I attended the TSB Tackling Fraud Together event and report launch. Online fraud has made a significant impact on the cost of living to many families in the UK. It is vital that fraud victims are supported by their bank, law enforcement, and the UK Government. Research by TSB and Savanta ComRes found that people are struggling to afford food for themselves and their families, and pay rent or mortgage for more than one week, if they lost up to £500 as a consequence of fraud. Victims have a less than 50% chance of being refunded, and banks need to do more. TSB has shown that this is possible by succeeding in refunding 97% of its fraud victims since April 2019. Social media companies must protect their users from fraud. I joined TSB in calling for stronger action from the public and private sectors to protect people from fraud.
I met with campaigners to ban greyhound racing in the UK to review the state of the campaign and to make plans to make progress after it has stalled in Westminster, but has forged ahead in Wales and Scotland. I opened the Westminster Hall Petitions debate on 28th March 2022 to ban greyhound racing on behalf of the Petitions Committee regarding E-petition 554073 which closed on 30th April 2021 with 104,885 signatures. The petition asked for legislation to abolish greyhound racing through a managed shutdown of activities and ensure the welfare of redundant dogs through a levy on the industry. Vanessa Weldon of Hope Rescue in South Wales, who has rescued and treated many injured greyhounds from the Valleys Track in Ystrad Mynach, attended the Westminster Hall debate, and we became friends. Vanessa started a petition in the Senedd which attracted 35,101 signatures which was discussed by the Senedd Petitions Committee, which needs a minimum number of signatures 250. Since April 2018, Hope Rescue and partners have taken in almost 200 surplus greyhounds from Wales’ only Independent Track at Ystrad Mynach, and 40 had sustained injuries. There are plans for the track to become a Greyhound Board of Great Britain track, racing four times a week and greatly increasing the number of surplus dogs and injuries. Greyhound racing is cruel and dogs have little protection, and it is already banned in 41 US states. The Petitions Committee supported the ban, and it was debated in the Senedd Chamber on 8th March 2023, and secured cross party support.
As a vice chair of the APPG for Music I supported our chair, Kevin Brennan MP, at a superb event to celebrate the UK being chosen to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. The event was opened by its sponsor Lord Clement Jones and Kevin, as chair. We heard from Martin Green, BBC Managing Director Eurovision 2023; Claire McColgan, Director of Culture Liverpool; and His Excellency Vadim Prystaiko, Ambassador Ukraine. The fantastic Sandy Shaw made a guest appearance.
The business in the Chamber was day 1 of the Committee of the Whole House of the Finance Bill (No 2). There were multiple votes after a long and detailed debate. The opposition pressed their three new clauses to a vote. New Clause 1 would require the Chancellor to report every 3 months for a year on UK Government progress in working with other countries to extend and strengthen global minimum corporation tax frameworks for large multinationals. It was lost by 227-307 votes. New Clause 3 would require the Chancellor to conduct a review of business taxes and make recommendations on how to increase certainty and investment before the next Finance Bill is published, and was lost by 233-302. New Clause 6 would require the Chancellor to review investment allowances introduced as part of the energy profits levy and set out what would happen if allowances for all expenditure, apart from those on decarbonisation, to be removed, and was lost by 232-299.
I wasn’t called to ask a question in Wales Questions, but listened intently to the responses from the Secretary of State, and his Minister to questions asked by backbenchers from both sides of the House. I was very disappointed at the number of times that they blamed the state of Wales on the Welsh Labour Government, and they seemed to forget that the UK Government are responsible for allocating funding to Wales, which has been severely cut during the past 13 years that the Conservative Party have been in government.
As a vice chair of the APPG for Parkinson’s, I attended the first joint meeting with the Diabetes APPG to discuss the state of mental health services provided to help people who suffer from both these very serious conditions. In the UK, 1 in 14 people have diabetes and 145,000 have Parkinson’s. People with these long-term conditions are twice as likely to experience mental health issues than those who do not. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that poor mental health has an annual cost of £118 billion to the UK economy. People with Parkinson’s and diabetes can have a range of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, memory loss, and dementia, so it is vital that care is shaped to support sufferers. For people with serious mental illness, the risk of developing diabetes is increased. The APPG on Parkinson’s 2018 report found that people waited months or years for mental health care. We heard from Parkinson’s and Diabetes mental health care experts who advocated that the UK Government’s NHS Workforce Plan should focus on recruiting, retaining, and upskilling the generalist and specialist NHS mental health workforce with additional funding and training for mental health professionals who support people with long-term conditions such as Parkinson’s and Diabetes. Liz Barnes, a Parkinson’s sufferer, told her story, and read a poem from her book “A Little Bit of Pain and a Whole Lotta Love”, and a Diabetes sufferer, told her tragic story of coping with the Type 2 diagnosis at a young age, including self-harming and suicidal feelings, but who wanted to remain anonymous.
Day 2 of the Committee of the Whole House for the Finance Bill (No 2) had several amendments and new clauses tabled by the opposition parties to try and improve the Bill. The Labour Party pressed its New Clause 5 which would require the Chancellor to review the impact of tax-free pension allowance changes and recommend an alternative approach targeted at NHS doctors, but the vote was lost by 218-294.
My Shark Fins Private Members’ Bill passed its Committee Stage in the Lords on 24th April with cross-party support from the Lords. The next stage will be its Third Reading in the Lords on 16th June, and hopefully this stage will be passed without dissent and the Bill will make progress towards its Royal Assent. My sincere thanks to Baroness Maggie Jones of Whitchurch for taking the Bill through the Lords on my behalf.
