as developing the new businesses that will lift our economy. However, developing a world-class workforce has to start at an early stage, and that has to be in our schools. The metro mayor does not have the responsibility, through the devolved powers they can use, to affect that, which is why we need a joined-up, consistent devolutionary approach between the Government’s industrial and education policies. I hope the Minister specifically addresses that point when he gets to his feet.
20 July 2016-Orgreave:Public Inquiry into Policing
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab):There is a strong thread between Orgreave and Hillsborough, but there is also a parallel with Shrewsbury. The only way to disprove what Mike Wood just said about political motivation is to have a full independent inquiry. Why doesn't she get on with it and do it.
Amber Rudd ( The Secretary of State for the Home Department) (Con): I thank the hon. Gentleman for his view,but I repeat that it would be wrong for me just, as he puts it,"get on with it". I want to look at the evidence;the process must be driven by evidence.The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign spent six months pulling together a substantial package and body evidence. I will not ignore its work;I will take a careful look at all of it.
Steve Rotheram ( Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): At the start of his statement, the secretary of State used sophistry to try to call into question result of the ballot, by implying that 58% did not provide legitimacy for the rejection of the Government contract offer. Doers he regret using smoke and mirrors, and does he agree that if his flawed methodology were used for other electoral processes, he would not be sitting in this House, there would not be a Tory Government, and we would still be in the EU?
Mr Hunt ( Secretary of State for Health) (Con):The hon. Gentleman has misinterpreted what I said. I am clear on this. I said in my statement that 58% voted against the contract, and I accept that that was a majority of BMA member, I stated the fact on a 68% turnout, around a third of serving junior doctors actively voted against the contract. That is factually correct.
5 July 2016 - Teachers Strike
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Perhaps I need to declare an interest, as my sister is a teacher. With regards to why she would go strike, it is not just about her terms and conditions- it is about the pupils to whom she believes she has a responsibility. The Minister has mentioned record budgets. Will he confirm or deny whether in real terms, the budget has gone up per pupil.
Mr Gibb (The Minister for Schools)(Con):It has gone up in real terms overall, as I have said, and £40 billion is the highest ever level of spending. We have had to take some difficult public spending decision over the past six years because of the mismanagement of the public finances by the Labour Government - a party and a Government whom the hon. Gentlemen supported. As a consequence of taking those difficult decisions, we are not facing the challenges that the other countries in Europe that have had similar levels of public sector deficit have had to face.
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool,Walton) (Lab): The minister mention the Hillsborough families, some of whom are here today to hear his words. Will he give categorical assurance to them and other campaigners on historical injustices that that sort of thing could never happen again once new clause 63 becomes law?
Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con):No Minister could stand at the Dispatch Box in any Parliament in the world and give such a categorical assurance. We have moved an enormous way forward, through the perseverance of the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary. Although we are trying as hard as we can, without consequential effects on other legislation, to make that a terrible situation such as Hillsborough never happens again, I cannot categorically give the hon. Gentlemen the assurance he asks for. I know that that will disappoint him, but he will understand where I am coming from. All through todays debate and beyond, when the Bill goes to the other House, I will be as helpful as i can.
We recognise the strength of feeling on the issues, and particularly the public concern that police officers who commit the most serious acts of wrongdoing can be held to account for their actions, no matter when they come to light. We are talking here not about criminal actions, for which criminal proceedings can be brought against individual, but about disciplinary action against a police officer.
Having looked carefully at the new clauses tabled by the shadow Home Secretary, and following discussions that I have had with the shadow Policing Minister, we will table amendments in the House of Lords to allows, in exceptional circumstances, an unlimited extension of the 12-month time limit that we propose in the Bill. It is understood that that does not apply to every offence. We will work with the shadow Home Secretary and his team- and, I hope, the Hillsborough families and Bishop James- on the drafting of the relevant regulations so that we can make sure that they do what it says on the tin. We will keep the 12 month rule, but in exceptional circumstances, based on regulations, we will be able to look at historical cases- not criminal cases - and take action against a former police officer. The 12 -month time limit will remain, but we will work on the regulation. That is a significant move on our part.
