On Monday, my week in Westminster began with a meeting with Rahul Gandhi, Leader of the Indian National Congress, hosted by my dear friend Virendra Sharma MP.
Then I attended to a Ukraine Briefing hosted by another friend Alex Sobel MP, Labour and Co-operative MP. Welsh Government Counsel General, Mick Antoniw MS for Pontypridd, who has family in Ukraine, joined the meeting online from Cardiff.
Late afternoon I met with the petitioner Anita who created the petition to repeal breed specific legislation. On 6th June I shall be opening the debate on Anita’s petition on behalf of the Petitions Committee. Anita started the petition when her dog Lola was seized under section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, because Lola looked like a pit bull type, despite not being involved in any incidents. Anita’s petition has attracted 114,577 signatures and I look forward to presenting her views to MPs in Westminster Hall.
Late Monday evening we voted for our Reasoned Amendment to the Public Order Bill and lost by 200-292 votes. And we voted against the Second Reading, losing by 202-292 votes.
On Tuesday morning I chaired the first oral evidence session at the Committee Stage of the Online Safety Bill. The Committee heard from expert witnesses: Kevin Bathurst, Group Director, Broadcasting and Online Content, OFCOM; Richard Wronka, Director of OFCOM’s Online Harms Policy; Dame Rachel de Souza DBE, Children’s Commissioner; Lynn Perry MBE, CEO Barnados; Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety, NSPCC; Ben Bradley, Government Relations and Public Policy Manager, TikTok; Katy Minshall, Head of Public Policy, Twitter; and Richard Easley, UK Public Policy Manager Meta.
During the afternoon, I attended the confidential Petitions Committee planning meeting to consider future debates.
Then I dashed off to join the Show Racism the Red Card APPG meeting, which was dedicated to the memory of George Floyd who was murdered on 25th May 2020. We heard from speakers: Baroness Christine Blower; Kevin Courtney; Patrick Cozier, and Katie Daynes about the importance of anti-racism on the National Curriculum in England. And from Dean Pymble, SRtRC Campaign Manager, who outlined the changes to the Curriculum in Wales, and Black History Month. Ged Grebby, CEO of SRtRC, discussed the aims and priorities of the campaign. We met with patrons: former England cricketer, Monty Panesar; Manager of Sheffield Wednesday, Darren Moore; former Arsenal player, Perry Groves; first black player to play for Chelsea, Paul Canoville, and comedian Patrick Monaghan.
Later in the afternoon I attended the AGM of the APPG for Cancer and was re-elected as a vice-chair, followed by the APPG for Ukraine and was elected as a vice chair.
Late Tuesday evening we voted against the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, losing by 208-285 votes.
On Wednesday morning I dropped in at the Melanoma Awareness event hosted by my friend Chris Bryant MP for Rhondda who has, thank goodness, recovered from this cancer. This was followed by an event to view the COVID quilt that Dawn Butler had put together from MPs who had each contributed a segment.
The Chamber business began with Wales Questions, followed by PMQs, and I wasn’t fortunate to have drawn an oral question for either session. There followed a Report Stage debate on the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, and a General Debate on Ukraine.
We voted for Amendment 14 to the Report Stage of the Bill and lost by 163-280 votes.
As vice-chair of the UKSPF (UK Shared Prosperity Fund) APPG I attended a meeting to receive an update of the assessment of the UKSPF Prospectus from Professor Steve Fothergill. We are concerned that the financial envelope will only last three years, finishing in March 2025, whereas EU funding lasted for seven, with a possibility of a three year extension. Projects take a long time to set up, and the funding takes a long time to be distributed, so in reality, the project will last until 2024/5. There is a jobs and skills deficit, but people will be reluctant to apply, knowing the shortness of the employment, or will move on as soon as they secure long term employment. This destabilises the sustainability of projects. Minister Neil O’Brien has ensured the APPG that he wants the devolved nations to play a big role in where the money is spent and what it is spent on, and argued that local players should partner with the devolved administrations. But the UKSPF will not be administered by Welsh Government – Local authorities will distribute the fund. Welsh Government Economy Minister Vaughan Gethin MS, has written to the UK Government saying how disappointed he was that they were given only 2 weeks of discussion after trying to engage with the UK Government for several years, and working with Welsh Partners and OECD on how replacement EU funds should be spent in Wales. The UK Government said that Wales will not receive a penny less than what was distributed by EU funding. Mr Gethin says there will be a shortfall in Wales of more than £1.1bn accounting for loss of structural, and rural, funding plus inflation, by March 2025. And the prospectus methodology for financial allocations to Wales distributes money away from those areas where poverty is most concentrated. The officers of our APPG decided to write to Michael Gove seeking clarification of matters arising from the prospectus.
