Of the many Urgent Questions (UQs) and Government Statements in the Commons Chamber last week, I’ve singled out three that were of particular importance. Since her re-appointment, the Home Secretary had not appeared in the Chamber, but the seriousness of the Western Jet Foil, Manston and Asylum processing centres made it imperative that she delivered the U.K. Government statement in person, and not delegate it to one of her ministers. On Sunday police were called to Western because two to three incendiary devices had been thrown at Home Offices premises. The suspect was later found dead at a local petroleum station, and at that time, Kent Police decided that it was not a terrorist incident. Ms Braverman said that several hundred migrants had been transferred to Manston, but Western was now operational again. And she needs to meet statutory duties around detention, provide accommodation, and conduct security checks, on anyone entering the UK illegally. Manston is in Sir Roger Gale’s constituency and he had been interviewed extensively on the media over the weekend. The Home Secretary did not appear on the media. Her Minister Robert Jenrick gave interviews and he also met Sir Roger at Manston. In the Chamber, Ms Braverman defended her actions, and said that 40,000 people have illegally crossed the channel in small boats this year…she did not say that only 4% of applications to stay had been processed by her department. She said there had been an invasion of the coast, a surge of Albanians, and used this inflammatory language repeatedly when answering MPs’ questions. She spoke about the Rwanda Partnership, but it is a fact that not one person has been sent to Rwanda, because of the many legal challenges against this discriminatory U.K. Government policy that are awaiting court hearings. She said that when she became Home Secretary (assuming she meant the first time, from 6th September until she was sacked by Liz Truss on 19th September) she was appalled to discover there were over 35,000 migrants in hotel accommodation costing £6.8billion a day, but she didn’t say that her Government has been in power for over 12 years, so they’ve created this problem. She denied that she has blocked using hotels to house migrants, and so contributed to the Manston situation. There was no other UK Government Minister on the front bench apart from Minister Jenrick, and he sat beside her in stony silence. Yvette Cooper appeared for the Official Opposition and Ms Braverman did not answer any of the points she raised. Sir Roger asked the first question from the back benches, and shook his head in disappointment at the Home Secretary’s answer. That set the pattern for the rest of the statement; more questions and no answers.
The Foreign Secretary James Cleverly made a statement on the situation in Ukraine following recent developments when Russian missiles striking Kyiv, depriving people of water and electricity, and Putin suspending the agreed export of 100,000 tonnes of grain every day from the Black Sea. Over 60% had gone to Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan and these are made to suffer because of Putin’s setbacks in Ukraine. Russia’s suicide drones and cruise missiles are killing Ukrainian civilians, spreading terror and depriving people of heat, light and shelter as winter sets in. Ukraine has 143 UN countries in support, whilst Russia has only 4 supporters – Syria, Belarus, Nicaragua, and North Korea. The UK has given Ukraine £2.3 billion in military support, only the US has given more, and committed £220 million in humanitarian aid. Putin has spoken about using nuclear weapons, and that Ukraine plans to use a “dirty bomb” on its own territory, but we’ve seen Putin’s tactics before. Mr Cleverly pledged to support Ukraine until it prevails.
The new Security Minister Tom Tugendhat provided MPs with an update on National Security and Safeguarding our Democracy. He said that Dictatorships are trying to write the rules for a new world, for example Russia. Technological integration has deepened connections, opened doors into areas of our lives we once thought closed, and made us vulnerable. Unfriendly states have tried to influence our politics. The National Security Bill will provide powers to combat threats. Mr Tugendhat told us that the PM has asked him to lead a Task Force to drive forward work to defend the democratic integrity of our country. It will work cross party with parliament, departments, security and intelligence agencies, devolved administrations, and the private sector. It will look at all threats, and report to the National Security Council.
I attended 3 All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) last week. I was honoured to be elected as chair of the APPG for Wales in the World. The former chair Craig Williams MP stood down after being promoted to be the Private Parliamentary Secretary for the PM. We had a presentation from Noel Mooney, CEO of the FAW, about the strategy for development of football in Wales, and the preparations for the World Cup in Qatar next month. Our Welsh ambassadors will be Jess Fishlock and Ian Rush. The squad will be launched on Wednesday 9th November in Tylorstown Welfare Hall, which is the home town of the Welsh Team Manager, Rob Page. Tickets for the event are already sold out and the proceeds will go to refurbish the Hall which was damaged in flooding. The announcement will be broadcast simultaneously on BBC 1 Wales and S4C. They will launch the Wales World Cup Song on Monday 7th November, and the “Our Wales” strategy had already nearly doubled staff and increased gender parity. Noel said that he had asked FIFA for information about the Migrant Centre and the Migrant Fund in Qatar, but hadn’t received a response. The Wales FA will be erecting 10 feet by 10 feet replica bucket hats in six city locations throughout Wales: Swansea, Cardiff, Caernarfon, Bangor, Wrexham and Aberystwyth. All the members of the APPG wished Wales every success, and I expect that we will be wearing our bucket hats.
The Western Gateway APPG held its AGM and elected co-chairs Jess Morden MP and Sir Robert Buckland MP. I was re-elected as a vice chair.
The AGM of the APPG for Prevention of Flooding re-elected chair Rachel Maskell MP and I was re-elected vice chair.
