Last Saturday I spent the day on the Wales Co-operative Council Zoom call meeting. As a Labour and Co-operative Party MP, I presented a report on the activities of the Parliamentary Co-operative Group over the past two months. We have been very active. We have drawn the attention to the need for free school meals during holiday periods in England, which are provided in Wales, and the UK Government eventually climbed down. International development and fair trade is a key co-operative value and we have called for this to be at the heart of any future trade deals. We opposed the merging of the Department for International Development into the FCO, and voiced our objection to the abolishment of the International Trade Select Committee. We have continued to campaign to give shop workers greater protection against violence and abuse they suffer at work. At our Co-operative Party Local Government Conference our Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds announced that we will be working together on a Labour and Co-operative Recovery Partnership, towards a Labour and Co-operative Government.
On Monday afternoon, as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Vegetarians and Vegans, I hosted a virtual event about food security. The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing when “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, food to maintain a healthy, active life”. During the Coronavirus pandemic issues around access to food have become more widespread. With many people losing their jobs or being paid less, the number of people using food banks has increased. We heard from people in communities involved in helping people with restricted diets access suitable foods during this pandemic. Speakers included, a vegan food bank, The Vegetarian Society and V for Life. It was a pleasure to welcome Baroness Anita Gale, former General Secretary of Welsh Labour, and a lifelong vegetarian to become a member of the APPG.
On Monday evening I joined the All Party Parliamentary Group for Acquired Brain Injury Roundtable discussion on Covid-19 rehabilitation and neurological conditions. Speakers from the Neurological Alliance, Parkinson’s UK, MS Society, SUDEP Action, MND Association, Epilepsy Action, and the UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum discussed the impact of Covid-19 on people with neurological conditions and the need for increased access and provision of rehabilitation services during this pandemic and into the future.
The Sepsis APPG, of which I am the chair, works closely with the UK Sepsis Trust who are investigating the strong link between Sepsis and Long-Covid. Both of these conditions require rehabilitation services and should be joined with rehabilitation services for other high risk conditions such as those discussed in the Roundtable.
On Tuesday morning, as vice chair of the APPG for Gaps in Support, I joined its meeting addressed by Metro Mayors Dan Jarvis MP, Sheffield City Region, Steve Rotherham, Liverpool City Region, and Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Region. They spoke about being in the highest COVID-19 restrictions in England, how this had affected the people and communities they represent and about their campaigns to secure funds from UK Government for those who had fallen through the gaps. This APPG probably has the largest membership in Parliament and represents the people and businesses who are excluded from UK Government support schemes.
On Tuesday evening I joined the last ever Parliamentary Mindfulness session, virtually. Some eight years ago my dear friend Chris Ruane, former MP for Vale of Clwyd, teamed up with the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre and organised drop in sessions, courses and retreats for MPs, Peers and Parliamentary staff. The sessions were run by the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation, which is a charity for the research, teaching and education of mindfulness, focusing on well being and resilience. Unfortunately the funding has run out. Over the years, over 250 parliamentarians and 500 staff have taken part in these sessions and we will all miss the opportunity to come together and support each other trying to cope with the stress and challenges of life.
On Wednesday afternoon I joined the Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group zoom meeting. The General Secretary of the Co-operative Party, Joe Fortune, and his Political and Parliamentary Officer, Rob Bates, gave us an update on plans for future activities and campaigns. We will continue to support Alex Norris MP’s Private Members Bill protecting shop workers from violence and abuse in work when it returns to be debated when Friday Sittings are resumed; amend forthcoming legislation; ask oral questions; and set down written questions to pursue co-operative values.
I was drawn on the Call List for the Westminster Hall debate “That this House has Considered support for people ineligible for UK Government COVID-19 Support Schemes” scheduled for 4:30pm, and was going to speak about the rigid, inflexible, criteria and rules attached to the UK Government support schemes which has resulted in 3 million people being excluded from support during this pandemic. And how the Chancellor has not corrected these gaps. Whereas the Welsh Government has plugged holes in the Chancellor’s schemes and created its own, so that businesses in Welsh communities continue to trade and workers spend locally, giving our high streets the best chance of surviving. However, I was summoned to chair in Westminster Hall from 4pm for the rest of the sitting, and did not therefore speak in the debate.
On Thursday morning I chaired the Fifteenth Delegated Legislation Committee which considered two Statutory Instruments amending the Draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 in respect of Coronavirus regulations in England. The aim of both instruments is to establish consistent regulation for all providers in the rapidly expanding COVID-19 testing market and aim to make it quicker for new test providers to gain certification and start providing testing services. After discussions by members of the committee, both instruments were unanimously approved.
In the afternoon I chaired a Westminster Hall debate on UK – Qatar Relations led by Alistair Carmichael MP in which members discussed the merits of continuing this relationship for the benefit of the UK.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch about any matters that fall under my role 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, and remember – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe.