On Monday, as vice-chair of the APPG on Cancer, I met with Rebekka Smiddy from McMillan Cancer Support to listen to their plans to support our APPG. McMillan Cancer’s wonderful message is: “We will move mountains to help people with cancer to live life as fully as they can. We’ll do whatever it takes”.
Tuesday was taken up with the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech which included the UK Government’s proposed legislative programme for this session of Parliament. The UK Government promised to level up opportunities across all parts of the UK but this Conservative Government has an appalling record of providing Wales with a fair share of UK spending, let alone the funding needed to level up. Despite promising that Wales would not lose out when EU Structural Funding ceased, the replacement Community Renewal and the Levelling Up funds will provide just a fraction of that EU funding. The Levelling Up Fund will represent little more than £50 million each year for Welsh projects, compared with over £375 million per year from EU Structural Funds. And it will be delivered by a Whitehall-led, centralised, ad-hoc approach, instead of the previous delivery by Welsh Government in collaboration with Local Authorities.
On Wednesday the Parliamentary Labour and Co-operative Group met to discuss the outcomes of all the elections held across the UK last Thursday. We now have 938 Labour and Co-operative Cllrs, 5 of 7 Metro Mayors, and 7 PCCs across the UK. In Wales we have 16 Labour and Co-operative Party MS in the Senedd, an increase of 5 from 2016, and 3 of the 4 PCCs represent the Labour and Co-operative Party. In Parliament we shall continue to campaign on many issues including: doubling the size of the co-operative sector, food justice, financial inclusion, fair tax, employee ownership by seeking to introduce a Macora Law, and protection for shop workers.
The Times published a letter from the APPG for Mutuals, of which I’m an officer, in which we asked the Governor of the Bank of England to intervene in the proposed sale of LV (Liverpool Victoria) to the US private equity company Bain Capital. We highlighted our concerns and raised a number of very important questions regarding the proposed demutualisation of LV.
On Thursday South Wales MPs had our regular update with South Wales Police Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan and South Wales PCC Alun Michael. We all congratulated Alun on being re-elected last Thursday, and we listened to the progress of the partnership model advocated by Jeremy and Alun. Jeremy introduced us to the new Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Bacon and emphasised that community safety and neighbourhood policing will be at the forefront, and welcomed the additional 100 PCSOs pledged in the Welsh Labour Manifesto. Domestic abuse, drug misuse and mental health issues will be a very important part of their early intervention strategy.
The APPG for Steel met the UK Government International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena to discuss our campaign to urge the UK Government to extend steel safeguards beyond the current expiry date of June 2021. The safeguards were introduced to limit further increases in imports because of a dysfunctional global trading environment for steel, overcapacity of steel, US trade tariffs, and increased use of global defence measures. The safeguard measures allow for tariff-free imports equivalent to 111% historic levels with further relaxations every year, and provide a careful balance between different industrial industries. If the UK unilaterally removes its safeguard measures, it will open up our market to import surges as we recover from the pandemic and at a time when our exports to EU and US are subject to tariffs and quotas.
On Friday, as chair of the APPG for Sepsis, I met with Dr Ron Daniels and Sarah Hamilton-Fairley of the UK Sepsis Trust ahead of our APPG AGM next Tuesday. The UK Sepsis Trust explained their latest campaign to raise Sepsis awareness in organisations and in communities: “Be Sepsis Savvy. Spot the Signs. Save Lives”. Sepsis is the body’s life-threatening over-reaction to an infection, including Covid-19. Without timely treatment it can lead to organ failure and death. This devastating condition is responsible for over 48,000 deaths a year in the UK – more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined. But if Sepsis is diagnosed quickly, it is often treatable, so it’s important to know the signs in adults and in children, and get to your GP or to A&E as soon as possible.
I want to pass on my congratulations to all the wonderful Welsh Labour MSs who have been returned to and elected to the Senedd, and to thank all the fantastic campaigners and volunteers who helped make this happen. I am so proud to be a Welsh Labour MP and I am looking forward to working in conjunction with our MSs and our Welsh Labour Government to help improve the lives of the people in Wales. We need a strong Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff to be a strong voice for the people in Wales, especially given the Queen’s Speech was so disappointing in its lack of vision and ambition. Now is not the time to be dealing with unimportant bills that invent problems that aren’t there. Now is the time to be making fundamental changes to the challenges that we as a society face. We do not have a problem of voter fraud in this country; ID cards to vote will cause more problems than they fix. We do, however, have a huge problem of rising inequality from health to education to housing. The people of the UK deserve a Government that will tackle those fundamental challenges that they face on a daily basis. Here in Wales, I know our Welsh Labour Government will do just that.
The Reading Agency are once again launching their Summer Reading Challenge to encourage children aged 4-11 to set themselves a reading challenge to help prevent a summer reading ‘dip’. Children can read whatever they like – fiction, fact books, poetry, joke books, picture books, graphic novels, audio books and eBooks can all be used to complete the Challenge. Children receive special rewards each time they finish a book and there’s a certificate for everyone who completes the Challenge. The Summer Reading Challenge is open to all primary school aged children and is designed for all reading abilities. Children can sign up for free at a participating library during the summer holidays. We know how important reading is for children and their life opportunities – reading has been shown to be more important for a child’s cognitive development more than a parent’s level of education or social class. Instilling reading as an enjoyable activity from a young age is therefore so important. Reading should not be a chore!
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch about matters that fall under my role as an MP, please do not hesitate to email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 01639 630152. My staff are working from home to comply with the social distancing measures, but as always, we are available 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.