I attended the briefing about the forthcoming Victims and Prisoners Bill, which was organised by Alex Mayes from Victim Support, an independent charity dedicated to supporting people affected by crime and traumatic incidents in England and Wales. It provides all types of free confidential support 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of whether the crime has been reported. The Victims and Prisoners Bill received its Second Reading on Monday 15th May. Victim Support has called for a Bill to strengthen the rights and improve the experiences of crime victims, but this Bill falls short. Victim Support recommends that the Bill should return to its original form concentrating on victims; the enforcement of victims’ rights should be strengthened; the definition of victim should be broadened to include victims of persistent anti-social behaviour; and all victims must have access to specialist support services that are independent of the police and statutory services. The Bill contains welcome measures to improve data collection for the Victim’s Code, but this relies on the information being comprehensive and robust, so Victim Support urge the UK Government to ensure all rights within the Bill are monitored and reported on by responsible agencies under the Code. The Bill needs to do more to increase the oversight and enforcement of noncompliance by agencies. The parole measures in the new Bill have not been subject to the same degree of pre-legislative scrutiny as for the victims’ part, and will detract from the promised landmark Victims’ Law, and detracts from the UK Government’s commitment to put victims’ interests firmly at the heart of the justice system, given that victims won’t even be at the heart of this Bill.
At the APPG on Stem Cell Transplantation and Advanced Cellular Therapies chaired by my friend Mark Tami MP, who has for many years been a champion for people who are seeking or have undergone a stem cell transplant, we discussed how patients and families are being impacted by the cost-of-living crisis, the cost of undergoing a transplant, the support currently available, and considered possible policy solutions. We listened to the Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne MP; Cheryl Bell, Haematology and Haemophilia Social Worker, Newcastle Council; and Tom Bishop, Head of Patient Information at Anthony Nolan. As chair of the APPG on Sepsis I offered that our APPG work jointly with Mark’s APPG, which Mark accepted.
I was honoured to be elected as a vice chair at the AGM of the reconstituted Climate Change APPG, Caroline Lucas MP was elected as chair and Uplift are the secretariat. Uplift is a climate-based organisation founded by Tessa Khan and funded by charitable foundations. The APPG has five goals designed to re-power the UK in a way that safeguards the planet for future generations, whilst unlocking opportunities, strengthening energy security, and cutting the cost of living. The goals include transforming the North Sea’s economic future; boosting energy by scaling the alternatives; building a net zero workforce; aligning energy development with nature protection; and encouraging UK climate leadership on the world stage.
As chair of the APPG for Hairdressing, Barbering and Cosmetology, I joined my vice-chair John McNally MP in meeting with the new registrar, chair, and members of the Hair Council Board to listen to their aims and objectives for the next few years.
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water held the parliamentary launch of its Manifesto for Rivers in Wales. The report includes the total phosphorus load and improvement schemes for the rivers Cleddau, Dee, Teifi, Usk and Wye. But it does mention Neath in that there will be investment during the period 2025-30 for the Trebanos Wastewater Treatment Works to increase the flow passed forward through the treatment works for Afon Tawe. Dwr Cymru are conducting a survey with customers and stakeholders to support people to enjoy open water swimming at coastal and inland waters which may not be recognised as official swimming sites or pools. The results are expected this month and will inform Dwr Cymru investment plans for 2025-30.
The APPG for Rare Diseases, chaired by Liz Twist MP met to receive an update from Louise Fish, CEO of Genetic Alliance UK, and discuss their report “Coordinating Care: Learning from the experiences of people living with rare conditions“. In this meeting we focused on Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC), and received a presentation from Consultant Paediatric Neurologist University Hospitals Bristol, Sam Amim, which is featured on pages 30-31 of the report. We listened to a number of people whose children and families are living with the very rare disease TSC, and the challenges and difficulties they have experienced in getting a diagnosis, plus subsequent medical and education support.
