On Monday 18th July I took an early train to Paddington, because of the warning that rail tracks could buckle in the heat after 11am. The temperature was expected to reach nearly 40 degrees on Monday and Tuesday. The journey was comfortable until I took the tube to Westminster, which was packed and very hot. It’s warm in Neath, but the heat is different in London in that the humidity is very high.
When I arrived in Westminster, I attended the AGM for Rail in Wales All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and was honoured to be elected chair. Chris Elmore MP for Ogmore stood down as chair, and I shall try my very best to succeed Chris who has been an excellent chair for many years. I have always been interested in trains and rail infrastructure, and I am an ardent supporter of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence which is being developed in Onllwyn. I feel privileged to receive the support of the members of the APPG.
The business in the Chamber started with Defence Oral Questions, followed by an Urgent Question on The Government’s Preparedness for the Extreme Heat in the UK, then a UK Government Statement on Ambulance Pressures, and finally a Confidence in the UK Government (Motion).
Labour made it known last week that it would table a motion of no confidence in the UK Government, but the UK Government made it known that there was not any time available in the Chamber for the Labour motion to be debated. Then the UK Government tabled its own motion to be debated on Monday! After 6 hours debate, a division was taken at 10pm, which Labour lost the vote by ayes 349 to noes 288.
On Tuesday, due to the extreme heat, which was over 40 degrees, many events in Westminster were cancelled, or postponed until September. The business in the Chamber started with Oral Health and Social Care Questions, followed by two Urgent Questions, “The Australia – U.K. Free Trade Agreement“, and “The U.K. Government’s Policy on Interim Payments for Victims of the Contaminated Blood Scandal“.
Tuesday lunchtime I attended the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party meeting to listen to Rachel Reeves, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, speak about Labour’s Green Deal, which if Labour is elected, would pledge £28 million annually to tackle the climate crisis. She told us that the UK Government were not adequately funding its aim to reach net zero by 2050, and it needs to improve climate adaptation and levelling up. Rachel wants to be the first female chancellor, and she said that she will be a “Green Chancellor”.
On Tuesday afternoon I chaired the Seventh Delegated Legislation (DL) Committee when members debated the Draft Register of Overseas Entities (Delivery, Protection and Trust Services) Regulations 2022, which sought to implement aspects of the new Register of Overseas Entities created by the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022. The Act requires overseas entities owning or buying properties in the UK to provide information to the Registrar of Companies to help authorities identify those seeking to use the UK property market to launder money.
The recently appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Small Businesses, Consumers, and Labour Markets, Jane Hunt MP, moved the motion and opened the debate. Shadow Front Bench Spokesperson Bill Easterman MP asked for clarification of certain points in the draft regulations, so too did a member of the DL committee, Wayne David MP for Caerphilly. The Minister’s answers were accepted by members, and the regulations were approved without a division.
I spent most of the afternoon joining events organised by the Trophy Hunting APPG. There was a press call/drop in event to maintain our APPG campaign to ban trophy hunting imports into the UK which was attended by many MPs. This was followed by the AGM of the APPG. Co-chairs Sir Roger Gale MP and Baroness Sue Hayman were re-elected, and I was honoured to be elected as vice-chair. Members of the APPG were then privileged to see a confidential UK premier of “Lion Spy” made by Rogue Rubin, a documentary film maker, who went undercover to expose the cruelty in trophy hunting of lions. Rogue was scheduled to join us for the film and a Q&A, but unfortunately, she became unwell, and couldn’t make the journey to Westminster.
Late afternoon, as vice-chair of the APPG on Music, I joined the online launch of our report “Let the Music Move – A New Deal for Touring”. The report sets out a bold vision for clearing out the red tape that risks (as Elton John says in the report) leaving UK artists wanting to tour the EU “stranded at Dover through no fault of their own”.
On Tuesday evening, I attended the Speaker’s Rooms to celebrate the awarding of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service to the South Wales Police Specials. There were 40 Specials there from all over South Wales, and I had the honour of meeting Chris, Robert and Emma and talking about their very important work. Chris and Robert have been Special Constables in Neath for many years, and Emma has made the transition from being a Special to a full-time police officer. We heard speeches from Mr Speaker, Chief Officer of the South Wales Specials Dr Dale Cartwright, Labour’s Shadow Policing Minister Sarah Jones MP, and David T C Davies MP for Monmouth, who was a Special Constable for the Transport Police for over 9 years before becoming an MP. Alun Michael, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, is immensely proud of his Specials, and he sent a personal message of congratulations.
In the Chamber, following the conclusion of the UQs, the business continued with the remaining stages of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, day 3, and day 4 was taken in Wednesday afternoon’s business. There were numerous amendments, clauses, and New Clauses, tabled for both days. The Bill was scheduled for 7 hours protected time on both days, and there were many divisions taken throughout the two days.
