My week began as a member of the Delegated Legislation Committee that met to discuss the Draft Statutory Instrument entitled “The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (Amendment to Schedule 3) (England) Order 2021” which sought to extend the scope of the Primary Authority scheme that provides a statutory framework for a business to form a partnership with a local authority in order to receive support in relation to specific areas of regulation, including in the context of a future pandemic. This instrument proposes to ensure that the Primary Authority scheme delivers its potential benefits more widely, enabling businesses, local authorities and consumers to benefit from increased consistency in the delivery of regulations made under this legislation and further reducing the burdens for businesses. The members of the committee questioned the Minister on the contents and implementation of this instrument before it passed without a vote.
As a member of the Parliamentary Panel of Chairs, I chaired the Delegated Legislation Committee which met to discuss the Draft Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures TPIM Act 2011 (Continuation) Order2021, which would provide for the continuation of the Secretary of State’s TPIM powers, which are due to expire on 13th December 2021, for 5 years until 14th December 2026. TPIMs are civil measures used to manage the threat posed by terrorists who cannot be prosecuted for a terrorism-related offence or deported in the case of foreign nationals. The 2011 Act provides the Home Secretary with the power to impose certain measures on an individual whom she reasonably believes has been involved in terrorism-related activity that may put the public at risk. The members of the committee unanimously supported the continuation.
I joined the virtual drop-in meeting held to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest common cancer and affects over 10,000 people a year across the UK and three in five are diagnosed at a late stage. Over half die within three months of diagnosis. The symptoms are very distressing, unable to digest food, starving the body of nutrients and calories, leading to malnutrition, loss of muscle mass, and rapid weight loss. The MPs in the meeting split up into break-out groups to have an in depth briefing from the officers of Pancreatic Cancer UK and hear from a person who has been taking the life saving medication Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT), which is a tablet that replaces the digestive enzymes that people with pancreatic cancer cannot produce, to help digest food, improve quality of life and gain the strength needed to undergo life-saving treatment. Currently only one in two people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are being prescribed PERT, despite it being certified by NICE because it prolongs the lives of people with pancreatic cancer far beyond the average life expectancy of 3 months. The cost of PERT medication is only £7 per tablet, but it appears that many health care workers do not know about PERT and so it is not being prescribed. Therefore, we need an awareness raising campaign because many people with pancreatic cancer could be taking PERT which will prolong their lives. We heard from a person who has been taking PERT for many years and she told us that PERT allows her to lead a nearly normal life.
I attended an event run by the National Disability Charity Sense, which supports people with complex disabilities to be understood, connected and valued. Sense supports children, young people and adults in their home, in the community, and campaigns passionately for the rights of the people it represents. Sense is calling for disabled people to be put at the heart of the Covid-19 inquiry. I spoke with Emma Blackmore, who was born with congenital rubella syndrome which affects her vision and hearing, who told me of her experiences of the pandemic, including increased loneliness and anxiety. Sense research shows that nearly three quarters of disabled people believe that their needs have been ignored and have not received enough support during the pandemic. Nearly two thirds said their mental health had worsened and they feel less optimistic about their future. Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been observed worldwide annually on 3rd of December.
The Petitions Committee held its weekly planning meeting, and I have been scheduled to present Reggie’s Law on behalf of the Petitions Committee and petitioners on Monday 13th December. Reggie’s Law petition asks the UK Government to introduce regulation of all websites where animals are being sold, including verifying the identity of all sellers, and for pictures to be displayed of the animals being sold with the animal’s parents. The petition was started by Richard Ackers who started “Justice for Reggie” after his puppy Reggie fell ill in a matter of hours after taking him home and died from Parvovirus. Richard bought Reggie from an online seller who claimed to be reputable, but it turned out to be a puppy farm.
The officers of the APPG for the Environment, of which I’m a vice-chair met to discuss a work plan for the next few months. The aim of the APPG is to promote environmental ambition across Parliament in the three core areas: climate and energy, focusing on the UK’s presidency of COP 26 leading up to COP 27 in China in November 2022; natural environment, focusing on nature-based solutions to climate change; and waste and resources, focusing on UK recycling rates, and improving resource efficiency.
I joined a virtual meeting of the Motor Neurone Disease APPG to discuss UK Government funding for MND research and to listen to our guest speakers: Professor Ammar Al-Chalabi, Professor of Neurology and Complex Disease Genetics at Kings College, London who spoke about the impact that targeted funding for MND research will have in the search for effective treatments and a cure; Thos Cochrane, Senior Medical Director at Biogen, who spoke about the future of MND research in the UK in collaboration with patients, researchers, and clinicians; and Nicola Waters who gave us a personal perspective of living with MND.