I have been a supporter of the RNIB for many years. I took part in the RNIB “Make Streets Safer” for sight loss people around Neath a few years ago, in which I experienced the challenges that blind people face every day walking around their community. I wore a blindfold and used a stick but I had no idea, for example, where the pavements began and ended, potholes, uneven paving stones, rain puddles, and the inevitable dog poo. At the drop-in we learned about the additional costs that sight loss people face during the cost-of-living crisis. How to introduce yourself to someone with sight loss, support someone getting around buildings and outside. There are no hard and fast rules on how to assist someone with sight loss, because everyone’s experience of sight loss is unique and different but let them tell you what help they need. There are some guidelines: talk directly to the person; ask how they’d like to be guided; tell them about kerbs and steps as you approach them; any potential hazards; place their hand on a seat before they sit down; don’t walk away without saying that you are leaving. We took part in an interactive game and quiz explaining the additional costs, tried out sight loss equipment, and met some wonderful people who are doing their best to cope with the everyday challenges that sight loss presents to them.
The debate in the chamber was considering Lords Amendments to the Public Order Bill, and we all expected a lot of amendments resulting in a very late night. However, only Clause 11 was considered during this debate. The issue was giving police powers to stop and search without suspicion, which means that if the police think there could be a seriously disruptive protest in an area they can designate it as an area where anyone can be stopped and searched regardless of whether they are involved in the protest or whether the police have any suspicion that they may commit a crime. For example, if a protest that may be disruptive is happening in Parliament Square, the police could stop and search tourists, civil servants, Parliamentary staff, MPs and anyone else in the area. The Lords tabled two amendments to tighten this clause based on recommendations made by Dame Louise Casey in her review, which the UK Government claims to support. Amendment 6H requiring that the officers conducting the search show the person being searched their name, badge, and details of the search. Amendment 6J requiring the police to establish a charter on the use of powers in this section, setting out how and why they will be used, drawn up in consultation with local communities and evaluated independently. Forces must also produce annual reports on the use of these powers broken down by location. The vote was taken on both amendments together. The UK Government voted against the amendments which they won by 270 to 200 votes.
I chaired the first joint meeting of the Hairdressing, Barbering and Cosmetology All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and the Vegetarianism and Veganism APPG to discuss the availability of vegan hair products in the UK. Veganism goes beyond what you eat, and it’s important that consumers feel empowered to make purchasing decisions that reflect their values. The demand for plant-based products is continuing to increase, and the meeting heard from speakers about the philosophical belief of veganism and the importance of alternative vegan and cruelty-free products in the hair industry. Gareth Penn, who has recently taken over as registrar of the Hair and Barber Council, set the scene by explaining the vast economic benefits of the hair sector to the UK economy. Moussa Haddad, Head of Research and Policy, Vegetarian for Life, spoke about Veganism as a philosophy. We listened to two “The Vegan Society (TVS)” Trademark Clients – Zainadine O’Halloran, Founder of Curly Ellie, and Nick Green, Operations Director of 72 Hair, who spoke about the history regarding the creation, development, promotion and sales of their vegan hair products.
The business in the Chamber was two Official Opposition debates. The first was on Water Quality (Sewage Discharge)followed by Cost-of-Living Increases. The PM tabled an amendment to the first debate, and it was pushed to a vote which we lost by 188 to 290 votes. The motion as amended was voted on, and I’m not sure of the reason why the Official Opposition abstained on its own motion. The UK Government won the vote by 285 – 0. The PM tabled an amendment to the second debate, which was carried by 285 – 0. The Official Opposition pushed their motion to a vote, and lost by 214 to 288 votes.
I called in to the Alcohol and Families Alliance (AFA) event. I met Eric Appleby, Chair of AFA, which is a collaboration of over 40 voluntary and statutory organisations united in reducing the harms experienced by families through alcohol misuse. AFA campaigns for greater recognition, support and services for these families. I met with Vivienne Evans OBE, CEO of Adfam, which is a national charity dedicated to tackling the negative effects of drugs and alcohol on family members and friends by improving their lives.
I attended the APPG on Drugs, Alcohol and Justice meeting to listen to speakers talk about the “Multiple Disadvantage” approach. Richard Lewis, Policy and Engagement Manager – Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM), and Graham McGaw, Contracts Manager – With You, told us about their organisation’s experiences of bringing organisations together to support people who are living or lived with recovering from drug and or alcohol misuse.
The business in the Chamber was a debate on the new clauses and amendments that had been tabled to the Report Stage of the Illegal Migration Bill. At the conclusion of 6 hours of protected debating time, the following clauses and amendments were pushed to a vote: Opposition New Clause 9 accommodation: duty to consult which would add to the current law on provision of accommodation to asylum seekers a requirement to consult with the relevant local authorities when making the necessary arrangements. Ayes 233 Noes 285.
Opposition New Clause 10 expedited asylum processing which requires the Secretary of State to establish a process to fast-track asylum claims from specified countries. Ayes 231 Noes 290.
Opposition New Clause 15 border security: terrorism which places a duty on the Secretary of State a duty to remove suspected terrorists who have entered the country illegally, or consider the imposition of TPIMS for such individuals where removal is not possible.
NSP Amendment 45 international treaty obligations. Amendment 44 and 45 would require the courts to interpret the Act, so far as possible, in accordance with the UK’s international obligations contained in several international treaties. Ayes 231 Noes 290.
Dame Diana Johnson Amendment 2 No definition of unaccompanied children, families with dependent children, pregnant women which would prevent an immigration officer’s detention powers from being used to detain unaccompanied children, families with dependent children, or pregnant women. Ayes 231 Noes 286.
The opposition parties voted against 3rd Reading, but it was carried by 289 to 230 votes.
The Bill now progresses for all stages to be debated in the House of Lords.