On Tuesday, amendment 44, which would impose conditions before the option to choose dual routes could be implemented, was pushed to a division, and was defeated by ayes 201 to noes 293.
The aim of amendment 28 was to ensure that a thorough economic impact assessment would be carried out before the UK Government made any provisions under the Bill for a dual regulatory regime, which allows companies to choose between EU and UK laws relating to goods, and it was defeated by ayes 205 to noes 293.
New Clause 15 would require the Minister to report to each House regarding meetings between UK and EU in Joint Committee within 21 days of each meeting plus any submission on Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and it was defeated by ayes 204 to noes 292.
On Wednesday morning I called into the “Clear the Air awareness raising display by Asthma + Lung UK” hosted by Ruth Jones MP for Newport and learned much more about air pollution being a health emergency. There is no safe level of air pollution to breathe, it damages all lungs, and babies in the womb, pregnant women, children, people with existing lung disease, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Over 260,000 babies are born every year breathing in toxic air, and 31% of schools and colleges, 26% of care homes, 29% of hospitals in England, are in areas where air pollution exceeds WHO 2005 guidelines.
In the chamber COP Oral Questions was followed by a typical robust performance by Boris Johnson in what should have been his final PMQs, but at the end he signed off with “Hasta la vista baby”, meaning “see you later” – a line spoken by T-800, who was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
I dropped into the Kidney Function Testing event organised by Kidney Care UK, Kidney Research UK, the National Kidney Federation and Healthy.io. I spoke to Dr Thakkar about the new non-invasive, digital health testing technology that people can use to test their kidney function at home and link it to an App uploaded to their smartphone. The testing kit involves urinating into a small pot and the urine is tested by examining the result and comparing it to a graded scale, then uploading the result to an App on their smartphone, which can be monitored by the NHS. Healthy.io developed this test which has already had an impact on improving detecting levels of CKD in the NHS and can identify abnormal kidney function in minutes.
As chair of the APPG for Sepsis, I was honoured to host the Infection Management Coalition (IMC) event which brought together the 12 stakeholder partners who have contributed to the IMC White Paper which was launched at the event. The White Paper contains information about the collective effort to contain and control antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Many MPs called into the event to meet the stakeholders and discuss the contents of the White Paper.
As vice-chair of the APPG for PKU I joined in the event with the National Society for Phenylketonuria (NSPKU) to thank all our supporters and MPs for relentlessly campaigning to improve lives of the people with the rare condition PKU. At the end of 2021, NHS England finally announced that patients of all ages would be able to use the life changing treatment sapropterin (Kuvan). NHS Wales has recently announced a similar policy. The NSPKU continue to campaign for access to this treatment in Scotland and Northern Ireland and for the next generation of new treatments.
In the Chamber, on Wednesday afternoon, the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill continued to be debated and after many hours, some amendments, clauses and New Clauses were pressed to a division.
- Labour Amendment 12, which would change the threshold for giving Ministers power to make regulations from subjective to objective, was defeated by ayes 197 to noes 277.
- Labour supported amendment 49 which protects the Belfast Agreement, and it was defeated by ayes 196 to noes 278.
- Labour supported amendment 3, which taken with amendment 4, would make all operational aspects of the Bill dependent upon approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly, was defeated by ayes 194 to noes 275.
- Labour’s New Clause 12 aimed to act as a safeguard against breaching the UK’s international legal obligations and to empower parliament in the event any action by the government under the Bill did breach these obligations, was defeated by ayes 192 to noes 273.
Labour voted against 3rd Reading, but it was passed by ayes 267 to noes 195. The Bill will now be debated in the Lords.
Back in the constituency I visited The Ministry of Furniture which is now based in the old Metal Box building, Milland Road Industrial Estate. In 2019, I had a tour of this amazing locally run business when it was based in Baglan Business Park, and I am delighted that it has relocated to Neath. The Ministry is the business that evolved from Remploy Furniture, and it specialises in contract furniture supply, remanufacturing, and interior design. The factory is in Ystalyfera. Their design experts create inspirational interiors, using the latest space design, BIM modelling software, and graphics, to achieve the best use of space in schools and workplaces. As well as manufacturing, they are appointed dealers for Nomique, Senator Group, Sixteen3, Connection, Naughton, and Boss Design. The Ministry has expanded and diversified since I visited them over three years ago, and it was an absolute pleasure to meet the directors and staff to learn about their plans for the future.
I had a wonderful time at the 7th Neath Real Ale and Cider Festival which took place at Neath Town Hall on Friday and Saturday. It’s great to be back after being cancelled for the past couple of years due to the pandemic. The pubs and restaurants in Neath hosted special guest ales throughout the two-day event, and there was live music to accompany the wide range of 24 ales and 15 ciders to choose from at £2 per half pint. Massive thanks to the organising committee and the sponsors for another superb festival event in Neath.