The APPG for Steel met virtually to receive an update from UK Steel about the increasing costs of wholesale energy prices in the UK, and the consequences for steel production. And the continued delay to a UK/US deal to lift Section 232 tariffs. In October wholesale electricity prices peaked at 40 times the 2020 average, whilst the UK monthly average was 50% more than German averages. In November UK prices are 25% higher than average. These prices lead to smaller or wiped out profits and to less reinvestment, and some companies have paused production. Increased UK electricity prices are a disincentive for international steel companies to invest in the UK. Furthermore, considerably higher electricity prices affect steel production decarbonisation because it requires up to 300% more electricity consumption. UK Steel believe that the UK Government could help by acting immediately to introduce protection against volatile wholesale prices, such as a regulated wholesale price, as in France and Italy. And for a total cost of £50m/pa: provide 100% instead of 75% compensation for Carbon costs in electricity bills; provide 85% compensation for Capacity Market Fee, and an 85% reduction in network costs in line with France and Germany; and full exemptions for the renewable levies or introduce additional compensation.
UK Steel has called for the UK and US Governments to work together to find an immediate resolution to Section 232 tariffs. On 1st January, steelmakers in the EU will gain a significant price advantage over their UK counterparts, having negotiated tariff free steel exports from the EU to the US. Since the tariffs were imposed on the EU by Trump in 2018, 25% on steel products and 10% on aluminium, UK steel exports to the US have nearly halved. The US ended tariffs from EU steel in the autumn, but the tariffs still apply to UK steel because we are out of the EU.
The Petitions Committee held our last evidence session as part of the Committee’s inquiry into Tackling Online Abuse, with UK Government Minister Chris Philp, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DCMS, the Minister responsible for the Online Safety Bill. And Orla MacRae, the Deputy Director for Online Harms Regulation at DCMS. The Minister gave evidence to the Joint Committee on the draft Online Safety Bill in early November and signalled that Ofcom would have a strong role in holding platforms to account on their terms and conditions, and exposing what those platforms are doing that causes harm. He stated that the UK Government was minded to accept the Law Commission’s proposed reforms to online communication offences, and are looking at ways that the UK Government may go further in allowing people to choose whether or not they can see anonymous accounts. The members of the Committee asked questions to encourage the UK Government to: consider to reflect on the concerns of petitioners and others affected by online abuse in the new regulatory framework it is establishing; how the UK Government intends to measure the impact and success of its new regulation; and ask how the proposals may be amended or strengthened, as suggested by previous expert witnesses who gave evidence to our inquiry.
The APPGs for Football, Women’s Football and Football Fans held a joint meeting to hear from former UK Government Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP about her recently published “Fan Led Review of Football Governance” report. The wide ranging review was promised by the UK Government as part of its 2019 General Election Manifesto. The review heard more than 100 hours of evidence from supporters from over 130 clubs over six months, and its report made 47 recommendations, 10 of which were key. The report has called for a “transfer stamp duty” of 10% on Premier League transfers to be distributed further down the football pyramid. The “solidarity levy”, which would have generated £160 million per year over the last five years, is likely to be resisted by Premier League Clubs who already pay a 4% levy to player development and a pension fund, and there is a proposal for an additional 6% levy from FIFA. Tracey said that she doesn’t feel that it’s all that radical when in the post Covid transfer window, where no fans have been in stadiums for over a year, there was still a billion pound transfer window, so there is not complete poverty. The review calls for some of this money to be distributed to grassroots and clubs, because the Premier League, already through distribution of its broadcast rights put a lot of money into the Football Foundation. This is about the Premier League clubs’ contribution and she’s sure they can afford it. Tracey said that some Premier League Clubs have said that they already contribute into academies and play-as-pension schemes, but she believes that’s a self interest. Tracey is confident that the failed European Super League and the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle have convinced top-flight clubs to support her recommendation for an Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF) which would run a licensing system for professional clubs, and with supporters’ backing, block an attempt at a future breakaway competition. The IREF would be established by Parliament and it is hoped to be in place by the start of the 2023-24 season. The IREF would demand clubs to show proof of sustainability and have sweeping powers to intervene if poorly run. The report also recommended a new mandatory code of corporate governance for all professional clubs and mandatory “equality, diversity and inclusion plans”. Plus the introduction of a Shadow Board of fans to deal with clubs and supporters which would have a veto or “golden share” against things like changing the name of their club. The report also recommended a separate review for women’s football, and improved protection for players who leave the professional game. Tracey wants investment into kids football to prevent children who are the future of the game having to play on grotty grass pitches on a Saturday and Sunday morning.