The measure will apply to police officers serving with a police force at the point of provisions came into force. In line with established principles we do not believe that it would be appropriate to apply such a provision retrospectively. However, this is a significant move so that as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) suggests, families will have further protection in the future.
* Later in the debate*
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton)(Lab) :I thank the Minster for coming partly toward the position that we believe should be taken, but can we clarify one point? We are talking about serious wrongdoing- malfeasances and gross misconduct -by police officers. We have mentioned Hillsborough, so many people will spin that with regard to the conduct of officers- ordinary officers- at that disaster in 1989. There are no accusation against many of the ordinary officers, officers who preformed heroically: it was the senior officers who let people down, and then. in some cases, took the opportunity to get away scot free through the cop-out of using ill health-
* Later in the debate*
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab) :In March 2013, the Prime Minister said that the Leveson 2 should go ahead without any further delays. The secretary of the State told the Select Committee that he was awaiting a further Government statement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the three years that have passed since the the Prime Minister's promise have been far too long for many of the victims of press intrusion?
Andy Burnham (Shadow Home Secretary) (Lab):I would certainly say so. I cannot understand why there is any doubt about thus, given the clarity of the Prime Minister's statement, which I have read out, and given that the the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) has just said that the promise was made not only to the victims but to senior parliamentarians. I do not see how this commitment can be negotiable.
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to Unite, the union of Construction, Allied Trade and Technicians and the GMB, which fought a long campaign to raise the scandal of the illegal blacklisting and secret vetting of construction worker? Can he assure the House that such a gross injustice could not be perpetrated against innocent workers again, and that his amendments would provide and absolute guarantee that the legitimate trade union activities would be excluded from monitoring by the security services and the police?
*Later in Debate*
Steve Rotheram MP (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): May I expand on the point that my right hon. Friend is making? Perhaps some people outside the Chamber will not understand what subversive activities were. In those days, subversive activities included complaining about health and safety because a person was dying on a building site every single day. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is hardly subversive activity?
Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Shadow Secretary for the Home Department)(Lab): My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Those were people who were trying to protect their work mates and colleagues. An individual who protested outside Fiddler's Ferry power station near us in the north west was trying to safeguard people safety at work, but they were subjected to this outrageous abuse of their rights
27 April 2016 - Hillsborough
Steve Rotheram MP (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): May I say first of all that the response by my right hon. Friend Andy Burnham to the statement will reverberate throughout Merseyside and all around the country? I also praise the Home Secretary for all she has done to bring about yesterday's momentous decision: thank you from the families.
On 15 April 1989, as fans walked away from an FA cup semi-final in Sheffield, we knew then that the disaster was not our fault. Almost immediately, however, lies and smears were being peddled, and within hours an orchestrated cover-up was in full swing. It took political intervention to force the judicial process of this country to take 27 years to recognise what we knew from day one - that Hillsborough was not an accident; that fans did not open a gate; that drunken and ticketless fans did not turn up late, hellbent on getting in; and that it was not caused by a drunken, tanked-up mob. Instead, 96 people were unlawfully killed.
Those who doubted must now recognise the true story of the efforts of my fellow supporters and their acts of self-sacrifice and heroism as they battled to save the lives of their fellow fans, and consign to the dustbin of history the lurid tabloid headlines that vilified them.
Despite the inquest being adversarial, not inquisitorial, yesterday's verdict was unequivocal: Liverpool supporters were totally absolved of any blame and did not contribute to the disaster in any way. As someone once said:
"I cherish the hope that as time goes on you will recognise the truth of what I say."
Will the Home Secretary join me in paying tribute to the families, survivors, campaigners and supporters who fought for truth and justice; to the solidarity of those who stood shoulder to shoulder, whether red or blue, for nearly three decades; and to the men and women of a proud city who never gave up until they got justice for the 96?
12 April 2016 - Contaminated Blood
Steve Rotheram MP (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): At the start of her speech, the hon. Lady mentioned the excellent work of the APPG. It is right to highlight that, because it has shed a lot of light on the issue. In every constituency, there are heart-breaking stories like that of her constituent. I have two constituents who, through no fault of their own, received contaminated blood products, and one of them feels as though he has a death sentence hanging over his head. Does the hon. Lady agree that we should not, quite literally, add insult to injury, and that a just and fair settlement must be found as soon as possible? I know that the Conservative Government were not necessarily responsible for the blood products, but it is in the gift of this Government to sort the matter out once and for all.
