My thoughts are with everyone affected by the terrible flooding in Skewen this week. I’ve spoken with the leader of Council Rob Jones, local councillor Mike Harvey and colleagues Stephen Kinnock and David Rees, in whose constituency the events occurred, and offered them my full support. My thanks and admiration go to those frontline staff and emergency services who continue to work tirelessly on site. The vast majority of properties affected are in the Aberavon constituency, but if any of my constituents in surrounding streets are affected and need any help please get in touch with my office. This of course also goes for anyone else affected by flooding in parts of the Neath constituency.
I have attended several All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) this week. Gareth Thomas MP was re-elected Chair and I was elected Treasurer of the APPG on Mutuals. We heard presentations from Robin Fieth, Chief Executive of the Building Societies Association, Kate Creagh, Public Affairs Manager, BSA, Rose Marley, Chief Executive, Co-operatives UK and Martin Shaw, Chief Executive of the Association of Financial Mutuals, which represents 45 Mutuals/Friendlies/Not for Profits in UK. All contributions outlined the benefits of mutuals. The BSA represents 49 building societies and credit unions in the UK, but as a Labour and Co-operative MP, I was particularly interested in Co-operatives UK, which represents 7063 independent co-ops in the UK, and 241,714 employees and aims to create new livelihoods, keep jobs in local communities, and use local assets to transfer Coronavirus community spirit into local social actions.
On Tuesday, the MPs and Peers of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel and Metal related industries met for the first time in 2021 in a meeting that was extremely well attended. Members of the APPG were able to welcome Lord Grimstone, the Minister for Investment at DIT and BEIS who holds Steel within his responsibilities, to the meeting and to question him on his priorities for the sector and vision for the UK steel sector and government working together. Lord Grimstone emphasised that, while new to the role, he understood that he could be a champion within Government for the sector on issues such as procurement and committed to meeting with members of the APPG on individual issues where appropriate.
Additionally, APPG members had the opportunity to hear from Frank Aaskov of UK Steel, who gave a preview of ‘Closing the Gap’, UK Steel’s fifth annual report into the industrial energy price disparity faced by our steel producers compared to those in France and Germany. As with years previously, the figures continue to be eye-watering, and MPs were interested to hear about what individual steps recommended in the report would each mean. When the report is formally launched on the 4th February, MPs will have access to a full suite of suggested talking points and suggested Parliamentary Questions as we urge the government to take action on this continuing disadvantage our steelmakers face.
I attended the Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group made up of 26 Labour and Co-operative MPs plus many Peers. We made plans to build on the successful Parliamentary campaigns we held in 2020 in association with trade unions, such as protecting shop workers and promoting the co-operative values in Parliament in 2021. We discussed campaigning in the forthcoming May elections, in which we have a record number of candidates standing under the Labour and Co-operative banner for national and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. We also looked towards campaigning in the local government elections to be held in 2022.
Also on Tuesday I attended the APPG for Gaps in Support, which was set up at the start of the first lockdown for the specific purpose of highlighting the several million people who have been left without support, such as freelancers and some small business owners. This month’s meeting focused on the potentially 2 million active non-employing limited companies that have received little help from the UK Government since last March, and ForgottenUK’s proposal for a ‘Directors Income Support Scheme’. The well-crafted DISS proposal addresses the Government’s concerns with providing support to directors of limited companies by basing any grants on a company’s taxable profits and not dividends. The meeting was well attended by a range of cross-party MPs, as well as representatives from employment status bodies and sector federations.
A new Covid recovery app was launched this week in Wales for people recovering from Covid or living with the effects of Long Covid. The app has been designed to offer people a bespoke tool to monitor symptoms and track the progress of your recovery. It includes advice from consultants, therapists, psychologists, dieticians and other experts in how best to support yourself with your symptoms. GPs are still incredibly important in signposting help and providing the necessary medical tests and advice, but this app is a great resource in monitoring any changes in symptoms that indicate you need to seek medical advice. To download the app, search ‘Covid Recovery’ in the App Store or Google Play.
Remember, you can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements on their dedicated coronavirus page, and you can also find useful information on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. 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.