As a member of the Petitions Committee I attended our third oral evidence session as part of the Committee’s inquiry into Tackling Online Abuse. We heard from expert witnesses representing the Law Commission and from online platforms. Panel 1 was made up of Dr Nick Hoggard, Lawyer, and Professor Penney Lewis, Commissioner at the Law Commission. The Law Commission is an independent statutory body responsible for conducting consultations, research and proposing reforms to the law for Parliament to consider, with the aim of ensuring offences remain up to date and effective. Dr Nick Hoggard was the Lead Lawyer and Project Manager for the Commission’s recently completed review of online offences. Professor Lewis oversees the Commission’s reviews, including those of online abuse and hate crime, (still ongoing). These reviews have recommended changes including the creation of a new harm based communications and the extension of some hate crime offences to a wider range of protected characteristics. Panel 2 included: Theo Bertram, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for Europe at TikTok; Katy Minshall, Head of UK Public Policy at Twitter; Rebecca Stimson, UK Head of Public Policy at Meta.
The Petition Committee members asked members of Panel 1 about their proposed law reforms, overlapping and interacting with existing law, and Panel 2 members were asked about their platforms’ community standards, enforcement, anonymity, and the effect of the Draft Online Safety Bill on enforcement.
As part of my virtual visits to schools in Neath, this week I joined the wonderfully inquisitive pupils of Blaendulais Primary School and their inspirational teacher. The children asked me a wide variety of questions about my role as the MP for Neath, including: my work in Neath and Westminster; working in London Monday to Friday; being a vegan; animal welfare; COP26; climate emergency; air pollution; littering; active travel; and many more. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from such knowledgeable children, who are our future.
As one of the events for White Ribbon Day – 25th November – I joined the Women’s PLP and heard from our guest speakers: Sophie Linden, Deputy Major for Policing and Crime in London; and Jess Phillips MP, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding. Sophie told us about the Mayor’s Violence Against Women Strategy, which is currently out for public consultation, and how MPs can get involved in this process. She also outlined the work that the Metropolitan Police is doing to restore the trust and confidence of women in the police post Sarah Everard. Jess told us about her work highlighting that many more cases of domestic violence are reported, but far less are prosecuted.
White Ribbon Day was founded by a group of men in Canada in 1991 who felt they had to raise awareness of and work towards an end to violence against women. People wore white ribbons to oppose violence against women. The event spread through the world and the UK branch was established in 2004, and has grown every year since.
This year, for White Ribbon Day plus the 16 days that follow, people in communities, organisations and workplaces must come together to say “no” to violence against women. The leading message this year is #AllMenCan after the murder of Sarah Everard brought women’s experience of men’s violence to the forefront of everyone’s minds. The White Ribbon Promise is to never commit, excuse, or remain silent about male violence against women.
I have been campaigning on White Ribbon Day for many years, which has been led in Wales by Joyce Watson MS for Mid and West Wales since 2007.
I was pleased to visit the Welsh Air Ambulance drop in at Parliament this week and to lend my support for the fantastic work that they do. Our Air Ambulance in Wales is partly funded by the Welsh NHS and partly funded by charitable donations. As of a year ago, Wales has a 24/7 air ambulance operation to ensure critical pre-hospital care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, covering the whole of Wales, from its bases in Caernarfon, Llanelli, Cardiff and Welshpool. Its critical care consultants and practitioners are highly skilled and deliver blood transfusions, anaesthesia, and emergency operations, using some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. In order to maintain this vital lifeline, the Welsh Air Ambulance needs to raise £8 million every year. You can find out how you can donate or help raise funds on their website.
This week the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism, which I chair, has launched a report around dignity in care. The report was produced by V for Life and highlights failures in care because individual philosophical or religious beliefs around food and nutrition are neglected. The number of vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians is growing all the time in the UK, with people becoming more knowledgeable about the impact of the food that they eat on their physical and mental health as well as the environment. The right to be fed according to religious or philosophical beliefs is enshrined in law, but in some care settings these beliefs are being ignored. We want to see change. You can read the full report here.
I was delighted to support the cross-party campaign to pass the Downs Syndrome Bill into law. It is only right that everyone is entitled to the healthcare they need, and is given the education they require to fulfil their potential. The Bill is intended to ensure that provision is made to meet the needs of people with Downs Syndrome and that local authorities are obligated to assess the likely social care needs of those with Downs Syndrome. No one should be excluded from society because the means are not in place to allow them to enjoy what society has to offer, to allow them to contribute in employment; Downs Syndrome should not be a barrier to a full and happy life. This Private Members’ Bill has Government support, and therefore should make progress through the Parliamentary legislative process.
I was also delighted this week to join with so many Welsh Labour MPs in support of Kevin Brennan MP’s Fix Streaming Bill. Streaming is quickly replacing radio as our main means of accessing our favourite music and musicians. However, legal protections for artists have not kept pace with the technological advancements. Performers and songwriters are simply not paid fairly for their work when music is streamed – we forget that their product is their income. Record labels, streaming platforms, and other internet giants exploit musicians and artists without fair reward and it is time to put a stop to that and ensure that everyone is paid fairly for their work. We realised during the lockdowns how important the arts are to all of us, but we have to recognise that importance with fair remuneration now.
I was honoured to be elected co-chair of the All Part Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Agroecology with Ben Lake MP, joining the existing co-chair Lord Teverson at its AGM. We discussed the forward work programme for the next few months, which included amongst others, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, ELMS, the Land Use Strategy, Tenant Farmers, and the Food Strategy. I look forward to hearing from guest speakers from this wide spectrum of stakeholders representing the Agroecology sector.
On 7th October 2021, the APPG on State Pension Equality for Women, co-chaired by Andrew Gwynn MP and Peter Aldous MP, put out a call for representatives from 1950s women’s groups to get in touch to present evidence on the finding of the recent PHSO report, and any evidence deemed pertinent to the APPG. Many written individual testimonies were also sent to the APPG. We heard virtual oral evidence from representatives of 1950s women’s groups, managed on a rotating zoom room, in a closed session for Parliamentarians. The oral and written evidence will form part of the APPG’s submission to the Ombudsman’s stage 2 investigation.
As a member of the Panel of Chairs, I chaired the Delegated Legislation Committee which discussed the Draft Double Taxation Relief and International Tax Enforcement (Taiwan) Order 2021. This draft instrument would bring into effect arrangements set out in a Protocol made by the British Office Taipei and the Taipei Representative Office in the United Kingdom in 2021, and would amend the existing arrangements signed in 2002, between the two territories for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and on capital gains. The purpose of Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) is to prevent income or gains being taxed both in the territory in which they arise and in the territory in which the recipient resides. The committee members debated the draft instrument, and it was not opposed by opposition parties, so it was passed without a division.
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