Sheryll Murray MP (South East Cornwall) (Con): I sincerely hope that the Minister is listening to what the hon. Gentleman has to say, and that she and the Government will take action to make it easier for affected people to live as good a life as they can expect to... (cont)
11th April 2016 - UK Steel Industry
Steve Rotheram MP (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The Secretary of State has spoken about looking at all options in regard to saving jobs, so will he assure the House and steelworkers that if he does develop a co-investment package to save jobs, he will include the unions at every stage of its developments?
Sajid Javid MP (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills): Yes, I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that. Again, let me say that the approachof the unions has been very constructive an postitive, and it is absolutely key. I highlighted earlier the involvement of the Community union - probably the union I have had most to do with on this issue - with Tata strip. The people who run the union, and it's members, understand that there is a role for everyone, and we will of course share information with them.
15th March 2016 - Investigatory Powers Bill
Steve Rotheram MP (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): My right hon. Friend mentions the case of the Shrewsbury pickets, which is a stark example of the misuse and abuse of state power. Does he agree, therefore, that it is essential that the Bill contains the strongest possible safeguards specifically to ensure that great, historic injustices, such as the politically motivated incarceration of pickets in 1972, can never happen again?
Andy Burnham MP (Leigh) (Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department): My hon. Friend puts it very well, which is why fears about such legislation run deep on the Labour Benches. We know the truth about what happened, even though it is not widely known yet by the public, because we have seen the documents. I have here a memo from the security services sent at the time to a senior Foreign Office officials. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary is winding up tonight, because this concerns his Department. It is headed 'A Secret' and talks about the preparation of a television programme that went out and the trial of the Shrewsbury pickets, and it says, at the top: 'We had a discreet but considerable hand in this programme'.That is from the security services, so why would people on the Labour Benches not fear handing over more power to the police and security services without there being adequate safeguards?
24th February 2016 - Police Funding, Crime and Community Safety
Steve Rotheram MP (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): It was suggested by the former deputy Mayor that these things can be done by sophisticated algorithms that can filter out such crimes. Actually, the victims of such crimes still feel that they need a police officer to come round and speak to them. That is the problem, especially when 1,000 front-line police officers in Merseyside are being cut.
Andy Burnham MP (Leigh) (Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department): We have seen this cost cutting and privatisation elsewhere, haven't we? Take NHS 111, which was going to solve everything because of the algorithms that the call handlers would use. Has the service to the public been better than under NHS Direct? In no way. My hon. Friend has got it absolutely right. The Government suggest that it can all be done on the cheap, but people know it cannot.
conclusion, the official line from the Government has been, "we're protecting
the police and crime is falling", but that claim is something that should be
added to the growing fraud statistics. The truth is the opposite: the police
are being cut while crime is rising. They are cutting the fire service and the
Border Force even more deeply - Tory cuts that are putting people's safety at
risk. That is the message that we will take into the PCC elections. Our police
do a difficult job in a dangerous world. They deserve our thanks and respect,
particularly those of the Government of the day. If promises are made to them,
they should be kept. As we have shown, Labour is prepared to stand up for the
police and protect community safety. That is what we are asking the House to do
tonight by making this arrogant Government honour their commitment to the
police. Real-terms protection should mean just that. What better way is there
for Members on both sides of the House to show their appreciation for their
local police forces than by voting for the Opposition motion tonight?
2nd January 2016 - Zika Virus
Steve Rotheram MP (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The Minister mentioned two excellent facilities in London and Glasgow, but forgo to mention the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which receives Gates' money because of the expertise based in the facility. Will he ensure that there is greater collaboration between the different institutions within the UK, which have such great expertise, to ensure that we do find vaccine as soon as it is reasonably practical to do so?
