This week I attended a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs). I was elected vice chair of the APPG for Flood Prevention at its AGM on Tuesday, with Rachael Maskell MP re-elected as chair. We discussed the work programme for this session, and will prioritise conducting enquiries into: flood consideration in the planning system; and Ofwat 2024 review.
Later that day, I joined the PCS Union zoom meeting and received updates on cuts at the British Council of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office; ISS strike action at BEIS; OCS dispute at MoJ; culture update at DCMS; outsourced workers at MoD; and ongoing safety issues at the DVLA. You can donate to the DVLA strike fund, which supports members financially when they are striking and not being being paid by their employer. The details are: Account Name – Fighting Fund Levy, Account Number – 20331490, Sort Code – 60-83-01, Reference – DVLA. The PCS Union has launched an e-action to ask Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to intervene to keep members safe, and you can write in support of striking DVLA workers by emailing email@example.com.
Also on Tuesday I attended the APGG Wales and the World, chaired by Craig Williams MP, where we heard about progress on the North Wales Growth Deal. Speakers included Dyfrig Siencyn (Leader of Gwynedd Council and Chair of North Wales Economic Ambition Board) and Alwen Williams (Portfolio Director of the North Wales Growth Deal). Alwen outlined some interesting projects on digital connectivity, low carbon energy, agri-food and tourism. The Growth Deal is projected to create 3400-4200 new jobs and increase GVA by around £2-2.5 billion.
On Wednesday morning I attended my first meeting of the Parliamentary Petitions Committee after confirmation of my membership of the committee was passed by the House on Tuesday evening. The meeting was a live evidence session on the impact of COVID-19 on new parents. We heard evidence from the signatory of the petition Bethany Power; Emily Tredget, Co-Founder of Happity; Dr Sarah McMullen, Director of Impact and Engagement, NCT; Sue Armstrong Brown, Chief Executive of Adoption UK; Sally Hogg, Head of Policy and Campaigning, Parent Infant Foundation; Neil Leitch, CE, Early Years Alliance; Joeli Brearley, Founder of Pregnant then Screwed; and Rosalind Bragg, Director, Maternity Action. The chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP was very concerned that a year after publication of the Committee’s report regarding this matter, there has been no progress by the UK Government on the vast majority of its recommendations. The UK Government has offered no help to pregnant women incorrectly placed on unpaid sick leave by employers, no catch up funding to help new parents access support services disrupted during the pandemic, and no targeted funding to provide extra mental health support specifically for new parents. The Petitions Committee will continue to challenge the UK Government to bring forward the changes that we have recommended.
I was pleased this week to be able to ask the COP26 President how much of the billion pounds of private investment and how many of the 250,000 highly skilled green jobs promised by the Prime Minister in his 10 Point Green Industrial Revolution Plan would be coming to Wales. The President’s answer has left us no clearer on how the PM’s plans will benefit Wales. Investment in green policies are vitally important for the country as a whole – it will not only bring investment and new jobs to different regions and support household finances, but also improve the resilience of the country to deal with climate change, for example, with the improvement of flood defence measures or housing insulation. Levelling up the UK means levelling up the whole of the UK, not just the Tory constituencies in England. Our resilience against climate change and the consequences it will have on our economy rely on resilience being spread fairly across the country and ensuring that inequalities are reduced, not widened.
Wednesday afternoon, as a Labour and Co-operative Party MP, I joined our fortnightly Parliamentary Co-operative Party Group meeting. We discussed our plan of work to hold the UK Government to account up until the summer recess, which starts on Thursday 22nd July, and received an update on our ongoing campaigns – protecting retail workers; food justice; unlocking high streets; and recruiting councillor candidates.
Wednesday evening I joined the virtual Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Campaign Launch, which premiered the C4 conceptual advert, followed by a discussion with GB Paralympic athletes, chaired by C4 journalist and comedian, Alex Brooker.
On Thursday, as chair of the APPG Vegetarianism and Veganism, I hosted an event to launch the Planting Value in the Food System Report commissioned by the Vegan Society, and authored by Dr Alex Lockwood of Sunderland University. Recent years have seen a dramatic change in attitudes about the role of animals in our food system. Whilst those following a vegan or vegetarian diet remain a minority, there is growing acknowledgment and understanding of the harms caused by mass farming of animals. Research from the UN Development Programme and Oxford University found that 43% of the UK public would support policies to promote a plant based diet as a climate solution. But challenges in the food system, such as treatment of animals and climate impact of animals cannot be seen in isolation. The food system is a determination of health; a driver of climate change and habitat loss; covers a large sector of the economy; a source of employment; and includes deeply held social and cultural values. The idea of a coherent food policy to address multiple objectives, rather than one at the expense of another, is the basis of this report. Following Dr Lockwood’s presentation of his report, we held a discussion with The Vegan Society CEO Louise Davies; Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House, Dr Helen Harwatt; Adviser at Veg-Capital, Alexandra Clarke and members of the public who joined us on the zoom call.
As vice-chair of the newly convened APPG for Restorative Justice, I joined an oral evidence hearing, which is one of a series of sessions we are holding as part of our enquiry into restorative practices in 2021/22. The enquiry has called for written evidence from organisations and individuals with expertise in Restorative Practices through its dedicated website, with a fully interactive feedback facility. The oral evidence is taken from APPG Advisory Board members: Jim Simon, Restorative Justice Council; Nina Champion, Criminal Justice Alliance; Tony Walker and Kate Hook, Restorative Solutions; Julie Clarke, Calm Mediation; Dr Jon Hobson, University of Gloucestershire; and Steve Jones, Remedi. At the end of our inquiry, we shall produce a report containing clear recommendations on how the UK Government can improve access to, and delivery of, restorative practices.
On Friday morning I joined our regular virtual meeting update with Swansea Bay University Health Boardmanagement and regional MPs and MSs. We heard about the vaccination programme, its success and plans to reach the people who remain; the drop-in timetable; the Immbulance reach out; Test, Trace and Protect programme; and the opening of the Green Oasis in the grounds of Morriston Hospital.
Commiserations to the England football team on losing at the final stage in the Euros, but congratulations for getting so far. Like many people, I was horrified by the appalling scenes at Wembley, both in terms of the lack of security and the racism that was directed at the players. It is inconceivable that at such a major event in the UK security was so lax to allow ticketless people into the stadium. Given serious atrocities like the attacks on Manchester arena in 2017, there must be an inquiry held into why there was not a more significant security presence. The racism that was shown was completely unacceptable and unfortunately, it comes from the top. The tone-deaf statements from the Prime Minister around booing the players for taking the knee before matches fuels the belief among people that these attitudes are acceptable. A stand against racism is not merely ‘gesture politics’ from the players – they experience racism whenever they play, they see their fellow players experience this abuse. This Tory Government needs to take a long hard look at itself and consider how their actions are fuelling a ‘culture war’ rather than acting as the role models that we’ve seen through this England team.
We heard further information from the Welsh Government this week on the easing of Covid restrictions in Wales. From tomorrow, up to six people will be able to meet indoors, with limits on outdoor events removed. Then, if the situation with serious illness and hospitalisations remains under control, most existing restrictions will be lifted on the 7th August. Our ability to move away from restrictions is down to the amazing success of our vaccination programme, but it’s important we all continue to follow common sense guidance and exercise caution to make sure we don’t throw away the progress we have made. You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch about any issues 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.