On Monday lunchtime Jess Morden MP Newport East hosted the Westminster event to celebrate the Welsh Arts Review 10th Anniversary. It was very interesting to listen to authors read out their contributions to the recently published anthology “Home to You:10 Years of Wales Arts Review”.
For the last decade Wales Arts Review has sought to publish some of the best critical writing from Wales and about Wales. Tracing the cultural ties between Wales and the wider world. This latest publication asks what it means to be Welsh in a globalised digital culture and how Wales responds to international crisis and controversies. Gary Raymond, presenter of The Review Show on BBC Radio Wales, is the editor and he began the event by reading out his forward to this latest anthology.
It was a pleasure to meet Chris Roberts from South Wales Police at the PCSO event to mark the 20th Anniversary of the creation of PCSOs, sponsored by Unison. PCSOs are the face of the local police force, out on the streets, talking to people, supporting officers, preventing crime, and building relationships with local residents. We have wonderful PCSOs in Neath and I really value the service that they give in our communities, day in day out.
The business in the chamber was the debate on the Energy (Oil and Gas) Profits Levy Bill. After many hours of debate, votes were taken on amendments, clauses, and new clauses:
- Labour voted against that – Clause 2 which creates a new investment allowance that producers have 91p in tax relief for every £1 they invest, which would see billions in windfall tax revenue going straight back to firms making mega profits – stand part of the Bill and lost by ayes 284 to noes 202.
- Labour New Clause 3 required the U.K. Government to review the impact of bringing forward the start date of the windfall tax from when the Government announced it on 26th May to when Labour called for it on 9th January. Labour lost this vote by ayes 203 to noes 289
Deferred Divisions were taken at the end of the Bill votes:
- The Draft Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 vote was taken, and Labour voted against, losing by ayes 289 to noes 202.
- Labour voted for the Humble Address: Liability of Trade Unions in Proceedings in Tort (Increase in Limits on Damages) Order 2022 and lost by ayes 201 to noes 290.
On Tuesday morning I attended the APPG on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer AGM and we re-elected my friend Wayne David MP Caerphilly as chair. We heard oral evidence on the need for a comprehensive review of adult liver services from Professor Stephen Ryder, Consultant Professor in Hepatology and Gastroenterology, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, and a patient told us of his personal experience of late liver disease diagnosis and secondary care. The Chief Executive of British Liver Trust, Pam Healy OBE, set out the steps we need to take to raise awareness of all aspects of liver diagnosis and treatment. In May 2021, NHS England stated that they would be undertaking a national review of adult liver services, but the earliest this would happen is 2022/23.
Pam told members of the APPG that we need action now, because 90% of liver disease is preventable, but three quarters of people are diagnosed with cirrhosis at crisis point in hospital when it’s too late for effective treatment. Research shows that only 26% of areas in U.K. have an effective pathway for early detection and management of liver disease. Wales and in particular our Heath Board, SBUHB do have this pathway in place.
On Tuesday afternoon the Petitions Committee held an informal, confidential, Roundtable on petitioning Parliament, as preliminary work, which will form part of a potential enquiry into petitioning which the Petitions Committee may decide to conduct. We heard from three academics who have researched petitions and public participation regarding: starting and signing petitions; scrutiny and public engagement with petitions; petition outcomes; and experiences beyond the U.K. Parliament.
We heard from: Professor of Politics at University of Leeds, Cristina Leston-Bandeira who published “The Petitions Committee in the U.K. Parliament developing a new style of public engagement” in 2019; Professor of Politics at University of Sheffield, Felicity Matthews who focuses on researching about the exercise of power in the policy process and relationships between government, parliament, and citizens; Professor of Democratic Politics and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit at University College London, Alan Renwick, has vast expertise in the mechanisms through which citizens can participate formal politics, and citizens assemblies.
Later in the afternoon, as a Labour and Co-operative MP, I attended the regular Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group meeting to review current campaigns and to plan future campaigns that we will start in September.
The business in the Chamber was the remaining stages of the Online Safety Bill in which I couldn’t take part, nor vote on, because Parliamentary convention states that I must remain independent, as I have been a co-chair of the Online Safety Bill Committee.
The debate was contributed to by many members from across the Chamber, and by all members of the Bill Committee. MPs voted on the following amendments, clauses, and new clauses at the end of the debate:
- New Clause 3 required violence against women and girls (VAWG) to be on the face of the Bill and required tech companies to prevent and address VAWG as defined in the Istanbul Convention. Labour lost the division by ayes 226 to noes 292.