Nick Hurd MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development): The hon. Gentleman raises a poignant point, and I congratulate him on putting Liverpool back on the map. Of course, that was where the Chancellor announced the Government's major new commitment on dealing with malaria. When it comes to the science and research - the importance of that has been stressed - the UK has an incredibly important role to play. It is crucial that this work is co-ordinated effectively. I have been reassured that the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser are playing their role in co-ordinating British expertise in this area.
27th January 2016 - Prisons and Probation
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): My constituency has two prisons Altcourse, which is privately run by G4S, and Liverpool Walton. Both were inspected recently. The common factor in both inspections was understaffing. Does my hon. Friend think that some of the factors he is identifying are due to the staff numbers at both prisons being the lowest in living memory?
Andy Slaughter (Shadow Justice Minister): The cuts in staff lie at the root many of the problems I am identifying. The fact that in many cases prisoners now spend 22 or 23 hours in their cell, and have restrictions on work, education and association, is leading to increased violence and poor behaviour in prisons. That is a very short-sighted development. I think the Government realise that, but perhaps too late.... (cont)
Michael Gove (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice): ....I was struck by the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) about prison staff numbers. Those of us who care about not just the safety of staff but the effectiveness of the prison regime are understandably keen for our prisons to be staffed effectively, but let me make two points. First, the number of prison officers has increased by more than 500 in the last year. Secondly, there is no absolute correlation between the number of prison officers and the nature of the regime, and the number of violent incidents. I do not deny for a moment that we need to ensure that prisons are properly staffed and prison officers are safe, but the extent of the security that individuals enjoy in a prison is a consequence of a number of factors.
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The Secretary of State is absolutely right. Not only should there be safe staffing levels, but we have a duty of care to ensure that that is the case. However, it was Her Majestys chief inspector of prisons, not me, who identified the correlation between low staff numbers and the propensity for drug-taking on the prison estate.
Michael Gove (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice): The hon. Gentleman is right to say that, if we are to deal with this problem, we must be vigilant in ensuring that we have not just staff but the training that is needed to support them.
The hon. Gentlemans mention of the chief inspector of prisons gives me an opportunity to repeat what I had a chance to say only briefly yesterday, and again to express my gratitude to Nick Hardwick for the role that he has played. His latest annual report certainly does not make comfortable reading for someone in my job, but I would far rather have someone who told us the truth, and ensured that we performed our duties as elected representatives and as Ministers in the full knowledge of the truth, than someone who felt, for whatever reason, that they had to varnish or edit the truth. As I think most people would acknowledge, Nick Hardwick and I do not come from exactly the same point on the ideological spectrum, but because I am committed to using every talented voice and experienced pair of hands that I can find in order to improve our prison system, I am delighted that he accepted my invitation to chair the Parole Board... (cont)
26th January 2016 - Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): My hon. Friend paints a bleak picture of the impact of the cuts. In many ways, Merseyside fire and rescue service is a victim of its own success. It undertook to carry out preventive measures pre-2010, and that had a massive impact on the number of incidents to which it was called out. Last year, fire deaths on Merseyside doubled, but the low point in 2010 was because of those measures. Does my hon. Friend fear that the loss of 300 firefighter posts will have devastating consequences for firefighters ability to address the rising number of fire deaths on Merseyside?
Margaret Greenwood (Wirral, West) (Lab): I agree with my hon. Friends excellent point. We have already mentioned the increased response times that are so critical when it comes to saving life. Independent consultants Greenstreet Berman suggest that by 2020, should the cuts go ahead, slower response times nationally will mean up to 41 additional deaths at dwelling fires, up to 91 additional deaths at road traffic collisions, up to 57 additional deaths at water incidents and 212 additional deaths at special service incidents. A significant increase in loss of life is predicted, so we must consider too what cuts in staffing on that scale will mean for those left working in the service. Anyone working in an environment that involves teamwork knows full well that the loss of 40% of staff would put pressure on those remaining... (Continued)
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): My hon. Friend makes a powerful point on the cumulative impact not just of the cuts to the Merseyside fire and rescue service, but of the cuts to local authorities in our area. Does he agree that it is a targeted ideology of the Government to hit the poorest areas hardest? Unfortunately, Liverpool City Council has had a 52% cut, which is disproportionate to the cuts in other areas, such as Witney in Oxfordshire, which is the Prime Ministers seat.