Co-chairs for The Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, The Rt. Revd. and Rt. Hon. Rowan Williams and Professor Laura McAllister, held a briefing for parliamentarians from all parties on its interim report, consultation, and answered questions from the Peers and MPs who were in the room. They were accompanied by commissioners Albert Owen, former MP for Ynys Mon; Miguela Gonzales, Head of Diversity at Abcam; former civil servant for 30 years, Phillip Rycroft; and Conservative former UK Government Special Adviser to the Wales Office, Lauren McEvatt. The cross-party commission was set up by Welsh Government in November 2021, with two broad objectives: to consider and develop options for the fundamental reform of the constitutional structures of the UK, in which Wales is an integral part; to consider and develop all progressive principal options to strengthen Welsh democracy and deliver improvements for the people of Wales. The commission took oral evidence from politicians, academics, and civil society, plus a public consultation which attracted 2524 online contributions. A community engagement fund was set up to support community groups/organisations to hold engagement projects to facilitate the commissioners meeting with community groups, including youth sector, care sector, and ethnic minorities, because they wanted to learn what the people of Wales want and need. The interim report was published in December 2022, and it sets out the framework options from the results of the consultation: entrenched devolution; a federal UK; and independence. The commission sought views on the framework and new/supplementary evidence by May 2023, and its final report will use a prepared objective base analysis, and test the robustness of the initial findings, to make sure that Wales is on the front foot regarding governance and powers. The final report will be published by the end of 2023.
I was proud to be elected the treasurer for the APPG for Music at its AGM, having served as a vice chair for many years. My dear friend Kevin Brennan MP was re-elected as chair, and I’m pleased to continue to support Kevin in all the good work that he does to highlight the wonderful benefits that music, its performers, and the music industry provides to the public all over the UK.
At the AGM of the APPG on State Pension Inequality for Women, Andrew Gwynne MP and Peter Aldous MP were re-elected co-chairs and I was re-elected a vice chair.
The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) held a drop in event titled – Levelling the playing field for UK companies: Mandatory supply chain due diligence to protect human rights and the environment. The event was sponsored by the APPGs on Ethical and Sustainability in Fashion and Trade Justice, CAFOD, and Friends of the Earth. We listened to campaigners speak about the emerging new global standard for regulating global supply chains; mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence; and the proposed new law for the UK. Businesses, investors, and civil society demonstrated their support for a new law to bring the UK into alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the increasing number of countries adopting new due diligence laws. Leading UK companies explained why they backed the call for new UK legislation which would, inter alia, level the playing field by mandating supply chain due diligence and increase legal certainty about standards expected from the business sector. Organisations at the event included: Anti-Slavery International; Aviva; Business and Human Rights Resource Centre; Ethical Trading Initiative; John Lewis Partnership; Marshalls PLC. In 2022, a G7 Leaders Communique, and UK businesses, investors, and business associations all supported the new law. Whilst I was at the event I signed EDM 1169 created by my long-time friend Tony Lloyd MP.
I supported the Fight Bladder Cancer (FBC) awareness event which is campaigning for better outcomes for people living with bladder cancer, their families and carers. FBC is a national charity dedicated to changing patients’ lives for the better, providing information and support on what to expect at various stages of bladder cancer, connecting people to share their experiences and to help one another. Over 21,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year in the UK and FBC are calling for a standardised pathway for the diagnosis, assessment and treatment of bladder cancer and better investment in the BC workforce in 2023 and beyond.
I was re-elected a vice chair at the AGM for the APPG on Coalfield Communities. We agreed work plans for the forthcoming release of our enquiry: Next Steps in Levelling Up the Former Coalfields. The enquiry was launched last November, and received submissions from public and private sectors across the UK. The members of the APPG believe that the former coalfield regions are now at a critical juncture, but we have an opportunity to make representations to ministers to shape the levelling up agenda for years to come. I look forward to the publication and launch of the APPG’s enquiry report in early June.
As part of Dementia Action Week (15-21 May) I attended a Parliamentary reception hosted by Alzheimer’s Society, which stressed the importance of getting a dementia diagnosis with the tagline “It’s not called getting old, it’s called getting ill” and it encourages people worried about their own or a loved one’s memory to seek support in getting a diagnosis using a symptoms check list available on the Alzheimer’s online hub. In England, the dementia diagnosis rate fell below the national ambition during the pandemic, and has remained around 62% since, so more than 30,000 have missed out on a diagnosis. Unfortunately, in Wales the scale of the problem is unknown because data is not collected. The Alzheimer’s Society believe that around 50,000 people in Wales are living with Dementia, but there is no way of knowing how many have been diagnosed, so they are calling for comprehensive diagnosis data to be collected in Wales so that this can be published centrally on a national level so that Wales can be compared to other parts of the UK. The Alzheimer’s Society believe that everyone living with dementia deserves an accurate, timely, and high-quality dementia diagnosis so that they can access vital care, support, and plan for their future.