My week began celebrating Women in Cricket. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cricket, chaired by James Daly MP, England and Wales Cricket Board, and Lord’s Taverners hosted the event and we had the opportunity to meet some wonderful famous women cricketers. There was a panel discussion involving the stars and grassroots heroes which focused on the upcoming Ashes, growth of elite women’s cricket, and how to build and grow the game towards the 2026 World Cup.
As a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coalfield Communities I was delighted to attend our Parliamentary launch of the report entitled “Next Steps in Levelling Up the Former Coalfields” which we published on Monday 12th June. The report is the culmination of evidence gathering sessions, and I thank all contributors. The launch was very well attended by representatives from all over the UK – MPs from all parties, local councillors and officers, trade unions, voluntary organisations, and former miners and their families. The chair Alex Davies-Jones MP (Pontypridd) welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers. Secretariat of the APPG, Chris Whitwood of the Industrial Communities Alliance, presented the report and went through its contents and recommendations. Special thanks to Steve Fothergill, who has been leading on the inquiry and all our previous inquiries. Gary Ellis, CEO, Coalfields Regeneration Trust; Aaron Bell MP; and Owen Thompson MP, responded to the report. The meeting was then opened up for questions from the attendees. I spoke about Thatcher closing down the mines over forty years ago and that she had no plans to replace the livelihoods of the many miners and their families who were left devastated and destitute, and that Neath was a prime example, but that the development of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) in Onllwyn provided the first real opportunity to bring jobs and apprenticeships to my constituency, so that youngsters will not have to leave to look for employment.
The business in the Chamber was a debate on the Lords Amendments to the Retained EU Law (Revoke and Reform) Bill. At the end of the Transition Period the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 incorporated most EU Law as applied on December 31st 2020 onto the statute book as “retained EU law”. There is need to resolve the future status and relevance of retained EU law, how applicable it is and where it should be placed in a hierarchy relative to UK primary legislation. There are over 2,400 pieces of retained EU law to which this Bill will apply covering nearly all Government departments. The Government u-turned on a fundamental aspect of the Bill removing a sunset clause that would have removed all EU retained law from the statute book at the end of 2023. Whilst this is a relief, removing a cliff edge, there are questions about scrutiny and excessive power transfer to the Executive. There were two votes. Lords Amendment 15B which provides that any future regulations restating, revoking or updating retained EU law cannot reduce environmental protection in the UK. The UK Government voted to disagree with this Lords Amendment and won the vote by 269 to 204 votes. Lords Amendment 42B provided for a Commons Committee to examine any plans to revoke or replace retained EU law before being voted on by both Houses before they can be used. The UK Government voted to disagree with this Lords Amendment and won the vote by 269 to 202 votes.
I met Nicky Ryan and Steve Treharne at the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) parliamentary drop-in session for Welsh MPs to support their key campaigns: #Pay #SimplifyDG6 and the Elizabeth Medal. In March 2023, PFEW called for a 17% pay increase after a Social Market Foundation study showed police pay has fallen nearly 20% behind inflation between 2000 and 2022, whilst other protective services pay has increased by 1-1.4%, and police pay has risen at barely half the rate of an average UK employee. #SimplifyDG6 asks the UK Government to issue New Supporting Guidelines and Updated FAQs so that police officers can safely share information with prosecutors (CPS) without the gratuitous obligations on officers to redact evidence. On January 10th 2023, my friend Peter Aldous MP, asked Ed Argar MP (Minister for State and Victims Sentencing) to amend the Data Protection Act to end this bureaucratic burden on policing and speed up administration of justice. On 21st February 2023, the Justice Select Committee asked the then Solicitor General whether the UK Government are considering this amendment.