Conor McGinn (St. Helens North) (Lab): It certainly seems that way. Public services are not optional; they belong to the people of this country and the people of St Helens, Merseyside and the north-west of England. Those public services have been paid for by their taxes, built by their hands and staffed by their hard work. Firefighters and their families represent all that is best about our public services and communities. The Opposition will stand by them, as they have so often stood by us.
1st December 2015 - Immigration Bill
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government are focusing on the wrong party in the Bill? They should be concentrating [Interruption.] They should be concentrating, as the Home Secretary should while I am speaking, on clamping down on unscrupulous employers who prey on the misery of people forced into terrible conditions, such as those exploited on Britains building sites. I have actually seen that with my own eyes.
Andy Burnham (Shadow Home Secretary): My hon. Friend has more experience than anybody in the House of the workplaces that might be most affected by the Bill. He is absolutely right to say that unscrupulous employers ÂÂÂÂÂÂsadly, they do exist in the construction industry will feel emboldened by the Bill. They will know that exploited people on building sites will no longer have the courage to report them to the authorities. [Interruption.] The Home Secretary says that is desperate, but those people are desperate and she is putting them in a worse position. She needs to think about that before she puts the Bill into law.
Another concern is about clause 34, which removes support from families, a power that the Home Office has long sought; the proposal was put to me as a Minister and piloted under the last Labour Government. The official evaluation of that pilot found no evidence of increased removals but plenty of families going underground and losing touch with the authorities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central said in the debate, there is also the shunting of costs from the Home Office to local authorities.
In the end, however, the question we need to ask ourselves is much more fundamental: should any child whoever they are, wherever they come from ÂÂÂÂÂÂbe denied food and clothes while they are on British soil? I do not think so and I would venture to say that most Members on both sides would, in their heart of hearts, think the same. The great irony is that it was the then Conservative Opposition specifically, the shadow Home Office team in the last but one Parliament who led the charge against what was then known as clause 9. They were right to force the then Government to pilot this change, and we were right to drop the whole idea once the results of the pilot were clear. If what they said was right then, why is it not right now?... (cont)
10th November 2015 - Trade Union Bill
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend see the irony in the supposed party of free marketeers intervening in an agreement between two other parties?
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West) (Lab): Yes, I do. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I will come to that point when we discuss some of the later amendments. For the moment, I shall talk about the picketing provisions.The BIS consultation document also acknowledged that most pickets conform to the guidance set out in the code of practice. The Regulatory Performance Committees review of the Governments impact assessment also found that "there is little evidence presented that there will be any significant benefits arising from the proposal". Libertys briefing for todays debate states: "In the absence of any evidence that these changes are needed, these bureaucratic proposals can only be construed as an attempt to create a situation whereby individuals and unions are set up to make mistakes, subjecting them to legal action and making strike action even more expensive and risky than it already is".
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend remember the Prime Ministers promise of a bonfire of red tape? Does he believe that this measure makes arrangements more or less bureaucratic for employers and trade unions?
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West) (Lab): The so-called one regulation in, one regulation out rule [Interruption.] Oh, its two out, is it? The rule is not being followed in the case of trade unions. Clearly, regulation of trade unions is not considered to be regulation at all, when in fact it is an extraordinary piece of regulation.
27th October 2015 - Repeal of Tax Credits Regulations
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the changes are obviously a problem for some Government Members, and that they are in absolute denial about them? Does he agree that the Governments inertia over intervention to save steel jobs and last nights defeat in the Lords firmly put to bed the falsehood that the Tories are the party of the workers?
Owen Smith (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions): Completely. It is one of the more risible statements I have heard from the Government. It is, once more, a measure of the contempt with which they hold certain sections of the British public that they think they can pull the wool over the eyes of people. They describe themselves, laughably, as the party of labour and the party of the workers, while they are cutting the wages of working people: 3.3 million families will be hit to the tune of £1,300; 200,000 children will be put into poverty next year, and 600,000 children over the period; and 70% of the cuts will fall on working mothers. The tax credit cuts will destroy the economic miracle the Tories like to talk about. Some 90% of the cuts will be devastating for the people involved. The statistics speak for themselves. After I have given way to my hon. Friend, I will describe the human impact of the cuts.