- SNP Amendment 187 to add at page 186, end of line 32, schedule 7, “human trafficking, which Labour supported and lost by ayes 229 to noes 294.
- New Clause 14, making judgements on content, outlines methods that platforms will have to use to make judgements, and that it is unworkable at scale and at pace. If this clause operates as Labour imagines it means huge amounts of content that is close to being illegal will not be acted upon. Labour opposed the new clause and lost by ayes 288 to noes 229.
- New Clause 7, introduced by the Labour Front Bench, regarding user generated porn content, was defeated by ayes 220 to noes 285.
- Amendment 31 required that the Secretary of State’s definition of content that is harmful to adults and content that is harmful to children must be debated on the floor of the House. Labour lost by ayes 188 to noes 283.
On Wednesday morning I signed the book of commemoration for the Srebrenica Genocide, coordinated by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Srebrenica. On Monday 11th July, twenty-seven years ago, in the first ever United Nations declared safe area, thousands of men and boys were systematically murdered and buried in mass graves. This was the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War, and occurred alongside forced deportation, torture, and systematic sexual violence across Bosnia by Bosnian Serb forces as part of their goal to create a “Greater Serbia”.
Then I joined the “Time to Care: boosting the economy and gender equality through investment in social care” Unison event. Guest speakers Christina McAnea, General Secretary of Unison; Karin Smyth, Shadow Minister for Social Care; Clare Evelyn Akoto, cabinet Member for Health and Well-being, Southwark Council; and Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group spoke about the U.K. starting to recover from the pandemic in the face of the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation, investment in industries that have been particularly affected is needed and this can boost our flagging economy. Proper investment in social care by the U.K. Government must be considered a driver of economic recovery, rather than merely a burden on public finances.
Late Wednesday morning, I joined the AGM of the APPG for Dog Welfare chaired by Dr Marc Abraham BVM&S MRCVS to elect officers and to plan forthcoming discussions from September, which will include dog control issues; the worrying rise in canine fertility clinics; and a documentary preview on the illegal puppy trade. We heard from guest speaker Wayne David MP Caerphilly about his recent Adjournment Debate which focused on Dangerous Dogs. Wayne also spoke in the Petitions Debate that I opened about the reform of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 which has not operated as it was intended to prevent dog incidents, and many dogs have been taken away from their owners because of the way they look, not because they exhibit dangerous behaviour. We all agreed that responsible dog ownership is a priority, and that the legislation must be reformed.
I sat in my usual spot on the very back bench at PMQs and most MPs were taken aback when Boris Johnson made what he said was his final appearance at PMQs. We were expecting his last appearance to be on Wednesday 20th July. MPs across the House wondered where he was going to be on the 20th that was more important than being at PMQs.
As chair of the APPG for Vegetarianism and Veganism I opened an online event to discuss plant-based meals for climate friendly catering in the public sector. Earlier this year the IPCC highlighted the uptake of plant-based diets as an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 6th Carbon Budget released last year by the U.K. Committee on Climate Change recommended that the government set an ambitious target for meat and dairy reduction and called on the public sector to be leaders by providing more plant-based options.
Last month, the Government Food Strategy was finally published, which was its long-awaited response to Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy for England. We heard from Phil Rees-Jones, Director of Services for Cardiff University; Anna Taylor, Chief Independent Advisor to Henry Dimbleby; and Councillor Ian Middleton, and the Catering Operations Manager, Gail Witchell both from Oxfordshire County Council. There followed a lively Q&A from the many people who joined this online event.
I dashed off to chair a debate in Westminster Hall led by Mike Amesbury on the provision of careers guidance in schools. The debate was well attended by MPs from across the House. Careers Guidance in Schools – Westminster Hall – 13th July 2022
The business in the Chamber was the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, and many MPs from all Parties contributed to this very important debate. Many amendments, clauses and new clauses were laid, and the following were pressed to a division:
- Labour Front Bench Amendment 26 required Ministers of the Crown to set out a legal justification for altering the effect of the Northern Ireland Protocol in domestic law. Labour lost the division by ayes 231 to noes 313.
- Amendment 8 adds Article 18 (Democratic Consent in Northern Ireland) of the Northern Ireland Protocol to the list of articles that a Minister of the Crown cannot exercise powers conferred by subsection (2) and cease to have effect in the U.K. to any extent. Labour lost the division by ayes 230 to noes 308.
