The last full week before Christmas is always a busy one in Parliament and the constituency and this year is no different. Firstly, this week saw me elected as Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History. This is a really important APPG as it stands on a cross-party basis to push for the preservation of local history up and down the country. We all know the value of keeping our history alive and that means that we need all levels of government working together to preserve our archives for future generations. In these times of the COVID pandemic, one of the consequences is we are not having conversations with older members of the community and history is not being passed on to younger generations. I will be using my position as Vice Chair to push for decent funding for local history groups and increased awareness campaigns that show people the tremendous resources we have at our disposal to learn more.
As co-chair of the APPG Hairdressing, Barbering and Cosmetology I met virtually with the APPG officers to review our ongoing campaign to support those in this industry who have not received any help from the UK Government during the coronavirus pandemic, and plan the action we propose to take in 2021. We have written many letters to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for BEIS, highlighting the plight of businesses and mobile practitioners, but the responses we have received make it clear that the UK Government has no respect for the many people employed in the hair and beauty industry who have contributed so much to the UK economy, £6 billion in the last year. We have been working with Keith Conniford, CEO and Registrar of the Hair Council, to secure a pledge from the UK Government to implement mandatory registration for the industry, which would have helped considerably in our campaign to obtain funding and grants for the dedicated members of this profession who have struggled to stay afloat during the past 9 months of the pandemic. But the UK Government are not interested.
Keeping our streets safe is so important to me and underpins everything I do in my role as your MP. That is why I attended a virtual meeting with the new Chief Constable of South Wales Police, Jeremy Vaughan, and Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael. I took this opportunity to welcome the new Chief Constable to his role and set out my aspirations for how community policing should be the bedrock of all activities undertaken by South Wales Police going forward.
I also took this opportunity to ask the Chief Constable to thank all the police officers in my constituency for all they do and wish them all the very best for 2021. We should not forget that our emergency responders will be working throughout this Christmas and New Year period. They will be keeping us safe, running towards danger and demonstrating all the values that make Neath such a special community. We should all be so grateful for the dedicated work they do.
I am also vice-Chair of the APPG on Gaps in Support, which exists to find solutions for those who have been excluded from UK Government support schemes during the Coronavirus pandemic. This cross-party group is currently gathering evidence to understand how people may have fallen through the gaps in support. We have been hearing from those whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted and once we have collected all this evidence, we will be making our recommendations to the UK Government.
Our group has been extremely active over recent weeks, publishing our response to the Spending Review and the UK Government’s impact analysis into Covid-19. Being part of such an important All-Party Parliamentary Group ensures that we can have Neath’s voice heard at the highest levels of UK government.
The APPG Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention recently conducted an enquiry into support for young people who self-harm, and I joined in the follow up Zoom call meeting which looked at self-harm during Covid-19. We heard from experts who are gathering evidence, through research and surveys, which will form the basis of our recommendations to the UK Government. We listened to Professor Keith Hawton, Director of Oxford University Centre for Suicide Research and Consultant Psychiatrist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust; Professor Nav Kapur, who leads the suicide work programme of National Confidential enquiry into suicide and homicide by people with mental illness; and Dr Lynne Green, Chief Clinical Officer at Koothplc, one of the biggest providers of digital mental health in the UK with one of the world’s largest anonymised data sets. The Samaritans provide the secretariat for the APPG.
The Speaker of the House of Commons Lynsey Hoyle and the Lord Speaker Rt Hon the Lord Fowler held the first ever virtual Parliamentary Carol Service from Westminster Hall. The Most Reverend the Rt Hon Justin Welby gave his Christmas sermon about the pain and suffering endured this year, that Christmas brings comfort and joy, out of the darkness will come light and hope with the roll out of the vaccine. There were many bible readings from religious representatives in Parliament. We heard carols from St. Martin’s Voices and the Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir. The Speaker’s Chaplain, Reverend Tricia Hillis, said prayers.
The Dogs Trust is a charity that I have long supported. Their campaigns have been really important for protecting the safety and welfare of dogs both at home and abroad. Their puppy smuggling campaign was relaunched this year to raise awareness of the illegal dog trade across Europe.
I was delighted to join the Dogs Trust ‘Puppy Smuggling Taskforce’ to raise awareness of and tackle the abhorrent puppy smuggling trade. At a time when the demand for dogs in the UK has never been higher, I want to urge my constituents to really do their research before buying a puppy advertised for sale online.
On Thursday afternoon I chaired the concluding stage of one Westminster Hall debate and the opening stage of the following debate. The first debate was about the future of Fairs and Showgrounds. Members discussed the lack of financial support for the many fairs and show-grounds that have had to close during the pandemic. The Minister responded with a long list of UK Government schemes set up by the Chancellor, which on the whole, members pointed out, were ineligible for showmen, who form part of the 3 million excluded. I found myself thinking about Donald Coleman, the former MP for Neath, who tragically and suddenly died in 1991. Donald was the only honorary member of the Showman’s Guild in Great Britain, and in my Maiden Speech, I told the story of Neath through the images contained in Donald’s stained glass window, which forms part of St Thomas’ Church.
The second debate was about UK Hydrogen Economy, which was secured by a backbencher who believed that the hydrogen economy will be transformative for the UK, enable decarbonisation across all sectors, achieving a net zero target, create skilled jobs and position the U.K. as a world leader. Members spoke about hydrogen transport, heating, gas network, renewable fuel, decarbonisation, green hydrogen and the Government’s Energy White Paper published on Tuesday which announced a £240 million hydrogen fund in its 10 point plan.
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 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.