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the 6,700 families that will lose out from the tax credit cuts to their incomes will not be compensated, and that it is arithmetically impossible that the Governments proposed changes would do that?
Owen Smith (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions): There is no need to take just my word for that; it is precisely what Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said:that it is arithmetically impossible for the Governments offsets, which I have just listed, to compensate for the losses that these hard-working families in all our constituencies are going to face. The Government know that that is true, which is why they have been so absent from the television studios in recent days. They do not need to hear the truth from me: they know it.
16th September 2015 - Migration
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The Secretary of State will know that the mayor of Liverpool has offered her Government the practical assistance of our great city. Given that Liverpool city council is one of the hardest hit, has she had the opportunity to speak to Liverpool city council officials about additional costs in regard to any particular number of refugees who might be settled?
Theresa May (The secretary of State for The Home Department): I personally have not spoken to Liverpool city council officials. The offers of support from local authorities are being dealt with first by the Local Government Association, although discussions have been held with Home Office officials, the Gold Command and the team about these matters. Given that we are looking at the needs and vulnerability of individuals and matching that to support here in the United Kingdom, requirements will vary. It is of course necessary to look at people on a case-by-case basis. There is an overall assumption of the cost of a refugee being brought into the UK, but matching the particular needs is important.
17th September 2015 - Home Office Questions
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The Secretary of State will know that the mayor of Liverpool has offered her Government the practical assistance of our great city. Given that Liverpool city council is one of the hardest hit, has she had the opportunity to speak to Liverpool city council officials about additional costs in regard to any particular number of refugees who might be settled?
Theresa May (The Secretary of State for The Home Department): I personally have not spoken to Liverpool city council officials. The offers of support from local authorities are being dealt with first by the Local Government Association, although discussions have been held with Home Office officials - the Gold Command and the team - about these matters. Given that we are looking at the needs and vulnerability of individuals and matching that to support here in the United Kingdom, requirements will vary. It is of course necessary to look at people on a case-by-case basis. There is an overall assumption of the cost of a refugee being brought into the UK, but matching the particular needs is important.
17th June 2015 - Skills and Growth
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The right hon. Lady mentioned the quality of apprenticeships. The average length of stay on an apprenticeship, as described by the Government, is 10 months. Would she allow somebody with 10 months training to build an extension to her home?
Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con) (Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education): I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman's point, because there is a statutory minimum of 12 months for apprenticeships. He may well be talking about the programme-led apprenticeships that were introduced by the last Labour Government.
Let us remember what we inherited in 2010 from the Labour party: standards were falling and vocational qualifications were debased, which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central did have the grace to recognise. Indeed, at the heart of many of his problems is the fact that he agrees with an awful lot of what the Government have done. Even he has admitted that he failed to persuade his former party leader to take much interest in education during the election campaign. Young people and students were failed by those debased vocational qualifications.
Young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were told that academic qualifications were not for them, and those who wanted a vocational qualification were sold short by qualifications that were not backed by employers and did not lead to a job. Schools in England were stagnating in the international league tables, going from seventh to 25th in reading, eighth to 28th in maths and fourth to 16th in science... (Continued)
*Later in the debate*
Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Welcome
back to your place in the Chamber, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank the
hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) for her speech and
congratulate her on it. I have a great affection for Glasgow as well, and for
her predecessor, Anas Sarwar. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the new
Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) on his maiden speech, and all
other Members who have made their made their debuts in the Chamber today.
It is a pleasure to be back in the Chamber, following my narrow electoral victory, to speak on the really important issue of apprenticeships. First, I want to place on the record how concerned I am that the City of Liverpool College is facing further cuts on top of the 24% FE cut to date. If that cut is implemented, it is estimated that it will equate to a further reduction of about 1,300 off its rolls. That is setting a near-impossible task for colleges, such as the City of Liverpool College, in continuing to provide courses to disadvantaged students from places like Walton.
I want to press the Minister to look more carefully at his Departments flawed decision to scrap its plan for a UTC in Anfield, which had been hugely welcomed in Liverpool, Walton and had the backing of major companies, including Peel Ports. The decision flies in the face of the Tory rhetoric about commitments to having UTCs in every city.
