This week brought us the Chancellor’s Spending Review and it was disappointing in its lack of funding for Wales. The UK Government have repeatedly promised that Wales would not be worse off outside the EU, but the Shared Prosperity Fund investment falls far short of what we would have received from the EU Structural and Investment Funds and will have serious implications for our businesses, communities, and people across Wales who are struggling after a decade of austerity and in addition the significant effects of the Covid pandemic. There was also no mention of the promised support to help with the recovery from the flooding that hit parts of South Wales in February and funding for the maintenance of coal tips, which come under UK Government responsibilities. The UK Government must respect the devolution settlement and provide the funding which Wales requires for the economy to recover and contribute to the health and wellbeing of the United Kingdom as a whole.
The Chancellor has also betrayed our key workers – those who have looked after us during this crisis – by giving them a real terms pay cut. This will not help the economy recover as hard-working people will have to tighten their belts even further as prices continue to rise. He also continued with the inhumane plans to cut Universal Credit, despite a tacit recognition that the original level was not enough to live off as it was raised to support people during the crisis. And with Brexit just around the corner there was no clarity in levels of preparation which will further impact people’s ability to spend on our high streets and support businesses to recover. The Chancellor is making all the wrong decisions: we need investment, not tax hikes and pay cuts.
My duties in Westminster last week included a number of commitments as a member of the Panel of Chairs. On Tuesday I chaired the Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee. This statutory instrument ensured that the U.K. can continue to utilise electronic passport gates (e-Gates) to process the arrival of citizens of current EU and EEA member states, and Switzerland, entering the UK as visitors after the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020. This SI also allows for leave to be granted to those who enter through an e-Gate and qualify for status under the S2 Healthcare Visitor cohort, and provides for Service Providers from Switzerland to use multi-agency visas. These rights to enter the UK are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, the EFTA Separation Agreement, and the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement, and is important to maintain security and fluidity across the UK border, and forms part of the UK Government’s long term plans to develop a new global border and immigration system that will be digital by default.
On Wednesday I chaired the Bill Committee for Laura Trott’s Private Member’s Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill. Laura’s Bill has cross party support because so many children have received unregulated treatment which has caused serious, and often life lasting, physical and mental harm. The Bill makes it an offence for a person, business owner and body corporate to administer botulinum toxin and other filler substances to a child (under 18) to be injected for cosmetic purposes, which alter the appearance of the child who has been injected. The committee comprehensively discussed and unanimously passed all the clauses in the Bill, unamended. The Bill will now be subjected to a similar procedure in the House of Lords, and if passed, will return to the Commons for Royal Assent.
On Thursday, I chaired the International Development and Gender-Based Violence debate in Westminster Hall. This was a very emotive debate in which members discussed how the coronavirus pandemic has raised awareness of the gender-based violence that is occurring in countries all over the world. The UN has estimated that in the 12 months before the pandemic, 242 million women and girls were subjected to sexual or physical violence, and that these numbers will drastically increase during the pandemic. Members spoke about the heart breaking experiences of women and girls in their constituencies and there was agreement across Westminster Hall that whilst every country is grappling with the pandemic, our commitment to end violence, exploitation and abuse targeted at women and girls must not be diminished.
I was pleased this week to attend the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Law and Policy held in partnership with the Unity Project regarding no recourse to public funds. No recourse to public funds has been in the news recently in connection with the Domestic Abuse Bill and awareness of the policy has grown during the pandemic. No recourse to public funds is a particularly pernicious policy for those facing domestic abuse and who are further exposed to exploitation and abuse with threats of being thrown out of the country. Many campaigners have argued that no recourse to public funds is unnecessarily cruel and is inconsistent with our fight to stop domestic abuse, to reduce inequality, to reduce homelessness, and to prevent exploitation. We have to accept that this policy is exacerbating many problems that then end up costing the Government (and therefore the taxpayer) even more money. But the human element is also important. This policy is pushing people in hardship into dangerous situations, and into psychological and physical trauma. We must find an alternative.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch about any matters that fall under my work as an MP, 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, and remember – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe.