This week the Welsh Labour Government have announced a £500 bonus for all NHS and social care staff in Wales in recognition of their enormous effort over the past year in looking after the sick and vulnerable, keeping our health and care sector going, and vaccinating tens of thousands of people. We are so proud of our very own heroes in scrubs and PPE, and I am delighted we have been able to recognise their work in this way.
The APPG for Mutuals is conducting an enquiry into the planned demutualisation of Liverpool Victoria known as LV. On 15th December 2020, LV announced that it had reached an agreement on the terms of sale to Bain Capital, a leading US private investment firm specialising in private equity. LV is one of the largest financial mutuals in the UK. The APPG is keen to explore the reasons for the sale and the wider impact. We held our second evidence session and heard from Barry O’Dwyer, Group Chief Executive of Royal London. Mr O’Dwyer joined Royal London in September 2019 and has extensive experience in financial services, including actuary, Pensions and Savings, Standard Life, and sits on the Board of the Association of British Insurers. The APPG will produce and publish its report at the conclusion of all evidence sessions.
The APPG for Hospitality and Tourism, of which I am vice-chair, are conducting an inquiry into saving the UK’s town and city centres post Covid-19. Our second evidence session looked at policy renewal and the future role of government, and we heard from Chris Murray, director of Core Cities Group, Nicola Taylor, CEO of Charlton Hotels, Will Stratton-Morris, UK CEO of Cafe Nero, and Kate Shane, Head of Merlin Entertainments. The APPG will produce and publish a report which will include recommendations to the UK Government at the conclusion of all evidence sessions. Next week we will hear evidence about a green recovery for sustainable hospitality and tourism.
This week’s meeting of the Gaps in Support APPG heard evidence about Parents and Carers in the Film and TV sector. We heard evidence from Hope Dickson Leach and Line Langebeck, co-founders of Raising Films, an organisation which supports, promotes and campaigns for parents and carers in the UK screen sector, and is calling on the UK screen sector to recognise the value of its parent and carer members. Raising Films challenges the UK screen sector to ensure that best working practices are available, prevent loss of talent, and grow numbers in this very valuable part of the screen sector.
The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, but will be going ahead in July 2021. The APPG for Olympics and Paralympics, of which I’m a vice-chair, met this week for an update on the status of the Games from Mark Adams, Director of Communications at the International Olympic Committee and from Pierre Ducrey, the Operations Director at the IOC. Pierre has been liaising with the Tokyo Organising Committee and National and International Health Authorities every day to put in place safety mechanisms for the forthcoming Games.
The Western Gateway APPG was formed as a key forum to assist economic prosperity development by providing an open platform for academics, businesses, and policy experts to engage in a two-way dialogue with Parliamentarians, regarding the Gateway economic partnership between the West of England and South Wales. The Western Gateway was launched in November 2019, and is a cross border partnership of local authorities, city regions, local enterprise partnerships, Welsh and UK Government. It focuses on three ambitions: world class connectivity across the Gateway to boost productivity, and deliver sustainable transport, turn the region into a global gateway for export and investment led growth, increasing innovation and collaboration amongst high tech sectors, universities and R&D assets. At this week’s APPG meeting we heard about the progress made on the Gateway’s Independent Economic Review, following the UK Government’s funding announcement of £800 million to the Gateway for 2021-22.
I was honoured to be elected vice-chair of the APPG for Post-Brexit Funding, which has been renamed the APPG for Shared Prosperity Fund. Professor Steve Fothergill of Sheffield Hallam University gave a presentation on the UK Government plans set out in the November 2020 Spending Review, and further details included in the Chancellor’s Budget on 3rd March. The UK Tory Government stated many times before, during and post Brexit that Wales would not receive a penny less after Brexit than it received from EU Structural Funds. And that there would be no power grab, whereby the UK Government take back powers from the Welsh Labour Government in contrary to the devolved settlement. However, the new Community Renewal Fund, which is the forerunner of the UKSPF, and the new Levelling Up Fund will be delivered by UK Government with no involvement of the devolved nations. Local authorities have been grouped into tiers of priority of need, and will bid directly to the UK Government for funding for local projects in competition with all other regions of the UK.
On Tuesday evening, as a Labour and Co-operative MP, I was proud to be one of the guest speakers at the Co-operative Party Women’s Network “Be the Change” Zoom event highlighting International Women’s Day. The other panel speakers were Cllr Antoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor of Hackney and Deputy Leader of the Labour Group on the Local Government Association and Elaine Dean, who is the former President and current Vice-President of Central England Co-operative. “Be the Change” focused on what is preventing women becoming representatives within society, how this has changed over time, and how women can build a society where power and wealth can be shared. The event was chaired by Sandra Wilson, Chair of the Co-operative Party Women’s Network and we were joined by over fifty women co-operators from all over the UK who spoke passionately about their personal circumstances during the interactive breakout sessions which followed the panel. Massive thanks to Issy Oozeerally, Events Co-ordinator at the Co-operative Party, for bringing together such a successful event.
The story of Banwen’s connection to the kidnapping of St Patrick was discovered by former miner, writer and lifelong Banwen resident, George Brinley Evans. Now 95 years of age, George came across Patrick’s autobiography in a national magazine when George was in school in the 1930s. Patrick’s autobiography “Confessio” stated that he was abducted from a Roman settlement in the West of Britain. The article claimed that Patrick’s home Taburnaie Bannavem was Tafarn y Banwen, which George knew was the farm that George’s grandfather rented from the colliery. George was instrumental in getting the Welsh St Patrick stone erected at the side of Roman Road and every year we hold a St Patrick’s Day celebration at the stone, compered by Roy Noble, with speeches, singing and attended by local school children. This could not take place this year, due to coronavirus restrictions, so we held the first ever zoom event. The virtual celebration featured a new poem about the kidnapping of Patrick and his sister Darerca written especially for the event by award-winning writer Menna Elfyn, who is the chair of PenCymru that campaigns for writers around the world who are persecuted and imprisoned. Ahead of the virtual event, South Wales artist Mel Bastier, made some new sculptures which she placed at the stone.
On Sunday, it is Down’s Syndrome Awareness Day, which is another of those days that has gained new significance during the lockdown, with many groups fighting for the needs and rights of those with a disability to be properly recognised. Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they cannot make any decisions for themselves, participate fully in society, and build a life for themselves. There are some fantastic stories on the Down’s Syndrome Association website about some of the amazing work that people with Down’s are involved with. Reece works with his mum making colourful books that encourage children to open up and talk about difficult subjects through Art Therapy. Mohammad has become a YouTuber to show people his cooking skills after being inspired by Jamie Oliver. Alison lives alone and is looking forward to what the end of lockdown will bring, and I think we can all empathise with that.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch on any matters that fall under my role as an MP, please do not hesitate to drop me and my staff 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.