Colleagues who sat in the last Parliament will be aware that I was critical of the Governments use of rhetoric over reality in relation to apprenticeships. It will therefore come as no surprise to Conservative Members to hear that I have no intention of discontinuing that particular stance in this Parliament when they get things wrong. The reason for that is quite simply that apprenticeships are close to my heart. As a former apprentice bricklayer, I know their value and necessity in the modern age.
It is irresponsible of any Government erroneously to claim that they have created 2.2 million apprenticeships, when they have in fact created nowhere near that number, not proper apprenticeships anyway. The apprenticeships that the Government claim to have created are on programmes where the average length of stay is a duration of just 10 months. One of the Conservative Members, I cannot remember who, highlighted an example of best practice in an apprenticeship that was 16 weeks long. That is not an apprenticeship. I obtained that figure of an average stay of 10 months from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, so the Minister may wish to have a word with his colleagues in BIS before attempting to question his own Governments figures. Such illustrations highlight the problem. Short-stay programmes are simply work-based training programmes re-badged to hit Government apprenticeship targets. These distortions, which are commonly perceived as bona fide apprenticeships, dilute and devalue the brand.
Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): We have created 2.2 million apprenticeships, which the hon. Gentleman doubts, and we have also created 2 million jobs. On that basis, are people not moving from apprenticeships into jobs, and therefore carrying on their training in the workplace?
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): No. The hon. Gentleman conflates two things, which is exactly what I am trying to highlight. Taking somebody in a job who is getting some training and re-badging them as an apprentice is wrong. That is not an apprenticeship. Most think of an apprenticeship as having a duration of two and a half or perhaps three years and involving people learning the skills of a particular occupation and going on to get a full-time job in that skills area. It is not the 16-week shelf-stacking example that one of the hon. Gentlemans colleagues gave.
In my constituency, we now have the worst of all worlds, as the plans for the UTC have been scrapped, and there has been a fall of 32% in apprenticeship starts in Liverpool, Walton for 16 to 18-year-olds since the Tories came to power.
Alex Cunningham (Stockton, North) (Lab): I am sure my hon. Friends majority is as narrow as the Mersey.
Our FE colleges are playing an increasing role in supporting apprenticeships. We heard some great examples of that on Monday, when the Association of Colleges held a reception. Yet colleges ability is restricted by funding cuts and the fact that they are paid up to a year in arrears for new courses that they develop. That is putting them at the mercy of the banks as colleges run out of money. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to sort out this funding mess, and release our colleges to drive the apprenticeship programmes we know they are capable of providing?
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): My hon. Friend highlights just one of the anomalies in the funding system for FE colleges. I hope that I will be able to tease out one or two other anomalies in the time remaining.
I believe that we have to be honest about the scale of the problem facing our nation, so I want to talk specifically about apprenticeships in technical sectors. As colleagues will know, our country needs 82,000 additional engineers, scientists and technologists by 2017. To compete globally, almost half of those in technical roles will require upskilling to keep pace with technological advancements. Some 10,000 new technicians are required for the rail industry, of which 30% are required in London and the south-east alone. In aviation, 7,000 new engineers are needed between now and 2020, of which 30% need to have an NVQ level 4 and above. A growing number of engineering roles feature on the national shortage occupation list, and there is the stark statistic that two in five businesses requiring employees with STEM qualifications and skills are reporting difficulties with recruitment.
The time has come for the Government to roll out advanced technology colleges across the UK to match their, as yet undelivered, commitment for a UTC in every city. We have long lived in a country where the post-16 education system is geared towards results and targets, rather than businesses and young peoples needs and aspirations. In essence, this country faces a skills shortage in many leading industries, such as engineering and construction, because we have not focused our post-16 education system on equipping people with the skills that businesses need in order to thrive. Successive Governments have sometimes got this wrong, and I believe that one way to address the escalating problem is to increase the number of advanced technology colleges.