I attended a number of events in Neath over HM Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee weekend, and joined the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Neath Town Council at the Mother’s Union Tea on Thursday afternoon, and the Civic Service in St David’s Church on Sunday. The service was conducted by the Reverend Canon Lynda Newman, and I sat next to the former Leader of NPT Council Ali Thomas in the service and it was wonderful to be with a dear friend after not seeing him throughout the Covid pandemic.
On Friday I joined in St David’s Church in Banwen’s celebration Street Party, sponsored by Onllwyn Community Council and held at Banwen RFC, which was well attended by families from the community. Members of the Church and RFC Committee made a buffet, organised games and decorated the exterior of the clubhouse. Tables were lined up and children enjoyed ice cream while listening to music, a fantastic day was had by all.
On Saturday I visited Neath Town Council’s event in Victoria Gardens with Cllrs Sheila Penry, Jan Lockyer, Alan Lockyer, John Warman. Families brought a picnic, had fun on the fairground rides and enjoyed entertainment throughout the day from the “Elderly Brothers”, “Cool Hand Ukes” and “Back Room Bluegrass Band”. The event was very well attended and the fine weather meant that everyone enjoyed themselves.
On Monday 6th June as a member of the Petitions Committee I opened the Debate on Repealing breed specific legislation on behalf of the petitioner Anita Mehdi. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1992 allows dogs, who look like 4 breed types, to be seized and Anita had her dog Lola seized under the Act despite not being involved in any incidents. There was cross party support in the debate for the Act to be repealed, but the Minister Jo Churchill declined to give us this assurance.
Later Monday evening, there was a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister called by the 1922 Committee (all Tory MPs) which the PM won, but 148 of 359 voted against him. If you take out the Cabinet and Frontbench MPs, 75% of his backbench MPs voted against him.
On Tuesday morning the Online Harms Bill Committee resumed sitting in public for Line by Line scrutiny. My co-chair Sir Roger Gale chaired this session, which unfortunately was struck by technical difficulties so was only available in audio. I chaired the afternoon session from a different committee room and full coverage was restored. The Bill is very large with many tabled amendments. I also chaired the morning and afternoon sessions on Thursday.
On Tuesday afternoon we held our Opposition Day debate on Standards in Public Life, and pressed this very important debate to a vote, on which the UK Government decided not to take part in the vote. All the opposition parties voted for the Labour Party Motion calling for strengthening of the standards in public life.
Tuesday evening I joined Unison’s Year of the Disabled Workers event, and the launch of their Disability Employment Charter.
On Wednesday I took my usual seat on the back row of the Chamber in PMQs to watch the PM after Monday’s vote of confidence. The first question was asked by former Labour Minister Dame Angela Eagle, and the PM was slightly ruffled to say the least!
After PMQs I attended a series of events and AGMs of APPGs.
I was re-elected chair of the APPG for Vegetarianism and Veganism, and vice-chair of the APPG Coalfields Communities. I dropped in to the Carers Week event, the Fighting Heart Failure event, and the event calling on the U.K. Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
Mid-afternoon I attended the Parliamentary Co-operative Party Group for a debrief on the success of our Labour and Co-operative candidates in the local government elections presented by our General Secretary Joe Fortune.
My Thursday was taken up with chairing sessions of the Online Safety Bill Committee Line by Line scrutiny and on Friday I campaigned with Mark Drakeford in Port Talbot supporting our Labour Candidates Sharon Freeguard and Saifur Rahaman in the Port Talbot Ward NPT Council By-election.
On Saturday I chaired the Wales Co-operative Party Council meeting, and in the evening
I attended the celebration of the life of my dear friend Hywel Francis in Onllwyn Welfare Hall. Hywel passed away suddenly on February 14th 2021, and I miss him more every day. Hywel’s son Dafydd and Llafur organised the memorial. We heard tributes from Dafydd and Hywel’s family, Angela John, chair of Llafur, Rob Humphries, local poet Brian Price, and Dai Smith. Hywel had many friends from all over Wales, the U.K. and many parts of the world. Many had made the journey to Onllwyn last Saturday to pay their respects. Hywel was Patron of Onllwyn Male Voice Choir and they sang hymns for Hywel.