I dropped-in to some Parliamentary events.
The Dogs Trust and 11 charities hosted a coalition event to discuss the impact of fireworks on human and animal welfare. The UK law is failing to protect those affected by the unpredictable and loud noise of fireworks and contributes to the unnecessary number of children, young people, and adults injured every year by a firework. The coalition is calling for a review to introduce further restrictions on where and when fireworks can be used. This year many councils have cancelled fireworks events because of costs, and the coalition is very concerned that there may be an increase in families holding events at home with no fireworks restrictions.
Anna McMorrin MP hosted the Children Born of Rape: “Daisy’s Law” Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) drop-in and I had the immense privilege of meeting Daisy. A very brave woman who discovered in the 1990s that she has been born as a result of rape. As a child she was raised by an adoptive family, shielded from the circumstances of her birth. After turning 18 she requested her adoption file and was horrified to discover that her mother had became pregnant at 13. Her father aged 29 had allegedly forced himself on her mother. But no criminal action had been taken. Daisy contacted her birth mother, offered her DNA as evidence. The man was prosecuted and convicted in 2020, and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Daisy’s case raises many issues, including whether individuals conceived by rape should be regarded as secondary victims and complainants in their own right. The CWJ is supporting Daisy’s call for individuals born of rape to be recognised in the Victim’s Bill as secondary victims of crime for the first time, and counter the dearth of safeguards for rape-conceived children and adults. Daisy’s Law will significantly improve these offences being recorded, and prosecuted, in cases where the pregnancy is evidence of the crime. There is a data gap regarding rape-related pregnancies and births in the UK, so legislation will improve recognition. But the CWJ found that between 2017 and 2020, at least 900 mothers in the UK relied on the “rape clause” exception to the “two child cap” rule to claim child tax credit over and above the cap. Women claimants have to prove that the conception is non-consensual.
I supported GloWeek, The Child Brain Injury Trust (CBIT) raising awareness week in Parliament, sponsored by Liz Twist MP. CBIT has identified road traffic collisions as the leading cause of acquired brain injury (ABI) in the many children they support across the UK and make up 20% of all the referrals through the country in the last 12 months. In Wales, 9% of children referred to the charity last year are receiving support for an ABI that occurred from a road traffic collision. CBIT is calling for increased road safety and vigilance from vulnerable road users particularly through winter months. CBIT’s message is “Be Seen Not Hurt”, and are asking those most vulnerable on the roads to wear brightly coloured clothes when out and about. I spoke to the charity’s staff, its Chief Executive, an ABI coordinator, and the parent of a child the charity is supporting.
I attended the British Veterinary Association briefing and spoke with Malcolm Morley about their key focuses for the year ahead, which included Putting pressure on the UK Government to deliver the long overdue Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill; improved regulation and labelling; a ban of exports of Non-stun Slaughter meat; the anticipated shortage of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland as a result of post-Brexit regulation; support the campaign by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for veterinary legislative reform; post-Brexit trade and the veterinary profession; Bovine TB; gene-editing of animals for food; and regulating canine fertility clinics.
I joined an online webinar hosted by the British American Parliamentary Group, of which I’m a life member, to receive a presentation about the US 2022 Mid-Term Elections which are on 8th November from John Della Volpe, Harvard University’s Director of Polling. Voters will be choosing 35 senators, 36 state governors, and all 435 members of the House of Representatives. The outcome will shape the second half of Joe Biden’s Presidential Term, and the political landscape of the US. John looked at the pivotal swing states of North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Florida with respect to demographic voting changes, and found that in 2000 there was no demographic difference but in 2020, 60% of the Democratic vote came from younger people, whilst 36% of the Republican vote came from older voters. A number of Republican-leaning Polling Groups are flooding the media with results showing 13 of 14 polls favour Republican candidates, but when all polls and the “generic ballot” are taken together it shows that if the younger vote turns out, the result would be 217 Republicans and 218 Democrats. The suspicion is that the “flooding” will set up the Trump narrative that the election outcome is rigged, when the results do not match the Republican prediction.
I joined the Cardiff University Public Policy Affairs webinar to discuss the new book by Professor Richard Wyn Jones and Dr Rob Jones “The Welsh Criminal Justice System – On the Jagged Edge” which has examined the Welsh criminal justice system and its unique position – how Wales has its own devolved Government and Parliament, and yet, there is no Welsh equivalent of the Scottish or Northern Irish justice systems. Professor Jones said that the Welsh Government is responsible for health and education in prisons, police funding, and all social policy apart from welfare, so needs its own approach to criminal justice. The Home Office and Ministry of Justice are in Whitehall, therefore staff are centralised in London. There is a rapid turnover of staff in these departments, and Wales counts for little. He quoted Nye Bevan “responsibility without power” and that Wales is a policy taker not a policy maker. Neither the Home Affairs nor the Justice Select Committees scrutinise justice in Wales, so it’s left to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, which carries little weight in Westminster. The “wicked” problems are the extra complexity produced by 2 Governments with different priorities and no joined up policy making. Between 2010 and 2019, 21 Magistrates and Crown Courts in Wales were closed, producing “access to justice deserts” across Wales. There are now only 6 combined Magistrates and Crown Courts and 8 Magistrates only Courts remaining in Wales. I recommend reading the book.