As a vice-chair of the APPG for Rare Diseases, I attended the drop-in event hosted by Catapult, and the Genetic Alliance UK, to receive an update about how advanced therapies can transform lives and healthcare, and meet patients who are receiving lifelong treatments which impact severely on their lives, when they could receive a one-time treatment allowing patients and their carers to become or to continue being economically active. Cell and gene therapies can transform people’s lives by addressing the root causes of diseases leading to long-term disease modification. Cell therapy uses living cells to replace missing cells in the body, and gene therapy uses technologies that enable genes to be introduced into the body which modify a genetic information that is the root cause of a disease. They would substantially reduce health care costs, address healthcare inequalities, and create high value jobs, but it needs a changed approach. With coherent and concerted action, the UK can take the lead in demonstrating how to harness the potential of Advanced Therapies to transform health care systems. If fully embraced by the UK’s interrelated health, wellness, and research and innovation structure, Advanced Therapies will keep many more people healthy and fitter for longer, delivering substantially greater value from public expenditure.
Dolly Parton created the Dollywood Foundation and I supported the Parliamentary event to celebrate Dolly’s Imagination Library in the UK and to look to the next chapter. Dolly’s Imagination Library has gifted over 5 million books to under-fives in the UK. That’s 5 million moments that have inspired a lifelong love of books and reading in our youngest children.
The business in the Chamber was a debate on the Procurement Bill (Lords) Report Stage. The Official Opposition had tabled Amendments to strengthen the Bill, because Labour do recognise the need for this Bill to consolidate the patchwork of former EU rules and create a more straightforward procurement regime, but the Bill is unambitious and fails to take advantage of post Brexit opportunities to promote local businesses and outlaw VIP lanes. The Bill hands more powers to Ministers over direct awards. Amendment 2 would prevent VIP lanes by ensuring that any contract awarded under emergency provisions or direct awards should include transparency declarations and is a recommendation by the independent NAO. The amendment was defeated by 230 to 280 votes. New Clause 10 would clamp down on taxpayer’s money going to tax havens by introducing transparency into the system requiring multinational organisations bidding for large contracts to produce transparent tax reports. The amendment was defeated by 231 to 282 votes. My dear friend Marie Rimmer MP has been campaigning against forced organ harvesting, and Marie tabled an amendment which received cross-party support which is designed to give a discretionary power to exclude suppliers from being awarded a public contract who have participated in forced organ harvesting or unethical activities relating to human tissue including where they are involved in providing a service or goods relating to such activities. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated by 229 to 280 votes.
John McNally MP and myself as vice-chair and chair of the APPG for Hairdressing, Barbering and Cosmetology, met with Rob Smith co-founder at Slick to learn about his services to the sector. Rob told us that Slick is committed to helping business owners grow and build the business of their dreams and that he is optimistic for the sustainability of the UK sector because “the lipstick effect” is as true today as it was over 20 years ago – men and women continue to prioritise spending money on life’s little luxuries, blow dries, manicures, lipstick, rather than costlier purchases such as eating out, holidays, and shopping sprees. Rob gathers anonymous data from his clients to build a picture of what UK hair and beauty businesses are experiencing, which show the following trends: salons are busy, with over two thirds of appointments being filled; smaller businesses are busier but have trouble attracting staff; average salon bills and client prices are increasing, especially in larger salons; client habits are changing and they prefer booking online, and salons that offer online booking are thriving; cancellations and no shows are still an issue; with the cost of living crisis, and clients are shopping around for the best prices and value, which influences whether they remain at a particular salon. Rob offered to work with the APPG to tackle these challenges that Rob has identified as the trends that remain problematical for the hair and beauty sector.
Every year, I join the Summer Reading Challenge. In 2022-23 The Reading Agency reached over 2.17 million people, including 1.12 million children. People read over 13.5 million books, e-books, and audiobooks, and borrowed over 12.9 million books from libraries. The Reading Agency gifted 256,825 books, e-books, audiobooks and reading resources to people who experience barriers to reading. By taking part in the reading challenge, 3-in-4 children, young people, and adults enjoyed reading 77% more, and increased reading confidence by 71%.