- Labour opposed that clauses 15 and 16 stand part of the Bill. These clauses would give Ministers broad powers to disapply other parts of the Protocol beyond those specified under the Bill, and Ministers would be able to do this through regulations rather than primary legislation. These powers would be used on the basis of a range of “permitted purposes” which include safeguarding social and economic stability; protecting the Good Friday Agreement; and ensuring the flow of trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Labour lost the division by ayes 308 to noes 231.
- Labour Front Bench’s New Clause 10 aimed to prevent the U.K. Government from having the power to make unilateral changes to the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that would breach the UK’s international legal obligations and was defeated by ayes 229 to noes 300.
- Stephen Farry MP, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, moved amendment 24, which would remove from clause 4 the measures that strip out the heart of the protocol, namely article 5 which relates to the management of the customs union and single market as they pertain to Northern Ireland, making it an excluded provision under domestic law. Labour supported this amendment, but it was defeated by ayes 212 to noes 285.
On Thursday I chaired Westminster Hall debates beginning with the Select Committee Statement on the Second Report of the Scottish Affairs Committee: Access to Cash in Scotland, HC 80, presented by Pete Wishart MP, chair of the committee. Convention of the House states that Mr Wishart had up to 10 minutes to deliver the report, then MPs could ask questions about the report, for a total of up to 10 minutes, which would be answered one question at a time by Mr Wishart. The debate was over-subscribed and unfortunately some MPs did not have the opportunity to ask their question because we ran out of time.
The next debate was opened by Jim Shannon MP for Strangford, and MPs considered forced labour and NHS PPE supply chains. Mr Shannon spoke at length about the terrible exploitation of adults and children who work many hours for a pittance. The SNP spokesperson, and the Opposition spokesperson agreed that this must be addressed. The Minister delivered the U.K. Government’s position and answered questions that were put to her.
Friday Sitting Days are back after being suspended since the first lockdown due to the pandemic. On this first Friday sitting I was privileged to present my Private Members Bill to ban the import and export of shark fins and items associated with shark fins into and out of the U.K. – Shark Fins Bill
I was listed third on the Order Paper, and it’s always unpredictable as to how many PMBs will actually be debated, because if a PMB listed before you is “talked out”, which is in essence filibustering until time runs out at 2.30pm, or the two PMBs in front take up all the allotted time to 2.30pm that’s the end of the matter, and my PMB would fall without being heard. I was delighted when the two PMBs in front of me were supported by the U.K. Government Minister. Therefore, there was time for more PMBs to be debated, and I had the immense privilege to present my PMB.
Sharks are truly incredible animals that have been around for over 400 million years – long before dinosaurs. Many sharks live in U.K. waters, from basking sharks to Greenland sharks. The basking shark is the UK’s largest fish growing up to 11 metres long and weighing up to 7 tonnes, the size of a double decker bus. But out of 500 species more than a quarter are listed from vulnerable to critically endangered. Research has shown that at least 73 million sharks would have to be killed every year to match the volume of shark fins traded in the global market, that’s 1 million to 2 million tonnes a year. It is likely that shark finning is a significant driving force.
My PMB only applies to fins that have been removed from the body of a shark. It does not ban the sale or consumption of shark fins if the fins are removed after the shark is dead and the shark was caught legally and sustainably. This would disproportionately impact communities where shark fin soup is a traditional delicacy. My PMB makes sure that shark finning cannot take place by any vessel fishing in U.K. waters, or by any U.K. vessel fishing in non-U.K. waters.
And because it relates to devolved administrations, legislative consent will be sought from the devolved administrations during the passage of the Bill, but I understand that they are supportive.
Many MPs spoke in support of my PMB, and some stakeholders who have been campaigning for many years to ban shark finning watched from the public gallery, in particular Shark Guardian and Bite Back. At the end of the debate the Minister confirmed that the U.K. Government supported my PMB and that it would also cover banning the 20kg of dried shark fin that people are currently allowed to bring into the U.K. for personal use.
I felt very humble that my PMB had achieved its Second Reading and thanked everyone for their support. It will now proceed into Bill Committee in the autumn.
Back in the constituency, I was delighted to spend time with the Friends of Neath Abbey Iron Company who have spent many years restoring the Neath Abbey Ironworks. As a vice-chair of the APPG for Industrial Heritage, at our last meeting of the APPG, I highlighted the amazing work of the Friends. I suggested that members of the APPG should visit the Ironworks, and, that the Friends should address a meeting of our APPG in Westminster.
I am very proud of the tremendous progress that these wonderful volunteers have made, and I look forward to welcoming colleagues of the APPG to Neath sometime in the autumn.