On Monday I attended the Second Delegated Legislation Committee to discuss the Statutory Instrument (SI) “The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) (Amendment) Regulations 2022, which was laid by the Department of Transport of the UK Government to amend legislation governing the goods vehicle Operator licensing regime. The UK is obliged to implement these changes following commitments included in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) which come into effect this year.
The purpose of this SI is to extend the goods vehicle operator licensing regimes in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to include light goods vehicles (LGVs) such as vans and pick-up trucks which weigh more than 2.5 tonnes up to 3.5 tonnes in maximum laden weight alone or combined with a trailer, and which operate internationally for hire or reward.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Trudy Harrison MP stated that the original SI did not correctly achieve policy aims, because it should only apply to goods vehicles, but one part inadvertently applied to passenger vehicles, and so disrupts the Public Passenger Act 1981.
The Minister had already sent a letter to all members of the committee on Monday morning which stated that she was extremely disappointed that this issue had occurred and the causes are being addressed as a matter of urgency within her department. She also hoped that any issues could be covered in the committee debate.
There was quite a heated exchange between our Labour Shadow Spokesperson Gill Furness and the Minister about the need for this urgent amending SI, without actually stating that the DfT had messed up by not including this in the original SI. We did not oppose the amendment which is necessary to re-align the regulations.
Later on Monday, the main business in the Chamber was consideration of Lords Amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and we had a series of votes which started at 8pm, in which we supported all the Lords Amendments. The last 4 votes were taken at midnight, finishing at 1am, which meant that MPs were trying to get home, or to their London lodgings, an hour after the London tube strike had started. As you are aware the security of MPs has been of concern again following the murders and threats to MPs, but the UK Government did not take this into consideration, and pushed the amendments to a Division so that they could vote against all the Lords Amendments.
Tuesday was dominated by Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant, St David’s Day.The celebrations started with a choir of primary children from Ysgol Gymraeg Llundain, beautifully dressed in traditional Welsh costumes, who met Welsh MPs and the Speaker in Westminster Hall to serenade us with Welsh songs. The children were absolutely amazing and their teachers were so proud of them. After listening to the beautiful voices of the children, the Speaker raised the Welsh Flag in Parliament Square. It rained throughout the flag ceremony, but we are used to rain in Wales. Then we attended an Eisteddfod hosted by the Speaker in his official rooms, where we listened to choristers and speeches.
Later on Tuesday I celebrated the forthcoming 25 years of World Book Day due to take place on 3rd March by attending a drop-in event held in Westminster. The theme was “changing lives through a love of books and shared reading”. The OECD has found that reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, more than family circumstances, parent’s educational background, or income. The National Literary Trust survey indicated that 3 in 5 children said that reading during lockdown made them feel better. Last year 55% of primary school children said that they read more books as a result of World Book Day.
On Wednesday I chaired the Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee which discussed The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 (Disability Assistance and Information-Sharing) (Consequential Provision and Modifications) Order 2022, which makes consequential amendments to legislation to provide for the treatment of various social security payments made under the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. The SI will create a new disability benefit Adult Disability Payment (ADP) which will replace PIP, extend a 50% discount or exemption for road tax, those in receipt of ADP can acquire a driving licence at 16, and can apply to vote by proxy and sign by proxy a petition for the recall of an MP, without the need for attestation of an application. The SI also provides information-sharing between Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State for Transport (DVLA), in order to implement these provisions. The SI was not opposed.
Wednesday at midday, I attended PMQs, and all MPs gave a very emotional standing ovation to the Ukrainian Ambassador who was in the Public Gallery. There is a Parliamentary rule against applauding in the Chamber, but we clapped for many minutes to show that we support the bravery and resolve of the Ukrainian President, Prime Minister, and its people.
After PMQs I attended a virtual briefing hosted by the New Democracy Project and Labour Friends of Ukraine. We heard from two Russian experts, Lincoln Pigman, a Russian-American fellow at the Foreign Policy Centre, and Dr Jade McGlynn of Oxford University, both of whom have been closely following the developing situation in Ukraine. The event was chaired by Sir Tony Lloyd MP with a speech from Labour Shadow Europe Minister Stephen Doughty MP.
Following on from a joint meeting between the APPG for Sport of which I Chair and the APPG for Mountaineering, chaired by Derek Twigg MP, when we discussed the effects of Brexit on the sport and recreation sectors, I arranged for the UK Government Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage, Civil Society and Youth Nigel Huddleston to meet virtually with Tom Cloke, chair of Alpine Sports, which represents: GB Snowsport, Snowsport Scotland, Snow Sport Wales, DSUK, Ski Club of GB, British Association of Ski Instructors, British Association of International Mountain Leaders, British Association of Mountain Guides, Snowsport Industries of GB, Max Nicholls, Policy Officer for the Sport and Recreation Alliance, and myself. Tom explained the loss of revenue of his sector who used to operate in the EU, but cannot now do so, because work permits, local laws and protectionism, and cross-border service provision have raised barriers. Also, there has been a loss of reputation and influence because UK Snowsport bodies are now perceived as being outside the circle of influence in the EU, and relationships which have been developed over many years have been lost. Coaches and athletes cannot perform because they can’t train in the EU states. Insufficient time in the snow with a coach will result in loss of medal results. Tom asked the Minister to consider changing the system to allow: applying for short term work permits; increasing mobility for named seasonal professionals from 90 in 180 days to 180 in 360 days; and UK-EU Youth Mobility Schemes. Max Nicholls stated that there were similar problems with other sports who wish to continue training and participating in the EU, and provided alpine mountain biking and road cycling as examples. The Minister said that he was aware of the situation because he has been approached by many sports in a similar situation, but he would liaise with other Government Departments to assess the current situation, and report back. I thanked the Minister for granting us the meeting and for listening to our concerns.
On Thursday the Back Bench Business Committee granted a St David’s Day Debate on Welsh Affairs led by Wayne David MP for Caerphilly. Wayne and I went to the same comprehensive school, Cynnfig, and I thanked him for supporting me throughout my time in Parliament. I spoke about my dear friend Hywel Francis, who sadly and tragically passed away on 14th February 2021, and the influence that he had on the history of Neath, South Wales, and beyond. Sometimes words are not enough to express the legacy that Hywel created and I miss him more everyday. I also took the opportunity to intervene on the Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart to ask him when the UK Government would be releasing the funding for the Global Centre of Rail Excellence which is to be built in Onllwyn, so that we can get on with it. Mr Hart promised to find out the date, so I followed up immediately with a written question.
Back in my Neath constituency, I attended the Youthfest celebration of youth services in the Upper Amman Valley, which took place at Cwmgors Rugby Club and Gawain-Cae-Gurwen GCG Community Centre. The Mayor of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr John Warman, opened the event, the Welsh Government Minister for Education, Jeremy Miles MS, presented awards to newly qualified youth workers, and I gave a vote of thanks to everyone who had worked so hard to make the day an overwhelming success. There was a full day of superb events including Warriors Martial Arts, Music Workshop with GCG Brass Band, and the famous Organised Kaos Youth Circus. I was delighted to meet members of the Neath Port Talbot Youth Council, Cllr Sonia Reynolds and candidate councillor Sarah Thomas, (both of whom will be standing in the May Local Government elections). I am very grateful to my friend Cllr Arwyn Woolcock, who will be retiring as Cllr for Lower Brynamman at the May elections after 33 years’ service to the residents of the Amman Valley. We will miss his hard work and dedication.
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