My week in Westminster began when I joined the M&S and Prince’s Trust reception to celebrate the milestone of 10,000 young people completing the Marks and Start employability scheme. M&S is the Prince’s Trust largest partner, and since 2014 many 16-30 year olds have taken part in 4 week placement programmes to gain practical experience and skills whilst working alongside a buddy in an M&S store. People who successfully complete the placement are offered a 16 hour fixed-term contract and 81% go on to continue working permanently for M&S. I met wonderful young Neath Store Manager Darcie Price, who had been through the programme, and we spoke about how important the store is to Neath – the retail service it supplies and the job opportunities it provides to the people of the Neath constituency.
At my next event, I met Sir Bill Beaumont and former England RWC winner Will Greenwood at the Aramis Rugby and World Rugby World Cup Official Supporter of France 2023 reception and panel session. We spoke about the great Phil Bennett, who had very sadly passed away that morning, and the legacy that he has left to rugby, and to the people of Wales.
On Monday evening, I joined the Llafur100 Reception to celebrate the centenary of the Labour Party winning the popular vote in Wales for the first time in 1922, and which the Labour Party in Wales has achieved in every general election since. Speakers included Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister of Wales; Sir Keir Starmer MP, Labour Party Leader; Jo Stevens MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales; Wayne David MP, Caerphilly; and Baroness Eluned Morgan MS, Welsh Government Health and Social Services Minister, who is leading the Llafur100 programme. The reception was chaired by Carolyn Harris MP for Swansea East and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour. Mark Drakeford spoke about the iconic life of Jim Griffiths, former MP Llanelli, and that there has only been 4 MPs for Llanelli since 1922: John Williams 1922-36; Jim Griffiths 1936-70; Denzil Davies 1970-2005; and current MP Dame Nia Griffith, who has held Llanelli for Labour since 2005.
The business in the Chamber was the Report Stage of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill. I voted on New Clause 4 which would ensure that the Director of Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom has not, and cannot whilst in office, donate to a political party and ensure they are only appointed subject to confirmation of an independent advisory panel, the Select Committee of the House of Commons, and a resolution of each House of Parliament. Labour lost by 150 to 282 votes. I voted on Amendment 17 which would ensure that other competing freedoms as found in the Equality Act, the Counter-Terrorism Act and the Security Act 2015 are considered in relation to complaints lodged under the Free Speech Complaints Scheme. Labour lost by 152 to 284 votes.
On Tuesday morning, I chaired the Committee Stage of the Online Safety Bill Line by Line scrutiny session. The opposition parties have tabled hundreds of amendments. The Committee Stage started on May 24th and we will be in committee until the end of June.
At lunchtime I attended the private meeting of the Petitions Committee in which members considered petitions that had attained over 100,000 signatures, Government responses, and planned future petition debates.
Then I rushed to Chair the Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee which considered the Draft Hovercraft (Application of Enactments) and Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution) (Law of the Sea Convention) Amendment Order 2022. The UK Government Minister said that this Statutory Instrument (SI) performs a purely technical function of amending how the International Convention on Standards Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (1995) is transposed into UK Law. It is being considered under the Draft Affirmative procedure and will not come into effect if not approved by Parliament. This SI would extend regulations on marine pollution and the crewing of vessels that currently applies to ships so that they also cover hovercrafts. The SI would also authorise the UK Government to make further regulations punishing pollution from vessels with imprisonment of no more that 2 years instead of, or as well as, a fine. The Government requires this power to implement the Convention and to replace the Merchant Shipping (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) Regulations 2015. There was a lively debate about hovercrafts and I learnt that there’s only one hovercraft service remaining in the UK – from Southsea, Portsmouth to Ryde, Isle of Wight. There was cross party support for the SI and it passed without a division.
Then I attended the Colour-Blindness Awareness session, where I tried on simulation glasses through which I viewed a pie chart, which had been simulated to replicate severe colour vision. I discovered that I am not colour blind. I learned about the many everyday challenges faced by the one in twelve men and the one in two hundred women that suffer with colour-blindness in the UK, that’s three million citizens. I pledged my support to people and to my constituents who suffer with this challenging condition.
I then voted on our Official Labour Opposition Day debates. The first debate was a censure motion against the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration for his handling of the crisis at Her Majesty’s Passport Office, which directed him to come to the House no later than 20th June to apologise to the tens of thousands of people who have waited more than 6 weeks for their passport. Unfortunately, Labour lost by 198 to 295 votes. The second debate called on the UK Government to reverse its decision to sell Channel 4, as it will undermine the UK’s world leading creative industries and the delicate ecosystem of companies that support them. After a long debate where there was cross party support, the question was put and resolved.
On Wednesday morning I attended the Western Gateway All Party Parliamentary Group APPG and we listened to Professor Mark Barry speak about the importance of connectivity throughout the region and Wales. Mark emphasised the importance of public transport to the creation of jobs and skills, and I spoke about the Global Centre of Rail Excellence which is being developed in Onllwyn.
Then we dashed across to College Green for a photo and media session with stakeholders who have pledged to be partners in Western Gateway projects.
The Chamber business began with oral questions to the President of COP, followed by PMQs, and I spent the rest of the afternoon, patiently waiting with the other 19 MPs who have been fortunate to be drawn in the top 20 of the Private Members’ Bill Ballot to be called into the Chamber to present our PMBs and to specify a Sitting Friday date when our Bills will be debated. I chose the first Sitting Friday, 15th July 2022, and will be trying my best to persuade MPs and more importantly the UK Government to back my PMB to ban the import and export of shark fins into the UK.
The debate in the Chamber was a Government debate about Rail Strikes. I voted for Labour amendment (a) which stated that we did not want the rail strikes to go ahead, and therefore urgently called upon the Government, operators, network rail and the union to get around the table and resolve the issues on pay and cuts to safety staff to avert industrial action. Labour lost by 174 to 286 votes.
Back in Neath I visited Dwr-y-Felin school where I met the headteacher Penny Peet and pupils from years 7,8,9 for a Q&A session. We spoke about many topics including, Parliament, local government, social media, sport, arts, culture, and future careers. Every question I was asked was thought provoking and I really enjoyed meeting our stars of the future. I offered to host the pupils in Westminster and Ms Peet has promised to plan a visit to the House of Commons in the near future.