I was pleased to meet with members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rail in Wales this week. We had a really productive session with Transport for Wales and Network Rail Wales on the work that has been carried out throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. It will be really important as we emerge from this crisis, that we push for greater investment in the Welsh rail network on a cross-party basis. Connectivity is vital for the economy and with our drive to reach our climate goals, we want to see more investment in energy efficient and accessible public transport that people feel comfortable and confident using.
This week the Welsh Government announced a holiday on Land Transaction Tax (the Welsh equivalent of Stamp Duty) for homes in Wales up to £250,000 and investment of £30 million to build 400 new social homes. Building social housing is really important to ensure that we have enough good quality accommodation for our population, and it is also vital that we ensure this housing is energy efficient. Not only will this help us reach our climate goals and work towards averting more crises due to climate change, but it will help us support the lower paid in society by ensuring that housing is affordable to run and maintain. Energy efficient homes do not waste energy and are better able to heat homes and keep them warm. We need to ensure that our economy works for everyone and that no one is left out of the recovery.
The Welsh Government have also announced that face coverings will be mandatory on public transport in Wales from 27 July. Although we have low rates of Coronavirus in Wales, we cannot be complacent, and we must do all we can to ensure that those rates remain low and that we continue to protect those who are more vulnerable to the virus. Wearing a mask whilst travelling on public transport is a small price to pay for that added security and peace of mind.
I am pleased to see that discussions are starting again over television rights to keep the Six Nations rugby on free-to-air TV. The BBC and ITV are working on a joint bid to ensure that the Six Nations remains accessible to all. Rugby is obviously hugely important in Wales and an incredibly popular tournament throughout the United Kingdom. Sport must be accessible if we are to encourage youngsters to participate; it must be something that they are easily able to watch and become inspired by and so I will be continuing to follow these discussions closely.
The Unite Union have run a campaign this week for a fairer social security system which will work towards ending poverty and allows claimants to live with dignity. Universal Credit has been a disaster for so many with its incredibly low rate and enforced 5-week wait before any money is forthcoming. The UK Government increased the weekly rate by £20 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic when it became apparent to many more people that the rate was far too low to live off. We do not want to see people having to resort to the benefits system; we want to see good, well paid employment, however, it is vital that there is a fair and sympathetic system in place which can support and help people when they are at their lowest. It cannot be right that families are living in poverty in 21st century Britain and our social security system should be working to lift people out of poverty and give them a chance at a better life. Universal Credit is punishing people instead of supporting them and that needs to end now.
The Transport Committee have published a report this week which condemns British Airways’ behaviour towards its staff and MPs from across the House are calling on the Prime Minister to reconsider BA’s right to peak slots at UK airports, including Heathrow. Airlines should only be able to keep their highly sought-after slots if they can demonstrate that they are being socially responsible and are investing internally in the business. With the cuts to the workforce that have been announced and their plans to alter the terms and conditions for the rest of their employees, BA have acted truly shamefully towards their workers, many of whom have given years of dedicated service to the company.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch, please do not hesitate to drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01639 630152. My staff are working from home to comply with the social distancing measures, but, as always, we remain there should you need to get in contact with us.
I hope you stay well, enjoy the weekend and, remember – keep washing your hands!