Great news that our Co-operative Party and USDAW #NotPartOfTheJob campaign to end violence against retail workers looks like it may have succeeded. Research by USDAW found that 9 out of 10 shop workers faced abuse in the last year, and many have been threatened, and faced violence. Alex Norris Labour and Co-operative MP introduced his Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Private Members’ Bill (PMB) in March 2020 asking that certain offences of violence, such as malicious wounding, grievous or actual bodily harm, and common assault against shop floor staff, should be considered “aggravated” offences. The UK Government did not support Alex’s PMB, but after years of campaigning by USDAW and the Co-operative Party, the UK Government announced on 2nd December, that assaulting public-facing workers like shop workers will become a specific “aggravated” offence, and the UK Government will seek to amend the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Lords. However, USDAW and the Co-operative Party, will be carefully studying the words of the amendment to make sure that it delivers the protection that shop workers deserve.
It was a pleasure to join the NPTCVS AGM virtual meeting and learn about the wonderful work of our local council for voluntary service. The meeting was supported by over 100 members on the call. The Chairman, David Davies JP, welcomed us and provided an introduction to the meeting. The Director, Gaynor Richards MBE, presented the annual report, followed by the keynote address from Karen Jones, Chief Executive of NPTCBC. The vote of thanks was given by Dr Edward Roberts, Vice-Chairman of NPTCVS. I look forward to continuing to work with Gaynor and her tremendous team of staff and volunteers.
My friend and colleague Kevin Brennan MP introduced the Second Reading of his Private Members Bill “Copyright (Rights and Remuneration of Musicians, Etc.)” which has cross party support. Kevin is an accomplished singer/songwriter and formed the group MP4 with three other MPs many years ago. One of the reasons that he formed the group was to support the music industry in its efforts to protect, extend and enforce copyright and to develop new technologies to allow for safe, legal and monetised consumption of music so that rights holders and creators could be paid. Then the new technology came along with legal downloading, followed by streaming on services such as Spotify and Apple Music, which makes up more than 70% of UK recorded music revenues, generating hundreds of millions of new revenue for the UK music industry. Kevin’s Bill seeks to bring into law measures proposed by a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report published earlier this year, entitled “Economics of Music Streaming”. The Bill extends the existing Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988to modernise the law for the new world of music streaming, and would provide performers on a recording with a right to an unwaivable payment or equitable remuneration when their music is streamed, akin to the existing right in radio and broadcast. It would not take away the right of labels to value their exclusive rights, which would remain intact. Nor would it dictate what the remuneration should be which is best settled by the parties, but it would make it clear that the payment is an additional payment and could be referred to the existing copyright tribunal where there is a difference of opinion. Unfortunately, despite cross party support, the UK Government did not support Kevin’s Bill, and it did not make progress.
The next Private Members Bill on the Order Paper was Chris Bryant’s “Acquired Brain Injury” Bill, which forced the UK Government to develop, publish and review a cross-departmental strategy on ABI. Chris has been campaigning, through his APPG for ABI, of which I am a vice-chair, for many years for victims of ABI whether occurring through accidents, sporting injuries, or other means, to receive recognition and be supported to improve their quality of life. This week the UK Government made a written statement in the Commons and Lords that they would be creating a Panel Board in the new year with officials from many departments to start developing a whole-Government strategy on ABI, co-chaired by Chris and UK Government Minister Gillian Keegan. In view of this remarkable achievement, Chris made a short statement to the House stating that he would not be moving his Bill.
At the end of the week, it was good to catch up with my dear friend Brian Warlow, of Neath Market Health Store, who amongst many other things, is the main volunteer and marshall at the Gnoll Park Run. After the run, we planted some trees at Brynau farm, which is on the hill overlooking Gnoll Park. As part of #NationalTreeWeek, Woodland Trust Cymru, whose aim is to plant and restore nature woods and trees to combat climate change and to build a greener future to help the #BigClimateFightback, organised for schools and individuals to take part in this great event. It was a pleasure to meet the National Trust, and Woodland Trust Cymru staff and volunteers, and the many individuals and families who were enjoying the great weather and superb views from Brynau farm whilst planting trees which in a few years will grow into a beautiful wood.
As always, if you have any questions or issues 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 – we are here to help.