To celebrate International Domestic Workers Day, I attended the Parliamentary event organised by The Voice of Domestic Workers, to call on the UK Government to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention, which promotes decent work for domestic workers and recognises their invaluable contribution to the global economy. Its key provisions are: minimum wage; equal treatment re hours, overtime, compensation, daily and weekly rest of at least #24 hours; paid annual leave; access to tribunals and courts; social security, protection from abuse, harassment and violence; labour inspection, enforcement and penalties. Estimates from the International Labour Organisation ILO in 2019 put the numbers of domestic workers at 75.6 million globally, of whom 76.2% are women. They work long hours for low wages and are often excluded from Labour and social protections. They suffer abuse, forced Labour, domestic servitude, and failure to be paid the minimum wage. The Voice of Domestic Workers (formerly Justice 4 Domestic Workers) is an education and campaigning group, calling for justice and rights for the UKs thousands of foreign domestic workers.
I took part in Flavour Perception Testing, which is an early screening process for Alzheimer’s disease being developed by The University of Warwick and University Hospitals for Coventry and Warwickshire. It was a pleasure to meet Professor Alan Chalmers of Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at University of Warwick, who explained that the profile of the ability to taste and smell as a means of early detecting the possibility of Alzheimer’s so that the person can be referred quickly for the tests that will actually confirm diagnosis. The inability to distinguish flavours is an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Every 5 seconds someone is affected by Alzheimer’s, but there is no current means of early and widespread screening. The new drugs that are coming onto the market which can reverse Alzheimer’s but only when it is in its earliest stages, means that early detection is absolutely vital. Parliamentarians were given 2 drinks to taste and had to decide which was the sweetest, and if you correctly identified the sweetest flavour, it was a sign that they were symptom-free for Alzheimer’s.
I have been a supporter of Guide Dogs UK for many years, and it was a pleasure to meet my friends from Guide Dogs Cymru who are blind or partially sighted and who had made the long train journey from Wales to Westminster on a very hot June day. It was so hot that they had to leave their support dogs at home, but the wonderful staff and volunteers from Guide Dogs Cymru travelled with them to look after them, and make sure that they arrived safely. It is so important that adults, young people, and children who have lost their sight or are partially sighted, do not lose their freedom as well. I repledged my support to Guide Dogs UK in its campaign to stop people who are blind or partially sighted being refused access to premises, services and some modes of transport when they are accompanied by their support dogs.
I was proud to meet representatives from Akt, which is a charity that works with 16-25 year olds in the UK who identify as LGBTQ+ and are experiencing homelessness or struggling with their housing situation. Akt believe that there are 5 important reasons for raising awareness of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness: over 24% of young people experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+; 77% of young people Akt support cited family rejection and abuse after coming out or being outed; they will often be asked to “evidence” that they have been kicked out, but they cannot, or ask to return to abusive relationships; nearly 25% are not aware of available support services, and only 33% sought support from their local authority whilst homeless; only 44% of local authorities and housing associations have received training on LGBTQ+ inclusion and LGBTQ+ homelessness. Akt is calling for the UK Government to implement a national cross-department strategy to end youth homelessness including: prevention, focusing on schools, families and councils; housing; and financing. Improve monitoring of gender identity and sexuality in housing and homelessness services. Build safe and inclusive housing and homelessness services.
I attended the TSB Fraud Guarantee Refund event again this year to listen to the progress that TSB has made since it implemented its refund policy to all victims of fraud cases at TSB in 2019. It was positive to hear that TSB has refunded 97% of all claims, but concerning that Meta companies account for 80% of fraud cases at TSB within the three most common fraud categories – investment, impersonation, and purchase fraud. TSB are campaigning for media companies to protect its customers and take financial liability when their safeguards fail.
It was an honour to meet the Ukraine Diplomat, Dr Vasyl Filipchuk, for a confidential briefing on the current situation in Ukraine and for an overview of the short-term and long-term challenges plus the strategic issues facing Ukraine during Putin’s attacks, and rebuilding infrastructure when the war is over. Dr Filipchuk is a foreign and security expert at Ukraine’s oldest think tank – the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS). Vasyl has worked in many previous roles, including the Ukraine Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cabinet Ministry of Ukraine, and was spokesperson, political director, EU director general in the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine, and the EU director at the Secretariat of the Ukraine Government. In 2014, Vasyl founded his own media holding – Apostrophe – which included TV, internet media, and social platforms, as well as consulting companies which specialise in communication media, business intelligence, and crisis management.