At the start of the week I met with some inspiring ambassadors from The Voices Network, who represent asylum seekers and refugees from across the world. It was great to talk about what we can do to overcome the harsh and unfair family reunion rules the UK Government imposes, hindering families moving forward with their lives, while their loved ones remain in danger. We also discussed detention policies and ways to improve the asylum process. All too often, we forget that behind the statistics and political wranglings are human stories. The Voices Network website has some really important testimonials on what it’s like to be in the position of being a refugee and the awful realities you must face.
On Wednesday, I was on the Labour Front Bench in my role as Shadow Secretary of State for the first Wales Questions session of this Parliament. I pressed the Secretary of State for Wales about properly supporting Welsh steel workers, and demanded the UK Government intervene and reduce energy prices for the industry. Liberty Steel’s announcement last week that they were to cut more than 350 jobs, 72 of which would be cut from its plant in Newport, has led to huge concern for workers and families about the future of steel in Wales. The UK Government has to do more to protect the Welsh steel industry and make sure that Welsh steel workers get a fair deal – following the hands-on commitments from the Welsh Labour Government.
In a lively session, many Welsh Labour MPs demanded to know about the funding that has been promised to Wales through the Shared Prosperity Fund that should replace the £680 million that comes from the EU each year. The Welsh Labour Government needs answers so that businesses and communities can plan their support for the Welsh people after this year.
The UK Government also seems to forget that Wales extends to the west of Cardiff and Welsh MPs also demanded answers over electrification of trains travelling between Cardiff and Swansea and other investment promises into Welsh infrastructure.
Away from the Commons Chamber, I am really pleased to have been elected as Co-Chair of the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hairdressing, Barbering and Cosmetology. We had our first meeting where we heard how barbers and salons can play such an important and positive role in alleviating loneliness and providing a lively hub for the community. In the current climate on our high streets, hairdressers and barbers have been among the more resilient small businesses, but their staying power isn’t their only strength. We were joined at the meeting by the Lions Barbers Collective, barbers who work to raise awareness of male suicide. Barbers, hairdressers, and beauty therapists can play such an important part in supporting people suffering from loneliness and mental health issues and it’s a really exciting prospect to be part of a group that will work with representatives from across the industry and charities to see how we can support communities in their fight against loneliness and mental health.
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I hope you all have a lovely weekend!