Last week, I had the privilege to visit Prospects College of Advanced Technology in Basildon. PROCAT is an advanced technology college that specialises in the engineering, rail, aviation, construction and building service sectors. It comprises three skills campuses, with more than 2,000 students and 850 apprentices. The previous Labour Government invested significantly in this facility, with a bursary of about £20 million. I visited to learn about how it recruits, trains and retains apprentices in specific sectors, because I am interested in how we can develop the ATC model across the country.
In fact, in the 1950s a host of what are now known as universities, such as Brunel, Aston, Bradford, Cardiff and many more, were all ATCs before they became polytechnics and then universities. The beauty of an ATC is that it has a direct link to the business - it is a model, I think, of absolute success.
ATCs align themselves with businesses that invest in their apprentices, helping to provide a clear and professional training environment and a guaranteed job and career at the end of the training, which is exactly what I was trying to outline to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman). The curriculum at an ATC is also aligned to the needs of that business, which helps to ensure that all apprentices leave with the necessary skills to be employable.
Lord Heseltine made it clear in his 2013 report on growth that university technical colleges, with links to businesses, are the way forward. I would not normally quote Lord Heseltine; it is not easy for me to quote him, but, after all, he was responsible for bringing Thatcher down, so every cloud has a silver lining and all that! Indeed, I think we must go full circle and return to ATC status in order to restore parity of esteem and to address the urgent need to deal with our growing skills shortages.
In my remaining time, I would like to touch on another issue. Another anomaly in the education system is the entry level for UTC students, which currently stands at 14. At 14, many students will have decided what path they wish to take and whether they want to specialise in any particular occupational area. A UTC is therefore perfect for them, as it allows them to begin their vocational training in a new college at an early stage and focus on that specialty 40% of the time, with the other 60% focused on STEM subjects.
I implore the Minister to study the faculty of foundation apprenticeships, which is being developed by PROCAT and offers pre-apprenticeship training to any 16-year-old seeking to enter technical apprenticeships. There is a gap in the system, and that would be a good way for the Government to address it. They should look seriously at promoting ATCs, step up their game and improve the quality of apprenticeship training to provide real choice for young people deciding between an academic or vocational route to the workplace. We could then finally achieve that parity of esteem we so often hear about in this place.
17th June 2015 - Safety in Prisons (Westminster Hall Debate)
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): I also congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. As she knows, I have two prisons, a privately-run prison and what we still call a Government-run prison, in my constituency. She may be aware of the death of a prisoner in custody at Altcourse prison. Does she agree that serious incidents involving staff or inmates should be reported to the local MP, so he or she can assure their constituents on the safety of the prisons and address any issues surrounding serious incidents in prisons in their area?
Rachael Maskell (York, central) (Lab/Co-op): I thank my hon. Friend for raising that tragic situation. Of course reports should come to Members of Parliament, because it is important that we scrutinise the environment we are responsible for overseeing in our communities. We are able to raise such important matters and drill down to find out why such incidents are occurring in our prisons and get some real answers. He therefore makes an important point... (continued)
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Before my hon. Friend moves off the point, and as there is a Minister here, the Government know the statistics that she is quoting. The Government have to provide a safe working environment for staff. Does she believe that they are failing in their duty of care?
Rachael Maskell (York, central) (Lab/Co-op): Clearly, staff working in prisons, officers and other staff, are being failed. It is not acceptable that people are put at risk day by day when they turn up in their duty to serve. Therefore, I call for urgent attention to the issue and for a resolution. It is not acceptable just to read and listen to statistics. We have to take action... (continued)
2nd June 2015 - Health and Social care
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The Secretary of State will know that prevention is better than cure. He spoke about parity of esteem for mental health services. I wrote to him last year about a teenager who was threatening to commit suicide. He had been given a counselling appointment through his GP four weeks ahead, even though the kid was saying that he was going to kill himself that day. What will the Secretary of State do about improving counselling services to stop young people wanting to take their life because their appointment is many months away?
Jeremy Hunt (The Secretary of State for Health) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that issue. The previous Minister with responsibility for mental health set up the crisis care concordat, which he got all parts of the country to sign up to, to provide better care. There is a big issue with the quality of child and adolescent mental heath services provision. We want to cut waiting times for people in urgent need of an appointment, so I recognise the problem and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give us some time to bring solutions to the House.