My week in Parliament began with the AGM of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Hairdressing, Barbering and Cosmetology and I was honoured to be re-elected as chair. The UK Government has provided little support for this very important sector. Working with the Hair Council, the organisation that has statutory registration responsibility for the hairdressing sector under the Hairdressers (Registration) Act 1964, we have been campaigning for many years for the Act to be amended from voluntary to mandatory registration, and for the beauty sector to be added to the Act. This would be important to regulate the sector, and would have been so beneficial during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the UK Government does not fund the Hair Council, which is funded by registration fees. The members of the APPG discussed the forward plan for future meetings which included: amending the Act; apprenticeships, training, and further education funding; hair and beauty products becoming climate change friendly; recycling pandemic protection equipment and sector products, and the problems that the pandemic has caused for the Wedding Sector.
Ahead of the Football Governance Petitions Debate in which I spoke on Monday evening I attended a private briefing from Gary Neville, broadcaster and former Manchester United and England International. Gary has campaigned for an independent regulator to sort out football’s problems, and has sent an open letter signed by prominent figures in the world of football.
Many members had applied to speak in the debate, so we were limited to just three minutes each. I began my speech by thanking Neath constituents for signing the petitions and congratulating Wales on securing a draw in their first match at the European Championships (they did so much better in their second match beating Turkey 2-0). I spoke about the furore of fans over the efforts of 6 Premier League clubs to form a breakaway European Super League, and demonstrated the deep disconnect between football clubs and the communities they once represented. The UK Government’s fan led review is welcome but whole scale reform is needed. Fan ownership has been at the forefront of a campaign that the Co-operative Party has been conducting for the past 20 years. In 2007 the Labour Party and the Co-operative Party founded Supporters Direct; campaigned for funding and resources so that supporters could start fan-owned trusts, and progress to take over clubs; supporters places on club boards; community shares model, and strengthening community asset legislation to prevent sales of club grounds. I called for a robust, effective, independent, regulatory, framework with statutory backing, to safeguard football, because unless supporters can influence or own clubs or assets we will forever be second class spectators. I do not think that the German 50+1 model would be suitable for share ownership for the top English Premier League clubs who have invested millions of pounds, but it would be suitable as a voting structure.
On Tuesday morning I joined a round table discussion organised by Stephen Kinnock MP, chair of the APPG for Steel, on the “Roadmap to De-carbonisation and a Just Transition”, with panelists from the South Wales Industrial Cluster; Carbon Capture and Storage Association; Community Union; Green Alliance; the Materials Processing Institute; and the European trade unions body IndustriAll. The highly informative discussion stressed the importance of the Steel Council; development of UK Steel’s Net Zero Steel Report including carbon capture and storage; HyDRIgen steel making; increase the use of electric arc furnaces; and the need for strong UK Government support for the steel industry, which needs a £6 billion investment; plus skills and employment implication recommendations. IndustriAll stressed that the scale and breadth of activity on steel decarbonisation in the EU highlighted the need for UK Government to move quickly not to be left behind other countries.
The Gaps in Support APPG discussed the continuing issue of PAYE freelancers being without any form of UK Government support since the start of the pandemic. Over 1.3 million people are PAYE freelancers, which is a unique employment status where people are not technically self-employed, but take on short-term contracts to deliver very specific expertise, usually in the creative sectors. Due to their employment status, PAYE freelancers have completely fallen through the gaps in UK Government support, and the APPG is calling on an independent Public Enquiry to look at this injustice.
As a Labour and Co-operative Party MP, I am so proud that tackling poverty is at the heart of the co-operative movement. I was pleased to be able to ask James Duddridge, the Minister for Africa at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office this week what assurances he could give that the co-operative sectors, that do so much to alleviate poverty in developing countries, will not be impacted by cuts to the aid budget. I also called on him to commit to reinstating the 0.7% aid budget target. Tackling poverty is a challenge, at home and abroad, but it is one that is vital if we are to build back from the pandemic in a way that is sustainable and resilient. The poorest regions of the world need help to build stronger communities and stronger states to contribute to finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges that we face. We have a responsibility and a moral obligation and it is appalling that the UK Government have cut the aid budget – they must reverse this cut.
As a member of the Panel of Chairs, I joined its Summer Zoom Meeting convened by the Chair of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker, the Rt Hon Dame Eleanor Laing, who thanked Chris Stanton, Principal Clerk House of Commons Committee Office and Secretary to the Panel of Chairs; Tom Goldsmith, Principal Clerk of the Table Office and Senior Clerk for Westminster Hall; her own Secretary LJ Tiley; and her Assistant Secretary Abi Samuels for all their support during the pandemic. Dame Eleanor thanked all the chairs for their hard work, and also paid tribute to a former member of the Panel of Chairs, Dame Cheryl Gillan who tragically passed away. The present hybrid system for the Chamber, committees and Westminster Hall debates, and proxy voting, will remain in place until after the summer recess, due to the uncertainty around the new Delta variant, but Dame Eleanor remained optimistic that we will return to physical participation on all parts of the Parliamentary estate in the autumn.
Taiwo Owatemi MP was elected chair and I was elected vice-chair at the AGM of the APPG for Erasmus. We discussed the prospect of changing our name to the APPG Turin Scheme, but all members agreed that we should campaign for the UK Government to reinstate the Erasmus scheme, which is far better than its replacement Turin programme, and so agreed to call our APPG the Erasmus-Turin. We also discussed the prospect of merging with the APPG for Foreign and Modern Languages, because we share similar aims and objectives, and it was agreed that we should make a formal approach.
Later that day I joined a Zoom panel event organised by the APPG for HIV and AIDS; UNAIDS; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS; UNITE Network; to discuss the next steps after the upcoming G7 Summit and the UN General Assembly High Level meeting on AIDS/HIV have taken place. The panelists – Winnie Byanylima, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations; Peter Sands, Executive Director of The Global Fund; Ricardo Baptista Leite, MP, MD, PhD(c) Founder and President of UNITE; Mike Podmore, Director STOPAIDS; Andrew Ullman MP; Phumeza Tisile, someone living with AIDS, agreed that the G7 and UN have the opportunity for the international community to bring the global HIV response back on track and to implement the Global AIDS Strategy.
On Wednesday last week we marked the fifth anniversary of the death of fellow Labour MP Jo Cox. It is still hard to believe that such a wonderful and dedicated woman was killed in such an appalling act of violence and I’ve been thinking of her family and her children this week.
Citizens Advice are campaigning to highlight the dangers of scams to younger people. Despite growing up in the information era and having been brought up using the internet, unfortunately research shows that people in their twenties are most likely to be scammed. You can protect yourself by following a few simple rules: don’t ever give money or details to anyone you’ve met online and don’t click on unsolicited links or links from people you do not know.
May I take this opportunity to again congratulate our Wales football team on their wonderful progress in the European competition so far, and wish them all the best for their next match in the Round of 16. Come on Wales.
As always, if you have any questions or issues that fall under my role as MP and want to get in touch, 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.