As a result of increasing levels of infection across Wales, the Welsh Government have implemented a ‘firebreak lockdown’. From 6pm today until the start of Monday 9 November, there will be a new set of restrictions in place. We must now stay at home, except for limited and specific purposes, and we must not visit other households or meet with people indoors or outdoors who do not live in our households. Most shops and hospitality venues will close, including pubs and restaurants. For the week after half term, secondary schools will provide online learning for all pupils except those in years 7 and 8, but primary schools and childcare settings will remain open. Face coverings will continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that remain open, such as in supermarkets and on public transport. I know this will be a difficult and frustrating fortnight, but it’s clear that we are facing a very difficult winter and we must all play our part to help keep levels of infection down. For more information and to find the answers to frequently asked questions, take a look at the Welsh Government website here.
This week we had some success connecting the constituency with the twenty-first century. The local health centre in the Dulais Valley has never had access to fibre broadband, which has caused all sorts of problems in our modern, internet-reliant world, and which have been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. With so much of life now taking place in the virtual world, from local health care to Parliamentary business, the Practice Manager was naturally desperate to see some changes. Thanks to support from Openreach, the practice has been put on their capital works programme and this week completed the work to connect the practice to fibre broadband! We are very grateful to Openreach for working with us on this as it is so important for our local services to have quick and reliable broadband, especially in these trying times.
I was pleased to chair a Delegated Legislation Committee this week discussing legislation put in place around universities and student cap numbers. When the impact of Covid on universities was first being understood, the UK Government put caps on the numbers of students universities could accept to prevent an uneven distribution of students and financial insecurity for some institutions. With the exams fiasco meaning many more students were accepted to the first-choice universities eventually, the Government have had to reconsider the cap to prevent universities now being unfairly fined for accepting the students who made their grades. These delegated legislation committees are a really important part of the procedure in Parliament where MPs are able to discuss the detail of legislation. This is the nitty gritty of parliamentarians’ work that often isn’t seen or understood by the wider population – but its so important that legislation is properly scrutinised by MPs before the Government can pass it into law.
This week, Labour tabled an opposition motion to ensure that free school meals were provided during the holidays in England until at least Easter 2021. The Welsh Government has already committed to this, but 322 Tory MPs voted against it being implemented in England. They voted against ensuring that the most vulnerable children in our country had at least one square meal each day. I cannot quite believe that this is an issue that divides politicians in our country – surely, ensuring children do not go to bed hungry should be something that unites and galvanises politicians to work to do better, to level up, to help everyone in the country feed their children? It’s very disappointing news, but will motivate Labour to continue to fight for equality and for the most vulnerable in our communities who are being left behind.
This week we marked the anniversary of the Aberfan disaster when 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a coal tip slid down the mountainside, the school in its path. We will never forget the unimaginable tragedy that occurred there, nor will we stand by and wait for another such disaster to pass. We must ensure that our coal tips are maintained, especially considering the increase in flash flooding events in the area, so that no more lives are lost in such awful and unnecessary circumstances.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch about matters that fall under my work as an MP, please do not hesitate to drop us an email on email@example.com 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 – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!